Poetics of Disaster: Nationalism, Gender, and Social Change Among Palestinian Poets in Israel After Nakba

  • Honaida GhanimEmail author


Following the 1948 Nakba (disaster) and collapse of Palestinian society, its national project and cultural sites, a residue of 170,000 Palestinians became citizens of the emerging state of Israel, which existed under a strict military rule until 1966. This residue was mainly illiterate villagers who were left without national and intellectual leadership. After a few years of frightened silence, a new intellectual stratum of young poets from this group began to publish reflections on their national situation. Intentionally simple, direct, and mainly easily memorized, their poetry became the ultimate cultural channel to create and disseminate a Palestinian version of the 1948 war, its subsequent state, and the vision of a desired future. These young poets gradually became the leading producers of Palestinian culture in Israel and abroad. Their poetry became the ultimate reference point for Palestine’s national ethos and myths. Palestinians abroad named them the “poets of resistance” and their poems were composed into inflaming national songs. But while this new intellectual strata became active cultural producers, intervening in “the nation building process,” their social role remained ambivalent and problematic. Despite their national enthusiasm and appeal for social change, they were unable to transgress the patriarchic rule that was hegemonic in Palestinian society. This hegemonic narrative was interwoven in three themes: (1) using the lexicon of natural disaster to conceptualize the 1948 events, presenting them as an irresistible natural disaster (even by God who appeared during the events as pathetic and useless); (2) representing the Palestinian defeat in 1948 through patriarchal language of “collective shame,” “land rape,” and “honor lost;” and (3) articulating the national liberation project as masculine, promising to liberate the “captured land-woman” and to recover the collective honor of the nation.


Nakba Nationalism Collective identity Gender Intellectuals Poet Palestinian in Israel Israeli military government Resistance 


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyHebrew University of JerusalemJerusalemIsrael

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