Book Review: Struggle & Survival in Palestine/Israel

‘Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel’ book is an incredible read by all means, I actually can not wait to start reading it all over again and copy out the quotes that I found to be informatively mind changing.

For those of you who wish to lean about the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, and for those who know enough but wish to learn more ethnographic stories collected from pre Ottoman to the recent situation, this book is highly recommended. It is a collection of stories/essays about individuals who set an example of many who follow, be it Palestinian or Jewish, the authors are mostly scholars, anthropologists and specialized in the Israeli Palestinian conflict as well as Middle Eastern studies and they bring together a wide perspective juxtaposed to form a some kind of 360 historic view upon the situation. Israelis who were immigrants and how their immigration reflects upon them and how it slowly translates into their recent development into different ideologies and perception, sided with vis versa stories of Palestinians and their evacuation making them refugees or revolutionists or with shattered identities. This book is massive explosion of information, and what I love mostly about it is the diversity in its selection to collect stories that include the refugee, holocaust survivor, the zionist understanding in different perspectives from murder fanatics to just lovers of the land, the person behind Rabin’s assassination and the Leftist who bought a Palestinian home to the humanitarian who joins Palestinian protests and revolutionists, while stories of the Palestinians include, the modernists, the educated, the farmer, the refugee, the suicide bomber, and the activist. The book ends with the tragedy of the present day, the ongoing injustice and blind folded Zionists who continue to make this reality and long living tragedy.

On May 15 the world all together will remember the Nakba; marking 70 years this year for the 700,000 Palestinian made refugees who have become today around 7,000,000 stateless, homeless, with minimal to no human rights and we still continue to live recognizing the state of Israel who happen to be the reason behind this catastrophe.

This book, helps us understand a better picture of the conflict, a sided view of understandings, and a to understand the stories in this book is a step closer to a more free humanity.

From the book:

Page 93: ‘From then on, Yizhar seemed to have lost his naive faith in the wisdom and sound judgment of political leaders… Page 95: There seems to be no doubt as to his innocence, and the storyteller hopes his commander will let the man go, yet ‘security’ has the upper hand, and at the end of the day the shepherd is taken away. There is no big drama in the stories; they are but a glimpse into the reflections of a single soldier who sees things differently.

Page 117: ‘Canaan’s biographers underline his nationalism and the connection between his ethnography and his political involvement during the mandate, linking his interest in popular culture with a desire to defend Palestine against the political, demographic, and cultural challenge of Zionism.’

Page 145: ‘Abul Rahim became aware at a still young age of the danger the Zionist project in Palestine and the British Mandate’s commitment to support it. Jewish colonies were built on the coastal plains not far from his lands. He saw peasants evicted from sold lands becoming homeless and unskilled laborers in towns.’

Page 166: ‘In American Hillel discovered that nations were in fact political and civiv entities rather than organic cultural communities, as they were understood to be in Eastern Europe and Palestine; one could, for example, be both American and Jewish without the one identity threatening the other. For Hillel, distinguishing between Jewish as a religious adulation and Hebrew as national affiliation both reflected reality and provided solution to the problem of dual loyalty. The Jews in America were Jewish by religion and American by nationality. In Palestine, they were Jewish by religion and Hebrew by Nationality. The tragedy of European Jewry was that they were denied the liberty of choosing their nationality and were frequently not accepted into the body politics. The entire raison d’etre of Zionism became cleat to Hillel: to grant this freedom of choice to Jews.’

Page 193: ‘Walid told us what had happened to him. We knew that he had fled his village as a boy in 1948 amid the chaps and dear and found himself alone in Lebanon. He thought his family had preceded him there, but instead they had hidden in the mountains and returned to their village after the fighting stopped, becoming citizens of the Israeli state… Page 194: ‘In keeping with his greater life philosophy, his struggle for him as a Palestinian was about positive change, redemption, and humanity.’

Page 234: ‘My mother came running from the kitchen to find an Israeli army unit handcuffing her children and dragging them into the street. The event was customary. Soldiers often stormed into homes people’s homes and broke the arms and legs of men and boys so as to send a stern message to the rest of the neighborhood that they would receive the same fate if they continued with their intifada.’

Page 302: ‘Israeli advertisements for homes in Abu Tur and other formerly Palestinian neighborhoods of West Jerusalem henceforth employed this tern as a means to identifying the value of the property in question: “authentic Arab-style house in Baka… with original tiled floors and high ceilings”; “superb Arab house completely refinished in the heart of New Tzedek”; “Arab house for sale in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem… with lots of arches.”…Page 393 ‘I just want to make a Zionist statement before I go on, in terms of living in an Arabic house. This did not bother me in the slightest. I mean, if it had bothered me, I wouldn’t have made aliya. And because we had contact with the Kurdish family who lived here before us, I actually associate the house more with their period than with the previous Arab owners, none of whom I had any contact with. This isn’t to say that I am not interested in the history of this house, the question of why there was a cistern underneath the property, and so on. As an archeologist and ancient historian, I’n very interested. But politically speaking, it’s not a problem for me.’

*Aliya in the above context mean immigration to the State of Israel

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The Blue Sweater for March – Book Review

So I went ahead with the Blue Sweater book for the month of March. It has been dragged along with me everywhere for the past year waiting for the moment I decide to go for it. It is an intriguing book telling the story of the founder of Acumen Fund, an organization established focusing on finding solutions to poverty. They attract investors who are philanthropists to invest into entrepreneurs who are bringing sustainable solutions to big problems of poverty.

The book tells you the story of how Acumen was born by the founder herself. It starts with a compelling story of finding her own blue sweater that she has given away for charity worn by a kid in Africa. And using this as the beginning of her story intrigued me. Few pages down the book I was getting a little bored and started flipping until I reached half way and read:

“I’m supposed to be an anthropologist, so what am I doing studying vector analysis and the Black-Scholes theory?

He reminded me that I’d come to learn the skills I needed to change the world- at least that was my mantra. The developing world needed management skills. It needed people who knew how to start and build companies, not just people with good intentions. It was growing clear to me that those who sought power and money made the rules; yet power alone could corrupt and corrode. “Power without love,” Martin Luther King Jr. said in one of his last speeches, “is reckless and abusive,” and, he continued, “love without power is sentimental and anemic.”

This passage is what made me want to finish the book reading and not skimming. For to be an anthropologist one needs to be concerned with the other as an equal human being, and to have a goal or a mantra to change the world, that I resonate with as cliche as it may sound. So how did Jacqueline Novogratz the author of the book The Blue Sweater (bridging the gap between rich and poor in an interconnected world) make it happen starts only after half the book has been read.

The first half is also of importance as to how she has reached the second half. But personally I felt it was too long. I only was excited about the second half. It discussed her experience with the aftermath of the genocide that took part in Rwanda. How she forged an understanding to how silence can feel criminal. It is an interesting book that explores how the need to help others overcome their difficulties, enable them to find the way to secure their basic needs turned from an empathetic approach to a business oriented approach generating millions in number to serve the world to become a better place.

She also tries to bring to the readers attention the power of listening and how that can strengthen relationships and foster abundant joy. Which I find to be also important to share, for listening I have myself come to learn is a work in progress. And in many situations where we ignore the power of listening, listening can actually be the source of making a difference in the present moment.

“Just start. Don’t wait for perfection. Just start and let the work teach you.” Is how Jacqueline was able to succeed, and it is how I was able to make it work once. But it is easier said than done. For to start something new requires goal setting, more like goal specification. And it does not necessarily require a full goal drawn, but a clear step visualized before approaching, a step that can latter take you to many steps, and the most important factor here is to imagine yourself not five years down the line, but twenty and forty and even after your death, where will what you plan to do be, take the world, the people, where will it leave them, influence them, inspire them? Those questions might make a difference before starting, but starting should not be disabled just by being afraid of imperfection. As I agree with the quote in the book that imperfection is only perfected through practice.

After all, the book is a great read for all those who plan or are in the process of starting something humanitarian or not, for having a humanitarian approach in everything we do, can be life changing for many. And to start somewhere even if that is nowhere close to where you see yourself is still considered a good start. Jacqueline started in the finance world when she knew she wanted to be in the humanitarian world, and through banking she learnt how to bring it to benefit the poor through micro-finance, philanthropy and investment. And as she started small, she made many mistakes that are only human mistakes and one can only learn to grow and to form bigger ideas only through living the full journey. Allow yourself to try and fall as many times as you need to, and in the end something bigger than all those that have fallen will take place. And if you have failed enough, than that bigger thing might over live you. And to the world the benefits can be infinite.

I recommend this book.

We choose to use the language that we want people to understand

“Culture is interpretation. Facts are made, and the facts we interpret are made and remade. They cannot be collected as if they were rocks, picked up and put into cartons and shipped home to be analyzed in the laboratory.” Refelections on Fieldwork in Morocco by Paul Rabinow was my book choice for February.

It is a great book for people who wish to get a little deeper insight on anthropology and the work anthropologists can do. It is also insightful to how interpretations can take place between different cultures, how perspectives and situations matter, where our eyes are set to be seen from and how the person seen chooses to present his subjects. It is quiet mind moving, and gets us thinking about the way we view new cultures when we first get introduced to them, and since today we live in a cosmopolitan world through the internet if not through the cities we live in, the way we perceive new cultures lies on the hands of both the viewer and the viewed. And I personally think, it is becoming more important today, to open up the spaces between our understanding to the tool of communication.

Bourdieu in his afterword in Reflection on Fieldwork in Morocco said, “But, as is usual with these matters involving much more cognitive understanding, we must not believe too quickly in our own comprehension.’ And I believe this does not only go to Anthropologists per se, maybe Anthropologists should just be more aware of their comprehension since they tend to later communicate their comprehension of their study, but at least we need to highlight to ourselves and to others, that our comprehension is according to the situation we were in, and different comprehension is always possible.

Bourdieu also compares our communication relationship with what Jean Piaget once said, “it is not so much that children don’t know how to talk: they try out many languages until they find the one their parents can understand”, and this opens up a wide spectrum to our reflection on what we encounter, for truly, I for one, would communicate differently depending on the person who is of my opposite. How I predict their level of understanding of my world will affect my choice to how I wish to communicate it to them.