The “Deaths” of Poet Writers: Nour El-Din Haggag and Refaat Alareer

Photo: Bernard Chevalier

From lundimatin, #407, December 11, 2023 …

The young Palestinian writer and poet Nour El-Din Haggag has just died on December 5, followed on December 7 by the poet Refaat Alareer, after the bombing of their house in Gaza. One of Nour El-Din’s last writings explained why, at the risk of his life, he refused to leave his land and remained in Gaza.

Good evening, World,

Last night all communications and the internet were cut. What I thought impossible has come to pass. The postman won’t be able to come in all this bombing and destruction, and his newspapers won’t carry except the same news every day: that Gaza is being annihilated. And perhaps news of my death will be in the next edition. The bombing gets stronger and we hold onto our hearts because what we fear is coming closer, we shall die in silence and the world will know nothing of us. We will not be able to scream or to record our last moments, our last words.

I live in a small neighbourhood, Shuja’iyya, on the east side of Gaza City. Every night the explosions don’t stop. They are varied and come from all directions. With every massive sound that shakes our homes and our hearts we hold each other. We know that an explosion will come that we won’t hear, because we will have exploded with it.

And so I write now. Maybe this will be my last message that will wander the free world, and fly with the doves of peace, and tell the world that we love life if we can get it, but that in Gaza all paths are closed, and we are just a post or a tweet away from death.

OK: I am Nour el-Din Adnan Haggag, a Palestinian writer. I am twenty-seven years old and I have many dreams.

I am not a number, and I refuse that news of my death should pass without you saying that I love life, happiness, liberty, children’s laughter, the sea, coffee, writing, Fairouz, and everything that brings joy .. before all this vanishes in one brief moment.

One of my dreams is that my books would travel the world, that my pen would have wings unhindered by unstamped passports and refused visas.

Another dream: that I should have a little family, that I should hug a son – who looks like me – while I tell him a bedtime story.

And my greatest dream remains that peace should fill my country, that children’s laughter should rise before the sun, that we should plant a rose in every spot where a bomb fell, and paint our freedom on every wall that was destroyed, that war should leave us alone; to finally live our lives, once.

Nour el-Din Haggag, Gaza, Palestine

28 November 2023

(Translated from the Arabic by Ahdaf Soueif)

These writer-poets in whom the Palestinian people recognised themselves at the height of their resistance through the poem, are today among the 17,000 victims of the war ordered against the Palestinians.

As such, they are no more to mourn than all the other victims and with them, the 6000 massacred children, without counting the thousands of mutilated people.

Given the use of artificial intelligence to purposely direct bombings, with the projections that this offers, with the predictions that this provides on the intended targets, we cannot help but think that it was intentional on the part of the attacker to target the house of poets with all of the symbolic charge that this implies.

If this was to be proof of a “spirit” of AI, then such a spirit would only have been very artificial in its symbolic function. Indeed it is to forget on the one hand that Nour El-Din Haggag and Refaat Alareer in the name of the trauma of the Nakba, represent like other Palestinians the refusal to abandon land and house under the constraint of the oppressor, but above all, it points to the failure to understand nothing about the Palestinian spirit, the Palestinian culture of resistance and its symbolic figures.

For 75 years, the entire cultural history of the Palestinians has been inhabited by the poem. The poet is seen as much as the one who inspires his people as the one whom the people, in their resistance, inspire. One only has to read and reread the link that unites Palestinian poetry and its people, as in their time Villon, Hugo, Eluard, and so many others, were tied to the people of the French resistance, mutually inspiring each other.

If today Gazans, the Palestinians of the West Bank and all those in the diaspora mourn Nour El-Din Haggag and Refaat Alareer, they mourn their humanity, like that of all the others among their brothers and sisters, they mourn what, through them, is touched by poetry. They cry over what in themselves was sought to be broken of their poetic link to nature, to the olive tree, the lemon tree, the jasmine, to their perfumes coming from the land on which they were born, which they cultivate, cherishing the fruits both natural and spiritual.

But these tears quench the earth and its spirit, scared by the bombs; artificial intelligence will never be able to integrate this, to include it in its data, insensitive to presence.

Killing the poet praised by his/her people will have no other effect than the confirmed, even enhanced continuation of the poem of resistance, written by the Palestinian people for so long.

Nour El-Din Haggag and Refaat Alareer are today spiritually more alive than dead. Their pen that fell from their fingers resurfaces in all the hands that their spirit guides through the pages of living history that the Palestinian IDEA writes and will write for the best of a poem-people of liberation.

Every funereal look sees only the competition of closed eyes with open eyes

It ignores the entry of the dream into the living

Death does not interrupt
the poem through which the river runs
and it never lingers
over its reflections

Far away with it
is the door to reality

Philippe Tancelin
December 7, 2023
6 p.m.

If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself—
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale.

Refaat Alareer

Lastly, we share a conversation, dedicated to Refaat Alareer, between Judth Butler and Frank Barat.

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