This is the poem that was not written

By Ehud Ein-Gil

November 18 will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Abraham Serfati (Avraham Tzarfati in Hebrew). Born in Casablanca in 1926, a communist from his youth, imprisoned for his struggle against French rule in Morocco. A mining engineer by training, he worked after independence in the government phosphate ministry and was fired after showing solidarity with a miners’ strike. He left the Communist Party in 1970 and was one of the founders of an underground revolutionary left-wing organization, Ila Al-Amam (Forward), imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to life in prison. Following the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in South Africa, Serfati was considered the longest jailed political prisoner in Africa. He was released after 17 years in prison and deported from Morocco. After eight years in exile in France and two months after the death of King Hassan II in 1999, he received permission to return. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Casablanca.

This is the poem that was not written
About Abraham Serfati.
Who knew? Who heard?
A Mining Engineer, a communist, a Moroccan, a Jew.
He stepped forward.
Founded an underground movement, Ila Al’Amam.
But who heard, who knew?

This is the poem that was not written
About Abraham Serrfati.
Was he just a passing shadow?
A cloud in a far off heaven?
This is the poem that was not written
About the man who said,
“No!” to the king,
“No!” to the occupation (of Western Sahara).
But who knew? Who heard?

Defiance has a price – interrogation, torture.
His comrade in arms, Abd al-Latif Zerual,
Did not survive.
Who condemned this, who mourned?

This is the poem that was not written
About Abraham Serfati.
Sentenced to life in prison,
Fifteen months in solitary –
No ray of sunshine, no bird did he hear.
But who cried, who protested?

Abraham Serfati,
This is the poem that was not written about you.
Delegations came from Israel,
Entreated the King’s favour
As Moroccan Jews
Wishing a revival of his tolerance –
But not for Abraham.
Intellectuals kissed the hand
That did not sign a pardon for the man who said,
“No!” to the occupation,
“No!” to Zionism.

So Zion did not ask about the prisoner’s fate
Lest the King’s welcome be withdrawn.
No petitions were signed,
No slogans shouted.
No one demonstrated for Abraham Serfati,
A revolutionary Jew.
And in Morocco they no longer dream
About socialism.
Was it all in vain?

This is the poem that was not written
About Abraham Serfati.
Who remembered? Who protested?
But after 17 years under lock, behind bars,
When Mandela was already free,
The King decreed – get thee out of thy country!
And so he sat in a wheelchair, in a French exile,
Till there arose a new king that knew Abraham
And gave him the right to return.

This is the poem that was not written
About Abraham Serfati –
A working class hero,
An Arab revolutionary.
In Western Sahara they are still dreaming
About independence –
Do they remember him?

This is the poem that was not written
About Abraham Serfaty.
In dust he dwells; no monument,
No street named after him.
Who will raise his fallen flag?
Who will raise again the flag he flew?

Translated from the Hebrew by the poet.

More about Abraham Serfaty here.

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