For Palestinians, All Roads Lead to Mahmoud Darwish's Hateful Verses

Israel Harel
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An image in graffiti of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, in Jaffa
Israel Harel

Haaretz grants extensive space to the arguments of Palestinians in general, and to those of Israeli Palestinians in particular. This is an important contribution to the readers’ knowledge of the Palestinians’ civil aspirations but mainly of their national ones, which are expressed in all their acuteness – and rightly so.

Although the texts, such as those of Hanin Majadli, for example, are sharp and clear, it appears that most Israelis deny their meaning. Her demand, for example, for recognition of the absolute right of the Palestinians in Israel to identify with the struggle of their people in Palestine – that is, with terrorism – is taken for granted.

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The same goes for the bloody events of May and June in Acre, Lod, Ramle, the Negev and the Galilee. I fully internalize these essays, in all their meaning. They express a sharp, penetrating, intense declaration of independence (“I am a Palestinian, not an Israeli Arab or anything else – without apologizing or considering the reactions,” Haaretz Hebrew edition, Oct. 7).

The pilgrimages to Mahmoud Abbas the peace-seeker and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, did not begin today. Those pilgrims led – and lead – the containment of Palestinian irredentism in Israel. The containment is rooted in the guilt feelings of members of several Jewish circles, who hold key positions in media outlets and in shaping the academic curriculum in this field. They have adopted the language of “the Nakba” – along with its ideological and political significance – and are slowly delivering it into our veins.

One of the heights of the solidarity with Palestinian aspirations came in 2000. Arafat, buoyed by the IDF’s flight from Lebanon, accelerated the bloodbath. The Palestinians in Israel, who also detected the once-in-a-generation opportunity, began to riot.

Yossi Sarid, the education minister, chose this violent time for a conciliatory gesture to the Palestinians: The country’s high schools will teach the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish, regarded by his compatriots as “the Palestinian national poet.” Army Radio aired an ardent program on the poems of the PLO member who also belonged to George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A key line in his poetry (“You should forgive Europe whose inhabitants you oppressed, and it’s time you returned to it”) contains more than an implied justification of the Holocaust. Israel erupted. Not only people on the right were shocked. Sarid held firm.

I actually supported the initiative. I wrote (on these pages) that the education minister of the state of the Jewish people was right in deciding to teach Israel’s children about the response of the No. 1 Palestinian intellectual to the Jews’ return to the Land of Israel and the renewal of their political sovereignty. It is very important for the students to analyze a key poem such as “Those Who Pass Between Fleeting Words.”

The poem, which was memorized (and presumably still is) in the Arab world, repeats in several variations the words “go forth ... get out ... you are like passing dust ... the present and future are ours. ...This world and the next world are ours, ours is the passion, the struggle and the slaying. ...get out of our sky out of our air and take your dead and return to your countries.” It constitutes the Palestinian national manifesto. If we study it we could internalize what lies in store for us later in the struggle for our independence.

Majadli and her ilk echo, indirectly but with similar intent, Darwish’s command. They should be listened to, and more importantly, believed.

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