This collection of over 50 interviews is a rich source for understanding the complexity of Palestinian experience. They range from poverty-stricken families in Lebanon’s camps and West Bank villages to comedians and journalists making a successful living in Israel, from drug dealers and tunnel diggers to Fatah officials and Hamas ministers.
Although all stories stem from the Nakba, the 1948 expulsion from Palestine, the book is organised into different generations. It begins with the 2009 bombardment of Gaza, and ends with Abdullah Rashid, who was shot in the leg by the British in the 1936 revolt. Each person is introduced by their name, photo, social position (or occupation) and their age. Historical events and social and political changes are seen through their effects on these individuals. As a result you learn how ideas and movements change through the words of the activists and participants themselves.
There are interviews with important players in the struggle such as the 1968 hijacker Leila Khaled, who helped bring the Palestinian issue into the world arena, and Hanan Ashrawi, PLO executive member and spokesperson up to the Oslo years.
To contrast with the more historical insights, Arthur Neslen also managed to secure interviews with those involved in more recent events. Examples include Mohammed Dahlan, leader of the Fatah attempted 2007 coup against Hamas in Gaza, and Ahmad Yousef, deputy foreign minister for Hamas.
These interviews are fascinating, though you learn as much from the sometimes extraordinarily frank responses of those at street level.
The book is riveting; in engaging with each person the author has drawn out details of how being Palestinian, with its inevitable weight of suffering and resistance, has shaped their lives. It brings home, as Ilan Pappé says, “vividly and authentically what it means to be Palestinian today”.
In Your Eyes a Sandstorm is published by University of California Press, £24.95
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Animated film retells Anne Frank’s story
A pick of the highlights