Return: A Palestinian Memoir
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An extraordinary memoir of exile and the impossibility of finding home, from the author of In Search of Fatima
“The journey filled me with bitterness and grief. I remember looking down on a nighttime Tel Aviv from the windows of a place taking me back to London and thinking hopelessly, ‘flotsam and jetsam, that’s what we’ve become, scattered and divided. There’s no room for us or our memories here. And it won’t be reversed.’”
Having grown up in Britain following her family’s exile from Palestine, doctor, author and academic Ghada Karmi leaves her adoptive home in a quest to return to her homeland. She starts work with the Palestinian Authority and gets a firsthand understanding of its bizarre bureaucracy under Israel’s occupation.
In her quest, she takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the heart of one of the world’s most intractable conflict zones and one of the major issues of our time. Visiting places she has not seen since childhood, her unique insights reveal a militarised and barely recognisable homeland, and her home in Jerusalem, like much of the West Bank, occupied by strangers. Her encounters with politicians, fellow Palestinians, and Israeli soldiers cause her to question what role exiles like her have in the future of their country and whether return is truly possible.
him a little about myself, but I could see he was less interested by that than by his own life story. And he would have gone on talking about it had I not interrupted to suggest we start work on the committee and plan the next step. He thought we should invite Dr Sabah on to it as a courtesy, although it was unlikely he would join. ‘Shall we go and ask him? Now?’ I had no desire to see Dr Sabah, but I assented and we walked over to his office. One of the girls at the desk outside stood up on
Husseini’s death had been followed the next day, 9 April, by the massacre at Deir Yassin, a village to the west of Jerusalem. This was a notorious incident in which Jewish paramilitaries killed some 120 inhabitants of a village previously at peace with the Jewish militias. The massacre had a devastating impact on the Palestinians, especially those in nearby Jerusalem, who, terrified they might be the next victims as the Jews had threatened, began to flee their homes. Menachem Begin, the leader of
great many of these and did so with such enthusiasm that I was tempted to think it might have been a form of recompense for his earlier prevarications. But nevertheless it had been a kind act, and, I think, well meant. I never saw him again for the rest of my stay in Palestine. We didn’t move in the same circles, and he made no further contact beyond that occasion. If my visit had meant anything to him it didn’t show in his subsequent pieces for the New York Times. I doubted that I had set him
Israel has so clearly been in the wrong but we still didn’t manage to get our message across.’ He frowned. ‘And now, there’s an Israeli disengagement from Gaza about to happen. You can see the hype they’ve been giving it already. We surely don’t want to let them put out their version on that business without challenging it, do we?’ He was looking at me, but I was at a loss to say anything and examined the proposal again. ‘Well,’ I said, weighing my words carefully, ‘can I ask what you think a
Feelings amongst religious Israelis were strong that the mosque they believed to be standing on top of the biblical Cave should belong exclusively to Jews, and in 1994 a fanatical American Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, who shared this view, shot dead twenty-nine Muslim Hebronites praying inside the mosque. Thereafter Israel partitioned the building into Jewish and Muslim sections, neither of which was accessible to the other. When I first saw the place in 1996, the Jewish part, which