The Conscience and the Poet
Two months ago, the Palestinian people commemorated the 31st anniversary of the assassination of Kamal Nasir, the PLO spokesman at the time and two of his colleagues, Kamal Edwan and Abu Yusef Al-Najjar, whose wife was also murdered in Beirut by an Israeli hit squad.
Nasir will always be remembered as a man with boundless love for his people and for humanity as a whole. His charm, compassion and tolerance won him several friends and admirers among people from all walks of life. As a poet, he was widely acclaimed for eloquently expressing the hopes and pains of his people, and advocating their cause. His charismatic public appearances were a source of inspiration to the masses that flocked to listen to him at every possible occasion.
Nasir was also a prolific writer of lyrics that were set to music by composers on the staff of his hometown school and alma mater, Birzeit College (now Birzeit University). They were performed annually by the College choir during graduation ceremonies and became very popular because they reflected the spirit of the times and expressed with great beauty the aspirations and tribulations of the Palestinian people. Hundreds of alumni still remember them to this day.
Nasir, the nationalist and politician, was a free spirit who defied the cruelty of prison cells and exile, which were to be his fate for most of his adult life. He could never lie still as long as his people were denied freedom and justice. It was a call and an utter commitment to give up the warmth of his family, the joys of life and the comfort of complacency for the sake of achieving freedom and dignity for his people and restoring their national rights. As PLO spokesman and editor-in-chief of the journal “Falastin Athawra" (The Palestine Revolution), he became known as the “conscience." He spoke truth to power and never hesitated in voicing his opinions and stands, no matter what the cost.
Beloved… Should you receive the news, And friends come to you with foreboding eyes, Be gentle and smile, For with my death I have brought them life. I have slain my spring into autumn, to immortalise the spring, Onto it the dreams of my people I have lain, Unto it I shall live and I shall pray, Possessed by an artist’s ecstasy, singing in my limbs, Teaching me love, striving, pervading my soul and my being. Thus the splendour of my dream shall remain, Thus immortal in my people’s hearts I shall be remembered. From “The Last Testimony" (Translated by Tania Tamari Nasir)
Nasir was born in Gaza and brought up in Birzeit where he completed his high-school education. His poetic talents, which appeared early in childhood, were nurtured by the annual Suq Okath (a traditional Arab poetry contest) held at the College and in which he always extemporized and excelled. He completed his education at the American University of Beirut where he won the prestigious poetry prize for his poem “The Orphan." He graduated in the field of political science in 1945.
Back in Palestine, Nasir started studying law while teaching and imbuing in his students human and national values in which he firmly believed. 1948 interrupted his studies. The Nakbeh (Catastrophe) with all its ramifications was to create a marked impact on Nasir’s life. During the Jordanian era, his career in journalism and politics was launched, a career wrought with many obstacles and hardships on the national and personal levels. His forthrightness and outspokenness subjected him to imprisonment, harassment and finally exile, after having won the elections as a Member of Parliament for the Ramallah district in 1957. During those harsh years, he travelled widely in Arab and foreign countries, writing some of his most poignant poetry. In 1966, in the aftermath of a general amnesty, Nasir returned home to Birzeit and to his family. Unfortunately, his father had sadly passed away during that period.
His joy at his homecoming was not to last long. Soon after 1967, Nasir became an exile, once again, as he was amongst the first people to be deported by the Israeli occupation forces. Carrying his dreams and his determination within his sorrow-laden heart, Nasir remained an indefatigable fighter for the Palestinian cause, later becoming spokesman for the PLO and editor-in-chief of its journal “The Palestine Revolution."
On the 10th of April 1973, Israel was to demonstrate, once again, its commitment to destroying any embodiment of Palestinian identity and any resistance to its attempts at establishing facts on the ground. Thinkers and writers were viewed as a threat. None other than Ehud Barak [former Israeli prime minister] headed the assassination squad which took the lives of Nasir and his friends while in the sanctuary of their bedrooms. Nasir was writing an elegy to a friend. His body was found with hands outstretched, his mouth and right hand riddled with bullets.
Rima Nasir Tarazi