A former political activist in the occupied territories looks back on his youthful struggle to come to terms with his father, as well as with an idealized Palestinian past and an unrealized Palestinian future.
Shehadeh, a lawyer and a writer who now lives quietly in the West Bank town of Ramallah, founded the internationally respected human rights organization Al Haq, which mounted legal challenges to Israeli settlements on the West Bank and exposed the treatment of Palestinians in Israeli prisons. Raja’s father, Aziz Shehadeh, was also a prominent lawyer and a political activist. A refugee from Jaffa following the 1948 conflict, Aziz came to believe that recognizing Israel was the only way to maintain a Palestinian nation. He was condemned by Arab nationalists and also drew fire when he became the defense attorney for those accused of assassinating King Abdullah of Jordan. He was murdered in 1985, not for his political beliefs but probably over a minor legal wrangle. All this lays the foundation for Raja’s reflections on his childhood, during which family members incessantly recalled their former comforts and refused to confront the reality of the Israeli takeover. Chapters about Raja’s education in London and India reveal the emotional conflict between father and son, as well as Raja’s efforts to find a role for himself in the political struggle between Palestinians and Israelis. Partly as a result of his disillusionment with the Israeli investigation of his father’s murder, he affiliated with the first intifada and became a legal advisor to the Palestinians at the Madrid peace conference in 1991. He left “in despair a year after they began.” Shehadeh also describes eloquently the devastation of the biblical hills surrounding his home as Israeli bulldozers make room for settlements.
A memoir both political and personal, offering a human and humane perspective on one Palestinian’s life. (b&w photographs)