September 2, 2018

THE COUSINS WAR:

A Palestinian Memoir to Counter Trump's Troubles in the Middle East (Robin Wright, September 1, 2018, The New Yorker)

Bashir's epiphany came in an unexpected--and violent--way. In 2004, a week after he turned fifteen, Bashir returned from school to find three U.N. officials visiting his father. The Israelis, ensconced in a nearby tower, soon ordered the U.N. team to leave. As Bashir and his father walked the officials to their car, a single gunshot from an M-16 automatic rifle rang out. "I felt something knock me to the ground, like I was crumbling," Bashir recounts. "I tried to get up but my legs would not move." He was in searing pain--and paralyzed from the waist down. The bullet went so deep into his back that the doctors could see through to his spine. Bashir's father urged Palestinians not to retaliate. "There is no time for anger," Khalil said. Yousef was furious with his father, whom he blamed as much as the Israelis.

The boy's life took an unexpected turn when, through his father's connections, he was transferred to a medical facility in Israel. "All I knew about Israelis was that they had guns and had the power to tell me and my family when to use the bathroom and when to go to school, and that one of them had almost ended my life a few weeks earlier. Apparently, just because he could," Bashir writes. When a group of Israeli military officers visited him at Tel HaShomer Hospital, in Tel Aviv, Khalil accepted their apology for his son's condition. Yousef--in "merciless" pain from three bullet fragments still lodged in his spine--did not.

The cycle of surgeries and therapy went on for months. "Sometimes I would hold my legs and talk to them," he writes. "I thought that if I did they might listen and get stronger. Sometimes my tears fell without my permission." Israeli patients and their families offered encouragement. Jewish student volunteers came to play games. Hasidic groups even serenaded him with Passover songs. Time, in Yousef's case, did heal. "In the midst of the pain," he writes, "I became aware that a miracle was unfolding within me, not only in my body but also in my soul." He particularly admired his nurse, Seema, an Iraqi Jew. He began to wonder "why everyone did not feel the love I was now feeling. I understood what my father meant when he said of the soldiers, 'They are just children, forgive them.' " [...]

Bashir, who now spends his time lobbying for the Palestinians, speaking to Jewish groups, including aipac, and telling his story to anyone who will listen, hasn't given up hope on peace, though he can occasionally sound forlorn. "I think I have finally understood Rumi when he wrote that there is no love greater than a love without a lover," he writes, referring to the thirteenth-century Persian poet. "My commitment to peace has been such a love affair without a lover." The book ends with its own peace offering: a letter to the anonymous shooter who disabled him. "Without your bullet, I might never have understood forgiveness," Bashir writes. "You were created by the same God who created me. You have the same humanity as I have. You are part of the same family as I am. I forgive you, my cousin."




Posted by at September 2, 2018 4:32 AM

  

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