Resistance Literature and Occupied Palestine in Cold War Beirut

Elizabeth M. Holt
Content Type
Journal Article
Journal of Palestine Studies
Issue Number
Publication Date
Institute for Palestine Studies
For the last decade of his life, the Palestinian intellectual, author, and editor Ghassan Kanafani (d. 1972) was deeply immersed in theorizing, lecturing, and publishing on Palestinian resistance literature from Beirut. A refugee of the 1948 war, Kanafani presented his theory of resistance literature and the notion of “cultural siege” at the March 1967 Beirut conference of the Soviet-funded Afro-Asian Writers Association (AAWA). Articulated in resistance to Zionist propaganda literature and in solidarity with Marxist- Leninist revolutionary struggles in the Third World, Kanafani was inspired by Maxim Gorky, William Faulkner, and Mao Zedong alike. In books, essays, and lectures, Kanafani argued that Zionist propaganda literature served as a “weapon” in the war against Palestine, returning repeatedly to Arthur Koestler’s 1946 Thieves in the Night. Better known for his critique of Stalinism in Darkness at Noon (1940), Koestler was also actively involved in waging cultural Cold War, writing the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) Congress for Cultural Freedom 1950 manifesto and helping the organization infiltrate Afro-Asian writing in the wake of Bandung. Kanafani’s 1960s theory of resistance literature thus responded at once to the psychological dislocation of Zionist propaganda fiction and the cultural infiltration of Arabic literature in the Cold War.
Cold War, Zionism, Literature, Arabic, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Political Geography
Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon