Germain Droogenbroodt







In Search of Peace?


The inhuman face of every war




“Not everyone who has a human face, is a human”, pretended the Persian mystical poet Hakim Sanai  (1070-1150). Although I am a rather optimistic person, when trying to see solutions to get out of the recent outburst of wars, I rather feel like Diogenes, trying to find during daytime with his lantern a human being if we see all atrocities committed by the human race. Those of the recent past by Pol Pot in Cambodia (and by the US in Vietnam, in Iraq), in Latin America, in Ruanda, in Bosnia, in Croatia, in Serbia, in Ruanda, in Congo…

Of course, due to the overwhelming information we receive daily we know and see more of what is going on in the world, even in places we hundred years ago hardly knew they existed. But does all that “information” really informs or greatly or do the mightiest mislead us? Especially as to wars we should remember the words of Berthold Brecht who rightly pretended that the first victim of war is the truth. But, even if what is being said or informed is the truth, whose truth is it?
I remember a black and white movie of the famous Japanese director Akira Kurosawa in which somebody mentioned about three men talking: “They all spoke the truth, their own truth”.

Sure, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is delicate and we know only what we read and are allowed to see, even if we have access to difference sources of information. There is no doubt, after what happened in Germany with the Jews (but also with the always forgotten smaller and less powerful-lobbying number of gypsies) should never be forgotten. Each, EACH human being should have the right to have a country. But the holocaust does not give  the Israeli the right to make Gaza a prison, nor to destroy, wound, kill thousands mainly innocent people, bomb and destroy their houses, their schools, their hospitals, water resources, power installations.

Sure, hate will not cease by responding with hate. But how can you love somebody who occupies your homeland, bombs and kills deliberately?
A Palestine woman whose house was destroyed and part of her family killed by the overwhelming Israeli army rightly asked: “How can we avoid that our children hate Israeli?” When you saw hatred, you will harvest hatred. Occupying their land, making Gaza a prison, continuing against the will of all nations – including of the befriended and lobbied US – uninterruptedly building on Palestine land, destroying again thousands of houses  (who will pay for the reconstruction?), injuring thousands of people, killing thousands of mainly innocent  Palestinians. How to avoid the hate?  How to start talking about peace if you do not want to return what you have illegitimate occupied, keep on constructing on it, dictatorially seal of a country, making it prison of 2 million people trapped in their own again and again destructed land which they are not allowed to leave nor to enter as they wish, not even to give it a name? What can they do, not even allowed to have weapons to defend themselves, against one of the most modern, mightiest armies of the world? What can they do? What can they do else than to build tunnels – which are being destroyed – to get food, nappies for their children, bandages for their wounded and, why not, weapons to defend themselves against the killing intruders? In an interview the Italian photographer Gianluca Panella, who visited Gaza many times, said responding in an interview to the question how these people (the Palestine) became fighters: “Most of them are very young, between 17 and 25. Many are religious. They are not crazy, nor born to kill. But they are marked by the circumstances. Like all people from Gaza, they only know war and blockades. Of cause they are willing to kill and to die. But they do not regard themselves as terrorists, but as soldiers. And if we were allowed to be honest and could ask
– without being brand marked as Anti-Semites – who is a soldier, who is a terrorist? Or what is the difference, being killed by a “terrorist” or by a bomb or grenade by the army?

As to myself, although my favorite poet, Paul Celan of whom I translated several poems was a Jew, my experience with several Israeli poets at international poetry festivals is extremely bad. At an international poetry festival in Taiwan, where I had been invited as guest and speaker, I was severely attacked and nearly beating by an Israeli poet, although he pretended to be a “Noble Prize Winner for Peace”. I had mentioned in my speech that only the poets keep their finger on the pulse of their country and can express its feelings. Although amongst other poets, such as the Argentine Juan Gelman.
I also had mentioned the famous “Fuge of Death” by Paul Celan, the fact that I dared to mentioned as well the best (non extremist) poet from Palestine, the late Mahmud Darwish, a leading modern Arab poet, I was reproached to be anti-Semite and nearly beaten by the angry Israeli poet for “daring” to mention a poet from Palestine. Similar aggressive “assaults” occurred at poetry festival in other countries. Whenever you dare to criticize an Israeli for the “disgraceful” deeds of his state (Obama is the first American president who had the courage to say it) you are an anti-Semite, although no nation has the right to kill – mainly  innocent – humans. Neither has the Israel.

To misquote Brecht I would ask “What times are these, in which talking about the Israeli bombings is considered a misdeed or agreeing with the holocaust?” This does not mean that one should agree with Hamas. But at the question to the Italian photographer Panella, if the Palestine fighters realize that they risk the lives of civilians, hardly anyone was willing to reply. Just one of them finally said: “Why should we be responsible for it? It are the Israeli which drop the bombs”. However, if Hamas continues to send rockets to Israel, which responds with killing and destruction, ironically, they finally might become the best ally of their enemy: chasing the inhabitants out of Gaza, making it inhospitable and at the end also become part of Israel.

In one of the world’s less manipulated newspapers (the German die Zeit) I read that in Israel, pictures about Palestine victims are being banned, that by the majority of Israelis any local protest is being criticized or banned.  In the same newspaper, in an interview, Fritz Stern, Jewish historian, says: ·”Where the elder people whatever Israel does accept, the younger generation is more critical and scandalized about what is happening”. However, as the Israeli novelist Assaf Gavron in the same newspaper mentions, the Israeli society has become more militant, less tolerant, and less compromising than ever before. In fact, the majority of Israeli approved the bombings after 3 youngsters had been killed. As it appears, only one voice is being heard, orchestrated from the government and the army, and broadcasted by the local mass media, including the biggest TV stations, the largest newspapers, and the websites. The left is weak and powerless. Protesters are being attacked as traitors. A big advertising agency cancelled a contract with the comic, Orna Banai, who had said that she was ashamed of her country. Not only have the writers, daring to criticize the bombings, received death threats, but even their families. Most people don’t dare to protest, scared of reprisals or hatred against them in the social media. Some brave leftist youngsters still protest and even bring goods to Gaza. They are willing to talk on a decent basis to find peace for both countries. But this is only a small minority. We can but hope that under international pressure – especially from the almighty Big Brother, Israel will become more tolerant and willing to make acceptable proposals to the Palestine, lift the blockades (what Hamas correctly claims), stop the constructions on Palestine land, clear some of their unlawful settlements. Instead of intolerance and bombings, the Israeli government should show goodwill, show that they REALLY want peace, no more Palestine land.  As the famous Israeli writer David Grossman said at a recent rally: “When Gazans, are suffocating, we in Israel, cannot breathe freely!” Instead of bombing, the stubborn Israeli government should read poetry and listen to the wise advice of its own writers.

The war is not anymore declared

The Austrian poet Ingeborg Bachmann wrote the following great poem which is, more than ever before, a statement of what is happening, not only in Palestine, but in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq etc.





The war is not anymore declared
but continues. The outrageous
has become every day. The hero
stays away from the battle. The weak
has gone to the firing line.
The uniform of the day is patience,
the decoration of the pitiful star
of hope above the heart.

The decoration is awarded
when nothing happens anymore,
when the drumfire falls silent,
when the enemy has become invisible
and the shadow of eternal armament
covers the sky.

It is awarded
for desertion of the flags,
for bravery in front of the friend,
for the betrayal of unworthy secret
and the disregard
of every command.

With Bachmann we could meditate about the differences – if there really are – between uniformed fighters and fighters without uniform. In the “Great Wars”  soldiers in uniform fought against soldiers in uniform, although civilians have been killed, women raped  in all wars. But were those who fought against Franco in the Civil War in Spain “terrorists”? The Vietcong against the American invaders? The French resistance against the Germans? The guerrilleros in Latin America? The Palestine? The Russians invading the Crimean? The pro Russians in Ukraine? The Kurds in Turkey (which now have become “heroes”  in Iraq because they fight against the IS?) Shakespeare would probably shake his head and say: “ What’s in a name…”











Germain Droogenbroodt, was born in Rollegem, the Flemish part of Belgium, where Dutch is one of the official languages. In 1987 he moved to the Mediterranean artist village of Altea and integrated in Spanish literary life.


Germain Droogenbroodt is an internationally appreciated poet, translator, publisher and promoter of modern international poetry. So far he wrote eleven poetry books and translated – he speaks six languages – more than thirty collections of German, Italian, Spanish, English and French poetry, including anthologies of Bertolt Brecht, Reiner Kunze, Peter Huchel, Miguel Hernández, José Ángel Valente, Francisco Brines and Juan Gil-Albert and rendered Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Persian and Korean poetry into Dutch.


As founder and editor of POINT Editions (POetry INTernational) he has published more than eighty collections of mainly modern, international poetry. In 1996 he set up a new poetic movement, called neo-sensacionismo with the famous Chinese poets Bei Dao and Duo Duo

Germain Droogenbroodt organised and co-organised several international poetry festivals in Spain. He has been advising poets for the Festival Internacional de Poesía de Granada, Nicaragua and of the Struga Poetry Evenings, Europe’s oldest and most famous international poetry festival. He was “special collaborator” of the International Festival de Poesía de Rosario, Argentina and is founder and president of the Cultural Foundation ITHACA Droogenbroodt-Leroy of the Valencia Country organizing yearly The Poetic Evening Concerts of Ithaca. He is also advisor of The Poetic Bridge, a Japanese-English poetry publication.


His poetic oeuvre is many-sided. After his début with “Forty at the wall” (1984), defined as neo-romantic poetry, he published “Do you know the country?”, Meditations at Lake Como (Italy), a collection of nature poems. In 1995 he was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship (Scotland) where he wrote “Conversation with the hereafter”, poems about death, awarded with the P.G. Buckinx-Prize and “Palpable absence”, a bilingual (Dutch-Spanish) collection of love poems. A critic of the Dutch Information Office for Libraries described his love poems as “virtuoso poetry”. At the end of 1997 appeared “Twenty-five and two love poems”, and in 1998 “Between the silence of your lips”, his collected love poems.


During his sojourn at the Palace-Fortress “Neemrana” in Rajasthan he completed the poetry cycle “The Road”, (read TAO) a poetic bridge between the East and the West, inspiring the Flemish artist Frans Minnaert and the Indian painter Satish Gupta, who enriched “The Road” with their drawings. This rather philosophical, mystical poetry is so far his most popular book, published already in 24 countries, translated by such famous poets as Bei Dao (Chinese), Fuad Rifka (Arabic), Jana Stroblova and Josef Hruby (Czech), Milan Richter (Slovak), Emilio Coco, Luca Benassi and Tiziana Orrù (Italian), Ganga Prasad Vimal (Hindi), Mongolian etc. In 2001 he wrote in Spanish “Amanece el cantor” (The Singer  Awakes), a homage to the deceased poet José Ángel Valente, followed by “Counterlight” written in Ronda (Southern Spain) in 2002. This book has been published in Spain by Calima Ediciones, in Romania by ex Ponto, in Belgium by POINT Editions, in both Mongolian languages by GCompress Co., Ltd. Ulaanbaatar, in Arab by Albayat (Morocco), in Hong Kong by “Contemporary Poetry”, and in Taiwan by Poet Culture. Corp. The latter publication includes also “Counterlight “.


He last but one poetry book “In the Stream of Time”, Meditations in the Himalayas, was published in 2008 in Belgium and as part of “Selected Poems by Germain Droogenbroodt”, 2008 in Shanghai by the Shanghai Literature & Art Publishing Group and in Spain, laureate of the XXIX Premio de Poesía Juan Alcaide 2008. Struga Poetry Evenings published a selection of his poetry in their “Pleiades” in 2010. “In the Stream of Time, selected poetry of Germain Droogenbroodt has also been translated in Japanese and was launched at the Kyoto City International Foundation in Kyoto, Japan in 2010 and in Gaelic (Irish) in 2012. A selection of his poems has been published as well in Bengal in Bangladesh (2012). “Unshadowed Light”, his latest poetry book, was launched end 2012 in a bilingual Dutch-Spanish publication at the Book Fair in Antwerp and in several Belgian towns and in Spain.


Germain Droogenbroodt is frequently invited to give recitals and conferences at universities and international poetry festivals all over the globe. He has been honoured with a Doctor of Literature, h.c. in Egypt in 1990 and awarded several prizes. In addition to the publication of international poetry he also has an internationally well visited website with poetry from over 75 countries: The site is in English, Spanish and Dutch with articles in Arab.  Germain Droogenbroodt will be granted the Mihai Eminescu Prize at the International Poetry Festival in Craiova, Romania (September 2014) for his devotion to the translation and promotion of European literature.

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