On July 7, 2014, Israeli began a full scale assault on the Gaza Strip, a self-governing Palestinian territory. the assault claimed the lives of more than 1,600 men, women and children. The conflict was a culmination of long-simmering tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. The Israeli government has made it clear that it wants Hamas to recognize its right to exist. Hamas has called for a Palestinian state on the land it believes belongs to the Palestinian people. Multiple foreign governments have made an attempt to mediate the dispute, most notably Egypt. The role of the United States has generally been in support of its ally Israel. The vicious assault was captured and uploaded by Palestinians to such sites as Twitter and Facebook. The images on social media only tell part of the story of the realities faced by the Palestinians who found themselves under siege and facing an opponent superior in both weapons and finances. The full story of what was happening inside the Gaza Strip is a much darker and tragic story, revealed here as the Palestinians are given a platform to the break the silence surrounding their experiences under occupation.
Before reading this book, I do believe it is a good idea for readers to brush up on the conflict’s history. One source that I can recommend is Ilan Pappe’s ‘A History of Modern Palestine ‘, which I have found to be an in-depth and thought provoking compendium on the Palestinian people, their home and the creation of the State of Israel. A solid understanding of the conflict will undoubtedly highlight why this book is so important. It is a story that I am sure no reader will ever forget.
As a warning, the book contains graphic descriptions of bombings, shootings and other forms of military force. The devastating results are tough to read at times and I found myself on more than one occasion wondering when the carnage would end. Quite frankly, this book is not for the faint at heart. It is dark, gritty and without a happy ending. The damage to the Palestinian homeland and psyche is on full display and Israel flexes its military might. The voices in the book are not soldiers or even leaders, but farmers, reporters, businessmen and others who find ways to survive in a system that resembles apartheid in South Africa and the ghettos of Poland in World War II. Some of the deplorable conditions Palestinians live in, include a largely inoperative sewage system, lack of water, restricted exports and woefully understaffed and under-equipped medical facilities. Famine, disease and infection are the usual culprits aside from violence that have nearly broken the will of the Palestinian people.
I would like to point out that some of the tensions that do exist are not solely the cause of Israel. Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization and its actions at times have not helped peace negotiations. Whether its removal from Palestine will finally result in peace remains to be seen. In December, 2016, the United Nations passed resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. The United States abstained from voting. The reacting by Israel was swift and denounced by the Israeli government. For Palestinians and the international community, it was seen as a first step towards truly achieving a legitimate two-State existence.
To understand why life in Gaza exist the way it does, we must first ask why does Israel keep the Palestinians in such conditions? There are many answers here and some of what is revealed might surprise some readers. Money plays a role in nearly every major conflict and certainly does here, but the anti-Arab propaganda and horrific acts of discrimination against Arabs are some of the most shocking parts of the book. The xenophobic thoughts are not just from random common folk, but also espoused by members of government, in effect providing a license to kill to those who believe in extremism. Readers who are sensitive to this type of subject matter might want to use discretion.
In spite of the many dark lessons to be learned here, there is a bright side. Voices for change can be heard on both sides of the conflict. Older Israelis angered by the actions of their government and the younger generation have become more vocal in voicing opposition to the conditions in the Gaza Strip. The social media platforms that unmasked the devastation have also been used to gather support for a new approach by those who wish to see the conflict end. And there are many who believe that attitudes on all sides are slowly changing and that peace is a real possibility. But before that can happen, the truth about the Palestinian experience and life in Gaza has to be told.