Interlink Authors Discussing Writing about Palestine

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Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, August/September 2020, pp. 68-69

Book Talks

By Incia Haider

The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) held a webinar on May 28 titled, “A Zoom Discussion with Interlink Publishing Authors,” featuring three of the publishing house’s writers. Authors discussed Palestinian rights, Zionism and the Middle Eastern conflict and highlighted the importance of Interlink Publishing as a channel for dispersing and printing works ignored by other publishers.

Nora Lester Murad, a U.S. native who has lived in Palestine for 13 years, during which time she has co-founded two organizations, Dalia Association and Aid-Watch Palestine, recently published a collection of personal reflections on foreigners living in Palestine titled, I Found Myself in Palestine. She said this “was not a book she set out to write, but it had to be written and compelled itself into existence.”

Murad described the process of gathering and listening to stories from ajanab (foreigners) as “wrapping herself around some really raw issues about identity, belonging and the experience of being an ‘inside-outsider.’” Contributors to the book come from all over the world. Various angles of how all these foreigners have been transformed are explored within the work, ranging from transformations of family life to religion to activism. While these reflections give insight into the unique experiences of foreigners in Palestine, Murad stressed the importance of Palestinians sharing their own stories.

Daphna Levit, an Israeli-born activist, writer and lecturer, discussed the failure of Israel as a democratic state, as well as the history of dissent in the country, which is the focus of her book, Wrestling with Zionism.

Levit expressed herself as, “always the outsider, because being critical of Israel as an Israeli is not really permitted.” She cited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s declaration of Israel as a state that shows preference to its Jewish citizens as an impetus for her to commit to fighting against the occupation and anti-democratic values within the Israeli state. “If Israel is truly a democracy,” she exclaimed, “why do people who don’t live there but are Jewish have preferential rights over non-Jews who actually live there?” Levit addresses this juxtaposition of democracy and religious nationalism within her work.

Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, has published many books with Interlink, with her most recent being the seventh edition of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.

Despite being raised a “hardcore Zionist,” Bennis came to realize the colonialist intentions rooted within the occupation of Palestine. In much of her work, she explores the dynamic nature of the discourse about Palestine within the U.S. and its somewhat positive changes. However, the “tragic irony,” she concluded, is that “we’re looking at this moment when the discourse in the United States has begun to change so dramatically and at the same time the condition of life for Palestinians has gotten worse and worse.”

Bennis also described literature and books as vital to this movement and emphasized that “Interlink publishes more books, in English, about the Middle East, about Palestine, by Palestinians, in greater numbers in the Interlink catalog than anywhere else in this country.”

 

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