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Friday, July 10, 2009

The Lemon Tree- not a bad book

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East.

There are a couple of interesting points. My review I posted to Facebook or wherever follows.

Everyone always talks about Arafat walking out of discussions, but Tolan (p235) describes Clinton and Albright storming out after Qurei dares to offer the June 4, 1967 map as a counter offer to Israel's suggestion that Palestinians take 92% of the West Bank minus settlements and annexed land for a demilitarized entity. Clinton acted rather childishly and yelled at Qurei that he knows he'd like the whole thing to be Palestine, but that's not possible. The 1967 lines are FAR from the whole of Mandate Palestine! Then he goes on about how this isn't the UN, he's the President of the US and he can go home, Qurei's losing a lot, Qurei's obstructing negotiations, etc. Then, he and Albright storm out in a literal downpour. Apparently, at least the part about the downpour is in Albright's memoirs.

*Also rarely mentioned is Malley and Agha's response to these "negotiations" and what has become known as "Barak's generous offer." A quote from the NYT piece is: "The measure of Israel's concessions ought not be how far it has moved from its own starting point; it must be how far it has moved toward a fair solution (p239)."

That is such an insightful comment. I think that "offer" and Malley/Agha's response will go a long way to show the uninitiated what the issues are and why the sides think the way they do.

Google them. I think they've written more since.

*With My Own Eyes by Felicia Langer was written about torture in Israeli prisons in 1974.
I think she met with the (Palestinian) main character in The Lemon Tree, Bashir.

*In 1977, the Sunday Times of London did a piece on torture as well.

This is my "review" for The Lemon Tree:

It is pretty interesting in that it tells the experience of a Jewish family emigrating to Israel around 1948 and a Palestinian family who is driven from what is now Israel around the same time. The events leading up to that time are oddly similar. There is much more info on the Jewish family, but the author is a Holocaust scholar, so I guess that's why. I am very familiar with the Jewish plight (Anne Frank several times in school, a Holocaust discussion and or presentations and projects in most history classes, etc) around that time, but not so much the Palestinian and Arab history of the same time period. I only have what little I have read outside of school. This book does provide some detail and allude to an alternate and rather mythical history taught to Israelis (land without people for people without land, Arabs left of their own accord and never came back, etc), but still talked about Jewish attacks on Palestinian towns as spectacular and in other terms that are definitely from a Jewish perspective.On the other hand, the author does relate the Palestinian expulsion in such terms that remind one of the Jews walking to various points to be taken to death camps. The images of the women strapping the family’s gold to their bodies so Nazi or Jewish soldiers respectively wouldn’t loot it were strikingly similar. Also similar are the descriptions of the long, forced "walks" with only possessions they could carry to a destination and future that was uncertain at best and in many cases fatal or nearly so.This story of two people linked by forces beyond their control reinforces my thoughts on how to achieve peace. The only hope is to share all of the land- not occupation, not two states- as one secular, democratic state.

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