Sunday, March 4, 2018

Book Review: 'Bullets of Palestine' by Howard Kaplan

Los Angles, California author HOWARD KAPLAN is most likely the primary resource for information of the history of the Middle Eastern conflict. He earned his BA in Middle East History from UC Berkeley and his MA in the Philosophy of Education from UCLA. Fine academic credentials, but for the authenticity of this book look to the fact that he has lived in Israel and traveled extensively through Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. And after this incident that follows he is bathed in knowledge of the core of the political corruption: at the age of 21, while attending school in Jerusalem, he was sent on a mission into the Soviet Union to smuggle out a dissident's manuscript on microfilm. His first trip was a success. On his second trip to the Soviet Union, he was arrested in Khartiv in the Ukraine and interrogated for two days there and two days in Moscow, before being released. He knows the arena in which he writes as well as anyone writing today.

Howard originally wrote BULLETS OF PALESTINE in 1987, and for this 2014 edition he provides a Foreword that enriches the experience of reading the novel: `Bullets of Palestine is a fictional manhunt for the real life terrorist, Abu Nidal. The Abu Nidal Organization was the most dangerous extremist group of its era. Critical of Yasser Arafat for not standing up more fiercely to King Hussein when Hussein expelled the PLO from Jordan in 1970, four years later Abu Nidal split from Arafat. For over thirteen years, Abu Nidal struck across Europe and the Middle East, attacked both the Rome and Vienna airports, and over that span killed more than 200. His targets were Jews and moderate Palestinian leaders. On June 3, 1982, three Abu Nidal followers all but murdered the Israeli ambassador to the United Kingdom as he left the Dorchester Hotel in London. Shot in the head, Argov spent several months in a coma and remained severely disabled until his death in 2003. Ariel Sharon, then Israel's defense minister, responded to the assassination attempt by invading Lebanon. Something Abu Nidal applauded, and maybe had attempted to incite, as the mainstream PLO had taken up residence there. I wanted to write a novel of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, and came up the idea of my protagonists, the Israeli, Shai Shaham, and the Palestinian, Ramzy Awwad, cooperating in an uneasy alliance to silence their mutual enemy, Abu Nidal.'

What Howard has been able to accomplish in this `fictionalized' novel is build as secure a bride to understanding the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not only because his facts are so well referenced, but because he humanizes an ordeal many of us still fail to understand. His main characters are a former Palestinian terrorist and an Israeli agent whose shared humanism brings them into focus in a common cause.

The author's fine synopsis cannot be better: `Israeli Agent Shai is dispatched to eliminate a terrorist threat. To succeed in his mission Shai must win the trust of Palestinian Agent Ramzy who will help him gain access to the infamous and dangerous Abu Nidal. Shai is under orders to kill Ramzy when the mission ends. Instead, they forge a friendship that transcends the hatreds of their heritage. Loyalties are tested. Will they capture Abu Nidal or betray each other? In a conflict where both sides dehumanize each other, two extremely human men, are caught in the cross-hairs of the larger war.' And if that small intro fails to entice the reader to experience this novel, then only words of praise for the prose and style on every page propelling this gripping novel may nudge people to enter this window of understanding of a problem that has consumed our lives for years. Howard Kaplan is an eloquent sculptor of words, but more important, he is the humanitarian spirit that could just begin closing the curtain on a too long play. Very Highly recommended. Grady Harp, May 15

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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