The following review appears in the October 2011 issues of the Federation Star (Jewish Federation of Collier County) and L’Chayim (Jewish Federation of Lee and Charlotte County).
Palestine, by Jonathan Bloomfield. Silver Lane Publishing. 472 pages. $14.95.
This military-political thriller confronts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict head on, mixing fact, fiction, and persuasive speculation in an engaging, and downright frightening narrative. What if the forces arrayed against Israel have conceived their ultimate plan for the annihilation of the Jewish State? What if they have operatives in Israel with whom Gaza-based and other Arab forces could quickly connect? What if these forces have nuclear weapons? What if Israel’s chief of security has knowledge of the plan and yet can’t convince the prime minister to take action? What if he stages a coup? What if Hammas has been infiltrated by an Israeli agent who has gained a major position and is feeding information to Israeli forces?
All of these things happen in Palestine, and much more. Bloomfield establishes several points of focus in the Palestinian and Israeli camps; then he alternates episodes and vantage points so that we see the war that has broken out not only from both sides but also from various factions and perspectives on each side. Bloomfield offers us characters at different points in the chains of command with the corresponding contrasts of rank and responsibility. He offers us Muslims who can see around the corners of the Islamic extremists’ rewriting of regional history. He offers us the courage of blind hatred and the courage of facing harsh, unavoidable truths. He offers insights into the traditional and contemporary cultures of the people whose communities and lives are at stake.
Jonathan Bloomfield also provides a battlefield scenario that details meticulous planning and execution. He provides a blueprint that might very well become a reality. For all the carnage in the short run, he offers hope for a regional future in which peace, cooperation, and mutual benefit can arise.
He even offers some romance.
One of the challenges Bloomfield faced was integrating quite of a bit of education into a page-turning, high stakes adventure. Most of the time, he solves this problem well enough with plausible dialogue that addresses the historical facts that underpin his vision of the Middle East’s past and future. Only on a few occasions does the dialogue lose spontaneity and sound like a classroom lecture.
Recognizing that too much exposition and fact-rehearsal will interrupt the fast-paced action that readers will expect, Bloomfield relegates a portion of his fact-based arguments to an Epilogue and a series of Appendices that follow the novel’s main action. These add-ons, which comprise 120 pages of the book, are without doubt useful for information and contemplation. Readers will differ about whether or not they undermine the esthetic impact of the narrative.
Is Palestine merely Zionist propaganda dressed up as thriller fiction? Some will say so. However, the arguments made both in the fictional narrative and the appendices are compelling, containing as they do a mountain of hard historical facts.
Bloomfield imagines a future in which an Israeli educational system detoxifies the generations of thought control that has left millions of actual and alleged Palestinians living lives of more and more noisy and violent desperation. Deprogramming decades of Islamic extremist brainwashing would be an enormous task, even given the opportunity to try. But Bloomfield rather convincingly makes the point that some such process is absolutely necessary.
Whether read for entertainment, insight, or both, Palestine is worth your time.
Note: We can provide no photo of the author because as a result of this novel and related activities, Mr. Bloomfield finds his life in jeopardy.