By Mourad El Kkhtibi
By Mourad El Kkhtibi
Rabat – The situation in Palestine was highlighted in the revolutions and demonstrations that took place in many Arab countries towards the end of 2010, among which were Tunisia, Egypt, and Syria.
What did the plight of Palestine mean to the protestors and their demands for social justice, dignity, and the respect of individuals and groups? This general question was raised by Olivia C. Harrison, Assistant Professor of French and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Southern California.
To answer this very important question, she published a book entitled,“Transcolonial Maghreb: Imagining Palestine in the Era of Decolonization” (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2016, 202 pages). In this book, Olivia C. Harrison discusses the significance of Palestine for non-Palestinians, mainly citizens from North Africa (Algerian, Tunisian, Libyan, Mauritanian and Moroccan people).
Harrison stresses that Palestine was presented as a desire to get rid of the colonialism that continued to exist even after the independence of these countries. So, Palestine is a symbol of the existence of a violent and cruel colonialism in an era called “Post-colonialism.”
The originality of the book lies in the fact that it proposes an analysis of the issues and ways suggested by Moroccan, Tunisian and Algerian writers to deal with the Palestinian case and the Arab-Zionist conflict during the last fifty years. At the same time, the book tackles the issues engendered within the political relations between North Africa and Middle East.
The author makes recourse to some writers and thinkers whose writings were linked to the Palestinian case and the Arab-Israeli conflict like Abdellatif Laabi, Kateb Yacine, Abdelkébir Khatibi, Derrida, EL Maleh and others.
According to the researcher, the choice of these names is based on the assumption that they were of great importance to Palestine, contributingmore than other writers and making great efforts in the development of Maghrebin Literature and the cultural history in general.
What is worth mentioning is that some of the ones cited before are Jewish, among them Derrida and Edmond Amrane EL Maleh.
This reality creates a kind of emotional clash between their religious origin and identity on one hand and the political reality imposed by the existence of Israel on the other. It must be said that the writer made a great effort in translating the texts chosen for analysis because most of the corpus was not translated into English. Harrison examined texts written in Arabic, Amazigh, and French and belonging to many genres such as the novel, popular theatre, literary articles, feminist writing, and unpublished letters.
The first part of the book entitled, ”Decolonizing the Maghreb,” examines the experience of the Moroccan magazine Souffles-Anfas,which appeared in the sixties and considered Palestine as its first source of inspiration after June, 1967.
Harrison also examines two different Algerian texts. One is a play by Kateb Yacine entitled, “Mohamed arfad valiztek” (Mohammed pack your bags), and the other is Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s trilogy of novels,Dhakirat al-jassad (Memory of the flesh), Fawda’al-hawas (Chaos of the senses). According to Harrison, Palestine plays an important role in Ahlam Mosteghanemi’s three novels in the sense that it functions as a mirror reflecting the image of Algeria and its contradictions. Palestine isused to express the desire for emancipation in a Post -colonial era.
The second part is entitled, “Jews, Arabs, and the principle of separation.” In this part, the researcher starts by shedding light on themention of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the works of the Tunisian sociologist Albert Memmi. She then continues to discuss the Abrahamic tongues by making reference to the works of Abdelkébir Khatibi, Jacques Hassoun, and Jacques Derrida.
Concerning Abdelkébir Khatibi , Olivia C. Harrison chooses his book “Vomito Blanco,” which is a good example of Khatibi’s positionregarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through his letter addressed to Sartre in which he criticizes him a lot for his indifference towards this conflict. In the same book, Khatibi criticizes the French intellectuals who mostly consider Israel as a victim and Arabs as oppressors. For Jacques Hassoun, the writer deals with his thoughts through his book written together with Khatibi, and which is entitled, “Le Même Livre (1985)” (The same book). This book is a collection of correspondences witnessing the relationship between Jacques Hassoun and his identity from the Arab-Israeli conflict perspective.
As for Jacques Derrida, he is mentioned in this book through his call for peace between Palestinians and Israeli settlers.
The Moroccan Jewish writer Edmond Amran EL Maleh, who used to criticize Zionism, is also discussed in this book through his essays and fiction.
Harrison devotes the last section of the book to the relation between Palestine and the Syrian Intifida by focusing on Samar Yazbek’s 2012 memoir of the Syrian uprising. In this respect, she stresses that this book gave importance to the poetic image of Palestine in being a metaphor by which it is possible to make a comparison between the tyrannical post-colonial system of the Syrian regime and Israel.
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