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Sunday Aug. 29, 2010 11:48 AM (EST+7)
INTERVIEW: Palestinian author Raja Shehadeh on his latest book

Read more: Ottoman empire, British mandate, Raja Shehadeh, spy, spying, environment, land

RAMALLAH, August 29 (JMCC) - The Electronic Intifada interviews author Raja Shehadeh on his latest book, A Rift in Time. The book explores his great-uncle's life on the run after he is accused of spying for the British during the period of Ottoman rule.

Sarah Irving:  One of the themes that runs through A Rift in Time is the idea that Turkish nationalism and the fragmentation of the Middle East into small states was detrimental to the entire region. That is a perspective which runs counter to the usual negative portrayal of the Ottoman regime. Is it a viewpoint you have held for a long time or something you have discovered through researching your family's past?

Raja Shehadeh: I was brought up, as we were all brought up, with very negative views of the Ottomans, but I think it is something that is beginning to change. I started off with quite a lot of prejudice and ignorance about the facts -- that it was a time of no development, that they starved the people, and so on. And then I realized that, naturally, most of what we heard about the Ottoman period was from the survivors. My paternal grandmother was alive during the First World War, at the end of the Ottoman period, and she almost starved to death. She was from Jaffa and the Ottomans asked everyone to leave the city [because they believed it would be easier to defend from the British without a civilian population] and she and everyone had to leave. It colored her life, her attitude to material things and so on.

So most of us grew up with the memories of the last period of the Ottomans, the period of the First World War. On the political level, the Hashemites, who were responsible for the West Bank until 1967, glorified the work of Sharif Hussein bin Ali, who fought against the Ottomans. So I started with this very perverted and prejudiced view. But then when I read and looked at things for myself, and read about [my great-uncle] Najib -- for example, he has an article in his newspaper al-Karmil entitled I am an Ottoman -- he wanted more independence within the Ottoman framework, but the Ottoman framework is a very good precedent to emulate. Certainly one great thing was that the whole region was one, which makes perfect sense. There are no natural borders, and I think the whole region will return to be one. When that will be God knows, but it will return to be one.

Read the entire interview at Electronic Intfada...






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