Rewriting the Story of the Palestinian Radical

Rozina Ali at The New Yorker:

Beyond erasing this diversity, casting Palestinian radicalism as innately Islamic severs resistance from the essential question of land and geography. The novel reflects this: Nahr’s status as the daughter of Palestinian refugees in Kuwait certainly affects her life—she is pushed out of an official dance troupe, and her family’s allegiance is suspected after Saddam Hussein’s invasion. But being Palestinian doesn’t take hold as a political reality until she lives in her ancestral homeland. What fuels her fight isn’t a divine commandment about good and evil; it is the land itself. Nahr observes settlers encroaching on a Palestinian village, and wonders how Bilal and his mother have been able to keep them away from their land. She visits her mother’s childhood home, in Haifa, and picks figs from a tree her grandfather planted, before being chased off by a Jewish woman who now lives there. She helps to redirect water from a pipe meant for settlers to the olive groves. There is violence inflicted upon this land, but Abulhawa centers its beauty: “I was content to just sit there in the splendid silence of the hills, where the quiet amplified small sounds—the wind rustling trees; sheep chewing, roaming, bleating, breathing; the soft crackle of the fire; the purr of Bilal’s breathing,” Nahr reflects. “I realized how much I had come to love these hills; how profound was my link to this soil.”

more here.