These two books illuminate different aspects of the Palestinian experience and go to the centre of the essential moral question for the state of Israel: how can it justify the cost paid daily by those it has excluded?
David Grossman’s book, written in Hebrew and beautifully translated by Haim Watzman, is the chronicle of a summer journey of exploration in his own country. He set out to meet the one–fifth of Israel’s population who are Arabs, and to listen to them. As with his previous book of reportage, The Yellow Wind, which described the occupation of the West Bank, part of Grossman’s strength is that people are somehow impelled to tell him of their fears, their hatred, their bitterness, their shame and, the universal experience of Palestinians, their alienation. These Arabs live daily an ambiguity of attitude to the intifada, with their desire to believe in the possibility of one day being part of an independent Palestine conflicting with an everyday wish to be good citizens, educate their children and have jobs in the Israel where they are actually living.
Grossman is not a man to shy away from moral outrage at the consequences of 1948 when 600,000 Arabs fled or were expelled, while 160,000 remained and became part of the two–tier society Zionism has created. ‘Twice as many Arab babies die soon after birth as Jewish babies. And 92