I am reading ‘This is not a Border – Reportage and Reflections from the Palestinian Festival of Literature,’ edited by Ahdaf Soueif and Omar Robert Hamilton, published by Bloomsbury.
It is a brilliant collection of small anecdotal experiences of writers (of many different nationalities) who have taken part in the Palestinian Festival of Writing since 2008. They describe the raw brutality and power that Israeli soldiers wield at Israeli constructed checkpoints around Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the grim poverty and indignity enforced on the Palestinian people living in Gaza, and the West Bank towns of Ramallagh and Hebron.
As I read, my stomach sinks. I feel my intestine stiffen into tangles. My gut rises into my throat. My chest tightens, a rage rises. I try to read out loud and my voice thickens. My mouth contorts. My throat constricts. Angry, salt tears need to be wiped away.
These are not stories. They are simple accounts of what people experienced as they crossed border points, walked under nets that don’t protect Palestinians from the excrement and rubbish of the settlers living above. There is no running commentary, there is no purple prose, but there is embarrassment, shock and horror in the voices of these accounts.
I am so enraged. I feel so frustrated, so shocked, humiliated and dismayed by what I read. I can only read a few accounts at one time. Why, I wonder? Intellectually, I know all this, and more. I know about poverty. I know about war crimes. I know about concentration camps. I know about torture. My father worked for Amnesty International for 25 years. I know about cruelty. I know about abuse. I know about power. And yet this book about the brutality and cruelty of Israel leaves me shaking. I don’t understand why this is. These simple accounts describe life as lived every day by people in a way the news stories of rockets and wars don’t. They expose the raw and naked brutality of the human race. This dystopian life style is happening now and I worry that it will be the force of our future. This frightens me. I don’t know what to do. Please read this book and advise me.
I should say: I haven’t finished the book yet. I just needed to voice this.