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This “is not a political book,” Anthony Lewis writes in his foreword. “Yet in a hundred different ways it is political . . . Shehadeh shatters the stereotype many Americans have of Palestinians. Hath not a Palestinian senses, affections, passions?” This revealing memoir of a father-son relationship, the first of its kind by a Palestinian living in the occupied territories, is set against the backdrop of Middle East hostilities and more than thirty years of life under military occupation.
Three years after his family was driven from the coastal city of Jaffa in 1948, Raja Shehadeh was born in the provincial town of Ramallah, in the rural hills of the West Bank. His early childhood was marked by his family’s sense of loss and impermanence, vividly evoked by the glittering lights “on the other side of the hill.”
Growing up “in the shadow of home,” he was introduced early to political conflict. He witnessed the numerous arrests of his father, Aziz Shehadeh, who, in 1967, was the first Palestinian to advocate a peaceful, two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He predicted that if peace were not achieved, what remained of the Palestinian homeland would be taken away, bit by bit, through Israeli settlement. Ostracized by his fellow Arabs and disillusioned by the failure of either side to recognize his prophetic vision, Aziz retreated from politics. He was murdered in 1985.
Strangers in the House offers a moving description of the daily lives of those who have chosen to remain on their land. It is also the family drama of a difficult relationship between an idealistic son and his politically active father complicated by the arbitrary humiliation of the “occupier's law.”
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