Darwish blasts Palestinian infighting at Haifa reading

Lauded poet describes Hamas-Fatah clashes as "a public attempt at suicide in the streets."

mahmoud darwish poet 88 (photo credit: )
mahmoud darwish poet 88
(photo credit: )
The world's most recognized Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish, delivered a stinging tirade against Palestinian infighting on Sunday in his first public appearance in decades in Haifa. The reading by Darwish, known as the "Palestinian national poet," came a month after deadly battles between rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip claimed dozens of casualties. The factions subsequently formed separate regimes. One is run by Hamas in Gaza, while the moderate Fatah formed a government in the West Bank. Darwish, 66, described the infighting as a "a public attempt at suicide in the streets." He spoke to a packed auditorium in the port city and his remarks were broadcast live over Arab satellite television. "We became independent," Darwish said mockingly. "Gaza became independent of the West Bank, and for one people, two countries, two prisons." Darwish said bitterly the two governments made the possibility of creating a Palestinian state "one of the seven wonders of the world." Darwish, who was born in a village near Haifa, also directed barbs at Israel. He blamed the Jewish state for not taking advantage of a historic chance at peace. It was Darwish's first poetry reading in Haifa since he left the port city in 1970 to study in the former Soviet Union. Today, Haifa is known for coexistence among Jews and Arabs, but it holds bitter memories for many Palestinians. Arabs made up about half the city's residents in 1947, but during fighting that accompanied the end of the British mandate in Palestine and continued through the 1948 declaration of Israeli statehoood, all but a few thousand Arabs fled or were forced out. The town, nicknamed "the Bride of the Sea," looms large in Palestinian literature. Darwish, who lived in several Arab countries was, for a while, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization but he resigned from the PLO in 1993 in protest over the interim peace accords that the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, signed with Israel. Darwish moved to the West Bank city of Ramallah in 1996. His poetry has been translated into more than 20 languages, and he has won many international prizes for his work.