Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
In Your Eyes a Sandstorm

In Your Eyes a Sandstorm: Ways of Being Palestinian

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 328
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    In Your Eyes a Sandstorm
    Book Description:

    Who are the Palestinians? In this compelling book of interviews, Arthur Neslen reaches beyond journalistic clichés to let a wide variety of Palestinians answer the question for themselves. Beginning in the present with Bisan and Abud, two traumatized children from Jenin’s refugee camp, the book’s narrative arcs backwards through the generations to come full circle with two elderly refugees from villages that the children were named after. Along the way, Neslen recounts a history of land, resistance, exile, and trauma that begins to explain Abud’s wish to become a martyr and Bisan’s dream of a Palestine empty of Jews. Senior Fatah and Hamas figures relate key events of the Palestinian experience—the Second Intifada, Oslo Process, First Intifada, Thawra, 1967 War, the Naqba, and the Great Arab Revolt of 1936—in their own words. The extraordinary voices of women, children, farmers, fighters, drug dealers, policeman, doctors, and others, spanning the political divide from Salafi Jihadists to Israeli soldiers, bring the Palestinian story to life even as their words sow seeds of hope in the scorched Palestinian earth.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94985-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-12)

    The Palestinian people have captured news headlines for over forty years, but the world has heard surprisingly few of their voices. Mainstream politicians, shell-shocked victims, and fiery guerrillas have occupied the limelight, but even their words have been shoehorned into predictable story lines. We hear almost nothing from ordinary Palestinians, and as a result we know almost nothing about their lives, times, and beliefs. Bad PR and a creaky national consensus share some responsibility for this, but it is first a measure of how dominant the Israeli perspective has become. From many experiences as a journalist, I can give two...

  5. The Disengaged Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 13-16)

      Most Palestinians today are under the age of seventeen. There are several reasons for the population bulge: the political optimism of the Oslo days, the economic facts of life under occupation, even the dawn-to-dusk curfews of the Second Intifada. But one result is that this generation may not be as amenable to peace processes as previous ones. Fewer of them speak Hebrew, know Israel, or have met friendly Jews. Many of those who can will use international contacts to emigrate. The people interviewed in this chapter are mostly just above this age group, but they share a separation from Israeli...

    • Abud, 15, and Bisan Abdul Khadr Fihad, 12 Students JENIN CAMP, WEST BANK
      (pp. 17-20)

      In a small house crunched into the maze of Jenin’s refugee camp, Bisan and Abud lived with their parents and one younger brother. Sitting in the family’s salon with their mother and a translator, Bisan said that she rarely saw Abud these days. He changed after the Israeli army’s invasion of the camp in 2002 and was now always on the streets. During that invasion, at least fifty-two Palestinians were killed and the old refugee camp was demolished.

      Bisan was named after the family’s hometown, which now lies within Israel. In 1948, the Palmach, a standing army of Jewish troops,...

    • Sharif al-Basyuni, 21 Unemployed BEIT HANUN, GAZA
      (pp. 21-24)

      Sharif was slightly cross-eyed, with an intent but glazed stare that slipped easily into the middle distance. His fondest memories were of playing football at school. Barcelona fans, Sharif and his friends used to kick a ball around the dusty potholed streets of Beit Hanun in the old days. “We didn’t really have positions,” he recalled. “I’d play everywhere. I used to be good—we even had a team—but when the Second Intifada began things changed. The other guys started to play with stones instead.”

      Beit Hanun is the closest major population center to Gaza’s border with Israel. The...

    • Amira al-Hayb, 24 Soldier WADI AL-HAMAM, ISRAEL
      (pp. 24-27)

      The Israeli army press office sat on my request for an interview with Amira al-Hayb for three weeks before refusing it on national security grounds. Setting up an interview in Haifa eventually involved numerous calls to the mayor’s office in Amira’s village and then several more to her brothers and to her, most by my translator, Bekriah.

      In 2003 Amira became the first Bedouin woman to serve in the Israeli army, but she didn’t seek publicity. In 2005 her eldest brother, Taysir, was sentenced to eight years in prison for killing the twenty-two-year-old British photographer and anti-occupation activist Tom Hurndall...

    • Niral Karantaji, 22 Model HAIFA, ISRAEL
      (pp. 28-32)

      The war in our minds Ethnic minorities in Western countries often complain that they confront a glass ceiling preventing them from getting on. For Arab citizens of Israel, it sometimes feels more like a locked submarine hatch. Although they constitute 20 percent of Israel’s population, 53 percent of Israel’s impoverished families are Arab, thirty-six of the forty towns with the highest unemployment rates are Arab, and Arab workers are paid some 29 percent less than the equivalent Jewish worker’s salary. Their average household income is only 57 percent of that of a Jewish household. Compared to incomes in Gaza, these...

    • Doha Jabr, 23 Dancer RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 32-36)

      A bass-heavy dabke with insistent tabla beats boomed around the gym club hall in Ramallah’s al-Bire outskirts. Inside it, young Palestinians in tracksuits and Nike T-shirts were running, skipping, crouching, and clapping in sweeping compasslike circles. Darting under their arms to shape and reshape the kaleidoscopic pattern, Doha looked diminutive and pretty in her pink tracksuit, almost like a manga cartoon heroine. But the overall scene as the as-Sayel troupe rehearsed for an upcoming Egyptian tour bore closer resemblance to the U.S. TV seriesFame.

      Like many Palestinians, Doha described herself as being from Jaffa rather than Ramallah where she...

    • Abdul Rahman Katanani, 25 Artist SHATILA CAMP, BEIRUT, LEBANON
      (pp. 37-41)

      The Shatila camp at midday was bleaching under a vindictive Lebanese sun. It had been a few days since Samir Quntar, four Hezbollah militants, and more than two hundred bodies were released in a swap with Israel for the bodies of two soldiers. Across the camp, poorly adhered posters of the men fluttered raggedly in the breeze.

      It was desperately poor and dirty. Gaunt, shoddy buildings stood pocked with bullet holes that had spread across the camp like measles. Around them, spaghetti tangles of illegal electric cables threatened to electrocute passersby. There was little water—or space—and on the way...

    • “Nabil,” 25 Student RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 41-46)

      Western visitors to the occupied territories are often surprised by how gentle Palestinian society still is. It is difficult for many to reconcile this tenderness with the masked avenger iconography favored by TV news bulletins and Palestinian wall art alike. The awesome cloak ofshahada(martyrdom) is one dissonant jolt, but there are others. Traditional masculine identities in Palestine have been undermined by factors ranging from intense exposure to Western culture and the decline of pastoral life to checkpoint humiliations and brutality. Those Palestinians who do not conform to time-worn gender identities have often borne the brunt of wounded male...

  6. The Second Intifada Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 47-49)

      The Second Intifada struck Palestine like a bolt of lightning from a sky that had been clouding over for years. After accepting a Jewish state on 78 percent of their original country, Palestinians had expected the Oslo process to offer them a sovereign state on what was left. Instead, the settler population in Gaza and the West Bank more than doubled, major travel arteries were blockaded, passage into Israel became obstructed, and corruption and political repression took hold, all while an interminable carousel of negotiations dragged on. Palestinians in the occupied territories were faced with an emotional-political choice: fight or...

    • Firaz Turkman, 26, and Alla Subharin, 31 Islamic Jihad JENIN, WEST BANK
      (pp. 50-54)

      Firaz and Alla made an odd couple. Firaz was physically imposing, gruff, and taciturn in a deliberate sort of way. Alla was deft, intellectual, and restless. Firaz’s father sold vegetables in Jenin City; Alla’s was an unemployed farmer who once worked in Israel. Both men joined Islamic Jihad in their teens and by the time we were first introduced in the Jenin refugee camp in March 2007, seemed up to their necks in it.

      Setting up the meeting required several street conversations with intermediaries, a twilight rendezvous at a third party’s house, and a dash through the camp’s byzantine back...

    • Ayman Nahas, 32, and Hanna Shamas, 36 Comedians HAIFA, ISRAEL
      (pp. 55-58)

      Within a few decades of Israel’s founding, many Arabs living within it had been paralyzed by identity crisis. Unaccepted by an Israeli state that had expelled their families, they still benefited economically from their new citizenship compared to their brethren in the occupied territories.

      Ayman and Hanna grew up in a schizophrenic world of unmentionables that advantaged humor as a form of truth-telling. When they were teenagers, Oslo, globalization, and the West’s “humanitarian” interventions had suggested an inexorable trend toward Palestinian statehood and civic equality. Yet Israel retrenched and expanded, feeding a resentment that exploded in October 2000. Afterward, as...

    • Asmaa al-Goule, 27 Journalist GAZA CITY
      (pp. 59-62)

      Asmaa had a lot on her mind and few people to share it with. An award-winning short story writer and journalist, she was born in Rafah’s refugee camp but later moved to Gaza City. During most of Asmaa’s childhood, her father worked as an engineer in Dubai, and she grew up in what became a renowned Hamas family. But her uncles beat and disavowed her at a young age because she sang the muezzin’s call to prayer, “Allahu Akhbar,” and wore dresses. Now she was a secular single parent who read Henry Miller, shunned head coverings, and delighted in her...

    • Neriman al-Jabari, 26 Widow JENIN CAMP, WEST BANK
      (pp. 63-67)

      The widows of martyrs hold a double-edged status in Palestinian society. They are revered for their sacrifice and admired for their steadfastness. But they also often go financially unsupported and are expected to preserve their loved one’s memory by not remarrying. This worsens their economic position. Between September 2000 and June 2008 Israel extrajudicially killed 348 suspected Palestinian fighters, mostly in street ambushes, without a trialy.

      Neriman al-Jabari comes from one of Hebron’s most important clans—the Hebron governor was also a Jabari—but few notable families lived as she did. In her striped headscarf, long blackjalbab,and frumpy...

    • Tamer Nafar, 29 Rapper LYD, ISRAEL
      (pp. 67-71)

      Tamer Nafar was nineteen when he formed DAM—Da Arabian MCs—in 1998 with his brother Suhell and friend Mahmoud Jreri. In Hebrew, their name means “blood”; in Arabic, “eternity.” DAM was the first Palestinian rap act, and before the group was offered a record contract—by a British label—its debut single “Meen Irhabi?” (Who’s the Terrorist?) had already been downloaded more than a million times from its website.

      Most of Tamer’s family were musicians. His father played guitar and drums and also decorated Arabic musical instruments. But he was unable to interest the boys in learning to play....

    • Abu Abed, 26 Tunnel Engineer RAFAH, GAZA
      (pp. 72-75)

      The hot air in the tunnel was sticky and thick. It made your breath raspy and short if you moved too quickly. This, apparently, is why tunnel workers breathe through their noses. The floor was slippery, and the clay ocher-brown walls moist and smoothed over. There was nothing to hang on to if you fell except some weathered cables and pipes that had been nailed into the ceiling. The “ceiling” was little more than a meter high.

      In summer 2009 there were hundreds of tunnels linking Rafah City in Gaza to Rafah town in Egypt, maybe more than a thousand....

    • “Omar,” 32 Drug Dealer EAST JERUSALEM, WEST BANK
      (pp. 76-82)

      Thehashishin(hashish users) have a long history in Arabic and Persian culture. The wordassassinderives from a medieval sect that reputedly killed while under the drug’s influence. Until the Six Day War, hashish cafés were common in West Bank cities. Their demise after 1967 coincided with the opening of a Palestinian market to Israeli manufacturers of other mind-altering substances. In spring 2010 PA police said they had seized $1 million worth of ecstasy pills in Hebron. One young artist in Ramallah told me that he and his friends liked to take the stimulant before joining riots at the...

  7. The Oslo Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 83-86)

      “Nothing happens unless first we dream,” the American writer Carl Sandburg said. With the Oslo Accords, though, first the Palestinians dreamed and then nothing happened. At the start of the 1990s, the Palestinian streets of the West Bank and Gaza had been ground down by four years of fighting. Equally, their official leadership was becoming increasingly desperate to end its exile in the Maghreb. Some optimism had attached to Iraq in the run up to the 1990 Gulf War. To this day Saddam Hussein remains a popular figure for his perceived steadfast support of the Palestinian cause. One refugee camp...

    • Diana Buttu, 37 Lawyer RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 87-93)

      “This was never an issue in the past eight years,” Diana Buttu groaned, “but in the last week it’s happened to me three times already.” A beggar had just approached us for money on the patio of the Café de la Paix, a boutiquey hangout for Ramallah’s well-to-do. It was June 2008, and Ramallah was suffused with batteries of Western consultants—and a conveyor belt of donor dollars. Chichi bars and restaurants opened like Klondike guest houses—often closing just as quickly—while rents and food prices soared to match the inflated salaries of the “internationals” in Palestine’s de facto...

    • Haifa Dwaikat, 33 Student NABLUS, WEST BANK
      (pp. 94-97)

      Haifa had a reedy voice. The first thing she said to me was, “I might be giving birth any time, anyhow.” The second was, “My mother is a martyr, and my father died two weeks ago.” Perhaps she feared that I was a hostile journalist. She probably had not met many. In the pastoral villages of the West Bank, worldliness is limited, and patriarchal traditions continued during the Oslo period, even as women’s expectations of life increased. Haifa was a child bride who had realized her dream of going to university too late, she felt. She was now studying Arabic...

    • Hala Salem, 32 NGO Director AMMAN, JORDAN
      (pp. 97-100)

      The first time I visited Amman, in September 2002, I met a twenty-three-year-old West Banker who was “on holiday” while his workplace, Ramallah’s Muqata compound, was besieged by Israeli tanks. He was desperate to return. “It must seem strange to you that I want to go back to a prison,” he said. “Please understand that staying here is just what the Israelis would like us to do, and it is also a prison.”

      Nearly three million Palestinians live in Jordan, more than half the country’s population and twice the number of Palestinians in Gaza. The largest number arrived in 1948...

    • Sayed Kashua, 33 Journalist, Author, Scriptwriter WEST JERUSALEM, ISRAEL
      (pp. 101-105)

      The waiter in Jaffa’s famed Hinawi-Abu Nassar restaurant told me that he had just graduated in journalism. The problem was that, as an Arab, he would never be able to work in Israel. Before I could stop myself, I said, “But what about Sayed Kashua?” He looked at me, downcast. “For every Sayed Kashua, there are a thousand waiters like me,” he muttered.

      Sayed is an Israeli author, columnist, and TV scriptwriter in the unenviable position for an Arab of owing his career to Jewish racism and, to some extent, antiracism. The devil is in the percentages. While the blowback...

    • Tawfiq Jabharin, 40 Lawyer UMM AL-FAHEM, ISRAEL
      (pp. 105-110)

      “Israel is an apartheid state,” Tawfiq Jabharin said. “I see it every day. I feel it every minute. Ten years ago, Israelis were ashamed when Israel was called an apartheid state. Today they don’t care. Once the Israeli High Court tried to defend Arab rights, but today they can’t and they don’t even seem to try.”

      Some anti-Zionists like the renowned Israeli Marxist Moshe Machover prefer comparisons to states such as America and Australia in their early phases—when they were still dispossessing indigenous peoples of their land.

      Tawfiq, though, believed that a “race-based” statute such as Israel’s Law of...

    • Fuad al-Hofesh, 33 Psychologist MARDAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 110-115)

      Fuad was introduced to me through the Palestinian Treatment and Rehabilitation Center for the Victims of Torture (TRC), a Ramallah-based group that, unusually, took up violations by Israeli and PA security forces alike. Until September 1999, torture was routine for detained Palestinians. An Israeli High Court ruling nominally barred the practice then—except in the cases of “ticking bombs” likely to commit attacks. But a survey by the Israeli human rights group B’tselem in May 2007 found that torture continued regardless.

      In the West Bank too “torture and beatings have become a part of our culture,” Hassan, an official at...

    • Samer Azmi al-Zugayyar, 32 Policeman RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 115-120)

      Samer sat in the Blue Bar, but, unusually, he was not drinking. I knew him as a raucous fixture on Ramallah’s party scene where Palestinians and internationals mixed almost freely. Every international seemed to have a story about Samer, and the photos on the bar’s wall proved many of them. He was the life of the party; gregarious, kind, and eager to please. But not everyone knew about the family tragedy that followed him like a sad pet.

      In June 1982 Samer’s father, Azmi, was the commander of the PLO’s forces in Tyre, and during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, he...

  8. The First Intifada Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 121-123)

      The final proof of how far the Palestinian psyche had recovered from the Nakba paradoxically involved the inflicting of new wounds. The First Intifada was mostly fought by a generation that had no direct memory of 1948 and little access or inclination to use military hardware. Strikes, demonstrations, tax boycotts, and grassroots mobilizations characterized the uprising. Tires burned on rubble-strewn streets in the West Bank and Gaza as masked youths hurled stones, often with slingshots. Suspected collaborators were routinely executed. The Israeli army responded with an “iron fist” policy that employed an array of riot control machinery—rubber bullets, tear...

    • “Abu Ahmed” Hamas Activist and Teacher WEST BANK
      (pp. 124-128)

      Hamas may be famous for its commitment to resistance, but it is also a party that seeks to negotiate and govern. It has created networks of schools, hospitals, youth clubs, mosques, and day care centers and convinced many Palestinians that an Islamic way of organizing society is possible and desirable. “Abu Ahmed” was a teacher in one such Hamas school. It was more than a job to him.

      He was a party man, with a short haircut and a bushy moustache. He was born and lived in a refugee camp. When we met he was dressed neatly but plainly in...

    • Naima Abdul Razek, 47, Rania al-Dabak, 23, and Shaykha Mahmud, 52 Villagers AL-AQABA, WEST BANK
      (pp. 128-132)

      Not all Palestinians experienced the First Intifada as a fiery challenge to the existing order. In many isolated villages the daily struggle continued to revolve around simply holding on to your land. Al-Aqaba perches on the fertile northern lip of the Jordan Valley. In 1967 around two thousand people lived in the village, but by May 2008 only some three hundred were left, and they were facing intense pressure to move. Demolition orders had been issued against thirty-nine of Aqaba’s remaining forty-five homes and other buildings, including the kindergarten, health clinic, women’s center, and one of the only two twin-turreted...

    • Taghred Joma, 37 NGO Manager GAZA CITY
      (pp. 133-136)

      Safe in her office behind a Compax laptop, cocooned amid reams of policy papers and just one personal effect—a Mappa Mundi medieval globe—Taghred smiled broadly. Words rushed out of her mouth in a torrent, as though they had been dammed in for too long. She seemed pleased with the prospect of having them amplified to a world-outside-Gaza that was already becoming fuzzy. By May 2008 few outsiders were reaching the shores of Gaza, and very few Gazans could leave.

      Taghred had come of age as Gaza’s women were striving to become masters of their destiny. Two decades later...

    • Huda Naim, 40 Hamas MP AL-BUREIJ CAMP, GAZA
      (pp. 137-141)

      It was Gazi Hamad, the pragmatic and fiercely intelligent Hamas media liaison, who referred me to Huda Naim. I had wanted to meet a woman involved in Hamas’s resistance activities, but if such people existed Hamas was not advertising them. The group was then under fire from feminists, and Gazi’s recommendation seemed an implicit suggestion that Huda was a part of the group’s “modernizing” wing. Other Gazans I knew thought her an artless beneficiary of nepotism, but I was intrigued by the fact that she had been an advice columnist for a local magazine.

      As she breezed into her office...

    • Amal Masri, 39 Businesswoman RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 142-145)

      The cement and scaffolding that were slowly transforming Amal Masri’s office building could have framed a story about boom time in Ramallah. With yearly predictions of the West Bank’s economic growth running at 7 percent and internal migrants fighting each other for apartments, even the city’s myriad half-finished construction projects seemed to be inching toward completion. Yet Amal told me that in just the past nine months, cement prices had soared and the cost of iron had doubled. “You can’t even make a business plan because your yearly income is up and down every month,” she grumbled. Her business was...

    • Fawsi Barhoum, 47 Hamas Spokesman GAZA CITY
      (pp. 146-150)

      One of Fawsi’s earliest memories was of the day in 1970 that Israeli bulldozers came to demolish his home in Rafah. “They warned us to evacuate our house in the morning,” he said. “They told my father the demolition was happening because his son was in Fatah’s military faction in Lebanon. My father had built a nice concrete house, and when he refused to evacuate it, this occupation—the captain—slapped him and pushed him down. He gave an order and the bulldozer destroyed the house without an evacuation.” Fawsi spoke airily with a metronomic lilt.

      The Barhoums, a religious...

    • “Haidar” Taxi Driver GAZA
      (pp. 151-156)

      “Haidar” exuded the granite confidence of the self-made and self-interested. He pegged his sails close to the wind but was every inch the survivor—every inch the guide too—and if you treated him well, he would do the same for you, albeit from a position of strength. While driving in his taxi once, he shouted enthusiastically for me to look to the right. I swiveled my head to catch sight of a man in Pashtun-style clothing and immediately slid into my seat. “He’s a Dagmush,” Haidar cackled, eyes fixed on the road ahead. “Like the Taliban.”

      It was May...

  9. The Thawra Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 157-159)

      Athawrais a revolution, and if 1936 marked Palestine’s first, its second was announced to the world by plane hijackings and Black September in 1970. More than ten thousand Palestinians may have died in the autumnal fighting that Jordan’s King Hussein launched against Palestinian guerrilla groups in his realm, but perhaps it is willful to call the peers of this time a generation. There was no clear cutoff point from the Palestinians who came of age just a few years before. The PLO had only been founded in 1964 after all. But in practice, financial, military, and diplomatic support...

    • Dr. Nafez Rakfat Abu Shabhan, 49 Plastic Surgeon GAZA CITY
      (pp. 160-164)

      Nafez was grasshopper thin, with slender fingers, and he moved quickly. His words were mostly precise, his demeanor competent, and his outlook conscientious beyond circumstances most could imagine. But he also looked fatigued and haunted. His sentences were perforated with grand inhalations of air and strange “hunnhhhh” exhalations that suggested a man under great emotional stress coming up for air. He was the head of the Burn Unit in Gaza’s Al-Shifa hospital, and we met in his threadbare office.

      A few months earlier Nafez had tried to get permits to visit Israel with his seventy-seven-year-old mother who was suffering from...

    • Fawaz Dawoud, 52 Chief of Police NABLUS, WEST BANK
      (pp. 165-167)

      In March 2008 the Nablus police station was staffed by the friendliest cops I had ever met. While I waited to talk to their boss, some officers insisted on sharing their breakfast humus and beans with me. As we ate, they joked and asked me about my work. One would never have guessed that a few weeks before, an Israeli military spokesperson, Noah Meir, had called their city “the capital of terror.” But in the not-so-distant past, gangs had controlled Nablus’s streets. When I first visited the city in 2006, I arrived slumped in the back of a taxi. Militias...

    • Mohammed Dahlan, 47 Fatah Leader RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 167-172)

      To his critics Mohammed Dahlan was possibly the most destructive living figure in Palestinian politics. He was reviled for alleged corruption, human rights abuses, and, most seriously, collaboration with the United States and Israel. After they met in 2003, George W. Bush reportedly said of Dahlan, “He’s our guy.” A former Israeli minister told me three years later that Dahlan had been Tel Aviv’s preferred choice for PA interior minister under Yasser Arafat. In April 2008 an article inVanity Fairmagazine by David Rose went further. Rose reported that Dahlan had plotted with the Bush administration and covertly received...

    • Nabila Espanyoli, 53 NGO Director NAZARETH, ISRAEL
      (pp. 173-176)

      Nabila Espanyoli was turning twenty when the Committee for the Defense of Land launched a fight against the confiscation of Palestinian land in Israel. Israel’s Palestinian minority had just achieved a breakthrough in her hometown of Nazareth with the mayoral election of Tawfiq Ziad, a poet and Hadash (Communist Party) member. The honeymoon did not last long. On March 30, 1976—Land Day—six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli security forces while protesting land seizures and house demolitions. For a generation of Arabs in Israel, Land Day announced their presence to the world. Nabila, a psychologist, community...

    • Muna Wakid, 47 DFLP Worker NAHR EL-BARED, LEBANON
      (pp. 177-181)

      For a few weeks in May 2007 Palestinian refugees in Lebanon became a hot story. A military conflict broke out between the Lebanese army and Fatah al-Islam, an apparently Al Qaida-affiliated sect that had taken control of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp. The fighting was merciless, and commentators speculated about extremism taking root among Palestinians. Muna Wakid must have wept.

      Muna was a refugee twice over. When her family was expelled from Amqa village in 1948, they moved north to Nahr el-Bared. In 2007, when her home was destroyed along with most others in the camp by the Lebanese army,...

    • Ehsan, 21, Nawal, 46, and Iman Fareiji, 20 Shatila Camp Residents BEIRUT, LEBANON
      (pp. 181-184)

      Iman worked in a ladies’ hairdressing salon. “I know how to cut hair and make it better,” she told me. Her younger sister, Ehsan, was still studying and hoped to become an accountant. They were born in Beirut’s Shatila camp, but because their father left them when man was just five months old, neither had an ID card. In Lebanon’s infernally sectarian bureaucracy, they did not officially exist.

      The patchy electricity in their squashed home came from a battery-operated generator. The walls were strangely empty too, apart from pictures of the Al Aqsa Mosque and a young man surrounded by...

    • Marwan Shehadeh, 45 Web Manager AMMAN, JORDAN
      (pp. 185-190)

      The margins of any society mark the limits of the center’s imagination. They can represent an “other” against which identity is formed, a frame in which society develops, and over time, ideas that gestate there can transform the center itself. Palestine’s murkiest borderland since September 11 has been the province of Salafi Jihadists, most notoriously Al Qaida. Palestinians are loath to talk up such groups—and play into post–September 11 narratives that Israel has skillfully manipulated. Jihadist groups were also small in numbers when I was researching this book. But as hopes of liberation and statehood declined their specter...

    • Sami Mahmoud Khader, 45 Zoo Curator QALQILYA, WEST BANK
      (pp. 190-194)

      Palestine has a dearth of civic treasures outside Jerusalem. Few cultural institutions have outlived the generations that created them. But perhaps the most affecting individual modern landmark is the Qalqilya Zoo, a kitsch design riot of stuffed animals, dinosaur models, and space exhibits that vie with the bears, crocodiles, kangaroos, lions, leopards, and monkeys for attention. The zoo’s animals have also been victims of Israeli invasions, and the park has become an offbeat symbol of pride and resilience. More than anything, it is Sami Khader’s mindscape—absurd, macabre, exhilarating, and hewn from that most precious of national assets, the imagination....

  10. The 1967 (Naksa) Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 195-197)

      Anaksais a failure, and the Arab world’s inability to defeat Israel in the Six Day War of 1967 changed the course of Palestinian history. The march to war was triggered by Egypt’s unilateral closure of the Straits of Tiran, which separate the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aqaba, an Arab fact on the ocean that Israel’s military could not countenance. The conflict ended with Israel in control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and Gaza. But the commander of Israel’s forces, Yitzhak Rabin, later traced the conflict’s roots to the January 1964 Cairo...

    • Leila Khaled, 64 PFLP Fighter AMMAN, JORDAN
      (pp. 198-204)

      Few people could wear her mystique with such an air of reluctant grace. A fearsome terrorist to Israelis, Leila Khaled is also an outlaw icon and inspiration to generations of Palestinian women the world over, partly because of the success of her autobiography. Leila hijacked two planes without killing anybody. She blazed a fighting path for women—embodying modernity as she went—and more than anything, she announced Palestine to a world in flux. She lived in an affluent but anonymous suburb of Amman.

      Leila’s father moved to Haifa from Lebanon during World War I, and she remembered him allowing...

    • Abu Adel, 64 Sulha Committee Judge EAST JERUSALEM, WEST BANK
      (pp. 204-207)

      Abu Adel lived in Casa el-Badria, one of Jerusalem’s “seven palaces.” It was a grand old Oriental building with decorative arches. His family’s butcher shop was next door. Abu Adel left school when he was sixteen to help his father run it. During World War I his father had been blinded by a bullet to his brow. “He died in 1980, and my mother was so very sad that she died fifteen minutes later,” he said.

      Abu Adel did not want East Jerusalem to be given over to a Palestinian government. “I say, ‘No, no, no!’” he shouted, his hands...

    • Mustafa al-Kurd, 63 Musician EAST JERUSALEM, WEST BANK
      (pp. 207-212)

      “I wanted to get to the heart of the music and live in it,” said Mustafa with a flourish. As a young man, his dream had been to play a musical instrument like the oud. With his black beret, beard, red scarf, and fine wooden oud, Mustafa now looked like a man whose dream had come true. He could have been a troubadour at a sixties benefit gig. His ever-present wife, Helga, a left-wing East Berliner, was just the red star on the cake. But Mustafa did not look contented. He had traveled a long way in life and returned...

    • Hanan Ashrawi, 62 Civil Society Leader RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 212-220)

      Hanan Ashrawi sat on the PLO’s executive committee and was a Palestinian whom Westerners could relate to. Eloquent, cultured, and highly secular, she was a leader during the First Intifada and a national spokesperson during peace talks afterward. When the Second Intifada arrived, she was already the world media’s Palestinian pundit of choice. Her passion for the national struggle was not a media turn. But her background would not automatically scream “activist” either. “My mother comes from a wealthy Victorian family,” Hanan told me over biscuits in her office, “very prim and proper. Her mother was taken up with issues...

    • Raleb Majadele, 56 Former Minister of Science and Technology JERUSALEM
      (pp. 220-224)

      Raleb was the first Arab Muslim to have given orders in an Israeli ministry. As I waited to meet him, his office’s yarmulke-wearing security guard was taking a close interest in me. He asked to see my camera and then demanded that I open it. “Take a photo,” he said. I raised the camera. “Not of me!” he warned. Then he looked at the digital viewfinder to make sure a picture had been taken. He wanted to see my press card, then my phone, and then my voice recorder. I had to record something and play it back for him....

    • Ahmad Yousef, 59 Deputy Foreign MinisterRAFAH CAMP, GAZA
      (pp. 224-234)

      Ahmad Yousef strolled into Gaza’s luxurious Al-Dire Hotel a few minutes late and proceeded to chat to the concierge in a steady and familiar tone. Dressed simply, he was accompanied by a beefy bodyguard. In spring 2008 the hotel was already protected by several armed checkpoints and Hamas militiamen smoking cigarettes on the rocks beneath its terrace. Three months before, a small bomb had exploded on the beach outside. The threat of Israeli air strikes and incursions was constant, even if food shortages and power cuts were sharper concerns. Hamas was one year into a blockade imposed by Israel and...

  11. The Nakba Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 235-237)

      All roads in Palestinian history lead back to the Nakba. During the war to establish a Jewish state in 1948, many thousands of Palestinians were killed, upwards of 750,000 were expelled from their land, and between 369 and 531 villages were destroyed. Ninety-six percent of villages in the Bisan valley were demolished—the same proportion as in Jaffa—and this was not unusual. The Israeli historian Ilan Pappe noted that both areas fell to the Palmach before the state’s founding declaration in May 1948. Israeli forces thus had more time to complete their operations there.

      The first Arab Jerusalemites were...

    • Gabi Baramki, 78 Former University President RAMALLAH, WEST BANK
      (pp. 238-242)

      At the entrance to Jerusalem’s Museum on the Seam, a sign reads, “Olive trees will be our borders.” It looks like pacifist agitprop beside the ugly highway that spans the Green Line dividing Israel from the West Bank. Inside, ambient whale sounds comfort the mostly liberal tourists perusing the lightly political works on display. Outside, the eye is drawn upward to a beautiful old stone balcony that looks as though it has had a bite taken out of it. A small English-language information poster on a ground floor pillar mentions that the house was built by the “Arab Christian architect...

    • Nuri al-Ukbi, 66 Bedouin Activist AL-ARAQUIB, ISRAEL
      (pp. 243-246)

      Nuri had been evicted from this land more than twenty-five times in the past three years, but on each occasion he had returned. He was born here, in al-Araquib, a lonely expanse of ocher desert between Rahat and Be’ersheva. His family was wrenched from this vast tract of earth when he was nine years old. At the time of our interview, he had hitched his black tarpaulin tent to its rockface and was clinging on for dear life.

      With his sun-drizzled good looks, baggy shirt, and dapper belt buckle, Nuri could have passed for a tired film star. But his...

    • Jamal Freij, 71 Former Well Maintenance Worker KFAR QASSEM, ISRAEL
      (pp. 247-250)

      Jamal had few memories of the Nakba. “Nothing much happened here,” he muttered as we sat in his long, dark living room. “There were no feelings. The houses were open to the streets. We just saw the soldiers passing through in their tanks. We survived. People’s lives even improved. They went to work for the Jews in the olive groves and in the quarry, cutting stones. We were treated well.” Jamal’s town, Kfar Qassem, sits on the rim of the West Bank, just inside Israel. Under military administration, it was Druze soldiers that strictly controlled the village, Jamal said, not...

    • Aisha Odeh, 63 Women’s Center Founder DEIR JARIR, WEST BANK
      (pp. 250-255)

      “I remember the Nakba very well,” Aisha said. “My aunt is from Deir Yassin.” Every Palestinian knows about the massacre at Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, an estimated 120 Palestinians were killed there—96 of them civilians. Whole families were riddled with bullets or shrapnel from grenades that were bowled into their houses. Survivors were spat on, cursed, and beaten with rifles as they were loaded onto trucks that paraded them as trophies around West Jerusalem. The atrocity turned the flight of refugees from Palestine into a stampede. Aisha lost one of her relatives in the village’s killing fields....

    • Eyad al-Sarraj, 66 Psychiatrist GAZA CITY
      (pp. 255-261)

      Around the time that Eyad was born, his father was advised to buy land in the family’s original Gaza homestead and build a house. His supervisor in the British mandate police had told him, “The time will come when you will all move there.” Eyad spoke slowly. “My father told me that the plan was there,” he said.

      We were seated in the bountiful gardens of the house that Eyad’s father began building all those years ago. The villa was now four stories high and beautifully decorated. The walls surrounding it shut out the street on the other side. Eyad...

    • Hassan al-Kashif, about 64 Journalist GAZA CITY
      (pp. 262-267)

      “I’m about sixty-four,” Hassan purred in his deep baritone, “‘about,’ because I have no birth certificate. My parents lost it when they became refugees.” They left Hassan’s birth village of Beit Daras in a hurry after it succumbed to a fourth wave of attacks by Jewish militias trying to cut the road east. His memories were “like a vision,” he said. They inspired him to become a PLO fighter in Jordan, then a reporter, and ultimately Palestine’s most hard-hitting television anchor. His son became a journalist for BBC Arabic. The vision had been powerful. “Our village house was built from...

    • Rajab al-Hise, 82 Fisherman BEACH CAMP, GAZA
      (pp. 268-272)

      “How was the fishing today?” I asked Rajab. “Like normal,” he replied lackadaisically. It was a misleading answer. There was nothing normal about Gaza’s fishing industry. At night, you could see—and hear—Israeli gunboats firing machine gun and red tracer bullets at trawlers off the coast. They were warning shots, mostly. Since the blockade of the Strip began in 2007, Israel had prevented any fishing activity farther out than six kilometers, and within that catchment area there were precious few fish left. The fishermen anyway had precious little fuel. Rajab al-Hise was the Strip’s oldest angler. “The situation has...

  12. The 1936 Generation

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 273-277)

      The first stirrings of Palestinian national identity are sometimes said to have occurred in 1834, during an uprising in the cities of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Nablus, and Hebron against an Egyptian invasion led by Muhammad Ali Pasha. Ever since the Ottoman land reforms that followed that revolt, Palestinianfellahinhad been reluctant to register their land for fear of taxes and conscription. Most land had been owned collectively, often registered in the name of just one villager—or else merchants and Ottoman administrators who had never lived on it. This became a legal problem for Palestinians in Israel today. But in...

    • Jalil Sharqawi Fawadli, 79 Retired Teacher ABUD, WEST BANK
      (pp. 278-282)

      The towns of Abud and Bisan have lent their names to thousands of Palestinians over the years, and they still command attention. International visitors began visiting Abud in 2005 to protest the Israeli wall that was stealing the villagers’ land. But streams of people and pilgrims had passed through the town since Jesus walked this route on his way to Nazareth, as local tradition has it. Abud’s Church of St. Mary, built by Constantine, dates to the fourth century and boasts of miracles in the parish. Sometimes survival can be wonder enough. A fifth-century church in the beautiful village was...

    • Abdullah Rashid, 94 Retired Farmer AL-HUSSEIN CAMP, IRBID, JORDAN
      (pp. 283-288)

      Abdullah is a gentle and slow-moving war veteran, but his hands are still lithe and his worry beads are well worn. He has a kind but weathered face that wrinkles up like a sponge when he is struggling to hear or understand my questions. Then it sags as his brow tightens and he begins to answer. “Abu Suleiman” (as he is known) hails from the al-Sahne tribe, which is famous for its fighters and poets. He was born and brought up in the Bisan area, living in a tent like his father and grandfather before him. “We were Bedouin so...

    (pp. 289-294)

    The Number 90 bus to Beth She’an was air-conditioned, which was a good thing as the mercury outside read over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade. A Mizrahi with a pitted face sat beside me, shouting impatiently into his cell phone. Across the aisle, Israeli soldiers slouched languidly. To our left the hills of the Jordan Valley scraped at the sun, while on the right the mountains of Jordan loomed over the Dead Sea like cutlasses.

    Every few minutes, our Egged bus recklessly coiled around another hairpin turn, seemingly magnetized to the tarmac. Until recently, Palestinians could travel this road...

    (pp. 295-300)
    (pp. 301-304)
    (pp. 305-306)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 307-307)