Mosab Abu Toha, a Gazan Poet and Harvard graduate who founded the Edward Said Library in Gaza, author of Things You May Find Hidden in My Ear: Poems from Gaza, which the Middle East Monitor says is shortlisted for this year’s Palestine Book Awards, tweeted last Monday:
“On May 10 I applied for a permit to go to the US embassy in Jerusalem for a student visa interview scheduled for June 15. I got approval. But when I entered the Erez travelers’ hall, Israeli officials in the booth ordered me to return to Gaza. I re-applied for Aug. 1. But got Big NO. (sic.)”
On Tuesday, Abu Toha tweeted: “The thing is that, had I been given permit today, I wouldn’t be going on my own. It’d be shuttle bus/car taking me from Gaza to embassy and vice versa. A guard would be with me & keep my passport all time except when in embassy. I’d not be touring or selling books in the streets.”
I searched for Abu Toha’s poems online––so you won’t have to––and dug up a few:
We are not stones in Gaza.
Even stones cry when they see our blood seep down our heads, arms, legs, and backs, when they smell the burns in our skins and hair.
Stones wish they could stop the bleeding. They wish they had hands, soft ones, to dress our wounds.
The Fish and the Refugee Camp (Part)
If you see me drowning,
do not throw me a life buoy.
Throw me a fish.
She swims better than me.
If I see a fish drowning on the seashore,
I won’t put her back in the water.
We will go together to a vegan restaurant,
She’ll have an algae salad, and I’ll have a sage tea.
We will talk about our families, how we grew up,
how we imagine our future.
We feel sad for each other.
I’ll then offer her lipstick.
Perhaps a killer whale will love her,
protect her from the shark, when she’s back.
I will give her regal perfume.
But the killer whale doesn’t smell, the fish tells me.
Then, I’ll teach her to sing a Fayrouz song,
“I loved you till I forgot sleep,
coz I feared you’d forget me. “
If that doesn’t work, then I’ll take
my little boat to the middle of the ocean,
and the whale shall dance on the fish’s small chest.
OK, I have to admit, the man can write (for the rest of the poem go here and scroll below the Hebrew).
It’s sad that the fact that Mosab Abu Toha writes in Gaza makes it impossible for most people to treat his work without political prejudice. Every review out there (not many, incidentally) makes a point about those vicious Zionists who lay siege to Gaza for no reason. Pity.
In my opinion, the whole thing was a glitch: the poet laureate came with an attitude, and the official on the other side didn’t like it, I’m just surmising. But overnight, the US left jumped on the opportunity to attack the “Zionist apartheid regime,” and this could end up with Israel truly messing with this young man.
Professor Steven Salaita, a “Palestinian American” whose appointment to the University of Illinois back in 2014 was blocked by pro-Israel groups, responded: “What reason does the Zionist regime have to prevent this young man from acquiring a study visa?” and answered: “Because it can. Because it’s capricious and ruthless. Because it dispenses rights according to religion.”
You get the idea. Now it remains to be seen if the Israeli side will let the man through for his interview, or insist on saving face and letting him rot in Gaza. My money is on letting him in, which, by the way, would be the way both the Lapid and Netanyahu governments preferred to handle it.