Email this review


On successive visits to Jerusalem and environs, the author struck up an acquaintance with various Jews, Christian Arabs, and Muslim Arabs, whose stories she tells in parallel, ostensibly co-equal sections. The gist of the book, however, is the wrongness of the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem (the Old City) and the West Bank. Admitting to no prior knowledge of (among other things) ""exactly what or where the West Bank is,"" Halsell chiefly reports what she's told--the understandable resentments of West Bank residents at the establishment of Israeli settlements, of a Bethlehem Christian Arab at body-searches by Israeli soldiers on Christmas, of Jerusalem's Muslim Arabs at the ban on the return of their sons from abroad while ""the Israeli government welcomes Jews from any part of the world."" And Halsell's reported encounters with Jews are confirmingly dreadful: West Bank settlers Bobby and Linda Brown, members of the extremist Gush Eminum group, boast of duplicity, preach expansionism, vaunt themselves as pioneers, and fail to till the land they've seized (Bobby and the other men commute to work in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv); an Arab cabdriver cowers before a Jewish policeman, while an Arab policeman is browbeaten by a Jewish motorist; and so on. But hand in hand with the citation of Israeli abuses goes the refrain that all this is paid for by American money and, moreover, that the Israelis are interlopers, ""blue eyes"" from Europe without even a historical claim to the Holy Land. (""Studies seem to indicate,"" Halsell writes, ""that the overwhelming majority of today's Jews are descendants of the eighth-century converts to Judaism, the Khazars. . .""; but this old theory, recently revived by Arthur Koestler, has often been discredited.) The book concludes, true to form, with a chapter on Israeli torture of prisoners and an epilogue lamely celebrating what the three religions have in common. Among the several recent books highlighting Israel's internal strains, both the least forthright and the least authoritative.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1981
Publisher: Macmillan