By Jonas Liston
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Out of It

This article is over 10 years, 4 months old
Selma Dabbagh
Issue 366

British-Palestinian novelist Selma Dabbagh has managed to produce one of the best books I have read on the Israel-Palestine conflict, combining some of the most poignant aspects of previous books on the subject. She manages to unite the hard-hitting history that you would expect to read in an Ilan Pappé book, with an emotionally driven narrative reminiscent of Ramzy Baroud’s My Father was a Freedom Fighter.

Dabbagh’s characters are well evolved throughout the book. They separate in times of animosity and hinge together again in times of trouble. The best example of this dynamic is the relationship between the young Rashid, a student who has just received a scholarship for London, and his rebellious sister Iman, who struggles to deal with the complacency and moderation of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, or the “outside leadership” as it is constantly referred to. The relationship between the two, despite their repeated arguments, is one of honesty and confusion – exacerbated by relations with their controversial “mama”.

In the first part of the novel the rapid scene changes can be tedious and often confusing. Dabbagh makes up for this by her descriptions of the chaos wrought by the brutality of the Israeli state.

However, as the book progresses and the main characters become more defined, Rashid and Iman really begin to stand out. Rashid becomes disillusioned with his future and his family, and Iman becomes a stronger character, more determined and assured by her struggle both in Palestine and in Britain.

The aspect of the book that I found most interesting was the way in which the far left and the pro-Palestinian community were portrayed within Britain. Although the portrayal of the British left is often a little off the mark, the description of pro-Palestinian circles is spot on, and the way in which the author describes the pro-Palestinian demonstrations in Trafalgar Square sounded quite familiar.

The wide range of experiences in the novel, whether it be student elections or the economic difficulties facing disabled people, make it something all readers can relate to. It is one of the most honest and riveting tales of life under occupation I have read. Books like this contribute to the increasing numbers of people being inspired by and compelled to support Palestinian liberation.

Dabbagh sums up the reality of the conflict on the ground when she says, “It was more of a cage fight, where the other side could throw these flying kicks but their side was limbless or heavily disadvantaged in some way and kept getting disqualified for spitting.”

Out of It is published by Bloomsbury, £12.99

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