art of resistance, Palestine

Ghassan Kanafani | Letter From Gaza.

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//Photo @Loulou d’Aki , Make A Wish – Gaza//

Ghassan Kanafani wrote the Letter from Gaza in 1956. It was published translated into English in The 1936-39 Revolt in Palestine by the Tricontinental Society of London in 1980.

Today, a day after the horrendous Israeli attack on protesters in Gaza, which resulted in more than 60 killed and 2700 injured, I thought it would be appropriate to publish this letter – a look at the continuity of the oppression.

Dear Mustafa,

I have now received your letter, in which you tell me that you’ve done everything necessary to enable me to stay with you in Sacramento. I’ve also received news that I have been accepted in the department of Civil Engineering in the University of California. I must thank you for everything, my friend. But it’ll strike you as rather odd when I proclaim this news to you — and make no doubt about it, I feel no hesitation at all, in fact I am pretty well positive that I have never seen things so clearly as I do now. No, my friend, I have changed my mind. I won’t follow you to “the land where there is greenery, water and lovely faces” as you wrote. No, I’ll stay here, and I won’t ever leave.

I am really upset that our lives won’t continue to follow the same course, Mustafa. For I can almost hear you reminding me of our vow to go on together, and of the way we used to shout: “We’ll get rich!” But there’s nothing I can do, my friend. Yes, I still remember the day when I stood in the hall of Cairo airport, pressing your hand and staring at the frenzied motor. At that moment everything was rotating in time with the ear-splitting motor, and you stood in front of me, your round face silent.

Your face hadn’t changed from the way it used to be when you were growing up in the Shajiya quarter of Gaza, apart from those slight wrinkes. We grew up together, understanding each other completely and we promised to go on together till the end. But…

“There’s a quarter of an hour left before the plane takes off. Don’t look into space like that. Listen! You’ll go to Kuwait next year, and you’ll save enough from your salary to uproot you from Gaza and transplant you to California. We started off together and we must carry on. . .”

At that moment I was watching your rapidly moving lips. That was always your manner of speaking, without commas or full stops. But in an obscure way I felt that you were not completely happy with your flight. You couldn’t give three good reasons for it. I too suffered from this wrench, but the clearest thought was: why don’t we abandon this Gaza and flee? Why don’t we? Your situation had begun to improve, however. The ministry of Education in Kuwait had given you a contract though it hadn’t given me one. In the trough of misery where I existed you sent me small sums of money. You wanted me to consider them as loans. because you feared that I would feel slighted. You knew my family circumstances in and out; you knew that my meagre salary in the UNRWA schools was inadequate to support my mother, my brother’s widow and her four children.

“Listen carefully. Write to me every day… every hour… every minute! The plane’s just leaving. Farewell! Or rather, till we meet again!”

Your cold lips brushed my cheek, you turned your face away from me towards the plane, and when you looked at me again I could see your tears.

Later the Ministry of Education in Kuwait gave me a contract. There’s no need to repeat to you how my life there went in detail. I always wrote to you about everything. My life there had a gluey, vacuous quality as though I were a small oyster, lost in oppressive loneliness, slowly struggling with a future as dark as the beginning of the night, caught in a rotten routine, a spewed-out combat with time. Everything was hot and sticky. There was a slipperiness to my whole life, it was all a hankering for the end of the month.

In the middle of the year, that year, the Jews bombarded the central district of Sabha and attacked Gaza, our Gaza, with bombs and flame-throwers. That event might have made some change in my routine, but there was nothing for me to take much notice of; I was going to leave. this Gaza behind me and go to California where I would live for myself, my own self which had suffered so long. I hated Gaza and its inhabitants. Everything in the amputated town reminded me of failed pictures painted in grey by a sick man. Yes, I would send my mother and my brother’s widow and her children a meagre sum to help them to live, but I would liberate myself from this last tie too, there in green California, far from the reek of defeat which for seven years had filled my nostrils. The sympathy which bound me to my brother’s children, their mother and mine would never be enough to justify my tragedy in taking this perpendicular dive. It mustn’t drag me any further down than it already had. I must flee!

You know these feelings, Mustafa, because you’ve really experienced them. What is this ill-defined tie we had with Gaza which blunted our enthusiasm for flight? Why didn’t we analyse the matter in such away as to give it a clear meaning? Why didn’t we leave this defeat with its wounds behind us and move on to a brighter future which would give us deeper consolation? Why? We didn’t exactly know.

When I went on holiday in June and assembled all my possessions, longing for the sweet departure, the start towards those little things which give life a nice, bright meaning, I found Gaza just as I had known it, closed like the introverted lining of a rusted snail-shell thrown up by the waves on the sticky, sandy shore by the slaughter-house. This Gaza was more cramped than the mind of a sleeper in the throes of a fearful nightmare, with its narrow streets which had their bulging balconies…this Gaza! But what are the obscure causes that draw a man to his family, his house, his memories, as a spring draws a small flock of mountain goats? I don’t know. All I know is that I went to my mother in our house that morning. When I arrived my late brother’s wife met me there and asked me,weeping, if I would do as her wounded daughter, Nadia, in Gaza hospital wished and visit her that evening. Do you know Nadia, my brother’s beautiful thirteen-year-old daughter?

That evening I bought a pound of apples and set out for the hospital to visit Nadia. I knew that there was something about it that my mother and my sister-in-law were hiding from me, something which their tongues could not utter, something strange which I could not put my finger on. I loved Nadia from habit, the same habit that made me love all that generation which had been so brought up on defeat and displacement that it had come to think that a happy life was a kind of social deviation.

What happened at that moment? I don’t know. I entered the white room very calm. Ill children have something of saintliness, and how much more so if the child is ill as result of cruel, painful wounds. Nadia was lying on her bed, her back propped up on a big pillow over which her hair was spread like a thick pelt. There was profound silence in her wide eyes and a tear always shining in the depths of her black pupils. Her face was calm and still but eloquent as the face of a tortured prophet might be. Nadia was still a child, but she seemed more than a child, much more, and older than a child, much older.

“Nadia!”

I’ve no idea whether I was the one who said it, or whether it was someone else behind me. But she raised her eyes to me and I felt them dissolve me like a piece of sugar that had fallen into a hot cup of tea. ‘

Together with her slight smile I heard her voice. “Uncle! Have you just come from Kuwait?”

Her voice broke in her throat, and she raised herself with the help of her hands and stretched out her neck towards me. I patted her back and sat down near her.

“Nadia! I’ve brought you presents from Kuwait, lots of presents. I’ll wait till you can leave your bed, completely well and healed, and you’ll come to my house and I’ll give them to you. I’ve bought you the red trousers you wrote and asked me for. Yes, I’ve bought them.”

It was a lie, born of the tense situation, but as I uttered it I felt that I was speaking the truth for the first time. Nadia trembled as though she had an electric shock and lowered her head in a terrible silence. I felt her tears wetting the back of my hand.

“Say something, Nadia! Don’t you want the red trousers?” She lifted her gaze to me and made as if to speak, but then she stopped, gritted her teeth and I heard her voice again, coming from faraway.

“Uncle!”

She stretched out her hand, lifted the white coverlet with her fingers and pointed to her leg, amputated from the top of the thigh.

My friend … Never shall I forget Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh. No! Nor shall I forget the grief which had moulded her face and merged into its traits for ever. I went out of the hospital in Gaza that day, my hand clutched in silent derision on the two pounds I had brought with me to give Nadia. The blazing sun filled the streets with the colour of blood. And Gaza was brand new, Mustafa! You and I never saw it like this. The stone piled up at the beginning of the Shajiya quarter where we lived had a meaning, and they seemed to have been put there for no other reason but to explain it. This Gaza in which we had lived and with whose good people we had spent seven years of defeat was something new. It seemed to me just a beginning. I don’t know why I thought it was just a beginning. I imagined that the main street that I walked along on the way back home was only the beginning of a long, long road leading to Safad. Everything in this Gaza throbbed with sadness which was not confined to weeping. It was a challenge: more than that it was something like reclamation of the amputated leg!

I went out into the streets of Gaza, streets filled with blinding sunlight. They told me that Nadia had lost her leg when she threw herself on top of her little brothers and sisters to protect them from the bombs and flames that had fastened their claws into the house. Nadia could have saved herself, she could have run away, rescued her leg. But she didn’t.

Why?

No, my friend, I won’t come to Sacramento, and I’ve no regrets. No, and nor will I finish what we began together in childhood. This obscure feeling that you had as you left Gaza, this small feeling must grow into a giant deep within you. It must expand, you must seek it in order to find yourself, here among the ugly debris of defeat.

I won’t come to you. But you, return to us! Come back, to learn from Nadia’s leg, amputated from the top of the thigh, what life is and what existence is worth.

Come back, my friend! We are all waiting for you.

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art of resistance

Playlist: Acid Arab.

Formed in 2012 by Parisian DJs Guido Minisky and Hervé Carvalho, Acid Arab patiently honed their style by meeting with scores of artists from all over North Africa and the Middle East.

Born in the transcultural cauldron that is Paris, their concept was to create a space for Arab culture in the world of contemporary electronic music. They laid down groundwork by releasing several EPs (the Collections series) on electronic music label Versatile, featuring collabs, remixes and tracks by other artists.

Latley I became quite addicted to their track Stil (ft. Cem Yildiz), from the album Musique de France. You can listen to it here.

 

Previous Playlist:

Kamilya Jubran & Werner Hasler

La Bel Haki by Adonis

Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan

PJ Harvey & Ramy Essam

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art of resistance, Iraq

Books For Mosul | Restocking The University of Mosul Library.

//Al Mutanabbi Street by Art Hazelwood//

Once a major center of learning in the Middle East, the library at the University of Mosul was destroyed in 2014.

The Iraqi-American Reconciliation Project (IARP) is holding a book drive for Mosul to restore the library as a credible resource center at one of the Middle East’s most important universities. Community members can donate books or funds for shipping and handling costs.

IARP’s goal is to collect 15,000 books to help restock the shelves of the University of Mosul library and $15,000 to pay for shipping and handling costs. They are collecting good quality university-level books in English and Arabic on the following subjects: engineering, mathematics, humanities (history, art, music, literature, classics, etc.), medical school texts and references, references (encyclopedias, dictionaries, etc.).

Books can be sent to:

IARP
2021 E. Hennepin Ave, Suite 200
Minneapolis, MN 55413.

You can also donate to support the project here.

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art of resistance

Playlist: Kamilya Jubran & Werner Hasler.

kamilya_jubran/Kamilya Jubran, photo via Mosaic Rooms/

Kamilya Jubran is a beloved Palestinian musician who has been voice of resistance for decades now. Elias Jubran, her father, an authentic instrument maker and a music teacher; was her first source of classical Arabic musical education.

For two decades, Kamilya was Sabreen’s lead song performer, and player of Oud, Qanoon, and other oriental instruments. From 1982 to 2002, they represented the voice of resistance; struggle for freedom, and a deep and dynamic artistic-political process that created a new style of a modern Arabic song.

Jubran did many great solo performances in the last decade, but also mesmerizing new collaborations. Here you can listen to her and Werner Hasler, performing the song Wahdi from the album Wanabni.

Previous Playlist:

La Bel Haki by Adonis

Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan

PJ Harvey & Ramy Essam

Basel Rajoub

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art of resistance, Yemen

Yemen | How To Help.

Mideast Yemen/Photo: CodePink.org/

The crisis in Yemen continues. Near famine conditions developed in many parts of the country. Just this month, UNICEF’s Middle East director, Geert Cappelaere said that 11 million Yemeni children are now in desperate need of humanitarian aid.

How can we help, how can we get involved constructively? Here’s a little list of what we can do, put togehter on PRI + some of Middle East Revised‘s additional inputs.

MonaRelief

Fatik al-Rodaini has been called a hero by Yemenis. He collects funds, buys food from local vendors, and creates batches of food (the term of art is “baskets”) for families who his group has identified as needy. These days there is no shortage of need.

Yemen Hope and Relief

Ahmad Algohbary helps children suffering from severe malnutrition. Families request his help, and he uses donated funds to transport and house them for weeks while their children are treated at nutrition clinics in major Yemeni cities.

Yemen Aid 

This group, founded by a Yemeni American, provides assistance and resources to Yemeni people, regardless of their race, political affiliation, ancestry or religion, in order to positively change, and ultimately save, lives.

Yemen Our Home

The United Nations Development Project set up Yemen Our Home to help people outside Yemen, especially the Yemeni diaspora, support in-country projects.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders)

MSF has nearly 1,600 staff members across Yemen, including 82 staff members from abroad, working in 13 hospitals and supporting 18 more. MSF medical workers have shored up Yemen’s failed public health system and has been instrumental in combating the cholera epidemic that swept the country this year.

INTERSOS

Since the spring of 2015, this Rome-based organization has provided humanitarian aid to thousands of displaced persons and refugees fleeing ongoing clashes and bombings. Some of the work they’ve done has been to provide medical and food assistance, support and organize school and professional classes for children and teenagers, and provide psychological care and protection for the most vulnerable women and children and for the victims of abuse and violence.

Mwatana Organization for Human Rights

This group is headquartered in the Yemeni capital Sana’a. Mwatana programs defend and protect human rights. Its researchers conduct field investigations to detect and stop human rights violations. The organization also attempts to provide support and justice for victims, to hold accountable those in violation of human rights, and to help craft legislation and policies that prevent such violations.

Yemen Peace Project

The US-based advocacy group Yemen Peace Project is dedicated to supporting Yemeni individuals and organizations working to create positive change; advancing peaceful, constructive US policies toward Yemen; defending the rights of Yemenis in the diaspora; and increasing understanding of Yemen in the wider world.

Yemen News Today

A Facebook page which brings daily news from Yemen in English. Started by Judith Brown, activist and aid worker from United Kingdom. Brown worked with refugees in Yemen from 1998 until 2001 and has visited the country every year from 2001 until 2014. (You can read Middle East Revised’s interview with Brown here).

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art of resistance, Lebanon

Yazan Halwani | Immeuble Noueiri.

halwani

Yazan Halwani’s new mural is painted on a building previously destroyed by the Civil War located on Beirut’s Greenline – the former frontline of the Civil War splitting Beirut into the Christian East and the Muslim West.

Part of Beirut’s public cultural memory, the mural depicts Tarek Noueiri (Muslim boy) and May (Christian girl, whose family took refuge in West Beirut) sharing cotton candy; from Ziad Doueiri’s classic West Beirut movie.

The mural is a reminder of Lebanon’s post-war settlement: a political system built on sectarianism and business interest that blocks true national cohesion.

The persistence of the current political class in fueling sectarian grievances and obstructing the rule of law reflects in the ever-growing government debt, absence of basic services and limited civil rights.

Case in point, 27 years after the end of the Civil War, with the absence of civil marriage Tarek and May would not be able to get married if their story had continued (…in the way I imagine).

//For more info & inspiration, see Halwani’s Facebook//

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art of resistance, Palestine

The Humanism Of Edward Said.

edward_said_jeremy_pollard_copy76925/photo: Jeremy Pollard/

The end of September marked fourteen years without Edward Said, literary theorist and an intellectual of a wide range. To commemorate Said and recall the magnitude of his works, we are in conversation with Judith Butler, Laleh Khalili, Avi Shlaim and Illan Pappé, asking them what they find most relevant and important in/about Edward Said’s work in this day and age.

Judith Butler, philosopher and gender theorist, professor at Department of Comparative Literature and the Program of Critical Theory, University of California: Said unerstood the work of imagination

“Said was able to imagine a world in which the legacy of colonialism could come to an end and a relation of equality in difference could take its place on the lands of Palestine. He understood the work of the imagination to be central to politics, for without an ‘unrealistic’ vision of the future, no movement could be made in the direction of peace based on a just and lasting solution.

He lived in the midst of conflict, and used the powers of art and literature, of the archive, testimony, and public appeal, to ask the world to imagine a future in which equality, justice, and freedom finally triumph over subordination, dispossession, and violence. Sometimes I think he was perhaps too good for this world, but that incommensurability between what he could imagine and what actually exists accounts in part for the power of his writing and his presence in the world.”

Laleh Khalili, researcher and professor of Middle East politics,  SOAS, London: The tender cadences and prophetic brilliance of Said’s prose

“Said’s Orientalism seems never to lose its relevance, even decades after its publication. In fact, the transformations (and failures in transformation) that have happened in the Middle East since the 2011 Arab Uprisings seem to give orientalist policy-makers and pundits another excuse to trot out the same old cliches.

But as I get older, I also become profoundly appreciative of Said’s insights into literature and the arts. His work on beginnings – and endings – his close and extravagantly generous reading of novels and stories, the insights he imparts about the social and political from the slightest sentences or paragraphs in the classics of English or French literature, make him ever more relevant. And as one reads more and more turgid academic and non-academic writings, one becomes ever more appreciative about the tender cadences and prophetic brilliance of his prose.”

Illan Pappé, historian and professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of Exeter: Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism still relevant today

“I think Said’s two major contributions to knowledge are still relevant today as they were during his life time. His seminal works, Orientalism and Culture and Imperialism, which exposed the racist, reductionist and harmful Western discourse on the Orient, is still a crucial part of life. It is still the best analytical took we have for understanding how both the aggression of the West in the Middle East (the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan) and the reactions to it are still sustained as acceptable and legitimate through the power of this discourse.

Similarly, Said’s message in the various books and articles on Palestine is still valid today. In these works he exposed the level of fabrication and ignorance about a suffering of a people for more than a century and warned that this state of affairs will affect the Middle East and beyond. Both contributions are about power and knowledge and his legacy is still with us, give power to truth and you may be able to use knowledge for peace and reconciliation; leave at the hands of cynical stakeholders and conflict would continue to rage on.”

Avi Shlaim, historian and emeritus professor of International Relations, University of Oxford: Intellectual who never gave up hope on coexistence and peace

“Edward Said was an extraordinarily versatile and prolific scholar. His book Orientalism exposed the ideological biases behind Western perceptions of ‘the Orient’ and helped create a distinctive sub-field of what came to be called post-colonial studies. In addition to these literary pursuits, Said was a pianist of concert-playing standard and a leading music critic. Last but not least, he was a politically engaged intellectual and the most eloquent spokesman on behalf of the dispossessed Palestinian people.

Although Said’s calls for accommodation and peaceful co-existence earned him the displeasure of Arab radicals and few adherents on the Israeli side, he never abandoned the struggle. On the contrary, he continued to articulate his inclusive vision at every conceivable opportunity.  The world must see, he wrote, that ‘the Palestinian idea is an idea of living together, of respect for others, of mutual recognition between Palestinian and Israeli.’ This one sentence encapsulates the essence of Edward Said’s thinking. It is the most consistent theme in his voluminous writing on the subject, from The Question of Palestine to the last article.

He spent the last few years of his life trying to develop an entirely new strategy of peace, a new approach based on equality, reconciliation, and justice. ‘I …see no other way than to begin now to speak about sharing the land that has thrust us together, and sharing it in a truly democratic way, with equal rights for each citizen,’ Said wrote in a 1999. He was an intellectual who spent a lifetime grappling with the complexities and contradictions of the Arab-Israeli conflict and yet never gave up hope on coexistence and peace.”

• • •

This text was first published on H-Alter, in English and in Croatian.

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