BEYOND THE GUNSIGHTS: One Arab Family in the Promised Land by Yoella Har-Shefi

BEYOND THE GUNSIGHTS: One Arab Family in the Promised Land

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A hackneyed treatment of an unhackneyed subject. Israeli journalist Yoella Har-Shefi has written a docu-drama (""all the characters. . . are composites of real-life characters"") featuring a crusading Israeli journalist named Maya, a charismatic young Israeli Arab leader, ""Walid Abu-Hanna,"" and his benign, enlightened family--with the aim of demonstrating how the regime frustrates even those Arabs well-disposed toward it. All well and good; and sometimes graphically rendered--as when Walid's efforts, as mayor of his village, to eliminate graft (and spread services--like water--evenly) are thwarted by a Supreme Court decision that giving money to dignitaries is an ""ancient Muslim custom,"" not to he disrupted by Western law. Or, on a personal level, when Walid's brother, an Aramco executive in Saudi Arabia, opts to return to the family fold--and can find no appropriate employment in Jewish-run Israel. These damning examples occur in the course of a narrative that follows the fortunes of the Abu-Hannas from Maya's first meeting with rising-star Walid, in 1969, to her ""estrangement"" from the family some nine years later, the result of their mistrust of all things Israeli. (Massive police intervention has touched off a riot in the village--as if, thinks Maya, ""someone wanted to prove that there was no Arab village that was loyal to the state,"" that Arabs can only be ruled by force.) And Maya, who comes off throughout as the mastermind heroine of a teenage novel, succumbs to ""real despair"": if she can't talk to Walid, ""it meant there was no chance for communication."" But trust Maya to show the way. In a rap session with Walid and other disaffected young Arabs, she envisions a still-Jewish state in which ""its Jewish citizens do not have preferred status over its non-Jewish citizens""; and Walid, re-inspired, visualizes a compromise over the appropriated Arab lands as well. Maya's omniscience is trying; and so, sometimes, is the Abu-Hannas' nobility. Moreover, the fabrication acceptable--even unavoidable--in an hour-long TV show can only appear as artifice in a book. So one never really believes in these people or their stories; but to the extent that the circumstances are credible, Har-Shefi makes her point more than one point, at that.

Pub Date: March 26th, 1980
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin