Thursday, September 11, 2008


One of the most soul destroying events in human history, one that does not allow its victims to even speak about its soul destroying effects is nakba, the events that resulted in the destruction of historical Palestine and the creation of Israel. We are not speaking of semantics alone but the essential experiences that it entails and signifies. It is generally agreed by Arabic speakers who also know English that the description catastrophe is not enough to describe what nakba means. Obviously English and Arabic are estranged from each other but the sufferers of nakba, called mankubin in Arabic would effectively translate as catastrophed in English. But semantics is not enough.

If nakba were to result in geographical erasure alone, or if it meant colonization or simply occupation, then the barbarity of such an enterprise could be understood. But what it essentially means is a memory erasure of Palestine, an amnesic death, a barbaric boundary that does not allow the mention of Palestine, of its lands, its towns, its villages, its olives. What Zionism and its benefactors have done is to effectively cross over Palestine to a new country, without a historical past in its real citizenry but resurrected, out of delusional promises by a sympathetic and one sided god, an oasis of cruelty. The use of the word Palestine and by its extension Palestinian is an anathema for the tyrannical powers that are shaping the destiny of this people.

nakba means annihilation, the betrayal of memory, the closure of doors, the siege of hearts, and as Darwish once wrote, "a tyrant's fear of songs". nakba means not death but endless dying without the right to see this insistent, merciless and pitiless death, of not just memory but the desire for this memory. The political ramifications of nakba are obvious to everyone. the events that consequently happen, from when Israel was created to the present day, the death of innocent people on both sides is not the purpose of this post. The intention is to speak about the arrogant cruelty of nakba, the mind numbing silence of most liberated minds, of those that are considered intellectual, great and genuine.

nakba is an affront to intelligence and sensitivity. The events of the preceding Jewish holocaust should be a source of outrage for all just minds. That the shoah is remembered is only right. That it has spawned literature and departments of studies around the world, that it excites interest in those who are interested in such events and that there are books that detail such a planned and outrageous event in human history is understandable. That the nakba, the erasure of Palestine is hardly mentioned by the same people is stupefying. This smacks of intellectual poverty and blatant hypocrisy, a crassness of minds, an unacceptable prejudice against the Palestinians, for contrary to what we are told, they do exist.

Colonialism would mean taking what is not yours from those it belongs to. nakba means more than that. It means not allowing people to remember, to steal their memories and the desire for remembering. To forget the nakba is to betray humanity. To do it with easy arrogance is to continue further nakba's.


Alok said...

If you think of art, literature etc yes I do agree. There hasn't been as much representation as Jewish holocaust. Many other genocides and forced mass scale migrations have suffered similar fates too.

Daily News however is always full of middle east and I don't think all of it is hostile to the palestinian cause either but yes they are quite impersonal in nature. They lack something which is possible only in art and literature.

Jewish culture was so vibrant in Germany and central europe before the holocaust, that is one reason why there is so much representation of holocaust. They had a long established tradition.

Kubla Khan said...

you are quite right in what you recognize nakba is a different issue from talking about it. Literary silence about it is in bad taste. may be the politics can be understood......but then, it is politics in literature too?

i think the Arabs have not been able to paint the picture of nakba that it demands. i think the reason is that in essence, the palestinians, at present stateless, will have to keep alive themselves. the rejection they have suffered at the hands of other Arabs is unbelievable, apart from the token conferences, aid and rhetoric.

the jewish reluctance to accept the nakba is their own negation, the negation of their moral existence.
i wonder what a lacanian analysis would suggest?