A STRANGER IN MY HOUSE: Jews and Arabs in the West Bank by Walter Reich

A STRANGER IN MY HOUSE: Jews and Arabs in the West Bank

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Expanded from articles in The Atlantic Monthly, this brief, creditable book represents what one concerned, probing American learned from interviews with Arab and Jewish residents of the West Bank: each regards the other as ""a stranger in my house."" Reich is a Washington-based psychiatrist and psychiatric educator, but his professional calling can only be inferred from the persistence of his questioning and his analysis of the responses. After succinctly explaining the West Bank problem (historically, currently), Reich visits with Rabbi Moshe Levinger, leader of the settlement movement: ""repeatedly Levinger asked me, with incredulity, how I could expect him to leave his house, his home, just because someone else claimed it for his own. . . . What, then, is to be done about the Arabs? I asked."" They might remain, and control their own affairs, Levinger replied; but not vote in national elections, not take away from the Jews ""a holy place. . . in which the Jews were obligated to live a holy life that would serve to bring honor to the world."" Elyakim Haetzni, a lawyer and not religious, is no less committed: ""this place is in my genetic code."" He would foster a Palestinian state in Jordan, and let the West Bank Arabs vote there (""So. . . it would be a precedent. What's wrong with a precedent?""); like Levinger and other advocates of annexation, he believes that an Arab West Bank would only renew Arab claims on Israel itself. And, crucially, Reich's interrogation of Arab leaders does not disprove this contention. Bassam Shaka'a, who lost his lower legs in the 1980 Jewish terrorist attack on West Bank mayors, ""repeatedly volunteered that he didn't hate the Israelis. . . Yet the outrage he expressed toward Israel was so powerful and deep that I had difficulty distinguishing it from hatred."" It is Shaka'a who also says, ""Can I consider you a friend. . . if you want my house?"" None, moreover, will disassociate himself from the PLO--or, implicitly, from the Palestinian refugee hope for a return to land within pre-1967 Israel. (The one unidentified Arab informant pronounces prospective PLO recognition of Israel ""just a tactic."") Reich does not quite despair: he speaks to Israelis opposed to annexation, notes the circumstances tending toward accommodation, puts the PLO split at their head, and sees possibilities therein for ""independent West Bank Palestinian views""--which might ""provoke a very substantial upheaval within Israel."" Something of a pendant to Amos Oz's 1983 In the Land of Israel (which it specifically follows-up), as well as a step beyond Rafik Halabi's West Bank Story (1982). On its own: a fine introductory exploration.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1984
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston