Letters to Palestine
is collection of impassioned, urgent writing on the occupation of Palestine from some of the leading writers, thinkers, and activists of our time. Junot Díaz , Teju Cole, Corey Robin, Remi Kanazi and Randa Jarrar join Mumia Abu-Jamal, Robin Kelley, and Sarah Schulman as they write to and for Palestine. Jadaliyya
e-zine talked to editor Vijay Prashad and
contributors Nora Barrows-Friedman, Remi Kanazi, Lena Khalaf Tuffaha and Alex Lubin about their involvement in the project and their hopes for the book.
Not all violence is hot. There’s cold violence too, which takes its time and finally gets its way. Children going to school and coming home are exposed to it. Fathers and mothers listen to politicians on television calling for their extermination. Grandmothers have no expectation that even their aged bodies are safe: any young man may lay a hand on them with no consequence. The police could arrive at night and drag a family out into the street. Putting a people into deep uncertainty about the fundamentals of life, over years and decades, is a form of cold violence. Through an accumulation of laws rather than by military means, a particular misery is intensified and entrenched. This slow violence, this cold violence, no less than the other kind, ought to be looked at and understood.
Near the slopes of Mount Scopus in East Jerusalem is the neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah. Most of the people who live here are Palestinian Arabs, and the area itself has an ancient history that features both Jews and Arabs. The Palestinians of East Jerusalem are in a special legal category under modern Israeli law. Most of them are not Israeli citizens, nor are they classified the same way as people in Gaza or the West Bank; they are permanent residents. There are old Palestinian families here, but in a neighbourhood like Sheikh Jarrah many of the people are refugees who were settled here after the nakba (“catastrophe”) of 1948. They left their original homes behind, fleeing places such as Haifa and Sarafand al-Amar, and they came to Sheikh Jarrah, which then became their home. Many of them were given houses constructed on a previously uninhabited parcel of land by the Jordanian government and by the UN Relief and Works Agency. East Jerusalem came under Israeli control in 1967, and since then, but at an increasing tempo in recent years, these families are being rendered homeless a second or third time.
"If you say, I think the occupation of Palestine is fucked up on forty different levels, people are like, you're the devil, we're going to get your tenure taken away, we're going to destroy you. You can say almost anything else. You could be like, 'I eat humans,' and they'll be like bien, bien."
Letters to Palestine: Writers Respond to War and Occupation,
edited by Vijay Prashad, is a collection of personal essays, letters, and poems to and for Palestine from some of the most prominent writers, thinkers, and activists of our time, including Junot Díaz, Teju Cole, Mumia Abu Jamal, Robin Kelley, Noura Erakat,
and Corey Robin
To mark the book's release, we bring you Junot Díaz's foreword to the collection.