The Pen Trumps the Sword Anytime (Part 1)
Wed 26th Nov 2014
This is an 'Introduction' to an illustrated book of poetry by Faysal Mikdadi. The collection, Painted into a Corner, appeared in the summer of 2014
The Pen Trumps the Gun and Creates New Worlds
Why do I write poetry? Why have I had the compulsion to versify since my earliest childhood? What prompts these little outpourings of words on a regular basis?
Our Palestinian history is as invisible as we have become.
Israel and its friends have created a new narrative which air brushes us out of the picture completely.Goebbels was right in asserting that “if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth”. Israel had successfully established the idea of having a narrative. And it has become an absolute master at creating fictions that become, in time, permanent realities.
We Palestinians stand amazed when told that Palestine was “a land without a people for a people without a land” (Often cited by Zionist historians). Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel at the time, said, “There is no such a thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” (The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969). This is an interesting statement from a woman who sent a postcard in 1930 to “Shoshana Golozinkit, Tel Aviv, Palestine!” (Jerusalem Post, Saturday 8 March, 2014) ; that we are not there in the “myth that was Palestine” (Hunt, Dave,Judgment Day, Islam, Israel and the Nations, 2006). These new truths are invariably supported by the notorious Israeli “facts on the ground” embellished by such claims as “incoming Jews making the desert bloom” and the indomitable “Zionists” successfully clearing “the Malaria infested swamps” (“It was only after the Zionists “made the desert bloom” that they [the Palestinians] became interested in taking it from us…” Levi Eshkol, Prime Minister of Israel, Jerusalem Post, February, 1969. “The country was mostly an empty desert, with only a few islands of Arab settlements; and Israel’s cultivable land today was indeed redeemed from wilderness.” Shimon Peres, President of Israel, David’s Sling: The Arming of Israel, 1970. In April 2013 Peres also told Maariv: “I remember how it all began. The whole state of Israel is a millimetre of the whole Middle East. A statistical error, barren and disappointing land, swamps in the north, desert in the south, two lakes, one dead and overrated river. No natural resources apart from malaria. There was nothing here. And we now have the best agriculture in the world? This is a miracle: a land built by people.”).
Palestinians stand wide eyed wondering how their very existence is shrouded in doubt despite us standing there in the flesh and blood.
I have often sat at lectures listening to history being re-written and, like some comic B movie about time travel, I and all my ancestors disappear or are transmogrified into so many other shapes: I have been urged to accept being a Jordanian, a Lebanese, a Syrian, an Arab, a Muslim from the Arabian Peninsula… anything but a Palestinian. I will ignore the utter insult of being urged to belong to countries that have maltreated my people, persecuted them and deprived them of any dignity beyond being indigent refugees in receipt of patronising sympathy.The ‘free world’ accepts these newly created narratives as if they were pure truths and lectures us Palestinians on restraint, on democracy, on compassion and on coexistence – in between supporting every engine of oppression against us under various names: guilt over the Holocaust, unquestioning Christian belief in Old Testament stories, greed, power, racism, colonial attitudes and many others. Meanwhile, we are either terrorists or, when peaceful, unreasonable and possibly mad. I have found myself grateful to be called a little mad – a Palestinian who had lost his way… at least I was recognised as a Palestinian who must have existed somehow despite being told endlessly over the last sixty six years that my people and I never existed in these ‘Malaria infested swamps’!
A few glaring examples would suffice. The prestigious British historian Sir Martin Gilbert tells us that in 1967 Israel kindly accepted to share its lands with Palestinians (Gilbert, Israel: A History, 2008, page xxi). This is a first time that I have seen invasion, occupation and repression described as a form of “sharing”.
Christian Evangelists like Dave Hunt inform us that the Israelis kindly gave away Gaza “which historically belonged to her” and that the Arabs had attacked Israel in 1967 and that Israel was only defending itself against overwhelming odds (thebereancall.org, ‘Israel and Prophetic Proof’ Part II). He embellishes his sickening story by claiming to have been visiting Tyre in Lebanon at the time and telling us how he and his family begged the Lord for guidance…etc… Having been saved by the Lord as he escaped from Lebanon (a country not at all involved in the Six Day War) and having been delivered by the Lord into Syria (a country then at war with Israel), he then proceeds to defend every action by Israel despite the fact that “she” was at the time destroying three Arab armies, killing tens of thousands of Arabs and occupying more Palestinian lands as well as Egyptian and Syrian lands all of which, apart from Sinai, Israel still occupies (“The thesis that the danger of genocide was hanging over us in June 1967 and that Israel was fighting for its physical existence is only bluff, which was born and developed after the war.” Israeli General Matityahu Peled, Ha’aretz, March 19, 1972). As in most of his so-called Christian articles, Hunt peppers his vapid argument with endless quotations from The Bible prophesying all kind of nonsense about Israel – as if a merciful and compassionate God would remotely support the dispossession, oppression and wholesale murder of a whole people for no reason other than His prima donnish jealousies and adolescent tantrums.Furthermore, Hunt fills his writings with offensive and virulent hatred of Islam.
Dershowitz is seriously quoted by Zionists and Christian Evangelists as a great scholar, even when his book The Case for Israel (2003) is as glaring a falsification of the world picture as that ridiculous work The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (almost certainly fabricated by the Russian secret police between 1897-1899 with a summary first published in 1903 – it was heavily used by White Russians later to discredit the Bolshevik Revolution which they attributed to the Jews – the similarities to today’s Islamophobia are alarming). Such works would be funny if it were not for the fact that their pages are kept alive by the endless sufferings of the innocent at the hands of those who believe the virulent gibberish that they spout.
I remember asking a rather unsavoury near relation of mine why Hitler got away with his murderous thuggery when his sick political plans were there for all to see in his rambling and rather unreadable Mein Kampf. The man looked uncomfortable. His somewhat ill-educated and often secretly racist wife came to his rescue and explained: “But we did not know, dear, what was happening…”. In my youthful zeal, I showed her copies of contemporary newspapers which I had collected as part of researching the Holocaust. I pointed to reports of particular events as they were happening: “Kristallnacht”, the “Dachau” camp near supremely ‘civilised’ München (Munich) where Communists were sent during and after the “Night of the Long Knives”, the Nuremberg speeches promulgating the detestable race laws… The husband, who had by then presumably gathered his overtly racist thoughts, stepped in to relieve his embarrassed wife by saying: “We laughed at Herr Hitler in those days. We made fun of his silly tooth brush moustache…”. This is as feeble a response as another equally obnoxious relation of mine saying that Hitler cured unemployment, made the trains run on time, kept streets safe for patriotic Germans…”
“What about the Jews? The Gypsies? The trade unionists?” asked I in my naïve youth. The relation concerned waved his hand dismissively just as Ben Gurion did when asked what was to be done with the Palestinians remaining behind Israeli lines (Yitzhak Rabin’s Memoires, excluded when published but republished by the New York Times on 23 October 1979. Ben Gurion stated in a letter to his son dated 5 October 1937, “We must expel Arabs [Palestinians] and take their place”). The dismissive gesture was validated with the statement that “you don’t build a great nation without spilling blood…”. These people grow to believe their own lies in a way that brings George Orwell’s 1984 world to life.
These lies are like theatre and, like all good theatre, they work superbly. Israel has even cleverly invented the wonderful tradition of new arrivals being urged to adopt new names rather like theatrical agents suggesting that actors with difficult names might wish to do, so that their potential fans could remember them better! These names give Israel’s leaders historical credibility whilst accentuating their Jewish roots: David Gruen becomes David Ben Gurion, Golda Mabovitch becomes Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rubitzov becomes Yitzhak Rabin, Szymon Perski becomes Shimon Peres, Ariel Scheinermann becomes Ariel Sharon, Ehud Brog becomes Ehud Barak, Evet Lvovich Liberman becomes Avigdor Lieberman…etc… The notion is as bizarre as is the creation of a new State on the land of an already existing State by driving its people out, rewriting its history and creating new stories and facts on the ground to justify the original injustice.Changing East European and Russian names also both Judaises and homogenises Israel’s new citizens and renascent Hebrew culture and language – probably Israel’s most spectacular and, indeed, admirable success – in educational terms nothing short of a miracle.