Review of “Where the Line Is Drawn”: Can a friendship survive the occupation of Palestine?

The West Bank writer and lawyer Raja Shehadeh documents his troubled relationship with an Israeli with typical grace and power.

Ben Ehrenreich in The Guardian:

4320It is difficult not to wonder what kind of a man Raja Shehadeh might have become had he been born nearly anywhere else. Surely, he would have been a writer in almost any incarnation, but what kind of writer? Not everyone gets to choose. Shehadeh was born in Ramallah in 1951, three years after the foundation of the Israeli state forced his parents and many thousands of other Palestinians to abandon their homes in the coastal city of Jaffa and take refuge where they could. As a young man, he sought out other worlds. He travelled to Britain to study law and to an ashram in Pondicherry to “try my hand”, he writes in Where the Line Is Drawn, “at a spiritual life”. He was soon called home when his mother fell ill. The freedom to invent oneself, he has been forced to learn repeatedly, is a privilege reserved for the fortunate few.

Whatever he might have been, Shehadeh has become a very specific sort of writer, and an irreplaceable one. No one else writes about Palestinian life under military occupation with such stubborn humanity, melancholy and fragile grace. Over the course of 10 books of literary non-fiction – not to mention several volumes of legal analysis – he has recorded the pain of watching the West Bank be slowly seized, transformed and brutalised while Israel’s settlement enterprise expands. As the land accessible to Palestinians is diminished and disfigured by concrete walls, checkpoints and miles of barbed wire, so too are the contours and possibilities of Palestinian life. One feels the loss in every paragraph Shehadeh writes, but also the inescapable beauty that remains, which both softens and deepens the rage.

More here.