To Be a Palestinian
For us it did not begin in 1948. For that generation of Palestinians that was born or grew up in exile, it never began with that galaxy of events that culminated in the creation for our people of a new, frightening world of non-being. Rather the metamorphosis in our national psyche and the controlling images of our active mythology occurred when we had already acquired a past of our own. It occurred when the Palestinian, from the isolation of his world, asked another world that stood with its back to him: who am I and what am I in the scheme of things that seemed to govern other people's lives but not mine? When a Palestinian became aware, along the evolutionary continuum of his consciousness, of that delicate correlation between his political reality and existential concerns, of that pitch in reality that bound his own present to his forefathers' past, the question ceased to bristle with self-pity and acquired historical acumen. For the Palestinian proceeded to ask not who am I, but who are we? Not what is my, but what is our place in history? Existence, hitherto governed by private reservoirs of energy and alienation, was now governed by a feeling that history was every man's milieu.
Fawaz Turki was born in Haifa in 1940 and left Palestine in the refugee exodus of 1948. He grew up in Beirut, and studied at universities in England and Australia. He is the author of The Disinherited: Journal of a Palestinian Exile (Monthly Review: New York and London, 1972), and has contributed articles to the International Herald Tribune, Ramparts, World View, American Report, etc. Now living in Cambridge, Mass., he is working on his second book, a fictional work dealing with the Palestinian experience.