Ghassan Kanafani

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Ghassan Kanafani
غسان كنفاني
A graffiti of Ghassan Kanafani in Palestine
Personal details
Born8 April 1936
Acre, Mandatory Palestine
Died8 July 1972 (aged 36)
Beirut, Lebanon
Political partyPopular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

Ghassan Kanafani (9 April 1936 – 8 July 1972) was a Palestinian writer and activist. He was a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). He wrote many texts including Men in the Sun (1962). At the age of 36, he was killed in a car bomb by Mossad.[1]

Early Life[change | change source]

Born in the British Mandate of Palestine in the city of Acre on 9 April 1936, Kanafani and his family were forced to flee to Beirut, with the outbreak of the Arab-Israeli War in 1948. Afterwards, Kanafani and his family settled in Damascus. Kanafani completed his secondary education, receiving a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) teaching certificate in 1952. In the subsequent year, he crossed paths with George Habash, who initiated him into the realm of politics and left a significant impact on his early endeavors. He was later expelled from Damascus due to his political activity in support of Pan-Arabism. He then moved to Kuwait along with his sister in 1956 and they both took teaching positions there.[2] After spending some time in Kuwait as a drawing and sports teacher, Kanafani eventually returned to Beirut where he joined the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in 1967, serving as the spokesperson and editor of its newspaper, al-Hadaf.[3][4]

Political Views[change | change source]

During his time in Beirut, Kanafani moved away from Pan-Arabism, a movement calling for unity of all Arab countries, and focused on the Palestinian struggle for liberation. He also became interested in Marxism, which made him join the PFLP the same year it was founded in 1967, as it declared itself as a Marxist-Leninist organization.[5]

The PFLP was known to carry out armed attacks against Israel and thus, was labelled a terrorist organization by many Western countries including the EU.[6][7]

Kanafani was never directly involved in these armed activity, yet he supported the armed struggle against Israel and rejected any negotiations with the state.[8] In a 1970 interview, when he was asked by the Australian broadcaster Richard Carleton why he won't participate in “peace talks” with the Israelis, he famously responded with: “That’s the kind of conversation between the sword and the neck.”[9]

Work[change | change source]

During his lifetime, Kanafani published many stories, his first and most famous novel, Men in the Sun, being translated into many different languages. Kanafani is often considered to be one of the most influential Palestinian writers, whose stories are part of a “resistance literature”, a term he created.[5] The Palestinian resistance literature were an act of defiance because it preserved the Palestinian identity and allowed the stories of the people to be told, at a time where it was suppressed. Palestinians were forcefully displaced from their homeland, starting with the Nakba in 1948, and faced defeats with the loss of the Arab–Israeli War.[10]

These stories reflect these painful experience of Palestinians who live under occupation, in refugee camps or abroad under harsh conditions. But instead of only documenting the pain of the Palestinian people and expressing the despair felt after the Nakba and loss of the Arab-Israeli War, Kanafani calls for resistance and to fight back against the Zionists. This made him stand out from other Palestinian writers who were in a state of self-pity.[11] [12] [13]

Literature[change | change source]

Translation into English[change | change source]

Year Title Genre
1962 Men in the Sun [14] Novel
1962 Land of Sad Oranges [15] Essay
1966 All That's Left to You [16] Novella
1967 On Zionist Literature[17] Essay
1969 Umm Sa'ad [18] Novella
1970 Return to Haifa [19] Novella

Assassination and Legacy[change | change source]

After the massacre at Lod Airport in 1972 that killed 26 people, the Israeli secret service Mossad started to target members of the PFLP who, along with the Japanese Red Army, claimed responsibility for the attack.[20] [21] On 8 July 1972, Kanafani was killed in Beirut, along with his niece in a car bomb. The Israeli Mossad claimed responsibility.[22]

However, he left a legacy behind that continues to inspire Palestinians. His face can be found as graffiti drawings throughout Palestine and its refugee camps.[23] The Lebanese non-governmental organization Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation (GKCF) that supports education for Palestinian refugee children in Lebanon is named after him, and was founded in 1974 on his second death anniversary.[24]

References[change | change source]

  1. Nashef, Hania A.M. (30 October 2018), "Ghassan Kanafani", Palestinian Culture and the Nakba, New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 126–147, doi:10.4324/9781315143835-5, ISBN 9781315143835, S2CID 239931121, retrieved 27 April 2023
  2. Ghabra, Shafeeq N. (1987). Palestinians in Kuwait : the family and the politics of survival. Internet Archive. Boulder : Westview Press. ISBN 978-0-8133-7446-8.
  3. Bashkin, Orit (2010). "Nationalism as a Cause: Arab Nationalism in the writings of Ghassan Kanafani". In Schumann, Christoph (ed.). 'Nationalism and Liberal Thought in the Arab East: Ideology and Practice". Routledge: 92–96. ISBN 9781135163617.
  4. اللاجئين, دائرة شئون. "الشهيد غسان كنفاني ... الكاتب والأديب .. صاحب القلم الثوري". دائرة شئون اللاجئين (in Arabic). Retrieved 21 September 2023.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rabbani, Mouin (2005). Ghassan Kanafani. In Mattar, Philip (ed.). Encyclopedia of the Palestinians. Infobase Publishing. p. 275. ISBN 978-0-816-06986-6.
  6. Alexander, Yonah (1 January 2003). Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Brill Nijhoff. pp. 33–38. ISBN 978-90-04-47950-0.
  7. "Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)". ECFR. 20 March 2018. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  8. Coffin, Nancy (1996). "Engendering Resistance in the Work of Ghassan Kanafani: All That's Left to You, Of Men and Guns, and Umm Sa'd". The Arab Studies Journal. 4 (2): 98–118. ISSN 1083-4753. JSTOR 27933702.
  9. PFLP Ghassan Kanafani, Richard Carleton interview-COLOR VERSION_مقابلة غسان كنفاني النسخة الملوّنة, retrieved 27 April 2023
  10. Gerber, H. (3 October 2008). Remembering and Imagining Palestine: Identity and Nationalism from the Crusades to the Present. Springer. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-230-58391-7.
  11. "Ghassan Kanafani and the inexhaustible dialectic". Mondoweiss. 9 July 2022. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  12. Khoury, Elias (1 May 2013). "Remembering Ghassan Kanafani, or How a Nation Was Born of Story Telling". Journal of Palestine Studies. 42 (3): 88. doi:10.1525/jps.2013.42.3.85. ISSN 0377-919X.
  13. Hamdi, Tahrir (2011). "Bearing witness in Palestinian resistance literature". Race & Class. 52 (3): 37. doi:10.1177/0306396810390158. ISSN 0306-3968. S2CID 143481555.
  14. Kanafānī, Ghassān (1999). Men in the Sun & Other Palestinian Stories. Lynne Rienner. ISBN 978-0-89410-857-0.
  15. Kanafani, Ghassan (21 May 2013). Land of Sad Oranges. Rimal Publications. ISBN 978-9963-610-80-8.
  16. Kanafānī, Ghassān; McCann-Baker, Annes; Studies, University of Texas at Austin Center for Middle Eastern (1990). All That's Left to You: A Novella and Other Stories. Center for Middle Eastern Studies, the University of Texas at Austin. ISBN 978-0-292-70418-3.
  17. Kanafani, Ghassan (8 July 2022). On Zionist Literature. Ebb Books. ISBN 978-1-7399852-3-3.
  18. Kanafani, Ghassan (2013). Umm Saʻd. Cyprus: Rimal Publications.
  19. Kanafānī, Ghassān (2000). Palestine's Children: Returning to Haifa & Other Stories ; with an Introduction and a Biographical Essay on Ghassān Kanafānī. Rienner. ISBN 978-0-89410-865-5.
  20. "This Week In History: T... JPost - Features - Insights & Features". 2 July 2012. Archived from the original on 2 July 2012. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  21. "Massacre at Lydda". The New York Times. 1 June 1972. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  22. Pedahzur, Ami (2009). The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Against Terrorism. Columbia University Press. p. 39. ISBN 978-0-231-14042-3.
  23. "Ghassan Kanafani - Umstrittener Schriftsteller und gefeierter Volksheld". Deutschlandfunk Kultur (in German). Retrieved 27 April 2023.
  24. "HAPPY BIRTHDAY GHASSAN KANAFANI CULTURAL FOUNDATION - CTM". CTM Lecce - Cooperazione nei Territori del Mondo (in Italian). 15 July 2019. Retrieved 27 April 2023.