The murderous attack and eviction of tens of thousands of Palestinians in 1948 (Nakba) from their homes and land by Israeli Zionists signalled the cruel and inhumane methods that the newly established colonialist state would employ and condone in securing their goal of a “homeland”.
The whole of Palestinian society, from the poor peasant labourer to those at the top of society were shattered by the events of 1948. For those that remained inside of Israel their lives would be turned upside down. Their legal rights would be trampled on, their ability to feed themselves thrown into crisis.
Thousands found themselves in refugee camps in neighbouring states thinking that these would be temporary accommodation before the right to return was established. They have become permanent places where whole lives are lived and consumed.
Others with more resources could escape the camps and set up new homes, such as Shedadeh’s family which settled in Ramallah on the West Bank after they were driven out of Jaffa.
However, even this relatively secure space was destroyed in 1967 when, at the end of the six-day war, the Israeli state military occupied territories on the West Bank, Golan Heights and Sinai.
Shedadeh’s short book is to mark the 50th year of occupation. Conceived as a day’s journey through his adopted city he seeks to document and describe how the years have changed the city, himself, Palestinians and Ramallan society.
He employs a method of intertwining random events, people and places across the last 50 years to, at times, powerfully evoke the loss of home and place, the everyday violence and humiliation suffered living under occupation. He conveys, much like Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s recent documentary “Gaza”, how people try to forge and build an “ordinary life” when everyday living is constantly being undermined by the ongoing war being waged over the very right to a Palestinian existence.
However, the problem is that there is too much left unsaid.The defeats and setbacks are talked of: the failed strategies adopted by Arafat and the PLO, the disastrous consequences of the Oslo accords. The First Intifada is differentiated from the Second. The development of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas is, rightfully, seen with a critical eye.
However, as these developments are called up, Shedadeh offers very little insight into how and why these things came to pass, just as he is unable to discern the causes of his problematic relationship with his father. Ultimately he can offer his understanding of his father-son relationship but leaves the political questions unanswered.