Arab Sources is a place where I translate into English various Arabic sources and opinion. Arab Sources is also a place where I publish my own analysis. My broad aim is for the Arab Sources series to be an invitation to the full Zellij of Arab cultures.
Arab Sources until recently was published in the Democratic party’s community blog DailyKos. It was shut down by DailyKos a week ago in a broad purge that seems to have targeted a number of African American series and Arab Sources. I think that Mondoweiss is perhaps a more suitable outlet for Arab Sources and my work.
I hope in this introductory essay to introduce myself, an artisan working on one corner of Palestinian culture, a corner that I have dubbed Arab Sources. I’m a Palestinian professor and an Israeli citizen, Simone Daud is my late grandfather’s name.
My first breath was of the seashores of my beloved Haifa, which is a coastal town on mount Carmel. My second was the winds of the Galilee. I ate the fruits of my ancestral Olive groves in a Galilee village north east of Nazareth. I grew up with the pronounced Galilean dialect surrounding me. I was never a revolutionary, nor a fida’i. I did not live an intifada. I was never a refugee. I am a Galilean who remained in the Galilee. I share my culture with the gentle people of the Syrian region of the Huran. A culture that extends well into the eastern Galilee. My grandfather wore a white Arab headdress and my grandmother, always in black, had Hurani blue bridal tattoos on her cheek, chin, and hands.
I have quenched my thirst in the springs of Nazareth, bathed in the baths of Acre, and have soared above the skies of our Jaffa. I have walked on the Lake Tiberias. I am a Palestinian not dispossessed. I am free. I am a privileged Palestinian.
Yet I remain a Palestinian tortured by narratives.
It is not clear to me when Isaac Deutscher, the Yiddish poet, biographer of Stalin, and humanist ceased to be an intellectual. This must have happened at least a decade before he passed away. The provenance of Avraham Berg’s lamentation of the loss of the humanist traditions in his German Jewish community is also not clear to me. But I was an observer of the transformation described in Edward Said’s The Last Jewish Intellectual.
I grew up and came of age in a small tobacco smoke filled apartment on the edge of the Wadi aN-Nisnas neighborhood of Haifa, where the remaining Arabs of Haifa who managed to avoid exile were herded in 1948. I slept sleepless nights on a carpet between the kitchen and a small living room. My life was not an ordinary life of an Arab child in Haifa. The house was always full.
At night the kitchen saw an ensemble of insomniac old German Jewish professors, lawyers, and writers who had agglomerated around my parents. Always in dark uncolored suites and hats. Each night quietly lamenting, often wailing, for things that have passed. But what of the future? Nothing of the future that I can remember; except once in the ever so European synagog of Weizmann Institute, one of these professors insisted that I should study Mathematics at university; I was six years old and can’t remember the language that was used but remember the sentence.
In the afternoons our living room was heavily laden with young Arab poets and emerging intellectuals. The greatest Arab poet of our time, Mahmoud Darwish, passed through that room and converted packets of the Israeli brand TIME cigarettes into the poetry of our generation. These intellectuals spoke of the future and never of the past. These Arabs were aspiring, as it were, to appropriate for themselves Jewish humanist traditions. Plotting their own colonial enterprise. The colonisation of the coloniser.
It is to this culture that I belong and for this reason I think that my perspective, Arab Sources, should find Mondoweiss a comfortable new home.