“From now on, you are someone else” Mahmoud Darwish and the fight for democracy

July 2024

From now on, you are someone else

Mahmoud Darwish

Translated by Hamze Awawde

Note on the text:

“From now on, you are someone else” was the poem penned by Mahmoud Darwish to warn us about Hamas after its victory in 2006. His alarm about Hamas’ ascendence, his understanding of what the ascendance meant, has ramifications for all nations struggling with the specter of right-wing radical politics. The hatefulness which undergirds Hamas’ worldview is consistent with the hatefulness of rightwing parties around the world: in Israel, Russia, China, Iran, and indeed America. Darwish speaks for liberals everywhere. With beautiful precision, he foretells the calamity that follows our failures.

Rapid geopolitical changes in the Middle East and the world have facilitated amnesia about what Hamas is. Hamas does not embody the dreams and aspirations of the Palestinian people. Friends and supporters of the Palestinian cause, the solidarity movement, and all relevant parties need to understand this. Hamas is not dissimilar from the Netanyahu government, which has failed to learn from the historical plight of the Jewish people. That regime betrays the legacy of the Jewish people in much the same way that Hamas betrays its own constituents.

Since its inception, Hamas has been viewed with suspicion by Palestinians due to Israel’s seemingly inexplicable tolerance of the group’s founding. (In truth it should surprise no one that the radical right wing member of Knesset Betzalel Smotrich, like Netanayahu, views Hamas as a useful partner in the region. They share a worldview.) In the late 1980s, while any national activity, such as receiving a scholarship from the PLO or owning a Palestinian flag, was punished severely by Israeli occupation forces, Hamas was allowed to operate freely, terrorizing Palestinians who did not share its religious views or stance on the conflict.

Hamas has devalued Palestinian lives by executing its opponents and then boasting about that violence. Suspected collaborators with Israel are punished harshly by Hamas, bringing shame to their families and instilling fear in society. In 2006 and 2007, Hamas killed and injured thousands of Palestinians to establish its dominance in Gaza. Gaza is often likened to an open air prison — given the gravity of conditions on the ground already, internecine violence should be unthinkable. While no external force has defeated the Palestinians of Gaza, Hamas has done much to crush Palestinian humanity through a regime of terror and strict control. Hamas’ leadership — Hamas terrorism — has now provided radical Israeli leaders, who have long dreamed of Gaza disappearing, with justifications to besiege, starve, and bomb the territory. The poisoned fruits of that effort speak for themselves.

Hamas sought control over Palestine even though Palestinians, exhausted and traumatized by over a century of oppression, had no energy left to sacrifice for an Islamic brotherhood’s dream of victory and statehood. The Palestinian people are traditionally diverse in culture, religion, and politics. Palestinian culture has contained many visions of what Palestine ought to be. Once such vision aligned the Palestinian cause with the global cause for human rights, love, and justice. It was in this spirit that Mahmoud Darwish wrote the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988:

The State of Palestine shall be for Palestinians, wherever they may be therein to develop their national and cultural identity and therein to enjoy full equality of rights. Their religious and political beliefs and human dignity shall therein be safeguarded under a democratic parliamentary system based on freedom of opinion and the freedom to form parties, on the heed of the majority for minority rights and the respect of minorities for majority decisions, on social justice and equality, and on non-discrimination in civil rights on grounds of race, religion or color or as between men and women, under a Constitution ensuring the rule of law and an independent judiciary and on the basis of true fidelity to the age-old spiritual and cultural heritage of Palestine with respect to mutual tolerance, coexistence and magnanimity among religions.

As Darwish understood, Palestinians  aspire for their civilization to survive and thrive, not to be defined solely by the oppression they have endured under Israeli occupation. 

This poem was written in 2007, a year after Hamas’ political victory, and forty years after the 1967 war in which Israel gained control of Jerusalem and expanded its borders. In this work Darwish, the most beloved Palestinian poet, expressed deep disappointment with Hamas’s takeover of Gaza and criticized the corrupt Fatah leadership for abandoning its fighters, thus contributing to the defeat of the Palestinian moderate movement.

Despite Hamas’s control, Gaza remains home to many progressives who are committed to the Palestinian people’s liberation and continue to serve the community, especially those neglected by Hamas. It is vital that the solidarity movement, which arose as Western governments turned their backs on the people of Gaza, understand that Palestinians seek freedom from occupation and do not wish to be victims of Hamas either. They aspire to liberate themselves from Israel’s control and colonization to build a pluralistic, free, democratic Palestine. 

Darwish’s fight is the fight for democracy. His cause is the cause of equality, freedom, and safety over brutality and bigotry. He speaks for all of us.

From now on you are someone else


Did we have to fall from a great height

and see our blood on our hands… to realize that we are not

angels… as we thought?



Did we also have to reveal our private parts

in public? so that our true selves would not remain virginal



How we lied when we said we are exceptional!



Believing in yourself is worse than lying

to others!



To be friendly with those who hate us, and cruel

to those who love us: this is the inferiority of the exalted,

and the arrogance of the lowly!



O past! Do not change us… whenever we move away from you!



O future! Do not ask us: Who are you?

What do you want from me? We also don’t know.



O present! We endured a little, for we are nothing but

passers-by with heavy shadows!



Identity is: what we pass on, not what we inherit; what we invent,

not what we remember. Identity is the corruption of the mirror

that we must break whenever we like the image!



He disguised himself and took courage, and killed his mother… because she was

the game he had access to… and because a female soldier

stopped him and revealed her breasts to him, saying: “Does 

your mother have anything like them?”



Were it not for the fact that Muhammad was the last of the Prophets,

every gang would have a prophet, and every companion would have a militia.



We liked June on its fortieth anniversary: ​​If

we do not find someone to defeat us again, we will defeat ourselves

with our own hands, lest we forget!



No matter how much you look into my eyes.. you will not find my look

there. It was kidnapped by a scandal!



My heart is not mine…nor anyone else’s. it became independent

of me, without becoming a stone.



Does the one who shouts over the body of his victim –

his brother: “God is great” know that he is an infidel, since he sees

God in his own image: smaller than a

human being of normal formation?



The prisoner, aspiring to inherit the prison, hid

his triumphant smile from the camera. But he did not succeed

in curbing the happiness that cascaded from his eyes. Maybe.

Because the rushing text was stronger than the actor.



What do we need for daffodils… as long as we are Palestinians?



As long as we do not know the difference between the mosque and the university,

because they are from the same linguistic root, then what need do we have

for the state… as long as it and the days lead to the

same fate?



A large sign on the door of a nightclub: Welcome

Palestinians returning from battle. Entry is free.

And our wine… does not intoxicate!



I cannot defend my right to work, polishing

shoes on the sidewalks, because it is a right.

My customers consider me a shoe thief – this is what

a university professor told me!



“Me and the stranger against my cousin. Me and

my cousin against my brother. And I and my sheikh are against me.” This

is the first lesson in the new national education,

in the dungeons of darkness.



Who will enter Paradise first? The one who died from

enemy bullets, or the one who died from a brother’s bullets? Some

jurists say: “You may share a mother with your enemy!”



Jurists are hot in front of the sleeping people in adjacent graves:

Are they martyrs of freedom or warring victims in

the absurdity of the play? The jurists agreed on

one thing: God knows best.



The killer is dead too!



He asked me: Would a hungry guard defend a house

whose owner traveled to spend his summer vacation in

the French or Italian Riviera? It makes no difference.

I said: He does not defend!


He asked me: Do I + I = two?

I said: You and you are less than one!



I am not ashamed of my identity, it is still being

written. But I am ashamed of some of what was mentioned

in Ibn Khaldun’s introduction!


You are, from now on, someone else!



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