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June 03, 1988 - Image 77

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-06-03

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.


Journalist David
Grossman, the
author of the
bestselling book,

The Yellow Wind,

warns that both
Israelis and
Arabs are
trapped in their
own survival

A scene in Gaza this winter: Grossman's best-seller, "The Yellow Wind," evokes life in the occupied territories.

The Pitfalls Of Survival


Washington Correspondent


David Grossman

Photo By Jack Eisenberg.

avid Grossman is the
kind of journalist who
filters . the world
through his own emotions.
The result, though subjective,
has an emotional punch that
goes far beyond the "facts."
At the same time, the tor-
mented quality of his bestsell-
ing evocation of life in Israel's
occupied territories, The
Yellow Wind,
Grossman an easy target for
critics on the Right, who in-
terpret this surfeit of emotion
as naive sentimentality.
This tension— between the
hardened pragmatism of
Israel's leaders, and the emo-
tionalism of many of her
Jewish critics—is a major
dimension in the increasing-

ly rancorous debate over
Israel's future.
David Grossman was in
Washington last week, speak-
ing at an event sponsored by
the New Israel Fund. Like his
book, the message he deli-
vered to an overflow crowd at
the George Washington Uni-
versity Hillel center was a
stark one: time is running out
for a solution to the conflict
between the Palestinians and
the Jews of Israel. Both sides,
he said, have been deluded by
their own mythologies into
positions that • leave little
room for compromise.
"I don't know if we can
start to realize that it's not a
divine decree, this everlasting
struggle," Grossman told the
hushed crowd. "The Middle
East today is a trap, for Jews
and Palestinians alike And
it's liable to turn into a trap

for hundreds of thousands
outside the Middle East."
A recurrent theme for
Grossman is the psychology
of survival. The Middle East,
he said, is full of "professional
survivors." Israel is an entire
culture forged on the harsh
realities of survival against
the longest odds of history.
The Palestinian people, he im-
plied, have learned to face the
world in a similar way.
"So we have people on both
sides, doomed to translate
every human condition into
the language of fear, conflict,
suspicion and survival," he
said. "Look at the main ac-
tors: our own Prime Minister
Shamir; King Hussein, who
lives by the grace of an unlike-
ly alliance; Yasir Arafat,
whose whole life has been at-
tacking others and being
saved miraculously from at-

tacks on him. The situation
can be summarized as fol-
lows: we survived in order to
live, and brought ourselves to
the point where we live only
to survive. The language of
survival is influencing all
parts of our lives."
This overwhelming empha-
sis on survival, he suggested,
has distorted every facet of
Israeli society. "In the absur-
dity of our tenuous existence,
it has brought us into a
strange balance, where every
change frightens us; change
for the worse is much easier
for us, because it reinforces all
our expectations. When
there's the possibility of a
change for the better, we're
not trained to face im-
The result, he said, is an
even greater polarization in
the never ending Middle East



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