Wrong Target for a Pretend Philosopher

French Zionist and celebrity Islamophobe Bernard-Henri Levy recently accused Susan Abulhawa’s novel Mornings in Jenin of contributing to anti-Semitism. Levy picked the wrong target. Abulhawa has already proved herself more than a match for the ranting Alan Dershowitz. In the Huffington Post she responds to Levy’s anti-Semitism charge: “This word — with its profound gravity of marginalization, humiliation, dispossession, oppression, and ultimately, genocide of human beings for no other reason but their religion — is so irresponsibly used by the likes of Levy that it truly besmirches the memory of those who were murdered in death camps solely for being Jewish.” Then she reminds us that “the people who today are being marginalized, humiliated, dispossessed, and oppressed for the sole reason of their religion are Palestinian Christians and Muslims.

The entire, excellent rejoinder to Levy’s attempt at intimidation is over the fold. Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet bought a copy of Abulhawa’s wonderful novel, do so.
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Susan Abulhawa v. Alan Dershowitz: Novel Approaches

Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa, whose debut novel, Mornings in Jenin, is an international sensation, confronts Zionist bully Alan Dershowitz, known for fictions of a different variety, at the Boston Book Festival. The discussion is moderated by Director of the Harvard Negotiation project, James Sebenius and sponsored by the Jewish Community Centers of Greater Boston.

Mornings in Jenin

This review was published in today’s Times.

According to the Zionist story, Palestine before the state of Israel was ‘a land without a people awaiting a people without a land.’ Writers from Mark Twain to Leon Uris, as well as Hollywood studios and certain church pulpits, retell the tale. But Palestinians, in the West at least, lack a popular counter-narrative. Palestinians are reported on, met only on the news.

Perhaps this is changing. As the land disappears from under their feet Palestinians have been investing in culture, and an explosion of Palestinian talent is becoming visible in the West, in films, hip-hop, poetry and novels. And now Susan Abulhawa’s “Mornings in Jenin” is the first English language novel to fully express the human dimension of the Palestinian tragedy.

The story begins with the Abulheja family at home in the village of Ein Hod near Haifa, marrying, squabbling, trading, and harvesting the olives. It’s a touching and sometimes funny portrait of rural life with hints of the city (notably the Jerusalem-based Perlsteins, refugees from German anti-Semitism) and the Beduin tribes.

Then comes the Nakba, or Catastrophe, of 1948. Driven from their shelled village, the family suffers loss, separation, and humiliation, ending up in a camp in Jenin where “the refugees rose from their agitation to the realisation that they were slowly being erased from the world.” By now we care very much about the key characters, and through them we experience “that year without end”, the interminably drawn out Nakba which stretches through some of the bloodier signposts of Palestinian history – the Naksa or Disaster of 1967, the Lebanese refugee camp massacres, until the 2002 Jenin massacre.

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