"... the footprints of occupation are beautiful when they are in a museum" - Mahmoud Darwish

Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish spoke yesterday at Birzeit University to a packed audience in the Kamal Nasir Hall. The event was organized as a celebration on the occasion of the liberation of southern Lebanon. Yasser Abed Rabbo, Palestinian Authority Minister of Culture and Information, Izzat Ghazawi, Chair of the Palestinian Writers Union, and Hanna Nasir, President of Birzeit University also addressed the gathering.

Dr. Hanna Nasir stated in his opening address, "Birzeit University is glad to meet today to celebrate the liberation of South Lebanon. The victory in Lebanon proved that continuous struggle is the only way to defeat the enemy. We realize that our conflict is real. It is not a difference in opinion but a conflict with an enemy who occupies our land - the land of our grandfathers. We should remember that Israel withdrew from parts of Palestine as it did in South Lebanon. This withdrawal was a result of the Palestinian struggle during the Intifada.

"There are a few lessons that we can learn from the defeat of the occupation in Lebanon. Among these is that continuous struggle is necessary to win the battle. Another one is that collaborators are not acceptable even to our enemies. We are conducting negotiations with Israel but we should remember that struggle should support negotiations. We should keep in mind that the national unity is necessary to win the battle either political or revolutionary. The Arab dimension is critical as was shown in the case of Lebanon."

Izzat Ghazawi stated, "We are not only here to celebrate victory during this period of defeat. We are here to contemplate the surprising moment when the Israeli occupation is defeated after 25 years of occupying South Lebanon." Following Ghazawi, Yasser Abed Rabbo commented, "The victory of Lebanon is a victory of Palestine. This is not a slogan it is something that was proven during the experience of joint struggle in the previous decades."

Darwish was welcomed to the stage with applause and began by saying "There is no meaning for speech if it is not an introduction to action. We are happy for the south of Lebanon, the brother of the Palestinian north. Arabs did not feel that they are thirsty for freedom as they do now. Hope replaced shame while freedom unified hope within us. This is a victory of hope."

"It might be true that Lebanon is not a model for all similar cases but to free the will is a condition to liberate the land. Inside each nation, there is an energy that suits her conditions. Lebanon proved that so let us applaud Lebanon.

"We loved Lebanon and we love her now not only because our martyrs' blood is mixed with its soil - the martyrs who carried us here are like flowers in Lebanon - but also because Lebanon defeated the occupation. She revived the image of Saigon in the memory of the Occupation. Once again Lebanon replaces the culture of defeat that preoccupies the Arab elite. This elite that jokes with sacrifice and freedom.

"Everything in Lebanon is so beautiful now - trees, land, and people. Even the remainders of occupation are beautiful when they are in a museum."