Renowned Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish died on Saturday evening at the age of 67 after undergoing open-heart surgery in Houston, Texas.
Darwish, who has been struggling with heart problems for several years, developed complications some 24 hours after the procedure and was rushed to intensive care, where doctors put him on life support. However his situation continued to deteriorate and he passed away in the early evening.
Mahmoud Darwish (Photo: Ata Awisat)
Close friend and literary editor Siham Daoud told Ynet earlier in the day that Darwish had undergone a similar operation on his aorta nearly a decade ago. "The surgery was a success but a day later the complications began and they decided to operate again," Daoud said from the Darwish family's home in the village of Jedida.
Revered as the Palestinians' national poet, Darwish was born March 13th 1941 in the village of al-Birwa in the Galilee. Following the establishment of Israel in 1948 the family relocated to Lebanon. The destruction of his childhood home and the evacuation of his village were themes Darwish revisited often in his writings.
He joined the Israeli Communist Party after high school and began writing poems for leftist newspapers. He left the country in the early 1970s to study in the former Soviet Union.
He was a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization but resigned in 1993 in protest over the interim peace accords that the late Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, signed with Israel. Darwish moved to the West Bank city of Ramallah in 1996.
In 2000, Israel's education minister, Yossi Sarid, suggested including some of Darwish's poems in the Israeli high school curriculum. But then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak overruled him, saying Israel was not ready yet for his ideas in the school system.
His poetry is considered to have given voice to the Palestinian experience of exile, occupation and infighting. "Exile," he said in a 2001 interview, "is more than a geographical concept."
A Palestinian cultural icon, Darwish was a vocal critic of both the Israeli occupation and the Palestinian leadership. Darwish's influence was keenly felt among Palestinians. Last year he recited a poem damning
the deadly infighting between rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah, describing it as ''a public attempt at suicide in the streets.'' His work has been translated into more than 20 languages and won numerous international prizes.
''He felt the pulse of Palestinians in beautiful poetry. He was a mirror of the Palestinian society,'' said Ali Qleibo, a Palestinian anthropologist and lecturer in cultural studies at Al Quds University in Jerusalem.
The Associated Press contributed to this report