x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dina Matar on what it means to be Palestinian

Dina Matar started from the sound premise of sitting down and listening to Palestinians. Day by day we hear about the steady march on their homes. Their stories would make What It Means to be Palestinian seem worthwhile enough.

What It Means to be Palestinian: Stories of Palestinian Peoplehood
Dina Matar
I B Taurus
Dh98

A book can succeed despite the efforts of its author.

Dina Matar started from the sound premise of sitting down and listening to Palestinians. Day by day we hear about the steady march on their homes. Their stories would make What It Means to be Palestinian seem worthwhile enough. Unfortunately, its attempt to explicate "peoplehood" ranges into the uneven terrain of social science - even to a reference to Freud. Worse, in each chapter prologue, Matar tells the reader how to feel and punctuates with arbitrary footnotes.

These personal stories would be better served by an account that let them stand on their own. The Nakba in 1948 and the Naksa of 1967, and the Camp Wars in Lebanon are there for the public record.

Matar gives glimpses of people who have lived beyond these wars, in a mother who protects her children, a soldier who puts down the gun, a student who writes, an agent who publishes the works of giants. Matar writes that Palestinian stories are hidden, too often framed by Israel. Pessimism is easy to understand. There are more stories to be recorded here.