A stunningly honest memoir of growing up with a political father amid the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that “captures the rage and despair of lives stunted by occupation” (The Boston Globe)
This “is not a political book,” Anthony Lewis writes in his foreword. “Yet in a hundred different ways it is political . . . Shehadeh shatters the stereotype many Americans have of Palestinians. Hath not a Palestinian senses, affections, passions?” This revealing memoir of a father-son relationship, the first of its kind by a Palestinian living in the occupied territories, is set against the backdrop of Middle East hostilities and more than thirty years of life under military occupation.
Three years after his family was driven from the coastal city of Jaffa in 1948, Raja Shehadeh was born in the provincial town of Ramallah, in the rural hills of the West Bank. His early childhood was marked by his family’s sense of loss and impermanence, vividly evoked by the glittering lights “on the other side of the hill.”
Growing up “in the shadow of home,” he was introduced early to political conflict. He witnessed the numerous arrests of his father, Aziz Shehadeh, who, in 1967, was the first Palestinian to advocate a peaceful, two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He predicted that if peace were not achieved, what remained of the Palestinian homeland would be taken away, bit by bit, through Israeli settlement. Ostracized by his fellow Arabs and disillusioned by the failure of either side to recognize his prophetic vision, Aziz retreated from politics. He was murdered in 1985.
Strangers in the House offers a moving description of the daily lives of those who have chosen to remain on their land. It is also the family drama of a difficult relationship between an idealistic son and his politically active father complicated by the arbitrary humiliation of the “occupier's law.”
Palestinian perspectives on the Middle East conflict don't often reach the West and today they are more relevant than ever. In this fascinating memoir, leading Palestinian lawyer Shehadeh offers a chilling and moving view of life inside the Occupied Territories. He was born into a prominent family around the time of Israel's establishment in 1948. As Shehadeh recounts his relationship with his parents, his first love, intellectual experiments in college, world travels, law career and human rights work, his struggles under Israeli occupation distinguish his story. Shehadeh names his father, Aziz, also a prominent attorney, as the first Palestinian in the late 1960s to advocate recognizing Israel and adopting a peaceful two-state solution. The author gives a gripping narrative regarding Aziz's murder and the Israeli authorities' sluggish investigation; it's widely assumed that Aziz's killer was a Palestinian who disapproved of his willingness to compromise with Israel. More broadly, Shehadeh deftly renders the Israeli government's systematic harassment and humiliation of the Palestinians, ranging from constant surveillance at checkpoints to random searches in homes and offices. Such situations, Shehadeh makes clear, account for the powerlessness, frustration and anger experienced by most Palestinians. His deliberate analysis of the expansion of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories, a major obstacle to the peace process, is especially intriguing. The author argues that these settlements are illegal under international law, but have slowly and surely been aligned with Israeli legal statutes. Anyone seeking a nuanced view of Palestinian experience should read this brave and lyrical book. B&w photos.