Emile Habibi

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Emile Habibi
Emile Habibi.jpg
Date of birth 28 January 1922
Place of birth Haifa, Mandatory Palestine
Date of death 2 May 1996(1996-05-02) (aged 74)
Knessets 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
Party represented in Knesset
1951–1959 Maki
1961–1965 Maki
1965–1972 Rakah
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Imil (Emile) Shukri Habibi (Arabic: إميل حبيبي‎, Hebrew: אמיל חביבי‎, 28 January 1922 – 2 May 1996) was a Palestinian writer of Arabic expression and a communist politician, son of a Christian family.

Habibi's work, harshly critical of Israel, has nonetheless been coopted into Israeli cultural streams and, in 2005, he was voted the 143rd-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.[1] Most Palestinians would reject his labelling as an 'Israeli' author.

Biography[edit]

Habibi was born in Haifa on 29 August 1922, into an Anglican Palestinian Arab family.[2] His family had originally belonged to the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem but converted to Anglicanism due to disputes within the Orthodox church. In his early life, he worked on an oil refinery and later was a radio announcer.

Under the Mandate he became one of the leaders of the Palestine Communist Party. When the 1948 Arab-Israeli War began, he stayed in Haifa while many others chose or were forced to leave the country by the Israeli Army. Having stayed in Haifa, however, Habibi was eventually granted Israeli citizenship. After the war, he helped to create the Israeli Communist Party and established the communist paper Al-Ittihad.

He stayed in Haifa his whole life. His gravestone reads (at Habibi's own request): "Emile Habibi – Remained in Haifa."

Political career[edit]

Habibi was one of the leaders of the Palestine Communist Party during the Mandate era. He supported the 1947 UN Partition Plan. When Israel became a state he helped form the Israeli communist party ICP. He served in the Knesset between 1951 and 1959, and again from 1961 until 1972, first as a member of Maki, before breaking away from the party with Tawfik Toubi to found Rakah. After a conflict about how the party should deal with the new policies of Mikhail Gorbachev he left the party in 1991.

Writing[edit]

Habibi began writing short stories in the 1950s, and his first story, "The Mandelbaum Gate" was published in 1954.

In 1972 he resigned from the Knesset in order to write his first novel: The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist, which became a classic in modern Arabic literature. The book depicts the life of an Palestinian, employing black humour and satire. It was based on the traditional anti-hero Said in Arab literature. In a playful way it deals with how it is for Arabs to live in the state of Israel, and how one who has nothing to do with politics is drawn in to it. He followed this by other books, short stories and a play. His last novel, published in 1992, was Saraya, the Ogre's Daughter.

Literary prizes[edit]

In 1990, Habibi received the Al-Quds Prize from the PLO. In 1992, he received the Israel Prize for Arabic literature.[3][4] His willingness to accept both reflected his belief in coexistence. Though after accepting the Israel Prize a debate set off among the Arabic intellectual community. Habibi was accused of legitimizing the Israeli "anti-Arab" policy. Habibi replied to the accusations: "A dialogue of prizes is better than a dialogue of stones and bullets," he said. "It is indirect recognition of the Arabs in Israel as a nation. This is recognition of a national culture. It will help the Arab population in its struggle to strike roots in the land and win equal rights".[5]

Published works[edit]

1969: Sudāsiyyat al-ayyām al-sittah

1974: Al-Waqāʾiʿ al-gharībah fī 'khtifāʾ Saʿīd Abī 'l-Naḥsh al-Mutashāʾil (translated as The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist)

1976: Kafr Qāsim (Kafr Kassem)

1980: Lakʿ bin Lakʿ (play)

1991: Khurāfiyyat Sarāyā Bint al-Ghūl (translated as Saraya, the Ogre's Daughter)

References[edit]

  1. ^ גיא בניוביץ' (20 June 1995). "הישראלי מספר 1: יצחק רבין – תרבות ובידור". Ynet. Retrieved 10 July 2011. 
  2. ^ Tsimhoni, Daphne. "Arab Christians in Israeli Politics". Retrieved 1 February 2012. 
  3. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1992 (in Hebrew)". 
  4. ^ New York Times 7 May 1992 Jerusalem Journal; To a Novelist of Nazareth, Laurels and Loud Boos by Joel Greenberg
  5. ^ Greenberg, Joel (3 May 1996). "Emile Habibi, 73, Chronicler Of Conflicts of Israeli Arabs". The New York Times. Retrieved 1 May 2010. 

External links[edit]