Issue 206
Winter 2018/19

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Apr 18, 2019

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An opportunity missed

I SO MUCH wanted to like this book, but didn't.

Once on a sticky hot morning in the West Bank I witnessed a baby bulldozer flattening the shanty dwelling of a Palestinian family for no other reason than that they suspected its occupants might have supported the teenage son of the family, whose brains they had just splattered over his Mother's white blouse after he had allegedly stepped forward to protect her from being man handled by an Isreali officer.

To be fair I didn't see the shooting, but I did witness the house being flattened whilst she screamed and wept with her breast still polka dot patterned red by her son's brains.

I remember thinking that the destruction of her house was perhaps a tad unnecessary. And indeed counter productive. I still see her in my dreams. She was obviously an office worker and was wearing an immaculate grey pencil skirt, and one smart shiny black shoe. My God she was screaming.

So when I was asked to write this review of a book of interviews with Palestinian stone masons who build the Israelis their houses whilst they are often destroying their own, my initial instinct was a keenness to be kind and give it a bit of a puff, but it's hard to polish the muddy and dull.

It should be so good. There is something very evocative about exploited stone masons working hard in the hot sun and some, though not all, of the interviews are powerful.

The author knows his stuff, has done his research and has put in the hours: the trouble is that he isn't really much of a communicator and what could be a gripping tale is rather ruined by the fact that he can't write for Joe Bloggs and nobody at his publishers have bothered to get it re-written by someone who can.

If they did they could be on to a winner. This version may well find homes on the shelves of earnest students who are not only interested in the subject but prepared to work a bit at interpreting its often leaden prose, so I suppose it's been worthy of its writing.

But it's just such a pity that such a potentially good tale that could grip thousands doesn't really deliver.

By the way I read about the kid who had his brains blown out on that hot morning on the West Bank. They said that a terrorist had been shot by a soldier after he had attacked him.

True I suppose, and perhaps to be fair he was frightened that the kid might have bene wearing an explosive vest.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem.


STONE MEN, The Palestinians who built Israel, Andrew Ross, Verso.

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