The media is filled with stories about the Middle East, yet many people lack adequate knowledge about this region (Webb, 2009). Various authors have written stories about the Middle East and their literature help to bring the diverse experiences of this part of the world to the readers. Modern Middle Eastern Literature helps readers to replace old stereotypes about the region and to develop personal connections with the Arab countries. Some of the notable books written by authors from the Middle East, and that will be used for this analysis, include Wild Thorns written by Sahar Khalifeh, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter, and Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzanne Fisher Staples. Readers can also use contemporary films and videos about these books to gain a proper understanding of Middle Eastern Literature (Webb, 2009).
The Middle East is a historically complex and diverse region where a large percentage of the world’s population resides. Wild Thorns by Sahar Khalifeh addresses the crisis between Israeli and Palestine and it gives the reader an important opportunity to rethink the presumptions about the Arabic people. Khalifeh is known in the Middle East as the first female in history to write about Palestinian life. Wild Thorns is a very good book to introduce young readers to the lives of people living in the Middle East, especially in Palestine (Khalifeh, 2000).
Wild Thorns is centered on Al-Karmi family who live in the town of Nablus that is largely occupied by the Israelis. Members of this family have varied viewpoints and experiences. Nuwar who is the only daughter in the family is in love with a revolutionary. Adil, Nuwar’s brother, is working in Israel against his father’s wishes. Adil’s cousin, Usama, has just returned from work in Gulf States and he is now interested in becoming a resistance fighter. Basil, Adil’s brother, has been described in the text as a teenager who likes throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and who later on ends up in prison (Khalifeh, 2000).
Wild Thorns portrays the challenges that Palestinians are facing in their everyday life such as military domination and unemployment. When reading Wild Thorns, readers can draw personal connections with characters in order to get a comprehensive understanding of the text. Many people have read it in the news about the endless conflict between Iraq and Afghanistan. By identifying with characters in Wild Thorns, readers can transform their understanding and build a bridge between Palestines and the lives they are leading in territories that are largely occupied by Israelis (Webb, 2009).
The West Bank which is largely occupied by Israelis is portrayed as a society that is facing both internal and external assaults. However, that society has a positive spirit to remain strong and moving despite the misfortunes faced by its citizens. Wild Thorns gives the reader more information on how the Palestinians can survive under the current occupation. The lives of Adil and his cousin Usama tell the reader that political independence is directly related to survival. The two cousins are confident that even if the Israeli occupation continues, they will continue to survive through resistance. These characters are a true representation of the Palestine and the conflict that the country is currently facing. For Palestine to survive through the war, it must deal with it on its own through resistance (Webb, 2009).
In Wild Thorns, Basil and Usama have been prompted to destroy their family by the concept of nationalism. Here, Khalifeh views nationalism merely as a castle that us devoid of any foundation. Instead, what is evident in the book is a form of resigned solidarity. Currently, there are no national networks in the Middle East. However, the society is less connected as compared to the years after the Arab revolt (Khalifeh, 2000).
Usama in Wild Thorns represents politically active refugees from Palestine who were displaced in 1967 following the defeat of pan-Arabism and Nasser. He has just come back to Palestines from the Gulf of States and he is willing to execute attacks in those areas that are controlled by Israeli. Yasser Arafat from Palestine had gone to study in the Gulf States, but has some connections behind. Following his risky cross-border raids, it is the Palestines who suffered when Israeli chose to retaliate. Khalifeh has organized his characters into different figures by giving them different attitudes throughout the text. It is this difference in attitudes that plays a big role in building cleavages in the Palestinian society (Webb, 2009).
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter is another book that provides valuable background information about the life experiences of people in the Middle East (Webb, 2009). In Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Jimmy Carter, the former President of the United States claims that Israel is responsible for the apartheid system in Gaza and West Bank. According to Carter, the conflict between Palestine and Israel has been influenced by Israel who has colonized the Palestinian lands and has deprived residents of their basic human rights (Webb, 2009). Jimmy Carter is greatly involved in policies affecting the Middle East, and he emphasizes that there is lack of a comprehensive peace agreement in Palestine due to the primary obstacles that have been created by Israel (Carter, 2006). Jimmy Carter accuses Israel for building an ‘imprisonment wall’ in the West Bank and for strangling Gaza residents. He also writes about the role played by the United States in fueling the war between Israel and Palestine. He claims that Washington is abetting the colonization of Palestinian territories by the Israeli (Webb, 2009).
By connecting with characters in Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the reader is able to gain a clear picture of the cause of the war between Palestine and Israel, as well as the painful experiences faced by Palestine citizens (Goodman, 2006). This book is good for both the young people and adults who are interested in learning the political atmosphere of the Middle East. Additionally, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid helps readers to understand that the conflict between Israel and Palestine does not only involve countries in the Middle East, but also those in the United States such as Washington. In his views, Carter feels that Washington State is one of the contributors of the apartheid system that Israel has built against Palestine (Webb, 2009).
Many innocent civilians have died as a result of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Israel has occupied Palestinian land for approximately 38 years and Palestinians are suffering in the Israeli territory. Carter’s goal is to find long lasting solution for the war between Palestine and Israel (Carter, 2006). According to Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the wall that is encircling the Palestinian people is a big threat to the peace process that is initiated to end the conflict between Palestine and Israel. Carter’s book perfectly explains a very controversial and complicated history of the Middle East. The timeline that the author has provided at the beginning of the book helps the reader to understand the role played by past events in enhancing understanding of the history of the Middle East. Throughout Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, Carter has taken a unique position to give the reader a different perspective from that applied by other books on the same topic (Goodman, 2006).
Under The Persimmon Tree is a book written by Suzzane Fisher Staples and that involves a story of two families in Afghanistan barely on month after the September 11th attacks in New York. The story in Under The Persimmon Tree begins in Northern Afghanistan in a village called Golestan (Staples, 2005). In the book, Najmah lives with her father Baba-jan, her brother Nur, and her mother who is currently expectant. The family starts their day well but ends in a frightening mood when the Taliban attacks the family, taking their food, and kidnapping Najmah’s father and brother to become soldiers. Najmah’s mother gives birth to a baby boy just a few days after the attack. Surprisingly, Mohiuddin, Najmah’s uncle, who supports the Taliban, comes home and tells her and her mother to leave the Kunduz Hills, but they refuse (Staples, 2005).
Suzzane’s describes the pain and suffering that Najmah and her family goes through in the hand of the Taliban throughout their journey. Under the Persimmon Tree by Suzzane Fisher Staples is a touching story where the author has effectively applied her literary skills. Suzzane has used different characters to paint a representation of a society that is completely destroyed by the Taliban rule. The author also describes a painful suffering of people affected by religious cruelty. Under The Persimmon Tree also narrates how poor farmers in Afghanistan are unable to protect themselves from becoming part of Taliban’s kidnappings. The reader will be able to gain a proper understanding of Under The Persimmon Tree if he or she connects with the characters in the literature (Staples, 2005).
The author of Under the Persimmon Tree applies multiculturalism in the text to describe the different cultures that inhabit the Middle East (Staples, 2005). Both students and teachers alike related the Middle East with the military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The society may form stereotypes based on limited information that they have about the Middle East. However, people should realize that the Middle East is not just about terrorism and Taliban, but a nation where citizens can show love to one another. For instance, Najman is treated with compassion and kindness by Khalida’s family. Khalida’s family has gone an extra mile to risk their lives by disguising Najmah as a boy and escorting her on the road to Pakistan (Staples, 2005).
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