Ghassan Kanafani

Ghassan Kanafani

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Ghassan Kanafani was a Palestinian
Palestinian people
The Palestinian people, also referred to as Palestinians or Palestinian Arabs , are an Arabic-speaking people with origins in Palestine. Despite various wars and exoduses, roughly one third of the world's Palestinian population continues to reside in the area encompassing the West Bank, the Gaza...

 writer and a leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

. He was assassinated by car bomb
Car bomb
A car bomb, or truck bomb also known as a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device , is an improvised explosive device placed in a car or other vehicle and then detonated. It is commonly used as a weapon of assassination, terrorism, or guerrilla warfare, to kill the occupants of the vehicle,...

 in Beirut, allegedly by the Mossad
Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

.

Early years


Ghassan Fayiz Kanafani was born in 1936 in the then Acre
Acre, Israel
Acre , is a city in the Western Galilee region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the country....

 (Akka), British Mandate of Palestine. His father was a lawyer, and sent Ghassan to French
French language
French is a Romance language spoken as a first language in France, the Romandy region in Switzerland, Wallonia and Brussels in Belgium, Monaco, the regions of Quebec and Acadia in Canada, and by various communities elsewhere. Second-language speakers of French are distributed throughout many parts...

 missionary school in Jaffa
Jaffa
Jaffa is an ancient port city believed to be one of the oldest in the world. Jaffa was incorporated with Tel Aviv creating the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Jaffa is famous for its association with the biblical story of the prophet Jonah.-Etymology:...

.

During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Arab-Israeli War
The 1948 Arab–Israeli War, known to Israelis as the War of Independence or War of Liberation The war commenced after the termination of the British Mandate for Palestine and the creation of an independent Israel at midnight on 14 May 1948 when, following a period of civil war, Arab armies invaded...

, Kanafani and his family were forced into exile, a part of the Palestinian exodus. Their home city became part of Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

.

The family initially fled north to neighbouring Lebanon
Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, less than 11 miles north, but soon moved on to Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, to live there as Palestinian refugee
Palestinian refugee
Palestinian refugees or Palestine refugees are the people and their descendants, predominantly Palestinian Arabic-speakers, who fled or were expelled from their homes during and after the 1948 Palestine War, within that part of the British Mandate of Palestine, that after that war became the...

s. Kanafani completed his secondary education in Damascus
Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

, receiving a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) teaching certificate in 1952.

Political background



The same year he enrolled in the Department of Arabic Literature
Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

 at the University of Damascus
University of Damascus
The University of Damascus is the largest and oldest university in Syria, located in the capital Damascus and has campuses in other Syrian cities. It was founded in 1923 through the merger of the School of Medicine and the Institute of Law , also making it the oldest university in modern-day Syria...

 and began teaching in UNRWA schools in the refugee camps. Before he could complete his degree, Kanafani was expelled from the university and exiled to Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

 for his political affiliations - a result of his involvement in the Arab Nationalist Movement
Arab Nationalist Movement
The Arab Nationalist Movement , also known as the Movement of Arab Nationalists and the Harakiyyin, was a pan-Arab nationalist organization influential in much of the Arab world, most famously so within the Palestinian movement.-Origins & Ideology:The Arab Nationalist Movement had its origins in a...

 (ANM), a left-wing pan-Arab organization to which he had been recruited by Dr.
Doctor (title)
Doctor, as a title, originates from the Latin word of the same spelling and meaning. The word is originally an agentive noun of the Latin verb docēre . It has been used as an honored academic title for over a millennium in Europe, where it dates back to the rise of the university. This use spread...

 George Habash
George Habash
George Habash also known by his laqab "al-Hakim" was a Palestinian nationalist. Habash, a Palestinian Christian, founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which pioneered the hijacking of airplanes as a Middle East militant tactic...

 when the two met in 1953. Some biographers, however, do not believe Kanafani was ever expelled, but simply moved to Kuwait
Kuwait
The State of Kuwait is a sovereign Arab state situated in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south at Khafji, and Iraq to the north at Basra. It lies on the north-western shore of the Persian Gulf. The name Kuwait is derived from the...

, where he worked as a teacher and became more politically active. In Kuwait he edited al-Ra'i (The Opinion), which was an ANM-affiliated newspaper, and also became interested in Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and politics.

In 1960, he relocated once again to Beirut, where he began editing the ANM mouthpiece al-Hurriya
Al-Hurriya (DFLP)
Al-Hurriya , variously transcribed as al-Hourriya, al-Hurriyeh, etc) is a Palestinian political newspaper affiliated with the Marxist-Leninist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine...

. In 1961, he met Anni Høver, a Danish
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 children's rights activist, with whom he had two children. In 1962, Kanafani briefly had to go underground, since he, as a stateless person, lacked proper identification papers. He reappeared in Beirut later the same year, and took up editingship of the Nasserist
Nasserism
Nasserism is an Arab nationalist political ideology based on the thinking of the former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. It was a major influence on pan-Arab politics in the 1950s and 1960s, and continues to have significant resonance throughout the Arab World to this day. It also...

 newspaper al-Muharrir (The Liberator). He went on to become an editor of another Nasserist newspaper, al-Anwar (The Illumination), in 1967.

Involvement in PFLP


The Palestinian membership of the ANM evolved in 1967 into the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is a Palestinian Marxist-Leninist organisation founded in 1967. It has consistently been the second-largest of the groups forming the Palestine Liberation Organization , the largest being Fatah...

 (PFLP), of which Kanafani became a spokesman. In 1969, he drafted a PFLP program in which the movement officially took up Marxism-Leninism
Marxism-Leninism
Marxism–Leninism is a communist ideology, officially based upon the theories of Marxism and Vladimir Lenin, that promotes the development and creation of a international communist society through the leadership of a vanguard party over a revolutionary socialist state that represents a dictatorship...

. He also edited the movements newspaper, al-Hadaf
Al-Hadaf
Al-Hadaf , is a Palestinian weekly political newspaper.It was founded in Beirut in 1969 by Ghassan Kanafani as the political mouthpiece of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine , espousing a Marxist-Leninist version of pan-Arab Palestinian nationalism. In 1972, Kanafani was killed by a...

 (The Target), which he had founded in 1969, writing political, cultural and historical essays and articles.

Assassination


Several days after the Lod airport massacre
Lod Airport massacre
The Lod Airport massacre was a terrorist attack that occurred on May 30, 1972, in which three members of the Japanese Red Army, on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine , killed 26 people and injured 80 others at Tel Aviv's Lod airport...

, a picture of Kanafani together with one of the Japanese terrorists was published. On July 8, 1972, Ghassan Kanafani was killed by a bomb planted in his car in Beirut; his niece was also killed. The New York Times reported the following day, "Beirut Blast Kills Guerrilla Leader". The assassination is thought to be the work of the Israeli Mossad
Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

.

Literary production


Ghassan Kanafani began writing short stories when he was working in the refugee camps. Often told as seen through the eyes of children, the stories manifested out of his political views and belief that his students' education had to relate to their immediate surroundings. While in Kuwait, he spent much time reading Russian literature
Russian literature
Russian literature refers to the literature of Russia or its émigrés, and to the Russian-language literature of several independent nations once a part of what was historically Russia or the Soviet Union...

 and socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 theory, refining many of the short stories he wrote, winning a Kuwaiti prize.

Kanafani published his first novel, Men in the Sun
Men in the Sun
Men in the Sun is a novel by Palestinian writer and political activist Ghassan Kanafani , originally published in 1963....

in Beirut in 1962. He also wrote a number of scholarly works on literature and politics. His thesis, Race and Religion in Zionist Literature, formed the basis for his 1967 study On Zionist Literature.

Considered a major modernizing influence on Arab literature and still a major figure in Palestinian literature today, Kanafani was an early proponent of complex narrative structures, using flashback effects and a chorus of narrator voices for effect. His writings focused mainly on the themes of Palestinian liberation and struggle, and often touched upon his own experiences as a refugee. He was, as was the PFLP, a Marxist
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, and believed that the class struggle within Palestinian and Arab
Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 society was intrinsically linked to the struggle against Zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 and for a Palestinian state.

Also an active literary critic, Kanafani's seminal work, Palestinian Literature Under Occupation, 1948-1968, introduced Palestinian writers and poets to the Arab world. He also wrote a major critical work on Zionist and Israeli literature. In the spirit of Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

, he called for an engaged literature which would be committed to change.

Influence


Kanafani is credited with having coined the term "resistance poetry" to refer to Palestinian poetry written in Occupied Palestine, a now recognized genre within the Arabic literary sphere. Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish
Mahmoud Darwish was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet...

, who dedicated one of his own works, The Palestinian Wedding, to Kanafani, writes in an introduction to a volume of Kanafani's literary critical studies that, "It was Ghassan Kanafani who directed Arab public opinion to the literature of the occupied land [...] the term 'resistance' was not associated with the poetry until Ghassan applied it, thereby giving the term its special significance."

Works in English

  • Kanafani, Ghassan (Translated by Hilary Kilpatrick): Men in the Sun and Other Palestinian Stories [ISBN 0-89410-857-3] 1998.
  • Kanafani, Ghassan and Barbara Harlow, Karen E. Riley: Palestine's Children: Returning to Haifa & Other Stories. [ISBN 0-89410-890-5] 2000.
  • Kanafani, Ghassan, with Roger Allen, May Jayyusi, Jeremy Reed: All That's Left to You [ISBN 1-56656-548-0] Interlink World Fiction, 2004.
  • Kanafani, Ghassan, (Interviewed by Fred Halliday) "On the PFLP and the September Crisis", New Left Review
    New Left Review
    New Left Review is a 160-page journal, published every two months from London, devoted to world politics, economy and culture. Often compared to the French-language Les Temps modernes, it is associated with Verso Books , and regularly features the essays of authorities on contemporary social...

     I/67, May-June 1971.

Works in Arabic

Note: Some Names are roughly Translated
  • mawt sarir raqam 12, 1961 (موت سرير رقم 12, A Death in Bed No. 12)
  • ard al-burtuqal al-hazin, 1963 (أرض البرتقال الحزين, The Land of Sad Oranges)
  • rijal fi-sh-shams, 1963 (رجال في الشمس, Men in the Sun
    Men in the Sun
    Men in the Sun is a novel by Palestinian writer and political activist Ghassan Kanafani , originally published in 1963....

    )

  • al-bab, 1964 (الباب, The Door)
  • 'aalam laysa lana, 1965 (عالمٌ ليس لنا, A World that is Not Ours)
  • 'adab al-muqawamah fi filastin al-muhtalla 1948-1966, 1966 (أدب المقاومة في فلسطين المحتلة 1948-1966, Literature of Resistance in Occupied Palestine)
  • ma tabaqqa lakum, 1966 (ما تبقّى لكم, All That's Left to You)
  • fi al-adab al-sahyuni, 1967 (في الأدب الصهيوني, On Zionist Literature)
  • al-adab al-filastini al-muqawim taht al-ihtilal: 1948-1968, 1968 (الأدب الفلسطيني المقاوم تحت الاحتلال 1948-1968, Palestinian Resistance Literature under the Occupation 1948-1968)
  • 'an ar-rijal wa-l-banadiq, 1968 (عن الرجال والبنادق, On Men and Rifles)
  • umm sa'd, 1969 (أم سعد, Umm Sa'd)
  • a'id ila Hayfa, 1970 (عائد إلى حيفا, Return to Haifa
    Haifa
    Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third-largest city in the country, with a population of over 268,000. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including the cities of the Krayot, as well as, Tirat Carmel, Daliyat al-Karmel and Nesher...

    )
  • al-a'ma wa-al-atrash, 1972 (الأعمى والأطرش, The Blind and the Deaf)
  • Barquq Naysan, 1972 (برقوق نيسان, The Apricots of April)
  • al-qubba'ah wa-l-nabi, 1973 (القبعة والنبي, The Hat and the Prophet) incomplete
  • thawra 1936-39 fi filastin, 1974 (ثورة 1936-39 في فلسطين, The Revolution of 1936-39 in Palestine))
  • jisr ila-al-abad, 1978 (جسر إلى الأبد, A Bridge to Eternity)
  • al-qamis al-masruq wa-qisas ukhra, 1982 (القميص المسروق وقصص أخرى, The Stolen Shirt and Other Stories)
  • 'The Slave Fort' in Arabic Short Stories, 1983 (transl. by Denys Johnson-Davies)

External links

  • Jaffa, Land of Oranges Kanafani on becoming a refugee.
  • New Jersey Solidarity - page on Kanafani with translated writings
  • Tribute to Ghassan Kanafani - by S. Marwan, published in al-Hadaf
    Al-Hadaf
    Al-Hadaf , is a Palestinian weekly political newspaper.It was founded in Beirut in 1969 by Ghassan Kanafani as the political mouthpiece of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine , espousing a Marxist-Leninist version of pan-Arab Palestinian nationalism. In 1972, Kanafani was killed by a...

    on July 22, 1972. (From NJS)
  • Letter to Gaza - short story by Ghassan Kanafani (From NJS).
  • The 1936-39 Revolt - by Ghassan Kanafani (From NJS).
  • Ghassan Kanafani The Founder of the Modern Palestinian Novel.