“I would like this book to be carried in backpacks, placed on bedside tables, carried to festivals, read aloud at gatherings. This is a book to be used, a book to start conversations with. These are letters to Palestine—although the book could very well have been titled Letters about Palestine for a world that needs to reawaken its active solidarity through Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions (BDS) actions. I would like to see this book define the way we talk about Palestine—not through the fake legalese of the Oslo process, but as a land whose people have unfulfilled national aspirations, and as an idea for a people who remain as permanent refugees. Robin Kelley’s essay is titled, “Yes, I Said National Liberation.” We would like that kind of language to return to our framework—the language of liberation and national self-determination (which is right there in Article 1 of the UN Charter).
My colleague from LeftWord Books, Sudhanva Deshpande, was recently in Palestine to work with the Freedom Theatre. While at a bookstore in Jerusalem, he saw Githa’s From India to Palestine prominently displayed. Perhaps those letters from India, which Raja Shehadeh hoped would “bring about close understanding between the Indian and Palestinian peoples,” will be a model for these letters from the United States. Perhaps someday Letters to Palestine will find its way to bookstores in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Beirut, Amman, Detroit, Berlin, London, New Delhi, Beijing….Sahar Mandour, who edits the Palestine supplement of As-Safir, will be running the “letters” in Arabic. There is already a Korean edition to come. Others will surely follow.
There is a poem by Samih al-Qasim that I had in mind as I edited this book:
On the day you kill me
You’ll find in my pocket
To the fields and the rain,
To people’s conscience.
Don’t waste the tickets.
(translated by Abdullah al-Udhari).
These “letters,” I hope, are like those tickets. Don’t waste them.”