“. . . the chains of an arrogant fate . . .” (Fadwa Tuqan)

❶ 100 years on Balfour Declaration
❷ Saeb Erekat: Nothing is more shameful than [the British] celebrating colonialism

  • “The Palestinian Nakba and Its Continuous Repercussions.” Israel Studies.
  • “Britain’s Secret Re-Assessment of the Balfour Declaration. The Perfidy of Albion.” Journal of the History of International Law.
  • “Political Engagement: The Palestinian Confessional Genre.” Arab Studies Quarterly.

❸ POETRY by Fadwa Tuqan
` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
Alray-Palestinian Media Agency
Nov. 2, 2017 ― Palestinians around the world are marking 100 years since the Balfour Declaration was issued on November 2, 1917.
___The Balfour Declaration (“Balfour’s promise” in Arabic) was a public pledge by Britain in 1917 declaring its aim to establish “a national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.
___The statement came in the form of a letter from Britain’s then-foreign secretary, Arthur Balfour, addressed to Lionel Walter Rothschild, a figurehead of the British Jewish community.
___It was made during World War I (1914-1918) and was included in the terms of the British Mandate for Palestine after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.
[. . . .] Unlike the rest of the post-war mandates, the main goal of the British Mandate there was to create the conditions for the establishment of a Jewish “national home” – where Jews constituted less than 10 percent of the population at the time.    MORE . . .
Palestine News and Information Agency – WAFA         
Nov. 2, 2017 ― Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Saeb Erekat said on Thursday that by celebrating the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the British government has chosen to celebrate 100 years of injustice, racism, and violence.
___“Today we mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, when the British colonial power promised Palestine, a land that wasn’t theirs, to the Zionist movement, thus ignoring the political and national rights of the indigenous Palestinian people. To implement the Balfour Declaration, the United Kingdom made use of the British Mandate of Palestine by oppressing the Palestinian national liberation movement and changing the identity of Palestine,” said Erekat in a statement marking this occasion. MORE . . .    …

Manna, Adel.
ISRAEL STUDIES, vol. 18, no. 2, Summer2013, pp. 86-99.
[. . . .] During the late 19th Century . . . Jews in Europe established an organized Zionist movement aiming to transform Palestine into a Jewish homeland. Furthermore, thousands of Zionist Jews started to immigrate into Palestine and settle it, beginning in the 1880’s.
___However, only at the end of World War I did the Palestinians start to fully grasp the serious challenge of the Zionist project, which by then had earned the official support of Great Britain with THE BALFOUR DECLARATION, ISSUED IN NOVEMBER 1917. The British, who succeeded the Ottomans in controlling Palestine and other neighboring Arab countries, posed a special threat to the national aspirations of the Palestinians. In the next two decades, the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular did their best to persuade the British to end their support for the Zionist project, but failed to achieve this aim by peaceful means in the 1920’s (See: Muhammad Muslih, The Origins of Palestinian Nationalism. New York, 1988: 191-210.)
___Palestinians who watched the construction of the infrastructure for a Jewish state turned to violence as a last resort to defend their country against British rule and the Zionist newcomers. However, the Jewish state-in-the-making gathered more and more strength and support, particularly after World War II and the disclosure of the horrors of the Holocaust. The climax of international support for establishing a Jewish state in Palestine materialized fully in the UN partition plan, approved on 29 November 1947. Notwithstanding these new realities, the Palestinians were absolutely confident in their cause and believed that justice would prevail.
___At the end of 1947 the Arabs of Palestine were more than two thirds (about 1,350,000) of the country’s two million people. Furthermore, they possessed about 90% of Palestine’s privately-owned land. Hence, as an indigenous stable majority, they believed in their right to take control of a free and complete Palestine.   SOURCE . . .

Quiley, John.
, vol. 13, no. 2, Oct. 2011, pp. 249-283.
[. . . .] In the British Cabinet’s internal discussion of Palestine, however, the prospects of success in meeting these two goals were rated as low. The Arab and Jewish sectors of Palestine’s population were immediately at odds with each other. In 1923 the Cabinet undertook a comprehensive re-assessment of the Jewish national home project. The Cabinet concluded that it could not promote a Jewish national home, yet ensure a peaceful outcome that would protect the Arab population and move Palestine towards independence. For reasons relating to its own interests, however, the Cabinet decided to persist in promoting a Jewish national home. The unfortunate consequence was an Arab-Jewish confrontation that ultimately saw Britain depart unceremoniously from Palestine in 1948, setting the stage for conflict that continues to the present day.
[. . . .] In Palestine, Britain as the administering power committed itself to bringing in an outside population that entertained the goal of establishing itself in a way that seemed to threaten the status of the local population.
___This commitment was contained in the Balfour Declaration, a 1917 document of the British Government. The Balfour Declaration committed Britain to promoting a Jewish “national home” in Palestine, a project being urged by the World Zionist Organization, a Jewish group based in Europe. At the time, Jews constituted 10% of Palestine’s population. The other 90% of the population was Arab. The declaration, issued in the form of a letter signed by A.J. Balfour, the foreign secretary, read:
___His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.    COMPLETE ARTICLE . . .

Mir, Salam.
, vol. 35, no. 4, Fall2013, pp. 360-377.
[. . . .] Fadwa Tuqan’s personal history strikes an unusual inverse parallel with that of Palestinian people. Nineteen seventeen, the year of Tuqan’s birth, coincided with the Balfour Declaration in which the British government promised to establish a Jewish National Home (JNH) in Palestine. Nineteen forty-eight, the year of Tuqan’s father’s death, was the year the poet began to participate in politics and the world outside. Forty-eight was also the time of Nakba, the “Catastrophe,” when Palestine was divided and Israel established. By 1948, Tuqan was the up-and-coming poet who focused mainly on personal concerns and love poetry.
___When her father died and Palestine was lost in 1948, a slight shift in Tuqan’s journey for self-fulfillment takes place. The familial and sociopolitical changes signaled a turbulent period for country and poet.
[. . . .] A Mountainous Journey, An Autobiography by Palestinian poet Fadwa Tuqan (1917-2003) was first published serially in 1978-79, in the Arab Israeli magazine al Jadid. Autobiography is a personal account of the coming of age of this accomplished Palestinian poet, who is among the most celebrated contemporary women poets in the Arab world.   SOURCE . . .

Look how this black
rock has been fastened over my chest
with the chains of an arrogant fate, with the chains of senseless time.
Look, how it grinds beneath it
my fruit and my flower,
carves me with time
and crushes my breath.
Let be! We can’t overpower it.
The chains of my prison will hold.
I shall remain
in isolation
while fate is my jailor.
Leave me
so: no light,
no tomorrow,
no hope.
There is no escaping this black rock,
no refuge.
In vain I try to budge its weight from my chest
by forgetting myself―
how I roamed in
the heart of life
and travelled in
every direction.

I played,
I sang
in the streams of youth,
held up my cup
and greedily drank
until absent to the world.
How the world of pleasure deceived me,
my pain and my misery in its lap!
I have escaped from
the world of my feelings
and dance, swift as birds
laughing in madness. Then from
the depths of my pessimism
a call shook my spirit
and in secret thundered on:

“You will not escape,
here I stay!
There is no running from me, no refuge!”

The shadow of the black rock casts
deformed pictures.
In vain I try to budge it,
in vain seek to escape.
There is no refuge.

How I have probed the land of misery!
I smell the elixir of consolation
in the misery of prisoners like me,
prisoners of fate.
I came among the people
where tragedies are,
and tears,
where whips sizzle and fall
over the hordes,
over the naked backs
and the crushed necks,
where the slaves
are tamed
and rush in groups, each one
foundering in his own
blood and sweat.

I keep on: I seek comfort
but there is no refuge.
The curse of this black rock
was born with me,
a constant trial.
it follows me,
its shadow dogs my steps.
Look how it has settled
in its arrogance
over my chest!
Let be; we can’t overpower it.
The chains of my prison will hold.
My spirit is locked; I am
alone in my struggle
with pain
with time
with fate
and this black rock grinding.

There is no refuge.

From WHEN THE WORDS BURN: AN ANTHOLOGY OF MODERN ARABIC POETRY: 1945-1987. Translated and edited by John Mikhail Asfour. Dunvegan, Ontario, Canada. Cormorant Books, 1988.  Available from Barnes & Noble.

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