Further evidence that the injustice of the situation was obvious to people of sensibility a long time ago, and many of us in the west are catching up: in 1968, Italo Calvino, the Italian journalist and novelist, wrote that the Israeli victims of Nazis have become oppressors and the only solution was “the revolutionary road” in Israel, Palestine and the Arab world.
To Issa I. Naouri—Amman
Turin 10 October 1968
Dear Mr Naouri,
I have read the poetry of the Palestinian resistance that you have kindly sent me. They seem to be poets of powerful expressive force, full of sincere poetic and human warmth. The best thing would be to find a journal to publish these poems, I will try to contact a friend to bring them to journal’s attention. Of course, in us Europeans the trauma of the persecution of the Palestinians has a special resonance because their current persecutors suffered—in themselves and in their families—persecutions that were the most horrific and inhuman in centuries, both under Nazism and also a long time before that. That the victims of the past should turn into the oppressors of today is the most distressing fact, the one which I think it is necessary to emphasize. I am sorry that none of these poets deals with this motif.
Personally I think that the only solution to the Palestinian problem lies down the revolutionary road both in the Arab world and amongst the Israeli masses. A revolution by the Israeli poor (to a large extent of Middle Eastern and North African origin) against their colonialist and expansionist rulers; but also a revolution by the popular masses in Arab countries against their reactionary and militarist oligarchies (even although these call themselves more or less socialist) who exploit the Palestinian problem for nationalist demagoguery. The real Resistance is not only a struggle against a foreign invader: it has to be a battle for a profound renewal within the society of one’s own country.
I wanted to clarify my thoughts in order to confirm my solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians and their Resistance fighters in the context of a general political and human vision.
Thank you so much and best wishes.
The correspondent was surely this Jordanian poet and author. Wikipedia says Calvino was married to Esther Judith Singer, an Argentinian. I wonder if she was Jewish.
P.S. It is very common to hear how galvanizing the Six Day War was to Europeans and Americans; but one of the best posts we’ve done on this site was publishing a portion of a 1967 letter from the American poet Robert Lowell to his friend Elizabeth Bishop about the Six Day War:
Did the late war scare you to death? It did me while it was simmering. We had a great wave of New York Jewish nationalism, all the doves turning into hawks. Well, my heart is in Israel, but it was a little like a blitzkrieg against the Commanches—armed by Russia.
Further evidence that the injustice of the situation was evident to people of sensibility a long time ago.