Essays and Features

Generations of Catastrophe: The Palestinian Problem at Half a Century

Elie Chalala

The psychological disorder afflicting Arab cultural life since 1948 has not been healed by any peace agreement, as Arab intellectuals continue to bombard each other with charges of "sleeping with the enemy." Most recently, a pro-Palestinian group in Lebanon decided to remember al-nakba through poetry, music, and panels featuring Jewish intellectuals born in the Arab world. But an orchestrated campaign of extreme nationalist Lebanese and Palestinian groups succeeded in canceling the panel, although the Jewish participants were a Moroccan author, an Egyptian psychologist, a Lebanese journalist, all known for their uncompromising support of the Palestinians.

Both in the Arab world and diaspora, Arabs are remembering what they refer to in Arabic as al-nakba, the "uprooting" and the "catastrophe" that befell the Palestinians when Israel was carved out of their homeland in 1948.

Al-Nakba-- Dark Ruins of the Tribal Poets: Tragedy Expressed Via New Literary Forms Infuses Half a Century of Palestinian Poetry

Judith Gabriel

For a people whose love of poetry has been rooted in their land for centuries, it is no wonder that the loss of Palestine in 1948 marks the emergence of contemporary Palestinian poetry, impacting the very nature of literature throughout the Arab world, and ultimately, attracting a growing Western audience.

Half a century has gone by since the onset of the history-shattering events Palestinians refer to as al-nakba - the ‘uprooting,’ the ‘catastrophe’ that befell their homeland with the carving out of the state of Israel, the ‘disaster’ that still infuses their poetry.

Arab Journals Provide Rich But Neglected Sources for Study of Arab World

Nezar Andary

There seems to be an almost surreal gap between the realities in the Arab world and the lectures, books, and conferences concerning Arabs, Islam, and the Orient that are produced in the West. For too long, Western scholars have been ignoring the types of dialogue occurring in the context of contemporary Arab cultural phenomena such as plays, journals, cinema, and intellectual discourse. This neglect of primary Arab sources affects the whole field of Arab studies, or as it is called in some places Oriental Studies.

An Author Responds The "Crime" of Disturbing Calm Waters with a Pen

Laila al-Othman

This statement was issued by Ms. Laila al-Othman in Beirut on January 25, 2000, after her conviction of indecent writing by a Kuwaiti court. It was translated and edited into English by Elie Chalala.

Has the world become so controlled that even the birds and butterflies are not allowed to fly freely?

Have peoples' minds sat unused for so long that the lock to open them has rusted solid?

Reflections on Kabbani: Erotics and Politics Embrace in Poetic World of Reckless Women and Sultan's Daughters

Mohja Kahf


The work of the recently departed and much-loved poet Nizar Kabbani is usually treated as if he wrote in two categories: erotic poetry and political poetry. Even in his eight-volume collected works, political poetry is in separate volumes. In fact, his politics laces his love poetry, and his erotic sensibility is never far from the scene of his political poetry.

". . . Bemoan a Wound" Kuwaiti Writers Convicted

Al Jadid Staff

 In Kuwait, two writers were given suspended two-month prison sentences in January after one was convicted of blasphemy and the other of indecency, and their books were ordered to be removed from the market.Laila al-Othman was convicted of using indecent language in her book "The Departure," which reportedly had been approved by government censors in1984. Her attorneys have said their client used words such as "lustful" in describing the relationship of one sea wave with another, but had not intended this to have a sexual connotation.

Lebanon Redeems a Tradition of Freedom-- Court Exhonerates Khalife of All Charges

Al Jadid Staff

A Lebanese court has acquitted one of the Arab world's most popular singer-composers, Marcel Khalife, of offending Islam.

Khalife would have faced up to three years in prison if convicted. He was not in court in mid-December 1999 when the verdict was handed down by Judge Ghada Abu Karroum, who said there was no evidence the singer had tried to vilify the religion and instigate disdain for Islam. "He performed the song in such a way that does not violate the sanctity of the Koranic text," she said.


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