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On the Incurable Malady of Hope
Mahmoud Darwish, Palestine
March 25, 2002
It gives me great pleasure and honor to welcome you in this land during its bloody Spring, a land yearning for its old name: the land of love and peace.
Your courageous visit during this monstrous siege is one form of breaking the siege. Your presence here makes us feel no longer isolated. With you we realize that the international conscience, which you honorably represent, is still alive and capable of protesting and taking the side of justice. You have assured us that writers still have a valuable role to play in the battle for freedom and in the fight against racism.
Responsibility for the human destiny cannot find expression solely in the literary text. In situations of emergency and human calamity the writer searches for a moral role to play in other forms of public action, a role that consolidates his literary integrity, and mobilizes public consciousness around higher values, most important of which is freedom. This is what we read in your noble message for us today: the message of solidarity and sympathy.
I know that the masters of words have no need for rhetoric before the eloquence of blood. Therefore our words will be as simple as our rights: we were born on this land, and of this land. We knew no other mother, nor any mother tongue but its own. And when we realized that it has too much history and too many prophets, we understood that pluralism is an all-embracing space and not a prison cell and that no one has a monopoly over land or God or memory. We also know that history is neither fair nor elegant. But our task, as humans, is to humanize history, as we are simultaneously its victims and its creation.
There is nothing more apparent than the Palestinian truth and the Palestinian right: this is our country, and this small part is a part of our homeland, our real not mythical homeland. This occupation is a foreign occupation that cannot escape the universal definition of an occupation, no matter how many titles of divine right it enlists; God is no one’s personal possession.
We have accepted the political solutions based on the principle of sharing life on this land within the framework of two states for two peoples. We only demand our right to a normal life, within an independent state, on the land occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, and to a fair solution to the problem of refugees, and an end to colonialist settlement. This is the only realistic path to a peace that will put an end to this vicious circle of blood.
Our state of affairs today is self-evident, it is not a case of a struggle between two existences, as the Israeli government would like to portray it: either them or us. It is a question of ending an occupation. Resisting occupation is not only a right. It is a national and human duty that transforms us from the condition of slavery to the condition of freedom. The shortest road to averting more disasters and to reaching peace is to liberate the Palestinians from occupation, and liberate the Israeli society from the illusion of controlling another people.
The occupation does not content itself with depriving us of the primary conditions of freedom, but goes on to deprive us of the bare essentials of a dignified human life, by declaring constant war on our bodies, and our dreams, on the people and the homes and the trees, and by committing crimes of war. It does not promise us anything more than the apartheid system, and the capacity of the sword to defeat the soul.
But we have a incurable malady: hope. Hope in liberation and independence. Hope in a normal life where we are neither heroes nor victims. Hope that our children will go safely to their schools. Hope that a pregnant woman will give birth to a living baby, at the hospital, and not a dead child in front of a military checkpoint; hope that our poets will see the beauty of the color red in roses rather than in blood; hope that this land will take up its original name: the land of love and peace. Thank you for carrying with us the burden of this hope.
On March 25, 2002, during the meetings organized at the Cultural Center Khalil Sakakini, the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish gave a speech in honor of the "masters of the word," the delegation of writers from the
International Parliament of Writers, who paid him a visit of solidarity in Ramallah.