Award-winning Palestinian novelist declares co-existence “a lie”

Sayed Kashua, the award-winning Palestinian author of Dancing Arabs, Let it be Morning and Exposure, who famously writes in Hebrew, has branded the idea of co-existence between Israeli Jews and Palestinians “a lie.”

Kashua, who writes a regular satirical column in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, used his most recent contribution to describe the experience of Palestinian parents in Jerusalem after the kidnapping and murder of Muhammad Abu Khudair earlier this week.

In the wake of calls for violent revenge against Palestinians coming from all quarters of Israeli society after the killing of three Israeli youths in the occupied West Bank, he declared the impossibility of co-existence under the State of Israel and that “this is really the end, it’s finished.”

Fearing for his children’s safety, he writes: “I should never have let them go to their day camps, not today, not now. I left their big sister at home. She’s already a teenager, and it just could have been too much.”

According to Kashua’s column, he wants to leave Jerusalem, bringing forward travel plans to leave for the United States, where he is to take up a position at the University of Illinois for the academic year 2014-15.

“I will do whatever it takes not to come back here,” he adds.


The author once branded ”The Greatest Living Hebrew Writer” states that he may even renounce the language: “I really have to work on my English over there. I absolutely have to start reading and writing only in English … I don’t know how much longer I can go on writing in Hebrew, I don’t know how many Hebrew speakers will still want to listen to me; I’m not sure there will be any point left to addressing them.”

While the characteristic feel of Kashua’s columns make it hard to tell whether he is serious about leaving Jerusalem and the Hebrew language for good, his most recent words are hard-hitting.

“I will write in English about the country I abandoned,” he predicts, adding, “I will try to be accurate about the details in the hope that someone over there will believe me … I will write about a far-off land in which children are shot, slaughtered, buried and burned, and the readers will probably think I am a fantasy writer.”

Kashua is also well-known in Israel for penning the TV series Avoda Aravit (Arab Labor), a barbed look at middle-class Palestinians trying to function in Israeli society.

In his recent column, however, Kashua states that: “My attempt at living together with others in this country was over. That the lie I’d told my children about a future in which Arabs and Jews share the country equally was over … I’d lost my small war, that everything people had told me since I was a teenager was coming true before my eyes.”




Greetings, Sayed! I met you and heard you speak in San Francisco a few years ago and I have no doubt that you will be able to create a good life for yourself and your family in the U.S. And if by chance after your year in Illinois you may be considering settling in the S.F. Bay Area, there are many Hebrew speakers here who will be eager to engage with you -- as well as many non-Hebrew speakers such as myself. (Trust me: whatever you say or write, none of us will think that you are a "fantasy writer" -- unless, of course, you decide to write a real fantasy.) Your future students at the U. of Illinois are indeed fortunate, and I wish I could join them! I wish you and yours everything good. Travel safe!


I don't think you understand at all what Sayed means with the statement "...I will write
about a far-off land in which children are shot,
slaughtered, buried and burned, and the readers
will probably think I am a fantasy writer.” What, in my opinion, he means is that the reality (of Palestinians) are so grim and gory it's almost unbelievable. People (normal humans) formerly unaware will not believe 'this' ever happened or even happening at the moment as we speak.


Speaking now as a Palestinian solidarity activist, I can assure you that I understand quite precisely what Mr. Kashua means when he says that he will write about a far-off land; I am quite familiar with that far-off land of which he speaks. What I was telling Mr. Kashua was that, were he to come to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, he would find himself surrounded not only by people who support him but also by people who understand him. So not to worry!


I apologize for misunderstanding your previous comment, Alice Diane Kisch.


Abd ar-Rafi', I thank you and I appreciate your apology. In fact, your comment gave me a chance to respond to you and clarify what I meant. If my meaning wasn't clear to you, it's possible that it wasn't clear to others as well. I've been an admirer of Sayed Kashua for quite a few years, and I am more pained than I can say about the treatment that Israel metes out to Palestinians, whether they be citizens of Israel, residents of the occupied territories or members of the global diaspora. I second the words that Yael Petretti has extended to Sayed and his family: Come soon to a place where you will be welcome and safe.


Dear Sayed,

For all the years (26) that I lived in Jerusalem, I read your column in Ha'aretz. I often wondered, especially over the past few years, how you had so much patience as to be able to maintain not only your humanity but even a sense of bitter-sweet humor. Four years ago, after breaking a leg while accompanying Palestinian farmers in Sinjil, I finally gave in to my crushed hope that Israel would come to its senses. I left and I will never live there again. The United States has many problems of its own, but living here has been a balm. You and your family will be so welcome here and safe. Please come soon.


Dear Sarah Irving,
A friend at the Jerusalem Fund in D.C. thought you might consider writing an essay for a catalogue I'm producing for my exhibition, The Map is Not the Territory: Parallel Paths-Palestinians, Native Americans, Irish, which looks at relationships and commonalities in Palestinian, Native American, and Irish experiences of invasion, occupation, and colonization – not as novelty or polemic, but as history and current events. Although many peoples worldwide have suffered long and often brutal intrusions, Palestinians, Native Americans, and the Irish have intersected for centuries in specific and often unusual ways. The exhibition examines some of these intersections and asks how contemporary artists examine and process them through their own lives and visions. is comprised of works on paper (and two media pieces) by thirty-nine artists including leading artists with international reputations. Most are of Palestinian, Native American/First Nations, and Irish origin. I hope you will consider writing a short essay.I don't believe it's necessary for you to have seen the exhibition, but of course I will provide further information to familiarize you, such as exhibition checklists, wall texts and images. Please let me know if you have any interest in contributing. I can be reached at the baksun email listed above. Thanks so much. Jennifer Heath

Sarah Irving

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Sarah is a freelance writer and editor, author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, co-editor of A Bird is Not a Stone (a volume of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland), and a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked and traveled in Palestine since 2001.