Imagine Israel has been split into two states, and Israelis and Palestinians share Jerusalem, which is jointly governed by Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Great Britain.
This is the setup of “The Journal of Xavier Desmond,” the obscure 1988 short story written by George R. R. Martin long before he achieved mass celebrity as author of The Song of Ice and Fire series (that is, Game of Thrones).
Published in Wild Cards IV: Aces Abroad, the fourth installment of Wild Cards, the long-running science-fiction anthology also edited by Martin, this vision of Israel “The Journal” isn’t exactly pretty–which is precisely why it feels so prophetic.
In the story, which was recently unearthed by Tablet, a delegation from the United Nations’ World Health Organization visits Jerusalem where they observe “entire blocks [resembling] nothing so much as London during the Blitz.” The sound of gunfire is so incessant it’s barely noticed anymore.
What’s so sad about this vision of Israel is that the hostility between Israelis and Palestinians doesn’t come from ongoing geopolitical disputes: it’s more that, as Martin tells it, there have just been too many centuries of inbred hatred. The relative peace, one character claims, is little more than a “forty years stalemate” between “two pissed-off half-countries that share the same little desert.”
Though “The Journal” is based on 1980s Israeli politics, there isn’t much in it that feels dated.