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Palestinian Druze poet Samih al-Qasim dies at 75

© AFP/File | Palestinian poet Samih al-Qasim reads a poem during a literary evening in Tunis, Tunisia, September 24, 2008Palestinian poet Samih al-Qasim reads a poem during a literary evening in Tunis, Tunisia, September 24, 2008

Samih al-Qasim, a Palestinian Druze poet known across the Arab world for his nationalist writing, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer, a family friend said. He was 75.

Qasim died in Safed hospital in northern Israel after suffering from cancer of the liver for the past three years, Issam Khuri, a novelist and close family friend, told AFP.

He was best known for his nationalist poetry in which he passionately defended the rights and identity of Israel's Arab minority.

Known as a "resistance poet," Qasim's poems were widely embraced across the Arab world as a symbol of steadfastness in the struggle against foreign occupation, with many translated into English and other languages.

"I have no love for you, death, nor do I fear you. But you are making a bed of a body and a blanket of my soul," he wrote last week as he was dying.

He was a contemporary of the late Mahmud Darwish, who was also born in a village in what later became northern Israel, and was widely considered one of the Arab world's greatest poets.

A long-time member of the Israeli communist party and resident of the northern village of Rameh near Safed, Qasim was arrested many times for his political beliefs.

He also worked as a journalist and was editor-in-chief of the Arab Israeli weekly, Kul al-Arab.