Saturday, December 21, 2013
Thursday, December 19, 2013
A Tale of Two Brothers
Jhumpa Lahiri, Random House India, 2013
Set in Bengal and USA, the novel opens in the 1940s when the author tells us about two brothers, Subhash and Udayan. They are born just fifteen months apart and are more like twins. Growing up together, they develop a strong bond. Temperamentally, the brothers are poles apart. As an ideal son, Subhash, the elder one, decides to pursue higher studies and go to the US, in agreements with his parents’ wishes. Udayan, on the other hand, much to his parents’ dismay, joins the Naxalite movement. He marries a girl of his choice despite knowing that his parents will oppose it. In a tragic twist of events, the police kill Udayan and the lives of everybody associated with him change forever. Subhash returns to India, marries Gauri, his brother’s pregnant widow, and takes her to America where Gauri gives birth to a beautiful baby girl, Bela. Then, all of sudden, Gauri disappears from the lives of Subhash and Bela.
The first half of the novel does reasonably well. The topographical details of Tollygunj in Calcutta of the 40s, 50s and 70s invoke the imageries that transport you to the periods of time. The author beautifully describes the equation between the two brothers, and you immediately fall in love with them. In the beginning, Gauri garners the empathy of the readers when her husband is killed. But, later, when she moves to America marrying Subhash, her behaviour suddenly changes, leaving the reader a little perplexed. She finally loses sympathy of the readers when she decides to leave her husband and daughter Bela without any specific reason.
The moment the story moves from India to the US, things begin to take a turn for the reader, and not in a helpful way. Particularly troubling is Gauri’s character. The readers never get chance to know what ails Gauri. Her love for her dead husband is something that should bind her to Subhash because both of them loved Udayan equally. But, it doesn’t. Moreover, it appears highly implausible that a girl born and brought up in a middle class Bengali family will shed the baggage of Indian moral values so quickly and will accept the bohemian life style of the west.
The protagonist Subhash also doesn’t get a fair deal as his character is not rounded. His motivations behind marrying his brother’s widow are never properly explained. Bela, Gauri’s daughter, is another quirky character whose idiosyncrasies are inexplicable and we are left wondering why she doesn’t bond strongly with her father when her mother abandons her. There is an invisible but palpable distance between Bela and Subhash, one which perhaps could have been explored a little more.
The Maoist insurgency of 1960s and 1970s is the main backdrop of the story; however, we never hear anything directly about it from those who are involved in the revolution. What we get to know about Naxalism and its cruel suppression by the state are in the form of aftershocks the other characters of the novel feel in their lives. At times, we feel the author is holding back when she has an opportunity to tell the readers something more about the ultra-leftist revolution. In between, she makes sure to drop hints about the brutal side of the Naxal movement. The ugly face of communism is shown promptly to offset the positive images she creates by showing the youth associated with the movement as ‘idealists’. Maybe, this is deliberately done to take care of the ultra-capitalist sensibilities of her American readers. Anyway, the word ‘Commie’ (short form of the communists) is a derogatory word in the US and many American readers would die of shock if their favourite writer is seen sympathising with the ultra-communists.
The literary landscape created by Jhumpa Lahiri in her latest offering called Lowland has several low lying areas submerged in clichés and are also damp with the writings that don’t rise above the level of mediocrity. One expected the Booker shortlisted writer to deliver something stronger to match her reputation as a writer of a Pulitzer winning and stunningly good collection of short stories. Though she pulled it off in the first half of the book, the second half suffers from the malady of implausibility. The unrealistic characterisations also mar the later part of the novel, as we have to plough through pages heavy with unnecessary details and repetitive descriptions. The denouement, too, leaves the readers stranded in the wilderness of half-told stories.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
कठिन तो है बहुत, मगर नहीं लगता
मुहब्बत का सफर, सफर नहीं लगता
नहीं है खौफ मुझे हवा के तेज़ झोंकों का
बुझे चरागों को हवाओं से डर नहीं लगता
सेहन, दरीचे और दर-ओ-दीवार वही लेकिन
तेरे जाने बाद ये घर, घर नहीं लगता
ना लिखी जाती मेरी बर्बादियों की दास्तां
ये दिल मेरा तुमसे अगर नहीं लगता
अभी बाक़ी हैं रात की निशानियाँ बहुत अब्द
स्याह उजालों वाला ये सहर, सहर नहीं लगता
Saturday, November 23, 2013
अपने सवालों का जवाब मांगती है
ज़िन्दगी हर साँस का हिसाब मांगती है
होश में रहना मुमकिन नहीं अब
इसलिए साक़ी से वो शराब मांगती है
सेहरा से मांगती है वो बहार का वादा
और उजड़े चमन से गुलाब मांगती है
नींद तो मयस्सर नहीं हुआ इसे अब तक
मेरी बेदार ऑंखें अब एक ख्वाब मांगती हैं
मेरे पास तो चंद टूटे सितारे बचे हैं 'अब्द'
लेकिन वो तो अक्सर माहताब मानती है
ज़िन्दगी हर साँस का हिसाब मांगती है
होश में रहना मुमकिन नहीं अब
इसलिए साक़ी से वो शराब मांगती है
सेहरा से मांगती है वो बहार का वादा
और उजड़े चमन से गुलाब मांगती है
नींद तो मयस्सर नहीं हुआ इसे अब तक
मेरी बेदार ऑंखें अब एक ख्वाब मांगती हैं
मेरे पास तो चंद टूटे सितारे बचे हैं 'अब्द'
लेकिन वो तो अक्सर माहताब मानती है
اپنے سوالوں کا جواب مانگتی ہے
زندگی ہر سانس کا حساب مانگتی ہے
ہوش میں رہنا ممکن نہیں اب
اس لئے ساقی سے وہ شراب مانگتی ہے
سہرا سے مانگتی ہے وہ بہار کا وعدہ
اور اجڑے چمن سے گلاب مانگتی ہے
نیند تو میسر نہیں ہوا اسے اب تک
میری بیدار آنکھیں اب ایک خواب مانگتی ہیں
میرے پاس تو چند ٹوٹے ستارے بچے ہیں 'عبد'
لیکن وہ تو اکثر ماھتاب مانتی ہے
मुझे दिल लगाने कि बुरी आदत है
और उन्हें दिल जलाने कि बुरी आदत है
लबो पे तबस्सुम मतलब ख़ुशी है लेकिन
मुझे दर्द में मुस्कुराने कि बुरी आदत है
लुत्फ़ उठाता हूँ मैं इंतज़ार का बहुत
और उन्हें देर करके आने कि बुरी आदत है
हम पे तंज़ हुए और फ़िक़रे भी कसे गये
इल्ज़ाम लगाना ज़माने की बुरी आदत है
इश्क़ में क्या काम अक़ल वो दानाई का
लेकिन उनको तो समझाने कि बुरी आदत है
फलक से चाँद सितारे भी तोड़ लाएंगे
छोड़िए अब्द उनको बात बनाने कि बुरी आदत है
Friday, November 08, 2013
Friday, August 30, 2013
Friday, August 23, 2013
On the eve of the Indian independence, many doomsayers foretold that the entity called India would not survive too long. They believed that owing to its religious, ethnic and linguistic diversities, it would fragment into many mini-nations. Contrary to their predictions, India not only survived but also emerged as an economic power to reckon with. But the big question is whether India has been able to achieve what the founding fathers of the nation had envisaged for it in 1947. If you throw this question to different set of Indians, the answers would be dissimilar. Some people will tell you about a shining India vis-a-vis its impressive growth rate while others would draw your attention towards a dark underbelly of underdevelopment and deprivation. 'India Since 1947: looking Back at a Modern Nation' tries to find answers to such questions and explores how 'the Idea of India' has fared during the last 66 years.
Edited by Atul Kumar Thakur, this anthology has many renowned writers, economists, environmentalists, bureaucrats, politicians and journalists chiming in with their own unique perspectives on India.
Ram Chandra Guha, the eminent historian, opens the book with a highly readable essay on bilingual intellectuals; writers and thinkers who were/are equally at home with English as well as at least one of the Indian languages. The best examples are Mahatma Gandhi who wrote in Hindi, Gujarati and English with equal ease and Rabindranath Tagore whose translations of his own work 'Gitanjali' fetched him a Nobel Prize. While listing the causes of the decline in the numbers of 'linguidextrous' intellectuals, he writes, ''The decline of the bilingual intellectual in contemporary India is thus a product of a combination of many factors: public policy - which emphasised the mother tongue alone; elite preference- which denied or diminished the mother tongue altogether; social change- as in new patterns of marriage; and economic change- as in the material gains to be had from a command of English.'
In his essay 'India: Where Democracy has Gone Wrong', Prem Shanker Jha ponders over the issue of genesis of corruption in India. 'The origins of corruption', he says, 'can be traced in two deep flaws in the constitution India adopted in 1950. The first is the omission of a system for meeting the cost of running a democracy i.e. the entire process of selecting and then electing the people representatives. The second is the failure to enact provisions that would convert a bureaucracy that had been schooled over a century into believing that their function was to rule the people into its servants.' This reviewer can't agree more. Undoubtedly, the political sleaze and the bureaucratic arrogance have been the biggest hurdles in the progress of India.
Politicians (with the exception of the leftists), businessmen and the purveyors of crony capitalism have always praised the 'meteoric rise' of Indian economy after the liberalisation policies of 1990s. Growth rate and direct foreign investments have now become the only criteria to measure development. The worsening conditions of the poorest segments of Indian society are not part of any discussion about India's growth story. If you utter even a single word about the inclusive growth, you are either branded anti-development or are bracketed with the Ultra-Maoists. This inequitable economic growth, however, bothers Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze. In their essay 'Putting Growth in its Place', they strongly advocate for a development model where each and every Indian partakes of the fruit of the progress. Right now, 'An exaggerated concentration on the lives of the minority of the better-off, fed strongly by media interest, gives an unreal picture of rosiness of what is happening to Indians in general, and stifles public dialogue of other issues. Imaginative democratic practice, we have argued, is essential for broadening and enhancing India's development achievements.'
The rise of Naxalism or Maoism is a side effect of such sloppy development models which widen the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'. In 'India: Underlined in Red' Atul Kumar Thakur delineates the factors that breed extreme ideologies like Naxalism in India. Though, he is unequivocal in denouncing violence to achieve a political end, he accepts that in some clusters the Naxalite movement has altered the social and political power structures and has empowered the oppressed classes. An incisive and perfectly balanced essay, it is written surprisingly by a 29-year old.
Beyond the politics and the economy, there is a delightful article by India's best cultural historian Pran Nevile about K L Saigal and his legacy. It is a well-known fact that India's three greatest singers of the post-independence era, Rafi, Mukesh and Kishore had started their musical careers by imitating the great Saigal. But the reviewer wishes that the editor had included more on the contemporary music scene in India since Saigal sahib was a pre 1947 phenomenon. South Indian singing legends like Yesu Das or Ghantasala come to mind.
There are four articles out of a total of thirty that disappoint us, because they are either hurriedly written pieces or rely more on polemics than in-depth analysis of serious issues.
Ultimately, this is a great collection of essays about post-Independence India, outlining policies or ideas that worked in India as well as what went wrong during the last six and half decades of its post-colonial existence. It is not only useful for Indian policy makers but can also be helpful to leaders of other South Asian countries that share a history with India.
Sunday, August 04, 2013
Dear Friends, Just started my second novel. Need your honest feedback to know if it is working. (Anonymous comments are also welcome)
MR. ORWELL’S HOUSE
The whiskey tastes awfully bitter but its after-effect is just wonderful. My worries melt way the moment I finish my first peg.
A gorgeous girl is sitting in front of me, smoking. ‘Mr. Khan, you have hired me for two hours. One hour is already gone.’ The girl says while stubbing out her cigarette in an ash-tray. ‘Should I start undressing?’ She adds matter of factly.
‘Yes!’ I nod as I fill my glass.
Underneath her red top and knee-length indigo skirt she has a perfect figure. She unstraps her brasserie exposing her pink-tipped breasts which are perfectly round as if two upturned soup bowls are placed on her chest. Silicon implants, I suspect and feel excited anticipating her next move. She takes off her black panties too, and slips into my bed. For next half an hour, she works with her hands, mouth, lips, tongues and other delicious parts of her body and I become a splotch of wax on a hotplate, ready to melt, evaporate and vanish into the thin air.
She is gone but her perfume clings to my senses, and her presence lingers on, like a bad hangover, reminding me of my sins. I bolt the door and lie on my bed with the guilt crawling all over my conscience. I have broken two religious taboos: I have consumed alcohol, and I have slept with a woman other than my wife. I try to dismiss these uncomfortable thoughts- don’t I consider myself as an agnostic, someone who doesn’t believe in the strict religious definitions of vices and virtues? But, I can’t… Just, I can’t.
Slumber catches up with me soon. In my dream, my wife, Heba -dressed in an immaculate white salwar suit- is looking at me with her tear filled accusing eyes.
Just about the time dawn is peeping into my room, a ringing telephone cuts through my sleep, startling me. I rub my eyes again and again, trying to organize my thoughts through the surreal, multi-hued haze around me. The hangover is thick and persistent and not going to vanish so quickly. The phone falls silent.
Anxiety returns to haunt me when I think of my father. I am not even sure if Abbu is alive. I look around for the comfort of the bottle when suddenly there is knocking on the door.
Who has come so early? Wondering, I drag myself out of bed. As I pull the door open, a huge punch lands on my face. Ouch! I stagger but manage to keep myself on my feet. They barge into the room. One of them shuts the door. They are four men, all dressed in trousers and t-shirts, their faces covered with handkerchiefs and their eyes have embers of fury. They start thrashing me: punches on my face, chest and tummy, kicks on my legs and back. In between, they inundate me with the questions.
‘What is your real name?’
‘Are you an Indian or a Pakistani?’
‘Are you part of Indian Holy Warriors Terrorist Group?’
Who are you? And why are you beating me? What wrong I have done? I yell while stepping back when one of them hits my head with the butt of his gun. I collapse on the ground and begin to lose consciousness. The last three words I hear are ‘Search the room.’
Returning to my senses and I find myself lying near the door of the toilet. The stench rising from the unflushed commode fills my nostrils. There is excruciating pain in my left leg and in my ribcage. My head is heavy like cotton bales in the rain. My eyes are bloody and blurry. Mustering all the strengths, I try to stand up but as my left foot touches the ground, a sudden searing pain makes me scream as if somebody had stabbed a red-hot iron rod into my left calf. Swirling like a rhythmic gymnast, I fall on the mosaicked floor, my head hitting the leg of a wooden chair. My eyes get shut and I am in a dark tunnel. Images, moving in fast cuts like a trailer of a movie, flood my mind.
I see a milestone with ‘Motihari 0.5 Km’ engraved on it. Then, a bullock cart comes into the view. It is trudging along a muddy road negotiating the potholes of different shapes and sizes. A dark and stout fellow sits on the driving seat, prodding the oxen between their hind legs with a stick. Just behind him is a tall, lanky young man with reddish white skin, deep brown eyes and meagre beard on his chin. In the canopied part of the bullock cart is an elderly woman in a white sari, holding a beautiful and hugely pregnant young woman who is bellowing with pain.
Is it a dream? Am I hallucinating? Or are these some old memories? How can I have memories of an event which happened before I was born? But, there are inherited memories. We also borrow memories. The memories can be fake too—something you have never seen or experienced but in course of time you start believing that you have. I have read these lines in a Booker winning novel by a British writer. I don’t remember the name of the author.
The man with the beard is my father, Abbu, the pregnant woman my mother, Ammi, and the old lady my grand ma, Dadi, my father’s mother. This scene was played out on the evening of June 1970, just before I was to arrive in this world.
Sunday, July 07, 2013
Sunday, June 16, 2013
An Interview of Jewish American author Michelle Cohen Corasanti about her book The Almond Tree (The Edited Version of this Interview had appeared in The HINDU LITERARY REVIEW)
Michelle Cohen Corasanti is author of The Almond Tree. A Jewish American Michelle had studied at Hebrew University, Jerusalem and Harvard University, USA. She uses the Israel-Palestine conflict as the backdrop of her novel. While growing up in a pro-Israel Jewish family, she learned that after the Holocaust, the Jews found ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’ and made the desert bloom. Later, after spending seven years in Israel, she could know about the Middle Eastern history and was moved by the pathetic conditions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. And in order to tell the story of Palestinian people to the world, she decided to write a novel.
Hailed as another The Kite Runner by both critics and readers, Cohen Corasanti’s novel tells an inspiring story of a poor Palestinian boy called Ichmad who despite living under the ruthless Israeli military rule, achieves great success in his life. On Amazon.com, the book is among the bestselling debut books. It is a must read for anybody interested in understanding the different aspects of the Israel-Palestine problem.
In the author’s words: The Almond Tree humanises a culture and brings characters from a distant land to life, with a family united by love but divided by their personal beliefs. From Ichmad’s staunchly traditional and at times overbearing mother, to his father who believes in the power of education, the crux of the family’s story lies in the growing dispute between two brothers, Ichmad and Abbas, who choose very different paths in order to create a new future.
In an interview with Abdullah Khan, the author Michelle Cohen Corasanti talks about herself, her book and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Here are the excerpts…
1. What made you write The Almond Tree?
I decided to write The Almond Tree when I realised that a writer can reach into readers’ hearts and change them forever.
As a Jewish American, I was taught that after the Holocaust the Jews found ‘a land without a people for a people without a land’ and that Jews went to “the land of Israel” (i.e. Palestine) and made the desert bloom. In high school, I went to Israel to study Hebrew and Judaism. I soon learned that Palestine had neither been a land without a people nor all desert. Palestine had been the home of a multi-religious society that had a high standard of living and a rich culture and heritage.
I lived in Israel for seven years and witnessed the kind of miserable life the Palestinians lead there. Returning to the US to join Harvard University as a student of Middle Eastern studies, I wanted to devote my life to bringing about peace, equality, freedom and justice between the Palestinians and Israelis. That was in 1989, the world wasn't ready to hear my message. I went on to law school to specialize in international and human rights law and was also doing my PhD at Harvard in Middle Eastern studies, but I felt impotent. Feeling helpless, I buried my desires for over a decade until I read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner. In it he wrote that religion, history and politics can’t really be overcome. That’s when I got the idea for my book because I had seen those very obstacles overcome between an Israeli and a Palestinian, two scientists --one Israeli Jew and the other a Palestinian Muslim --who worked together, at Harvard. I decided I would use that seed to write a story about how strong the Palestinians and Israelis could be if they worked together to advance humanity. I believe no one is free until we all are free. There is no peace without justice and a man’s worth should not be measured by his religion. I believe in a world in which we work together to push each other up. Through my novel, The Almond Tree, I wanted to shine a light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and show that there was a better way.
2. What made you choose a Palestinian boy as the protagonist of your debut novel? Being a Jewish American, wasn’t it difficult for you to write in the voice of a Palestinian?
I got the idea for my story from a Palestinian man I met at Harvard. I had met his family, had seen where he came from and felt I knew who he was at the core. So, the voice of a Palestinian boy to tell my story was a natural choice. I had many Palestinian friends in Jerusalem. I heard their stories. I bore witness to their lives – where they came from, how they were treated, what their dreams were. I could see the world through their eyes and so it was not difficult for me to become the Palestinian boy.
3. Novelist Robin Yassin-Kassab in his review of Susan Abulhawa’s book Mornings in Jenin in the Sunday Times, London says. “The Zionist story has Palestine before the state of Israel as “a land without a people awaiting a people without a land.” Writers from Mark Twain to Leon Uris, as well as Hollywood studios and certain church pulpits, retell the tale. But Palestinians, in the West at least, lack a popular counter narrative. Palestinians are reported on, met only in the news. “Do you agree with this statement? If yes, why is it so?
I definitely agree with this statement. After the Holocaust, many western countries felt guilty when the magnitude of the atrocities committed against the Jews was revealed, but at the same time, they didn’t really want to take in so many Jewish refugees. So the west was quite happy to give the Jews Palestine and to buy the fallacy that Palestine was a land waiting for a people. Mark Twain did not make it as a news reporter because he loved to make up stories to make his material more interesting. When you want people to believe a lie, you look for justifications anywhere you can. The west found them with Mark Twain and the novelist Leon Uris.
As Jewish Americans, we would give money to plant trees in Israel every year to show how we were making a barren land bloom. The west didn’t want to hear the Palestinian narrative because they preferred the Jews to be in Palestine. Furthermore, the first Zionists were from the west. Initially the Zionists only wanted western Jews in Israel, not the Jews from the east. After the Holocaust, many Jews preferred to go to the UK, the US or even stay in other places in Europe. When the western Zionists realized after 1948 that they needed more Jews, they decided to recruit them from the east and de-Arabize them.
The Western Jews spoke western languages, were well organized, had money and made the story they wished to tell the world whereas the Palestinians mostly spoke Arabic and didn't have anyone to tell their story to the western audience. As time went on, the Zionist narrative was the only one heard. In order to further justify the Jewish state, Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims were portrayed as anti-Semites, radical Muslims, Jew-haters; anti-western jihadists much like the Nazis dehumanized the Jews.
Zionism is a concept of Jewish nationalism and Judaism is a religion with completely different principles and values. Zionists bound Judaism with Zionism so as to gain support from world Jewry as well as to label anyone who criticized Israel as anti-Semitic with all the implications to the Holocaust. Many were afraid to say anything that went against the Zionist narrative.
When I read westerners’ reviews of my novel The Almond Tree, many start with, remember the author is Jewish to justify believing what I say. Now there a many Jewish people like Professor Ilan Pappe, Professor Noam Chomsky, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, Miko Peled, Amira Haas and others who are saying what the Palestinians have been saying all along – that Palestine was not a land without a people and the truth is finally being believed.
4. How well has The Almond Tree been received in the US and elsewhere? What kind of feedback have you gotten from your readers, especially the Jewish ones?
I’ve been shocked to see that The Almond Tree is being embraced by all sides of the conflict as well as those with no involvement whatsoever. My story is about a boy, who grows up in a brutal environment and despite it all, goes on to achieve what others have only dreamed. The Almond Tree is about forgiveness and letting go of hatred. I show how strong we are when we celebrate our differences and work together to advance humanity instead of focusing on our differences and destroying it. I don’t try to show who is right and who is wrong and who did what to whom. I just tell a gripping story about how powerful we can be when we work together. I think it’s hard to find fault with such themes. When I wrote The Almond Tree, I wanted to cast as wide a net as possible so I hit on as many themes as possible. As a result, everyone finds something in The Almond Tree. My father-in-law who was born during the depression, his father was a new immigrant, they lost their home, but he went on to achieve great success in business, saw himself as my Palestinian protagonist.
I was expecting a backlash from Jewish readers, but I have found the opposite. I have gotten emails from Jewish readers telling me how courageous I am, that they are reading my book in their Temple book clubs, that The Almond Tree was brilliant because it took that personal of a story to show them what Zionism did to the Palestinians and that they are embarrassed as Jewish Americans not to have ever thought about the Palestinian because our entitlement to Israel as a result of the Holocaust is drilled into our heads our entire lives.
5. As a writer, what do you wish to achieve through your writings? How is your book going to help the cause of peace in the Middle East?
As a writer, I hope my writings can shine a light on the Israeli-Palestinian situation. I would like to debunk fallacies. I want to help the Palestinian narrative to be heard because I don’t believe one can solve a conflict if they only hear one side. I hope I can help expose the truth because there can be no peace without justice which is based on the truth.
6. What do you mean by ‘dehumanising the Palestinians’? Please elaborate.
It is easier to justify oppressing a people, if you dehumanise them. The Nazis did that to the Jews. For example, the Jews were put into ghettos and denied basic necessities. When you can’t feed your children that brings out the worst in humanity. Forced to live that way, one begins to look less like human which makes it easier for the oppressor to kill or persecute you. Another way of dehumanizing is to attribute negative characteristics to a people. The Nazis claimed the Jews were evil. They forced Jews to live in horrible conditions and then said they live like animals.
Palestinians have been dehumanised. For example, in Gaza, Israel has them locked in an open-air imprisoned, denied basic necessities and is one of the most densely populated places on the planet and when some of them fire crude rockets at their oppressors, they are considered to be terrorists. I would have said uneducated Americans think that the Palestinians are culturally inferior because of the way they are forced to live under Israeli military occupation, but Americans like our Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, could not understand that their conditions are due to circumstances and not culture. Had he seen how the Jews lived in the concentration camps, I don’t think he would have thought our culture was the same as so advanced.
A great example is Gilad Shalit. He was a soldier in a tank unit in the Israeli military in occupied Palestine and was captured while actively on duty as an occupying solider. We knew everything about him. His mother, his father. His life. Hundreds of Palestinian children are held prisoners in Israel, yet no one knows anything about them. In an extremely rare occurrence, a news reporter was able to film a twelve year old boy that Israel held in an adult Israeli prison with Israeli criminals for two years before the boy was even charged with a crime. During that period, he tried to commit suicide twice. He was finally sentenced to six months. When he was released, he provoked his own death. The root of the problem is that in the west Palestinian lives are viewed to matter less than Israeli ones. I tried to show that these Palestinians were not nameless, faceless people, but mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. That we all tuck our kids in at night and that every life is precious.
7. As you have already mentioned in some of your interviews that the aggressive policy pursued by Israel against the Palestinians is against the basic tenets of Judaism and that Zionism is actually harming Jews (Judaism). Please explain the difference between Judaism and Zionism to our readers. And, how does the concept of Zionism mould Israeli policy against Palestinians?
Judaism is a religion. We believe in one God. We follow the Ten Commandments such as thou shall not kill; thou shall not steal and the Torah. Rabbi Hillel (an ancient Jewish saint) summed up the Torah when he said, “That which is hateful to you, do not unto another. That is the whole Torah, the rest is just commentary.”
Zionism is a concept of nationalism like Nazism. Zionism arose as a result of a few factors. Among them were: gentile attraction, gentile repulsion, the rise of nationalism and anti-Semitism at the time. Zionists decided that the Jewish people needed their own country and set their sights on Palestine. In order to create a Jewish state in the heart of Arab lands at the end of the 19th C when the Jews in Palestine were about 4% of the population, the Zionists knew they would have to expel the native Palestinians and take their place.
In order to do so, the Zionists had to kill and steal from the natives and commit many other despicable acts that are documented by Israeli historians from the left (Ilan Pappe) to the right (Benny Morris). A few of these polices include: land theft, home demolitions, mass imprisonments, administrative detentions, making life as miserable as possible for the natives so that anyone who wants any kind of life for their children will leave. As you can see, Zionism could not be further from Judaism.
8. What according to you is the solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict?
I believe there can be no peace without justice which is based on the truth. The Palestinians need to be compensated for all that they have suffered like the Jews were after the Holocaust. I believe in a secular democratic country on all of historic Palestine where everyone lives with equality and freedom. I believe the Palestinian refugees should be allowed to return. The Afrikaners didn’t want to let go of control and neither will the Israelis. That shouldn’t matter. We need to do what is right for all. The majority of Israelis today in Israel came from the Arab world. They have very similar cultures; similar educations and more in common than many other people that live in the same country. This doesn’t have to be a difficult transition. This way, not only will the Palestinians be free, but also the Israelis will be free. One can’t be free when they are oppressing another people.
9. What is your next project as an author?
I hope to write another book that shows the benefits of peace between Palestinians and Israelis.