Prose, Poetry, and Art Exploring Arab America
Volume 19.2, 2018 —The Palestine Issue
Mizna, Inc. Executive & Artistic Director
Lana Salah Barkawi
Editor & Literary Programs Manager
Ismail Khalidi Copyeditor
Lisa Adwan Curator of Visual Art
Heba Y. Amin
Sarah Najla Dillard Design
Identity + Cover: Morcos Key Interior: Alex DeArmond Mizna is a nonprofit arts organization that promotes contemporary expressions of Arab American culture. In addition to publishing this literary journal, Mizna produces the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival and offers classes, readings, performances, art exhibitions, and community events showcasing local, national, and international Arab and Arab American artists. Mizna is an Arabic word describing a desert cloud that holds the promise of rain and respite. Mizna is published by Mizna, Inc., 2446 University Ave. W., Suite 115, St. Paul, MN 55114. © 2019 Mizna, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this journal may be reproduced without the consent of Mizna. Mizna is set in Graphik Arabic by Khajag Apelian, Waël Morcos, and Christian Schwartz and Lyon by Kai Bernau.
This publication is made possible by the support of individual subscribers and generous donors. Major support for the journal is provided by the Center for Arab American Philanthropy and by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Communications & Program Coordinator
Lamia Abukhadra Interns
Ally Kann Miray Philips Selection Committee
Lamia Abukhadra Sonia Ali Lana Salah Barkawi Sarah Najla Dillard Zeena Yasmine Fuleihan Ally Kann Miray Philips Board Members
Abir Abukhadra Ziad Amra Nahid Khan Dipankar Mukherjee Rabi‘h Nahas P. Niny Salem Rasha Ahmed Sharif Jna Shelomith Special Thanks
Sarah Barkawi Noura Erakat Laura Flynn & Mike Rollin Diane Wilson
Bao Phi a·sy·lum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Ahdaf Soueif Sanctuary. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .33 Janan Alexandra sleep for forgetfulness. . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 Eileen Myles Pictures of Palestine. . . . . . . . . . . . . .38 Ed Bok Lee Ode to the Poems of Any Small Nation. . . 42
Ismail Khalidi Foreword. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Khaled Mattawa Occupation (A Lexicon). . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Hala Alyan Where You From . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Fatima :: Borders. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Kevin Coval assimilation & its discontents. . . . . . . . 17 Najwan Darwish I Don’t Claim. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18 Leila Abdelrazaq Comic — The Sardine Tin. . . . . . . . . . 19 Sahar Mustafah Small Children. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Zeina Azzam Non-Lieux. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29 Khayr . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Joe Sacco Comic — Excerpt from Footnotes in Gaza. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 45 Donal O’Kelly Burnt Cork . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 Key of Door . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .49 Lena Khalaf Tuffaha Iconography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51 Fady Joudah Delivery. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 This One’s for You, Alice . . . . . . . . . . . 54 Mandy Shunnarah Where Is the Old Country?. . . . . . . . . .55 Summer Farah origin story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61 Yazan Khalili Excerpt from Darkness against Landscape . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Visual Art — The Aliens. . . . . . . . . . . .65 Najla Said Tribute to My Father . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
Fargo Tbakhi unerase. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87 in the year 2148 wajieh gets married in al Khalil . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 91
Marc Lamont Hill Full Transcript: Marc Lamont Hill at the United Nations General Assembly . . 122 Contributors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .129
Naomi Wallace Play — Barrel Wave . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
Donors . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 Transliteration and Non-English Text . . . . . 134 Submission Guidelines. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .135
Nathalie Handal Non Finiti . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .99 Eleutheria. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Hisham Matar Interview — Remaining in an Expansive Space. . . . . . . . . . . . . 101 Lina AlSharif Afterlife: A Palestinian Narrative. . . . . 105 George Abraham ars poetica in which every pronoun is a Free Palestine . . . . . . . . . . . . . 106 Conjugations of Surveillance . . . . . . . 108 Bryonn Bain Unbreakable Spirit . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 Jehan Bseiso Bint Gaza . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 113 Zaina Alsous Universe in Which My Father Is a Poet. . 114 A Theory of Birds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115 Natalie Diaz Notes on the American Line . . . . . . . . . 117 Naomi Shihab Nye Stay Afloat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Israelis Let Bulldozers Grind to Halt. . . 120 Morning Song. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
Subscriptions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 Cover art by Yazan Khalili. From The Aliens, 2012–2015.
We have a country of words. Speak speak so we may know the end of this travel. — Mahmoud Darwish
In deciding to guest edit this issue of Mizna, my hope was to help curate a volume to mark seventy years since the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, and in so doing, to put together a collection that would serve to celebrate and mourn, to reconstruct the past and imagine the future, but also to do so while avoiding the pitfall of pigeonholing the question of Palestine into one of the lonely realms of identity politics. One way to do this was to open the invitation to writers other than those from Palestine, and to take stock — or at least give readers a sampling — of how wide an array of literary voices are willing to write about Palestine and make connections between their own worlds, their own struggles and diasporas, and those of the Palestinians. While this by no means pretends to be an exhaustive collection (in fact many key voices are missing, not by design but by circumstance) it is, I think, one of the few of its kind. The following pages feature work in a variety of styles (essay, comic, poetry, play, interview) from a diverse collection of writers. Many of the contributors to this issue have been awarded top prizes in their respective genres and could easily afford to stay silent on the question of Palestine. The fact that they were willing to contribute their words to this collection is a testament not only to the vision of the artists themselves, but to the fact that the tides are changing. Palestine is no longer taboo as it once was, and that is certainly something to take courage from in a world where so much seems to be falling apart. For in many ways, when it comes to some of the big questions of this century and the last — human rights, racism, war, international law, colonialism, environmental degradation, and much more — Palestine is (about) everything. . . And everything is (about) Palestine. Despite
this interconnectivity, or perhaps because of it, the road ahead — much like the road already traveled — is treacherous. For seven decades, Palestinians have seen their land and their rights systematically taken from them, and multiple generations of refugees are today no closer to returning to their homes than before. The political establishments in the US and in Europe are still largely pro-Israel. Likewise, the mainstream media and Hollywood remain, as a whole, avidly anti-Palestinian. After all, we Palestinians have the very particular misfortune of being the “victims of victims,” not to mention Arabs in an age of unbridled Arabophobia and Islamophobia. Najwan Darwish (whose work is included in this issue) captures something of this predicament in his poem “The Gas Chambers”: I don’t have a grandmother who died in the gas chambers My grandmothers died like most do: The first did not have the patience to witness the first intifada; the lungs of the other failed her once the second subsided Grandmothers, you didn’t suffer enough for us to be saved And yet today there are discernible cracks in the once-glossy veneer of Zionism’s highly choreographed story and its hold on the American imaginary. After seventy years of being badly outmaneuvered and overwhelmed in the sphere of public opinion, the Palestinians and those who advocate on their behalf are, bit by bit, peeling back the historically handsome mask (think Paul Newman in Exodus) obscuring Zionism’s real identity as an ethnonationalist, settler-colonial state steeped in a culture of violence and militarism — an inherently ugly entity not so unlike the now-discarded apartheid regimes in South Africa and Algeria. The aforementioned unmasking is perhaps not as noticeable on official political levels or in the mainstream news media. There are, however, notable exceptions, including the recent piece in the New York Times by opinion columnist Michelle Alexander, “Time to Break the Silence on Palestine,” published on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. But the shift is undeniable in the realm of art, culture, and education. These hardfought gains are due to the efforts of artists, academics, and activists around the world. Many more artists than ever before — led by those inside historic Palestine and in the diaspora (roughly ten million in all) — are producing film, theater, fiction, and visual art at an increasingly high level, and in so doing, reaching wider audiences, effectively taking back what Edward Said termed the “permission to narrate.”
6 Ismail Khalidi
Naturally, this sea change (having also reached the ranks of young American Jews) has provoked a systematic and well-orchestrated backlash permeating every realm of politics and culture; a backlash which targets freedom of speech through legislation and censorship on Capitol Hill, on campus, on stage, on screen, and on the pages of our newspapers. Yet such fierce counterattacks in the US and elsewhere can only mean that we are doing something right. Also worth taking heart from — and therefore of great concern to those who yearn for the good old days of Israel as the dashing white male macho protagonist of the big-screen fairy tale — is the reawakening (and reimagining) in recent years of Black-Palestinian solidarity, until recently seemingly a relic of the late ’60s and ’70s. As historian Robin Kelley reminds us, even as late as the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, “Palestine stood on the frontlines in a protracted battle against imperialism and ‘settler capitalism.’ Palestinians weren’t victims — at least not in my political world. They were revolutionary combatants and, thus, models for those of us dedicated to Black liberation and socialism.” This is not to say that we must blindly idealize or idolize the revolutionary third world, national liberation, and Black power movements of the past century. There is certainly much there to critique and transcend. But to extract and renew the most coherent essence of that spirit of solidarity, of the tactics of human compassion, of the urgent need for resistance to erasure and the creation of both art and alternative models of living, is indeed imperative work for us all. Some current examples of this resurgent intersectionality can be seen in the two-way connections being made (personally, tactically, and philosophically) between Palestine solidarity activists and artists and their counterparts on the front lines of some of the most important movements in the US today, specifically Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and those resisting the militarization and walling off (i.e., “Israelization”) of the US-Mexico border. And yet, even from our positions of relative weakness — whether in Gaza, Ferguson, the Dakotas, or along the Rio Grande — those of us fighting for the rights of the oppressed and the marginalized somehow find hope living by the drop of water on the cactus’s thorn, as it were. A hope that stems, perhaps, from seeing clearly the unsustainability of predatory capitalism, war, and white supremacy, along with their accompanying waves of settlers, occupations, and state violence, each one sustaining and justifying the other. “We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable,” the novelist Ursula Le Guin reminds us, before adding, “So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art.” So we create and write and speak so we may recover our histories and rewrite our futures, and “so we may know the end of this travel.” And we cultivate steadfastness from the knowledge that it is those who oppose human dignity and freedom who are truly bound in chains.
As Samih al-Qasim writes in his “End of a Discussion with a Jailer”: From the window of my small cell I can see trees smiling at me, Roofs filled with my people, Windows weeping and praying for me. From the window of my small cell I can see your large cell. م
Ismail Khalidi’s plays include Truth Serum Blues (Pangea World Theater, 2005), Tennis in Nablus (Alliance Theatre, 2010), Foot (Teatro Amal, 2016), Sabra Falling (Pangea, 2017), and Dead Are My People (Noor Theatre, 2018). He also co-adapted two novels for the stage: Ghassan Kanafani’s Returning to Haifa (Finborough Theatre, 2018) and Sinan Antoon’s The Corpse Washer (Actors Theatre of Louisville, 2019). Khalidi’s work has been included in numerous anthologies and he co-edited the collection entitled Inside/Outside: Six Plays from Palestine and the Diaspora (TCG, 2015). His writing has been featured in Mizna, American Theatre Magazine, the Nation, Guernica, the Dramatist, and Remezcla. Khalidi holds an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
8 Ismail Khalidi
Khaled Mattawa Occupation (A Lexicon) who is the human in this place, the thing that is dragged or the dragger? — Lucille Clifton
A A day’s living — hands’ cunning drained A murdered son for cameras to retain A taker with no pang of guilt A slave who has made a mistake A song made to induce survival A victim, it’s your turn now Air that shepherds jet fighters, missiles, drones Amicable people with whom we are on equal terms
Amused ourselves counting the dead An apricot tree laden with fruit And the pastures at Lafwat bursting green Arms bound, patience withers, no livelihood Armed vehicles, tanks, crushed cars As if the land had no people Ask no questions and you’ll hear no lies At the shiver of spring in the grass
B Barbed wire looped around huts and tents Bestial sexual license of (occupied people) Blaring from the soldiers’ loudspeakers Brainless elites, degraded masses Breaking of fingers and knees Bulldozers cut down a row of cypresses Burnt corpses on both sides of the road Burying the living for sport
C Carrying filth, wood and water — a low life indeed
Drink you in heaving gulps, beloved water
Force is all they ever understand
Forced to leave homes, move in with family
Carrying on as if healthy, free of disease
Entropy undertaken with courage
Chased them from before the city gate
Essential duplicity of (occupied people)
Climb back to the clouds, O beloved water
Even managed to defecate into a photocopier
Garments up around their waists
Every day a story about why they’re killing you
Gunned down in the forced labor camp
Exchanged in a market of guilt
Degenerates who deserve to be conquered Destroyed all that belongs to their jinn
Forgive them for forcing us to kill their children G
Hearts melted, became like water
Dig out olive trees, burn lentil fields
Finish the population exchange
How do you master innocence
Disfigure past to paralyze imagination
For months the curfew closes doors
How do you spin your pleading
Dreams that pine for lost sleep
For weeks, for four or five hours a day
How high must the walls rise
10 Khaled Mattawa
How long will the roads be yours alone
I’ll be grateful to reach them alive
Just an accident arising from the weakness of others
How long will you wish they’d just disappear
Imprisoned clan, banished kin’s abode
Just as though I had a mission to civilize you
How will you explain to your children
In drawers they pulled out of desks
Just robbery and murder on a great scale
How you’ve crept into our lungs
Into plastic bags, they scattered
Just the thought of their humanity — like yours
Investment in the pleasures of contempt
I have no illness but this place I myself had to become a weapon
It is up to you to show J
I remember those places, forget my loss
Jailing by old Jailliol
I wish I were there now
Joints of their limbs like knots in a rope
If I were one of them, I’d be a terrorist too
Jolly pioneers of progress
If you deserve our confidence
Joy, sorrow, devotion, rage —
Keep hope intact Keep plunder and livestock for yourself L Like drugged cockroaches in a bottle Lives lost before my eyes M Malnutrition permanently introduced
Man who wants to move forward
No illness but a providence of grief
On children’s hair, faces, into their mouths
Many without a story
No illness but “Beat them! No pardon”
On the floors, in emptied flowerpots
Millions torn from their gods
No illness but the drip of loss
Open hands snuffed out like flames
Monster, the everyday monster
Not one drop of blood
Open hands that kept opening
More effective and efficient tyranny
Not one effort, not one privation
Most unscrupulous financiers
Not only pathological but pathogenic
Mutual services and complicity
Now a field hand on my own land
Must believe myself superior
Now a morsel to shove down a throat
Propensity for violence (among occupied people)
Neighborhood dogs join in the ruckus
O civilization: innocence misunderstood
Puddles hold, and gusts of wind release
No colonization without eviction and expropriation
O killer, needful of dead love
12 Khaled Mattawa
Perform your ablutions then return Pioneers who deserve admiration Pioneers who made the desert green
Q Questions in the interest of science Quick glance of unconcerned wisdom
Silver and gold, trays of brass
There are no innocents here
Soldiers’ piss warm like blood, falling
This is how you make the land yours
This was policy not a joke
Quickly enough when the flesh falls off
The bullet in her riddled heart
Quirky tweaking of our private will
The crowning glory of our genius
The rot of loved ones’ corpses
Remains of a suicide bomber
To bring you up to modernity To drive them out of our memories To make you a new nation
The soldiers take over the roof
Sacrifice given despite perseverance
Their orange groves burned
Sand bag terraces, hunker down
They defecate in kitchen sinks, in pots and pans
Uproot their pomegranate trees
Scattered in cardboard boxes
They defecate on computers, on children’s beds
Urinated into dozens of water bottles
Set it on fire when you’re done
They want you to bow like a slave
Truth stripped of its cloak of time U
Verging on tears, he knew it was a lie
X equals my right name and address
Vets describe a dark, depraved enterprise
X drawn on homes to be Demolished
Vivid, on-therecord accounts of slaughter
Voice changed, said: “We must talk like civilized people” Voices that seemed suspiciously innocent W Watch your injury spun into blame When your conscience is naught Where your pain is priced low Whimpers for mercy into claws
14 Khaled Mattawa
You are drenched, but you’ve survived You vow again never to leave it to them You become the cause and effect of their oppression Z Zealous patience to heap and hoard Zenith to nadir till the end Zerotolerance policy Zigzagged, running every which way م
Note: The various pieces that make up this poem include many found and untraceable sources along with statements, lines, or passages from Patrice Lumumba, King Baudouin of Belgium, Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Amira Hass, Golda Meir, Rajab Buhwaish, Ulysses by James Joyce, Homi Bhabha, Aimé Césaire, Raphael Patai, Dennis Brutus, Rafael Eitan, Frantz Fanon, and the book of Joshua.
Hala Alyan Where You From
In the back seat. The taxicab speeding across the Brooklyn Bridge. I spot the river. White foam. The glimmer of a daughter returned. Twice I’ve missed Santa Fe this year, and I keep drawing swords from the card deck. It’s time for red bikinis. Lemonade. Tulle. The weather turns; I still watch movies pretending I’m in them, rushing down hallways in green scrubs, flirting over a latte. //
Fatima’s littlest sister, dying. I send voice notes to Beirut, cooing about the weather, telling her I’m praying for her, but most nights I fall asleep before I start the Fatiha. The men I love are white and atheistic, Nadia. It must be rubbing off. I ask for avocados in the supermarket. I braid Jerusalem into dinner parties. I wax my armpits and thighs. I’m smooth as an evidence bag. م
Fatima :: Borders
The nuns teach us Quran, or rather they teach us how to read with fire at the heels of our feet. I behold Fridays, my father lively with god. He is good and so I am good. On Fridays I spring from the prayer rug like the tallest spear of grass. I never meant to learn the language. It was an accident, those vowels stuck in my teeth like corn silk. I only disobey my father once. That comes later. For now, the nuns line us up in perfect rows, attends, attends, the neighborhood boys are dancing on the other side of the school gate, they whistle at our uniform skirts, call us by our fathers’ names. There is a sura about humility, dropping gazes, but these are our aunt’s sons, the baker’s, we all collect coins from house to house on the first day of Eid. They’re our sons too, their running leaving hoofs on the front lawns. We’ll marry them someday, or wish we had. م
16 Hala Alyan
Kevin Coval assimilation & its discontents
watered down whites. white white. raisins in the potato salad white. so white we now eat potato salad. work on saturdays. so white we have a Black friend. live in a single-family home with just a single family. we dream in english no accent on the north side of every city. so white we moved from the city to whatever land we wish. we take whatever land we wish. no more knish. that kind of white. so white, white’s a verb. so white non-whites think we are white. the white lies we tell ourselves: it’s better to blend right in. a holocaust of abstraction. erase the specifics. the difference what makes us, us to begin with:
we love a bargain & pickle breath & wide hips & no walls or borders i remember something like that more than seventy years ago we too ran & had no home. now we are so white we have amnesia & adopted the memories the mores, the histories of our executioners. م
Najwan Darwish I Don’t Claim From You Are Not a Poet in Granada Translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid
I don’t claim to have any enemies other than myself, my demanding melancholic self that sleeps on its bed of misery, always ready to spill its blood over the smallest of trifles — leaving nothing for my enemies to do. I don’t claim to have any enemies other than myself. II
I don’t claim to have any friends other than myself, and I’m not denying anything since the ones I’m offering my spot to are also myself, which I’m splitting into many selves and losing one by one, just as man loses himself: I don’t claim to have any friends. III
I don’t claim to have a companion other than this roaming imagination: When it walks on the earth, you call it a dream, and when it walks on its head, you call it delusion.
18 Najwan Darwish
I don’t claim to have any companions but him — my dream, my delusion, my sweet death every night. IV
I don’t claim to have a family beyond those I lost in wars, the ones I lost to exile in the gardens of paradise and in hell. I don’t claim to have any family but them, the ones with mislaid graves and famous places of exile, the ones murdered on the coasts and waiting at the borders. I don’t claim to have any family but my own. V
I don’t claim to have a country. My country is an Andalus of poems and water that I lost and am still losing — in loss it becomes my country. I don’t claim to have any country other than loss. م
Leila Abdelrazaq The Sardine Tin
Sahar Mustafah Small Children Excerpt from a novel-in-progress
Jarrah turned over again. His nephew’s mattress was firm and inviting — not like anything he’d ever slept on. His cot in Nafha Prison had been barely two inches thick, and even Dores’s sofa bed was hard. The only thing soft in it was her body, snoring softly beside him, her back turned to him, the rush of the Rio Teo coming through the open window. She’d lie across his chest after they made love, and he’d listen to her breath grow deeper. Eventually she’d roll over, away from him. He’d lie awake for hours before falling into a light slumber. Then he’d jolt awake, disoriented, convinced he was still in Israel and not in Lisbon where he’d begun his exile three years ago. Before coming to America. Jarrah had been worried he couldn’t be with Dores — with any woman — after confinement. Before he knew what little freedom could be squeezed to no freedom at all, he’d heard stories of Falasteeniyah released from prison, not able to perform with their own wives. The first time Dores, an older Portuguese waitress, had kissed him, she pulled his face in and pressed her fleshy lips against his in the middle of their restaurant shift. They were in the kitchen behind a steel refrigerator, deaf to the orders shouted between waiters and cooks in a language so unlike Arabic — or even English — one he’d eventually learn to utter in small phrases and questions. “Love is not necessary,” Dores had told him, leaning against him. He felt a stirring in his groin. Yet later, when she undressed and lay naked on her bed, a tuft of dark hair between her tanned legs, he still hadn’t felt like a man but like some kind of animal performing something wild and primal. He was always alert, fear threaten-
24 Sahar Mustafah
ing the perimeters of his consciousness like a flood of water. Tonight, there was hardly a noise from the room next door. His nephew Bassim regarded Jarrah in that timid, childlike way he’d remembered twenty years ago when he’d last seen him in Palestine. Bassim was now taller than him. Most of Jarrah’s memories were jumbled, and his life had been slashed in two: before prison and prison. After his release from Nafha, life felt like a dream he was perpetually entering. Little seemed to stick from the present, to congeal into memory. The last time Jarrah had seen his nephews — before Bader, the older one, died; before Jarrah was brutally beaten and handcuffed — they were small children like him. He was only five years older than Bader. Jarrah’s sister Alia was fifteen years older and more like an aunt than a sibling. She was a stranger to him, having left for the States after marrying Hatim the year he was born. He saw photographs of the wedding, a crowded affair at the muntazah in Al Bireh. In one framed portrait taken in their childhood beit, Alia stands in the center with her groom, flanked by their parents, their mother holding Jarrah against her shoulder, his tiny body swaddled in a blanket. He imagined women dancing around the bride and groom inside a small banquet hall, ululations piercing through the old folk songs, while men smoked cigarettes and shisha on a terrace bordered with bougainvillea. His sister returned home in the summer of 2000, only months before Ariel Sharon’s fateful entrance to Al Aqsa Mosque. Two years later, the construction of a wall would slice through villages and towns, like gorges created by a catastrophic earthquake, unsettling entire clans of Falasteeniyah. That summer, Alia’s face had a soft, dewy glow like she had never been in the sun in her life. She had her two sons with her, eight and five at the time, and everyone teased thirteen-year-old Jarrah about what a young uncle he was. His nephews had that look of privilege and comfort: their ear lobes gleamed and their hair fell into evenly cut strands. Jarrah’s older brother Essam escorted them around the mokhayam, stopping to let older peasant women squeeze their cheeks and offer du‘aa. The women would dip their heads low and sniff his nephews’ hair. Jarrah wondered what they were smelling for — did America contain an aroma the women tried to infuse into their own beings, a scent that might liberate them from their cinder-block existence? His nephews looked at everything with fear and intrigue. Bader was protective of his twiggy, five-year-old brother and kept a close watch on him. His little face would tense up as small mobs of mokhayam children — many of them Jarrah’s friends and schoolmates — approached them with curiosity. Jarrah felt instantaneous pride and jealousy. He tried seeing himself and the others through his nephews’ eyes, these olive-skinned boys and girls with unkempt hair and dusty from chasing each other on gravel roads. Oversized, hand-me-down T-shirts hung off the boys’ lean bodies; the girls stared in their knit sweaters with
frayed hems. Bader and Bassim were like two shiny coins tossed into a puddle of sewage. It hadn’t taken long for the boys to warm up to their other uncle Essam, especially Bassim, who allowed Essam to carry him on his shoulders. They stood in front of a fig tree, and Essam pointed to the grayish-purple fruit. “Pluck it, habibi,” Essam instructed Bassim, who squealed as soon as his small fingers grazed a fig. They all watched as Essam split it open, revealing a luscious red fruit with tiny tendrils. Bassim’s eyes lit up, but he refused to taste it unless his older brother tried it first. Bader was bold, tasting everything Essam put in front of him: sour green plums, peeled cactus fruit, ripened loquats. Bassim stared, eyes wide with admiration. Jarrah felt an instant rivalry with Bader. When they walked through the refugee camp, he shoved his body between Bader and Essam, asserting his place. But Bader didn’t seem to notice — he was busy observing as Essam held open a bag of steaming turmos, selected one, and slid the bean from its yellow, waxy shell. In prison, Jarrah thought of his sister and her sons, remembering that visit and the deep resentment he’d felt as a child, when their trip to Falasteen drew to a close and Alia began gathering her family’s passports and packed their suitcases. Jarrah’s mother double-sealed pounds of roasted bizr and dried mlookhiyah to tuck into Alia’s bag. Jarrah had wanted to run away with them, travel to a place where your neighborhood wasn’t bordered by barbed wire and watchtowers, with settlers aiming their rifles at you until you turned around on your bicycle, back to the dusty roads of the mokhayam. Confined to his cell eighteen hours a day, it was hard to imagine what Alia and her family — or anyone he knew — were doing in the present outside the prison walls. How could he fathom any other place, like the childhood room he shared with his middle brother Hossam, a football propped in a dank corner next to school books? Or the wadi speckled with thorn bushes where he and his friends descended in the summertime, aiming their slingshots at bee-eaters, then finding shelter from the blistering sun under an acacia tree? Life had seemed to halt in prison, and Jarrah was thrust into limbo, and though time passed, life was the same day in and day out. His mother was permitted to visit close to Eid. She’d insist on attempting to bring the ma‘mool she baked with her neighbors, though the guards forced her to throw them away. Through a plate-glass window, she gave him the same rundown of happenings around the mokhayam: who’d gotten married, who’d graduated with high tawjeehi marks. Most times his attention drifted to the stilted conversations coming through the small holes in the glass on either side of him. Like Jarrah, the other prisoners listened, occasionally nodding, while a mother, father, or wife prattled on, believing their visits were comforting.
26 Sahar Mustafah
It was less difficult when his brother Essam visited, and they’d talk about football contenders. The year Germany beat Argentina, Essam brought him news about Safaa. “She’s engaged, habibi. She’s moving to Dubai.” Essam had an expression of sadness just as intense as when Jarrah had been sentenced to life. He wasn’t surprised, but it was the first and only time he’d wept in his cell, muffling his moans with a moldy pillow. Five years into his confinement, his father had come to Nafha, and Jarrah knew it was a sign of something serious. His father could not bear seeing his son in this place and rarely visited after the first year. “Your nephew Bader,” his father began. “Allah yarhamo. May God have mercy on his soul.” “How?” Jarrah asked. He’d felt nothing in that moment. The absence of grief might have frightened him before prison, but his apathy had become a natural state. It was the only way to survive when all you have are your thoughts and feelings, and they drive men insane. He’d heard it through the walls, the wailing of young men, yearning to be home with their families. And the hopeless silence, too, that hung over the life-term prisoners, was just as shrill. “Car crash,” his father said. “Bassim, by the grace of Allah, survived.” That night in his cell, Jarrah allowed the images of gnarled steel and broken bones to puncture the darkness like exploding stars. He was thousands of miles from his sister’s grief, the same distance she was from his own in captivity. What did her pain look like? Was having your child snatched from you the same as having your life stolen by oppression? Eight years later, the son who had survived was no longer a defenseless little boy. At O’Hare International Airport, Jarrah didn’t recognize his nephew Bassim, standing beside Alia. Bassim was now tall, with broad shoulders, but there was still something timid in his expression, a ripple of fear in the brown pools of his eyes. A look like the one he had that morning Essam had taken the three of them to watch the chickens get butchered at the souk. Bassim wailed the entire walk home, and Alia reproached Essam for having exposed her children to the animal carnage. At the airport gate, she nudged Bassim forward, and they exchanged swift pecks on each cheek and shook hands. Over a platter of maklooba later at their house, Bassim was mostly quiet, like Jarrah, while his sister’s husband prattled away. “Those dogs will pay soon,” Hatim announced, his fork poised over his plate of chicken and rice. “The world has stopped turning a blind eye to Israel.” His brother-in-law commenced a one-sided debate on boycott and divestment while the rest of them were quiet. His sister noiselessly fretted over him with tentative smiles and heaping scoops of rice and cauliflower. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten this meal. When he had been deported to Lisbon, his sponsors from the Palestine Charitable Society of Portugal would
invite him every Sunday for their Christian gathering. They would have a table full of waraq dawali and roasted lamb, along with bottles of Vinho Verde that Jarrah consistently declined, though he’d drink red wine from a flask with Dores when they were alone in her bedroom, after he’d been serving pork all day at the restaurant. At his sister’s table, he gazed at the platter of maklooba she set down. It had been over a decade since he smelled the aroma of fried cauliflower, and his sister looked over the meal she had prepared like perhaps it was not enough. “This is delicious, Alia,” he told her, his voice not sounding like his own. “Sahtain,” Alia said. His sister had aged; that fresh glow in her complexion had dulled. There were thin lines on her forehead and crow’s-feet stamped around her eyes. When she’d taken off her hijab, he was startled by the wisps of gray unspooling from the crown of her head. She looked like their mother, tired and morose. He’d caught his nephew stealing glances at him across the kitchen table — perhaps it was the scar that ran from his right temple to his hairline, the result of an encounter with a hung-over prison guard. As he lay in bed, Jarrah pressed the pad of his finger against the scar tissue. It had grown familiar, like any other part of his body. In captivity, he became acquainted with every contour of limb, every inch of skin. He’d spent hours gazing at his hands — fallow, like a bush that no longer flowers — and tracing his narrow fingers, following the slight bow at the knuckles and down to the protruding bone where his wrist began. In his dead nephew’s room, he stared at the ceiling fan for a while. His eyes flitted to the cornflower-blue walls — bare, though there were traces of items once hanging. In the closet, Jarrah noticed a large box of trophies and medals tucked into a corner. He looked back at the ceiling, with its crown molding, and he imagined the beams supporting the joists behind the plaster and paint. It had been a habit since he was a student at Birzeit University, picturing the skeleton of wood that forms a cathedral or vaulted ceiling. He recalled perusing architectural diagrams while waiting for Safaa outside the pharmacy department, examining side-by-side comparisons of the skeletons and exteriors of famous monuments. In prison, everything ran in straight lines, vertical and horizontal. Only steel and wire and plate glass. No arcs or spirals. Even the signs in Hebrew were daunting square letters forming words that ordered him and the others to beware of their every movement. Next door, his nephew Bassim was very quiet. The only noises Jarrah heard were the rush of air conditioning through the floor vents and an intermittent beep from an appliance in the kitchen. The absence of human sound was disconcerting as much as it was comforting. He’d heard too often the sounds of despair from men. م
28 Sahar Mustafah
Zeina Azzam Non-Lieux
It was at the bookstore that I understood. You held my hand, explained Augé’s theory of the non-place. Like waiting at the elevator, roaming the airport: we make our own place in those gray-colored non-places. The world felt like a null space then. Fixing ourselves here and there — negatives in positives — nothing else mattered. After you left I saw the tragedy of this theory, the now-fraught space we created. You even called it a dangerous place. We became solitary refugees, just like our parents, climbing back to the non-places in-between, landless with no landing. م
From the time farmers rise with the sun until night descends, there is talk of it — songs and Qur’anic verses about khayr, morning of khayr, evening of khayr. There is no getting around goodness. Tisbahi ala khayr, my mother would wish me as she kissed my forehead at bedtime: may you wake up to goodness. Later I learned to respond: w’inti min ahlo, may you be part of its family — the family of khayr. Even watching TV, as we waited for bad news from Gaza, she would admonish, khayr inshallah! Goodness, God willing! No matter the misfortune, she was sure Allah would eventually bring khayr to Palestine. Maybe it all started with her neighbors in Jaffa, the family whose name was Khayrallah, God’s goodness. From kindness to comity, their ancestors packed so much in this name: it was a hedge against hardship, an incantation in their bones — Palestine’s bones — where khayr resides from morning till night, in a mother’s kiss at bedtime, deep in a farmer’s land. There, the roots of khayr multiply in the earth, goodness bristling. م
30 Zeina Azzam
Bao Phi a·sy·lum
noun 1. the protection granted by a nation to someone who has left their native country as a political refugee. “she applied for asylum and was granted refugee status” 2. dated an institution offering shelter and support to people who are mentally ill. “he’d been committed to an asylum” What I mean to say is, hundreds of Vietnamese people in a plane devoured by flame at once: hundreds of fuses or hundreds of wicks on an anniversary depending on whom you ask. What I mean to say is my father fought off muggers a third his age at the bus stop, his feet uprooted on Minnesota ice. What I mean to say is, kids shouted obscenities at my mother as she fixed the damage they did until she straightened her back and yelled back her broken swears. What I mean to say is, my dreams were blue-eyed tongues. What I mean to say is, the headlines read Germany eliminated from World Cup not South Korea won.
What I mean to say is, Love lives in our bones as does nobody wants you here. What I mean to say is, every word in this language is a refugee. What I mean to say is, “deserve” got nothing on “history.” No, I never said any of this I must be going crazy م
32 Bao Phi
Ahdaf Soueif Sanctuary
In the southern mosque in al-Aqsa Sanctuary, we sat for a while watching the sun play on the mosaics, the swallows flit through the beams, then we followed our guide down the broad stairs of the Marwani prayer hall. He led us to a far corner, and in that corner was a well. “This is the route they’ll come,” he said, and pointed. “This is where they will come out.” We peered down into the deep blackness and looked back up at him. He looked very serious. It was November 2000. Ten years later the Israelis still hadn’t come up through the well, but they had closed off nine of the great gates of the sanctuary to non-Muslim visitors and were using the tenth, Moroccan Gate, to allow access to increasing numbers of Israeli Jewish settlers. They had also dug and dug and dug under the sanctuary, and they’d sliced and studded the southern cliff face of Jerusalem Hill into a puzzle of entrances and exits and ladders and scaffolding and makeshift stairs. Their deeper tunnelings did not emerge at the cliff face but burrowed on under the narrow road and into Silwan, the town that nuzzles into Jerusalem’s southern shoulder. Silwan used to be the last stop before the Holy City for visitors and pilgrims coming from the south. It has lush green picnic grounds around a sweet-water spring: Ein Helweh. A thriving farming and market town since the seventh century, it has spread into the valley and up the facing hills. Since 1967, the Silwanis had lived under the normal conditions of Israeli military occupation — punitive taxes, denial of licenses to build or to trade, settler harassment, arbitrary
detention — until the Israeli excavations started to shake the foundations of their homes. In 2010, a feature of every house we visited was the scaffolding braced against the walls of living rooms and bedrooms to hold them back from collapsing onto families eating dinner, children doing homework. In the UNRWA school, the floor had opened up and the girls at their desks had been swallowed into the basement. No one filed a complaint because they knew the Israeli authorities would take the opportunity to close the school down. So they fixed the floor, stretched beams across it, and carried on. Silwan’s main street bustles and meanders from the narrow road by al-Aqsa to the flat bottom of the valley. It pauses at houses and shops, bends at cafés and garages, curves with the contours of the hill. Narrow alleyways slip off it, greened and shaded, dipping steeply toward Ein Hilweh. But now, behind its back and the back of the town, hidden, another road cuts down the hill; purposeful and unswerving, it starts from the tunnels under the sanctuary and ends at the spring. It is punctuated by presentation platforms and observation posts and ticket counters. This is Ur David, the City of David theme-park project. Eighty houses in the neighborhood have been handed eviction notices so that “the park where King David walked” can be recreated. When a Palestinian house-holder suggested in court that he, too, was a descendant of King David and his house could be regarded as his rightful inheritance, the judge fined him for contempt. We veered off down the steep short slope of an alleyway and came to a halt at a good-sized shop stocked with fabrics and souvenirs and dried herbs. Trees and bushes and flowers pressed in on us. The waters of Ein Helweh tumbled below, and across the path, iron bars blocked our way. The shopkeeper, in his fifties, explained that the Israelis had blocked off the spring and the grounds around it; they were only allowing settlers and soldiers to go there because it had become a “national park.” We made some purchases. Israel’s magic had transformed a profitable business on a path between the main street and the main tourist attraction into a hidden shop at a dead end. What the world outside Palestine (sometimes) notes is the high drama: the bombings and shellings and demolitions and killings. Sometimes the detentions — if prisoners make enough noise or go on hunger strike. Ripping olive trees out of the earth and burning down orchards can also make it into the public consciousness. But simmering beneath all this is the low-level drama: the Israeli state’s groundlevel, systematic, inventive, relentless assault on the fabric of Palestinian life, the malign cooperations of legal, military, municipal, and settler powers to prise and lever and shock people away from homes, businesses, services, and social networks — the assault on the daily reality of Palestinians. From a distance, it’s almost impossible to get a sense of this ongoing drama, of the effort and resources, the humanity it requires from each Palestinian to
34 Ahdaf Soueif
hold on to a reality and a stability within themselves in the face of Israel’s daily rupturing of the enduring realities and stabilities of their world. And it is this drama that is most dismaying and disorienting to outsiders who have the opportunity to see it up close. A visiting author at PalFest once said he felt he’d walked into a science fiction film. Another said that the refrain that kept looping in his head was “I’ve been had.” Both were Jewish. But it is also this daily struggle that has been most accessible to intervention by interested outsiders. It is into these rupturings of reality that activists have inserted themselves, trying to prevent or heal them with their physical bodies. Rachel Corrie and Tom Hurndall paid for their commitment with their lives. “You are either with life, or against it,” Palestinian American poet Suheir Hammad wrote in November 2001. “Affirm life!” The Palestinians affirm life. They have affirmed life every day, each day, for one hundred years. Their genius has been to keep Palestine and Palestinian life alive — to keep it rooted, growing, updated, relevant. Each individual fulfills the role their context allows. From the first wave of the Palestinian diaspora that set up research institutions and established formidable relief, education, and development organizations to the ceramics merchant who sits in his stocked, deserted shop on the doorstep of the Ibrahimi Mosque day after day bombarded with death-threat anthems from the settler center next door and refuses to sell one paving stone of his courtyard to the fund-laden settlers. In Gaza, the people impose their own reality on the reality Israel imposes on them. And they play it out for the world to see. Razan al-Najjar’s mother puts on the blood-spattered white coat her daughter was wearing when the Israeli sniper killed her and goes out to save lives. Young athletes whose legs Israeli soldiers have shattered become a football team on a grassy pitch. An orchestra plays in the rubble of the Mis7al Cultural Centre the day after the Israelis bomb it. Dancing against a backdrop of smoke and tear gas, Gazans have time and again taken control of the image, transmitted their own take on the dynamic between them and their enemy: life fighting against death. And none of them is looking for the world’s pity; what they demand is justice — and life. Edward Said repeatedly pointed out that the America of the ruling establishment is not the only America. He urged Palestinians to make common cause with Black America, Latino America, the America of the marginalized and the underprivileged. Today the potential for solidarity is greater than ever. There’s a new generation of American Jews who will not subscribe to the allegiances of their elders, who do not feel compelled to undertake the ethical acrobatics of being anti-Occupation but pro-Zionist, and who reject the linking of their heritage as Jews with a politics that embeds them with the scare-mongering racist death-merchants of the right. These young people are impelled to go up close,
to find out for themselves, to look at the detail. They go on their Birthright trips, listen to the message then ask questions, and when they don’t get honest answers, they leave Birthright and go in search of them — a search that leads them to the Palestinians. Meanwhile a generation of diaspora Palestinians push forward as high achievers in every field of life in the US — and most naturally bring with them Palestine and its cause. And stepping up to provide focal and rallying points for action, solidarity, and discussion is the BDS movement. Fourteen years old and now reaching critical mass, BDS has reframed the ongoing injustice of the Nakba. In fresh and uncompromising language, it has exposed the sterile (fraudulent?) peace process and — in the US — is nudging the case of Palestine toward its deserved position within the battles over the Constitution, free speech, democracy, and the nature of truth. In Palestine, people are holding onto their lives. It’s like holding onto hot coals. There has to be a game-changer from outside. At the moment, I’d say the betting is on the diaspora in America — Jewish and Palestinian together — to lead the world away from that dark well in the corner of the Marwani prayer hall and into the gloriously hospitable courtyard of the al-Aqsa Sanctuary, its ten great gates standing open, that everyone may come and go in freedom. م
36 Ahdaf Soueif
Janan Alexandra sleep for forgetfulness for & after Mahmoud Darwish
Good morning. Good morning yourself good morning. She wakes airless, having spent the night hours hovering above her sleeping body. A pool of light that never went out, she is in a room. A capsule of white sheets, she is floating weightless on the 12th floor. Could be anywhere. Sleep is for forgetting someone whispers. Baby powder behind the ear, cigarette smoke in the corners of the mouth. What is she forgetting? The voice says we will survive these winters, even our countries will survive them. Tell me about invincible summers. Tell me what you know about unraveling. Is this a practice in forgetting? Good morning she says to herself good morning Darwish good morning poet good morning a procession of mourners is singing laments. The giant men have decided that the Earth is invulnerable, that there has been no loss no injury nothing irrevocable. The autumn trees are only the color of autumn trees. The gray sky must also be an autumn tree, plucked raw. I say to the tall men good morning and are you mourning and do you feel the furnace of winter blanching your lungs or are your lungs somehow sovereign, like summer, like forgetting. I want to know who you consider in the distance your blood travels, to ask you how many names gather around your own. م
Eileen Myles Pictures of Palestine
Palestine feels like somebody I fell in love with that dropped me into the world with a whole new glint. The world seizes and flickers differently since the time I spent there in 2017 as Palestine reminded me of what I already knew, about itself and the world. Stuff I knew but Palestine kind of literalized the facts about what America is, about what empire is and how the places on the earth identified as being unoccupied, underused, wrongly inhabited or inhabited by those about to be displaced are the sites of this moment and every moment’s greatest crimes. I am female and I’m queer so I do know that war never ends. That around World War I they noticed that the symptoms of shell shock and female neurasthenia were identical. So one can extract from that that just to be a woman was to live in a state of siege. Teenage suicide is a queer phenomenon in the West. Being sexually wrong is often lethal. It’s not articulated statistically but we know. Someplace in the ’80s I came to understand that the Irish Potato Famine was not a famine but a situation in which the only crop the Irish were allowed to eat from their own land was the cheap potato crop, and the dairy products and the meat products were always shipped off to the UK and once the potato turned to slime because of a fungus, the abundant food of their land still went to the UK despite the fact that Irish people were now starving and forced to keep shipping their food away to the Landlord. And the Landlord eventually had them knock down their own homes with battering rams because they could not pay their rent because they were starving and I suppose were not adequately feeding the Landlords’ coffers while they were too distracted by watching the baby die. And that’s the same UK responsible for the Balfour Declaration and partition in
38 Eileen Myles
Palestine. The same UK that condemned the starving Irish as shiftless and lazy from the pulpits in phrases identical to that used by the American clergy little more than a century later when they were blaming homosexuals for their lousy indulgent lifestyles which brought on AIDS. In all these cases the victims had brought “it” on themselves, that’s what you get. And of course Palestinians are violent and they’ve only themselves to blame for the evenhanded retribution they receive from Israel and the EU and the UK and US and all the other global funders and supporters of that retribution. What else do I want to say. That Native Americans sent cornmeal to the Irish when they were starving. Native Americans recognized in Ireland a partner in crime, a fellow traveler being genocided idly by a power that pushed them off their land when they could and killed them on it when they needed. And incidentally in the seventeenth century the Irish were the ones the British practiced on when they began to subjugate and rob from the uncivilized people on the island right next to them. They were ready then for America and India in that century and in all the centuries that followed, ready to kill the “savages” there and there and there. Native Americans were, for me, the quickest way to understand what I saw for myself in 2017 when I went to Palestine — understanding and interpreting what I saw and knowing more deeply once again what it means to be an American — citizen of a country that supports endless war particularly in places that fit the model of what “we” are fighting for which is always and only more. In Palestine, I repeatedly heard the term The Colonial/Settler Project which slowly produced in me an all-encompassing oh. That that’s what Manifest Destiny was here — a nation of settlers pushing from coast to coast to take what was theirs. Always accomplished in the name of god, by divine right. And even understanding America as a biblically inspired and predicted country, a dream, the promised land. They landed here in a god-given Tempest. Almost a mistake. And what a land it was — only occupied by so-called savages here and there. Author and activist Ward Churchill has written an astonishing book called A Little Matter of Genocide that opens with a powerful paragraph by Russell Means, American Indian Movement activist, where he describes swiftly and exhaustively America’s policy of colonization and occupation that began, he writes “when the European boat people first set foot on this land.” To cast the white Europeans as exactly what they were — refugees seeking a new life in a foreign land that happened to be already occupied by someone else. Approximately twenty-five million native peoples lived in North America at the time of European contact. Other counts set the figure at one hundred million. For decades the Smithsonian has taken, Churchill writes, the position of holocaust denier in terms of the ever-shrinking census of how many native people were originally there/here. Until very recently the Smithsonian held to the figure of one million people which makes the “little matter of genocide” be a less
awesome crime. A mere 95% of a million gone by the nineteenth century rather than 95% of twenty-five million or one hundred million which would then be putting the deracination of Native peoples on the North American continent at maybe the top of the historically recorded genocides of our time. What I saw in Palestine felt like the first hundred years of that. In the same way that the Holocaust was shocking because it had just happened, World War II ending only nine years before I started school, Israel’s policy of destroying villages and demolishing houses and displacing lives and creating refugees and producing statelessness on a massive scale in Palestine is less than a hundred years old. Gaza is happening now. And yet like the starvation in Ireland, Gaza is either not spoken about at all in our media or not spoken about accurately because the story is controlled by the perpetrators: Israel, US, UK, and EU, and like the forced marches, the Trail of Tears of Native Americans who were forced to leave their homes and starve and die and collapse on the way to a valueless piece of land in another part of the continent, to be led to what, in essence, is a jail. Gaza is a jail, an open-air prison. We couldn’t even go there. No one gets out, and hardly anyone gets in, and last spring IDF snipers had been picking off kids, health care workers, athletes, anyone they damn well please who is demonstrating or aiding demonstrators along the wall because Gaza is treated like a video game of hate. American Jews, celebrities like Jerry Seinfeld, now come to Israel to play IDF Westworld and shoot at Palestinian targets like Klansmen took target practice at effigies of black men running in Spike Lee’s recent movie because Palestine’s condition is not isolated but associated with all the other state crimes I know, mainly the adventurous actions of the entire white colonizing world that takes what it wants and that is its truest home, a bottomless massive endless state of greedy thievery. I didn’t know that I had much to say about Palestine except that by going there in 2017 I’m changed, altered, and it’s thoroughly my problem now. It’s the heart of my problem. I took some pictures in Palestine. There’s a bright red door and strips of white posters mostly torn down remain and two men’s faces arise from within the torn shapes and one man is holding a camera and the other man is larger and has dark hair. His eyes have been gouged like kids do to movie posters everywhere in the world like mustaches drawn on women and cocks and balls scribbled onto the empty spaces but his eyes are spectral and now like the other man’s camera do a deeper seeing. Is it advertising an event or are these men gone. The torn-ness of the poster advocates for passion and the unstoppableness of their mission. Below the torn poster there’s a hole gouged in the red door. In another pic a group of us sit around a luminous door with a rounded arch and next to it a man named Raja is reading us the story of his past friendship with an Israeli and how happy his friendship made him. We were all
40 Eileen Myles
grateful to be out of the sun, to have a story to focus on and a kind and grateful story and the sense of us being a group of some sort even friends like the men in the story, possibly needing each other and proving something by our presence. The fact that this man was reading to us not simply talking fortified the presence of us, gave it shape and even finitude because a book would end. We were crouched and yet soon we would move. It was a respite. We went to a museum that focused on documentation and art by Palestinian prisoners. Around this time I became comfortable with the term martyrs who I generally thought of as Christians who had died two thousand years ago. The roaring enormity of taking activism to a pitch where you would die, you would rather die than live under lying and ignominious conditions moved me like the streets and the people and the graffiti and the checkpoints moved me but these women and men were real and had died. The long human-sized photograph of an articulate dark-haired man smoking a cigarette with his head tipped in engaged thought and speech shared the frame (maybe Photoshopped) in was George Jackson — head thrown back a bit also in thought also smoking. It was a dual portrait. The simple nextness of the two young men having a smoke undoubtedly dead now made an ardent connection, a history united, the man in sandals and the man in boots seemed like comrades, friends. Fellow prisoners. There’s a door, in a different photograph, a green one with a cascade of hearts mostly spray-painted some white and large and a bit of script, a few words in bright yellow, squared for emphasis perhaps in green and the bottom of the square is black holding the golden text tight, underlining it. And below that a thick black mark almost redacting but I think covering nothing. There are ten or eleven hearts on that door and one is crossed out which is powerful. I’ve never seen that before, a heart being gone, or not. Finally ANTIFA is on a cement block wall. This is a picture. A letter and a half are red, the rest of the “N” is black and then “TIFA” is black. The concrete wall is bright somehow, there’s a torn green hurricane fence above it, and there are buildings beyond and broken walls and a tiny bit of blue sky gets through. The final photograph is Jehan Bseiso, who is one of us. She was traveling with us and is Palestinian I think, and a poet and an aid worker. Jehan’s very beautiful and she’s going through Qalandia checkpoint, and she’s got part of her glasses in her mouth, she’s holding onto one of its arms in her teeth and she’s looking at someone, probably of our group, and through the bars you can see people behind her waiting but the aliveness of her gaze, this woman, the attitude of her head, her lipstick red everything suggests freedom and scorn, and pleasure and she’s got her hand on the handle of a rolling suitcase and she’s coming out. م
Ed Bok Lee Ode to the Poems of Any Small Nation For this reason poetry is more philosophical and more serious than history . . . — Aristotle, Poetics
On the other side of this heart Runs a mountainous country. Over that mountainous terrain Scurries a speck of soul, unbounded — My fourteenth great-grandfather, sneaking Off to court a girl he has not been appointed by his father to marry. By starlight, over streams and stones, He approaches her cedar window. See him: from shadows with nothing Of his own to offer but a story Of a typical day at school On the other side of the mountain Practicing calligraphy And studying classical poems. Would you want to hear one? She is intrigued by his high, hoarse voice and plump earlobes. I suppose. He likes her jawline, her oil-black eyes by moonlight, And the way her nose crinkles when she smiles at his Nervous anecdotes. They have no idea of the future Already drawing together
42 Ed Bok Lee
Their adolescent limbs and organs Amid cicadas in a cool breeze. In less than two years, they will run off together. With each passing season Life will test them. She will die In a fourth childbirth. He will lose an arm, Thrown from a horse, then his right eye On the eve of a colonial uprising. Two of their children and several grandchildren Will die over six decades in four wars. Their homeland to be Divided by greed then need; starvation Frozen inside the people’s throats Like all family stories never to be told. But, for now, the young wouldBe scholar’s ease grows, his elbows On her windowsill, courting This beautiful third daughter of the village miller, Still both tentative with their eyes. Nearby, a wooden wheel at the river grinds Grain in time to his newest memorized poem From the Koryŏ Dynasty Of two lone geese soaring through a mountain pass of purple irises As barbarian soldiers fast approach. Fifteen generations later, we know well the ancient ode On his lips will stutter then stall in memory, Requiring him to improvise something Or appear foolish as if offering a broken gift. As my eighty-nine-year-old aunt recounts:
My fourteenth great-grandmother’s mind Is already made up. She knows This suitor and she are far too young. She’s not even that fond of poems, Most of which seem to commemorate Sadness, longing, loss. Like the nearby water mill’s insinuation, The girl knows she wants a safe, steady life she can count on. And then his eyelids fall. م
44 Ed Bok Lee
Joe Sacco Excerpt from Footnotes in Gaza
© 2009 by Joe Sacco. Reprinted by permission of Henry Holt and Company. All rights reserved.
Donal O’Kelly Burnt Cork
In the villages of the Levant Oliver sports a burnt cork from a bottle of Beamish stout on the crest of his hot beret. Relic of his Black-and-Tan Irish days, displayed for the Jericho Arabs. He tilts his face to the low sun as they chug above the valley. Rear your heads — get what Cork got. Croppie lie down, Arab get shot. Olive groves instead of mountain ash, Same methods applied with Cockney panache. Same Arabs who fed him figs and cheese, and showed him where the wells were, when Allenby’s advance bedded down before moving on Jerusalem. Five years ago now, passed in a flash, water under bridges two thousand miles apart, quelling the hotheads, short sharp shocks, cork he fingers, the Vickers he cocks. م
48 Donal O’Kelly
Key of Door
I need a key, and a door to put it in. A place to say — I’m home. I need a key. Ahmad is in Quantanamo. Quantanamo, County Limerick, no signal, wifi shite, where the sun goes down forty miles from everywhere. Immersed in isolation. A cage with invisible bars. Shackles installed in the mind, a pull factor deterrent inflicting maximum discomfort leaving no external marks. Ahmad was homeless, thrown out ’cos he overstayed a few days away from once the convent on the hill now an award-winning Sligo enterprise paid a pppd fee — per person per day! Bold boy’s bags were packed and stowed, there’s the gate, told go. Where? The bus station? Back of Tesco? On a couch he got a space in a Syrian mate’s place.
People in the know wrote to the Reception and Integration Agency calling for his reinstatement. Next thing he got a call. Quantanamo was waiting for his rendition. Like Allihies once for alcoholic policemen. I saw Terror Ahmad onto the bus bound for no-go Quantanamo with his case shoelaced shut. See you soon, inshallah. Ahmad is Palestinian. Born and raised in Lebanon on the outer rim of Ayn Hylwah. Israel drove his grandparents from their Galilee fruit farm. Free choice, leave or die, because it’s ours, that’s why! All they took with them was the key. And the deeds, in a tin. I need a key, and a door to put it in. A place to say — I’m home. I need a key. م
50 Donal O’Kelly
Lena Khalaf Tuffaha Iconography This mass of sorrow, this packaging of the heart, this fear running under swift waves, what a defeat! We plunge into an endless night. — Etel Adnan
Tonight, between translations / when we carried a poem / from one country / into another language / where perhaps the imperative doesn’t land / with the same iron blow / as the original implies / I recounted the story of a theater full of people listening to a young poet become / a homeland and gathering the lines that fled his lips / as fast as they could capture them / and then I tried to say that the one word he used for writing and recording / would require a sentence or a story or a theater full of people to capture it / and I thought of the word / I have come to hate most in English / which is peace / because it is always pointed at my skull / and I am supposed to want / it more than my own name. Tonight a blood moon pulsed above the prison cells / where nimble fingers threaded beads / the color of a flag / and gathered their stillness to steady themselves after / the door slams again and they stay behind it / measuring shadows and memorizing / the laws that are broken to keep them there. Tonight a girl with a wheat-colored mane slept in her own bed in the silence between invasions. To night and the poem of a man who loved a woman across the barbs delineating / history / poem that became a song, poem / placed squarely between a rifle / and his beloved’s eyes / eyes the color of honey, poet / who in the sepia glaze of an aging photograph seemed more / a boy in outsized glasses and shoes / walking toward the lines he would write / the way any of us / otherwise rational beings might / walk into the waves knowing / we have never been able to swim / our waists lassoed by threads of moonlight / the bell of our questions / echoing inside the slender cavity of the body / the table of what is possible shifting, spilling over / To night / and the ravages of its insatiable / mouth, and lightlessness where poets and children / who will not give up the words that speak to them / are swallowed. It is possible / outside the caverns of this cathedral of stars and glimmering / planets, it is possible, from the soft shore of morning to imagine / that fear inflicted on the body / in sound grenades and strip searches /
in shackles and threats of oh / the rosiness of your skin / do you burn easily in the sun? / it is possible to imagine that all these can break / us too Night / and the day that follows are both promise and prison. I tried / to say this about translating / the poem / about breaching the waves / about painting a girl’s face onto a wall to frighten / a monster, a wall / that must ultimately be torn down / about lingering at the empty / chair where the poet’s jacket is perfectly folded and his pen / remains listless. I understand this desire / that cannot have / enough / that, for want of light and access to the sea / for want of words / carves icons out of our bones / ululates as the fallen are returned / to their mothers / dances / the same dance at weddings and funerals / but it might not translate م
52 Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
Fady Joudah Delivery
That man follows me, catches up and leads me to his origin, that man whose wife, after the bombing, vibrated her vocal cords in songs only he can hear. Before he came into this world his parents tried and failed to conceive for eight years in a refugee camp. A Bedouin woman passing through spoke her prescription: sacrifice a white chicken together on a moonless night, no artificial light around, then go to bed. An overwhelming majority of the chickens were brown. The couple searched and found, and their newborn turned out light-skinned “like his father,” the women said. “But that’s not true,” he says. “My skin, I got from the chicken.” م
This One’s for You, Alice
An old Gazan man walks into Jerusalem before Jerusalem was the capital of Pakistan. He hears Tchaikovsky blaring in the music room. Another Palestinian genius from Bethlehem, no, not Jesus, teaches him how to listen. The not-Jesus flees to live and die in Baghdad, and his house there, a museum of books and artifacts, is blown up, exploded. The old man grows wings toward the Citadel of Aleppo, crying. Did you know Mutannabi strolled its corridors, recited his poems in its halls, those verses that adorn our lives? Feathers and plumes gravitate from the heavens and birds gather around them in silent song. Do you know how to weep over Walt’s house and Emily’s homestead? I forget thee, my cunning. The old man returns from Aleppo to tell me I won’t be understood by the security apparatus, then disappears. In Jerusalem every year, an old Gazan checks into a hotel then sleeps for nine days in the streets. Between Jerusalem and Gaza. Back and forth, the rhythm of. Nine mornings, nine nights. And the owner, a Jerusalemite from Galilee, she files his dust then plays the score. م
54 Fady Joudah
Mandy Shunnarah Where Is the Old Country?
My father staggers down the cathedral aisle, boot buckles rattling with each step. He’s gaunt from decades of abusing his body, his neck a bundle of sticks. In his ripped jeans and leather jacket, he doesn’t look prepared to see his mother’s body. He’s an hour late, further proof he’d forgotten the wake and suddenly, with horror, remembered. Praying heads turn. In his shaking hand he holds a Mountain Dew, half-filled with vodka. Well into the evening, he’s still wearing sunglasses. His head pivots, searching for me. I shrink, sliding until my knees touch the pew in front. As he clops toward my pew, tears distort my vision. I run, the cacophony of my shoes echoing. In the parking lot, my mother waits. She isn’t welcome at her ex-mother-inlaw’s wake, nine years after divorcing my father. I yank the car door handle and throw myself into the back seat. “He didn’t show up?” “He showed. But he was drunk or high or something,” I mutter, patting my dripping cheeks. She nods knowingly. That was the last time I saw him. I was twelve. *** My pale skin and green eyes don’t fit most Americans’ image of what Arab people are “supposed” to look like. No one asks until they hear my last name. When people ask where I’m from, they usually mean which Southern state — my Alabama drawl betrays me. No
one expects a coming-to-America story. No one asks me where I’m really from. I don’t mind — the more I can hide, the less I have to explain. What does it mean to carry an identity you don’t identify with? Where do I look for my history? Some things I know about my Palestinian family: My last name, Shunnarah, means “partridge.” Like the bird. We’re originally from Ramallah in the West Bank. My grandparents left Ramallah because they were one of the few Arab Christian families, thus hounded by Jewish people and Muslim people alike. (This didn’t stop my befriending people in either group, to my grandparents’ chagrin.) My grandfather, sedo in Arabic, got his US citizenship by enlisting in the army. Once he got it, he went back for my teta. She came to this country with just three suitcases. Maybe even these few things are false. My narrators are unreliable, dead, or both. I know Teta’s hands felt like cashmere after she made bread. The flour lodged into the lines of her hands, in every wrinkle, in the notches between her fingers. When she patted my face or shooed me from the kitchen, her touch was a pillow of air. I know she kept plastic over the chairs and couches to discourage people from sitting on them. Embarrassed by the poverty she came from, she preserved furniture to keep it looking new. Her home was a museum and she was its curator. I look like her, but my light brown hair must be labored over to achieve her natural curls. My cousins look like Sedo — brooding eyes so dark the pupils disappear in their depths, black hair of cascading curls, skin of permanent desert tan. Genes carry stories, but there are tales they don’t tell. They don’t tell you that in your father’s family, the firstborn son is akin to a god. That you learn when you are old enough to realize there are favorites and you aren’t one. You become familiar with the subtleties of favoritism. The eldest son being given food first. His getting a new 1977 canary-yellow Corvette at sixteen, when his older sister was saddled with a clunker. His getting more presents on his birthday. His never being made to apologize. The other siblings stew silently, knowing they are loved, but not as much. Their knowing that no matter how successful they are, their finest accomplishment is insubstantial compared to the least thing their brother has done. Even when the eldest son, my father, is a prescription drug addict. ***
56 Mandy Shunnarah
Sedo and Teta referred to their homeland ambiguously as The Old Country. “Sedo, where is The Old Country?” I ask, thinking that’s the actual name. “We’re from the city of Ramallah.” “The city is The Old Country?” “The city is in The Old Country, bebe.” Sedo was always calling me “bebe,” pronouncing it “beh-beh.” “Where is the city?” “In the West Bank.” “Where is the West Bank?” I ask, growing frustrated at my inability to understand, or his inability to explain. “In The Old Country.” “The West Bank is The Old Country?” “Not quite, bebe. Gaza is part of The Old Country, too.” I nod, hardly knowing more than before. *** I imagine dealers spotting my father in a crowd with his bloodshot eyes and swaying gait. They’d know his Mountain Dew bottle was filled with liquor and that he thought nothing of driving a hundred miles per hour with his child in the car. They’d know he swept floors at the karate studio to afford his habit when the money his father gave him ran out. I imagine him giving them the money he wasn’t paying for child support. I see him buying his pills, doing a quick calculation, and leaving just enough for a few cups of Maruchan Instant Lunches, twenty-seven cents apiece. His addiction told him to give me, at age eight, a roll of quarters and tell me to walk across the highway, alone, to McDonald’s and play in the tunnels all day. His addiction told him to read my diary, laugh at the passages, and send me to time-out for hours when I screamed for him to give it back. His brief moments of sobriety made him promise me next time I visited — next time, next time, always next time — we’d turn his spare bedroom into a bedroom for me and paint the walls green because that was my favorite color. And it was his addiction that never fulfilled the promise. The last time I saw that room, all it had was a toolbox, a broken vacuum with a deflated bag, weights, and old beer-sticky drumsticks signed by Sheila E. with her distinctive backward signature. I slept on the couch. *** I wonder if coming from a place so battered with conflict caused my family to carry strife in our bones? To wear struggle like armor because it carries the scent of home.
Palestine feels imaginary to me. I’m the daughter of a first-generation American, not far removed from The Old Country, yet family vignettes never meld into a mental movie. I can’t truly know Palestine by inheriting my family’s memories. “If Gaza and the West Bank are one country, why do they have different names?” Another day, another attempt at extracting answers. “They’re not one country like America is one country,” Sedo says. “Gaza and the West Bank are different places, not connected.” I think of them as the Alaska and Hawaii of Palestine. “So they’re different places and the West Bank is west of Gaza?” “Well, no, bebe,” says Sedo, chuckling “The West Bank is east of Gaza.” “Why don’t they call it the East Bank?” I ask, hoping for a story about some explorer’s broken compass or a historical comedy of errors like the Greenland/ Iceland mixup. “Same reason you park on driveways and drive on parkways. I didn’t name them, bebe.” *** The firstborn son can whip his child in the parking lot of Olive Garden until she bleeds. He can hold a screwdriver to his wife’s temple, threatening to kill. He can pretend his daughter doesn’t exist because she’s not the son he wanted. He can live in his rundown apartment and raid the communal washing machines for quarters to buy pills that make him forget the world and The Old Country with it. He can use and abuse and dose and overdose until he’s swallowed by his addiction — gulped down like a palmful of pills, irretrievably lost. *** At the Mediterranean restaurant where the food is unpalatable compared to my dead teta’s, I sit with Sedo. It’s the eve of my college graduation, a decade after I’d last seen him. “You have to be a part of the family, bebe. You do not choose your family. God chooses your family. Time to come back.” “He hasn’t changed. I can’t be part of the family if it’s toxic — ” “Toxic? It’s family! We love you!” exclaims Sedo, arms outstretched as though offering me a prize. My expression remains unchanged. “Is he still using?” “What?” “Is he still an addict?” I hiss. “You don’t know what you’re talking about, bebe,” he says, waving dismissively.
58 Mandy Shunnarah
“He’s not addicted to prescription drugs?” “He smoked grass in school,” Sedo says with the privileged confidence old men employ. “That’s not what I asked.” “There’s nothing to ask, bebe.” “It’s your fault,” I say, watching his eyes narrow. “If you told him he’d be disinherited if he didn’t go to rehab, he would’ve gone. But you’re still pretending he doesn’t have a problem. You’re the reason he was never a decent father and the reason he can’t hold a job. You’ve never asked him to do better so he’s never had to. When he kills himself, that’ll be your doing, too.” “Don’t talk to me like this,” he growls. “If you’re more worried about hearing hard truths than you are about your son then you’re still the problem. Either way, you’re the enabler.” “He was in a car wreck as a teenager. That caused his back to act up. The doctor gave him — ” He slams his hand on the table, reminding me I was wise to meet in a public place. “That happened when he was seventeen and he’s in his fifties. He should’ve gone to rehab before his twentieth birthday.” “You can’t tell a man what to do, bebe.” “You can if you’re his father. You can if you stop giving him money. You can if you stop letting him live for free in an apartment you own. Money talks and you’re keeping silent.” “He is the way he is,” Sedo sighs. Sedo. My father. My place among these people who share my blood. The broken things pile their shards on the family name. *** The plane hits the tarmac at LAX when the voicemail comes. Hey. It’s Uncle Jimmy. [Sigh] I’m calling because I thought you should know. It wouldn’t be right for you to find out in the paper. [Pause] If you’re still in town to read the newspaper. [Deep breath] Your father died. [Voice shaking] We don’t know what killed him; your uncle Tony came home and found him on the couch. They’d been living together. Long story. [Shaky breath] They’re doing an autopsy, but the funeral is Tuesday at Bell Funeral Home. You can come. If you want. [Long pause] [Click] Looking for the signs to Baggage Claim, my mother calls. “Honey, your sedo called — ” “I know. Sperm Donor is dead,” I say, annoyed. “Don’t call him that now.” “He was basically dead before. He’s just actually dead now.” “You want to go to the funeral?” “No.”
The only thing I want is to find the Wolfgang Puck restaurant the next terminal over. His dying while I’m on vacation feels emblematic of our relationship. He washed his hands of every fatherly duty when I was a toddler, so he should understand why I’m not leaving Los Angeles to attend his funeral in Alabama. With his death, I don’t have to explain to boyfriends and curious friends that I really did have a fine life growing up with a single mom. I don’t have to roll my eyes and ignore their texts when they implore me to contact him, as if that onus should be on me. His death excuses me from having to justify my self-preservation. His death is a quick end to a conversation I never wanted to have. There’s no grief for me to experience. It’s easier to explain your father is dead than trying to explain why he didn’t want you. I forgo Wolfgang Puck and head to Baggage Claim, knowing I have more baggage than I can carry. *** The list of people I’ve blocked on Facebook is pushing a thousand, nearly all of them Shunnarahs. Not even visiting the Wikipedia entry for Palestine felt safe when he was alive. I imagined a population overrun with people like my father. I imagined visiting Ramallah as a clueless tourist, only to have a native point and say, “You’re one of us!” If my Palestinian family could hurt me, then Palestine can hurt me. If I know nothing of my Palestinian-ness, I can choose not to engage when relatives on the other side of the family rail against immigrants. I can choose silence when the other kids at school talk about “all the terrorists” in the Middle East, then make plans to get pita sandwiches after school. I can say I’m part French and part Scotch-Irish and pretend that’s all. I can ignore the news on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and can have Jewish friends who don’t ask about my name. I don’t have to think about my dead, drug-addict father who didn’t want me. *** Another day, another weekend where the divorce agreement puts me in my father’s care. But he’s left me with my grandparents again. Pointing to the globe, “Show me our Old Country,” I beg Sedo. “It’s not there. The land is there, but the map calls it another name.” I wonder how something as unerring as a globe could be wrong. “If it’s not there, does that mean it doesn’t exist?” Shaking his head, Sedo says, “You ask too many questions, bebe.” He means I ask the same question too many times. I still want to know how a father becomes a stranger from an estranged land. How a daughter becomes a stranger to her history. م 60 Mandy Shunnarah
Summer Farah origin story
i still don’t know how to introduce myself at the palestinian pride events when my name fights itself in my mouth & in our first day of arabic class we went around the table and said our names & i felt safe & said samar & my professor asked how to spell it & i was left with a semester of explanation which matched my life of explanation but i don’t like the heat & i don’t like confrontation so please don’t call me the sun because i do not know how to live in the light. my words flow at night & i always picture us on the porch the way my parents described with coffee in hand even though i know i’ll want to sleep soon & i try not to let my name become an aesthetic / i try not to let my name become performative / i try not to perform my culture / i try to tell myself i am not playing a role / i try to tell myself my culture isn’t only wrapped around my neck / i wear a keffiyeh on days i perform / i wear a keffiyeh on days i mourn & today i wore a keffiyeh & a man reached out & tried to grab me & i was afraid but mostly i didn’t want to lose my scarf & i don’t want to lose my country & i don’t know if it is my country & please stop asking me if i’ve been to palestine. i remember the first time i introduced myself as samar & i looked around at the falastinis wearing keffiyehs & i touched the black scarf around my neck & i felt pretty but i didn’t feel safe & i called my mom & she called it hatta & i thought that was easier to say anyway & i know that was the point of summer & i know it looks right on the roll call sheet but i think summer feels wrong in my mouth sometimes just like summer feels wrong on my skin because i’d much rather sit outside in the wind / i always pictured my name with a breeze / i always pictured words carried by the evening wind / i always pictured coffee cups warming the hands of the conversationalists / i always pictured no fear in staying up late / i always pictured no fear in catching a cold / i always pictured safety even before i knew that was the point of summer & one time someone asked me what the arabic word for the season was but i didn’t know the answer yet but i shrugged earnestly because i never felt like i needed to know & when i learned it sounded like safe i wondered if that was my parents’ intention all along م
Yazan Khalili Darkness against Landscape (Defamiliarizing the Image) Excerpt
The act of making a landscape of Palestine, or what can be called “The Open” — that which is “outside” the urban space — of making it a timeless continuation of the imagined biblical landscape, has been part of the Zionist process for colonizing the Palestinian land and replacing its native inhabitants. This process consists of two phases: First, making the native inhabitants part of the scenery, part of the landscape, in order to lend the image authentic aesthetics. Second, inverting that very process and looking at them as underdeveloped characters who fail to understand the value of this landscape, and therefore the land should be taken away from them1 and desert turned into a blooming country of “milk and honey.” They are there to produce the scenery and then disappear.2 This reduction of Palestine into “the status of a landscape,”3 alienates
62 Yazan Khalili
Palestinians from the land, but interestingly, not from the image representing the landscape. Our access to the land is limited and restricted by different mechanisms: temporary and structural, procedural and bureaucratic. The Wall, checkpoints, bypass and settler-only roads, settlements, military zones — and of course, all the necessary permissions that have become harder than ever to obtain — distance us from being familiar with the landscape. These obstacles castrate the possibility of constructing a collective relation in and through the land and its geography. They exile the land without expelling the indigenous; we become passersby on the road-networks penetrating the landscape when traveling from one ghetto to the other — the ghetto nowadays known as Area A — we become temporal inhabitants of the roads looking at that timeless landscape.
Strangely, we “Palestinians” can’t see that very biblical landscape; we don’t belong to it, because we are “it.” Our vital space is its continuation through history, and when we begin depicting that space as a landscape, we begin falling into that alienation from what used to be a space. From the Nakba throughout the years of occupation, this landscape has been represented as an image of vanishing space — from a possible site to a distant sight that represents all these policies and structures of separation and oppression. These images are produced to represent feelings of loss and the trauma of the conflict; images of olive groves, of ancient roots of villages, of the terraces, etc. Images that document the actions of the occupation, showing the gray concrete wall penetrating the land, settlements on the horizon, the misery of the queues of people waiting at checkpoints; whether mass-mediated or in art, by foreign and local photographers. All these images are familiar to us; this is how we see the land: a landscape practiced through occupation and alienation. We become fixated on the visual representation of our political status; we become familiar to this landscape because we become used to seeing it as an alien place. I am not implying that we “Palestinians” never had a landscape before the British Mandate or Israeli occupation — far from that. Every nation has a landscape that it relates to, and through its traversals constructs part of its collective narrative. The problem is not in the landscape as
a scene, but in the act of transforming the space to become a scene. Violence isn’t only what is practiced through space, but also in making a landscape out of that violence. For example, the Wall is not there only to separate us from the land, it is also to become our landscape. The land of Palestine has been reproduced as an imaginary landscape for so long, drawn and painted by different Western travelers and pilgrims who visited it in the 18th and 19th centuries while looking for the Holy Land — the land that resembles the text, the Bible. They were looking for an image, and only through that image could they construct it again. An image of an image, a fictional image that represents a power structure that aimed to dominate, restructure, and have authority over the Orient.4 Elias Sanbar jokes about the first photographers who, in 1839, when Daguerre presented his invention, the daguerreotype, at the Académie des sciences, rushed off to the holy lands and nowhere else, probably because of their desire to see if the words of the Bible were true.5 When Pasolini came to Palestine in 1963, scouting for locations to shoot his film The Gospel According to St. Matthew, he also didn’t find the Holy Land, that biblical landscape that would give him the scenery he needed to make his film “real.” He came to Palestine because he was fed up with the industrial world, saying, “You can’t shoot about Christ near Milanese factories . . .” Only in Terra
Santa itself could he strike the “poetic and archaic.” Extreme smallness, poverty, and humility. But he found nothing of that landscape, of that image. He ended up making a documentary about his journey, titled, A Visit to Palestine, showing his disappointment to find it “modern,” to find it “real” and not an image of the reality he was looking for. He sounds like a tourist when he says, in a breathy, defeated voice-over: “You understand that in this period of our trip, I have faced a problem, as the purpose of my research, the finding of those villages, places, and faces which could replace modern villages, faces, and places has failed.” So, defeated in his essentialist pursuits, he shot his film in Italy after all, imagining how a biblical landscape should look. For him, nothing could be imagined out of this land after the imagined landscape failed to be real. No epic film could come from that failure, only a documentary, documenting that failure of the landscape to be holy and frozen in time. The contemporary history of Palestine is filled with images; it is constructed by images and imagined through images — images of Palestine are shown on every mainstream media channel and newspaper. Reporters and photographers with their sophisticated equipment tour this land looking for a scene to shoot and a story to record. Everything and everyone can become an image, an image of a contested being. Once I read a saying by an African woman: “Blessed is the nation that is not on the news.”
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The oppressed are fixed in an image that constructs and re-constructs them as oppressed. But this fixedness assumes that they have no agency in the production of this image, that they are only a passive consumer of their own representation produced by others. They are victims of their own image. As Fanon explained, “I’m given no chance. I am overdetermined from without. I am the slave not of the ‘idea’ that others have of me but of my own appearance . . . I am fixed.”6 But the oppressed are very active figures in the production of that image; they know how and where their image can be effective in mainstream political discourse. By engaging in this production, they control to an extent how their image appears in mainstream media in order to generate the necessary empathy on the part of the witness, who will take action to alleviate their suffering. They watch themselves while they know they are being watched. They have agency in the process and participate in the production of the image by consuming it and being consumed by it, producing it and being produced by it. Victims, as Sontag mentions, are interested in the representation of their own suffering.8 م Endnotes on p. 81.
This project is a photo installation consisting of stills from a movie. They tell the story of a group of astronauts returning to a landscape they left many years ago. Upon their return, they encounter unexpected scenery, which makes them wonder if their act of return is real, or if all returns are fictional. The project examines the impossibility of return — the return of the refugee, the displaced, and the fugitive, the one that lingers and waits to return to his/her home and place of belonging — not the physical impossibility but rather the existential one: the impossibility of a return that inverts the act of displacement. Returning home becomes another act of displacement and alienation, a continuation of the journey in the search for Home. The installation consists of photographs (varied sizes), text, and an object. It takes a deserted Luna Park in occupied Palestine as the moment and place of departure, of alienation, and of return.
Endnotes from p. 64. 1. Mitchell, W.J.T., eds. Landscape and Power. University of Chicago Press, 2002. 2. Segal, R. & Weizman, E. A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture. Verso, 2003. 3. Said, E. in Mitchell, W.J.T., ed. Landscape and Power. University of Chicago Press, 2002. 4. Said, E. In Bayoumi, M. and Rubin, A., eds. The Edward Said Reader, Granta Books, 2001. 5. Keller, C., trans. “Jean-Luc Godard Speaks with Daniel Cohn-Bendit: A Smile That Dismisses the Universe.” From Cinemasparagus, 2010, http://cinemasparagus. blogspot.com/2010/05/jean-luc-godard-speaks-withdaniel-cohn.html. 6. Fanon, F. “The Fact of Blackness.” In Black Skin, White Masks, 1952. Retrieved from http://www.nathanielturner. com/factofblackness.htm. 7. Sontag, S. Regarding the Pain of Others. Picador, 2004.
Najla Said Tribute to My Father From a speech delivered at a memorial service for Edward Said held at Columbia University’s St. Paul’s Chapel on March 3, 2004 Originally published in Volume 6, Issue 1 of Mizna, 2004
He held my small soft hand in his big calloused one and walked me to nursery school. He taught me to stomp my boots to get the snow off, dressed me in itchy wool trousers and tartan button-downs, made me scrambled eggs for every meal, and scratched his head at what to do to get the splinters out of my knee when Mommy was stuck in DC during that snowstorm in 1978. He sent me to an all-girls school where I learned, primarily, that I wasn’t a WASP and then held me when I cried that “I have no friends and nobody likes me.” He came to Parents’ Day, made friends with my Irish science teacher, and beamed at me when I raised my hand and squirmed in my seat with eagerness and hyperactivity, emitting an “oh oh oh” so I would be called on. I knew the answers, and I wanted to impress him. He drove me to ice skating and took me out for hot chocolate on Lexington Avenue and picked me up from Carolyn Davis’s house on Beekman Place and adored her because she kissed me goodbye, lightly, sweetly, on the cheek. And there was always classical music in the car, and he always carried me inside the house when I fell asleep (or pretended to) on the way home. He bought me dresses from Bergdorf ’s and Mary Janes and patent leather shoes with bows on them and party coats from Austria, and then he always sat and watched eagerly, attentively, as I modeled them in the living room. And when I was older, there were trinkets, accessories, scarves, watches, sunglasses, shoes with fancy names on them like Chanel and Cartier and Tiffany; and there were always colorful things when I wanted black (which was generally always); and there were expensive loafers when I wanted black platform shit-kicking boots, and it was tweed when I wanted it plain, and baggy when I
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wanted it fitted, but I secretly loved and love and cherish it all. He appreciated the finer things, yes, but I think that they really meant nothing to him. If he saw that you liked something, it was yours. He gave so much to others; he loved to make everyone smile — “I want you to have it!” he would always say, and, hand outstretched, he would give something away. Daddy became my best friend when I was twelve years old, obsessively, ravenously reading Jane Eyre; funny that it was the Brontës that brought us close. He talked to me about books, listened to my ideas, told me I was “such a clever girl” and “so gifted with words.” It had started before; he had laughed and applauded when, at the age of about seven, I tapped my finger against my nose and declared saucily, “she knows.” He adored this expression, and the fact that it came out of my head. From that day forward, it became part of our secret code. He would say it when I said something smart, or just for a giggle, and then mischievously use it as a weapon against me when I was fuming and fiery — when the “Said” steam was coming out of my ears. He would offer a smile, a smirk, and with a tap of his own finger atop the crown of his nose, Daddy would crack my icy shell. Throughout school and college, he read every single paper I wrote before it was handed in. He rearranged some words, peppered it with semicolons and perhaps a series of emphatic adjectives joined by commas (very much his style), and finally, added some smart phrase that was to be followed by a colon and my (much more mundane) title (which was usually just a statement of the subject of my paper). He always returned it to me with a smile and a declaration that it was “brilliant.” And when I had that first assignment for French class the fall of my freshman year at Princeton, an oral report on Proust and the story of the madeleine, he guided me through it. I was so diligent, so conscientious, so young. I had gone to the library and looked up “Proust.” I found the stacks and immediately collapsed into a heap of tears on the floor. There were aisles upon aisles of books about Proust! And then, as I always did in a panic, I ran to a pay phone and called my daddy. “Naj,” he said sweetly, “how could you think you could just go look up Proust? He’s the most written-about writer in the Western world!” He found the episode entirely endearing, and sat with me on the phone for hours, talking through the text with me, listening to my analysis and adding some thoughts and ideas as I went along. This private tutorial session was the first of many, many more. By the time I graduated, we had chatted about and taken apart the works of Flaubert, Balzac, Proust, Zola, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Genet, Beckett, Racine, Vergil, Homer, Dante: to name just a few. He always lit up when he talked about literature with me. His voice rose and fell emphatically, and I was amazed at the detail with which he could recall the words, the phrases, the scenes depicted in any given work. I also always took pleasure in the fact that my ideas and assignments seemed to reignite his passion for a particular novel or play — “You
know I haven’t read it in a long time; it really is quite brilliant. I must read it again.” I only disappointed him once during my academic career: when I signed up for an English class on postmodernism, a class whose required texts included, among other “atrocities,” Batman comic books. Oh how Daddy was outraged. “No daughter of mine is going to Princeton to read comic books; my daughter reads Shakespeare and Vergil. That class is a waste of time; it’s utter rubbish. I will not allow it!” I think he even threatened not to pay my tuition. “Daddy! You are so old! The reason the class has comic books is because it’s a class on postmodernism. You don’t even know what that is.” “Know what it is, Najla? I invented the field!” That was the end of that. I took some class where I read Don Quixote instead. But even though Daddy could have told you anything you wanted to know about a lot of things, he was entirely hopeless when it came to pop culture. He thought JonBenet Ramsey was “the man who killed Versace,” wouldn’t be able to distinguish Michael Jackson from a chair, and knew only one thing about Madonna, that “she’s the one who always shows her belly button, right Naj?” (I apparently told him this when I was ten). He knew and liked a total of four pop songs, none of which have any commonalities as far as I can tell. These were: “Sympathy for the Devil,” by the Rolling Stones; “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” by Tina Turner; “Iko Iko” — but only the version from the movie Rainman; and “Axel F,” the theme from Beverly Hills Cop. He was extremely curious to know who “this Bjork” was (I have a slight obsession), and asked me time and again, “What is Eminem?” When I gave him an audio example, Daddy gasped in horror after bobbing his head along to the hip hop beat for thirty seconds; he suddenly realized there were expletives in the lyrics. One of our ongoing conversations had to do with Ani DiFranco, a folk singer whom I have admired since I was in college. He wanted to know who she was, since he had heard her name time and again. After carefully listening to her left-leaning lyrics and acoustic guitar melodies, which I again played for him on demand, Daddy declared that she was “quite something” and most certainly a reincarnation of Ania Francos, a Jewish intellectual who was an outspoken anti-Zionist. Whatever, Daddy, was all I said to that. But Daddy was so curious and interested in everything and everyone. He had such an amazing way with people, a charm and warmth that I cannot even begin to describe. I would be happy to have inherited one tenth of his amazing ability to welcome and listen to and love each new person he encountered, whether they be a hot dog seller on a New York City street corner, a Palestinian refugee, or the king of Spain. He treated everyone equally and had an endearing, childlike curiosity about people’s backgrounds. His eyes would sparkle and light up whenever someone new walked in a room; it was almost as if you
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could see their light shining in his eyes. He could absolutely bring a light out in anyone. I wish with all my heart that I could convince my mother of the fact that I never ever saw Daddy’s eyes sparkle as much as they did when he was looking at, or listening to, her. Since Daddy died, I keep going back, in my mind, to the night of August 14, 2003, when the great blackout struck New York City and much of the eastern United States. It was, I now realize, the last night that all five of us (me, Mommy, Wadie, Jennifer, and Daddy) spent together as a family. Although, at the time, I was annoyed that I had to walk forty blocks in the sweltering heat and then up twelve flights of stairs to spend the night with my family, I now think of that crazy night as a gift. Daddy was in typical Edward form. As Mommy and Wadie and Jenn and I went up and down the stairs numerous times in order to stock up on water and other provisions, Daddy lay on the couch in the family room, gossiping away on the phone. He was talking to someone in Europe, and I recall him declaring in a loud voice “No — it’s unbelievable,” and then adding, a bit melodramatically of course, “It’s outrageous; we have to go forage for food!” as he glanced over at the three of us lugging packages into the apartment. My best friend called from LA — “Why am I not surprised that there is no power in the entire eastern half of the United States but for some reason Edward Said’s phone is still working!” After our simple dinner, we all sat in the living room by candlelight and talked; there was nothing else to do. Mommy had a sly smile on her fatigued face; she was secretly overjoyed that we were all together. Daddy, uncharacteristically in a pair of shorts (it was that hot), declared that we had to have a serious discussion. He said that he could not survive without air conditioning and that the four of us would have to work in punkah-wallah shifts (yes, he used that word), fanning him in groups of two during the night. He then launched into the telling of a “famous” Tolstoy story as we all sat around and listened. As usual, Daddy added details and changed character names to make the story more interesting, and, as usual, nobody said anything (except me). Eventually it grew so dark that we all retired to our rooms. In the nightstand by my bed, I found a letter that Daddy had written me when I was seventeen years old, anorexic, and depressed. The diagnosis of his illness had devastated me. And I was only to get worse after my first (and last) trip to Palestine the following summer. The letter was — of course — articulate and beautifully written, and I remembered how he had slipped it under the door at some ungodly hour of the morning. He reminded me of all. It ended with the following words: There is no greater or better thing, I believe, than trying to make life better for others who are less
fortunate or who may be in pain and suffering. Naj, you have a wonderful and noble spirit, I know. Give in to that; let that and your best instincts guide you, not the other, the petulant, the disparaging, the defensive, and pessimistic. Think about this, and let’s discuss it. Above all, learn to accept and forgive yourself. Learn to love yourself so that you can love and appreciate others. You know how much what I am saying comes from my heart and it is not meant to be anything but a way for us to help each other. yours most lovingly, E. One month and eleven days later, Daddy was gone. I have read this letter to myself every day since. It reminds me that on top of all of the amazing things that “Edward Said” was, he was also one phenomenal Daddy. Every time I am overwhelmed with pain and sadness and fear, I hear his voice in my head, saying what seemed to be his two favorite phrases: “Pull yourself together, Naj; You just have to press on.” م
86 Najla Said
Fargo Tbakhi unerase
instructions for this poem: read this poem with your teeth read this poem breathless but not by choice read this poem aloud while running for your life on a treadmill knowing that you will run as fast as your body can take and still get nowhere read this poem while breathing heavily feels good right? put this poem on your body somehow freeze it in a block of ice and run it over your skin over your gums understand that this poem means nothing without motion that if it does not shake your body into rage-filled, spark your body moving, dancing, filling out forms, it is useless and should be discarded. please print this poem out and staple it to every telephone pole tree lamppost tall person’s chest short person’s chest wall window border fence inflatable person at car dealership israeli flag american flag tongue please print this poem out and burn it and give the ashes to a palestinian boy with beautiful brown eyes and calloused feet so he might streak the ashes under his beautiful brown eyes so that his people might infect his vision might remind him of the souls inside his retina please Mizna 87
read this poem out loud beginning at dawn ending when your voice gives out please publish part II of this poem every day until palestine is free
erasure is forgetting as much as it is erasure / your attention span is shorter than our lives / the 62 palestinians killed the week of my birthday / say their names Laila Anwar Al-Ghandoor, 8 months old Ezz el-din Musa Mohamed Alsamaak, 14 years old Wisaal Fadl Ezzat Alsheikh Khalil, 15 years old Ahmed Adel Musa Alshaer, 16 years old Saeed Mohamed Abu Alkheir, 16 years old Ibrahim Ahmed Alzarqa, 18 years old EmanAliSadiqAlsheikh19yearsoldZayidMohamedHasanOmar19yearsold MotassemFawzyAbuLouley20yearsoldAnasHamdanSalimQadeeh21years old Mohamed Abd Alsalam Harz, 21 years old Yehia Ismail Rajab Aldaqoor, 22 years old Mustafa Mohamed Samir Mahmoud Almasry, 22 years old Ezz Eldeen Nahid Aloyutey, 23 years old Mahmoud Mustafa Ahmed Assaf, 23 years old Ahmed Fayez Harb Shahadah, 23 years old Ahmed Awad Allah, 24 years old Khalil Ismail Khalil Mansor, 25 years old Mohamed Ashraf Abu Sitta, 26 years old Bilal Ahmed Abu Diqah, 26 years old Ahmed Majed Qaasim Ata Allah, 27 years old Mahmoud Rabah Abu Maamar, 28 years old Musab Yousef Abu Leilah, 28 years old Ahmed Fawzy Altetr, 28 years old Mohamed Abdelrahman Meqdad, 28 years old Obaidah Salim Farhan, 30 years old Jihad Mufid Al-Farra, 30 years old Fadi Hassan Abu Salah, 30 years old Motaz Bassam Kamil Al-Nunu, 31 years old
88 Fargo Tbakhi
Mohammed Riyad Abdulrahman Alamudi, 31 years old Jihad Mohammed Othman Mousa, 31 years old Shahir Mahmoud Mohammed Almadhoon, 32 years old Mousa Jabr Abdulsalam Abu Hasnayn, 35 years old
Ahmed Abdullah Aladini, 30 years old Saadi Said Fahmi Abu Salah, 16 years old Ahmed Zahir Hamid Alshawa, 24 years old Mohammed Hani Hosni Alnajjar, 33 years old Fadl Mohamed Ata Habshy, 34 years old
Mohammed Mahmoud Abdulmoti Abdal’al, 39 years old Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim Hamdan, 27 years old Ismail Khalil Ramadhan Aldaahuk, 30 years old Ahmed Mahmoud Mohammed Alrantisi, 27 years old Alaa Alnoor Ahmed Alkhatib, 28 years old Mahmoud Yahya Abdawahab Hussain, 24 years old
Mokhtar Kaamil Salim Abu Khamash, 23 years old
Mahmoud Wael Mahmoud Jundeyah, 21 years old Abdulrahman Sami Abu Mattar, 18 years old Ahmed Salim Alyaan Aljarf, 26 years old Mahmoud Sulayman Ibrahim Aql, 32 years old Mohamed Hasan Mustafa Alabadilah, 25 years old Kamil Jihad Kamil Mihna, 19 years old Mahmoud Saber Hamad Abu Taeemah, 23 years old Ali Mohamed Ahmed Khafajah, 21 years old Abdelsalam Yousef Abdelwahab, 39 years old Mohamed Samir Duwedar, 27 years old Talal Adel Ibrahim Mattar, 16 years old Omar Jomaa Abu Ful, 30 years old Nasser Ahmed Mahmoud Ghrab, 51 years old Bilal Badeer Hussein Al-Ashram, 18 years old 60–62: Un
i spit this out of my blood stream and my dumb mouth in hopes that i mean anything م
90 Fargo Tbakhi
in the year 2148 wajieh gets married in al Khalil
his face aglow with the heat of it, as the entire city (and when we speak of cities we only mean their inhabitants, because what else are streets beyond things for feet to walk on?) joins in splendid zaffeh, and wajieh is not missing. no one is missing and wajieh, his smile containing all the electricity on earth, feels like sand on a chladni plate, every zaghareet (and they leap their way out of the throats of women who killed the earth with their crying and brought it back with their laughter) contorting his body into mesmerizing patterns full of life and all its fractals, he is wrapped in ululation, warm as syrup, miraculous
and wajieh has family all around him, and in 2148 this is not remarkable. pavement lies jealous of the bodies dancing above it — (pavement thinks oh, to be as soft, as filled with blood, as thirsty, as godfilled, as quenched) here, in living color, is a wedding, no one cannot dance because their leg was shot by snipers there is no grief sitting in empty chairs no pangs of shatter reverberating across scarred chests no ghostly fingers tracing the palm of a hand resplendent with henna no one is hungry (there is mansaf enough for everyone there is electricity enough for everyone) in al Khalil, in 2148, the wedding speaks in a voice steady as tablahs, soft as wine, wajieh is witness to every holy, every heartache, every sun, and this is not in spite of anything. this is not a form of resistance, there is nothing to resist, except for gravity, as our miraculous feet spurn the ground in a dabke that carries no more significance than we want it to, that is not a statement of anything other than the god that only our feet know how to worship
92 Fargo Tbakhi
our bodies not political, there is no politics our bodies not targets, there are no bullets in 2148 the streets of al Khalil are immersed in sweetness and it is not a kind of sweetness, it is just sweetness, melting on the tongue like knafeh. and the wedding proceeds throughout the streets, loud as can be, joyous, boundless, unrestricted, shifting grains of sand on an endless beach م
Naomi Wallace Barrel Wave
C H A R AC TER S
Rawand — a teenage surfer girl, from Gaza
SE T T I NG
Today or tomorrow. On the other side of a barrel wave.
PRODUC TION NOTE S
The play takes place in an imaginative space, with real surf. Rawand is fearless, funny, and intelligent. She’s no prisoner nor powered by anger: The sea is her fuel. Today is a good day and she’s glad to be surfing.
Barrel Wave was originally written for Theater For One and produced at Signature Theater in 2016, with Jenny Koons directing and Tala Ashe playing Rawand.
No more can I be sever’d from your side, Than can yourself yourself in twain divide. —Shakespeare, King Henry VI
94 Naomi Wallace
RAWAN D :
S C E NE
Rawand and her board have just surfaced after crashing out of a barrel wave. She takes a huge breath and fills her lungs, then quickly recovers: She’s a pro. She’s uncertain where she is, but this doesn’t scare her and she remains calm and curious.
Whoa! . . . What the — That was a — Where am I?
[The audience member tells her.] Cool. Strange [in Arabic]. Never been here before . . . I was just paddling out to this A-frame surf: early, early, dawn patrol for the best waves, avoiding the small stuff, the ankle busters. I was looking for a wave that’s got a barrel; I was looking to surf the tube, ride the green room. But I don’t see my wave yet — barrel waves are rare on our beach — so I’m carving up some other waves, doing my best to avoid the chowder, which is, excuse me, the shit floating in the water. And let me tell you, it’s thick in the sea off Gaza. Each time we get the chowder plants up and running, they get blitzed, so that stuff pours into my sea every day. Funny things is, this chowder floats north. Whole islands of it were recently spotted off the beaches in Tel Aviv. Hey, shit travels, even if we can’t. So I’m out early looking for my wave, duck-diving, me and my board, which really isn’t a board anymore; it’s more like my body: cutting through the shit as if it didn’t exist. Pardon me. Now the sun is coming up, the beach is starting to fill. It was my brother Sumoud who taught me to surf. We first used a broken closet door. It sank. Then a door from a fridge. It floated but, well, it was a fridge door! Sumoud could stand on his head and surf a wave. When they’d tease me for surfing, ’cause I’m a girl, he’d make them shut up.
And now my two best friends, Heba and Ameina, are paddling out to me! And we’re looking for a party wave so we can ride it together.
3. We catch the waves high in the pocket and from up here on our boards, we’ve a clear view of the land. There are a few tall buildings still standing. On a good day, on a good wave, I feel like I can see all twenty-six miles of my home, even inland to the wall, and all two million of us packed in close, even the piles of stone that were our homes. After the last round of bombings, my father says that at this rate it’ll take a hundred years to rebuild Gaza, that in a few years life won’t be possible here: No jobs, no services, most of it crushed, again. One hundred years to rebuild Gaza! You and I, we’ll both be dead by then. My father brought a list of banned goods home. For ten years now: no cement, glass, steel, lumber, paint, plastic, or metal pipes allowed in. Prohibited. And! . . . The greatest security threat of all: surfboards. Surfboards are prohibited! There’s this American surfer, Matthew, and once he wrangled thirty surfboards across the border. What luck! But now no more are allowed in. There are thirty-three real boards in all of Gaza; we fight over the boards. [She recites more of the list again.] Castor oil, x-ray machines, fishing nets, fabric (for clothing), parachutes, hearing aid batteries, paper, horses, seeds and nuts, goats, crayons, chickens, and kiwis. Banned. Lucky for me I don’t ride a chicken or a kiwi. [Back to her story.] Finally we get a gnarly pitchin’ wave and we’re riding high. We all wipe out. We’re laughing and swallowing water when I see it coming: my wave. I’ve never seen a wave that big. It looks like a giant hill rolling, or an apartment block that just ate a missile!
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I hear people shouting. Heba and Ameina are paddling out of the way, along with the other surfers, ’cause good tube-riding is really tough. I’m tough! Some of the neighbors think we surfer girls are aib, a disgrace, and shouldn’t be out here on the water. But my mother braids my hair so it won’t get in my way, and my father stays close by when I surf, to warn any busybodies not to mess with me. I think: I got to move. There isn’t much time. My brother Sumoud could not only stand on his head, he could do a rodeo flip. Oh yes he could! Thing is, he’d only do it for me, ’cause he didn’t like to show up his friends. So he would rodeo-flip early, early morning when it was just me and him on the water. Round and round till upside-down he’d go, then land, still standing. Almost no one anywhere can do a rodeo flip. Sumoud was going to teach me. When a missile hit him on the beach, his surfboard was blown up in the air like an arrow sent to split the clouds.
4. This is Sumoud’s shirt, these my Aunt Rawya’s leggings, and my eight-year-old cousin Samira’s [whispers] underwear. So many of us are dead. I wear their clothes. That way they can surf with me. [She snaps back to her story.] Well, I turtle-roll out to meet this mountain. And as the wave and I get closer to one another, I feel like I been waiting for this tube all my life. Listen, you got to have timing and skill to surf, but for a barrel wave, most important thing is, as my brother said, but I cannot ’cause I’m a girl: You gotta be willing to eat chowder. Confidence. And suddenly it’s like someone’s peeled the sea off the ocean floor and thrown it into the air. The wave reaches, curls, and pitches over me and . . . I’m in! I’m inside the wave! Completely enclosed behind a curtain of falling water with a foam ball at my tail! And I’m doing a single-handed drag on the wave’s face and hurtling through this green room, and for a moment, I’m just a liquid whistle inside a tunnel of green.
I’m inside but out of this world! And then I eject: I flip, dunk, crash, and everything goes black. I open my eyes, and here I am. My family must think that wave ate me! I need to get home. I love my home. Even if it’s like a lock-up and we can’t leave. Only our chowder makes a successful escape: [whispers] Right of Return . . . So please, which way is the beach? I think I’m gonna have to find another barrel wave to get back. Wish me luck. Or . . . come with me? I mean it. I’ve got a cousin who can get you in through one of the tunnels, and most likely you’ll make it, God willing. [She reaches her hand out to take the audience member’s hand.] We’ll have fun. I will teach you how to surf a wave to another world. م END PL AY
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Nathalie Handal Non Finiti
To those who climbed the psalms to reach a place of surrender To those who praise a language but speak another To those who speak different dialects but have the same voice To those who believe a home can’t be made of other ones To those blinded by departure To the practitioners of solitude between the intervals of the sun a window cuts an ache open by the door of a quiet dream where desire is a question and water untouched passion م
Though I walk without chains or fears I am not the light in midnight’s dream Though I walk two separate roads at once my body leaps from dream to dream where beliefs burden god with disbeliefs and replace this place placed in place of pleasure Though we know night is unfinished and we are our imperfect wishes like a compass playing perfect overtures we enter a labyrinth of vestiges drift into directions undefined where the sound of myth is different than its noise
100 Nathalie Handal
where freedom is everything we want it to be nothing we hope it to be we know that if the horses can’t gallop if the streets break our skull our invisible hurt our lull we will no longer see the stop signs we will no longer know the low tides we will no longer feel the indifference of the wind we will reset our wings م
Remaining in an Expansive Space — Ismail Khalidi interviews Hisham Matar
In The Return, you talk about the Libyan revolt against Italian colonialism in the first part of the 20th century, examining the moment in part through the stories of your grandfather Hamed. It got me thinking that while we celebrate, in the West at least, the anticolonial struggles of the Irish and the Indian subcontinent, very little is made of two of the great anticolonial Arab rebellions before World War II, in Libya and Palestine against the Italians and British, respectively. Why do you think this is, and what effect do you think this omission has on the discourse? I S M A I L K H A L I DI
The intricacies of those events are complex and rich. And, of course, histories of nations — not least of all the colonized ones — rely for their lifeblood on their sense of self and historical orientation, on a lively and robust engagement with these histories. Several factors make H I S H A M M ATA R
this difficult. In Palestine’s case, there continues a dominant colonial project that is methodical and relentless in the ways that it is intent on erasing Palestinian culture, and history, of course, is a crucial part of culture. It surely must be one of the singular examples of resistance that there still remains a vibrant and articulate Palestinian social life — particularly given the money, the weapons, and the propaganda that is daily employed against them. With Libya, the problem of historic amnesia is subtler and largely due to the devastatingly disruptive and weak project of statehood post-independence, which makes it hard for many Libyans to depart far from the present, and therefore neither what has come to pass nor what tomorrow might bring seem vivid or possible to engage with soberly. It is pointless, of course, to generalize, and here I am generalizing. There are exceptions to these observations. The other reason Libyan history is rarely talked about is that our former colonial master, Italy, is uniquely amnesiac when it comes to its contemporary history. Most Italians have little idea about what their country did in Eritrea, Ethiopia, or Libya. And it turns out what they did was dramatic and extreme. At one point, to subdue local resistance, the Italian state killed nearly 50 percent of the population of Cyrenaica, the region that constitutes the northeast third of Libya. Italian generals boasted about killing hundreds of thousands of livestock. Theirs was, in part, a project of ethnic cleansing. But beyond these specific cases of Libya and Palestine, I would argue that there is a general move away from the classical notions of freedom and self-determination and towards authoritarianism. Psychologically speaking, the human race seems to be undergoing a crisis of self-belief. In many places we have lost confidence and surrendered to our fears. And here I am again generalizing. Your father, along with many Libyan dissidents and revolutionaries, was disappeared by the Qaddafi regime. The history of Libyan intellectuals and freedom fighters being exiled or disappeared is, of course, a long one, dating back to the aforementioned Italian occupation. There is in both Libya and Palestine (and elsewhere), this phenomenon of missing generations, of black holes, so to speak, where thousands of individuals over time are taken from us, leaving engineered voids in the political, cultural, and ancestral fabric of the country. Drawing on your own experiences coping with such voids, how might we go about trying to fill these voids or at least overcome them as societies? Can we? IK
The bitter truth is that oppression works. If you disappear someone, you do remove him or her from society and frighten those who remain. And fear is a currency; it can grow and permeate a society with great effect. The only consolation is that this project is always doomed to fail. But that road is long and HM
102 Hisham Matar
leaves behind many scars that cannot be measured purely by statistics. A society undoubtedly suffers when its supply of good, talented, and gifted citizens is diminished and when its young are frightened or told that they cannot contribute to the future. Even though you have spent much of your life outside in one form of exile or another, you write that your childhood years in Libya were pivotal. How do you harness those memories and their meaning without falling into the trap of revisionist sentimentality, of looking back solely for the sake of looking back? I ask because this is something that, I would argue, Palestinians and Palestinian artists grapple with. We must constantly look back to combat erasure, to correct the record, but there are ways in which this can start to loop into a counterproductive exercise in nostalgia and prevent us from imagining viable futures too. IK
Yes and this goes back to your questions about the consequences of oppression and historical amnesia. Oppression pollutes the imagination. Dictatorship is the triumph of kitsch, as the Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński correctly noted. In other words, one of the ways one could combat any act of oppression — I include here those private ones that occur behind closed doors in every country — one would need to work against oversimplification and for the freedom of the human mind and spirit. Every act of violent oppression has behind it the intent to retard its victim either by literally silencing him or her through death or incarceration, or by making others too frightened or too angry to express themselves clearly or eloquently. Therefore, one must remain in an expansive space; not only to retaliate but also for a higher cause that is beyond the individual act of oppression, and that has to do with the human imagination, to maintain that place of creation and pondering which has never been a national enterprise but a human one. This is why art is so crucial here. Nowhere else are we freer. At its best, art is the most eloquent and complex expression. It provides us an opportunity to see ourselves in others, and therefore it is always a reminder of the practical nature of our universal brotherhood and sisterhood. HM
Obviously the situations in Libya and Palestine are very different, but both are equally bleak at this moment. You speak of a moment in Libya after the revolution when there was this sense of hope — albeit on a razor’s edge — before the storm of civil war and chaos that followed. Where, if at all, do you find hope today in looking at these two societies in their respective states of (post)colonial mayhem? IK
Obviously, and notwithstanding the shared pains, the situations in Palestine and Libya are different. But I remain hopeful about both. The reality of the Palestinian people is undeniable. It is also undeniable that they have only grown in number and vitality. And for Libya, I am comforted by the cohesive and largely peaceful nature of Libyan society, which has proved itself beyond doubt in these dark times. Even without a national army or a functioning national police force, incidents of violence and theft — although there are too many — remain nevertheless much lower than most predicted. And that’s credit to social and familial structures. Despite this, daily life is riddled with obstacles, challenges, and dangers. I am worried that the current situation, whereby the country is hostage to and reliant on warlords, is dangerously stable, meaning, it can go on like this indefinitely. So where does my hope arise from? It arises from the depth of desire and commitment most Libyans continue to have for a better life of peace, dignity, and prosperity. Some or many of us, sometime or most of the time, might, in moments of self-loathing and despair, regret the revolution; but most of us, most of the time remain desirous of its goals: democracy and the rule of law. م HM
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Lina AlSharif Afterlife: A Palestinian Narrative
a heart lives to a full death we say asphalt, literally asphalt coffins interrupted martyrs pickpocketed a corpse kept in a fridge with juice boxes and fat olives but only soil frees from grammatical tenses under a tree shades are prayers where you can ask Allah for anything his nationality or a nationality and pray your eyes hands tongue not to speak ill of you changing the subject is never like blowing a dandelion after the sky is smoke the mountains are glitter and jugs of water are springs I imagine we all will be gathered in a stadium on that day they say we forget our beloved ones I will try to remember that it is the first time there are no borders م
George Abraham ars poetica in which every pronoun is a Free Palestine
& so it is written: the settlers will steal God’s land & FREE PALESTINE
will curse the settlers with an inability to season FREE PALESTINE ’s food, a sunburn the shape of the settler dictator’s face on every body untanned who will claim FREE PALESTINE’ s earth but not FREE PALESTINE ’s skin soil-stained. there. FREE PALESTINE said it. no one really owns anything FREE PALESTINE didn’t unwrite to make it so — FREE PALESTINE ’s sea israeli; FREE PALESTINE ’s sky israeli but not FREE PALESTINE ’s thunder — the blame will always be FREE PALESTINE ’s & so this will be called an accurate history; the expense of FREE PALESTINE ’s visibility, willed in bloodied cloth — or paper — FREE PALESTINE ’s longest suicide: FREE PALESTINE will die in jail & become israeli — FREE PALESTINE will die in protest & become kite on fire — FREE PALESTINE will call Hamas fable of every HEADLINE : israeli falafel so dry FREE PALESTINE could start
an intifada with it — HEADLINE : israeli falafel so dry FREE PALESTINE could free Palestine with it —
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no, FREE PALESTINE will never give FREE PALESTINE ’s self a name not rooted in upheaval — FREE PALESTINE , hyphenated by settler flag: FREE PALESTINE hyphenated by settler pronouns: FREE PALESTINE will not pledge allegiance to Arabic. or English. FREE PALESTINE
in no language — FREE PALESTINE will write poems of olive tree & checkpoint & no Free Palestine to be found — FREE PALESTINE will name the violence & never the resurrection, like FREE PALESTINE hasn’t survived impossible histories to get here — it is written: the blood will be on FREE PALESTINE ’s hands might as well paint FREE PALESTINE ’s nails while FREE PALESTINE ’s at it — what? is this not what FREE PALESTINE expected? did FREE PALESTINE
not think FREE PALESTINE would have the last laugh all along? م
Conjugations of Surveillance After Solmaz Sharif
To call the Florida suburbs our first lesson in loneliness: the only house on the block to hang the flag of a nation who betrayed us because everyone hangs that flag here. To hang the colonizer’s god around our necks to call salvation [or was it survival] To assemble, from every scripture that survived the fire, a word to call God — To partition the mountainside of a land to call holy, to build them into sniper towers. To birth a police state & divinity in the same breath. To inherit drought in unfamiliar currencies — say water is always holy once the well dries. To become both floodwater & ebb; every iris, an ocean we refused to drown in. To follow me on twitter, say i reaaaaaaally like your poems. [was it history or was it watch list?] To track who shares facebook videos of unarmed Palestinians being shot as predictive policing. To pass unto everything your palm grazes, your oppressor’s eyes — diaspora’s midas touch. To pray God watches over His people. To sing God watches over His people. To love a land so much you could never trust that water. To torture via water, starvation, sleep deprivation, confinement to coffin-sized boxes. To perceive every second faster than the one that preceded it: to approach death in monotonically increasing velocities. To carry the names of CIA torture victims in your family, yet everyone carries those names here. To respond florida, usa, when the Tel Aviv checkpoint guard asks where you’re from. To be asked are you sure despite. To inherit a geography to call american & exist in the contradiction of it.
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To write this poem, 2 oceans east, and be called illegal. To un-name Dareen Tatour from this poem; to bleach Edward Said’s name from every tenure track. To inherit this tongue of rejected lexicon & restless death — a rolling in our graves type of immortal. To disappear into yourself, timeless as grief ’s memory always is. [this is how i disappear: today i sob into a plate of falafel until it becomes israeli — all salt & conquest] To view space only through finite temporal partitions; to claim any death as before our time & exist in the crossfire: it was death: it was a door, a light. To exist, in moment the bullet intersects the skin, at the border of three time-frames simultaneously: from the coordinate frame of a gun, every bullet is a body spat out of its country; from the frame of a country, every body is a gun to be bullet-filled; from the frame of the bullet, there is no home aside from the torrid air that lifts it — To exist, at once, as both object & verb in every tense — To pass unto our children, this inherited paranoia, anxiety, its collapsing timescale, hence making the police state timeless, hence God — To laugh after being put on the watch list, say finally you fuckers — to be a laughing in God’s face type of immortal To lean into the light, as if it was jealous enough to take us back; as if we weren’t ancestored before even drawing our first breaths — م
Bryonn Bain Unbreakable Spirit
After decades of study from a distance, traveling to Palestine and Israel was unlike anything I had imagined. My experience reminded me of the years I spent walking through those barbed-wire gates at Rikers Island — only an open air version of the largest penal colony in the world. In a volatile standoff with a cadre of heavily armed, teenaged Israeli soldiers in Hebron, the sixty-something, bearded Black minister from Baltimore in my delegation of writers and artists was mistaken for an Arab. As a result, he was denied passage at the checkpoint until he surrendered his US passport. Later that week, I was again surprised by those engaged in acts of resistance. We met with activists at Bethlehem University. Among the Palestinians I met that day — both Muslims and Jews — several were enthusiastic about ongoing research and implementation of direct action strategies inspired by our legendary Civil Rights and Black Liberation movements back in the United States. Four years later, the global resonance of these transformative traditions was present with me when I met in LA with two Black Panthers who were confined in solitary for unprecedented sentences — in the largest prison in the nation: Angola. Having served the longest solitary confinement sentences in American history, Robert King and Albert Woodfox tell their story of surviving decades in the isolation of a six-by-nine foot cell. Together with Herman Wallace — released just before passing in 2013 — the Angola 3 collectively spent 114 years in solitary confinement. As organizers inside Louisiana State Penitentiary, the 18,000-acre former slave plantation known as “Angola,” they established the first prison chapter of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and led peaceful, non-violent protests against the inhumane conditions of the notorious southern prison.
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Since their release in 2001 and 2016, respectively, King and Woodfox have traveled the globe campaigning for limits to solitary confinement and an end to the Thirteenth Amendment allowance for the enslavement of prisoners. Their unbreakable spirits shed light on the reality of the American prison system and speak to the struggle of everyone unjustly incarcerated. I broke bread and had the opportunity to build with both surviving members of the Angola 3 last spring. The following is an excerpt of our conversation with research assistance from Joanna Itzel Navarro, Anthony James Williams, and the UCLA Narratives of Freedom Research Collective. I N T E RV I E W W I T H A L BE RT WO O DF OX A N D R O BE RT K I N G April 9, 2018
Bryonn Bain: Was there a particular moment for you that opened your consciousness and helped you realize that the condition you were in was something that was linked to broader systems? Albert Woodfox: Well, for me, sadly as I got older and I began to read, educate myself, and develop insight and wisdom, I realized I was a petty criminal. I was a predator in my own community and brought so much pain and suffering to the people that I should have been trying to uplift and protect. I escaped and I went to New York. I got a chance to see the Black Panther Party up close in Harlem, New York, and got a chance to talk to and look at the sisters in the Party. Bryonn: How old were you both when you went in? Albert King: I was about twenty-two at the time. Robert: At this particular time twenty-five, twenty-six. Bryonn: Research says a person’s brain is not fully developed until their mid-twenties or even thirty. Given that you were at that stage of forming, can you tell us about Camp J? Albert: Camp J was a punishment program designed by the security people at Angola. Its sole purpose was to break men, break their spirits, strip away their self-dignity. There was brutal physical force and violence against anyone in that program on a daily basis. Those were the kinds of things that we were fighting against, organizing against, educating, agitating and, as a result of that, Robert did twenty-nine years in solitary. Herman did forty-one. We were political prisoners
at the time, prosecuted and held in solitary confinement because of our political beliefs and our political activities. We had impeccable conduct records. It wasn’t because they had broken us, it was because we were living under the principles of the BPP. Bryonn: Would you like to share the letter you brought with you by Herman? Robert: Herman is always here with us, even though he’s known people don’t hear his voice or the words that came from his soul. He writes: I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We were just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in America. The state may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast. In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the People, and although I am down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters for being with me to the end. — Herman Wallace The United States, with 2.2 million people behind bars, imprisons more people than any other country in the world. The Angola Prison was so named for the origin of the enslaved Africans brought there to work the land in chattel slavery. Bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River, the penitentiary was built on four connected plantations. After the Civil War officially outlawed chattel slavery, the “Angola Plantation” was turned into the “Angola Penitentiary.” Today, it is the largest maximum security prison in the United States with over 6,000 incarcerated men and employing nearly 2,000 overseers. With the highest incarceration rate of any state in the nation, one out of every fifty-five adults in Louisiana is in prison, and over seventy-five percent are serving a life sentence. The Angola 3 survivors continue to call for the end of racialized mass incarceration and support a free and liberated Palestine. م A full version of this interview is forthcoming in the Howard Human and Civil Rights Law Review, Volume 3, 2019.
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Jehan Bseiso Bint Gaza
The zanana is staring at me and smiling. I want to say to the drone: come closer, if you dare. I want to say: I’m not scared. Instead, I carry Omar and run. Because Gaza is an open air prison.
The air holds the sad perfume of burnt oranges, the smell steals into my hair and fingernails, it hides under my skin. We waited in the field until the bombing stopped, silent as citrus. Bayara graveyard But where are you really from? they ask me, all the time, even at home. Because Palestine is full of Palestinian refugees. م
Zaina Alsous Universe in Which My Father Is a Poet
1970s Beirut, he is counting the missing neighbors, tiles, borders from a broken balcony swing. This time he sits under an evil-eyed fig tree singing Abdel Nasser’s ghazals, Reincarnations of the Suez to my mother’s silhouette, peeling fruit with her teeth, auburn and afternoon. The only sounds are Syringa explosives LILAC ! LILAC ! LILAC ! I fall out of the moon like a goldfish. Today we recite tomorrow the apricots bloom. م
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A Theory of Birds
In Gaza City canaries are raised for sale: goldfinch hybrids, ornaments singing right here right here right here out from atomic cage; the equivalent of one month’s salary. Rare birds eat dust in al-Tuffah, relocate to memory after warplanes hunt flight. In North Carolina I saw a cardinal once, that could have been my grandmother, who used to sell popcorn on the wrong side of glass coastline. Finally, she gets a chance to travel. I tried confessing the number of days I have wanted love more than history; to be chosen by another bird, an arranged cluster of sunflowers, breeding more sun, a sun race,
maybe then, a return, maybe wingspan, elsewhere. I am not a proud beast. These feathers are merely pinned amidst temporary shoulder, mimicking the sound of dusk. Soon, soon. I will always be bad at explaining this life, but I have learned everything about living this way. م
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Natalie Diaz Notes on the American Line
I live in the tautness of the line. How long I have been here — how stretched thin here — is negligible. The line is not the body but its idealization — the bow-n-arrow is its stereotype.
because you are mine, I walk the line. I am the first species, but no longer its quantity —
an American, Indian, Breed.
My country ’tis of thee, and wants to halve me — Till the lovely spectacle [ ] suddenly in the static center — still, I move through this Nation graphed to make my moving imaginary. But I am not a plane — I am the point. And I know it. Half-winged, half-capture, so-called primitive object. Meaning: I am dangerous. —A wild patience has taken me this far.
I, Native, American, Berserk.
The highest degree of restraint who nevertheless speaks.
Whose axioms must I satisfy? I prove my own body evident — touch all the points of my lover’s and mine body. : So dangerous. Slope and intercept — we are undefined in this pleasure, in this desert, heat. We create our own light, though our bodies together dark-spark —
mark us wanted.
We travel along the path cut out for us in the work. Tension, and coil, Spiralschraubenblüten —
spiral screw- flower.
Even when not coiled a rattlesnake can strike half the length of its body — spring-loaded and triggered from grinding its long hunger
against the Nation State.
Who still mistakes the serpent for supplication? A horizon is supposition, this body’s rising is not. It looks sudden, and god-made: the way our bodies fall,
zenithal and light.
“Beautiful,” you’ll say, “Bright.” Then, command, “Turn it on now. Now, off.” But unless you’re light, you can’t know light’s labor — We are going to do what we have not yet done: we are going to build a house. م
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Naomi Shihab Nye Stay Afloat
What scraps we cling to these days — a giant stalk springing from the aloe pot, upside down pale orange bells lasting for months. Gift from the underworld. Or Fareed Zakaria resembling my father when I was young. Gazing into the screen, please tell me what is going on. Who are these strange people we live among? There are no olive trees or mint leaves in this forest, only looming bank vaults with locked drawers. How much do we need? Someone else will have a war. Children wake up smiling, to see their mothers killed. How do they survive? When I see Pence’s adoring face gazing upon his leader from behind, as if posing for a shaving cream ad, I lose my mind. Find a child to be your guru now. Follow him through rooms, notice his moves, delight in syllables, repeat. Announcing the swish of every passing bus. Bow down to such love. Politicians on the screen, jaws tight, can’t remember a single right thing to do. م
Israelis Let Bulldozers Grind to Halt —American newspaper headline dropped in our village
As if the bulldozers had their own lives and were just being bulldozers crushing houses whole worlds on their own time no people involved I am mad about language Language covering pain big bandage masking the wound let let let but underneath the hot blood clotting م
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Morning Song For Janna Jihad
The tiny journalist will tell us what she sees.
She stares through a hole in the fence, barricade of words and wire.
She wants the world to be pink.
Feels the rising fire before anyone strikes a match.
From her vantage point everything is huge.
She has a better idea. م
But don’t look down on her. She’s bigger than you are. If you stomp her garden each leaf expands its view. Don’t hide what you do. She sees you moving in the shadows . . . Her treasures, the shiny buttons her grandmother loved. Her cousin, her uncle. There could have been a shirt . . . The tiny journalist notices action on the faraway roads. Little puffs of dust find her first. Could that be a friend? They pretended not to see us. They came at night with weapons.
Marc Lamont Hill Full Transcript: Marc Lamont Hill at the United Nations General Assembly November 29, 2019 Marc Lamont Hill spoke during a Special Meeting of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in observance of the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, November 28–30, 2018. The following is a transcript of Hill’s speech as compiled by Human Rights Voice and edited by Mizna’s Miray Philips. A version of this transcript first appeared on jadaliyya.com.
Mr. Secretary-General, Chairman, Ambassadors, and Your Excellencies, good afternoon. It is with great honor and humility that I accept the opportunity to speak before you. As a scholar, as an activist, and as a citizen, I am profoundly interested in the plight of the Palestinian people as well as the broader ethical, moral, and political implications of their struggle for freedom and justice as well as equality. As such, this annual convening represents a critical intervention. It also represents a site of possibility. On the other hand, it shows considerable irony. As you well know, this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration is produced out of the rubble and contradictions of World War II. And it was intended to offer a clear ethical and moral outline of the basic rights and freedoms to which all human beings, irrespective of race, religion, class, gender or geography are entitled. This declaration, of course, has been far from perfect, both in design and in execution. Too often we have framed human rights through the lens of the West. We viewed it through the gaze of colonialism, and we have assessed them through the limited prism of our own experiences. Simply put, the powerful have too often attempted to universalize their own particular and local values. Still the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has offered us a flawed but functional starting point from which to articulate basic moral and ethical ambitions as global citizens. These ambitions have been particularly helpful when attempting to keep track of the vulnerable against the backdrop of imperialism,
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exploitative economic arrangements, white supremacy, patriarchy, and all the other entanglements of the modern nation state. For this reason it is indeed ironic and sad that this year also makes the seventieth anniversary of the Nakba, the great catastrophe in May 1948 that resulted in the expulsion, murder, and to date, permanent dislocation of more than a million Palestinians. For every minute that the global community has articulated a clear and lucid framework for human rights, the Palestinian people have been deprived of the most fundamental of them. While the Universal Declaration for Human Rights says that all people are “born free and equal in dignity and rights,” the Israeli nation state continues to restrict freedom and undermine equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel as well as those in the West Bank and Gaza. At the current moment, there are more than sixty Israeli laws that deny Palestinians access to full citizenship rights, simply because they’re not Jewish. From housing to education to family reunification, it is clear that any freedoms naturally endowed to all human beings are actively being stripped away from Palestinians through Israeli state craft. While human rights promises the right to life, liberty, and security of person, Palestinians continue to live under the threat of random violence by Israeli military and police, disproportionate violence within the West Bank and Gaza, unprompted violence in the face of peaceful protest, and misdirected violence by an Israeli state that systematically fails to distinguish between civilians and combatants. While the Universal Declaration for Human Rights protects us against torture and cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Palestinians continue to be physically and psychologically tortured by the Israeli criminal justice system, a term I can only use with irony. As human rights groups around the world have noted, the use of solitary confinement constitutes a clear and indisputable form of torture. Yet in the West Bank Palestinians are routinely subjected to solitary confinement and indefinite detention, often without any formal charges being filed. Last year, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that physical torture in “exceptional cases,” including ticking time-bomb situations, constitute acceptable means by which to engage in torture. Although these exceptions are themselves a violation of the absolute human right not to be tortured, Israeli security operates in practice in such a way that nearly all Palestinian cases are viewed as exceptional. Nearly every Palestinian is understood to be a potential terrorist, thereby making them susceptible to “ticking time-bomb” investigation tactics at all times. As such, Israel’s practices are routinely in clear violation of the UN’s Convention on Torture, which was signed by Israel in 1986 and ratified in 1991. While the Universal Declaration for Human Rights insists that no one be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, Palestinians are routinely denied due process of law. West Bank Palestinians are regularly placed under
administrative detention, a framework that allows them to be incarcerated for up to six months, and can be extended after a judicial review, without being charged with a crime. The only thing needed for such outcomes is the ambiguous claim of a security threat, a claim used by the Israeli state at all times, at all costs, and for all reasons. Through this vagueness, Palestinians are routinely punished for their political views rather than any actual threat of violence. The Declaration of Human Rights insists that all humans are entitled to a “fair and public hearing by an impartial tribunal.” Israeli military courts, the exclusive adjudicator largely for West Bank residents, and in some cases Palestinian citizens of Israel, they have a conviction rate of more than 99 percent. That suggests that Palestinians are either more guilty than any other group in human history or that the Israeli government is unwilling or incapable of offering fair and impartial trials for Palestinians. The Declaration of Human Rights promises the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state as well as the right to leave any country, including his “own,” and to return to said country. It is impossible to travel throughout historic Palestine and not see the blatant restriction of movement between cities in the occupied Palestinian territories as well as inside the State of Israel. Standing checkpoints, temporary or flying checkpoints, annexation walls, and other security barriers prevent Palestinians from moving freely, both within areas legally designated by the Israeli government and cosigned by the Palestinian Authority under the terms of Oslo, but also we see in Gaza the restriction of movement that is so severe that it literally defines life in the area. I promise you that I will not exhaust all of my time by enumerating every human rights violation perpetrated by the Israeli government. These are well known and have been well documented by every credible human rights organization in the world. Rather, I would like to speak to you about the urgency of the current moment. Forgive my thirst. I literally just got off of a flight from Palestine to come to address you this morning and I was boycotting the Israeli water so I was unable to quench my thirst, but thank you for your indulgence. Or for indulging me rather. As we speak, the conditions on the ground for Palestinian people are worsening. In recent decades, the Israeli government has moved further and further to the right, normalizing settler colonialism and its accompanying logics of denial, destruction, displacement, and death. Despite international condemnation, settlement expansion has continued. At the same time, home demolitions and state-enforced displacement continues to uproot Palestinian communities. For Gazans, the eleven-year Israeli and Egyptian blockade by land, air, and sea has created the largest open-air prison in the world. With only 4 percent potable water, electricity access that is limited
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to four hours per day, 50 percent unemployment, and the looming threat of Israeli bombs, Gaza continues to constitute one of the most pressing humanitarian crises of the current moment. In the West Bank, conditions are not much better. Unemployment is generally around 18 percent with frequent loss of income due to Israeli military closures, making it impossible for Palestinian workers to get access to jobs. Settlements and the extra land allocated for them, as well as closed military zones and other restrictions make it impossible for Palestinian towns to grow. And in the midst of it all, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s administration has become increasingly indifferent to critique, censure, or even scorn from the international community for its practices. Perhaps the most glaring example of this indifference, as well as the urgency of the current moment, is the recently passed nation-state law. Through this basic law, the Israeli state has officially rejected Arabic as an official state language. It has described settlement expansion, both inside and outside of the Green Line, as a national value, and it has reinforced the fact that Israel is not a state of all of its citizens. As an American, I am embarrassed that my tax dollars contribute to this reality. I am frustrated that no American president since the start of the occupation has taken a principled and actionable position in defense of Palestinian rights. And I am saddened, though not surprised, that President Trump’s administration has further emboldened Israel’s behavior through its recent actions. In May of this year, President Trump officially moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem, which he recognized as the undivided capital of Israel. This choice not only flew in the face of international law and precedent, but also constituted a powerful provocation and a diplomatic death blow. In late August, President Trump then permanently reneged on America’s commitment to funding UNRWA, a move that now leaves millions of Palestinian refugees in medical, economic, and educational peril. Moreover, the move serves as a political strong-arm tactic whereby the United States is unilaterally attempting to resolve, through the Trump administration, the final status of Palestinian refugees. While President Trump’s policies have been the most dramatic, it is important that I stress to you, to reiterate to you that they are not wildly out of step with American policy. Cuts to UNRWA are an idea that has been raised in Washington for years, dating back at least to the George W. Bush administration. President Trump’s decision to move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem caused enormous controversy, but he was merely implementing a bipartisan law Congress passed in 1995. And in so doing he executed what has already been official United States policy and the fulfillment of a promise made
by every United States president and presidential candidate, Democrat and Republican, for a very long time. With regard to the question of Palestine, Donald Trump is not an exception to American policy. Rather, Donald Trump is a more transparent and aggressive iteration of it. As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, the words offered today by everyone in this room are a necessary component of our resistance efforts. We need powerful, counterintuitive, dangerous, and courageous words. But we must also offer more than just words. Words will not stop the village of Khan al-Ahmar with its makeshift schools created by local Bedouin villages. Words will not stop them from being demolished in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Words will not stop poets like Dareen Tatour from being caged in Israeli jails for having the audacity to speak the truth about the conditions of struggle on her own personal Facebook page. Words will not stop peaceful protesters in Gaza from being killed as they fight for freedom against Israel’s stillundeclared borders. Regarding the question of Palestine, beyond words, we must ask the question, what does justice require? To truly engage in acts of solidarity, we must make our words flesh. Our solidarity must be more than a noun. Our solidarity must become a verb. As a Black American, my understanding of action and solidarity action is rooted in our own tradition of struggle. As Black Americans resisted slavery, as well as Jim Crow laws that transformed us from a slave state to an apartheid state, we did so through multiple tactics and strategies. It is this array of tactics that I appeal to as I advocate for concrete action from all of us in this room. Solidarity from the international community demands that we embrace boycotts, divestment, and sanctions as a critical means by which to hold Israel accountable for its treatment of Palestinian people. This movement, which emerges out of the overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society offers a nonviolent means by which to demand a return to the pre-’67 borders, full rights for Palestinian citizens, and the right of return as dictated by international law. Solidarity demands that we no longer allow politicians or political parties to remain silent on the question of Palestine. We can no longer in particular allow the political left to remain radical or even progressive on every issue from the environment to war to the economy. To remain progressive on every issue except for Palestine. Contrary to Western mythology, Black resistance to American apartheid did not come purely through Gandhi and nonviolence. Rather, slave revolts and self-defense and tactics otherwise divergent from Dr. King or Mahatma Gandhi were equally important to preserving safety and attaining freedom. We must allow — if we are to operate in true solidarity with Palestinian people, we must allow the Palestinian people the same range of
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opportunity and political possibility. If we are standing in solidarity with the Palestinian people, we must recognize the right of an occupied people to defend itself. We must prioritize peace. But we must not romanticize or fetishize it. We must advocate and promote nonviolence at every opportunity, but we cannot endorse a narrow politics of respectability that shames Palestinians for resisting, for refusing to do nothing in the face of state violence and ethnic cleansing. At the current moment, there is little reason for optimism. Optimism, of course, is the belief that good will inevitably prevail over evil, that justice will inevitably win out. In the course of human history, and certainly even in the course of the United Nations, there is no evidence of such a proposition. Optimism is unsophisticated. Optimism is immature. Optimism is what my students have when they take examinations that they did not study for. Some become quite religious at that time. But regardless of their strategies of optimism, the outcome is far from guaranteed or even likely. What I’m challenging us to do in the spirit of solidarity is not to embrace optimism but to embrace radical hope. Radical hope is a belief that despite the odds, despite the considerable measures against justice and peace, despite the legacy of hatred and imperialism and white supremacy and patriarchy and homophobia, despite these systems of power that have normalized settler colonialism, despite these structures, we can still win. We can still prevail. One motivation for my hope in the liberation and ultimate self-determination of the Palestinian people comes in August of 2014. Black Americans were in Ferguson, Missouri in the Midwest of the United States protesting the death of a young man named Michael Brown, an unarmed African American male who had been killed by a law enforcement agent. And as we protested, I saw two things that provided hope for the Palestinian struggle. One was that for the first time in my entire life of activism I saw a sea of Palestinian people. I saw a sea of Palestinian flags in the crowd saying that we must form a solidarity project. We must struggle together in order to resist because state violence in the United States and state violence in Brazil and state violence in Syria and state violence in Egypt and state violence in South Africa and state violence in Palestine are all of the same sort. And we finally understood that we must work together and not turn on each other, but instead turn to each other. And later that night when the police began to tear gas us, Mariam Barghouti tweeted us from Ramallah. She, along with other Palestinian youth activists, told us that the tear gas that we were experiencing was only temporary. They gave us tips for how to wash our eyes out. They told us how to make gas masks out of T-shirts. They gave us permission to think and dream beyond our local conditions by giving us a transnational or a global solidarity project. And from those tweets and social media messages, we began then to organize together. We brought a delegation of black activists to Palestine, and we
saw the connections between the police in New York City, who are being trained by Israeli soldiers, and the type of policing we were experiencing in New York City. We began to see relationships of resistance, and we began to build and struggle and organize together. That spirit of solidarity, a solidarity that is bound up not just in ideology but in action, is the way out. So as we stand here on the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the tragic commemoration of the Nakba, we have an opportunity to not just offer solidarity in words but to commit to political action, grassroots action, local action, and international action that will give us what justice requires. And that is a free Palestine from the river to the sea. Thank you for your time. م
128 Marc Lamont Hill
Leila Abdelrazaq is a Palestinian author and artist born in Chicago and currently living in Detroit. Her debut graphic novel, Baddawi, was shortlisted for the 2015 Palestine Book Awards and has been translated into three languages. She is also the author and illustrator of The Opening as well as a number of zines and short comics. George Abraham (they/he) is a Palestinian American writer and bioengineering PhD candidate at Harvard University. He is the author of Birthright and the specimen’s apology. Their work has appeared in the Paris Review, LitHub, the Rumpus, Boston Review, Mizna, and Bettering American Poetry. Kareem James Abu-Zeid, PhD was born in Kuwait in 1981 and is an Egyptian American translator of poets and novelists from across the Arab world. He has received an NEA grant, PEN Center USA’s Translation Award, Poetry magazine’s Prize for Translation, and residencies from the Banff Center and the Lannan Foundation. Janan Alexandra is a Lebanese American poet and MFA candidate at Indiana University. Her poems explore the intersections between language, history, and the body — how language is marked with geography, ecology, trauma, survival, and joy. Her work has been published in the Adroit Journal and Rusted Radishes. Lina AlSharif is a Palestinian poet currently living in Qatar. She holds an MA in creative writing from Lancaster University. Her poems have been published in Sukoon and Rusted Radishes. She is a regular performer at Words and Strings and occasionally holds poetry writing workshops. Zaina Alsous is a daughter of the Palestinian diaspora, born and raised in North Carolina. She is a Michener Fellow at the University of Miami pursuing an MFA in poetry. Her work has appeared in the Boston Review, Bitch Magazine,
the New Inquiry, and Best New Poets 2017. Her Lemon Effigies won the Rick Campbell Chapbook Prize. Her forthcoming first book, A Theory of Birds, won the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize. Hala Alyan is a Palestinian American writer and clinical psychologist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Guernica, Mizna, and elsewhere. Her poetry collections have won the Arab American Book Award and the Crab Orchard Series. Her debut novel, Salt Houses, was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2017, was longlisted for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and was a finalist for the Chautauqua Prize. Zeina Azzam is a Palestinian American writer, editor, and poet. Some of the publications where her poems appear are Pleiades (forthcoming), HeartWood, Sukoon, Mizna, Split This Rock, and the edited volumes Bettering American Poetry, Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by and for Refugees (forthcoming), and Gaza Unsilenced. Zeina holds an MA in Arabic literature. Bryonn Bain is the founding director of the UCLA Prison Education Program, a professor in the departments of African American Studies and World Arts and Cultures, and serves as a codirector for the International Human Rights Law Clinic. Jehan Bseiso is a Palestinian poet and researcher who has been working with Doctors Without Borders since 2008. Her co-authored book I Remember My Name is the creative category winner of the Palestine Book Awards. Her poetry is published in various online and offline outlets including the Electronic Intifada, Warscapes, and Mada Masr. Her co-edited poetry anthology Making Mirrors: Writing/Righting by and for Refugees is forthcoming. Kevin Coval is a poet, educator, curator, community builder, and the author of thirteen books. He is artistic director of Young Chicago Authors, and founder of Louder Than a Bomb, the nation’s largest youth poetry festival. The winner of the Studs Terkel award and the MacArthur award for creative and effective institutions, he has mentored thousands of young writers, artists, and musicians. Najwan Darwish is a Palestinian poet, journalist, editor, and cultural critic born in Jerusalem in 1978. He writes in Arabic, and his work has been
translated into over twenty languages. His 2014 book, Nothing More to Lose, was listed as one of NPR’s best books of the year.
published in various publications. He is currently leading the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre and is a visiting teacher at Al Quds Bard college.
Natalie Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, When My Brother Was an Aztec, was published by Copper Canyon Press. She is a MacArthur Fellow, a Lannan Literary Fellow, a United States Artists Ford Fellow, and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. Diaz is the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona.
Ed Bok Lee is the author of Whorled (American Book Award; Minnesota Book Award). Lee is the son of North and South Korean emigrants — his mother originally a refugee from what is now North Korea; his father was raised during the Japanese colonial period and Korean War in what is now South Korea.
Summer Farah is a writer and Pokemon master currently studying at UC Berkeley where she manages the Berkeley Fiction Review and organizes with CalSLAM. Her work has appeared in hooligan mag, LitHub, and the 2017 Ghassan Kanafani Palestinian Youth Anthology. Follow her on Twitter @summabis. Nathalie Handal’s recent books include The Republics, winner of the Virginia Faulkner Award for Excellence in Writing and the Arab American Book Award and lauded as “one of the most inventive books by one of today’s most diverse writers”; the critically acclaimed Poet in Andalucía; and Love and Strange Horses, winner of the Gold Medal Independent Publisher Book Award. Her collection Life in a Country Album, is forthcoming. Marc Lamont Hill is an American academic, author, activist, and television personality. He is a professor of media studies and urban education at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Fady Joudah has published four poetry collections, The Earth in the Attic, Alight, Textu, and Footnotes in the Order of Disappearance. He has translated several poetry collections from the Arabic. He has won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, a PEN award, a Banipal/Times Literary Supplement prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in Houston with his wife and kids, where he practices internal medicine. Yazan Khalili is a visual artist, architect, and cultural activist who lives and works in and out of Palestine. His works have been exhibited in different places worldwide, and his texts have been
Hisham Matar is an American-born, British Libyan writer. His memoir, The Return, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography and the 2017 PEN America Jean Stein Book Award. His debut novel In the Country of Men was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize. His second novel, Anatomy of a Disappearance, was published to wide acclaim. He currently lives and writes in London. Khaled Mattawa is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent of which is Tocqueville. Mattawa is a MacArthur fellow and his awards include the Academy of American Poets Fellowship Prize and the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. He teaches at the University of Michigan. Sahar Mustafah is a first-generation Palestinian American. Her short story collection Code of the West won the 2016 Willow Books Prize for fiction. Her first novel, The Beauty of Your Face, is forthcoming.. She has taught delightful and misunderstood teenagers for over twenty years. Eileen Myles is a New York and Marfa, TX– based poet, novelist, public talker, and art journalist. A Sagittarius, their twenty books include evolution, Afterglow, Cool for You, I Must Be Living Twice, and Chelsea Girls. Eileen is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, four Lambda Book Awards, the PSA Shelley Prize, and a Foundation for Contemporary Arts poetry award. In 2016, Myles received a Creative Capital grant and the Clark Prize for excellence in art writing. Naomi Shihab Nye is a Palestinian American poet living in Texas. Her next book The Tiny Journalist, about Palestine, will be out in April 2019. Her most recent book is Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners.
Donal O’Kelly is an award-winning Irish playwright, actor, and director renowned for his solo shows. His music-drama Francisco won the Prix Europa and the New York Radio Festival for Best Radio Fiction. He’s a founder of PalFest Ireland, an arts festival with Palestinian artists supporting the people of Palestine. Bao Phi has been a poet and spoken word artist for over two decades. He is the author of two poetry books, Song I Sing and Thousand Star Hotel, as well as two picture books, A Different Pond and My Footprints.
Arab in Newsland, winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize. Her poems and essays have most recently been published in the New England Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Lit Hub, and Lunch Ticket. lenakhalaftuffaha.com Naomi Wallace is an American playwright and screenwriter from Kentucky. She is widely known for her plays and has received several distinguished awards for her work.
Joe Sacco is a cartoonist and journalist. He is best known for his comics journalism, in particular in the books Palestine and Footnotes in Gaza, on Israeli-Palestinian relations; and Safe Area Goražde and The Fixer on the Bosnian War. Najla Said is an actress, playwright, and author of the memoir Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab American Family. Her solo show Palestine ran Off-Broadway for nine sold-out weeks in 2010. She lives in New York. najlasaid.com Mandy Shunnarah is an Alabama-born writer who now calls Columbus, Ohio, home. Her essays and poetry have been published in Entropy Magazine, the Citron Review, Barely South Review, Heavy Feather Review, the Missing Slate, New Southerner Magazine, and Deep South Magazine. Read more on her website offthebeatenshelf.com Ahdaf Soueif is the author of the bestselling novel The Map of Love. Her account of the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Cairo: Memoir of a City Transformed, came out in 2014. She is the founder and chair of the Palestine Festival of Literature (PalFest) and a widely published political and cultural commentator. Fargo Tbakhi (he/him) is a queer Palestinian American writer, performer, and aspiring muppet from phoenix, arizona. his work has been published or is forthcoming in Cotton Xenomorph, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Cosmonauts Avenue, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Peach Mag, and others. he tweets @YouKnowFargo and probably wants to hold your hand. Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is an American writer of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. She is the author of two books: Water & Salt and
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Transliteration and Non-English Text
The writings published in this journal often include transliterated Arabic words, and, for the most part, the transliterations are left as the author’s own. There are many dialects of Arabic and perhaps an even greater number of customs for transliteration, with no universally accepted standard. Because of this, and inspired by the treatment of Arabic terms in Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists, edited by Joe Kadi, this journal will seek to reflect the diversity of dialects that ring true for our individual authors rather than imposing one standard. Non-English words printed in this journal are not italicized. This decision is based mainly on the question of audience. Many writers and readers within our community are familiar with Arabic, and to set Arabic words in italics would be to announce their foreignness or otherness in a way that does not reflect this familiarity. Readers unfamiliar with Arabic or other languages that appear in the journal are also a welcome part of our audience. If the meaning of an unfamiliar word is not immediately apparent from its context, the invested reader can seek to learn it from other sources, or perhaps be comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing.
General Submission Information
Mizna: Twenty Years Deadline: February 28, 2019
Mizna continuously seeks original writing for upcoming publications. Contributors do not have to be of Arab descent provided their work is of relevance to the Arab American community. Submissions are accepted throughout the year on an ongoing basis. If you would like your work to be considered for our summer issue, please submit by February 28, 2019.
Since 1999, Mizna has been dedicated to centering literature, film, and art from our complex communities. For this special twentieth anniversary year issue of our eponymous literary journal, we call for writing that takes stock of the last two decades in Arab America while also looking to the future: Where have we been? Where are we now? Where could we go? Often written out of histories and vilified in political and cultural discourse, our own definitions of our diverse regions and identities have become steeped in arbitrary colonial terminologies. We are seeking work that challenges and complicates what it means to be of the “Arab and Muslim world” and its diaspora, reshapes limiting terminologies and representations of Arab, Arabized, and Muslim peoples, and imagines spaces, futures, and possibilities for all of us while offering an expansive view of identity, placehood, and self-determination. We also seek writing that captures un- or undertold histories of our peoples, collectives, and movements. We welcome poetry, stories, creative essays, flash fiction, comics, and other literary interpretation of the topic whether direct or indirect.
Send your submission and a short biography (maximum fifty words) via email as an attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org, and include the word “submission” in the subject line. The attachment(s) must be editable and in standard word-processing program files. PDFs may accompany submitted pieces but must not be sent alone. Please include your name, mailing address, email address, and phone number in your message. Prose should be double-spaced and limited to 2500 words. Please limit poetry submissions to four poems per submission. Verses exceeding our page width will be treated with a runover indent. Proofs can be made available for author approval before publication. Simultaneous submissions are allowable, but we ask that you contact us as soon as your work has been accepted elsewhere. Writers whose work is published in Mizna will receive complimentary copies of the issue in which their work appears, a one-year subscription to the journal, and a modest honorarium. Due to the volume of submissions received, those not conforming to the above guidelines, as well as material previously published in any other English-language forum, will not be considered.
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