Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Once an Arafat Man by Tass Saada

book cover

Once an Arafat Man:
The True Story of How a PLO Sniper Found a New Life
by Tass Saada
with Dean Merrill

ISBN-13: 9781414323619
Hardback: 250 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
Released: Oct. 2008

Source: Bought through Half.com.

Book Description from Back Cover:
At age 17, Tass Saada was carrying a high-powered Simonov rifle. He had run away from home to become a PLO sniper and chauffeur for Yasser Arafa. His experience growing up as a Palestinian refugee in Saudi Arabia had taught him to hate. Like many Palestinians, his hatred--and his rifle--was aimed squarely at Israel.

Tass Saada's story could have ended tragically, another casualty of the centuries of hatred brewing in the Middle East. But Tass was destined for better things. His story will give you an intimate look at the world of Arafat; the life, struggles, and heart of a Palestinian refugee; a Muslim who converted to Christianity and faced retribution at the hands of his relatives; and the transformation of hatred into love and hope.

This is more than the story of a Palestinian refugee making something good of his life in America. It's a story of the ultimate triumph of love over hatred, reconciliation over persistent divisions. It's a story that can inspire us all to overcome the divisions and conflicts in our own lives.

Once an Arafat Man is a well-written memoir about a man who was born a Muslim in Palestine in 1951, who grew up hating Jews, killed both Jews and Christians, but then later became a Christian and worked to bring reconciliation between Arabs and Jews. It's a fast-paced story that kept my interest from beginning to end.

He described how his family became refugees, why they were moved to Saudi Arabia, what life was like there for Palestinan refugees, how he learned to hate Jews, how he met Yasser Arafa and later came to join the PLO, what he did in the PLO, how his parents tricked him to get him out of the PLO, why he went to America and what he did there, how and why he converted to Christianity, how his family reacted to his conversion, and how he made peace with his family as well as with Jews. Having read quite a bit on the conflict in the Middle East, I thought he did a good job showing both sides of the issue, though he didn't go in-depth.

Overall, I'd highly recommend this interesting and well-written book to those who are interested in the Jew-Arab conflict in the Middle East or to those interested in what it's like for a Muslim to convert to another religion.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from pages 10-11
I was born in a tent in the squalid al-Breij refugee camp of Gaza City in early 1951, the third child of a former orange grove manager and his wife from Jaffa. Three years before, when the state of Israel was declared, their comfortable life had been turned upside down by the order to move. "Step aside," the Arab governments of Jordan, Syria, and Egypt said, in effect. "Get out of the way so our armies can move in and drive these crazy Zionists into the sea."

My father's business partner, a Jew, had offered his protection and counseled him not to act hastily. He assured my father that leaving wasn't necessary, that they could keep the business going together. But the safer choice, my parents believed, was to move to the sidelines of the battlefield and hope for an early return once the fighting ended.

The 1948 war, however, did not go as predicted by the politicians in Cairo, Ammam, and Damascus. In fact, the day in mid-May that Israelis now celebrate as Independence Day turned into what my people still call al-Nakba ("the catastrophe" in Arabic). Some seven hundred thousand Palestinians were displaced; more than four hundred Arab-majority villages were destroyed or abandoned. The words of Great Britian's famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, favoring a national home for the Jewish people so long as "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine," had turned to smoke and ashes.

By 1951 the Saada family had endured three winters in the tent, with overnight temperatures sometimes dipping as low as forty degrees Fahrenheit. One day my father stared across the muddy landscape and realized that the ultimate Arab indignity had fallen upon him: no land. In the Arab culture, no land equals no honor. All his dreams had crumbled.

I was only two months old, my mother having just recovered from giving birth, when the United Nations authorities squeezed our family of five onto an overcrowded freighter to head for a new and unfamiliar place where we might start over. .... At least we had a modest house here instead of a tent. .... Although the money for our family was an improvement in this new land, the welcome from the native Saudis was not. They bluntly called us "refugess" and "immigrants" to our faces. I realized quickly, even before starting school, that we were not wanted here.

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