Occupation Diaries: Raja Shehadeh in conversation with John McCarthy
In a fascinating one hour conversation, John McCarthy and Raja Shehadeh traveled around the issues of Israel and of being a Palestinian Arab citizen of that country. A lawyer by training and heritage (his father and grandfather had their own practice) Shehadeh describes what it was like growing up in a displaced family and how writing became his salvation.
His childhood memories are both familiar and not; of enigmatic ladies like his maternal grandmother and her friends and their love of going to the cinemas in Ramallah, but also of their longing for a former life in Jaffa, a life he never knew. He reads a passage from his latest book Occupation Diaries that depicts the importance of continuity in a time where nothing is certain (he and his father have used the same family of barbers for most of their lives). His sadness and bewilderment at the installation of the huge wall that divides the West Bank from Israel and the motorways that connect Israel with the settlements is palpable – how can a country allow this to happen; how can the international community allow this to happen?
His faith in the use of law is steadfast – it is the benchmark from which to move forward. Germany has now ruled against doing business with companies in the West Bank settlements because of the illegal actions take by the Israeli governments – a position that has taken 50 years to come to fruition. Shehadeh is pragmatic and believes things can change based on an understanding of the rule of law, an awareness of citizen rights and increased coverage of the discriminatory policies perpertrated by the Government. Whether the solution is a separate Palestinian state or an integrated Israel he knows that greater awareness – both within Israel and outside – of the challenges Palestinian Arabs face will change opinions and shift minds. He cites an example of a family who live near Bethlehem, blocked on three sides by the wall that allows visitors to Rachel’s tomb without having to see into the Arab family’s compound. For the woman who lives there she has been separated from her lands and community but most devastating of all, the wall blocks out the sun.