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“I Don’t Love You Death, But I’m Not Afraid of You”: Palestinian Resistance Poet Samih Al-Qasim Loses Battle to Cancer

RIP Samih Al-Qasim .. the Palestinian Poet. Photo by Anarbati, Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

RIP Samih Al-Qasim .. the Palestinian Resistance Poet. Photo by Anarbati, Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Iconic Palestinian poet, political activist and journalist Samih al-Qasim died on August 19 after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

Al-Qasim died where he was born – in Rameh – an Arab town in the north of Israel. When he was born Rameh was a part of Palestine, and was captured by Israeli forces in 1948. Even though Al-Qasim was a citizen of Israel, he considered himself a Palestinian. Israel's Arab citizens still call themselves Palestinians. The ‘Palestinians of 48′ or just 48 in Arabic are other alternatives. His poetry was nationalist, often talking about Palestinian identity in the former Palestinian territories that are now part of Israel.

The author of over 30 books of poetry, novels, essays and collections of plays, Al-Qasim leaves behind a rich legacy. His works in Arabic have been translated to many languages. He was a passionate defender of the Palestinian identity. His refusal to enlist in the Israeli army (a requirement for Druze citizens of Israel) as well as his political beliefs got him arrested several times, including being put under house arrest. Despite everything, he refused to leave Israel and Palestine stating that “I have chosen to remain in my own country not because I love myself less, but because I love my country more”.

He was a member of the Israeli Communist Party in 1967 and editor-in-chief of the Arab Israeli weekly Kul Al-Arab [All the Arabs].

Given his importance, it seems only fitting that upon hearing news of his death, Palestinians immediately took to social media to mourn their “resistance poet.”

Fellow Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti dedicated a famous song by Lebanese singer Marcel Khalifeh to Al-Qasim, changing the original “I walk” to “He walks”.

Upright, he walks. With his head held high, he walks… far away. Goodbye, Samih Al-Qasim.

Majeed Al-Barghouti, also a Palestinian poet, added:

Berlin-based blogger Abir Kopty called him ‘Father of the Nation':

The Palestinian poet is now in the custody of God. Goodbye, father of the nation!.

Singer, winner of the Arab Idol contest and UNRWA regional ambassador Mohammad Assaf calls him “The Poet of the earth and of olives”:

And we carried.. our bloody wounds we carried towards what's behind the unknown horizon that is calling us. He left us, the poet of the earth and the olives.

Palestine's most famous university, Birzeit, called him “the poet of the revolution.”

The Birzeit family mourns the poet of the Palestinian revolution, may his soul rest in peace. The picture is from the university's archive during his visit in 2007.

Many artists, activists and bloggers from Palestine tweeted samples of his poetry in commemoration.

Self-titled “Israel's demographic threat, a Palestinian citizen” who goes under the name of Palestinianism, this blogger shared another one of his poems:

My people,
Alive, alive you are.
Your hand held high in the face of the unjust.
A symbol for a leaving generation,
shaking the coming generation and saying:
I resisted. It's your turn to resist now!

We will remember him with this poem that he wrote last week:

I don’t like you, death
But I’m not afraid of you
And I know that my body is your bed
And my spirit is your bed cover
I know that your banks are narrow for me
I don’t love you, death
But I’m not afraid of you.

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