Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

I Remember Palestine

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

I Remember Palestine

Article excerpt

I Remember Palestine

By Anita Ganeri. Steck-Vaugh, 1995, 32 pp. List: $19.95; AET: $15.

Reviewed by Marilyn Raschka

"My name is Ahmad, and I am Palestinian. Palestine is not a country. You won't see its name on most maps." This simple introduction with its complicated political overtones opens a 32-page children's book that endeavors to tell the Palestinian side of the story through the words of 10-year-old Ahmad.

In an issue where image plays such a strong role, the author has chosen an Ahmad whose hair, neatly combed and cut, frames a young, hopeful face. He's wearing a turquoise sweatshirt with sleeves rolled up, and a watch--worn in that loose way popular with kids around the world. This Ahmad could be a child with any one of a dozen nationalities. Ironically, as the title forewarns, he has none.

Ahmad says right up front, "I'd like to tell you about my old home, not just about its troubles." And for the most part the declarative, simple sentence structure the author uses throughout the text tells the story of Palestine without inflammatory exaggerations or biases.

In the chapter called "A Divided Nation," author Anita Ganeri presents the 1967 conflict in these words: "In 1967, Israel captured Gaza and the West Bank from its Arab neighbors in another war." From there she builds Ahmad's case. "Since then, these areas have been called the Occupied Territories. Most countries do not believe that Israel had a right to add them to its territory. Although some Jews tried to settle in the Occupied Territories after 1967, most of the people who live there are Palestinian Arabs."

The text is generously interspersed with good quality color photographs showing the more traditional side of Palestinian life in both dress and activity. Occasionally, however, the photograph does not reflect the text. In these cases the young readers are left to misinterpret what they see. And worse, the story behind the photo is left untold.

Opposite the "Divided Nation" text is an uncaptioned picture of a Palestinian woman in traditional dress. She is using a hose to fill large plastic water containers borne by a donkey. No mention is made of Israeli water policies which deny new wells to Palestinians nor is there any reference to Israeli overuse and illegal use of the West Bank's water sources.

The majority of photos show adults; the ones featuring children are politically charged, but the mild captions reserve this fact for the sharp-eyed student or perhaps the teacher. In one, another handsome boy about Ahmad's age is featured. His shirt is made of camouflage material and a red and white keffiyeh is draped around his neck. His face does not display the hint of a smile that Ahmad's does. In the background the reader can make out a political banner, probably dating from the days of the intifada and a fair assumption is that in his hands, not shown in the photo, is a stone.

Ganeri comes to Ahmad's defense in every chapter. The text in "Rural Life" reads, "Some Palestinian farmers are angry because the Israeli government has taken their land. The Palestinians are also upset by Israeli settlers who have started their own farms in the Occupied Territories on what was once Palestinian land. Many Palestinians now work on Israeli farms, instead of farming their own land."

And, in "City Life," Ganeri ventures beyond the point at which many writers for adults bow out: "Since the West Bank and Gaza are occupied territories, Israeli soldiers, barbed wire, and other signs of rule by the army are common sights. …

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