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Saturday, July 11, 2015


by Alan Catlin

'The U.S. State Department on Tuesday punched a big hole in Israel-led efforts to induce the Obama administration to regard boycotts of settlements as identical to boycott of Israel proper. In doing so, it provided the Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobby with yet another painful lesson in the pitfalls of being too clever by half and biting off more than one should chew. A special statement issued by the State Department Press Office on Tuesday afternoon made clear that while the administration “strongly opposes” any boycott, divestment or sanctions against the State of Israel, it does not extend the same protection to “Israel-controlled territories.” Rather than weakening efforts to boycott Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, as Israel supporters had planned, the State Department was actually granting them unprecedented legitimacy.' —Haaretz, July 1, 2015; Photo: AL-JANIYA, (Palestinian Territories), October 30, 2014: Abbas Yusef points wistfully towards his olive trees, which are bearing their annual fruit. Yet again, the 70-year-old Palestinian farmer will be unable to make the autumn harvest. Yusef’s olive groves lie on land either side of an Israeli settlement in the northern occupied West Bank. For years, he has been denied access by the army, and the settlers have ploughed it, uprooting many of his trees. —Dawn

It’s a timeless story.
The speaker is a man.
A very angry man
with eight children and
another on the way.

He is a farmer but
is no longer able to work
the land that has been in
his family for a thousand years.

The occupiers prevent
anyone from working
the land.

He is so angry he can
barely speak.

The occupiers want to build
new settlements here,
right here, on my land.

The man is so angry because
he feels helpless.

How will we live?
he asks

How will we survive?

Author’s note: The poem is a based on a reading from this week by a young man, probably a high schooler, who read at an open mike. I’m not sure if he wrote the poem or not.  He was extremely shy and self-conscious, until he passionately read this dynamic piece  in his native language and tried to leave the stage without an explanation, but the moderator, a high school English teacher, gently prodded him to provide some kind of translation. I took some liberties with the translation, adding some details I think he was hinting at but could not provide as he didn’t have the words for them in English. 

Alan Catlin has published numerous chapbooks and full-length books of poetry and prose, the latest of which, from March Street Press, is Alien Nation.