In Search of Fatima

by Ghada Karmi

Karmi, a doctor and founding member of the British political group Palestine Action, relates her quest for cultural identity after her “fragile… and misfit Arab family” leaves Jerusalem for England during the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. Ironically, they resettle in a Jewish neighborhood in London; Karmi, aged nine, quickly begins to assimilate-becoming an avid reader of English literature and befriending Jewish neighbors-despite her mother’s insistence on traditional Palestinian culinary customs, dating mores and family codes. Over the next two decades, events in the Middle East make their non-Arab neighbors increasingly hostile and her Jewish friends’ pro-Israel fervor grows; after the Palestinian terrorist hijackings of the 1970s, some acquaintances refuse to speak to her. Karmi becomes an impassioned pro-Palestinian activist, and in 1977 she begins practicing medicine in a Palestinian refugee camp in South Lebanon-and finds that her Western upbringing and habits make her even less welcome there than she was in England. Karmi writes engagingly, weaving Palestinian political and social history through her personal recollections and giving the age-old emigr‚ dilemmas a timely twist. Though her account is inevitably one-sided regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the book’s straightforward tone may appeal to politically minded readers looking for insight into the Palestinian exile experience.