Mahmoud Darwish: Poems

Political activism

Darwish was a member of Rakah, the Israeli communist party, before joining the Palestine Liberation Organization in Beirut.[36] In 1970 he left for Moscow. Later, he moved to Cairo in 1971 where he worked for al-Ahram daily newspaper. In Beirut, in 1973, he edited the monthly Shu'un Filistiniyya (Palestinian Affairs) and worked as a director in the Palestinian Research Center of the PLO and joined the organisation. In the wake of the Lebanon War, Darwish wrote the political poems Qasidat Bayrut (1982) and Madih al-zill al'ali(1983). Darwish was elected to the PLO Executive Committee in 1987. In 1988 he wrote a manifesto intended as the Palestinian people's declaration of independence. In 1993, after the Oslo accords, Darwish resigned from the PLO Executive Committee.[37]

Views on the peace process

Darwish consistently demanded a "tough and fair" stand in negotiations with Israel.[38]

Despite his criticism of both Israel and the Palestinian leadership, Darwish believed that peace was attainable. "I do not despair," he told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "I am patient and am waiting for a profound revolution in the consciousness of the Israelis. The Arabs are ready to accept a strong Israel with nuclear arms – all it has to do is open the gates of its fortress and make peace."[15]

1988 poem controversy

In 1988, one of his poems, "Passers Between the Passing Words", was cited in the Knesset by Yitzhak Shamir.[3] He was accused of demanding that the Jews leave Israel, although he claimed he meant the West Bank and Gaza:[39] "So leave our land/Our shore, our sea/Our wheat, our salt, our wound." A specialist on Darwish's poetry Adel Usta, said the poem was misunderstood and mistranslated,[40] while poet and translator Ammiel Alcalay wrote that "the hysterical overreaction to the poem simply serves as a remarkably accurate litmus test of the Israeli psyche ... (the poem) is an adamant refusal to accept the language of the occupation and the terms under which the land is defined".[41]

Views on Hamas

In 2005, outdoor music and dance performances in Qalqiliya were suddenly banned by the Hamas-led municipality, for the reason that such events would be forbidden by Islam. The municipality also ordered that music no longer be played in the Qalqiliya zoo.[42][43] In response, Darwish warned that "There are Taliban-type elements in our society, and this is a very dangerous sign".[42][43][44][45]

In July 2007, Darwish returned to Ramallah and visited Haifa for a festive event held in his honor sponsored by Masharaf magazine and the Israeli Hadash party.[30] To a crowd of some 2,000 people who turned out for the event, he voiced his criticism of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip: "We woke up from a coma to see a monocolored flag (of Hamas) do away with the four-color flag (of Palestine)."[46]


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