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Thursday, 18 September 2008

The silver lining on Palestine's cloud

Pictured here is the Jewish Quarterly's latest autumn issue.

by *Suzan Abrams

The editorial featured in the Jewish Quarterly's Summer 2008 edition - the Quarterly with its introspective and poignant essays being held as the world's oldest English language journal devoted to Jewish studies - talked with some relish, hope and candour about the enterprising Palestine Festival of Literature - a festival that was being held simultaneously and armed with the same industrious passion as Israel's widely-known International Festival of Literature, deigned to feature such greats as Nadine Gordimer and Amoz Oz.

The ambitious Palestine however offered the humbler if not slightly more reverential option and as always through circumstance which outlines an injured miscarriage of justice; succeeded in receiving almost no publicity at all.

Yet the event had managed to gather an ebullient crowd of British, American, Indian and Arabic writers; all eager to lend a rhapsodic feel to the hearty writing discussions.

Throughout the literary festival, one urgent question had stuck out like a sore thumb. Dutifully engaged in playing the role of the misfit nation, the puzzle was drawn on how to write books that would make people understand. But understand what?

To native writers, it mattered everything that just that right book that explained the Palestinian situation to the world would be written for libraries, bookshops and readers come the length and breath of planet earth.

Esther Freud was herself reported to have said that 'thank you' had turned out to be the most abundantly scattered phrase that peppered the entire celebratory scholarly discourse. The gratitude was immense. "Thank you for coming and not forgetting about us." In return for the confetti-throw of lavish courtesy, the audience was to stay fascinated and deeply touched.

The enlightening editorial further explains with kindly analysis; the current isolation of Palestine's intellectuals and writers that often pinches painfully at their plight. No one visits them and it is sometimes equally impossible for them to travel.

Says the editorial, "If the Palestinian people are to articulate their path to self-determination and statehood, the writers and intellectuals will be a vital force in countering extremist hatred and bigotry. They are the voices, we, in the west, need to cultivate and hear while they still want to talk to us, before they, too, are engulfed in the burning flames of racial hatred."


*With the exception of the quoted editorial passage in the final paragraph, the short article above features this writer's own words.


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