Saturday, November 21, 2009

John Berger on Gaza and Mahmoud Darwish

In a piece titled A Place Weeping, John Berger (one of the most beautiful writers I know) writes of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish* and the suffering in Gaza during the 2009 Israeli invasion. Berger writes movingly of visiting Darwish's grave and tells us that Darwish (who died in 2008) wanted to be buried in Galilee where he was born, and where his mother still lives. The Israelis forbade it.

Writing of the Israeli siege of 2008-9 Berger writes:
" The massacre will soon be followed be pestilence: most lodgings have neither water nor electricity, the hospitals lack doctors, medicines and generators. The massacre follows a blockade and siege.

More and more voices across the world are raised in protest. But the governments of the rich with their world media and their proud possession of nuclear weapons, reassure Israel that a blind eye will be cast on what its defence forces are perpetrating"
The blind eye continues to be cast by the Western powers. Of that there is no better example than the sustained demolition of the Goldstone Report (here) by Israel and its American and western allies (In two previous posts about the Report here and here I pondered what the response of the Israel and US would be to the Report).

The Goldstone report (by South African jurist Richard Goldstone) showed that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes in the lead-up to and during Israel’s invasion of Gaza IN 2008-9. The Report found that Israel deliberately attacked civilian targets, and did not take sufficient action to minimize civilian loss of life. The report condemned Hamas for its rocket attacks into Israel, which the report said were designed to create terror.

The US Congress voted to condemn the Report and prevent it being considered by the UN and many European countries condemned the report as biased.

As Berger writes, Darwish may no longer be with us, but his words are still audible.

Lebanon, Chris Anderson, August 2006

The Girl / The Scream

Mahmoud Darwish

There is a girl on a sea shore
And the girl has a family
And the family has a house
And the house has two windows and a door.
And at sea there's a warship playing a game
of targeting those taking a stroll on the shore.
Four five seven drop to the sand.
The girl is spared by a sleeve of mist
a certain celestial sleeve came to rescue her.
She calls out: Dad, my Dad, let's go home, this sea is not for us.
And the father does not reply.
He lies there in an agony of absence, wrapped in his shadow in an agony of absence.
Blood in her palms blood in the clouds,
Her scream flies away with her far from the sea shore and higher.
She screams in the night of a wilderness
The echo has no echo
And the girl becomes the eternal scream of a breaking news event made obsolete by the planes return
to bomb a house with two windows and a door.

Translation: Tania Nasir and John Berger

*Mahmoud Darwish is regarded as the greatest living Palestinian poet. He is the author of more than thirty books of poems, and the founder and editor of the literary journal al-Karmel. Darwish died . His website is here.

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