Ghassan Kanafani: In Our Memory

As’ad AbuKhalil in Al Akhbar.

You would not know it. If you navigate in all the English language blogs, websites and newspapers dealing with the Middle East, you would not have known that Arabs in cyberspace around the world are commemorating the anniversary of the terrorist murder of Ghassan Kanafani at the hands of Israeli terrorists in Beirut. He was murdered in cold-blood by an explosive device under his car, which also killed his niece. Facebook pictures carried his portrait and lines from his writings were being circulated. Western media had other concerns: they were busy covering a buffoonish Sunni cleric in Sidon, all in the hope of elevating his stature to compete with Hassan Nasrallah.

Ghassan Kanafani never carried a gun, even though he was entitled to carry more than one given that it was Gun Zionism that took over his homeland. Ghassan Kanafani was a writer, artist and a dreamer. He also was a lover: his love letters to Ghada Samman were some of the best love letters one can read – interestingly Ghada only released his letters to her but not hers to him.

Kanafani was a major figure in the Kuwaiti and Lebanese press and his articles were published under a pseudonym in al-Hawadith magazine, among others. Kanafani was gifted in the media and his political posters were one of the best in the 20th century.

Israeli terrorists have killed scores of our writers, scholars, scientists, poets, artists, in addition to scores more of our leaders and commanders. Israel pioneered the art and practice of terrorism and it can be said to be the real inspiration for al-Qaeda.

If Ghassan Kanafani was not a Palestinian, his story would have been told in movies, plays, and novels. Instead, Israeli terrorists are portrayed as dreamers and humanitarians, while our dreamers and artists are turned into terrorists. Golda Meir who has blood of many Arab children on her hands is portrayed in American popular culture as some doting grandmother with feminist inclinations – while in fact she was not only a terrorist but an enemy of the women’s movement as well.

Ghassan Kanafani represents all the passion of Palestinian struggle. Israeli terrorists are threatened by every act of Palestinian defiance – whether in arms or in words. In April 1973, Ehud Barak led a command of terrorists who killed Palestinian poet Kamal Nasser, another man who never held a gun in his hand. But Israeli calculations are flawed: they kill one Palestinian (or one Arab) after another on the assumption that his death would kill the dream or extinguish the flame, or end the project. Israeli calculations are so foolish that they seem to be premised on the notion that Palestinian mothers can’t give birth anymore.

I grew up hearing stories about Ghassan Kanafani. He was a close friend of my uncle Naji, who knew him from the Movement of Arab Nationalists. And when Kanafani was murdered, George Habash said, “he took my half with him.”

For some reason, I always missed Kanafani. My school bus when I was a boy, passed daily in front of the al-Hadaf magazine offices. Here was the truly pioneering revolutionary magazine that was founded by Ghassan Kanafani. I still have some of the early issue. I touch them carefully knowing that they were designed and produced and written by this talented man.

The West does not know of our scientists or artists or writers. They only know of our “terrorists”. In the US, I often ask college students around the country if they have heard of Bin Laden. They all have, of course. I then ask them to name any Palestinian or Arab poet or writer or scientists. None can (in the UK, the experiment produces different results and the college students there are certainly more knowledgeable).

Mahmoud Darwish was only covered in the Western media when he wrote a poem that offended Israelis. The New York Times only then covered him and provided a translation of the “offensive” poem. Darwish merely asked the invaders to leave his lands.

Year after year, we prove that we have not forgotten Ghassan Kanafani, and that we have not forgiven his killers. Year after year, we look at his pictures and stare at his eyes and know that something big happened when Kanafani was killed.

Year after year, we re-read his word and insist on the continuity of the project that he represented. Israelis habitually cover up their war crimes and massacres by lies, fabrications and distortions. They lied to the world and claimed that Ghassan Kanafani wrote his novels and painted his posters with a gun. Yet, his pen and brush proved to be stronger than the Israel gun that killed him.

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