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Raja Shehadeh is a Palestinian lawyer practicing in Ramallah since 1979 and is a barrister of Lincoln's Inn
Foto taget av: Courtesy of Allen and Unwin

Verk av Raja Shehadeh

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Allmänna fakta



This book by a secular Palestinian lawyer and activist focuses on the changes that have taken place to the land in the West Bank, both legally and physically, since the start of the Israeli settlement project. It is loosely organized into a series of six walks, or sarhat, an Arabic term for a long, meditative walk in the wilderness. It is also a bitter elegy for what is now gone - a time when the hills of the West Bank were undeveloped and a Palestinian could walk freely without fear and constraint from Israeli settlements, roads, and "nature preserves" that Palestinians are not allowed to set foot on, guarded by armed soldiers and settlers, that continually expand and encircle Palestinian towns and villages, shrinking the space within which Palestinians can live.

The six sarhat in the book mix description of the walk itself and the surrounding land features, and the politics of land ownership and seizure.

Sarha 1: takes place in 1978, a walk to the qasr of Shehadeh's grandfather's cousin. A qasr was a small stone structure built for farmers to live in when they needed to be away from their home in a populated area to tend to their land. Shehadeh describes the hills as already being abandoned in some respects by Palestinians, as the land had declined in its ability to support farming. Such land no longer being used by Palestinian farmers formed a basis for the Israeli settlement project, as Israeli law said any land no longer being lived on by its Palestinian owner ceased to belong to him and reverted back to its original owners, the Jewish people, as represented by the State of Israel.

Sarha 2: A hike to an isolated, small village and its nearby hilltop. The hilltop has since been taken by Israel for a settlement. Shehadeh in this chapter discusses one of his first land cases, where he represented a Palestinian Christian whose land had been taken over for a settlement. Shehadeh says it was well documented in legal terms that his client owned the land, and he still thought he could legally fight the settlement project in Israeli courts through such cases. However the attitude of the court was essentially that the land was gone, and his client should take what monetary payout he could get. His legal efforts to resist were going to prove unfruitful.

Sarha 3: Set in the mid-1990s after the Oslo Agreement. Shehadeh describes a walk to the Dead Sea with a Fatah official allowed in to the West Bank under the deal, and describes his opposition to the Oslo Agreement as a surrender and a defeat. It did not challenge Israeli town planning, which drew circles around existing Palestinian population centers and did not allow them to expand. Meanwhile it claimed vast areas of land for future settlement expansion. The PLO displayed little understanding of the legal aspects of Israeli land policies and did not seem to care. He was frustrated by the blind optimism of his Fatah companion as they walked along the rugged, salty landscape towards the Dead Sea.

Sarha 4: A walk towards the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, Jericho, from near Jerusalem. The walk went along a lush green valley that contains lots of water, making it the favored pathway for centuries of pilgrims and conquerors making their way to Jerusalem. One of Shehadeh's companions on this walk is an archeologist, who notes the absence of the Bedouin tribes that until recently roamed these areas, but who had now been chased away by the Israelis. Shehadeh stops at the Monastery of St. George, built into the rocks in the 5th century and still an active monastery.

Sarha 5: A walk on a constrained path in the hills near Ramallah with his friend Mustafa Barghouti, a well known Palestinian doctor and politician. They share an analysis of Oslo that it is a failure, and Barghouti describes the immense pressure he is under to join the Palestinian government and drop his criticism. As they walk they see and hear almost everywhere around them new Israeli construction of buildings and roads. Shehadeh says he has accepted that the Palestinians have been defeated, and that the land has been and will continue to be overwhelmingly transformed, and his efforts have been in vain.

Sarha 6: A solitary walk near an Israeli settlement results in an encounter with a young Israeli along a creek. The Israeli is unexpectedly friendly, but Shehadeh cannot hold back his bitterness over the settlements as they talk, and complains that the Israeli has internalized and parrots back the official dogma he has learned about the rights of the Jews to the land of the West Bank, and the lack of rights the Palestinians should have. Shehadeh recognizes their mutual love of the land, about the only time in the book the Israeli point of view has any sort of sympathetic hearing.

… (mer)
lelandleslie | 8 andra recensioner | Feb 24, 2024 |
Shehadeh observes and philosophizes about the changes to Ramalla over his lifetime as he walks to work and back again. Much of it is personal (what the neighbours grew in thier gardens when he was a child, for example), some political, but always influenced by the state of occupation. It's very languid and I was bored at times but it's also funny and very heartfelt.
fionaanne | 1 annan recension | Nov 17, 2023 |
dchaikin | 8 andra recensioner | Sep 26, 2020 |
The following is excerpted from my review of this book for the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies:

"Israel’s war/peace framing, however, is dangerous. It results in a methodical individualism to explain current events, in which acts are driven by individual choices contextualised within a tragic fog of war that evenly envelops all actors. Systemic understandings are foregone and one is left with nothing but anodyne paeans for reconciliation and hope for the future. In this way, war and peace are not opposites, as Israel presents them, but work together to avoid raising systemic power asymmetries into our collective consciousness. Israel’s language of ‘war and peace’ comes hand in hand with references to ‘both sides’ in ‘the conflict’. There are moments when the predominance of this framing even trips up Israel’s best critics, as when Shehahdeh himself writes that ’by reducing a colonial occupation to a mere ‘dispute, they fail to appreciate the magnitude of the conflict between the two sides.’ Instead of ‘conflict’ between ’two sides’, of course, one understands Shehadeh seeks to pivot from the language of war/peace to the language of colonialism/decolonisation, apartheid/desegregation, supremacy/emancipation, and ethnic cleansing/pluralism, but is repeatedly hemmed-in by the existing terms of discussion.

Israel’s conquest of the terms of debate with its war/peace lens also implicitly prioritises questions of violence and security – and it does so over questions of justice. The language of security becomes appropriate, self-defence for both sides becomes understood as equally necessary, and it becomes plausible to imagine that Israel might be an equal victim, if not the victim of ’the conflict’. It follows from this thinking that rejectionist actors and proponents of violence on ’both sides’ are to blame – and the violent extremism of these ‘fringes’ become the source of lament, instead of the injustice of reigning colonial systems of theft, segregation and supremacy."

Susan Abulhawa also has a much more articulate takedown of the language of "conflict" near the end of her article here:

… (mer)
GeorgeHunter | Sep 13, 2020 |



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