Return – a Palestinian memoir

Interview by Ian Curr for the Paradigm Shift (4ZZZ fm 102.1 Fridays at Noon) 4 Sept 2015

Q 1. In the book Return you describe brutal response by the British army to the Arab Revolt in 1940s which was a “three-year general strike and mass revolt against British rule” … yet your family ended up living in London and in the Jewish neighbourhood of Golders Green and you went to school with Jewish girls – please explain how this came about?


Q 2. You describe yourself as ‘a full-time Palestinian’ yet in Chapter 1 titled Journey to Ramallah you say:

“I had sworn never to return to this torn-up, unhappy land after that first trip in 1991 when I broke a long-standing family taboo against ever visiting the place that had been Palestine and then became Israel. ”

How do you explain these contradictory feelings?


Q 3. You describe a meeting you had with Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who said of the Palestinians:

“We travel like other people, but we return to nowhere … we have a country of words”

Is Palestine more than a country of words? What makes it so?


Q 4. What did your family lose when you fled to Damascus in 1948?


Q 5. You are travelling with this new book Return and doing speaking engagements, which you would have done with previous books like In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story.

Have people’s perceptions of the struggle of the Palestinian people for justice changed? How so?

Is this change due to the relentless Israeli bombing of Gaza and the international criticism that has followed?

I refer to the recent Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2014 where 2,251 people including 551 children were killed?


Q 6. I was touched when reading your book by the Chapter where you refer to a personal connection you had with a Palestinian woman, Fatima al Basha … these are in the years leading up to al Nakba in 1948 when you were nine years old.

Can you describe the relationship you had with Fatima and subsequent events?


I would like to ask some political questions, if I may, because not only are you an author but you have been a commentator on the political events surrounding the Palestinian struggle for many years.

Q 7. After the Oslo Peace agreement in 1993 the Palestine Liberation Organisation returned to Palestine after many years in exile. It first went to Gaza and then to Ramallah on the West Bank as you describe in your book.

In ‘Return’, you hold up the PLO as the representative of the people in exile, it was the PLO that gave you a sense of purpose.

After the death of Yasser Arafat in 2004, you went to Ramallah as a consultant to the Palestinian Authority which had policed its own people opposing the settlements all over the West Bank and entered into deals with the Americans and with Israel.

Why did you do that?


Q 8. In 2005 a broad cross-section of Palestinian civil society called for a campaign of Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions against Israel, do you support the BDS campaign?


Q 9. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. Is there anything you would like to add?


We shall return
the nightingale told me
when we met on a hill
that nightingales still
live there on our dreams
and that among the yearning hills
and people there is a place for us
O heart then
how long has the wind scattered us.
Come, we shall return
let us return.

Sanarjou Yawman – فيروز – سنرجع يوما
sung by Fairfous

Phil Monsour – 100 Days info
The Firedrakes – My brother’s keeper
Fairouz – We will return one day
United Struggle Project – Liberate yourself
Michelle Cinthio feat. DAM – Oh Gaza

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