A devastating portrait of unending turbulence in Palestine.
From 2011 to 2014, journalist and novelist Ehrenreich (Ether, 2011, etc.) lived for several extended periods in the West Bank, observing, questioning, and interacting with residents. In a region inflamed by “intractable” oppression and violence, the author aims to tell stories “about resistance, and about people who resist. My concern is with what keeps people going when everything appears to be lost.” Acknowledging that objectivity is impossible, Ehrenreich hopes to achieve “something more modest…truth.” Revealing truth, though, is hardly a modest goal in a place where contested truths erupt in death and destruction. “There were greater and lesser sorrows,” writes the author, “but sorrow was a given. So was the pain of humiliation, the hard pride of refusal, a certain rage.” In Nabi Saleh, Hebron, Ramallah, and other towns, the author focuses on individuals engaged in protest and grass-roots resistance efforts against Israel’s “almost complete control over the Palestinian economy,” settlers’ determination to take over land, arbitrary rules and controls, and a pervasive atmosphere of fear. Israeli soldiers attack Palestinians with rubber bullets, Molotov cocktails, a fetid spray, and tear gas; settlers throw acid and urine; residents counter with bricks, stones, and rockets that the author characterizes as “unnerving” but, he insists, incapable of causing damage. Hebron struck the author as the most horrific: where it was normal to hear screams from soldiers’ beatings; where each day schoolchildren were fired on with tear gas; where people were arrested and detained as “a warning”; where streets were laden with “trash, bottles, bricks, and concrete blocks.” Ehrenreich has no faith in American-led peace talks and castigates Benjamin Netanyahu for “near-constant deception, insult, and bad faith” and for fomenting “fear and rage.”
Although Ehrenreich feels optimistic about the determination of Palestinians to resist, this visceral book, sorrowfully, portends no end to the horror.