The year is 1959. The place? The Seventh World Festival of Youth and Students in Vienna. Seventeen thousand left-leaning activists gathered to discuss “brotherhood and peace”, among them Rashid Husayn, a Palestinian poet, journalist and translator from Musmus, south-east of Haifa. Husayn “was especially eager to meet some of the thirteen hundred delegates from Arab countries since, as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, he had been cut off from the region for more than a decade.”
Such opportunities for face-to-face meetings between Palestinian citizens of Israel and their literary colleagues from the broader Middle East were rare. Caught inside the State of Israel upon its creation in 1948, with many internally displaced and prevented from returning to their original homes, these “Israeli Arabs” were physically separated not only from their Arab brothers but also from other Palestinians who were languishing as refugees in neighbouring countries or the West Bank, which was then under Jordanian control.
Yet far from accepting their fate passively, Palestinian Israeli citizens actively sought to build transnational relations with these outside forces. So how does one transcend closed borders and draconian martial law that seals off villages, forbids travel and quashes congregations? With ideas, words, literature and poetry, that’s how. It is these transnational literary currents that Maha Nassar sets out to explore in Brothers Apart: Palestinian Citizens of Israel and the Arab World. She seeks to demonstrate that, though such Palestinians have often been written out of the discourse, this population at the time of approximately 180,000 people (there are now 1.6 million of them) were active in garnering their own strategies of resistance to the hegemonic narrative that Israel has always sought to impose.
This book has been shortlisted for the Palestine Book awards 2018, please click here to read the full review on the Palestine book awards site