On this day: Mahmoud Darwish dies

August 9 2008: A poet of the resistance?

By Jennifer Lipman, August 9, 2011

Darwish was an iconic figure to the Palestinians; a poet, but also a prominent political voice. When he died he was mourned by ten thousand Palestinians and the Ramallah Cultural Palace was renamed in his honour.

His poetry covered the themes of exile and conflict, and was intensely critical of Israel as well as some elements in the Palestinian leadership and the split between Hamas and Fatah.

It was also seen as a key contributor to the development of a Palestinian national identity in the years after 1948, with Darwish recruited to write a Palestinian Declaration of Independence by Yassir Arafat. In 1974 he penned Arafat's "gun and olive branch" speech to the United Nations

His work, more than 21 poetry collections was translated into some 20 languages and he was celebrated in the literary community.

Yet for all that he was a cultural icon, he was opposed to many of the efforts to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians and often took a hard-line position.

He died at the age of 67 following complications in heart surgery.

What the JC said: Yossi Sarid, the former education minister, briefly introduced works by Mr Darwish into the Israeli curriculum in 2000. "Sometimes Darwish is very angry at us and that's natural," Mr Sarid said. "Once I spoke to him and he told me he had studied our national poet, Haim Nachman Bialik. He said it was a very illuminating experience."

See more from the JC archives here.

Last updated: 9:45am, August 9 2011