Darwish in Hebrew: Appropriating Palestinian Exile in Israeli Poetry
Many studies trace the influence of Hebrew literature on Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry. However, little attention has been given to the ways Darwish’s poetry profoundly influences contemporary Israeli poetry, despite the fact he has been translated to Hebrew more than any other Arab or Palestinian writer. Such scholarly predisposition is not a coincidence, but rather the outcome of a long tradition of studying Israeli and Palestinian literatures within certain dynamics in which the former is the hegemonic literature that serves as the model for the latter minority literature to emulate and mimic. This article offers a close reading of the poems of Arab-Jewish poets such as Mati Shmuelof, Adi Keisar, Sami Shalom Chitrit and Almog Behar and the ways they are informed by Darwish's poetry. I negotiate the ethics of such literary borrowings—should we call them intertextuality or cultural appropriation?—as I investigate the appeal of Palestinian exile to the contemporary Hebrew writer, as means to embrace a current, lived, non-hegemonic and non-sovereign position. I argue that these examples fall under both definitions of allusions and cultural appropriation, which is emblematic to the in-between position of the Arab Jew, turning away from Ashkenazi literary traditions on the one hand, and continuing the Israeli use of Palestinian culture as gateway, on the other hand. As such, the article not only exemplifies a unique case of literary transference from minority to majority literature, but more importantly, provides more nuanced distinctions between various types of literary exchanges.
Documenting the Unarchivable:
Minor Detail and the Silence of Sensory Memory
This article is a close reading of Adania Shibli’s Tafṣīl thānawī (2017), focusing on the novel’s poetic techniques of narrating Palestinian history. I show how, in order to break away from the reliance on perpetrators’ testimonies and to recover lived-knowledge, Shibli creates a repository of unverifiable, seemingly negligible details that ultimately construct the historical event as a continuous phenomenon that therefore can be studied via present reality, not only the authoritative archive. Privileging description over action, Tafṣīl thānawī does not simply embody the voice of the colonized, but challenges what we deem worth documenting and inserts into the historical discourse the sights, smells, and sounds of undocumented experiences. As such, Shibli provides an alternative method of documenting the past, one that classifies the unarchivable: sensory experiences and the vanishing landscape.
Forthcoming in The Journal of Postcolonial Writing
Factoring Asymmetry into the Equation: On Juxtaposing Palestinian and Israeli Literatures
This article addresses a discursive problem with the study of Palestinian literature alongside Israeli literature: by focusing on the intersections between Hebrew and Arabic literatures, scholars have created a hybrid that precludes comparison between two separate entities. This article surveys the theoretical and political drawbacks of this approach and then moves to theorize Palestinian literature outside its pairing with Israeli literature as a global multilingual literary system that is major yet non-hegemonic. I suggest that Palestinian literature can be informed by theories of world literature, on the one hand, and inform world literature about the way diasporic literature moves in the world, on the other hand. Last, I discuss the novel Tafṣīl thānawī by ʿAdanīyah Shiblī in order to demonstrate a possible expansion of the grounds of comparison once a work of Palestinian literature like this one is read beyond its dialogue with Israeli culture.
Forthcoming in The Journal of Arabic Literature (Vol.: 55 (2024))
The Future of Temple Mount: Imagined Possibilities in Contemporary Palestinian and Israeli Art
This article analyzes two contemporary video artworks—one by the Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour and one by the Israeli artist Yael Bartana—in an attempt to better comprehend contemporary visions of the future in the arts of this region. I focus on the chronotope of Temple Mount, or al-Haram al-Sharīf, as a study case that assembles many of the most essential themes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: the future of the land is contemplated through the ways in which this indivisible holy site can be shared by the two nations. Through a reading of the two artworks and their commonalities—both suggest dispossession, relocation, and commodification as alternatives to the current conflicted situation—I ask whether these works exit their own cultural and political zeitgeist and therefore open up new possibilities or whether they are, rather, exemplary of our times, in which we find a growing tendency to depict the future as hopeless.