Published by the Ministry of Culture

          Baghdad- Iraq      1968

                This is a revised and edited version- 2009


 Palestinian Literature

 Ghassan Kanafani


The Impossible

Sameeh Al- Qassem


Lover from Palestine

Mahmoud Darwish

The Exile

Salem Jubran


Salem Jubran


A Letter from a Bankrupt

Sameeh Al Qassem


The Reaction

Mahmoud Darwish


The Olive Tree

Tawfiq Zayyad


 To Christ

Fadwa Tuqan



Sameeh Al Qassem


 Ever Alive

Fadwa Tuqan


Identity Card

Mahmoud Darwish


Letter From prison

Sameeh Al-Qassem


Translated from: Resistance literature In Occupied Palestine

 By Ghassan Kanafani

 The fall of Palestine to the Zionists in 1948 led to a disastrous change both in the number and the social structure of the Arab population in occupied Palestine. Nearly three quarters of the 200,000 Arabs who continued to live in their homeland were peasants. The cities were mostly evacuated either during the war or soon afterwards. This led to a shocking deterioration in Arab social conditions due to the fact that the cities had been the centers of both political and cultural effusion.

As the Zionist occupants closed their military ring, they started to impose their oppressive measures; the atmosphere was convenient for them. Their chief purpose was to eradicate every trace of the Arab personality and to implant the seeds of new trends which might grow and integrate within the Zionist political and literary life.

Palestinian Literature, up to this tragic fall had been part of the mainstream of the Arab literary movement which flourished during the first half of the century. It had got its sources from and had been influenced by Egyptian, Syrian and Lebanese writers who led the literary movement then. Even renowned Palestinian writers had been indebted for their fame mostly to the Arab capitals which used to receive them and patronize their productions. Several factors had in fact contributed to diminishing the value of Palestinian literature at a time when Palestine was enjoying a prominent position in the political arena and the struggle for Arab nationalism.

After 1948, Palestinian literature succeeded in laying the found­ations of a new literary movement which may be better described as the literature of Exile rather than Palestinian or Refugee literature. Poetry, the chief element of this movement, has been able during recent years to witness a remarkable progress in quality and technique. The short period of silence after the 1948 war was followed by a great awakening, and national poetry poured out reflecting the people’s national fervor. It interacted with Arab and foreign literary trends and gradually broke the traditional rules of technique, rejected the old sentimental out­bursts and emerged with a unique feeling of profound sadness more commensurate with the realities of the situation.

On the other hand, resistance literature inside occupied Palestine was confronted, with radical differences in tenets. The backbone of Arab literature in Occupied Palestine had disappeared with the emigration of a whole generation of writers and men of culture. The non–emigrants constituted a society which was mostly rural and was subjected to Political, social and cultural persecution unmatched anywhere else in the world.


The following points may shed some light on the real situation of the Arabs inside occupied Palestine:

  1. The majority of the Palestinians who remained were not, owing to their social condition, up to the cultural standard which allows for the creation of a new generation of writers and artists.
  2. The Arab cities which used to receive and encourage the talented young men coming from the rural sector were transformed into prohibited cities of the enemy.
  3. The Arab population was completely isolated and had no contact with the Arab countries.
  4. The Zionist military rule imposed on the Arab population tyrannical restrictions, and censored their literary productions.
  5. Publishing and distribution means have been either limited or under tight restrictions.
  6. Opportunity for Arabs to learn foreign languages is non­existent. Very few are allowed to enter high schools and almost none are allowed to enter university.

It should be borne in mind when reading the literature which has been able to emerge, that the Arab population has been struggling ·through the dim night of persecution and torture to consolidate its existence and to express itself. It has now succeeded in forming its own expression crystallizing it into a palpitating literature of resistance.

Under this hard siege, it is quite easy to realize why poetry was the first harbinger of the resistance call, for poetry spreads from mouth to mouth and lives without publication. This also

explains why this poetry was at the beginning restricted to the traditional form which is easier to learn by heart and quicker to appeal to the sentiments. The first outburst was mainly characterized with love lyrics, but side by side with the traditional poetry, popular vernacular lyrics began to appear to form the first kernel of resistance manifestation •. In fact, popular poetry played a big role in the history of Palestine since the twenties and was famous all over the Arab world. Nearly every Palestinian knows and recites the following popular lyric which was extemporized by a Palestinian struggler just before he was executed by the British Mandate in 1936

Night, stay a little longer, until the captive

Finishes his song

By dawn, his wing will flutter

And the hanged man will swing

In the wind

Night, lessen your pace

Let me pour my heart to you

Perhaps you forgot who I am and what my troubles are

Pity, how my hours have slipped

 Down your hands

Do not think I weep from fear

 My tears are for, my country

And for a bunch of fledglings

Hungry at home

Without a father

Who will feed them after me

 And my two brothers

Before me swung on the scaffold

And how will my wife spend her days

 Lonely and in tears

I did not even leave her bracelet

 In her wrist

When my country cried for arms


Popular lyrics dominated the scene for almost ten years after 1948 before any standard well developed literature appeared. It was the medium by which the defeated people expressed them selves. It dominated every manifestation of their life. Wedding mornings, evening sittings and all other gatherings were trans­formed by the effect of those lyrics into fierce demonstrations heedless of the firing squads. Many popular poets were put in prison or confined under severe restrictions. And as the trend of popular poetry grew and expanded, the occupying forces extended their tyrannical, measures, killed some poets and prohi­bited all Arab gatherings. Such measures could not anyhow uproot this trend of resistance but rather kept it dormant for almost five years to burst anew with intense force and vitality. With the beginning of the sixties, surprisingly enough, a remark­ab1e new wave of literature appeared to light. The tenets of this new wave were courageous, full of vitality and optimism and highly charged with the spirit of defiance, unlike the literature of the exile poets of the same period, which was mostly sad and vehement.

The decade which preceded this new outburst can better be described as the period of integration of the personality and the identification of the Arab personality with the cause of struggle. The defeated and the helpless that had resorted to love poetry during the few years which followed 1948 began at the advent

Of the sixties to develop into a real force of  resistance, dauntless brave and hopeful

Love poetry was the outcome of the bitter feelings of loneliness and deprivation which overwhelmed the Arab population after 1948. The feeling that they were a defeated minority began with the passage of time to change into a feeling of defiance, and they succeeded in confronting their hard circumstances face to face

Resistance was not an easy choice; it was rather a daily battle with a ferocious enemy who considered it a question of life and death. And as the ·measures of persecution became fiercer, resistance consolidated. Contrary to the poetry of exile, the poetry of resistance emerged with an astonishing revolutionary spirit completely free from the sad and tearful trend. Strangely enough, it quickly reverberated with all the political upheavals of the Arab countries

Resistance poetry did not only witness a change in purport and poetic effect but also in form and technique. It rejected the traditional poetic forms and adopted modern techniques without losing force. As to purport, resistance poetry resorted to various mediums of expression

 Love: 1-The love for woman is completely integrated with the love of the homeland. Woman and Earth are completely assimilated in one great love and transformed into the great cause of liberation

2-Satire: The enemy and the henchmen are ridiculed and the acts of suppression are expressed with bitter irony. This trend expresses a ,lively and an unconquerable spirit which considers all happenings as an ephemeral and transitional condition which sooner or later must and will be changed and put back to normality

Defiance and -challenge. The enemy is exposed and put face to face with the staunch and fearless spirit of the fighters. It is noteworthy that resistance literature is chiefly characterized as leftist. This is the outcome of the circumstances which dominated Palestinian life, which can be summed up as follows

1- The majority of the Arab population is rural and deeply involved in the revolutions and uprisings which took place in Palestine before 1948 against the British Mandate. It is they as well who received the hardest blow in 1948.

2-The very bad living conditions in which they live and the harsh tyranny which they meet in their struggle for daily bread

3- The fact that the existence of the enemy is the outcome of the imperialistic, capitalistic schemes and that its continuation is mainly sustained by capitalism. Moreover, resistance poetry is a challenge to all Zionist beliefs. It deals with them all and discards them one after the other. It is a closely welded literature based on reasoning and not on sheer emotion. Above all, it remains an important link in the chain of the permanent Arab revolution and goes hand in hand with the Arab progressive movement. It has been able, despite all hindrances and obstacles, to grow into a real literature and to present the personality of the fighting poet.




                                                     Tawfiq Zayyad

It is much easier for you
To push an elephant through a needle’s eye
Catch fried fish in galaxy
Blow out the sun
Imprison the wind
Or make a crocodile speak
Than to destroy by persecution
The shimmering glow of a belief
Or check our march
Towards our cause
One single step………….






                                             Mahmoud  Darwish

Your eyes are thorn like in my heart
Lacerating, yet adorable
I shield them from the storm
And pierce them deep through night and pain,
The wound illuminates thousands of stars
My present makes their future
Dearer than my being
And I forget as our eyes meet
That once we were twins behind the gate
Your words were my song
I tried to sing again
But winter settled on the rosy lip
Your words, like a swallow, flew away
My door and the wintry threshold
Flew away behind you, longing for you
And our mirrors broke
Sorrow grew
So we gathered the splinters of sound
But only learnt to lament  the homeland
 We shall plant it together
 On the strings of a guitar
 And on the roof of our catastrophe
we shall play it
For distorted moons and stones
But I forgot, O you whose voice I do not know
Whether it was your departure
Or my silence
That rusted the guitar
I saw you last at the harbor
A lonely voyager without relatives
Without a bag
I ran to you like an orphan
Asking the wisdom of the ancestors
How could an orchard be banished
To a prison, to an exile or a harbor
An yet remain, despite the journey
And the smell of salts or yearnings
Ever green
And I write in my diary
I love oranges and hate ports
Then I write again
I stood at the port
Winter was pouring
We only have the peel of oranges
And behind me
There is the desert
I saw you at the thorny mountains
A sheepless shepherd being chasAnd among the ruins
And you had been my garden
And I was a stranger
Knocking at the door, my heart
Knocking my heart
The door, the window, the cement and the stones
Stood up
I swear
From eye lashes I shall weave
A kerchief for you
And weave on it a poem for your eyes


I shall write on it a sentence that is
 Dearer than martyrs and kisses
She was a Palestinian and she is still so
 flung the doors open to the storm
Virgin mate, faithful wheat
Palestinian are your eyes and tattoo
Palestinian is your name
Palestinian are your dreams and concerns
Palestinian is your scarf, your feet, your form
Palestinian are your words and your silence
Palestinian is your voice
Palestinian in life and in death
 I hold you in my old books
A fire for my songs…………….



                      THE EXILE

                                              Salem Jubran

               The sun walks through the border
               Guns keep silent
               A skylark starts its morning song
               In Tulkarem
   And flies away to sup
              With the birds of a Kibbutz
              A lonely donkey strolls
              Across the firing line
              Unheeded by the watching squad
              But for me, your ousted son, my native lan
              Between your skies and my eyes
              A stretch of border walls
         Blackens the view


Salem Jubran

             I am a stranger Safad
             And you too
             The Houses greet me
             But their dwellers
             Order me to go away
             Why are you roaming through the streets, Arab
             If you say hello
             Nobody would answer you
            Your relatives had been here
            Then went away
            And nobody stayed
            A funeral of a morning
            Sits on my lips
           And in my eyes
           There sits a lion’s humiliation
           Farwell Safad


Sameeh Al Qassem
I may lose my daily bread, if you wish
I may hawk my clothes and bed
I may become a stone cutter, or a porter
Or a street sweeper
I may search in animal dung for food
I may collapse, naked and starved
Enemy of light
I will not compromise
And to the end
I shall fight
You may rob me of the last span of my land
You may ditch my youth in prison holes
Steel what my grandfather left me behind
Some furniture or clothes and jars
You may burn my poems and books
You may feed your dog on my flesh
You may impose a nightmare of your terror
On my village
Enemy of light
I shall not compromise
And to the end
I shall fight



Enemy of light
The signs of joy and the tidings
Shouts of happiness and anthems
Are there at the port
And at the horizon
A sail is defying the wind and the deep sees
Overcoming all the challenges
It is the return of Ulysses
From the lost sees
It is the return of the sun
And the return of the ousted
And for their sake
I swear
I shall not compromise
And to the end
I shall fight





Dear Homeland
My chains teach me
The vigor of the eagle
And the tenderness of the optimist
I hadn’t known that under our skins
There is a birth of a storm
And a wedding of rivulets
They shut me in a dark cell
My heart glowed with  suns of torches
They wrote my card’s number on the walls
There grew a pasture of corn ears on the wall
They drew the face of my killer on the walls
The face was soon erased by the shades of braids
I carved the picture of your blooded face
With my teeth
And wrote the song of the departing pains
I plunged my defeat in the flesh of darkness
And put my fingers in the sunny hair
The conquerors, on the top of my roof
Could only open the valves
Of my earthquakes
They will not see except the glow of my forehead
They will not hear except the rattle of my chains
And if I were burned on the cross of my cause
 I would become a saint in the garb of a struggler


                                           Tawfiq Zayyad
            Because I do not knit wool*
            Because I am always hunted
            And my house is always raided
            Because I cannot own a piece of paper
            I shall carve my memoirs
            On the home yard olive tree
                     I shall carve bitter reflections
            Scenes of love and yearnings
            For my stolen orange grove
And the lost tombs of my dead
I shall carve all my striving
For the sake of remembrance
For the time when I’ll drown them
In he avalanche of triumph
I shall carve the serial number
Of every stolen piece of land
The place of my village on the map
And the blown up houses
And the uprooted trees
           And every bloom that was crushed
           And all the names of the experts in torture
           The names of the prisons…
            I shall carve dedications
            To memories threading down to eternity
            To the blooded soil of Deir Yasin
            And Kufur Qassem.
            I shall carve the sun’s beckoning
            And the moon’s whisperings
            And what a skylark recalls
            At a love deserted well
             For the sake of remembrance
             I shall continue to carve
            All the chapters of my tragedy
            And all the stages of Al- Nakbah
            On the home yard olive tree
* Reference to Madame Lafarge, who used to knit the names of the traitors and send them to the French revolutionaries during the French Revolution



       Fadwa Tuqan


Lord, glory of the universes

On your Birthday this year

All the joys of Jerusalem are crucified

All the bells, O Lord

Are silent

For two thousand years

They haven’t been silent on your birthdays

Except this year

The domes are now in mourning

Black is wrapped in black

On the Via Dolorosa

Jerusalem is whipped

Under the cross


On the hands of the executioner

The world is adamant to the tragedy

 The light has departed from that lost ruthless master

Who did not light one candle

Who did not shed one tear

To wash the sorrows of Jerusalem

The vinedressers have killed the heir, O Lord

And usurped the vine

The vinedressers killed the heir, my Lord

The bird of sin has feathered

 Within the sinners of the world

And flew to desecrate Jerusalem’s chastity

What a cursed devil he is

Even hated by the Devil

O Lord, glory of Jerusalem

Out of the well of agony

Out of the abyss

Out of the recesses of night

Out of the horror

Jerusalem’s groaning ascends to you

Mercy, lord

Spare her this chalice!




Sameeh Alqassem







Victim of blind Gods

 Immolation ram

At the alter of the lusts

Of this Dark Age





Hand in hand

Let us cross this lunatic path

O Father

There are still two eyes

In your face

And you still have

Two feet on your land

So strike, across the night

The worst catastrophe in the history of man

Let us create

Across the night

A dawn for life

O Father

If the devil of sorrows

Plucked your eyes

I am for you your night a lamp

Drinking from the oil of faith

And tomorrow, father, I swear

I will bring you back

What the pirate’s sins

Have stolen from you

I swear, father, in the name of God

And the name of Man









                                                                   Fadwa Tuqan

My beloved home land

No matter how long the millstone

 Of pain and agony churns you

In the wilderness of tyranny

They will never be able

To pluck your eyes

Or kill your hopes and dreams

Or crucify your will to rise

Or steel the smiles of our children

Or destroy and burn

Because out from our deep sorrows

Out from the freshness of our spilled blood

Out from the quiverings of life and death

Life will be reborn in you again………




Mahmoud Darwish

Write down

I am an Arab

My card number is 50,000

I have eight children

The ninth will come next summer

Are you angry


Write down

I am an Arab

I cut stone with comrade laborers

My children are eight

I squeeze the rock

To get a loaf

A dress and a book

For them

But I do not plead for charity at your door

And do not feel small

In front of your mansion

Are you angry


Write down

I am an Arab

I am a name without a title

Patient, in a country

Where every body else is very angry

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 father belonged to the family of the plough

Was not of grand stock

My grand father was a farmer, without a pedigree

He taught me the grandeur of the sun

Before reading books

My house is a hut

Made of reed and stalk

Are you satisfied with my rank

I am a name without a title



Write down

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 grand children

Except these rocks

Will your government take them

So it is

Write down

At the top of the first page

I hate nobody

I do not steel any thing

But when I become hungry

I eat the flesh of my marauders

So beware….beware

My hunger and fury!





                                                   Sameeh Al Qassem

  It pains me, Mother

That you burst in tears

When my friends come

 Asking about me

 But I believe, mother

 That the splendor of life

 Is born in my prison

And I believe that my last visitor

Will not be an eyeless bat

Coming at midnight.

My last visitor must be daylight……