Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Yellow Wind by David Grossman

David Grossman was a novelist when he was commissioned in 1987 to write a series of articles describing his perceptions of conditions in the occupied West Bank at the time of the twentieth anniversary of Israel’s Six Day War. What he wrote became a sensation in Israel. A book of the articles was published. Portions of that book were published in The New Yorker, and translations offered access throughout the world.

My initial reaction upon reading this thirty years since it was written was that it seemed dated. Those of us since who have been willing to grapple with the scene there have encountered stories like these before. The point, I guess, is that the problem has never been resolved and instead has festered, infected, and inflamed an entire region.

Grossman was remarkably naive in his writing—by that I mean he registered his reactions without much apparent editing. When he was horrified and distressed recognizing that Arab children were being taught to hate and kill Jews, he said so. When he discovered he lacked remorse when an Arab’s family home was torn down and the family banished because the son had committed murder, he said so. “They had raised the son and were therefore responsible” was his logic.

Towards the end of the book, however, his insights came hard and fast and terribly prescient. What strikes me now is how none of his insights were acted upon. All the markers I have in this book are in the last 75 pages. The paragraphs are too long to quote, so you will just have to go to the source. If you have been following the Israel Palestine saga, skim the beginning, and start reading at Chapter 12, “Sumud.” Or just read the last chapter, “The First Twenty Years.”
"The occupation is a continuing and stubborn test for both sides trapped in it…demanding that we…take a stand and make a decision. Or at least relate…Years passed…[and] I found myself developing the same voluntary suspension of questions about ethics and occupation…I have a bad feeling: I am afraid that the current situation will continue exactly as it is for another ten or twenty years. There is one excellent guarantee of that—human idiocy and the desire not to see the approaching danger. But I am sure that the moment will come when we will be forced to do something and it may well be that our position then will be much less favorable than it is now."
No one country has the corner on stupidity and reluctance to see danger. America, Europe, China...every country...has been reluctant to acknowledge climate change when it would have been so much easier to address it than now. None of us can claim to be better. There will always be those among us whose moral anguish or need to respond exceeds that of others. But I begin to think the situation in Israel/Palestine has crushed the souls of most people living there until now there is precious little left to save. Please prove to me is isn't so. Make me proud to know you.

The last paragraph of the book quotes Albert Camus. The passage from speech to moral action has a name: “To become human.”

I was led to this reading by a GR friend whose review made me want to see.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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