Richard Falk praises Pamela Olson for ‘intelligent innocence’

I keep up on the excellent reviews Pamela Olson’s book Fast Times in Palestine is getting, now that it has been picked up by a publisher. (Available in mid-March, you can pre-order it from Amazon.)

Publishers Weekly calls the book one of the Top Ten Travel Books of 2013 (“a fascinating and honest account of life in Palestine that goes beyond politics to challenge the way we think about the Middle East”) and Kirkus Reviews has also praised it:  “The strength of the narrative lies in Olson’s investigation of the personal and mental effects of oppression and war on herself and her newfound friends, ‘the atmosphere of mute shock expressed only in sidelong glances… of knowing something few people knew, and of genuine connection and collective struggle.’”

And the book is deemed “indispensable” by Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories and professor emeritus of international law at Princeton. From his blogpost on the book at his site, Citizen Pilgrimage:

I realize that without knowing it, I have long waited for this book, although I could not have imagined its lyric magic in advance of reading. It is a triumph of what I would call ‘intelligent innocence,’ the great benefits of a clear mind, an open and warm heart, and a trustworthy moral compass that draws sharp lines between good and evil while remaining ever sensitive to the contradictory vagaries of lives and geographic destinies. Pamela Olson exhibits an endearing combination of humility and overall emotional composure that makes her engaged witnessing of the Palestinian ordeal so valuable for me as I believe and hope it will be for others . . .

In the end what gives the book its special value is the compelling credibility of her “love affair with a homeless homeland,” a sub-title that says it all! It is one thing to lament the suffering and humiliation of the Palestinians or to condemn the cruelty and harshness of the Israeli occupation. It is quite another to be able to observe these defining realities and yet see beyond to a proud and gracious people with a generous sense of humor who manage to live as vibrantly as possible even under almost unimaginable circumstances of oppression. It is this combination of feeling the Palestinian hurt while celebrating the warmth and genuineness of the Palestinian embrace that allows a reader to achieve what I had previously thought impossible without an immersion in the place itself . . .

I have the following daydream: If everyone in America could just sit down quietly and read this book, there would be such an upsurge of outrage and empathy that the climate of opinion on the Israel/Palestine conflict would finally change for the better—even in the polluted air that now prevails within the Beltway. At the very least, as many people as possible should read the book, and if your reaction is similar to mine, give a copy to friends and encourage them to spread the word. We in America should stop subsidizing and facilitating the systematic creation of ‘a homeless homeland.’ As a close friend in Jayyous named Rania tells Pamela, “Imagine if there was no occupation! Palestine would be like paradise.”

  1. Ms. Olson’s book sounds interesting. I look forward to reading it.

    >> “Imagine if there was no occupation! Palestine would be like paradise.”

    Probably not. Nice sentiment, though.

  2. Proud to say I’ve had the book for nearly a year in its semi-samizdat form. Very pleased to see warm mainstream reviews. If there’s a British launch I hope to be in the front row. Not sure if innocence is the right word. The trustworthy moral compass is certainly there though.

  3. imagine if there is no occupation?

    there won’t be?

    once palestine is free?

    what about the israelis?

    invited to stay on?

    as equals?

    getting along?

    better dispositions?

    liking it too?

  4. Having read “Fast Times” twice, and having had the privilege of an extended conversation with Pamela about the book and her experiences, I would say that Falk has totally captured the essence of the book and its author in this review. I plan on purchasing multiple copies, and look forward to distributing them to my liberal zionist friends and relatives. I expect it will be truly transformational for them.