Poetry and Women’s Engagement with Human Rights
An Interview with Milena Rampoldi about Ellen Rohlfs

by Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, Sicht vom Hochblauen, 25 October 2016, translated by Nuri Haller, Tlaxcala. In the following my interview
with the author of the book “Ellen Rohlfs –
Gedichte für den Frieden in Nahost
” (Ellen Rohlfs – Poems for
Peace in the Middle East), Milena Rampoldi of the Press Portal ProMosaik. The
interview mainly focuses on the importance of poetry and women’s strength in
the field of human rights. Another key theme in  this interview is
anti-Zionism and its ideological motivation.

Evelyn Hecht-Galinski: What connects you first of all with Ellen Rohlfs?
Milena Rampoldi: What connects me with Ellen Rohlfs
are the Sisyphus labor for Palestine, the world of translation, and being women
in the struggle against the injustice of the State of Israel which manipulates
the Holocaust to whitewash constant human rights abuses, and selling them to
the West as legitimate safety precautions.
Another aspect connecting myself with Ellen is the
aching empathy for human suffering, regardless on which side the victims stay:
for Jewish suffering of the past during the Holocaust, and for Palestinian
suffering in the continuing nakba. Since the Palestinians are the
victims of the transformation process of the Jewish settlers, which fled from
the Nazi persecutions and came to Palestine, into perpetrators, as the
Jewish-German poet Erich Fried bravely confirms in its „Höre Israel!“ (Hear, O Israel!). The Nakba as
catastrophe and murder, persecution, displacement, and oppression of
Palestinians to this day is a guiding theme of our translation and writing work
for Palestine. We write in German and translate into German to show to Germans,
the perpetrators of the past, how the perpetrators of today in the Zionist
State are not the victims of the past, but the colonialists and oppressors of
the present. Another connecting point with Ellen is my conviction of the
importance of involving poetry, art, and music into the discourse about human rights
as I showed in my first project about poetry and human rights in collaboration with the artist
. This also encouraged me to introduce the poems and biography
of Ellen Rohlfs in my book published this summer and entitled „Ellen Rohlfs, Gedichte für den Frieden in Nahost“.
For me personally poetry is a tool for human rights activists to oppose to the
violence of colonialist Zionism. 
Why is the collaboration and networking of human rights activists so
Cooperative and networked activism for human rights
was my main objective when I founded the press portal ProMosaik in 2014. We
started our blog during the war raging in Gaza in summer 2014. For me, human
rights activism means collaboration with other people, also with people having
other opinions because I strongly believe in diversity and different paths to
achieve a common goal. The fact that human rights activism is also very
strongly connected with the recognition of ideological, cultural, and religious
diversity is confirmed by the following Quranic verse 93:16 stating: “And if
Allah had willed, He could have made you [of] one religion, but He causes to
stray whom He wills and guides whom He wills
.“ Therefore, in human rights
activism we should face the challenge of diversity. This allows us to listen to
the enemy’s voice and to deal with people who have other solutions than ours.
Since there is currently no  real solution to ensure peacein the
world, we should open our mind and listen also to opinions which do not
convince us. Just in matters like the Middle East tortured by war we should
show the way to reconciliation to conflicting people. 
What does anti-Zionism mean to you?
To me anti-Zionism has different meanings: on an
ideological level it means the opposition to colonialism as political-military
tool; on an ethical level it means the opposition to the dehumanization and/or
cancellations of Palestinians from the map by the Zionist narrative; on a
social level it means the opposition to ethnocracy and on a theological level
it means the opposition to the wrong interpretation of the Jewish “election”
concept taken from the Torah as justification for settler imperialism. By the
way, in the Torah Jewish “election” has nothing to do with land and power, but
with ethical humbleness and values of humanity and committment. I feel a
very strong opposition between Hillel‘s Jewishness and today‘s
military-colonialist Zionism. And this is one of the main reasons why I endorse
ideologically anti-Zionism. Ultimately, on a crosscultural and inter-ethnic
level, anti-Zionism means the opposition to all kind of apartheid regimes in
which the life of one ethnic group counts more than the life of another. I am
indeed strongly convinced that we human beings are all equal. As the Prophet of
Islam said: “People are as equal as the teeth of a comb”.
Which do you think are the key messages in the poetry of Ellen
One core message is related to the stylistic and
intentional level of poetry. In the poem entitled Trockene
 (Dry poems) Ellen Rohlfs shows us why she writes
and must write and why her poems are dry. This methodological dryness
penetrates all her poems, which she would not write, if it was not absolutely
necessary. Ellen Rohlfs connects the compulsion of writing poems for Palestine
with the necessity of the scream (in the sense of Edvard Munch‘s painting) to
complain loudly about injustice until one listens to it. As a consequence,
poetry, justice and emotions are strongly connected with each other. Ellen
Rohlfs is emotionally captivated by Palestinian suffering, and on this basis
she engages for Palestinian rights. To be a human rights activist for her means
an empathic compulsion to a scream for justice in Palestine, as a German who
directly experienced the Nazi regime and demands a Never Again for
Palestine too. However, her dry poems also reveal Martin Luther King’spositive
leitmotiv I have a dream ; Ellen Rohlfs dedicates a poem with
this title to her friend Rachel, the late wife of Uri Avnery. Another theme
emerging very strongly from Ellen’s poems is the importance of interreligious
dialogue to promote world peace and common engagement of all monotheists to end
violence in the Middle East. Because it’s five to midnight, the poet warns in
one of her poems.
How important are women in the struggle for human rights?
As Muslim feminist I
am strongly convinced that women are the pillars of all societies, regardless
of culture, language, religion, and tradition. And women can excellently
contribute to the struggle against violence and human rights abuses in our
societies. In Palestine and elsewhere, women rise up against occupation, women
endure prison, fight for their children, protest against violence and
discrimination. And women who has not come as far can learn this human rights
consciousness from other women. And this conscience has to do with empowerment
and dignity. Because human rights work in each society is based on strong and
dignified women.