How should one read Returning to Haifa, Ghassan Kanafani’s tragedy of post–1967 Palestinian-Israeli confrontation, in the twenty-first century? Though the novella ends with the protagonist’s call to arms, recent interpreters read it as an opening for dialogue and cohabitation. However inviting, though, such a “dovish” reading may not take seriously the unresolved conflicts at the novella’s core. We argue that the novella responds to the tectonic shifts in the Palestinian landscape of 1966–67 by reworking the calls to action and speech with which Kanafani concluded Men in the Sun (1962). Borrowing from Hannah Arendt’s theory of action, we propose a reading of Returning to Haifa that comes to grips with the enigmatic but crucial phrase “man is a cause,” arguing that in his representation of women in the novel, Kanafani not only writes against Palestinians resigning themselves to Israeli rule, but also points to how patriarchal nationalism alienates both Palestinians and Jews, and portends only an eternal recurrence of the Nakba.

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