The Israeli novelist David Grossman’s impassioned account of what he observed on the West Bank in early 1987—not only the misery of the Palestinian refugees and their deep-seated hatred of the Israelis but also the cost of occupation for both occupier and occupied—is an intimate and urgent moral report on one of the great tragedies of our time. The Yellow Wind is essential reading for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of Israel today.
This stellar, seamlessly translated report records the devastation that two decades of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has wreaked on Palestinians and Israelis alike. On assignment for an Israeli newsweekly, the 34-year-old Israeli novelist spent seven weeks in the area, and his is one of the most stirring, refreshing voices of moral conscience to emerge from the depths of this political imbroglio. Supporters of right-of-center Israeli policy will surely take umbrage with these timely interviews, but others will marvel at Grossman's deftly intimate penetration of multilayered issues and personalities. Thus, to his own expressed bafflement, the author discovers that an elderly and wise, tale-spinning Palestinian refugee reminds him of his grandmother and her stories about Poland, from which she was expelled. A description of refugees returning to their Israeli village evokes imagery from the biblical book of Ezekiel; the Arabic apocalyptic tale of the hot and terrible yellow wind, which seeks out those who have performed cruel, unjust deeds, and its accompanying yellow dust, becomes a symbol of the suffocating cloud of occupation that hangs above Israel. Laid bare and damned is the intransigence of both Palestinians who refuse to improve their lot or negotiate for peace and lawbreaking Jewish settlers of Gush Emunim. Evenhandedly, Grossman depicts the criminal treatment by Israelis of Palestinian hunger-strikers, the murder of innocent Jews by Arab terrorists, Israeli and Arab profiteers, an Israeli army, at once brutal and considerate, that puts an Arab town under curfew but stations soldiers to prevent plundering, and the prejudices that exist between Israeli and West Bank Arabs. Grossman's rich and eloquent call to action is aimed at his fellow Israelis who slumber atop a time bomb, unwilling to acknowledge that their moral and political destinies are intertwined with those of the Palestinians. ``The situation is a mint casting human coins with opposite legends imprinted on their two sides. But the contradicting legends do not change the fact that between themfreedom fighter or terrorist; ours or theirscan be found the dark, hidden raw material: a murderer.'' First serial to the New Yorker; BOMC, QPBC and Reader's Subscription Book Club alternates. (March)