The War of 1948: Representations of Israeli and Palestinian Memories and Narratives

By Avraham Sela; Alon Kadish | Go to book overview

6
Descending the Khazooq
“Working Through” The Trauma of the
Nakba in Emile Habibi’s Oeuvre

Assaf Peled


Introduction

Many Palestinian intellectuals have written about the harsh realities of their people following the Nakba, but only a few of them have critically dealt with the traumatic facets of the event and their present repercussions. Literature on the Nakba represents a salient effort to serve the Palestinian people’s struggle for their natural rights. While this focus on the injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians and the need for restitution is tempting, it leaves little room for critical reflection on the experience itself. As its point of reference is external, it dooms the writer to act out1 the past.2 In recent years several researchers have explored the traumatic dimensions of the Nakba and its impact on those who have remained in the homeland that became the State of Israel,3 but no systematic effort has been made to critically take on these traumas.

Against this background, the literary works of Emile Habibi, a prominent Palestinian-Israeli writer, journalist, and politician stand out as a unique voice worthy of a separate investigation. In his work, Habibi draws a connection

1. La Capra defines “acting out” as the performative reliving of the past as if it was fully present rather than represented in memory. Dominick La Capra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore, 2001), 70.

2. Avraham Sela, “Arab Historiography of the 1948 War: The Quest for Legitimacy,” in Perspectives of Israeli History, ed. Laurence J Silberstein (New York and London, 1991), 140–3; Rashid Khalidi, “The Palestinians and 1948: The Underlying Causes of Failure,” in The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948, ed. Eugene L. Rogan and Avi Shlaim (Cambridge, 2001); Mustafa Kabha, “Introduction,” in Toward Formulating an Historic Narrative for the Nakba: Problems and Challenges, ed. Mustafa Kabha (Haifa, 2006), 1–5 [Arabic]; Honaida Ghanim, Reinventing the Nation: Palestinian Intellectuals in Israel (Jerusalem, 2009), 81–2; Gideon Shilo, Israeli Arabs in the Eyes of the Arab States and the PLO (Jerusalem, 1992), 33; Mahmud ‘Abbasi, “The Evolvement of the Novel and the Short Story in the Arab Literature in Israel Between the Years 1948–1976” (PhD diss., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1983), 114, 137–8 [all in Hebrew].

3. Ghanem, Reinventing the Nation

-147-

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