A big heart is not enough

Shayla Walmsley reviews From Jenin to Gaza: a short visit to a long conflict by Silvio Cerulli, Beyond the Pale Publications, £6.99, pbk

SILVIO CERULLI, Palestine and Ireland correspondent for Liberazione, admits he isn’t offering his readers 'an in-depth, historical and political analysis of the Middle East'. Just as well.

In only one chapter do we hear, briefly, from the people of Jenin (and much of this is second-hand). Otherwise, it’s a list of quotes from the usual suspects – no book of this kind would be complete without a quote from Martin Niemoller and the suggestion that Jews, of all people, should know better.

The book is marred by rhetoric and cliché, and by clumsy attempts to make sense of this conflict with vaguely constructed nuggets of ill-digested history. Cerulli has a gift for word-pictures and shocking images, but even these tend to collapse into – if you’ll pardon the expression – schlock.

Everyday reality for Palestinians is, as Cerulli tells us, as grim it gets, and never more so than in the wake of ‘Operation Defensive Shield’, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s military assault on Jenin. It’s good, too, to hear the proceeds of the book will be going to a primary school in the Aida refugee camp, outside Bethlehem.

But you could (and this reviewer did) take issue with the description of these 'monologues of pre-announced deaths'. Cerulli might have given up on peace. He can afford to. Palestinians and Israelis won’t, because they don’t have the same luxury.

Peace, Cerulli tells us early on, is “a state of mental being”. Tell that to the residents of Jenin or to the passengers on a Jerusalem bus.

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2004-07-08 13:27:35.
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Copyright © 2004 Shayla Warmsley