HARVARD SQUARE COMMENTARY

August 25, 2008
A Letter on the Late Palestinian Poet Mahmoud Darwish

James Adler


The following appears on the Opinions page of The Jerusalem Post website, August 21, 2008 (Link).

Sir, - So far I have not read one word of praise in The Jerusalem Post for the poet Mahmoud Darwish ("An uncompromising voice for Israel's transience. Darwish expressed a fundamental tenet of Palestinian nationalism - the absence of any moral content whatsoever to Israel's claim to existence," Analysis, Jonathan Spyer, August 14).

I am going to be blunt. I have read only out-of-context mutilations of isolated lines, mixed with a politically polemical desire to destroy something the literate and educated world would find impossible to destroy - Darwish's reputation.

I would recommend to all English-speaking readers his The Adam of Two Edens, (Syracuse University Press, 2000), Unfortunately It Was Paradise, (University of California Press, 2003) and The Butterfly's Burden (Copper Canyon Press, 2006).

Darwish was a spiritual poet. He also sang of his people's exile and freedom and reality - and the higher reality above us all. What kind of poet would not sing these refrains about his people? What poet who did not sing this way would be recognized by any people? What poet of Palestine would not sing these songs and remain Palestinian?

Darwish loved the greatest Israeli poet, Yehuda Amichai, and Amichai would be distraught over the crudity of the denunciations, reminiscent of Stalin's denunciation of poets.

This has nothing to do with politics. I cherish both Amichai and Darwish and painfully feel that on this one matter of cultural integrity Israel cannot be said to represent a light unto the nations.

Let us love the Israeli Amichai and give ourselves the opportunity to love Darwish as well.

Politics can often divide us, but please let us allow poetry at the height of Amichai and Darwish to unite us.


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