‘We don’t belong to a nation, but damn you all, we belong to a people’*

Because he says it better than anyone else. From Fawaz Turki’s The Disinherited, 1974:

1. Flight:

I am aware that I have been stateless for nearly all of my twenty-nine years; that I have lived and grown up in a refugee camp on the edge of the desert; that except for those freckle-nosed bureaucrats in the West who from time to time endorsed a shipment of food and warm blankets to me, I did not (for all men and for all they knew) exist on the face of this globe; that I was robbed of my sense of purpose and sense of worth as a human being and was forced to line up obsequiously outside UN food depots each month; and that when for two decades I feared, I feared only the cold of twenty winters, and when I dreamed, I dreamed only of the food that others ate. I am also aware that this knowledge has mutilated my reality and impoverished my consciousness; that I lived, as a million of my fellow Palestinians lived, silently walking hither and thither along the muddy paths of DP camps, in a void, in a state of non-being because everything had been taken away from us, including our tangible abstractions; and that as a result, our beings were engulfed at times by lunatic extremes of hate and bitterness and at others by frustrated resignation.

With our memories of places and times we had known before, rational and good, floating in the space around us and within us, we existed not in the present tense, the tense of reality, but the future imperfect, when next year, next time, next speech, the wrongs will have been righted, the grievances removed, and our case justified. We lay, as it were, supine under a tree; but in a world where men will calmly use historical reality to suit their own issues, Godot, for whom we waited, never arrived.

My generation of Palestinians, growing up alienated, excluded, and forgotten, rejected this legacy; yet when we looked around us we could see either the desert to shed our tears in or the whole world to hit back at. Having nothing and with nothing to lose, we proceeded to do the latter. But our struggle was for our place in history, our right to glimpse a vision, to search for hope, to return to Palestine. We struggled for the phoenix, not the phantom, that is our homeland. As de Tocqueville observed in his commentary on the forces that led to the French Revolution: “Patiently endured so long as it seemed beyond redress, a grievance comes to appear intolerable once the possibility of removing it crosses men’s minds.”

*The above title was taken from Fawaz Turki’s ‘Soul In Exile’ ; it was the title of the very first article he wrote in exile, which came as a response to a provocation by an American Jewish woman who asked him where he was from and upon discovering that he was Palestinian, pointed out ‘that he belonged to no nation’.


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