Amal Awad

Book review: "The Attack: A Novel"

Yasmina Khadra is the pseudonym for Mohamed Moulessehoul, a former Algerian army officer who decided to write under his wife’s name to avoid army censorship. He was in Sydney last year for the Writers’ Festival, at which he spoke about his novel The Swallows of Kabul. It was set in Afghanistan, but he confessed that he had never been there before, and I couldn’t help but wonder how he described the land and the atmosphere of oppression. Reading The Attack, I wondered the same thing. While there is little description of surroundings, and Khadra is a very capable writer, I doubted he had ever been there. This doesn’t weaken the book so much as emphasise that his narration is an outsider’s voice. 

Australian journalist's new book takes heat for posing "My Israel Question"

Sydney-based journalist and author Antony Loewenstein is used to controversy. On many occasions he has told of how his critical assessment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as a Jew has left him a pariah in family and social circles. This is unlikely to change anytime soon given that he spent the last couple of years penning the newly released My Israel Question, a self-critical consideration of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a particularly Australian context. Loewenstein comes from “a liberal Jewish family” with parents he describes as once having been “unthinking Zionists”, who he later realised were simply uninformed because of their reliance on Jewish and mainstream press for their understanding of the conflict. 

"Gaza Blues: Different Stories" provides surrealist snapshot of conflict

A collection of darkly humorous short stories by popular Israeli writer Etgar Keret and a novella by Palestinian writer Samir El-Youssef, the idea behind Gaza Blues was born during a particularly violent period of the intifada in 2002. The result is a set of stories that are not explicitly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather, the people living it and the complexity of their existences. The snapshot Gaza Blues suitably offers is one of violence and tension. However, it successfully attempts to draw back the curtains on the tragedies and rhetoric of the conflict, its layered subtext forcing the readers to review their understanding of the lives inhabiting the conflict. 

East Jerusalem's Chehade Brothers Nominated for Music Award

Among this year’s nominees for a BBC Radio 3 Award for World Music is Palestinian group the Chehade Brothers. Rami and Farid Chehade, in their 20s, are originally from East Jerusalem. They have recently enjoyed success with their improvised approach to tarab (a musical style fusing various cultural elements), which they term “light popular tarab”. The result is a modern, smooth and gentle approach to a popular style of music. The Chehade Brothers have been nominated in for the Award for World Music in the “Middle East & North Africa” category. The other nominees in this category are Khaled from Algeria, Mercan Dede from Turkey and Souad Massi from Algeria. 

Living their lives as best they can

Following my departure from the bridge, I chatted with my aunt in the taxi and she told me personal news, then started talking generally about the situation in Palestine. The route we were taking to Arrabeh was actually, I found out, forbidden to me since I hold a foreign passport, and not the correct permission. There was a checkpoint on the way and my aunt began saying prayers left right and centre and I thought I was about to implode. Thankfully we were not made to stop; the worst that would happen in any case would be that we would have to turn back and take another route, losing another couple of hours travelling. Yet this was a significant event because it is indicative of the Palestinians’ lifestyle. So much is about where you can or can’t go. 


The thing that always surprises me about the West Bank is how it never seems to change significantly. Understandably, there is a lack of progress. But I still find it disheartening in a sense to return to my parents homeland and find that, besides a building or two or a new shop, everything is the same as it was four, eight, or even twelve years ago. My last trip to the West Bank was in 2000, just a week before the Intifada broke out. West Bank remains in essence as it was then, however, there are more road closures and greater difficulty entering. Even leaving is a daunting prospect considering the number of checkpoints (no less than five on the route I took to Allenby Bridge) and a 4.30am departure time. My experience in West Bank was extremely memorable, despite an appalling beginning. I spent one week in my father’s village of Arrabeh (about 12km from Jenin), and visited family in other nearby areas, including Jenin.