I spent my weekend reading poems about Palestinian resistance.
I searched long and hard. I found poems that sang and made me forget where I was.
These poems — some written decades ago, some written now — convey reality.
They are how I defend my heart against Western headlines that brazenly side with apartheid, that flood mainstream news until they’re cemented on the eyes of those who’ve never pondered Palestine’s history.
I have no words for the disgust I feel. I will never become accustomed to the audacity of the Western world.
How it dares to erase apartheid through speeches spewed from the sunny turrets of parliament buildings. How it dares to preach moral high ground, ship weapons of genocide to colonizers, and thrust the word “terrorist” onto its victims of 75 years.
For my sanity, I need voices that do not live in consciences made violent with nonuse.
I need the voices of Palestinians.
I need the voices of children who were raised by the prayers of their ancestors. Who walked childhood streets infested with armed soldiers and gazed at childhood skies spangled with drones. Who were born bonded to the olive trees that fist the land in their roots.
Whose lives radiate power that thunders louder than airstrikes.
I need proof that the history I know exists. I need it to live in me and through me, written on the pages of my blood for every newspaper that refuses it.
Here are three such voices, chosen to accommodate the word limits of this article. A full collection of the poems I read can be viewed here.
Hear them surge against Western and Israeli attempts to snuff them from existence.
Hear them speak for the 2.3 million Palestineans in Gaza right now that lie trapped in Israel’s resurrection of an extermination camp. Size 140 square miles; population 50% children; justification “self-defense”.
Learn these poems by heart. Consider them your most legitimate source of press. Consider the images and headlines the name “Palestine” conjures in you. Consider how different they would be if these poems were emblazoned across every newspaper today. Would you dare not decry the West’s politicians and press?
IDENTITY CARD (excerpt)
Written by Mahmoud Darwish in 1960.
Darwish was a Palestinian poet and writer born in the Palestinian village of al-Birwa. When he was six years old, his village was invaded and his home razed by Israeli occupiers, an attack launched to purge Palestine of Palestinians. He began writing poetry about Palestinian resistance when he was a child. His writings spread throughout the Arab World and are hailed as Palestinian anthems of resistance.
I am an Arab
My card number is 50 000
My roots sink deep before the birth of time
And before the beginning of the ages,
Before the time of Cypress and olives
Before the beginnings of grass.
My grandfather was a farmer
He taught me the grandeur of the sun.
I have been robbed of my ancestral vines
And the piece of land I used to farm with all my children
Nothing remained for us and for my grandchildren
Except these rocks
Will your government take them?
So it is
At the top of the first page
I hate nobody
I do not steal anything
But when I become angry
I eat the flesh of my marauders
So beware… beware
My hunger and fury!”
THE DELUGE AND THE TREE (excerpt)
Written by Fadwa Tuqan between 1946 and 2003.
Tuqan was a Palestinian poet and writer born in the Palestinian city of Nablus. Her brother, poet Ibrahim Tuqan, taught her to read and write. Her eight poetry collections recount stories of Palestinian resistance and the empowerment of women. She wrote her final poem as Israel laid siege to her home city during the Al-Aqsa Intifada (“Second Infitida”), a Palestinian uprising in which Israel killed nearly 5000 Palestinian civilians. Darwish called her “the Mother of Palestinian poetry”.
The Western skies
Reverberated with joyous accounts:
“The Tree has fallen!”
Has the Tree really fallen?
Never! Not with our red streams flowing
Arab roots alive
Tunnelling deep, deep, into the land!
The laughter of the Tree shall leaf
Beneath the sun
And birds shall return
Undoubtedly, the birds shall return.
THIS IS WHY WE DANCE (excerpt)
Written by Mohammed El-Kurd in 2021.
Mohammed El-Kurd is a Palestinian poet and writer born in the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. At the age of 11, his home was stolen by Israeli civilians, an act allowed by Israeli law. His life was the centerpiece of the 2013 documentary “My Neighbourhood”, which shows both Palestinian and Israeli citizens protesting for Palestinian rights. In 2021, he left the master’s degree he sought in the United States to join protesters in Sheikh Jarrah who resisted Israel’s plan to evict Palestinian families. These protests were met with Israeli airstrikes that destroyed infrastructure and killed or injured over 2000 Palestinian civilians. El-Kurd writes about Palestinian resistance, Palestinian identity, and Islamophobia, wielding the English language to directly counter Western narratives about Palestine. He published his first book of poetry in 2021, named “RIFQA” after his grandmother. He and his twin sister, activist Muna El-Kurd, were named in TIME magazine’s top 100 list of the most influential people in the world.
They work tanks, we know stones.
2008, during the Gaza bombings
My ritual of watching TV
Stacking and hoarding Darwish’s reasons to live
Sometimes believing them.
If you ask me where I’m from it’s not a one-word answer.
Be prepared, seated, sober, geared up.
If hearing about a world other than yours
Makes you uncomfortable
Drink the sea,
Cut off your ears,
Blow up another town of bodies in the name of fear.
This is why we dance:
If I speak, I’m dangerous
You open your mouth,
Raise your eyebrows.
You point fingers.
This is why we dance:
Because screaming isn’t free.
Please tell me:
Why is anger – even anger – a luxury to me?”
BORN ON NAKBA DAY
Written by Mohammed El-Kurd in 2021.
The Nakba (“The Catastrophe”) describes the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that was officialized in 1948, although the process began decades prior, and continues to this day. It encompasses Israeli attacks that forced 750,000 Palestinians to flee or be ousted. It encompasses the killings of thousands of Palestinian civilians when they tried to return. It encompasses Israeli citizens stealing the homes of Palestinians, destroying their villages, and sentencing nearly 7 million Palestinians to refugee status. It encompasses the creation of laws that deem Palestinian citizenship and passports void, deny their rights to land ownership, deny their rights to return, deny their right to work, restrict their movement in their land, and their segregation in all aspects of daily life. It encompasses Israel’s enactment of apartheid. Palestinians wield keys as symbols of resistance to commemorate the homes stolen from them and their wait to return.
I was born on the fiftieth anniversary of the Nakba.
Outside the hospital room
Protests, burnt rubber,
Kufffiyah’ed faces, and bare bodies,
Stones thrown onto tanks,
Tanks imprinted with US flags,
Smelling of tear gas, skies tilted with
A few bodies shot, dead – died
Numbers in a headline.
And my sister
I was born among poetry
On the fiftieth anniversary.
The liberation chants outside the hospital room
Told my mother
Incé Husain is a psychology student and student journalist who has written for The Aquinian, The Brunswickan, and The Atlantic Student Research Journal. She writes for the NB Media Co-op , and pursues local stories independently at https://theunprecedentedtimes.net/. She is based in London, Ontario.