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Love and Pain in Palestine

by Yousef Bashir

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-291732-4
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Bashir delivers an urgent, impassioned call for peace between Palestine and Israel.

The words of the Palestinian peace activist’s father are, on the surface, incontestable: Strive for peace, he insisted, for “violence only leads to more violence.” Yet, during the second intifada and in the face of the intransigence of Israel’s government in dividing the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and barring movement between the two Palestinian areas, striving for peace became a difficult proposition to hold up—and one that was particularly difficult to defend in a time of growing militance. By Bashir’s account, the plot of land that his educator father had so carefully improved, building the soil, planting trees by the hundreds and crops by the row, became a dust bowl under a de facto Israeli siege. Moreover, an Israeli soldier shot him for reasons that he finds inexplicable today, paralyzing him for a long period and requiring multiple surgeries. Years later, writes the author, even as he mourns the passing of his father and the loss of the land that his father took pains to tell him was his forever, he found himself thinking obsessively of that transformational event and the Israeli soldier behind the gun. “That single shot had changed my whole life,” he writes, “and I wondered if it had changed his.” In the end, the story comes full circle, as Bashir travels the world to convey the message of peace in the Middle East, the bullet in his back, as he puts it, moving him forward and not restraining him. There is some bitterness nonetheless, especially when he recounts that Israeli soldiers commandeered all the cooking vessels in his family home and then left them behind, each full of feces. Even with that insult, in this eloquent and affecting memoir he adopts another remark of his father’s as his own: “What happened to me makes me believe even more in peace.”

An inspiration to peace activists in all theaters of war and struggle and a book that deserves a wide audience.