WHEN THE BIRDS STOPPED SINGING by Raja Shehadeh

WHEN THE BIRDS STOPPED SINGING

Life in Ramallah Under Siege
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A thoughtful journal, by a Palestinian human-rights activist and attorney, documenting the Israeli invasion of the West Bank in April 2002.

The reasons for that invasion were many, Shehadeh (Strangers in the House, 2002, etc.) acknowledges; they followed repeated episodes of illegal Israeli settlement in the “occupied territories” after the Oslo Accords and an attendant rise in the number of terror attacks on Israeli civilians—in particular, the bombing in March 2002 of a hotel in Netanya in which a wedding feast was being held, which resulted in 29 deaths and provided the Sharon government reason to send in the tanks. Shehadeh holds that the Oslo Accords were doomed to failure, for they allowed Israel to transfer responsibility for civilian affairs to the Palestinian Authority; at the same time, however, the intransigent Sharon regime took steps to keep the Authority from delivering services and imposed prolonged curfews and restrictions. Shehadeh writes affectingly of how the military occupation played out day by day in the once-thriving Palestinian city of Ramallah, where civilians now had to dodge military patrols, submit to house-to-house searches, and endure privation, many of them “stranded for days in buildings and shops without food, surviving on dried chickpeas that they soaked in water and ate.” For his part, Shehadeh writes, he spent much of that terrible month pacing back and forth, regarding himself as fortunate because he had a large house. A balanced and sensitive observer, Shehadeh condemns governments, not individuals; in one moving passage, he recounts that an Israeli soldier left a note for a neighbor after a particularly destructive search: “Sorry for the mess. I hope we meet in better times. Stay away from the windows.” Yet his anger at the Israeli government—and that of Yasir Arafat—is evident and constant, and supporters of either will likely take issue with many of his remarks.

A worthy companion to Mourid Barghouti’s like-minded I Saw Ramallah (p. 515).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-58642-069-0
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2003




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