My political position springs from my being a novelist. Insofar as I am concerned, politics and the novel are an indivisible case and I can categorically state that I became politically committed because I am a novelist, not the opposite. Ghassan Kanafani
After Ghassan Kanafani graduated high school in Lebanon, he enrolled in the arts faculty at Damascus University. He then left to Kuwait to work as a school teacher, but he spent every summer in Damascus. In the summer of 1956, Ghassan and Fadel Alnaqeeb, who were both members of the Arab Nationalist Movement, met with the late Alhakam Darwazeh, one of the leaders of the movement at the time. Darwazeh told them that the cultural committee of the movement wanted them to devote their time to writing a collection of short stories to be printed and disseminated in the refugee camps.
Ghassan and Fadel were very excited to start their new task, and less than half an hour after Darazeh left, the two of them had already decided to write six stories each. One of the stories would be titled “The First Returner,” that is, the first refugee who would return to Palestine. Ghassan had already sketched the cover featuring the face of that first returner.
Ghassan’s short story teaches us many things: devotion, determination, commitment, vision, and, indeed, an unshakable belief in victory and liberation. Every time we revisit him, he gives us more reasons to honor him, to celebrate him, and to follow in his footsteps. More than anything, he, along with the many other Palestinian intellectuals, cultural workers, artists and figures, have taught us that intellectual production must emerge from the movement. They have taught us that relevant, timely, nuanced and worthwhile scholarship and art tells the story of the collective and to truly know that story, we must be a part of it. Ghassan has also taught us the power of words in telling our story to the world to humanize our people, make legible our cause, and legitimize our long-standing steadfastness and resistance. It is on this premise and with this spirit that we are humbly presenting this anthology. We would like to use this opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to empowering the voices of our youth by cultivating a space for a collective leadership to emerge. We should view cultural perseverance and preservation as central principles in our cause, especially in the face of ongoing cultural erasure and literal occupation and ethnic cleansing.
The first annual Ghassan Kanafani Scholarship submissions speak volumes to the incredible talent we have among our youth, who give voice to the shared experiences we have all felt about identity, exile, racialization, loss, and placelessness. We live on the margins of invisibility, carrying our homes in our hearts and silencing our memories in order to survive in this strange place. And yet, that silence is tested amidst the hostile social and political conditions of living in the US as young Palestinians. Dislocated, disrupted, and deeply defined by our collective imagination of Palestine, this project, along with many of the other activities and programs PYM conducts, is about transforming silence into collective movement work. It is about turning our pain into power, our loss into community, and our silence into resistance.
The works included in this anthology are incredible, and we are so excited to share twenty of the submissions we received for this initiative. All submissions have been submitted by Palestinian youth living in the US. The first three pieces in this 2016 edition of the anthology received the scholarship prizes: Jazella Jajeh with the first prize, George Abraham the second prize, and Hamza Abed the third prize. The remaining 17 all received a special acknowledgement from our five-person jury and are included in this anthology. The jury this year included writers, scholars, poets, and playwrights from the Palestinian community, and we are deeply thankful for their voluntary time and support in seeing this project through.
More than anything, this initiative has shown us how connected we are and how much we need to create spaces for us, by us and from us. To foster deeper senses of peoplehood, community and collectivity despite all that has tried to break us, are the fundamental principles motivating much of our work. The writings in this anthology are testament to this and we would like to sincerely thank you for engaging in this initiative with us. We need your voices, and we hope this project will both uplift these expressions of who we are and inspire others to begin crafting new narratives.
We also want to thank all of you for reading and supporting us. This is a completely grassroots initiative, and we hope to see your continued support so that we may continue and expand this initiative for years to come–you can buy the anthology and donate easily online. The application form is open for youth to apply for the 2017 scholarship, which you can access here.
About the scholarship:
The Palestinian Youth Movement’s Ghassan Kanafani Writing Scholarship is open to Palestinian residents and citizens of the United States, aged 18-25. Each year, the contribution of prize money to the top three submissions is intended for their educational expenses in order to propagate their paths of inquiry and creativity.
The scholarship is the first of its kind in the United States. By awarding these scholarships and compiling an anthology of our top twenty submissions, we aim to provide a space for Palestinians in the diaspora to reflect on their Palestinian identities, positionality, and relationships to Palestine. In honor of the works and vision of the heroic novelist, Ghassan Kanafani, the scholarship aims to focus on Palestinian history, our past, present, and future struggles, and our multi-faceted identities.
2016 is the inaugural launch of the Scholarship. We hope that it will continue for many years to come. Please support this initiative by buying the anthology and donating to the scholarship.