An intense look at the difficult daily existence of people who are often little more than pawns in a bigger chess game.
A half-Palestinian Christian who grew up in Beirut, Makdisi (English and Comparative Literature/UCLA; William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s, 2002, etc.) combines interviews with average citizens and a detailed history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even those not supportive of the Palestinian cause may be affected by the author’s stark descriptions of the restrictions on liberty that he asserts are a hallmark of the Israeli occupation. A Palestinian man describes how guards punished him when he and his family tried to get into a shorter line while going through a border crossing on the West Bank: “I did not lose consciousness, but the many blows I suffered completely disoriented me. The two soldiers…punched and kicked me all over my body.” Occasionally the quotations run too long and begin to ramble, decreasing their effectiveness, and the narrative sometimes awkwardly straddles the line between academic and general-interest text. The author rarely discusses underlying reasons for Israeli actions, such as the ongoing threat of suicide bombers and the stated desire of some Palestinian leaders to destroy Israel. In his extensive discussion of Israel’s creation and the concomitant displacement of many Palestinians, he impugns the motives of Zionists and their allies throughout Western Europe and rarely displays the empathy for the Israelis that he asks people to show for the Palestinians. Makdisi dismisses the efforts of some Israeli and Western leaders to resolve the conflict and create a Palestinian homeland (e.g., the 2000 Camp David compromise rejected by PLO leader Yasser Arafat) as both insincere and insufficient.
Those looking for a moving and humane account of the lives of Palestinians will be rewarded, but readers expecting an evenhanded assessment will be disappointed.