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Tawfik Zayyad (Tawfiq Ziad)

Tawfik Zayyad (Tawfiq Ziad) was a Palestinian poet, writer, scholar and politician. He was born in Nazareth in 1929 and died on July 5, 1994 in a dreadful car crash while on his way to meet Yasser Arafat in Jericho after the Oslo agreements. He participated in Palestinian political life in occupied Palestine, was elected mayor of Nazareth, and served as a member of the Israeli Knesset.

A report he co-authored on Israeli prison conditions and the abuse of Palestinian inmates was reprinted in the Israeli newspaper Al HaMishmar. It was also submitted to the United Nations by Tawfik Toubi and Zayyad after their visit to Al-Far'ah prison on October 29, 1987. The report was subsequently quoted from at length in a UN General Assembly report dated December 23, 1987, where it was described as "Perhaps the best evidence of the truth of the reports describing the repugnant inhumane conditions endured by Arab prisoners."

In addition to his translations of Russian literature and the work of the Turkish poet Nazem Hikmat, Zayyad published a number of collections of his own poems, including “I Press on your Hands,” which is considered an outstanding text in the history of the Palestinian struggle against Zionism. It contains a number of poems about heroism and resistance; some of his poems were set to music and became anthems of the Palestinian resistance.

Zayyad was allegedly targeted for assassination by the Israeli occupation, as he was one of the principal symbols of the steadfastness (somoud) of the Palestinian Arabs. Zayyad played an important role in the “Land Day” strike on March 30, 1975, when thousands of Palestinian Arabs demonstrated against confiscation of Palestinian land and the Judification of the Galilee. At that time, six young Palestinian men were killed, hundreds of others were wounded, and Zayyad’s house was attacked. (Zayyad’s wife allegedly heard an Israeli officer order the house to be burned.) Other assaults against Zayyad and his family occurred after the massacres at Sabra and Chatila in 1982, after the massacre at the Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in 1994, and on other occasions.

Here We Stay

translated by Adib S. Kawar

As if twenty impossibles we are
In Al-Lid, Ar-Ramleh and the Galilee
Here … on your chests, staying as a wall
Remaining we are
In your throats
Like a piece of glass, like cactus
And in your eyes
A storm of fire
Here … on your chests, staying as a wall*
Remaining we are
Hungry we get … naked … we challenge …
Chant poems
Fill the street with angry demonstrations
Fill prisons with pride
Produce children … a revolting generation …
after generation
As if twenty impossibles we are
In Al-Lid, Ar-Ramleh and the Galilee


Plant ideas, like yeast in dough
The coldness of the Galilee in our nerves
Live coal … hell in our hearts
If thirsty we get rocks we squeeze
If hungry we get soil we eat … and we never leave
Our redolent blood we don’t spare …
We don’t spare … we don’t spare …
Here we have a past …
A present …
And a future

*Had the poet lived, he would have said “Like your separation wall"

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