A novel can be a terrific propaganda tool
A novel can be a terrific propaganda tool

Steven Spielberg just acquired the movie rights to the new "novel", Apeirogon, based upon a day in the lives of an Israeli father and a "Palestinian Arab" father who both lost their daughters and later became members of the Family Forum.This is an organization that brings together bereaved families on both sides of the Israeli-"Palestinian" conflict who say they are seeking peace. Unfortunately, the Israelis participating have to admit to being "occupiers," as I wrote in an article examining one of their projects.

The book was written by award winning author Colum McCann. The title, Apeirogon, means a shape with an infinite number of sides and perhaps that is supposed to give us the idea that he will show us the complexities of the Israeli-"Palestinian" conflict in a way nobody else has ever been able to do.

The book was praised on The Oprah Magazine website. But only those who live the situation know many lies and distortions can be told in brief writeups such as this one:

Rami Elhanan is a 67-year-old Jewish graphic designer whose teenage daughter, Smadar, died in a suicide bombing in 1997. Bassam Aramin, from the 'West Bank', survived seven years of torture in an Israeli prison and became a student of the Holocaust; his daughter, Abir, was killed by Israeli soldiers after buying a candy bracelet.

We learn that Abir was killed by Israeli soldiers after buying a candy bracelet. But Smadar died as well. Why do we not learn here that Smadar was blown up by an Arab while out shopping with friends? And placing these two incidents side by side seems to lend them an air of equivalency. Yet Smadar was blown up on purpose by Arabs seeking to kills Jews of any age. Israeli soldiers did not intentionally shoot a 10-year-old girl. She may have been an innocent caught in cross-fire between soldiers and rioters.. Her death is tragic, for sure. But there is a difference between accidental killing and pre-meditated murder.

Also, I would like to know what seven years of torture look like in an Israeli prison when security prisoners hold, or threaten to hold, hunger strikes if they will be denied their request to increase the number of television channels available to them on the TV sets they have in their rooms, um, I meant to write cells.

It is well known that the prisoners cook for themselves, and prepare meals that would befit a wedding or holiday celebration. They study in prison, some finishing school or getting university degrees. And the International Red Cross visits them to make sure Israel is treating them properly. These and other benefits ensure that their conditions are far better than those in which non-terrorist criminals are held. So where is the torture?

On the Publishers Weekly website, the pre-publication promo for Apeirogon states the background to Aramin's imprisonment:

Palestinian Bassam Aramin is jailed in 1985, at 17, for resisting the Israeli occupiers in Hevron, where he was raised.

For "resisting"? And what form did this resistance take? Having a silent vigil or a sit-in? Or was he throwing rocks or shooting? And which Israeli "occupiers" was he resisting? Soldiers who could shoot back, or perhaps women walking along the street pushing baby carriages?

If you do not ask questions to get beneath the sterile presentation of the narratives offered by the Arab "peaceniks", then you do not really know what propaganda you are helping to promote.

And continuing to call Jewish residents of Hevron "occupiers" is a well-worn lie that demonizes Jews and Israel. Hebvon was the birthplace of Jewish peoplehood long before the Arabs arrived here in the 7th-Century Muslim conquest of the Middle East and North Africa.

Furthermore, the Jews of Hevron were massacred in a pogrom in 1929 by their Arab neighbours and then the land occupied by Jordan in 1948, ensuring it remain judenrein. The return of Jews to Hevron is a case of liberation of our land and not occupation.

I find it strange that Apeirogon is even referred to as a novel when it is essentially the story of two real men filled in with fluffy flowery pieces of prose-poetry about birds in the sky and more.What makes it even more like a propaganda piece rather than a novel is the fact that the author and his two main characters are going on the book-marketing lecture circuit around the USA. (Maybe Kay Wilson should have thought of traveling the book-promotion circuit together with the terrorists who murdered her friend and hacked her almost to death. Do you think that her memoir, The Rage Less Traveled, would have interested Spielberg and Oprah? She is a hero Speilberg should be making a movie about and Oprah should be interviewing on TV.)

I find pretentious the excerpts offered up on the Publishers Weekly website as enticement to buy the book. For example:

"He leans left and salmons his way out into the faster lane, toward the tunnels, the Separation Barrier, the town of Beit Jala. Two answers for one swerve: Gilo on one side, Bethlehem on the other."

I can guess what McCann is getting at by "salmons his way" but I think he found the wrong metaphor. I do not imagine he means he jumped over the cars and motorcycles crowded alongside him on the highway. But that is what salmon do. They jump over barriers in their way.

If this selected excerpt from Apeirogon is representative of the quality of his writing in general, then either McCann is an over-rated author altogether or he got so excited by the metaphysical potential in this topic that he lost his bearings in the attempt to write what Oprah Magazine called  a  “profound prayer for peace.”

A prayer for peace, profound or otherwise, cannot be based upon lies, however poetic they may be.