On the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation of Palestine, top writers bear witness to oppression and despair.
When Waldman (A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, 2017, etc.) visited Israel for the Jerusalem International Writers Festival in 2014, she met members of the nonprofit groups Breaking the Silence and Youth Against Settlements, who helped her to understand “the massive, often brutal, always dehumanizing military bureaucracy” that defines the occupation. Hoping to focus attention on the desperate situation, she and her husband, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Chabon (Moonglow, 2016, etc.), invited an international roster of writers to tour towns and villages in the Israeli-occupied territories and meet with community organizers, workers, artists, activists, farmers, and families, as well as Israeli settlers and disillusioned soldiers. Their responses to those visits are moving, heartbreaking, and infuriating, testifying to the chilling cruelty of Israel’s policy toward Palestinians. Even Palestinians given Israeli citizenship are vulnerable to “demographic transfer”—or “forced displacement” in order “to achieve the ‘purity’ of ‘the Jewish state,’ ” writes Palestinian-born, British-educated Fida Jiryis. “One can only wonder at the sadistic ingenuity with which Israel has woven an airtight system around us to suffocate every aspect of our lives.” Walls are a recurrent image: they keep Palestinians in their crumbling towns and separate farmers from their land, workers from their jobs, and family members from one another. Gaza, writes Dave Eggers, “is a prison” with a 40-mile, 25-foot wall on its northern border with Israel and the heavily patrolled Mediterranean on the west. Checkpoints require elaborate documentation, which takes countless hours to assemble. As Chabon notes, “control of time is one of the biggest weapons of the occupation.” Young soldiers wield deadly power capriciously; houses are evacuated and razed in the middle of the night; a refugee camp has “no infrastructure of any kind.” Among the most well-known contributors are Geraldine Brooks, Mario Vargas Llosa, Colum McCann, and Jacqueline Woodson; royalties will go to NGOs.
Deeply unsettling, important stories call for urgent responses to the Middle East conflict.