It wasn't only at his funeral that Darwish was referred to in such terms. Respected print outlets reported for example that Mahmoud Darwish, widely regarded as the Palestinians' national poet, who expressed their sense of loss and defiance over the past four decades, died in the United States and was given a grand burial in Ramallah, capital of the Israeli-occupied West Bank... (The Economist).
Or that, The concept of a national poet with the power to shape a national movement and define a country’s collective spirit seems to belong to a different century. But for Palestinians, who have yet to see their dreams of an independent state realised, it was embodied by Mahmoud Darwish.
And, Palestinians bade an emotional farewell on Wednesday to Mahmoud Darwish, their national poet, who was laid to rest on a hilltop overlooking the West Bank city of Ramallah. Darwish, widely revered for giving voice to the Palestinians’ desire for independent statehood and their longing for the lands they lost to Israel, died on Saturday aged 67 after complications resulting from a heart operation in the US... (Financial Times, here and here).
Among the major photo news agencies, Reuters affixed the following explanatory comments to their captions accompanying their pictures of the funeral: Palestinians gave their national poet Mahmoud Darwish
what amounted to a state funeral in Ramallah on Wednesday, mourning a
man whose work voiced their sense of loss, exile and defiance Mahmoud (e.g. here).
So it stuck out all the more that Israel's flagship newspaper couldn't bring itself to spit out the words when it mentioned the funeral on the front page of its online edition, and came up with this instead:
"Palestinians gathering for the funeral of 'national' poet Mahmoud Darwish in Ramallah on Wednesday."
(click to enlarge)
And no, that's not the original photo agency's caption for the photo, it's Ha'aretz.com's.
I know Palestine-denial has always been important to Zionism, because pretending Palestine and the Palestinians don't exist is the only way to evade the original sin at the heart of Israel's creation, i.e. that you can't make a Jewish state on a land where the vast majority of the people are not Jewish without knowing from the start that you are embarking on the killing, expulsion and oppression of those other people.
It was the need to avoid this facing this moral complication that explains why Zionist pioneers sold their project to the rest of the world with the catchy, but inconveniently untrue, slogan: A land without a people for a people without a land!. It explains why Golda used to insist There's no such thing as a Palestinian people; and why Menachem Begin said Israelis must never use the "P" word, warning them: If this is Palestine and not the land of Israel, then you are conquerors and not tillers of the land. You are invaders. If this is Palestine, then it belongs to a people who lived here before you came. And it's why many Israelis today still won't refer to its inhabitants as "Palestinians", but limit themselves to the more generic "Arab", implying that "those people" have no claim here, and would be just as much at home in Rabat or Riyadh as in Rahat or Ramallah.
Anybody who has followed Israel's gyrations thorough the tortuous progress of the peace process can surely see that Israel has absolutely not come to terms with the idea of full and equal political rights (whether in one nation or two) for subjects of the "wrong" ethnic-religious descent. But Darwish was world-renowned as a poet, not a politician, and a "nation" is not the same thing as a "state". Would it have killed Ha'aretz.com, on the occasion of his death, to concede that at least in this aspect, at least in a cultural sense, there exists such a thing as a Palestinian nation?
What a petty, mean-spirited little gesture to insist on denying them even that.