Ordinary citizens in three Palestinian cities on the West Bank come under scrutiny in this short, stimulating study.
During a two-month period in 2006, French writer/publisher Hazan traveled to Nablus, Qalqilya and Hebron, all under Israeli occupation, in an attempt to document the lives of a diverse array of people. In the foreword, Rashid Khalidi (Arab Studies/Columbia Univ.) summarizes the book as “deceptively simple,” a fitting description of the three chapters (one on each city) that follow. The interviews were conducted during a relatively quiet period on the West Bank, and Hazan takes a nonjudgmental tone throughout, allowing his subjects (many identified only by an initial) to speak directly to the reader. The stories they told set a disquieting and fearful tone. A group of poorly treated teachers in Nablus hadn’t been paid in three months, since the boycott of the Hamas government began, and were forced to work second jobs. Their main concern, however, was the “lies” they were teaching in their classes—“None of that’s true!” students said scornfully when told about the Declaration of Human Rights. “Why can’t anybody in the world stop the Israelis?” Near Qalqilya, Hazan stayed with two brothers who sold and repaired cell phones. Their customers in this farming village could no longer pay them because produce could not be sold outside the village and government paychecks had dried up with the boycott. “If they keep strangling us, there will be terrorism in Israel,” the brothers warned. In Hebron, the secretary of a women’s-rights group noted that many wives were forced into the labor market because their men were either in jail or unemployed. These accounts, and the many others included, make for deeply unsettling reading. An epilogue by Jerusalem-based peace activist Michel Warschawski does not noticeably brighten the picture.
Offers a much-needed perspective on events in this turbulent, and often terrifying, region of the world.