Tag Archives: nakba


By Steve Kowit

They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance. — David Ben Gurion

Because of the rod of the Pharaoh, the sword of Marneptah,
the sting of the lash of Assyrian armies,
because legions of pious Crusaders condemned the Torah to flames,
because we were led off in halters, enslaved in Armenia, Georgia,
the Caucasus, fled Chrysostom’s rage, Luther’s Hitlerian frenzy,
the Dominican Fathers’ Inquisitorial cross,
because we were numbered among the transgressors,
scattered among nations, expelled from the Rhineland, Bavaria, Spain,
brought as the lamb to the slaughter at Prague, Nemirov, Tarnapal, Bar, Salonika,
because we were dragged through the streets of the shtetl
& set to the torch in the shul, because we died screaming for mercy

were crucified, blinded, boiled in oil & buried alive,
because we were stuffed into cattle cars & shipped East
and our neighbors said nothing,
& were gassed in the showers & no one protested,
am I now to rejoice that my Palestinian brothers & sisters are blindfolded,
beaten, bound at the wrists & kicked to the ground,
pummeled & mocked, left to rot in the heat of the Negev,
while the pious Zionist settlers raze their villages, demolish
their homes, expropriate their farms, plough their olive groves under?
Should I pretend I heard nothing? Saw nothing?
That it was none of my business?

Because the Einsatzgruppen mowed down the Jews in the streets
do I turn my back now and forget that the farmers of Khan Yunis
were murdered in cold blood,
that the shepherds of Kafr Quasim were shot where they stood,
that the massacred women & children of Dier Yassin have been flung into wells,
that the village where Mahmoud Darwish was born no longer exists,
that the Palestinian homeland was stolen?

Should I forget the blood of Shatilla & Sabra, should I forget the Lebanese dead?
that Ashbir Yusef & Mahmoud Sabad were beaten to death,
that Sohel Zantut’s son is still missing, that Fadhi Salim has lost his right leg,
that Sohel El-Ali was thrown from a bus, that Tamer Dasuki was shot in the back,
that Mustafa Hamden was buried alive,
that the husbands disappear into prisons, and the children
are gunned down by tanks, & the women weep in the rubble
while the Gush Emunim & the minions of Valdman, Schmuel Derlich,
Zeevi, Begin, Shamir, Sharon, Rabin & Kahane dance in the streets,
cursing the filthy Arabushim:
Do I just turn my back? Do I too become the Good German?

Because of the curfews, expropriations, expulsions, the knock at the door,
because of the Anschluss, the Kristallnacht riots,
because of the boot of despair & the cheek of denial,
because we have suffered the smokestacks of Auschwitz,
the mass graves of Chelmno & Belsen,
because we fell at the walls of the ghetto,
I tell you the occupation must end.

The Palestinian homeland was stolen.

Because I am Ashkenazy, a Jew, descendent of Khazars,
son of the tradesmen of Krakow, Lithuanian fiddlers, Talmudic scholars,
the wandering peddlers of Minsk, child of the Diaspora, exile in this world,
am I not of the Amalekite people as well: part Moabite, Chaldean,
Toltec & Pawnee, son of a long line of Canaanite cobblers,
Nigerian ploughmen, child of those who escaped here from Melos,
Soweto, Sharpeville, Zimbabwe, Belfast, Jakarta?
I am Kurdish. Armenian. Of the wandering Romani people.
Of Calcutta’s untouchable Harijan masses.
Part Lacandon, Quiché & Yana, of Tasmanian blood,
born of the Sac-Fox nation, son of the Bayou, a runaway field slave,
sojourner, nomad, pariah, untermensch, heir to this world of nettles & dust.

That is to say, I am of the shebab, of pure Palestinian blood,
a Fedayeen son of Jerusalem shepherds,
child of al-Nakba, and son of those with the bayonet at their throats.

In Occupied Palestine the Palestinian flag is not allowed to be raised.
Here in this poem I raise the Palestinian flag.

While the villagers pray & the young men throw stones, I stand
in the shadows & watch. I say nothing. Shots have been fired.
A handful of men are hauled off for beatings.
Their confessions are written in Hebrew.
A mother runs thru the darkness: Mustafa, she whispers, Mustafa?
… Mustafa? I hear the sharp breath in take, the all but inaudible weeping,
the vows of revenge. I note well the names of the dead,
who is missing, who has been murdered,
who has been beaten, whose land this time has been taken,
whose homes the Occupation Forces demolish.
Because of those who have stood here before me
& said “This cannot be done in my name,” I can no longer be silent.
Because of Gush Shalom & the Yesh G’vul, & Women in Black
Because of the terrible fate of The White Rose
I stand my ground at the edge of an olive grove in the village of Dir Istya.

I can do nothing no longer.
The expropriation of the Palestinian homeland must end.
About the scald of the rope of bondage pricking my throat
I wrap the kaffiyah. Let the young men take up their stones.
Let the people arise. Let the lamps of the priests of the Lord of Plunder
sputter & darken. Let the armies of occupation tremble.
What was dread has been sharpened to mettle & has festered to gall.
Because of the Oremus et pro perfidies judaeis, that terrible Good Friday prayer
I stand with this heavy stone in my hand: unbending, defiant.
I tell you the theft of the Palestinian homeland must end.
Because of the Nuremberg Laws and the Aryan Clauses,
because of the Easter pogroms,
because of the rod of the Pharaoh,
because of the sword of Marneptah,
because of the sting of the lash of Assyrian armies,
because legions of pious Crusaders condemned the Torah to flames.

First published in:

Counterpunch – http://www.counterpunch.org/poems04262008.html