Murder under the Bridge Review
It’s generally a good thing to question one’s own biases when selecting a reading, even in fiction. Having previously admired several nuanced murder-political whodunits by Matt Benyon Rees featuring the intellectually honest UN teacher, Omar Youssef, I had been looking forward to a comparably worthy effort featuring a female Palestinian detective from the very interesting She Writes Press. While Murder under the Bridge by Kate Jessica Raphael offers a complex plot involving murder, sex trafficking, and political cover-up against the backdrop of the interaction of Palestinians and Israelis, the story of a resolute woman detective is the tapestry for a 312 page diatribe against Israel.
Unlike what one finds in a good novel, her characters are mostly propagandist archetypes. The plot is a succession of incidents that show Israel to be a merciless colonial occupier, Israelis to be coarse and heartless, and Jews to be religious hypocrites. The intrepid Palestinian detective, Rania Baraka, seems to be after the truth, but it turns out that her desire to exonerate a (wrongly arrested) Palestinian college student is what really drives her. Despite encountering and associating with a number of Israelis, the author never allows any amity to grow between Rania and them. Despite the author’s intent to boost Chloe as the Jewish opposite of nasty Israeli Jews, as the self-appointed defender of the Palestinian cause, she comes off as a self-denying leftist San Franciscan Jew. (What gives her some depth is her lesbian affair, the subplot and scenes of which are superfluous to the solution of the crime and the persistence of Detective Rania.)
All Israeli characters in the story but one are depicted as contemptuous and brutal, or at the least, contemptuous, arrogant liars regarding Palestinians. Real events to which Ms. Raphael refers that resulted in Israeli actions against Palestinian terrorism and violence are characterized as unprovoked criminal actions. On the other hand, all Palestinians are shown to be innocent, truthful, peaceful and completely justified in their animus to the “yahud” whose presence in the West Bank is portrayed as a crime against nature.
Rania condones acts of violence by Palestinians against Israelis and through her, the author portrays Yasir Arafat as a heroically blameless leader. Over and over throughout the story, Ms. Raphael, clearly a feminist, completely glosses over, tacitly excusing, the inferior position of women in the Islamic society she portrays. Surprisingly, the Arab men in the story are notably polite and considerate of their women. The Israeli men are shown to be contemptuous of Arabs and condescending to Rania as a policewoman.
Here are a few of the most egregious examples of the author’s animus toward Israel, Israelis and Jews:
- 13: Chloe is radicalized because of the supposed murder of the 12-year old Mohhamed al-Dura. The reporting of this so-called murder of a child by an Israeli sniper during the 2000 intifada was subsequently proved to be false, and the incident itself, contrived by the perpetrators of the intifada.
- 16-19: Humiliation of Palestinian day laborers led by an Israeli Druse commander named “Top Killer.”
- 43: Even a Palestinian sympathizer, Abe, “walked like an Israeli. That special arrogance shone in his face.”
- 65: Rania overhears Israeli soldiers “excited to be on this mission because they might be able to beat people up.”
p.66: “You (Arabs) were lucky if you got to take a bath twice a week,” voicing the libel that Israel denies water to West Bank Arabs. In fact, Israel is investing in a massive water project that will benefit the West Bank and Gaza .
- 101: “Israelis had all kinds of gruesome murders, drug, crime that Palestinian villages never imagined.” Really! Fatah, Hamas et al. are not criminal gangs?
- 102: Israeli police women “with big chests” “. . . treated her like something they found on the bottom of their shoes.”
- 123: Israelis, ransacking the dwelling of an uncompliant Palestinian family, are portrayed as not really searching for anything. “At least they weren’t peeing on it, like the ones who had searched the home of a friend of hers in Jenin.”
- 130: Rania muses that her Israeli police counterpart might be implicated in the massacres of the Beirut Sabra and Shatila refugee camps during the war 1982 in which Arafat and his gang were driven from Lebanon. In fact, the massacres were committed by Christian militia.
- 158: Israeli police, as conveyed by her own captain, threaten to arrest Rania’s 6-year old son, unless she backs off the investigation.
- 166: Chloe states as a bald fact that the killing of terrorist’s in Jenin in 2002 was a massacre of civilians. In fact, the Arab dead were not civilians, but armed militants, killed in house-to-house fighting at the cost of 23 Israeli lives that would not have been sacrificed had heavy weapons been used.
- 169: Rania judges Israeli soldiers as “post-pubescent brats.”
- 193: Finally, a good Israeli, is one who had committed suicide out of guilt for his role in Jenin.
P: 196: Reacting to orthodox Jewish hooligans who threw eggs at her, Rania accuses “their God” of “not being very nice.” Perhaps she forgot the term “jihad” in Arabic.
- 211: This is the only time in the book that Rania explicitly concedes the humanity of Jews. She indirectly chides her young son by saying “’Jew’ doesn’t mean a bully. It’s like saying ‘terrorist’ means ‘Palestinian.’”
p.233 Even though Rania is a PA official, clearly wanting to comfort the young man she knows is wrongly accused of murder, she refrains from touching him as “haram.”
- 301: With Rania in disguise, the PC San Franciscan author has her voice the hope, “don’t let him recognize my face. How could he? Palestinians looked alike to Israelis.” As so many Palestinian terrorist acts have demonstrated, their deeds are enabled by the fact that Israelis and Arbs, Jews and Muslims, look very much alike.
p.311: In a backhanded smear of perfidious Israelis, Ranis has to “concede” that the Israeli young man who is a Palestinian sympathizer had courage to confront the real killer who is armed with a loaded gun.
Ms. Raphael misuses fake history around which to build the solution to the murder and denouement to the story (pp. 312-316). The villain’s original crime and its murderous cover-up is the so-called massacre in Jenin during the 2002 Arab intifada that was instigated and directed by the Palestinian Authority. In fact, the claim of a massacre was a hoax trumped up by terrorist politicians, leftist true believers and a sensationalist, gullible press. (All responsible media eventually disavowed such an event; here is a disavowal of inaccurate, hasty reportage by the left-of-center Guardian.)
For readers who relish demonizing Israelis as immoral, venal, brutal and arrogant colonizers of an innocent pastoral people, this is the book for you. If you seek a police procedural story with context in the Israeli-Arab environment, one that recognizes the complex motives, virtues and flaws of multi-faceted characters on both sides of the ethno-religious conflict, seek out the Omar Youssef stories.