Palestine, The Raped Woman

In the poems Awlad al-Kahba (Sons of a Bitch) by Mudhafar Al-Nawab and Face Lost in the Wilderness by Fadwa Tuqan, there is great commonality in each poet’s personification of Jerusalem as a raped girl. Through the perspective of each poet, both works reflect upon the diminution of Jerusalem through a gruesome occupation that took its toll on the land just as a rapist takes their toll on a victim. Both poems personify Jerusalem as a girl who is being raped to demonstrate what the strain of an Israeli occupation on the city and the neglect of the international community looks and feels like. It is interesting to examine that both poet’s decision to describe Jerusalem as female; however, even though the depiction of Jerusalem as a raped girl is similar, the purpose of doing so and the meaning of each differs between poems.

Tuqan uses it as a mechanism to enhance her elegy and use the brutality of rape to emphasize the grief she feels for the brutality that Jerusalem is receiving. By describing Jerusalem as a “raped girl”, the vulnerability and helplessness that Jerusalem feels under occupation is similar to that of a raped girl. Conversely, al-Nawab’s poem invokes a sense of revolution and a demand for justice. He compares the Arab rulers and Israeli occupiers who have neglected the people of Palestine and Jerusalem to rapists and the victims as the “raped girl”. Tuqan and al-Nawab’s poetry reflect the calamity caused by the 1948 war between the Arab states and Israel through their own personal experience. As in many regional discourses, connections between people and the land are described using metaphors relating to the speaker’s personal experience. Face Lost in the Wilderness and Sons Of A Bitch exemplify this to the highest degree. Tuqan uses the raped girl analogy to express that the pain a raped girl feels is equivalent to the pain she feels for her lost homeland whereas al-Nawwab uses the raped girl analogy to denounce the perpetrators responsible for the devastation of Jerusalem.The Iraqi poet, Mudhafar al-Nawab incorporates political discourse in his poetry in order to interrogate narratives of hegemony and racism advocated by hostile forces. al-Nawwab was agonized by the consequences integral to the Palestinian tragedy.

Regardless of the gloomy tone of al-Nawab’s poetry, the poet’s diction is characterized by a sense of humor which aims to reduce the tension of a reader confronted with the absurd and tragic realities of Arab life. In “Son’s of a Bitch” the poet castigates impotent Arab rulers accusing them of being responsible for the loss of Palestine: “Oh sons of a bitch, Jerusalem is the bride of your Arab Nationalism…” Al- Nawab seeks to emphasize the Arab identity of the holy city as well as the brutality of the colonizers. “…why did you send all the night adulterers to her bedroom while shrinking cowardly behind the doors, watching the rape scene…” The sexual impotence and lack of manhood on the part of the Arab rulers is symbolically affirmed by alluding to their reluctance to withdraw their swords and confront the enemy. “…And listening to her screams and appeals for help while her virginity was being violated, all of you attempted to withdraw your swords.” Paying special attention to his use of female pronouns and the “she” Jerusalem character, by portraying Jerusalem as a lady raped by invaders, al-Nawab seeks to emphasize the identity of Palestine and its holy city as well as the brutality of the colonizers. The poet effectively visualizes the rape scene where Jerusalem, a sacred symbol for Muslims, Christians and Jews, is being abducted and ravaged by the enemies “pretending to avenge her raped honor/ instead of slaying the rapists/ you began shouting at her…” By depicting the Arab rulers as a group of cowards dominated by imperialist forces, the poet affirms the impossibility of liberating Palestine. “Sons of a bitch/I have to reveal your dirty reality…” He metaphorically compares the Arab rulers and Israeli colonizers actions and negligence towards Jerusalem as that of a rapist “demanding her to be silent and conceal the scandal…” Afterwards he reviles the perpetrators and says, “shame on you , shame on all of you, sons of a bitch…”Al- Nawab responds with a radical poetic discourse, characterized by obscenity, anger and inflammatory rhetoric aiming to awaken the Arab collective consciousness. Al-Nawab emerges as an individual whose poetic discourse revolutionizes contemporary Arab thought. Al-Nawab articulates his criticisms and frustrations of Arab regimes using angry and obscene rhetoric rages at the Israeli occupiers who betrayed the cause of the Palestinian people. Using angry rhetoric and obscene language, Al-Nawab reflects his anger and frustration as he contemplates the absurd realities of contemporary Arab life. According to al-Nawab, simply because they are all pawns of imperialistic forces and , in the absence of effective political will and insight, paced the way for Palestinian tragedy and the rape of Jerusalem. Depicting Jerusalem as a woman being raped by invaders in the presence of Arab rulers, al-Nawab argues that in order to promote feelings of scorn towards the perpetrators, the poem must effectively visualize a rape scene where Jerusalem is abducted and ravaged by the invading enemies in the presence of all Arab rulers who are nothing but shameless eyewitnesses to the atrocity.

In Tuqan’s context, her elegy “Face Lost in the Wilderness” expresses strong sentiments about her love for the holy city, her pain over the occupation of the city and her undying hope for its liberation. Here Jerusalem, the city of religions, is depicted as a beautiful girl with burned fingers. This really grotesque imagery indicates to us the already misshapen female that Jerusalem appears to be through Tuqan’s eyes. She then goes on to say: “…nothing beats in the heart of the City but their bloodied heels under which Jerusalem trembles like a raped girl…” The bloodied heels of the Israeli soldiers that beat may cause the city to tremble in way that reminds Tuqan of a terrorized, raped girl. Her use of this rape analogy paints a distressing image that victimizes Jerusalem to the readers just as al-Nawwab does in Awlad al- Kahba. In the Old Testament the city of Jerusalem is personified as a woman and addressed or spoken of as “the daughter of Zion,” always in a context charged with feeling aroused by either of two ideas that stand in opposition to each other: the destruction of Jerusalem or its deliverance. To the Palestinian poets, in particular, the city is part of a homeland they have held onto that has been resisting the invaders for decades and is associated with the land. In other words, the Palestinian city is part of a lost homeland that has been resisting the invaders for decades. The longing for a place, a city, is eternal in Palestinian poetry and it can never be diminished because it has acquired the quality of an absolute. To the poets, the city, the land, the village and the homeland are all integral parts of their lost and ever-sought after dream. The Palestinian city occupied a significant position in modern Arabic poetry because it has been subjected to the violence, brutality and state terrorism of the invaders. It has been a target for the colonizers’ hatred and malice for ages, yet, it has been able to resist all attempts to eradicate its Arab identity. Palestinian poetry and take different shapes, personify the anger and resistance of a nation that has frequently refused to surrender at a time of crisis in a world dominated by internal treachery, hypocrisy and external hegemony. It is within this context that the image of Palestine as a victim of rape emerges. The linkage of colonization with rape has been made by many anti-colonial and postcolonial thinkers, who not only cite rape as a strategy employed to suppress the “native” population of a country, but who also view is as a metaphor for the colonial exploitation of the land. For Palestinians, the very real concern of rape surfaced. Rape also surfaces as a metaphor for Zionism as a desire to rape the Palestinian homeland and to exploit and disperse its people. As in Arabic poetry, Jerusalem is viewed, as a woman or girl.

In this connection, there is a tendency to feminize Jerusalem and compare “her” to a woman who has passed through a great variety of changes and misfortunes. In “Sons of a Bitch / Awlad Al-Kahba” the speaker castigates the Arab rulers accusing them of being responsible for the loss of Jerusalem. He uses obscenity in his poetry to reveal an gruesome reality. In Face Lost in the Wilderness, Tuqan also used the feminization of Jerusalem to victimize the city in a way that is comparable to the victimization of a rapee. The Palestinian city occupied a significant position in modern Arabic poetry because it has been subjected to the violence, terrorism and brutality of the invaders. Palestine is represented as a vulnerable woman; Jerusalem is personified as a weeping female victim of rape who must be rescued. However, Jerusalem is not only a victim city, but also a place of resistance and an abode for patriotism. Both poets introduce a gloomy image of Jerusalem as a defeated and victimized city however each does embody a deep nostalgia for a lost homeland and an unquenchable dream of return to the roots.