FREEDOM AND DESPAIR by David Shulman

FREEDOM AND DESPAIR

Notes from the South Hebron Hills
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Firsthand accounts from the occupied West Bank.

Shulman (Humanistic Studies/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem; Tamil: A Biography, 2016, etc.)—a MacArthur fellow, winner of the Israel Prize, former Israeli Defense Force officer, and an active grass-roots peace activist—presents his impassioned report on the nonviolent Israeli-Palestinian joint efforts to stop the settlements in the West Bank. In Hebron, there is the tomb of the scriptural patriarchs, a burial place, according to the Bible, purchased by Abraham. Not far are the South Hebron Hills, where Jews and Palestinians claim the same land. In this collection of artful yet often passionately angry essays, the author writes about malevolent settlers, aided by their government, who steal the land from peaceful shepherds and farmers. Roads are blocked, and wells are declared off-limits. Shulman recalls countless confrontations of unreasonable, brutal soldiers with confused, frightened residents. Settlers, he tells us, assault the native population. Representatives of the peace movements, like the author, intervene when they can, courting arrest as they try to shame and reason with adamant authority. Resistance in the beautiful Judean Mountains can be surreal and scary. Shulman bears witness to the wickedness he sees in the Israeli settlers, police, bureaucrats, soldiers, judges, security guards, and the willfully passive. (He does not discuss the Palestinian Authority in the area). In his meditations on freedom, truth, and resistance he recruits the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Spinoza, and Socrates, and he offers aphorisms such as, “freedom eludes the person who pursues it deliberately.” Regarding truth, Shulman argues that there are forms “that are not relevant to this discussion—factual truth, for example, which generally tends to the disastrous.” He prefers “ethical truths.” As the author proudly asserts his humble efforts to do good, he concludes, “Israelis need to be liberated from the Occupation no less than the Palestinians need to become free.”

An earnest and valuable jeremiad insisting, reasonably, that ethical behavior is imperative when parsing the nearly impossible Israeli-Palestinian conundrum.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-226-56665-8
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Univ. of Chicago
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2018




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