Just finished reading it, even though my head’s all plugged up and my eyes are watering.

First of all, the good stuff: it’s kind of well written. A bit wooden, but not bad. I thought some of the imagery, her wanting to fly away like the bird Abdo was a bit nice.

There seem to be two kinds of non-Muslim writers who write about Muslims. The first kind is the one who just seeks to make a profit. Who is writing about something they think is interesting and will sell but foisting their own agenda on the situation. Suzanne Fisher Staples falls into that category.

Cathryn Clinton seems to belong to the other kind of writer, the kind who really do seem to care. Her intentions are more honourable and it seems she is trying to bring the story to the awareness of the world at large. She reminds me a little of Deborah Ellis in this regard. (I’m a huge fan of Deborah Ellis’s!)

Unfortunately Ms. Clinton makes a number of pretty big mistakes.

The biggest of which was the outrage factor. Nowhere is Malaak really outraged enough at what is happening. She’s plenty sad, she’s quiet and passive and all that, but she’s never outraged, as so many Palestinians rightly are.

I found that hard to believe. I also thought it was unbelievable that she wouldn’t understand more of the frustration and need for action that her brother Hamid is feeling.

One of the common quotations of the Quran, that is nowhere mentioned in the book, which was another unbelievable detail for me, is the verse that says ‘slaughter is better than oppression’. In Islam, and Malaak would have known this, to die fighting against oppression is better than living passively under it.

This is something that non-Muslims don’t seem to understand.

And when your land is being invaded, if it’s Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq or Chechnya, fighting the invaders is a legitimate form of ‘Islamic jihad’ (another phrase Ms. Clinton throws around willy nilly–with negative connotations– in the book).

(The biggest problem I have had with the Palestinians is their targeting of innocent civilians.

You can’t do that in Islam. It nullifies the validity of their struggle. The only time that comes up as an issue in the book is the bus explosion that kills Malaak’s father.)

In order for a non-Palestinian like Ms. Clinton, to really understand what the Palestinians have suffered under decades of Israeli oppression, she would need to hearken back to a time when people she can identify with have similarly suffered under occupation. The Nazi invasion of Denmark and France comes to mind.

Nobody was urging the French and Danes to accept their situation, lay down their arms and stop fighting the Nazis. In fact literature exists that glorifies their armed struggle. It was seen as just–which it was. And in fact the French, who did not fight Hitler when he marched on Versailles, have long been ridiculed for their cowardice in not fighting.

So why is there this double standard when it comes to Palestinians who are engaged in a struggle against their occupation?

Even the United Nations recognizes the right of people living under occupation to armed resistance.

Most of the message of A Stone in My Hand seems to lie in the fact that Malaak, the main character, is urging her brother NOT to fight–to accept subjugation and humiliation under Israeli rule.

Would Americans do that?

If a foreign power were to invade and take over, if they made Americans carry papers, if they set up checkpoints to restrict the movements of Americans, if they demonstrated the lust they had forAmerican land and property by bulldozing and exploding the homes of anyone who fought against them, or was even suspected to fight against them, would Americans put up with that? Would they urge each other to non-violence?

And would Amerians care if the grandparents of the  ones who were doing all this stuff to them had suffered unspeakable horrors?

I think not.

And yet that is precisely what we expect Palestinians to do.

It’s the old double standard.

The irony is that even Gandhi admitted that his non-violent tactics would not have worked if he’d been fighting more brutal regimes.

In fact the only reason they did work was because he had the British press behind him.

Lining Indians up to be beaten down by British truncheon-weilding troops, without the British press taking pictures of such horrors would not have been strategic, it would have been insane.

It was that the British public saw these atrocities, that led to the public pressure to give India their freedom.

Same with the civil rights movement in the States. Martin Luther King Jr. would not have been successful if it were not for the fact that the American press covered the race riots. People saw blacks being brutally suppressed just for daring to sit at a white counter in a restaurant expecting to be served.

Civil disobedience only works when there is a free press there to document what is going on.

Israel is very smart. They have limited the press movement in the country. When they prepare for another wave of brutal violence they make sure the press is nowhere to be seen. They’ve had their share of fiascos in the past. Remember that image of the father with his son, huddled beside a building and the Israeli troops shooting them dead when they were clearly unarmed???

I remember.

And I remember Jewish talking points questioning the father’s story, saying what were they doing there??? Almost as if they had deliberately wandered into a street battle to make the Israeli Defence Forces look bad. Basically blaming the victims.

Israel has some of the best public relations firms there are, spewing out talking points to manipulate public opinion in their favour.

They are extremely clever and wily. Even now, when there are no more suicide bombings because of the illegal wall that they BUILT ON PALESTINIAN LAND (more land grab) the Israelis are not ceding anything to the Palestinians in negotiations.

They are increasing the settlement buildings in the West Bank, (they turned Gaza into an open air prison where they constantly cut off food, water, fuel, etc and blockade the sea so they cannot receive any supplies) and in the West Bank they continue with their buildings of illegal settlements and Israeli only roads that carve up the territory so that the Palestinians can have no continuous homeland. No hope of peace.

And on top of all of this, what really ticked me off was the author’s note at the beginning of the book. Ms. Clinton says: …The first intifada began in 1987 and ended in 1993. A Stone in My Hand reflects that period of time and is not meant to be a comment on political situations in the Middle East today.

What a cowardly statement. It’s like she’s distancing herself from the book even before the reader begins to read it.

And ironically, the conditions she describes under the first intifada are heavenly compared to the reality that Gaza lives under today.

It is sad that the West so misunderstands the reality the Palestinians are facing, and it is sad that they would applaud a book like this when there are other books like Anne Laurel Carter’s The Shepherd’s Grandaughter that are much better at conveying the reality on the ground over there.

The problem is, Westerners have been inundated with so much literature and films about the holocaust that they cannot see Israeli actions for what they are.