Israeli shelling destroys poet Othman Hussein’s Gaza home

Burned books from the collection of Palestinian poet Othman Hussein
Maysoon Hussein

The ongoing Israeli onslaught against Palestinians in Gaza has already hit its cultural life with the demolition of the home of artist Raed Issa by an air strike on Tuesday.

This has been followed by the destruction of the house of poet Othman Hussein and his family in Rafah in southern Gaza. According to family friends in the UK who spoke to The Electronic Intifada, the house, located in Shuka, an agricultural town east of Rafah, was hit by tank shells on Thursday, 17 July. The home was completely destroyed, although Hussein and his relations were able to escape harm.

Othman Hussein is a well-known Palestinian poet whose work has appeared in many publications, including Masharef, the journal founded by the great Palestinian writer Emile Habibi. In English translation, his poetry has appeared in Izzat Ghazzawi’s 1997 collection Modern Palestinian Poetry in Translation and most recently in A Bird is Not a Stone.

Hussein’s contribution to the latter anthology, perhaps ironically, includes a poem entitled Camp Block 5, which describes a fierce Israeli attack on a Palestinian refugee camp and the courage of its defenders:

I have to go, I said: I have to. The barbarians are besieging time and place, besieging this rapid breathing in the side-alleys of frustration’s long journey. Explosions ripple, fear controls the situation. Justified and upstanding fear in the face of history at a great crossroads. They monitor us and we monitor them and we besiege their glory with our weakness. Tank shells and small-arms fire and their hatred, all these roll before the demolition machines.

I will go now. Many children, half asleep and stumbling and falling as you hurry them from their houses at the hour of dawn. Houses that will be levelled like accusations in just a moment.

A father carries his children and rushes like a missile out of what will shortly be a pile of cement…

(Excerpt from Camp Block 5 by Othman Hussein, translated by Henry King and Sarah Irving)

Othman Hussein was also one of the many who have spoken out against the degrading treatment dealt out to Palestinians by Israeli security forces in Gaza, as cited in a 2007 article by Israeli journalist Amira Hass.

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Remember the book burnings by the Nazi... They were early signs of the Shoah to come... If you destroy people's culture, you also will kill people. Is this, where Israel heading for?

Sarah Irving

Sarah Irving's picture

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.