Monday, March 7, 2016

On the passing of Druze poet Salman Natour (1949-2016)

"Once you smell the pipe Salman Natour is here" (S. Natour)
(picture: Wikipedia)

I have just read about the passing of writer Salman Natour, who had already died of a heart attack on February 15. Natour was one of the most important contemporary Palestinian poets and playwrights but also a former journalist (most prominently with the daily communist Arabic-language newspaper Al-Ittihad), researcher (former director of the Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian and Israeli Studies in Haifa) and activist. He more or less gave up the latter occupations after suffering from a heart attack in 2005 and subsequently focused more on his poetry.

Salman Natour was born in 1949 in the all-Druze village of Daliyat al-Karmal right next to Haifa. Despite being Druze and living in Daliyat for all - or most - of his life, he strongly identified with the Palestinian cause and was an outspoken opponent of Israeli Druze particularism in general and Druze conscription into the IDF in particular being injailed for refusal himself. Even though a secular person, he rejected the notion of the Druze as a religious group separate from Islam and rather saw the Druze as a sect within Islam - a mere minority position in Israel. However, he was a conciliating personality who was also highly respected by politically more traditional Israeli Druze who held diametrical positions.

 Funeral ceremony with prominent speakers like former Hadash-chairman Muhammad Bakarada or former journalist and now mayor of Daliyat al-Karmal Rafiq Halabi

Like many other young dissident Druze in the late 1960's he joined the Communist Party and later the newly established Druze Initiative Committee, of which he became a prominent proponent. He was especially active in 1982 during the crisis following the annexation of the Israeli occupied Golan Heigths.  Then Natour was placed under house arrest by the Israeli authorities for assisting the Golan Druze in their struggle against the blockade of their villages imposed by then defense minister Ariel Sharon since the villagers refused Israeli citizenship.

Like many other members (e.g. Sa'id Naffa'), Natour later disillusioned left both the Druze Initiative Committee and the Communist Party. Still, his name appeared on the Joint (Arab) List for the last Knesset elections - I guess on behalf of Hadash.

I had the chance to conduct an extensive interview with Natour about his political activities in 2011 at Cafe Fatush in Haifa which he used to visit every Friday afternoon as he told me. This place in the German Colony seemed to be of importance for him - at least he devoted a whole article to it.

Trivia: Natour was unaware of the fact that his work is mentioned by Israeli Arab author Sayed Kashua in his bestseller Dancing Arabs. He was mildly surprised when I told him but seemed to like the fact.
Salman Natour: Mastering Palestinian Story-Telling by Rasha Hilwi, Al Akhbar English
The Communist Party Mourns the Death of Author Salman Natour

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