I went to this talk half expecting a slightly irritating, unoriginal rant, but at a small event in a church hall Bidisha managed to tackle one of the biggest contemporary global issues in a way that was warm and human and taking sides. There were no extracts read from her new book Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path through Palestine; it was more a description of her trip to Palestine, taken with the aim of observing what was happening before writing her book. It is nigh on impossible to remain neutral whilst discussing the Palestinian question but Bidisha managed it by treating it as an emotional and human problem, rather than a political, geographical or religious one. She spoke about bullying and abuse of power in a general context and then applied it to this setting.
Bidisha is also very interested in the power of words, whether written or spoken. She talks about how the words used by the authorities are used to control and humiliate, particularly the word ‘forbidden’. On the other hand, the words of Palestinian children were of hope for the future, which reflected the tone of the talk.
Beyond the Wall would be an excellent introduction to the Palestinian question for anyone who feels they should know more about the subject but are overcome with a terrible inertia when confronted with epic historical tomes. For those who are already familiar with the Palestinian question, it would offer a fresh, emotional perspective on one of the most hotly debated topics of our time.