October 12, 2002
This book is crucial to my work. Amira Hass is an Israeli journalist and child of Holocaust survivors trying to report accurately what has been transpiring in Gaza since the famous handshake. My main interest to specify more clearly the varieties of violence Palestinians face everyday, indeed every hour, though when Americans think of violence in the Middle East, they, invariably, due to the reporting of a biased US media, think of Israeli civilians killed or wounded by Palestinian suicide bombers.
“This book is an attempt to chart that passage, to relate the ideological, cultural, and emotional histories that make up the human story of the Gaza strip—histories that are bound together by the common quest for freedom.” 17
In a recent Znet article, Noam Chomsky quotes Yehoshaphat Harkabi,”To offer an honorable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism,” he said. “When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes.”
What Hass details is the unrelenting Israeli pressure on Palestinians in Gaza to submit or leave. The fact this has occurred under the much ballyhooed “peace process” gives pause for critical thought: The peace process, Hass reveals, is basically a conquest process.
Who can blame a people struggling for their freedom? Who do you side with: David or Goliath?
Some illuminating passages…
And despite a catalogue of abuses, great and small: soldiers shooting at the rooftop water tanks just for fun. Soldiers chanting loud, offensive slogans while patrolling the refugee camps or pounding on the fragile tin doors to frighten the children. Soldiers confiscating identity papers for such bogus reasons as the card’s frayed edges or faded type, even though it was illegal for Palestinians to be without identification. And soldiers were not the only culprits. There were also the tax officers who would take hours-long breaks, leaving people standing in the hot sun; the border guards who would kick over a vegetable stand as the desperate stall owner tried to salvage a few tomatoes; the military base that would dump its garbage in the middle of a residential neighborhood. “Break their bones,” Yitzhak Rabin allegedly said when the intifada began, and many of the troops took him literally. 23
… ritual destruction of televisions, radios, chairs, beds, and dressing tables, all smashed beyond repair, the mirrors splintered in rage, the telephone wires torn out of the walls with what seemed like infinite hatred. 124
By virtue of their existence, the eighteen Jewish settlements in the heart of the Strip perpetuate all the forms of dispossession and discrimination Palestinian have experienced daily since 1948. The five to six thousand Jewish settlers, living in affluent homes – well-tended, spacious, and lush – a stone’s throw from the cramped, dismal refugee camps, only serve to intensify the continuing sense of injustice and the longing for land lost in 1948. Moreover, they embody every aspect of Israel’s policy of separation in their separate budgets, roads, water, laws, and historical rights. 147
Israel controls down to the very last detail the kinds of cargo the trucks may carry, the amounts, the destinations, and the frequency – who will leave and how often, and how many hours they will waste waiting to do so. 344
The Oslo Accords have ensured Palestinian segregation from the Jewish-Israeli population, which elects the sovereign power, enjoys geographic and economic domination, commands all natural resources, and controls a pass system limiting the Palestinians’ movements. 350
In their company I learned how the broad, disarming smiles of most Gazans conceal bottomless depths of sadness. 4
To me, Gaza embodies the entire saga of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it represents the central contradiction of the State of Israel – democracy for some, dispossession for others. It is our exposed nerve.