The Daily Star
August 12, 2008 - 4:39pm

RAMALLAH, Occupied West Bank: Palestinians were making plans on Monday for a funeral of pomp and ceremony for their national poet Mahmoud Darwish, whose writings captured the spirit of the Palestinian struggle. Thousands of Palestinians including President Mahmoud Abbas are expected to attend what will effectively be a state funeral on Wednesday of the kind not seen since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was laid to rest in 2004.

Darwish who died on Saturday at the age of 67 in a US hospital from complications following open-heart surgery, will be buried near the Cultural Palace in the Occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, Palestinian Authority officials said.

His grave will face the outskirts of Occupied Jerusalem, where the Palestinians hope to create the capital of a future state which Darwish had yearned for in his poems written over a half a century.

An official Palestinian delegation was in the US to supervise the transfer of the body to Jordan and then on to Ramallah, where 5,000 flags stamped with pictures of Darwish will be displayed across the city.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riya al-Maliki said Darwish, who was born in an Arab village in what is now northern Israel, will be buried in Ramallah "according to his wish."

Maliki said the Palestinians have not asked Israel to allow a funeral in Darwish's native village, which his family fled during the 1948 war that marked the creation of the Jewish state overtop Arab land.

Wednesday's funeral is being organized by the office of Abbas, who succeeded Arafat after his death in November 2004.

The Palestinian ambassador to Amman, Atallah Kheiry, said Darwish's body would be transferred to Jordan from the United States on a plane sent by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa al-Nahayan.

A ceremony will be held at Amman's Marka military airport at 0700 GMT on Wednesday, before Darwish is flown to Ramallah on a Jordanian military helicopter for the funeral.

Darwish, who gave voice to the decades-old Palestinian struggle

is widely considered one of the Arab world's greatest writers, winning numerous international literary prizes.

He penned over two dozen books of poetry and prose

in a career spanning nearly five decades that captured the Palestinian experience of war, exile, and the struggle for national self-determination.

Darwish had been harshly critical of Israel over the years and was detained several times in the 1960s before going into self-imposed exile in 1970. Over the next 25 years he lived briefly in Paris, Moscow, and several Arab capitals before settling in Ramallah.

A sequence of poetic prose written about his experience of life in Beirut during the Israeli invasion and bombardment of Lebanon in 1982 was translated into English in 1995 under the title "Memory for Forgetfulness." In 1988, Darwish wrote the official Palestinian declaration of independence and served on the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization until 1993, when he resigned in protest at the Oslo autonomy accords.


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