Sunday, June 29, 2008

Gate of the Sun - Elias Khoury

Summers are essential to my psyche because I'm usually able to read more than during the academic year. I continue to read during the other times but I just don't have the chance to concentrate. One of the books that I've been reading, and just finished, is Elias Khoury's Gate of the Sun. Khoury is a professor of Arabic literature at NYU and has written eleven novels. Gate of the Sun is the story of Yunis, a hypothetical Palestinian freedom fighter, who is nursed on his deathbed by a younger Palestinian who is the narrator of the story. The story is a compilation of many stories of Palestinians who left, or were driven out of, their homes and villages in 1948 and during the subsequent Israeli incursions into the land that was Palestine's.

Living in the Middle East has caused me to be much more curious and concerned about the circumstances of reestablishing the state of Israel and the international political controversy that rages over the unequivocal support of the U.S.A. for Israel's actions both in 1948 and today. The sense of being wronged is so deep and most Arabs believe that establishing an exclusive Jewish state was equivalent to the genocide and ethnic cleansing that was so abhorrent to all during the Holocaust. A quote from Gate of the Sun, speaking of Palestine:
"I believe, like you, that this country must belong to its people, and there is no moral, political, humanitarian or religious justification that would permit the expulsion of an entire people from its country and the transformation of what remained of them into second-class citizens; so, no - don't worry. This Palestine, no matter how many names they give it, will always be Palestine. But tell me, in the faces of those people being driven to slaughter, didn't you see something resembling your own?"

The point being made was that Palestinians were driven out of their land and were persecuted, denied their property and belongings, tortured, raped, and killed, in profoundly disturbing ways that mirrored the atrocities of the Nazis. I know that I'm going into significant political comment that may make some readers uncomfortable but the Arab world believes that the western world has never recognized the devastation that Palestinians have endured. Part of the controversy of the state of Israel is about this lack of acknowledgment and the rest is about the presumption of the rightness of a one-state solution of Israeli occupation when Arabs believe that a two-state solution is possible and is the only just thing to do.

I'm still absorbing information and trying to sort out what I think about the controversy of Israel and what solution may be conceivable. I realize that my own ignorance and inability to take a stand is part of the problem. I dare say that most westerners don't understand why the occupation of Israel has resulted in such sustained and deep intolerance throughout the Middle East. Rather than blindly and ignorantly accepting the present state is defensible, perhaps broader understanding would allow for acceptance and peace to emerge.

Help me here... What more do you know and how might a broader segment of global citizens become better informed and thereby become agents of resolution and peace in this part of the world?

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