Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Collaborator of Bethlehem: An Omar Yussef Mystery by Matt Beynon Rees

The Collaborator of Bethlehem: An Omar Yussef Mystery

Omar Yussef, a crusty grandfather, refuses to mind his own business. Friends run into trouble in Dehaisha, a refugee camp outside of Bethlehem, and he looks into the void.

This book is overwhelming in its pathos, and terrifying in its implications. This old schoolmaster, Omar Yussef, almost goes out of his way to avoid finding evidence of murder in Dehaisha, perpetrated, he believes, by a leader of the resistance. Instead he finds clues just lying about, ignored by the very people meant to serve the people and protect them from harm. His anger and fury come into focus as his family is threatened and blameless friends and colleagues are murdered.

I had not realized that "the gunmen" of the Palestinian resistance were so reviled from within, but it makes eminent sense. This is a novel, of course, but I think Matt Beynon Rees may be speaking to a larger truth here that is difficult to convey to those, like myself, who have turned their face from a conflict that rages with no end in sight, that doesn't make economic or political or humanitarian sense, and is sickening in its reveal of the baseness of human nature.

The author has painted a grim picture of life in the settlements. He is not unkind to Israelis who, in the one appearance they make in this volume, appear rational, albeit destructive. His main character is difficult to like, he is so full of bile at a system that gives him no peace but plenty of pain. But if we walk with him a short way, we begin to see what he sees, and it is indescribably sad.

Related: Sound of Sleep or Invasion?

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