Kama Sutra for Palestinian Intellectuals — Or, How to Love Mahmoud Darwish

by Amal Amireh

The new Syrian TV drama “In the Presence of Absence,” about the life of the poet Mahmoud Darwish, is giving some Palestinians an ulcer this Ramadan season. The series is being broadcast on several Arab satellite channels, including the Palestinian one. Some objected to the series before it was made because they thought those who were undertaking the project are doing it for profit and are not being faithful to the memory of Palestine’s national poet. Their effort to stop it didn’t pan out and now they are watching in horror as they see their beloved poet miscast, misrepresented, and twisted out of shape. The actor-criminal is one Firas Ibrahim that everyone seems to love to hate. Believe me, voodoo dolls of him will sell like hot qatayef in Rmallah.

They are lamenting that this great poet is being sacrificed on the altar of egos and art-for-profit. They are in a panic that the legacy of Darwish is in danger and that he is being mutilated for an audience that does not know much about him. Some of those objecting to this drama knew Darwish personally: they are friends, disciples, and colleagues. Some are readers who love the man for the poetry he wrote. I feel their pain!

But instead of using the occasion of a bad TV drama to celebrate the Darwish they love, to educate people about his poetry, to write articles that critique the drama they don’t approve of, I’m sad to report that two thousand Palestinian intellectuals are demanding taking the offensive drama off the air.  They have even demonstrated in front of Palestine TV to that effect. In other words, they are calling for censorship. Their love for Darwish seems to have obscured their vision.*

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