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'| Far stranger than fiction (Cirpetttat! is fictionalized account of collective nervous breakdown suffered by large parts of Israeli society during the early days of the second intifada. | Gaza: beneath the bombs s a diary of life luring Israel's assault on Gaza last year. It isareflection of the complexity of the ‘Middle East conflict that the novel is in Some ways more “real” than the journal. Croc — his nickname - is a. secular-minded, easy-going resident of Tel Aviv, the most tolerant and forward-looking of Istael’s cities. He works for an enjoyably caricatured consultancy called Time's Arrow, dedicated to shaving tiny slices of time from the way call centres operate. By an appalling series of coincidences, he is involved it three terrorist attacks (two member of the International Solidarity Movement, and she deserves great credit for her courage while reporting events there during last year’s Israeli assault, [covered the conflict for the BBC, and it was a commonplace of journalistic commentary and conversation to complain about Israel's refusal to allow us into Gaza. Most of us would admit this grousing was tinged with | relief watching from the Israeli sce was ‘Quite frightening enough. On3 January I presented Today from the Gaza border, and I was painfully conscious of the awkwardness of watching the war as ‘ spectator, sitting comfortably on a sunny hillside with a cup of coffee as’ ‘plumes. cofsmoke rose into the clean, blue sky from Gaza City below us. Sharyn Lock’s account of the same day begins with “the callection of three martyred folks - one the ‘24-year-old caretaker of the American. School, whose body was in a terrible state as ‘result of the schoo! being bombed during the night”. At 5.30 pm. she records that “shelling has noticeably increased in the last few hours”, and by 10 at night shes ‘watching the ambulances at work: “A. family of about 12 was round the fire outside their house, having no other way to cook or get warm, They were hit by a rocket and all are injured ...We have ayoung man, perhaps a teenager, whose breathing is being done for him bya medic with a handheld pump... our driver says afterwards he probably won't survive the suicide bombings and night.” [take my liper operation os atk, Wa nncoae, journalistic hat off to withivaweck'The In the Middle East conflict, 32 ‘good fortune which there’s almost always Richard Falk, the suieshin gues another side to the story. Raper tects talisman; the suicide Indeed, the multiple Human Rights bombings at the rratit i ‘Council in the beginning of the last a the a what drive occupied Palestinian infected every ¢ conflict on territories, writes in aspect of Israel's daily ~~ an Afterword that by life with fear, and “witnessing, people were looking desperately for participating, and sharing in the symbols. ‘vulnerability of the 1.5 million Palestinians But Croe’s robust optimism falls apart in ‘trapped in the impoverished and crowded the aftermath of his traumatic experiences, relationship collapses, he loses focus at work, drinks heavily and develops a strange obsession. ‘Time's arrow slows down, and his confident dash toa bright, modem future runs into the sand. His story isan effective metaphor for the period. ‘The book's strength, however, lies in the way it also tells the other side of his story. ‘There is another hero: a young Palestinian ina.coma, unable tomave but fll of memories. We learn of his early life and loves, his sense of history and identity, and the factors that turn him towards terrorism. Inthe end he really isa hero ~ although to explain why would give too much away. CrocAttack! paints a clear-eyed picture of the consequences of terrorism, but it is generous in its refusal to judge. Its also - despite these weighty themes — an engaging and often jolly read. Sharyn Lock travelled to Gaza asa killing fields of the Gaza Strip, Sharyn Lock ‘manages to humtanise the inhuman”. But her book includes no serious attempt to put ‘what Israel did in Gaza in its full context; when she does mention the Israeli argument that it was acting to stop rockets being fired into Israeli towns like Sederot, she dismisses it with a parenthetical“ ‘guess my thoughts on this will be obvious”, Quite so ~ and given where Sharyn Lock. ‘was placed while the bombs were falling, that i an unsurprising position. But ~ as the author of Crocttack! has so effectively grasped - in the Middle East conflict, there's almost always another sideto the story. Indeed, the multiple narratives of ‘those involved ~ usually mutually exclusive and always passionately felt - are what drive the conflict on. Perhaps itis easier to reflect that reality in fiction than in straight | "sporting Edad Stourton (See Television, page 28.)

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