BOOK REVIEW: Rhetorics of Belonging

Moving away from the emphasis placed by the mainstream upon narrative when discussing Palestinian and Israeli literature, Anna Bernard’s academic treatise, “Rhetorics of belonging: nation, narration and Israel/Palestine” (Liverpool University Press, 2013) provides rigorous insights into often overlooked experiences of nation and narration.

Identity construction of Palestinians and Israelis has been shaped externally by hegemonic interpretation that simplifies history within illusory categories that are not indicative of memory, affinity and experience. Drawing upon the works of authors whose works are available in English translation such as Edward Said, Mourid Barghouti, Amos Oz, Orly Castel-Bloom, Sahar Khalifeh and Anton Shammas, Bernard juxtaposes the authors’ diverse works and backgrounds in a manner which reverses the manipulative exposure urged by imperialism; also the distancing from reading and comprehending these texts within a post-colonial context.

The ramifications of visibility are discerned immediately and expounded upon by Bernard, who argues that the privilege granted to Israeli literature aided the visualisation of belonging to Israel, at the expense of alienating readers from the insurmountable problems faced by Palestinians since the establishment of the settler-colonial state. Diminished opportunities with regard to the Palestinian reclamation of memory created a tangible literary gap in comparison to Israeli literature which is ingrained within prestige and privilege, owing to the historical and current political trends promoting the “Jewish nation”.

Palestinians have experienced a conflict through persecution, where survival as an imminent necessity lessened the written articulation of experience. As Said states with reference to the 1982 invasion of Beirut, quoted by Bernard, “I recall during the siege of Beirut obsessively telling friends and family there, over the phone, that they ought to record, write down their experiences… Naturally they were all far too busy surviving.”

Refutations and assertions of colonialism are evident, especially within the manipulation of language. All authors, regardless of their diverse backgrounds, embody defensive allegories in their writings. Yet, Bernard distinguishes the foundations behind the incorporated defence. In doing so, the narrations are also discussed within the context of political platforms, allowing the Palestinian literature to emerge as a distinct form of anti-imperialist affirmation. Read more.

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