Tuesday, November 09, 2010

My Palestinian cousins II

A few months back I wrote about a documentary produced by an Israeli woman who had tracked down her Palestinian cousins - the children of an aunt who had somehow (depending on who's telling the story...) ended up married to an Arab man. At the time, the only interviews I could find with the film-maker were in Hebrew.

Now Jonathan Freedland has written about the film for the Guardian. An excerpt:

Noa's research took her to the West Bank, to meet Pnina's children and grandchildren. Most did not want to talk, anxious that any contact with an Israeli – let alone an admission of Jewish ancestry – would raise suspicions of collaboration among their fellow Palestinians. The only one of Pnina's eight children who agreed to speak to her was Salma, a middle-aged woman who had reached rock bottom: "She had no money, she had no work, she needed money for food – she had nothing to lose." With a husband and sons in and out of Israeli custody, usually for trying to work in Israel without a permit, Salma reckoned that contact with an Israeli might prove helpful – especially as Noa's uncle, Shmulik, is a former military governor of Ramallah, in charge for a time of military intelligence on the West Bank. Salma was keen to make contact, sensing that her Israeli cousins might be a lifeline.

The Israelis are not so sure. Noa's camera records her mother, uncles and others debating the wisdom of the family reunion Noa is planning. "What will we gain from this, except helping them out?" asks Shmulik's wife, Sarah. Great-uncle David is worried that, if they help Salma, 10 more Palestinian relatives will pop up demanding similar assistance: "That's our problem with the refugees. They left with two or three children, now they're clans!" In that sentence he speaks for those many Israelis who believe that, while the estimated 700,000 refugees of 1948 might be eligible for some kind of restitution, it's too much to compensate the many millions who now make up the Palestinian nation.

Read the whole thing here.

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