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Raja Shehadeh’s new memoir joins a growing list of literary works on Palestinian life before Israel. But do they tell the whole story?

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Almond tree in blossom in Palestine, circa 1920. (Library of Congress)
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Lost in Translation

A Ramallah man struggles to find a reading public for Maimonides

While many Palestinians feel frustration with Israel, few can capture their vitriol with the panache of Ramallah’s Raja Shehadeh. In his sixth book, A Rift in Time: Travels With My Ottoman Uncle, Shehadeh gazes at Tiberias, in northern Israel, and unleashes his fury over a town that was a mixed city before its Muslims and Christians left in 1948:

The mosque at the centre has gone except for the minaret, which stands forlornly alone, surrounded by ugly cement shopping malls and hotels that look like dormitories devoid of all charm. … The water in the lake is over-pumped to serve extensively heavy water-dependent farming that makes no sense in a country with limited water resources. A number of economically unsuccessful new towns have been established in the area, isolated from the natural continuation of the land to the south by the infamous semi-permeable wall, erected to separate them from the West bank, that prevents Palestinians from crossing over but allows Israelis living on both sides to go back and forth.

Shehadeh, a lawyer by profession, tours the Galilee to retrace the steps his uncle, Najib Nassar, took as he fled arrest at the hands of the Ottomans at the turn of the last century. Armed with Nassar’s diary and a 1933 map of Mandate Palestine, he searches for the villages, roads, mountains, and rivers his uncle visited while on the run across what became Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, and Lebanon. But he finds that the last six decades have transformed the land nearly beyond recognition. Israeli historian Benny Morris estimates 400 Palestinian villages were abandoned in 1948 and were later demolished, forested, or converted into Jewish farming towns. Nearly all of the geographical features of the land were renamed from Arabic to Hebrew and subsumed in the urban sprawl typical of a Western country. The combination pushes Shehadeh to mentally excavate the visible landscape, searching for traces of Palestinian villages and people long gone.

Shehadeh is not the first to write a mournful account about the Palestine that was lost in 1948 nor to return to sites in their present-day guises. But by following his uncle’s path, Shehadeh shows how rural Palestinians lived and thought and how intimately they and their urban guest were connected to the land in the early 1900s. Quoted commentary from the celebrated British archaeologist and commander T.E. Lawrence suffuses the old landscape with vivid detail. Shehadeh adds another degree of familiarity by weaving himself into the narrative through frequent comparisons and snippets of his own political life. In his elegy for the peasant life long gone, Shehadeh challenges the view that Israel’s policies have been good for the land. On a broader level, he makes a case for rethinking the welter of borders that make his trip cumbersome and sometimes impossible.

“I have no memory of the way things were,” he said recently by phone from Ramallah. “In writing the book I explored how the land used to look. It made me sad, because it was once a mixed land with much more variety.” Is his book a call for an Ottoman revival? “I have no intent on calling for a return of the Ottoman Empire,” he said. “But I think the Ottoman Empire provides a precedent that is important to consider, when the region was unified.”


Almond tree and protest in the West Bank in 2008

Raja Shehadeh at a book reading in Ramallah, October 16, 2010.
Daniella Cheslow

A Rift in Time opens with Shehadeh nervously facing arrest by Palestinian security officers in 1996, just after the Oslo Accords were signed. He was implicated in a client’s land deal gone wrong in Jericho. He escapes arrest through the intervention of well-connected friends, but the ordeal reminds him of his uncle, who enjoyed no such respite.

Najib Nassar, born in 1865 in southern Lebanon, moved with his family to Haifa, where he founded and edited the Al-Karmil newspaper. He was a short, outgoing, and generous man who staunchly believed in the Ottoman Empire but decried its decision to fight in World War I with the Axis powers. But the Ottomans feared Nassar had hidden loyalties to the British and put a bounty on his head. Nassar spent three years hiding in villages scattered across the region, often knocking on doors before dawn and with empty pockets. Whether or not his hosts knew him, they nearly always offered him food, a bed, a horse, and even gold coins to send him on his way. Because of this generosity, Nassar was able to evade the Ottomans until he turned himself in to spare his family.

According to Birzeit University sociologist Salim Tamari, the Palestinian memoir tradition goes back at least 100 years, to Jerusalemites who kept diaries. Khalil Sakakini, a Palestinian educator, writer, and poet who lived from 1878 to 1953, called himself the “prince of idleness” but documented both his youthful escapades and his later work in America, his attempts to reform Palestinian education, and his exile. Wasif Jawhariyyeh, who lived from 1897 to 1972, was a similar-minded bon vivant, poet, composer, and musician whose journals show Jerusalem over six decades. Both men’s diaries have been translated in whole or in part into English.

Yet after 1948, what Palestinians term the Nakba, or catastrophe, the intellectual leadership of Palestinian society dispersed, and political writing overtook the personal. The playwright and author Ghassan Kanafani, who worked for the PLO and was assassinated by the Mossad, wrote a 1962 play called Men in the Sun, about Palestinian refugees who suffocate while being smuggled to Kuwait. Mahmoud Darwish, the late Palestinian poet laureate, achieved renown with his highly political “Identity Card,” from 1964:

I am an Arab
And my identity card is number fifty thousand
I have eight children
And the ninth is coming after a summer
Will you be angry?

While there was always a trickle of memoirs, including one by Sakakini’s daughter Hala and another by the renowned Arab translator Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, the last 20 years have seen a major revival, Tamari said.

“If we can compare the two events, I think it’s similar to the Holocaust experience,” said Tamari, whose parents, like Shehadeh’s, fled Jaffa. “The people who experienced the Holocaust and survived did not speak about it until years later, in the 1960s and ’70s. They were ashamed and embarrassed. In the Palestinian case, they were ashamed they did not resist, that they allowed themselves to be taken like sheep from their homes. My parents did not talk about it until many years later.”

That changed after the Oslo Accords in the 1990s. Dozens of formerly exiled Palestinians were allowed to return to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “They had a very idealistic view of Palestine, and they found it not mundane, but a country lacking in sovereignty, and looking very much like a third-world formation,” Tamari said. “Since many came from urban, metropolitan centers like Cairo, Tunis, Beirut, and Damascus, they were shocked at how shabby the country looked.”


One of the landmarks of the evolving genre is Mourid Barghouti’s I Saw Ramallah, published in Arabic in 1997 and translated into English three years later. The book won Egypt’s Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature. In it, Barghouti returns to his childhood home near Ramallah in 1996 after a 30-year exile and finds his village ringed with Jewish settlements. The Ramallah vegetable market is as dingy as it was when he was a child, and the Palestinian Authority has brought a class of officials who flaunt their income but do little to advance the common good. Yet Barghouti’s memoir mainly focuses on his own family’s experience. It does not have the same breadth as Shehadeh’s Rift, which encompasses the entire region.

Likewise, Edward Said’s 1999 memoir Out of Place details his childhood and adolescence in Cairo.

Unlike Said or Barghouti, Shehadeh remained in the Palestinian territories his entire life. As founder and former head of the Al-Haq legal aid organization, Shehadeh initially published technical works on Israeli law and human rights. He first tackled personal writing in 1982 with The Third Way, a collection of stories from Ramallah. The book was hailed in the Journal of Palestine Studies as “the first such book on life for the Palestinians under occupation.” Shehadeh’s full story emerged in Strangers in the House, a tour de force that encompassed his strained relationship with his father, exacerbated by Israeli rule that emasculated the head of the house.

In his last two books, Shehadeh departs from his family and daily life to give words to the Palestinian landscape. An avid hiker, he published Palestinian Walks in 2008, showing the growing difficulty of walking the West Bank without encountering Israeli settlements, soldiers, or roadblocks. It won him Britain’s Orwell Prize.

Almond tree and protest in the West Bank in 2008

Palestinians protesting Israel’s security fence in the West Bank village of Bil’in, February 22, 2008.
David Silverman/Getty Images

Rift features those difficulties as a side story to the odyssey of Najib Nassar, whose trail markers are now deeply buried. In resurrecting the world of a century ago, Shehadeh shows what he sees as the price of Israel’s independence. Nassar hid in tents with Bedouin and spent his happiest days herding sheep while scratching the lice off himself. Farms were small and smelled of dung-fired ovens where today they are large and silent stretches of green plowed by tractors. For Shehadeh, despite the grinding poverty, exploitation, and constant water shortage, Palestinian peasant life was a state of grace.

“Gone is the mix of people that existed in Najib’s time,” he writes. “In their place a large variety of Jews from Arab countries, Eastern Europe and from the West, along with those Palestinian Arabs who have managed to stay, now share the land unequally. But gone are most of the Bedouin tribes, Palestinian Arabs and Arabs from various parts of North Africa, and the Marsh Arabs who lived in the Huleh region with their water buffaloes that are now extinct here.”

In one instance, Shehadeh is surprised to find expanses of wheat where he had expected to see a handful of the villages Nassar mentioned. Then he notices an almond tree in the middle of a field, which he notes only grows when cultivated. Almond trees are the ruins of the villages he is seeking, as he writes:

When I looked at the open green fields spread on both sides of my path I could see more almond trees that I had failed to notice before I recognized their significance. … There to the west Kufra must have stood and nearby to the south Bira, Dana and Tireh. With the possible location of the Arab villages, the old features of this cemetery of a land began to emerge, illuminated by the white blossoms of the almond trees, marked by the petals that slowly glided down to the ground around them in utter, hushed silence.

That same hallowed sense of loss is in Israeli work as well. As early as 1963, the Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua wrote about a deserted Palestinian village hidden by Israeli-planted trees in his novella Facing the Forest. Former Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Meron Benvenisti used 1946 maps to hunt for the disappeared Palestinian rural world in Sacred Landscape. “I would spread the relevant map on the ground, and suddenly the old landscape arose like an apparition,” he wrote. “And each plot and every prominent feature had its Arabic name marked on the map, so poetic and so apt that my heart ached.”


Palestinians, too, have mourned the lost villages, none so exhaustively as Walid Khalidi in his 700-page memoir, All That Remains. But Shehadeh combines the sadness of a Palestinian perspective with the poetry of a lost landscape and the escapades of his strong-willed uncle.

At times, Shehadeh’s lengthy rants can get tiresome, particularly because he pits Palestinian rural life against Israeli modernity. He notes that the goats and sheep that used to graze in the Galilee have given way to “lumbering grain-fed cows,” who pollute the air with their “fabled flatulence.” A look at the shopping malls and subdivisions in today’s Ramallah suggests that the same modernity may have beset the region even if the Palestinian villages had remained.

And while Shehadeh’s books have found an increasingly warm reception, his name is far better known outside the West Bank than it is at home, because his work is written in English, the language in which he was educated. Only two of his literary books have made it into Arabic, according to Omar Hamilton, creative producer of the four-year-old annual Palestine Festival of Literature.

The torrent of books on Palestinian life is hardly close to stopping. Tamari said that since the 1990s, students, researchers, and social clubs have been gathering oral histories of 1948 and its aftermath. Other Palestinians are exploring West Bank life under Jordan in the 1950s and ’60s. Humor is also gradually seeping through the lines, such as Ramallah-based Suad Amiry’s 2010 collection of women’s stories, Menopausal Palestine. For Shehadeh, it’s a welcome development.

“So many people feel so much weight that people try to tell the whole story from the beginning to end, and there is nothing worse for small books than trying to tell the whole story,” Shehadeh said. “Now people are feeling relieved of the whole story because 1948 has been dealt with.”

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After the Holocaust it was either them or us so it was them. My heart bleeds for the poor displaced Palestianians who collaborated with the Nazis and were going to establish a death camp in occupied Israel.

P. L. Rose says:

The headline to Daniella Cheslow’s piece is extremely misleading: “Raja Shehadeh’s new memoir joins a growing list of literary works on Palestinian life before Israel. But do they tell the whole story?” It raises the questions of whether these memoirs are reliable or themselves misleading but the essay itself does not give any critical consideration to these questions. Did the editors of Tablet expect readers to read their own critiques into the piece?

“As early as 1963, the Israeli writer A.B. Yehoshua wrote about a deserted Palestinian village hidden by Israeli-planted trees in his novella Facing the Forest.”

There are much earlier examples as well. S. Yitzhar’s Khirbet Hizzeh, published in 1949, deals with the destruction of a Palestinian village during the War of Independence.

Do you by chance know them by name and numbers, A.J. Weberman?

Cheslow at the end of her subtitle asks, “But do they tell the whole story?” She certainly doesn’t even attempt to do just that. The article reminisces about the idyllic years before the Naqba of 1948 when those horrible Jews took dominion over this peaceful land of Palestine. What a shame.
There are many places where she could have added a little balance. For example, she writes,”The playwright and author Ghassan Kanafani, who worked for the PLO and was assassinated by the Mossad, wrote a 1962 play called Men in the Sun, about Palestinian refugees who suffocate while being smuggled to Kuwait.” What a terrible thing for those aweful Mossad people to kill an innocent artist. Cheslow does not tell us that Kanafani was the spokesman for George Habash’ Popupular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an extreme organization that hijacked planes and murdered many innocents. Other examples abound.
Can’t Tablet do any better?

In response to Corinna Hasoffertt above, let’s start with Hajj Amin al Husseni, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
“In Germany he met dictator Adolf Hitler in 1941.[7] He asked Hitler to back Arab independence and requested that Nazi Germany oppose, as part of the Pan-Arab struggle, the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine (the future creation of Israel).[8] The Muslim Mufti was paid “an absolute fortune” of 50,000 marks a month (when a German field marshal was making 25,000 marks a year). It also said he energetically recruited Muslims for the SS, the Nazi Party’s elite military command, and was promised that he would be installed as the leader of Palestine after German troops drove out the British and exterminated more than 350,000 Jews there [5]. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War he represented the Arab Higher Committee and opposed both the 1947 UN Partition Plan and King Abdullah’s ambitions for expanding Jordan by capturing parts of Palestine.’
I can assure Ms. Hasofferett that the Mufti did not acy alone.

And of course his village was part of the Ottoman empire — the Ottomans were Turks not Arabs — and had been for 400 years.

The mosque in the center of the shooping district in downtown Tiberia is still there. Empty, but completely unused. Tehre is another intack mosque along the waterfront. Israel did not destroy the mosques in Tiberia. You can walk around the buildings. The one on the waterfornt is particularly interesting, since it was a “paddle-up: mosque for fishermen. Paddle up via the intack canal under the building, step out onto the landing, pray, get back in you boat and continue fishing.

Shehadeh is a liar. Or too lazy to do his research. Or both.

I seem to recall a third intact mosque on the hill near the old Ottoman citadel.

There are lots of photos. Just google mosque Tiberia and click images.

Shouldn’t Tablet fact its reviews? Has the reviewer or the editor ever walked around Tiberia?

Dr. E. Ramon says:

The term ‘PALESTINIANS’ is a misnomer. The non-Jewishsh inhabitants are ARABS & DRUZE & CHERKESS.
The name PALESTINE was imposed upon ancient JUDEA (which had existed as a sovereign state for @ 1000 years) by the Romans after the big 132 A.D. jewish revolt – to erase the name & memory of of JUDEA & Jews; The ensuing conquerors of the land kept on using the term PALESTINA , but it always was just: ‘PROVINCIA Palestina’, never an independent/sovereign state.
MUHAMAD’s armies conquered the land and kept the definition ‘Palestine’ ,but changed names of places ad lib.
For the Arabs in the land the Jews were ‘AWLAD el MOUT’ (=’sons to be killed’).
1947 the Arab world congregated to annihilite fledgeling Israel , and because of what they had vouched loudly what they were goin to do to the
Jews – they feared it would be done to them if the Jews win- most of them fled.
Every war is a disaster, especially to the loser.- BUT !!! in this case the loser is the Attacker, and the Arab/Muslim states attacked again and again,
and lost.
Now the loser/agressor is lamenting.
Let us not forget historical FACTS and succumb to wailings of losers/agressors.

If the quote is any example the book is full of lies. Israel actually leads the world in reuse of water for agricultural purposes and water pumped out of the kinneret is used for drinking only and is also supplied to the rapidly growing Arab villages in Israel.
It’s funny how there’s not a mention of the 800,000 Jews ethnically cleansed form Arab countries.
My reaction to these books is that the Arabs were given a state in 1948 and instead of accepting it and living peacefully next to the Jewish state they started a war and tried to wipe out the Jews (which they openly declared was their aim). They lost and apparently are not willing to pay the consequences for their actions. Tough luck.

Robin Margolis says:

Dear Daniella Cheslow:

Thank you for an interesting and informative article. I hope that you will be writing more articles for the Tablet.

Faisal Ansari says:

This is an article about loss and memory. Whether Palestinian, Jew, Black or Indian, we can all relate to a story that recognizes and pays respect to the suffering and sacrifices of our ancestors.

BB Melman says:

There are three gross fallacies in the essay which demolish its thesis:

1.The term “Naqba” originally was coined in 1921 by the Arabs of Southern Syria (Palestine) who recoiled at the tearing away of Southern Syria from Syria,at the fulfillment of the Sykes Picot Agreement between the British and the French following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after WWI.

The Arabs of Palestine had no separate Palestinian self-consciousness, always seeing themselves as Syrian. This can be found in George Antoninus’ book, The Arab Awakening.

The fake “Palestinian” movement (created by the KGB)reinvented and artificially revived the term, in the mid sixties, as a counterweight to American influence in the Cold War, recasting the Arabs’ historic enmity against the Jews as a “national liberation movement.”

2. All the so-called Arab names of villages which were then renamed in the Hebrew were ORIGINALLY Hebrew names, renamed into Arabic upon the Arab colonialist invasion, in an attempt to obliterate the land’s historic Jewish character. We are witnessing this attempt again today at the archaeological rape of the Temple Mount.

3. The author laments the shift in the land’s character, from pastoral to post-industrial. Does anyone even begin to ponder the changes to the character of the land in the “West Bank,” were it to become
the epicenter of a modernized industry based nation state? I ask this
question as an exercise in rhetoric, being the the goal is and always has been the destruction of Israel, first and last. Witness the Greenhouse Project in Gaza and how successful that was.

This article is lamentable for its shallowness of thought and lack of depth. It is most ironic in that it ignores the actual historical context of a history it seeks to reinvent.

I’m very grateful that Tablet covered this important topic and memoir. I often teach Shehadeh’s other works in my classes and his humane and wise voice warrants much more attention.

From Publisher’s Summary on the NYPL catalog website ( re: Khirbet Khizeh by S. Yizhar (recently translated 2008)
This 1949 novella about the violent expulsion of Palestinian villagers by the Israeli army has long been considered a modern Hebrew masterpiece, and it has also given rise to fierce controversy over the years. Published just months after the end of the 1948 war, Khirbet Khizeh (the “kh” pronounced like the “ch” in “Bach”) was an immediate sensation when it first appeared. Thousands of Israeli Jews rushed to read it, the critics began to argue about it, and a Palestinian journalist in Nablus described it as a sign that the Israeli army had a conscience and that peace was possible.
Since then, the book has continued to challenge and disturb. The various debates it has prompted would themselves make Khirbet Khizeh worth reading, but the novella is much more than a vital historical document: it is also a great work of art. Yizhar’s haunting, lyrical style and charged registration of the landscape are in many ways as startling as his wrenchingly honest view of one of Israel’s defining moments. Despite its international reputation, the book has never before been translated into English. Nicholas de Lange and Yaacob Dweck’s expert rendering captures with grace Yizhar’s elusive prose, while David Shulman’s afterword makes the book’s contemporary relevance powerfully clear. Khirbet Khizeh is an absolute must for anyone interested in Middle Eastern literature and history.
Author: S. Yizhar (1916-2006) was the pen name of Yizhar Smilansky who was a professor of education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a professor of Hebrew literature at Tel Aviv University.

Susan Salisbury says:

This sort of nostalgic nonsense is part of the cultural front on the war against western civilization. Historical fact. The Jews were there first. Yes they were. The Old Testament is not some recent fabrication. It references all the Jewish place names that are ancient. Archeologists have located these places. Solomon’s temple really existed. Etc. This all happened long before Christ and a really long time before Mohammed who is pretty recent on the scene. To pick a temporal location in the millenina long history of the mideast and somehow idealize it as the idyllic past is a blatant attempt to erase the real history of the place and to substitute people who were themselves, from a historical vantage point “interlopers” as the indigenous peoples in the public’s consciousness. Its subtext is to deny the Christian and Jewish history that long precedes the Arabs.

Plonialmoni says:

As a Zionist but also a literature lover, I believe we have to respect and come to terms with Palestinian narratives whether we like them or not.
Even if we see their version of history as skewed, it’s still theirs: their national myth, their family dramas. And like every other civilization that has lost its proverbial garden, I hope they can come to terms with the change just like the Jews have hundreds and hundreds of times, and pick up the pieces and move on.

dani levi says:

You lost me at the comparison to the Holocaust. Never a good idea.
And no landscape today looks like it did in 1940. Time waits for nobody. Not even for them.

Does this figure in the book: “The Tiberias massacre took place on October 2, 1938 during the 1936–1939 Arab revolt in Palestine…After infiltrating the Jewish Kiryat Shmuel neighbourhood, Arab rioters killed 19 Jews in Tiberias, 11 of whom were children. During the massacre, 70 armed Arabs set fire to Jewish homes and the local synagogue. In one house a mother and her five children were killed. The old beadle in the synagogue was stabbed to death, and another family of 4 was killed. At the time of the attack there were only 15 Jewish guards in the neighborhood of over 2,000 people. The coast of lake Kinneret remained unguarded, for it was the least expected direction for an attack. 2 Jewish guards were killed in the attack. A representative of the British mandate reported that: “It was systematically organized and savagely executed. Of the nineteen Jews killed, including women and children, all save four were stabbed to death. That night and the following day the troops engaged the raiding gangs”. Shortly later Tiberian Arabs murdered the Jewish mayor, Issac Zaki Alhadif, on October 27.

Marty Janner says:

I’m quite sure in his own mind,his writing’s are sincere and honest, however do they not remember, the feudal system called Mashaa, where prime lands were owned by absent persons! Most being from Egypt.

Yes,the properties were pristine, the Arabs of the region were not the owners but the workers.

All of us remember what was, in the most dramatic terms, rather than reality!

you know i apreciate about jewish opeople is they/we can openly discuss both sides iof the coin with openess and frankness

I agree with Plonialmoni. I think it’s very hard for Jews to understand and empathize wtih the Palestinian narratives because living with occupation and displacement has been our history for centuries, and we tend to assimilate and survive as much as we can. My family was forced to leave Cairo in 1957. They left so much behind and it was not easy to start over. But I do not begrudge Arab nationalism, and if there’s anyone to blame for it, it’s European imperialism.

But just because the Palestinian narratives sometimes seem excessively vitriolic and rooted in the past doesn’t mean I shouldn’t listen. The Palestinian story has been suppressed for a long time. Yes, comparing the displacement from your home to the Holocaust is so inaccurate that it makes me physically sick. But we unfortunately have a culture where the only thing that gets you moral credit is to claim that you’re a victim, and that’s what people are forced into doing.

I just think listening to others is important, even if we don’t shre their response to it or think that they could be doing more. As much as people need food and shelter, they also need to be empowered and feel heard.

Joseph Lowin says:

After gnashing my teeth at the superficiality of and credulousness exemplified by Daniella Cheslow’s review of Raja Shehadeh’s memoir, I reminded myself that Cheslow is not the first to be duped by Shehadeh’s smooth bad-faith manipulation of both the English language and his readers’ search for a reasonable Arab interlocutor. I first came across Shehadeh’s name in the late 1980s in David Grossman’s “The Yellow Wind” and subsequently, at Grossman’s “suggestion,” hurried to read Shehadeh’s “The Third Way.” I was astonished to find there not a portrait of an idyllic past clashing with an unpleasant present reality but a blatant rehearsal of anti-Jewish canards that go so far as to find even the Hebrew language an oppressor of his people. When it comes to Shehadeh, people of good will can become fools. I was gratified and uplifted to read from the intelligent, well-informed responses by many of Tablet’s readers to Cheslow’s review that they were not hoodwinked by Shehadeh’s anti-Semitism.

Without reading the book it’s hard to say for sure, but what’s typically missing from the Palestinian narrative in general is any hint that there is a Jewish side to the story, or that Palestinians might need to come to come to terms with any portion of the Jewish story.

The person the book focusses on was born in southern Lebanon and moved to Haifa, yet the writer clearly views him as Palestinian. Does the writer even spend anytime contemplating the potential meanings of this fact. It sounds as if he is ready to tie every Arab to Palestine as soon as they move there, but unwilling to even contemplate an ancient but still living Jewish connection to that same land. Of course that’s the problem isn’t it. The Arabs don’t accept a Jewish connection to the land and the writer under discussion seems no different.

What I would like to see is a Palestinian writer struggle not only to advance his own narrative but struggle with the reality that the Jewish narrative is as equally valid and also struggle to understand that the Palestinian narrative is as much myth as the Jewish narrative. No that would be a book worth reading.

dani levi says:

meanwhile back at the ranch.

FreeThinker says:

The Arabs who killed many Jews prior to 1948, refused to allow Jews to enter Palestine to avoid genocide, and actively tried to commit genocide on any Jews who lived there have the balls to compare their ‘plight’ to the actual genocide of 6 million Jews.

But ignore all of those facts, there was so much open space there before! There were no malls, no farms, and most importantly, no pesky Jews around to ruin the view.

If only the Arabs had been successful in their slaughter the beautiful landscape would still be here, along with many new Jewish skeletons, or would they all be in the sea instead?

If I may paraphrase Rev. Wright: Islam’s chickens . . . coming home to roost! :-)

There are consequences to committing Islam. Raja: get ready . . . lots more chickens left to come home . . . Karma’s a bitch, ain’t it? :-)

The wicked decision of Muslims to have allied with Hitler during WWII . . .

The wicked decision of Palestinian Muslims to have allied with the Communists during the Cold War still reverberates. Russian immigrants to Israel (of all religions) fully understand the pain they suffered as as consequence of that Islamic policy . . . (We’re supposed to worry about Raja’s whining about strip malls?)

During the First Gulf War, while the hyper-religious (so-called “Secular”) Ba’athists were lodging missiles at Israeli children, Muslims were dancing on the roofs of Ram’Allah celebrating deliriously . . .

On 9/11, as Jews were burning to death at the hands of the American Muslim committing Jihad, “Israeli” Muslims danced in the streets of Jerusalem celebrating . . .

As Ahmedinejad – in worship of his god, the Pedophile Mohammed (piss upon him) – prepares a nuclear bomb, Muslims march in Gaza in alliance with the Iranian regime . . .

Lots of chickens . . . and Raja expects us to take seriously when Muslims whine about their “plight” while they wickedly continue(!) to pursue subhuman islamic policies is just ridiculous.

Shut up, Muslim! Seriously, shut up! Nobody cares about Nazi or Islamic suffering . . .

When the Islamic world (and Palestinian society) STOPS THEIR JIHAD; apologizes for their wicked and genocidal practices; pays the trillions they owe in reparations to their Dhimmi victims; and exterminates the source of their evil – the wicked teachings of the Pedophile Mohammed (piss upon him) – then maybe we can stop and listen to them whine about how they don’t like strip malls.

. . . . but seriously, Raja, nobody cares about Nazi or Islamic suffering . . .

Islam’s chicken’s . . . coming home to roost! :-)

Jordan says:

This article, along with some other content on the website, give a bit of a “self hating Jew” impression. Zionism need not be pushed, but isn’t it important to at least recognize the Jewish right to the land. Thanks for the interesting website.

P.S. Consider a discussion of influential Jews in the past Milton Friedman or Ayn Rand for example.

@Plonialmoni Agreed

Before we get too sentimental about those quaint Arab villages in pre-state Palestine, let’s not forget that the Jewish claim to this land is at least as strong as the Arabs’. Actually, a lot stronger.

See this:

Besides the issue of Jewish Rights, there is also a matter of Jewish self-preservation:

See this:

tvalman says:

Nice that the author can travel the land that his uncle once travelled. Can the expelled Jews from the Arab countries do the same?

Frank Messmann says:

The Palestinians have probably occupied this land since long before Christ. Genetically they are like second cousins to Jews from the Palestine region. Most likely they were Jews who converted to Christianity and later converted to Islam.

Frank Messmann fantasizes: “The Palestinians have probably occupied this land since long before Christ”

um, don’t tell the Turks. Or the Mamluks before then. Or the German/French Crusaders before them. Or the Byzantines. Or the Romans . . .

. . . what was your point again? That the roving band of followers of the Pedophile Mohammed (piss upon him) who illegally occupied the place for a couple hundred years more than a millenium ago somehow magically have been here forever? lol :-)

Oh, and on that point, you’ve also gotta love those traditional Judean names like “al-Turki”, “Arafat”, “al-Basri”, “al-Iraqi”, “al-Kurdi”. Yes, those Palestinians sure have a long history in Judea . . . lol

Or, forgot this example, one of the most wicked American Palestinian Muslonazis to have ever lived, the accursed Sami “al-Aryan” (ysh’v). . .

lol . . . yeah, have occupied this land since before Christ hehehe

Unruly Sun says:

It’s worth remembering that the Palestine Mandate was just one of the middle eastern countries carved out of the Ottoman Empire after the Ottomans lost WWI, and was given to Britain to supervise the creation of a Jewish homeland. The other countries created then were mostly Arab. Britain immediately gave the Golan to France, who gave it to the new country they invented, Syria. Britain then took 79% of Palestine and created the new country of Transjordan. The Jews living there were expelled and their propert expropriated, and to this day the Jordanian constitution says no Jew can own land there or be a citizen. Later, the Jews were expelled or driven out of every other Arab country, reducing a jewish population of nearly a million to less than 10,000. This was more expropriated refugees than were created by the Arab war to destroy Israel in 1948.

Let’s not be taken in by the Arab propaganda camaign to turn the Arab war to destroy Israel into a narrative confined to the 21% of the Palestine mandate, involving only Jews and Palestinians and an Israel that only exists because of the Holocaust. Without a wider temporal and geographical context we are left with the lies so widely believed currently.

It also wouldn’t hurt to remember the 20,000,000 Kurds, who were promised an independent Kurdistan then, and were screwed out of it by the big powers. Kurds still don’t have a state.

honorable says:

Looks like his uncle walked through several of the villages where the Palestinian Talmud was written, without any benefit of arab, 1 600 years ago. That’s a part of Palestinian life he may also want to reminisce about…

Years from now it will be interesting to see the kind of comments left for books written about the vicious Cast Lead attack on Gaza by the Israeli military.
Will they also contain the same sense of imperious denial and even outright racism seen in some of the comments here?


Outright racism? What race is Mohammed-worship, exactly?

Yes, Mohammed himself was extremely obsessed with Arabness and racial supremacy (read the Quran you ignoramus).

But the contemporary Palestinian Mohammedans who supported Hitler, the Communists, Saddam Hussein, Usama Laden, Ahmedinejad are a rag-tag group of former Ottoman Slaves, Africanized Mamluks, and – mostly – Iraqi temporary laborers. There is no such thing as a Palestinian race.

B”H– I know we think of Jewish priorities as a matter of survival, but that is the exact point of our submission to the reality of our remaining a thorn in the eye of Islamic society and being swallowed up in the sea of migrations. First off, the anything that wasn’t was a respect of Arab citizenry as dwellers of the Zion proclaimed upon the land with the Statehood in 1948. With all exceptions to the rule the fact is that Arab communities are drowning the Jewish prescience in the Israeli cities. Tel Aviv is 10% non-Israeli; migration upon migration of Africans, Europeans, Asians, but subjecting ourselves to worse damage under the rule of sexual liberty not cognizant of population decline in the direction of extinction. The golus is so weakened that we may see this in retrospect as not less damaging than the holocaust, and not by mistake as I have posted in my writings at The exact manner of war that must be fought for survival today must take into consideration the global movement of masses and the changing face of population in the positions of power particular to each locality. The halackha in fact makes that easier by recognizing the economic authority in the host nation, but only the wise can distinguish between the laws of economics and the laws of soul continuity. My own religious beliefs begin with the mandate to respect the harmony in nature and repair that lost.

Yaakov Hillel says:

The Jewish Nakba started in 1921, when the land promised the Jews by the British victors, who set up a mandate to help organize a Jewish state as was accepted by the league of nations, In the country where the history of the Jews started 3500 years ago and except for a few short periods where christians almost totally killed every Jew on the land in the byzantium period and the crusader periods. except for a few enclaves where a hand full of Jews held out over the hard periods in the north of the country. The Turks held the country together with the rest of the middle east.At the beginning of the century The Jews were the largest group in the almost desolate country with the majority living in a few towns among them Jerusalem where the Jews as since the time the crusaders left the country were the majority of the city. The Turks were not friendly to the Jews especially before WW1. They expelled thousands from the country fearing they would join the British side because of the ill treatment they gave the Jews. The Jews helped the English from with in and with out and similarly to their promise to give 98% of the middle east to bedouin tribes the same way the British promised to give the nearly desiolate land of Israel to the Jews, The amount of Moslems in Israel when the WW1 was over was negligable. The few charismatic Moslems with the help of the British who went back on their promise to Help build a Jewish home land in Israel accoding to the British Balfour declaration, in order to appease the Moslems who held Jews and Christians as eight class citizens according to the order of their religion. The British invited virtually hundreds of thousands of Muslims to the Land whereas the Jews were allowed barely a trickle. The remnants of the holocaust which were not allowed into the country before and during were locked up in camps in not the best conditions after the Holocaust, arrived in Israel the only place they were welcomed after the Judas british left Israel.

Yaakov Hillel says:

The Moslems in great majorities came to the land of Israel with he invitation of the British each year more and more came into the country that became forbidden to the Jews to enter from the early 1920.In 1948 the amount of Jews in the country was 650000. With over a million and a half Jews waiting at the gates to come. Most the Moslems of that era were newcomers. Read the book by Joan Peters a journalist that was sent on a fact finding mission to write against the Jews and the end wrote her book “From time immemorial” which brings all the facts backed up by documents of the middle-east. If you have any doubts about a naqba you will see that the only people who constantly suffered from theNaqba were the Jews. Not until 1947 did the Jews have the beginnings of a military body,and until that time few Jews in small underground groups helped to keep themuslims from killing through out the country as they have previous done in all the years since theBritish recieved the mandate first to make a Jewish state in all the territory which contains Israel and Jordan. Then Jordan recieved three quarters of the land everything that was on the other side of the Jordan River. Afterwards theBritish covinced the UN to cut up Israel further to a few small areas that had vast amounts of Jews. The areas of less Jews would be an Arab state. For some reason The State of Jordan recieved all these lands which they took during the war of Independence. Israel took these lands back fromJordan 19 years later in a war that was initiated by the Arab States and Jordan was one ofthe attackers. The plan was to throw the Jews in to the sea. the war ended that all the antagonists donated to Israel parts of their countries whereas Jordan returned to Israel the land it plundered in 1948-9.Since thenIsrael has had peace and recognized borders with signed treaties with Jordan and Egypt. TheIsraeli’s made afoolish experiment saying they would give Gaza to the muslims,if there is peace the Jews may givemore

I read the book and fell asleep after a few pages. I recommend it if you suffer from insomnia

I think it would be wrong to call Ms Cheslow “self-hating.” She obviously loves herself and hates Jews. Any decent Jew –and many decent non-Jews– would choke over the remark by Tamari that equates the Holocaust with the displacement of palestinian Arabs in a war that the Arabs started. This is especially so since the leadership of these Arabs (somebody mentioned the mufti Husseini) collaborated with the Nazis and in the Holocaust. For dear, ignorant corinna, she can read about Husseini and other Arab Nazi collaborators in a host of books. Most recently, Edwin Black’s Farhud. Then she can look at books and articles by Daniel Carpi, L Hirszowicz, JS Schechtman, and others, even a German scholar named Matthias Kuentzel. As far as actions in Israel were concerned, even Haaretz carried an article on that, by the veteran correspondent, Haviv Canaan on March 29, 1968. He reports on the German-Arab plot to poison the Tel Aviv drinking water and the parachutists captured near Nahal Prat (or wadi kelt). Most likely corinna will not be satisfied with the writings of these people or with a hundred more articles that I or others might supply to her. The Arabs are always innocent. That is what characterizes daniella cheslow too.

The Arabs drove Jews out of their homes in December 1947 according to a recent article in the Jerusalem Post. The article says that the first refugees in the Israeli Independence war were Jews. Can Daniella refute that?

I’m sure that facts cannot lead either daniella or corinna to change her mind. Their sentimental whining in unison with the Arab aggessors has no concern for facts. By the way, in 1948, nobody talked about a palestinian people. Not even the Arabs. They were proud to call themselves Arabs.

Clarification – the only people who called themselves Palestinians were Jews. The translations of the תלמוד ירושלמי from that era called it “Palestinian Talmud” because NO mohammed-worshippers called themselves Palestinians. Only Jews did.

Even the flag of the so-called Palestinians is the Muslonazi Revolt Flag – the same as the flag of Jordan. The same of the flag of Sudan.

You cannot worship Mohammed and be a Palestinian. The only Palestinians are Jewish Israelis.

@Barry, about “those chickens”; you might not be as familiar with them as you assume. They were presented to us by a career officer in Foreign Service, who had originally began his service of 32 years by being chief of mission in Baghdad, Iraq, during the Carter Administration. Thus he had a good point about where they might roost; but, I don’t want to go too fast without making clear that he was a career diplomat in Morocco, Algeria,Tunisia,Egypt, while serving as Ambassador to Mauritania.

Edward Peck’s “chickens coming home to roost” certainly did as soon as Wright mentioned them; and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright became the object of controversy rather than what those chickens were up to in so far as there is nobody here but us chickens. Ambassador Peck’s concern, about the senior Bush’s intention of having his son W. go to war with Iraq was what would those chickens do after the Invasion. What was the plan? Does anybody here know that today? Peck predicted they would come home to roost. It is now going on eight years this March that we don’t know what the Bushes achieved (nor Donald Rumsfeld); we are in debt, which means that we are poor and ignorant. While it seems to me that back in the Sixties, the Israelis knew what to do when they went to war while under attack by both Egypt and Syria.

So, I think you can see by now, Barry, that those “chickens” were actually Ambassador Edward Peck’s flock of poultry, Wright just mentioned what was likely to happen because of them; unlike the administration of FDR, there would not be a chicken in every pot.

I read this,”P.S. Consider a discussion of influential Jews in the past Milton Friedman or Ayn Rand for example.”
as: “Consider a discussion of influential Jews past Milton Friedman or Ayn Rand for example.”

I immediately thought you ought to admit Jacques Derrida really was an influential Jew.

Ps. @ Barry says:
Dec 29, 2010 at 9:34 PM

Did you know that on 9/11, the children of Muslims in the neighborhood of Maimonides Hospital, Brooklyn, where they had a good view of the destruction, were also dancing in the streets; or, at least jumping up and down in excitement. But some who describe it, considered it dancing.
They may have simply been in shock from being overly excited at what they were witnessing. Nevertheless, the propaganda machine was already in full tilt.

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