by Saree Makdisi, W.W. Norton & Company (2008)
This is one of those books that I want to open up time and again. I’ve read it more than once and highlighted so many passages that it looks like a kid’s drawing book.
It will be difficult to give this one up, but it’s for a good cause. I’m attending a fundraiser for Palestine and will be donating many of my books. I know it’s time to take them off my shelves and put them into the hands of someone else who will appreciate them.
The author is a scholar and teacher of English literature with a unique background. He was born in the United States to a Palestinian mother and Lebanese father.
Like so many others, I have shared in the experience of being a Lebanese who has been shelled by Lebanese; a Palestinian shot at by Palestinians; an Arab who has come under Arab fire; an American who has been bombed by American-made weapons. My experience of war inoculated me against nationalism of any kind, and brought home to me the truth of Dr. Johnson’s dictum that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” … What draws me to Palestine, then, is neither nationalism nor patriotism, but my sense of justice, my refusal to remain silent in the face of injustice, my unwillingness to just go on living my life–and enjoying the privileges of a tenured university professor–while trying to block out and ignore what Wordsworth once called the still, sad music of humanity.
Palestine Inside Out is a well-documented source about the history and current affairs of Occupied Palestine, a very good resource for researchers, but also easily digestible for the casual, inexperienced observer of the Middle East. The author introduces us to people who have played a significant role in the evolving story of Occupied Palestine, beginning with Sam Bahour in Chapter One. The plight of many Palestinians caught in Israel’s “family unification” regulations becomes very personal. More than 120,000 Palestinian applications for family unification have been pending since 2000. We learn about some of the 5,000 (more or less) Israeli military orders regulating Palestinian life in the occupied territories.
Now that I’ve been thumbing through these well-worn pages again, I know I must get a copy of this on my Kindle, it’s a resource I can’t manage without.
Every chapter is chock full of facts and statistics about Israel’s occupation interspersed with stories of people and places that help make Palestine jump to life for any reader who hasn’t been fortunate enough to visit. I can’t help but imagine that the author had a bevy of research assistants who helped him.
This is the first book I’ve read that has shed some light on Israel’s master planning for Jerusalem and how such plans have furthered the political goals of the occupiers.
According to current or former Israeli officials of the municipality of Jerusalem, the distinction between establishing homes for Jews and denying them to non-Jews has been essential to city planning since 1967. … Jerusalem’s 1978 Master Plan explicitly proposed various ways to promote the growth of the city’s Jewish population while squeezing and limiting the growth of the non-Jewish population.(p.103)
My city planner friends would find this book an eye opener.
In 1974, the municipality of Jerusalem said it would begin developing a regional plan for all the Palestinian areas of the city, on the basis of which the planning for development, zoning, and infrastructure for particular Palestinian neighborhoods, and individual building permits, could be issued. But thirty years later, even as massive construction efforts were contemplated, planned, initiated, and completed for the array of Jewish settlements in and near the city; the municipality still had not published any comprehensive plan for the Palestinian areas of Jerusalem. (p. 105-106)
If the reader is looking for only one book about Palestine, this is the one I recommend. Of course, there are many more that add to the richness of understanding Palestine that I wish Americans would spend time reading, but if push comes to shove and I can convince you to read only one book, this is it.
The Palestinians are a people like any other people; they are, in the immortal words of the great English essayist William Hazlitt, “millions of men [and women], like you, with hearts beating in their bosoms, with thoughts stirring in their minds, with the blood circulating in their veins, with wants and appetites, and passions and anxious cares, and busy purposes and affections for others and a respect for themselves, and a desire for happiness, and a right to freedom, and a will to be free.” The Palestinian people have, in short, the same rights as any other people, and a just solution to this conflict must be premised on the recognition and attainment–not the sacrifice–of those rights.