Graphic novels about Palestine reveal the exceptional everyday demands of exile

Baddawi (2015) novel by Chicago-based artist Leila AbdelrazaqBaddawi (2015) novel by Chicago-based artist Leila Abdelrazaq

Baddawi (2015) is a coming-of-age graphic novel by Chicago-based artist Leila Abdelrazaq about a boy raised in a refugee camp in northern Lebanon; it’s a poignant tale based on her father’s early life. The eponymous Baddawi is the refugee camp where Ahmad was born after his parents’ expulsion from Palestine in 1948. Just published with a promoted launch next week, it is one of a few graphic novels which attempt to capture the exceptional, uncertain, often surreal, quality of Palestinian lives in chaotic exile as the mundane, everyday tasks demand to be met.

Going to school, studying, using the library — activities that require a certain measure of certainty and are dependent upon rules, conventions and institutions — are shaken to the core in the story by questions about handling war, weaponry and national identities. While the certainty of childhood expectations contrasts with the uncertain conditions of war and exile, this contrast is not only jarring but poignant when represented through Abdelrazaq’s simplistic style of illustration that emphasises the juvenilia, childhood memory and adolescence associated with the graphic-novel form.

The lineage of graphic novels depicting Palestine can be traced back to arguably the most well-known work, Joe Sacco’s Palestine (1996), based on his two-month visit to the territory in 1991-1992.  Like Abdelrazaq, Sacco’s narrative focuses on the minutiae of the mundane in the occupied territories, revealing everyday tasks transformed into momentous struggles, humiliations and frustrations. Academic Ella Shohat has stated that “maps, borders, checkpoints and the Wall have now become signature icons of the Israeli/Arab conflict.” While these borders appear to be stable, they are overrun by new Jewish settlements within the territories and by the state’s mobile walls, enclosures and “flying checkpoints”. Sacco captures the political strategies of spatial control through illustrating the material realities of the everyday; the home, a bus trip, a walk.

Most of the scenes in his book are conversations between Sacco and Palestinians; his dense, crammed, jumbled panels reveal that the spatial strategies of confinement and contingency are not distant concepts. When Sacco’s avatar is not crossing checkpoints, he is observing events near a wall or fence. Almost every person he meets has been detained by Israeli forces or knows someone who has been in an Israeli jail. The homes that Sacco depicts stretch the definition of “shelter”, as they are subject to attack, demolition and deterioration through the occupation and poverty. He visits his friend Sameh in the Jabalia refugee camp, where the homes, made of corrugated metal and makeshift doors and windows, have the appearance of the temporary, the contingent. At his friend’s house, the roof leaks, and there’s a lamp on the sofa, gaps in the structure of the building and exposed wiring. At the same time, Sacco shows attempts at domesticity, ranging from carpets, plants and paintings, revealing a paradoxical interior aesthetic that struggles between the temporary and permanent.

While Palestine is a sequenced description of events during the Second Intifada, representing a typical graphic-novel linearity, Sacco’s Footnotes in Gaza (2009) challenges this aspect of the genre through a mix of panels that alternate between the past and present, as Sacco’s avatar attempts an excavation of events buried in the Palestinian past.The novel focuses on two days in Gaza in 1956 when Palestinians said that hundreds of civilians were killed by Israeli forces. Sacco found almost nothing written in English about these killings, despite UN estimates of nearly 400 deaths in both Rafah and Khan Younis. A broad selection of testimonies are combined with speeches and official documents, but most of the 400 pages are made up of memories of executions, hiding and the aftermath of burials, rendered through Sacco’s emblematically cinematic repertoire of viewpoints within a single page: zooming in for a close-up of a survivor of the massacre as she remembers and vacillates between the past and present; or pulling away from a scene of a mass execution to give perspective on its scale. While testimony of the past prevails in the novel, its resonance in the present compels Sacco to write, “While we feverishly dig away at 1956, daily events are obscuring our finds, making it that much harder for our subjects to focus on the stratum in question.” This text block is set alongside a panel in which an elderly woman lies in a hospital bed, her leg in a cast as a result of injuries wrought by the demolition of her home by Israeli bulldozers.

Like Footnotes in Gaza, Waltz with Bashir by Ari Folman (2009), an Israeli filmmaker and former soldier, attempts to reconstruct from shrouded memory traumatic episodes, specifically fighting the 1982 Israeli-Lebanese war in Beirut and an elusive vision of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. It is told from the perspective of an Israeli soldier. Originally an animated film, it was adapted later into a graphic novel.  While both novels cross space and time fluidly — between memory and the present, dream and lived, waking experience — and provide a street view of events on the ground, Waltz with Bashir has been criticised for rendering Palestinians indistinct and anonymous, lacking individuality and a voice; beyond the collective wails of the victims in the camp, they are excluded from the narrative process.  This is in contrast to Sacco whose panels are essentially composed of individual testimonies, with the faces of Palestinians each drawn uniquely, and his own face appearing simply illustrated.

Guy de Lisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City (2012) is a travelogue in graphic-novel form that provides a pavement view of an expat living temporarily in occupied East Jerusalem.  The outsider perspective illuminates the inequalities between Palestinian neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem, with their cratered roads, piles of rubbish and lack of a pavement, and the modern and developed streets in Israeli areas.

The Novel of Nonel and Vovel (2009) by Larissa Sansour and Oreet Ashey is an experimental graphic novel that features the creators’ alter egos.  The novel takes the issues of narration and composition, with which Sacco also grapples, to an explicitly self-reflexive level when, in a few panels on a single page, the super-hero duo pull back from the action in which they are engaged to question their own narration.

Another film adapted into a graphic novel is Irene Nasser’s Budrus (2013), based on the documentary directed by Julia Bacha. It follows the unarmed protest movement in a village through the eyes of 15-year-old Iltezam Morrar, but so far it only exists in Arabic.  France has also produced a variety of (untranslated) graphic novels, such as Gaza, un pavé dans la mer (2009), Les chemins de traverse (2010), , Faire le Mur (2010), and Palestine, dans quel État? (2013)  by Maximilien Le Roy, Torture Blanche by Philippe Squarzoni (2004),  and Les Amandes Vertes (2011) by Delphine and Anaële Hermans.

Recently, graphic novels have taken more of a hold in Palestine; its first comic-book festival was held last year. The collection West Bank Stories: The Graphic Novel (2010), edited by Rebecca Cox and launched by NGO Project Hope, was composed entirely by Palestinian youth; hopefully, it’s a sign of what’s to come, with more work emerging from Palestine itself. (

Before all of this, though, there was Naji Al-Ali, one of the Arab world’s most prominent cartoonists and satirists, displaced several times over, detained, censored, expelled and finally assassinated in 1987. His work is most represented by his iconic Handala, the rumpled, dishevelled, barefoot refugee child of the camps, who stands with arm clasped behind his back and back turned to the reader until he can return to Palestine. This iconic image not only resonates in the character of Ahmed, the child of the refugee camp inBaddawi, but also on the cover where, surrounded by patterns of Palestinian embroidery, we can see his back turned and hands clasped behind his back in a Handala stance refusing to go any way but home.

(Source / 10.04.2015)

New French book stirs European angst over Islam

Dystopian novel plays on French and European fears over the ‘Islamisation’ of society

Michel Houellebecq posing during his photo exhibition “Before Landing” at the Pavillon Carre de Baudouin in Paris

A new book imagining a future France coming under Islamic rule hit French bookshops on Wednesday in a literary sweep likely to fuel creeping European angst about Muslim immigration.

The novel, “Soumission” (“Submission”), is guaranteed to become an instant bestseller because of its author: Michel Houellebecq, a star French writer who has found worldwide fame with cynical works portraying an imploding society with dry humour and graphic sexuality.

But its concept – of an Islamic government emerging from 2022 French elections ditching traditional parties for the far-right National Front and a new Muslim Brotherhood-styled party – touches on real-life themes already simmering in France, Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and other EU nations.

An influx of mostly Muslim immigrants, many fleeing conflicts in Syria, Sudan and elsewhere, at a time of European economic malaise has increased Europeans’ fears that their cultures are under assault and strengthened the hand of anti-immigrant far-right parties.

“Soumission” conjures up a France where a Muslim president takes power and establishes Sharia law under which women are made to wear veils and are excluded from jobs, and the Sorbonne University is renamed the Paris-Sorbonne Islamic University.

It’s a “political fiction, a satire,” Houellebecq told France Inter radio on Wednesday.

“There’s a real disdain in this country for all the authorities… You can feel that this can’t continue. Something has to change. I don’t know what, but something,” he said.

‘Not very realistic’

It matters little that Houellebecq himself has admitted to the Paris Review that the book’s scenario is “not very realistic”, at least not for “several decades”. Despite that, it has already become a hot talking point.

French President Francois Hollande told France Inter on Monday, “I’ll read it because it’s creating debate,” but carefully stressed that it was just “literature” and “the idea of submersion, of invasion, of submission is an old idea”.

But others see “Soumission” filling the sails of Europe’s far-right.

The head of France’s National Front, Marine Le Pen, told France Info radio on Monday that while the book was fiction, “it’s a fiction that could one day become reality”.

Edwy Plenel, who runs an influential online news website, Mediapart, told AFP that Houellebecq – who he said had “a hatred of Islam” – was peddling “future nightmare scenarios”.

“Why is Mr Houellebecq, who is a novelist, becoming a political event? Why would it be on national TV news? Why should he be treated as the spokesperson for a political idea? This should simply be a literary topic discussed in literary circles,” Plenel railed.

The French Republic ‘is dead’

The initial print run in France for “Soumission” is 150,000 copies, a significant number for the country’s market. German and Italian translations of the book will be released mid-January. No date has yet been given for the English-language version.

Houellebecq is clearly enjoying the attention his sixth novel is getting, although he states that he is politically “neutral” in the debate surrounding it.

“Today, atheism is dead. Secularism is dead. The (French) Republic is dead,” he told the French news magazine L’Obs in an interview to be published Thursday.

He argued that France’s Muslims could very well soon start their own political movement because they reject the ruling Socialists’ progressive policies such as gay marriage, and feel threatened by centre-right politicians “who want to kick them out”.

Studies show that the majority of Muslims in France traditionally vote Socialist, according to studies by Vincent Tiberj, an expert at Paris’s Science-Po university. But in local elections last year that boosted the National Front, many Muslims – indeed many in France – spurned Hollande’s centre-left party.

France has been grappling in recent years with how to integrate its Muslim population — the biggest in Europe and estimated at up to 10 percent of the country’s 65 million inhabitants, or around five percent of the electorate.

In 2010 France prohibited face-covering Islamic headwear in public places, a ban upheld by the European Court of Human Rights last year.

In 2005, riots erupted in several poor Paris suburbs with large, disaffected Muslim populations.

(Source / 07.01.2015)

Book review: a 4,000-year old history of conquest and occupation in Gaza

This comprehensive study of Gaza by French academic Jean-Pierre Filiu combines essential history with a clear assessment of the present

(Image from book cover)

(Gaza: A History by Jean-Pierre Filiu. Publisher: Hurst and Company, London, 2014 • ISBN 978-1-84904-401-1. Release date: 1 August 2014.)

Tracking back through the gamut of media coverage of the latest Gaza conflict, the sheer absence of history of this Isle of Wight-size territory is astounding. It would appear that the history of Gaza began somewhere around 2005 at best, somewhat ironic considering its history of civilisation extends far further into the past than the entire English-speaking world.

Politicians, journalists and diplomats would frequently describe the crisis as if it had just happened out of the blue, failing to reflect that for decades Gaza has always been in crisis, every single day. There were continual references to three wars in the last six years but none of the previous ones. The word occupation seemed to be airbrushed out of the record, let alone that this was the second Israeli occupation of Gaza. Newspapers covering the bombing of the Gaza power station even failed to note that it had been hit the week before. You might also be excused for thinking the Israeli bombing of UN buildings was a novelty. In one broadcast about the history of Gaza there was not even a mention of the seminal event that led to the creation of the Gaza Strip, the war of 1948 and the nakba. Before that of course Gaza was a full district of Palestine covering a far larger area and it did not have a host of refugees that amounted to around 70 per cent of the population.

A powerful antidote to this woeful historical neglect is Jean-Pierre Filiu’s Gaza, A History first published in French in 2012 but now thankfully available in English. Filiu argues that Israel has inflicted a total of 12 wars on Gaza so far. One of Israel’s first war crimes in Gaza is documented, a mass execution in Khan Younis, of 275 people including 140 refugees according to UNRWA. The world reacted with noisy outrage at Israeli shelling of seven UN schools in the 2014 war, yet in 1967, Filiu points out that 90 of its 100 schools were hit by shellfire.

Jean-Pierre Filiu not only addresses this perennial deficiency, he does so and more. This diplomat, academic and historian has meticulously researched this area of the eastern Mediterranean from its origins, to when Mark Anthony gave it to Cleopatra or when Alexander the Great himself faced resistance from Gazans using tunnels. As Filiu points out, it was largely an Arab garrison that resisted. Indeed Netanyahu’s attack on Gaza was preceded by historical giants that also included Pompey, Salah Ad-Din, Napoleon and Muhammad Ali.  Sadly for Gaza it was frequently either the launchpad for invasions of Egypt or invasions of Palestine from Egypt.

The author charts Gaza’s development through the Islamic conquests, the Crusaders, the Mongols and through to the Ottomans. The advance of the British into Gaza under General Allenby was timed with the release of the Balfour Declaration on 2 November 1917. Britain was occupying Gaza and simultaneously promising it to another people. Filiu develops an impressive account of all the actions against the British during the subsequent mandate years but also the inter-family clashes that so weakened the Palestinian movement not least in Gaza. Whilst the Husseinis and Nashashibis were duelling for power in Jerusalem, in Gaza it was the Shawas and the Souranis.

Yet the remaining three-quarters of the book is devoted to when the Ottoman district of Gaza was whittled down to just the Gaza Strip and the story of Gaza’s experience of the conflict with Israel. Filiu highlights how keen Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, was to annex Gaza to Israel. He failed but for much of the next half century the Israeli most associated with Gaza was Ariel Sharon, both as a military leader and as prime minister. Filiu himself expresses surprise at just how much time and brutality was needed in 1967 to suppress Gaza – he states this was ignored at the time by both the Arab and western media. His chapter on what he describes as the “Four Year War” shows that it was Sharon’s massive assault on Gaza in 1971 that ended that war but also created “a generation of Israeli enemies”.

It is the development of Palestinian political life in Gaza and its centrality in the nationalist movement where Filiu shines a valuable light. He argues that Gaza is far more significant in the development of Palestinian resistance and political life than the West Bank. He traces how Hamas grew out of Ahmed Yassin’s Mujamma Islamiya with Israeli encouragement, that the Israeli governor even attended Yassin’s opening of Jura Al Shams mosque in September 1973. It was of course the Intifada that allowed Hamas to break out from its Gaza base into the West Bank. Filiu shows how Fatah-Islamist tensions existed well before 2005 and were frequently violent.

Filiu joins an elite few who have chronicled Gaza’s history that should stand proudly next to other masterful surveys such as Sara Roy’s Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict and Amira Hass’s Drinking the Sea at Gaza. Yet Filiu’s is the most recent, taking it up to Operation Cast Lead in 2009. It is the sort of book that you wish would land on every US Congressman’s desk with a diktat to read it pronto. It combines the essential history with a clear assessment of the present. For Filiu, Gaza is the essential part of Palestine that cannot be ignored or discarded.

To understand Gaza’s immense history is to appreciate how Gaza has always been a prime piece of real estate, the last stop between the Levant and the Sinai desert that separated it from Egypt. It is Gaza’s tragedy to have been craved by competing empires, colonised and occupied. Today, what used to a prime piece of eastern Mediterranean real estate that was coveted and fought over is now an overcrowded prison to be bombed and blockaded. If the United Nations report, Gaza 2020 is right, then in six years’ time, Gaza will be history and completely unliveable.

(Source / 23.09.2014)

New book reveals top-secret collusion between Israel, US during twenty years of “peace talks”

“I’ll back you and protect you, I’m your guy … it’s very upsetting … all the Arabs are the same,” US President Bill Clinton told Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak in a 19 July 2000 meeting during the failed Camp David summit withPalestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat.

Only months earlier, in March 2000, Clinton displayed the same kind of obeisance to Barak — albeit without the racist slur this time — when he explained, “I’ll do my best … I’ve gone through the script … I’ll do a good job.” He said this while he attempted to reassure Barak during another failed summit, this time with then-president of Syria Hafez al-Assad.

That the US government has acted as Israel’s attorney rather than an honest mediator in peace negotiations has been known for some time, ever since the disclosure of a secret 1975 letter from President Gerald Ford to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

But these quotes from Ahron Bregman’s Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories (2014), which includes the actual “script” agreed upon between Clinton and Barak, make graphically clear the extent of the collusion between the two governments.

Top secret disclosures

Bregman’s book breaks new ground with a number of leaked top secret disclosures from Israeli sources. It shows that the recent revelation that Israel eavesdropped on current US Secretary of State John Kerry is really nothing new.

Israel also secretly recorded conversations between Clinton and Assad back in 2000. The only question unanswered is why, given the extent of the collusion, the Israeli government believed it was necessary to eavesdrop on its counterpart.

Bregman is a British-Israeli political scientist who teaches in the War Studies Department of King’s College London. He served in the Israeli army during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. But during the first intifada, he openly announced his refusal to serve in the “occupied territories,” in an interview with Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Facing prison for his refusal, he emigrated to the UK where he obtained a doctoral degree, and subsequently began a career as a lecturer and journalist, eventually authoring four other books on Israel.

Bregman believes that Cursed Victory is the first chronological history of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank including East JerusalemGazaSyria’s Golan Heights, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula following the 1967 war. His book differs from other studies which he says take a more thematic or analytical approach to the post-1967 occupation.


Bregman’s perspective is that of a liberal Zionist. He briefly describes the 1947-1948Nakba — the forced expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland — as a “civil war,” and suggests that Israel emerged as a colonialist country only after the 1967 war, hence the book’s title.

This perspective eventually weakens his concluding chapter and mars his analysis of the failure of Clinton’s Camp David summit. Nevertheless, many Palestinian voices are heard in the course of his chronology, and he rigorously details how Israel implemented the “three main pillars” of its post-1967 occupation through military force, laws and bureaucratic regulations and settlements — in the process, trampling on international law and Palestinians’ human rights.

Bregman’s top secret material appears mostly in the later chapters, which cover the period between 1995 and 2007 when his chronology ends. Many of the documents are not surprising, and their contents could be deduced from both US and Israeli public policy and behavior.

Still, the documentation reinforces what Palestinians have long maintained. We get to read, for example, the actual text of US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s reaffirmation of the US pledge to consult first with Israel in peace talks.

In a secret 1998 letter to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Albright promised: “Recognizing the desirability of avoiding putting forward proposals that Israel would consider unsatisfactory, the US will conduct a thorough consultation process with Israel in advance with respect to any ideas the US may wish to offer the parties for their consideration.” As Bregman notes, this effectively gave “Israel carte blanche to veto any American peace proposals” it didn’t like.

Arafat’s death

Many Palestinians have long suspected that Israel assassinated Arafat by poisoning him. Bregman’s revelations point to this conclusion as well, although he concedes that the information leaked to him to date does not contain the “smoking gun” proof.

The clearest indication, he writes, is a 15 October 2000, document prepared by the Shabak (or Shin Bet), Israel’s secret service, which describes Arafat “as a serious threat to the security of the state. His disappearance outweighs the benefits of his continuing existence.”

After noting that in 2004, US President George W. Bush appeared to release Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from an earlier commitment not to harm Arafat, Bregman states that the US government had given Sharon “if not a green light to proceed with the killing, then at least an amber” light.

Ignoring Palestinian response

Bregman’s liberal Zionism is apparent in several instances in this work, including his suggestion that if Israel had used greater force it might have avoided the first intifada in 1987. But the most obvious example is his acceptance of the notion that the so-called Clinton Parameters, outlined after the failure of Camp David, represented the best deal the Palestinians could have hoped to get.

The deal Clinton offered, he says, was Palestinian sovereignty over the Haram al-Sharif (Dome of the Rock), the principal Muslim holy site in Jerusalem, in exchange for giving up even a symbolic right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Whereas throughout most of the book Bregman is conscientious in representing Palestinian viewpoints, here he largely ignores the official response of the Palestinian negotiating team to the Clinton Parameters.

Nor does he suggest that Palestinian negotiators had little reason to trust Clinton after he had already broken two key promises: one, that Clinton would not blame Arafat if the summit failed (which Clinton did), and two, that Israel would continue to withdraw from the occupied West Bank if the summit failed (which Israel did not).

More to the point, Bregman effectively dismisses the Palestinian right of return as a fundamental human right central to their struggle and to a just peace.

The parameters guaranteed little more than limited autonomy for Palestinians in less than 22 percent of historic Palestine, not full state sovereignty, and the Palestinian Authority would have had to depend on Israeli goodwill to withdraw its military presence in the Jordan Valley twelve years from the agreement.

The result is a disappointing concluding chapter in which the author suggests that the post-1967 occupation will eventually end simply because history shows that occupations don’t last.

In his final paragraph, he distinguishes between “good” colonialists (the British) and “bad” colonialists (the Israelis), but his fixation on 1967 means he misses entirely that Israeli settler-colonialism began not in 1967, but in the years leading up to the founding of the state in 1948.

(Source / 29.08.2014)

Searching for Palestine in India’s Israel policy

From India to Palestine — Essays in Solidarity: Edited by Githa Hariharan;<br />
LeftWord Books, 2254/2A, Shadi Khampur, Ground Floor, New Ranjit Nagar,<br />
New Delhi-110008. Rs. 350.


In January last, the LeftWord published a collection of essays, From India to Palestine, protesting the ever blossoming “strategic relationship” between India and Israel.

One of the contributors, Sunaina Maira, despairs: “Where is India’s Palestine? It is a question Indians need to ask … Are we going to move closer to Israel and the U.S. and deepen our alliance with warfare and police states?”

We have the answer now. Narendra Modi, the new Prime Minister, has been hailed as Israel’s best friend In South Asia, by the prestigious New York-based International Business Times.

After Modi’s stunning victory, an Israeli news agency reported, “India’s Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi has expressed his desire to “deepen and develop” ties with Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday, and it appears that Netanyahu’s words do not constitute diplomatic flourish but, if anything, understatements.”

There is nothing unusual about such assessments. Immediately after the BJP chose Modi to head its 2014 poll campaign committee, back in June 2013, a commentator wrote in The Diplomat, a noted online magazine on current affairs, “… if Modi were to become PM, expect ties with Israel — already a key defence partner — to expand dramatically. While it was a Congress government that established diplomatic ties with Israel in 1992, it was under a BJP-led government from 1999 to 2004 that Indian ties with the Jewish State blossomed. This period led critics to believe that this was not just a security partnership but also a relationship with strong religious and ideological moorings.”

To think the avowed Father of the Nation, had remarked, “Palestine belongs to the Arabs in the same sense that England belongs to the English or France to the French. It is wrong and inhuman to impose the Jews on the Arabs … Surely it would be a crime against humanity to reduce the proud Arabs so that Palestine can be restored to the Jews partly or wholly as their national home.”

There will be few in this country to regret that Gandhi has now become anachronistic in one more sphere. But the LeftWord writers cry their heart out, make a passionate plea for justice for the Palestinians, hoping, as is generally the case with activists, that someone would hear somewhere.

From Gandhi’s strong moral position to the 2003 visit of the then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the ballooning defence purchases from Israel, the contributors have sought to chart the course of Indian policy towards Israel and contrast it with the all-enveloping gloom over Palestine.

“According to Israeli Defence Ministry reports, India accounted for 50 per cent of Israel’s military exports, surpassing Russia as the number one arms supplier to India in 2008. India has bought weapons worth more than $10 billion from Israel since 1999; not only is India the biggest customer, but it has also bought more arms than Israel’s own armed forces,” points out Prabir Purkyastha, who also stresses that arms sales form the bedrock of the Israeli economy and India’s enthusiasm for its products was a welcome breakthrough at a time when the end of the Cold War seemed to spell trouble for the arms trade internationally. Thus, when the pro-Palestine activists across the world are trying to drum up support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, seeking to pressure Israel, though not with much success so far.

Essay after essay in the collection brings out the horror and humiliation of life for Palestinians under Israel occupation. Movements are restricted, houses demolished, water scarce, jobs even more so, settlers on the rampage — situation tailor-made for violent protests, which in turn become justification for more outrages on the part of the Israeli authorities.

Anything could be excuse to stall a peace deal, the latest being an agreement between the Al Fatah and Hamas to work together. None other than U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry warned Israel it risked becoming an apartheid state, but withdrew his remarks post-haste, following a furious onslaught from the Jewish lobby.

During his recent visit to Jerusalem, Pope Francis rested his forehead against the concrete structure that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem, and prayed silently. He stood at a spot where someone had sprayed in red paint “Free Palestine”. Above his head was graffiti in broken English reading: “Bethlehem look like Warsaw Ghetto.” Subsequently, he also said the conflict in the region was increasingly unacceptable, still as if by way of making up for his wall-prayer-protest, the Pope went on to offer prayers at the Victims of Acts of Terror Memorial.

Clearly things are going to get much worse, intifadas or no. But one wishes the collection had included some analysis of the rot within the Palestinians themselves, corruption, fanaticism, the Hamas catch-22, et al. Most writers have sought to be politically correct. That the Left introspect seldom is another story though.

(Source / 09.06.2014) 

The Palestine refugee problem: the search for a resolution


Palestinian Refugee Problem: The Search for a Resolution

Editors: Rex Brynen and Roula El-Rifai 

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Pluto Press

ISBN-13: 978-0745333380

Book Review By Ramona Wadi

The Palestinian right of return is crucial to the establishment of Palestinian identity and memory, so any discourse regarding the subject should not take place in isolation. The Palestine refugee problem: the search for a resolution (Pluto Press, 2014) incorporates this premise, bringing together various viewpoints within two main contexts: the centrality of Palestinian identity and the “reconceptualising” of the two-state solution in the absence of implementing the single state solution. No assumption of permanence with regard to negotiations is made throughout the book; indeed the analytical contributions highlight the regional instability and lack of popular Palestinian representation as impediments to achieving a solution.

The book identifies aspects that should be retained at the helm of any possible solution: forced exile and displacement as integral to the construction of Palestinian identity, a settlement which should be achieved through negotiations, availability of research and analysis to facilitate negotiations, and working towards an agreement which is sustainable. The dissemination of research is deemed restricted due to divergences in communication between policy-makers and academia and the avoidance of embarking upon research that is not in line with ongoing negotiations. Furthermore, refugees are not represented adequately in discourse pertaining to negotiations and the right of return, which creates a problem with regard to the strength of historical narratives and their influence in shaping a solution that focuses primarily on Palestinian recognition and reclamation of rights.

As described in the first chapters, the increase in research does not necessarily indicate better dissemination and implementation of possible solutions. While Israel has sought to counter research about Palestinian refugees by referring to the displacement of Jews from Arab countries, analysis highlighting the Palestinian struggle for the right of return is hampered by a lack of international coordination. Various bodies have funded and supported research, including the EU and the World Bank. However, sincere participation and support should be questioned in light of the constant support which international organisations have bequeathed to Israel.

The international community’s shaping of discourse regarding the Palestinian right of return is integral, yet should be subjected to intensive scrutiny. The proposed implementation mechanism acknowledges constrains in relation to the right of return and residency for Palestinians: “Within these constraints, the choice of the refugees needs to be maximised as much as possible.” The statement concerns the question of residence; however, constraints should also be discussed within the framework of international bodies that would collaborate upon implementation of return or choice of residency. One main concern would be the refusal of international organisations and imperialism to recognise the legitimacy of Palestinian identity and history, given the penchant for consolidating Israel’s fabricated narratives and claims to land.

Preparatory work identified as maximising Palestinians’ choice includes the gathering of evidence by Palestinians “from archives and historic records”, Israeli cooperation in allowing access to archives pertaining to claims and coordination with international organisations. However, it should be noted that in the aftermath of the Nakba, Israel took steps to obliterate evidence in order to ensure that Palestinians encounter immense difficulties in establishing ownership claims to the land.

Representation of refugees is another important issue tackled throughout the book. An initial contrast between Palestinian official representation and UNRWA’s role in highlighting the plight of Palestinian refugees depicts inconsistencies which also undermine a sustainable solution. The Palestinian Authority’s priority is the hypothetical establishment of a two-state solution, while UNRWA is said to provide a more efficient representation of Palestinian refugees and their needs. An implementation of the right to return would instigate a discussion about the future role of UNRWA and stipulated timeframes which may be detrimental to a comprehensive solution for Palestinians.

The right of return is also mired in unacceptable compromise, partly through acquiescence on behalf of Palestinian leadership. It is tied inherently to Palestinian history, although the official Palestinian representation has minimised discourse pertaining to the right of return by focusing specifically upon accountability and symbolism as opposed to a mass return. Rex Brynen quotes Yasser Arafat as stating, “We understand Israel’s demographic concerns and understand that the right of Palestinian refugees, a right guaranteed under international law and United Nations Resolution 194, must be implemented in a way that takes into account such concerns.”

Hamas, on the other hand, insists upon a full implementation of the right of return taking into account the forced mass-displacement which started in 1948. It is Hamas that comes closer to the determination which should be asserted as part of the right of return by not only holding Israel accountable for its settler-colonial project, but also affirming that historic Palestine should be included within the discourse, something which is deftly ignored in many discussions about Palestinian refugees.

The book also expounds upon the diverging perspectives regarding the right of return. Palestinian refugees frame return “as a matter of rights, dignity and international law”. Conversely, Western discourse regarding the right of return falls within the convenience of humanitarianism. Such framing of discourse not only undermines Palestinian history and identity; it also allows Israel to maintain its dominant narrative within the international arena. Israel articulates three main concerns which have been absorbed by mainstream discourse: the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, impunity with regard to the Nakba and a permanent agreement which would eliminate the possibility of further refugee claims. A lack of agreement upon these issues is said to promulgate conflict; in reality an agreement with regard to these conditions would diminish Palestinian history, identity and memory, as well as the legitimacy of return under international law.

If the Palestinian right of return continues to be discussed externally, or as an Israeli concern, history and the loss of Palestine will become secondary issues. It is important to define 1948 as the enforced loss of Palestinian territory in order to establish the settler-colonial state. Giving prominence to the destruction wrought by settler-colonialism would have strengthened the argument in favour of nostalgia as a vital component of memory and Palestinian refugee claims. An unhindered right of return for Palestinians should focus upon reclamation of territory and an assertion of self-determination, rather than be perceived as a sequel to any peace agreement concocted by the Palestinian leadership, Israel and its international allies.

(Source / 11.03.2014)

Five Years After the Cast Lead Operation: ‘Gaza Writes Back’

It was five years ago that Cast Lead began. Now a book of short stories, Gaza Writes Backmarks the anniversary. The book’s editor, Refaat Alareer, answers questions about the collection: 

gazaArabLit: How did the idea for this collection come about? How did you put out the call for submissions? Did you tell the writers it was to commemorate Cast Lead?

Refaat Alareer: I’ve been teaching World Literature and Creative Writing at the Islamic University-Gaza (IUG), and at other Gaza training centres, ever since I finished my MA in Comparative Literature from UCL, UK in 2007. And I always had the idea of collecting the best pieces written by my students in a book. Going global became a necessity after the hateful Israeli Offensive of 2008-09. I met Helena Cobban in Gaza and threw the idea of a book of young talents into her lap, and later, thanks to Annie Robbins of, Helena saw the potential in the project. In October 2012, Helena and I discussed a number of possible book projects and later decided a book of short fiction is the best place to start.

Since many of the writers are my own students (and friends), I contacted them and informed them of the idea of a book to mark the fifth anniversary of Cast Lead. We had a couple of fruitful workshops, and I took many of their suggestions into consideration. Later, I announced the project through Facebook, Twitter, local universities in Gaza, and personal contacts.

You should know that maybe only four stories were written in order to be submitted to the book. Many had already been written a year, two, or even three before I asked for submissions. But all pieces were written after the Cast Lead Operation.

I received tens of submissions (around 70!), and with the help of Sarah Ali, Sameeha Elwan, and Diana Ghazzawi, we managed, with difficulty, to narrow them down to 23 stories by 15 writers. Choosing the 23 stories was one of the toughest things I have ever done, because there were many more stories with strong potential.

AL: You say, in the introduction, that you wanted this collection to be “without the mediation or influences of translation or of non-Palestinian voices.” Why without translation? Are there particular effects of translation (on literature) that you’ve seen that you were trying to avoid?

RA: As much as I believe in the importance of translation, when it comes to literature I strongly believe many things get lost in translation, no matter how accurate. Therefore, our efforts were directed at improving the English creative writing skills. So that the writers think in English and express themselves in English. Also, the book comes to encourage and give a nudge to those who write in English, as that will enable them to write more and be in touch and in dialogue with the whole world. Maybe in the future we can work on a book of stories originally written in Arabic.

AL: Why young writers?

RA: Because they have a lot to say. Because they are doing most of the work these days. Because they are leading all the campaigns to make the world aware of the ills and pains Israeli occupation is bringing on Palestinians. Because young people have their worldviews and visions that are worthy of being heard. Because there are many more young Palestinians who write in English that old ones. And because the young have largely been marginalised from mainstream discussions.

AL: It’s interesting that so many of the young writers are women. Do you think this is particular to those who write in English?

RA: This is particular to those who write in English and in Arabic as well. In Palestine, we have more women joining universities than men, more women journalists than men, more women activists than men. Women are in many ways taking the lead, in writing, in activism, and in struggle.

AL: You quoted Sameeha Elwan, in the introduction, in saying that the Internet has changed the storytelling process among Palestinians (who have been fragmented since ’48). Will this collection somehow make use of the Internet? Will any of the stories appear online?

The encouragement the writers received from people in Palestine and all over the world was a catalyst for more writing. That means without the internet, many of the pieces could have been forgotten or not written in the first place. 

RA: Much of the support for the young writers came through the internet. They first started by posting their creative pieces in forums, and personal blogs, and Facebook, and then Mondoweiss, the Electronic Intifada, the Palestine Chronicle and other websites. The encouragement the writers received from people in Palestine and all over the world was a catalyst for more writing. That means without the internet, many of the pieces could have been forgotten or not written in the first place. Social media platforms have been the major battlefields in the recent years. Facebook pages, YouTube Videos, and Twitterstorms have brought awareness about the Israeli occupation and human rights violation and about the suffering of Palestinians in Jerusalem, Gaza, areas occupied in 1948 and the West Bank. Currently, we are very much depending on social media to promote the book and raise awareness about Palestine.

I think with permission from the publisher, certain extracts from the stories can appear online (some already did).

But other than that, we hope that some of the pieces can be made into films or short videos.

AL: One of the PalFest authors, who has taught workshops in both Gaza (by video link) and the West Bank, has said that — because of life, and life-and-death issues — it’s generally been difficult for talented young authors to follow through on writing projects. Do you find that’s true of young authors in Gaza?

RA: To some extent, when it comes to online courses or tutoring, it’s true. Imagine yourself not having electricity for most of the day! However, in the many courses I held in Gaza, there were a lot who joined and benefited from the creative writing sessions such as short story writing, poetry writing, and general creative-writing skills.

Israel is making it very difficult for Palestinians to live a decent life. Israel has caused every possible hindrance to prevent Palestinians from being. Still, that very same thing was the very cause that led many to write back. For many of us, writing is an act of resistance, but it is also an act of life, meaning writing happens no matter who we are and where we are. We write, therefore we exist.

AL: Most of the selections are very short. Some of them are powerful snapshots — the pain and embarrassment in Sameeha Elwan’s “Toothache in Gaza” and Muhammad Suliman’s “Bundles” — but they’re more like “flash fiction” than short stories. Did you ask for very-short pieces, or is this how the writers turned in their work?

The micro-stories, in my opinion, suit the atmosphere they came to life in and reflect many aspects of Palestinian life.

RA: When the book was announced, I asked for “short stories/short fiction stories.” No word limit was imposed. The micro-stories, in my opinion, suit the atmosphere they came to life in and reflect many aspects of Palestinian life. The stories, by zooming so closely into a very precise moment, show how brief life, hope, and dreams under occupation can be. Even the abruptness that characterises some of the pieces tells of a promising story suddenly coming to an end because the main character is killed. Because of Israel. Because there is occupation. It is true many of the stories begin in medias res, but at the end no resolution is made, as the suffering, the pain, and the deprivation continue to linger, haunting readers for a long time after reading the story. In other words, the story still ends in medias res.

Writing longer pieces is something I started working on with a couple of the writers. Although this might require a lot of time, effort, and training, some told me that the idea of writing longer stories, even novels, is lurking in their minds. Hopefully, the attention of this anthology will receive will encourage them to write more and write longer pieces.

AL: What comes after Gaza Writes Back?

RA: I am hoping the stories will get the attention of film producers. I know at least a couple of the stories can be made into great movies, or at least short movies.

Helena Cobban and I have several plans for other book projects to follow. The focus will also be to bring young voices to forefront. At the same time we will work on translating the book into Arabic, French, Spanish, Malay, among other languages.

(Source / 27.12.2013)

‘Gaza op mijn hoofd’ laat je niet onberoerd

Inge Neefs was één van de deelnemers aan de Freedom Flotilla tegen de blokkade van Gaza door Israël op 31 mei 2010. Later verbleef zij in Gaza waar zij getuigenissen verzamelde over het leven daar. Haar boek ‘Gaza op mijn hoofd’ laat je niet onberoerd.
'Gaza op mijn hoofd' laat je niet onberoerd
‘Gaza op mijn hoofd’

De bezetting van Palestina door Israël is “het best gedocumenteerde conflict ter wereld”, zegt Inge Neefs in het laatste hoofdstuk van haar boek. ‘Gaza op mijn hoofd’ is dus zeker niet het laatste boek dat er over geschreven wordt.

Analyse, historisch overzicht, feitenmateriaal, je kan het lezen in honderden andere publicaties. Dit boek van Inge Neefs is geen droge analyse, maar een verhaal van gewone mensen, die proberen te leven in de chaos van bezetting en repressie, die ondanks alles proberen normale families te zijn, vrienden op straat, collega’s op het werk, leerlingen op school.

Inge Neefs maakte er een zeer persoonlijk verhaal van. Neutrale objectieve verslaggeving is aan haar niet besteed. Ze trekt zonder omwegen partij voor de onderdrukten, voor de slachtoffers.

De getuigenissen wisselt ze af met haar eigen gevoelens. Ben ik hier wel op mijn plaats? Kijk ik niet door de bril van een westerling die het allemaal zoveel beter weet? Ondertussen zoemen boven de hoofden de drones, als een pemanente dreiging, dag en nacht …

Neefs laat haar getuigen aan het woord zonder tussenbeide te komen, zonder te becommentariëren. Zo is er het verhaal van de visser die binnen de toegestane 3 zeemijl wordt opgepakt door de Israëlische marine, na urenlange ondervragingen wordt vrijgelaten zonder dat er ooit een officiële aanklacht volgt en bij thuiskomst mag vaststellen dat zijn boot – zijn enige broodwinning –  in een Israëlische haven aan de ketting ligt.

Families die de pech hebben dicht bij de bufferzone te wonen aan de grens met Israël, riskeren permanent te worden beschoten, zonder enige aanleiding. De witte vlag aan de wasdraad beschermt zelfs de kinderen niet. Ironisch genoeg wonen ze daar omdat alleen daar de huur laag genoeg is – wie het zich kan veroorloven gaat immers verder van de grens weg wonen …

Een van de meest aangrijpende verhalen is dat van een gezin waarvan het huis wordt platgereden door een Israëlische bulldozer, terwijl nog niet alle kinderen het huis uit zijn geraakt. Hun zoontje wordt doodgeschoten in de armen van zijn vader terwijl die hem poogt weg te halen uit de gevarenzone.

Schrijnend is ook de getuigenis van kinderen die door nagelbommen worden geraakt, één van de meest laffe wapens die Israël regelmatig inzet om ‘zijn veiligheid te vrijwaren’. De jonge Rami kan niet meer werken, de scherven in zijn elleboog, rug, buik en linkerbeen kunnen immers niet verwijderd worden. Hij kan Gaza niet verlaten om naar een gespecialiseerde kliniek te gaan …

Een grootvader vertelt over zijn geboortedorpje Al Majdal dat nu Ashkelon heet en vader Abu Fehmi vertelt hoe hij werd opgepakt en gefolterd op verdenking van ‘terrorisme’, de door Israël gebruikte term om elke vorm van verzet – gewapend of niet – te omschrijven. Blijkbaar werd hij door een ander ‘verklikt’, die eveneens werd gefolterd. Een vicieuze cirkel die steeds meer onschuldige Palestijnen meesleurt in de waanzin van deze bezetting.

De ene getuigenis volgt op de andere. Eén ding hebben ze met elkaar gemeen, de wil en de koppigheid om een eigen normaal leven te leiden, om niet toe te geven aan de gruwel van de bezetting.

Neefs spaart in haar boek ook niet de kritiek op de partij aan de macht in Gaza, Hamas, op hun idiote regelneverij die ondermeer verbiedt dat vrouwen alleen op straat komen of met mannen die niet hun broer of echtgenoot zijn.

Voor jongeren in Gaza is het ondertussen niet zonder risico om op internet actief te zijn. Vanuit Israël worden immers doelbewust geveinsde contacten gemanipuleerd, die er toe kunnen leiden dat een onschuldig lijkend contact levensgevaarlijk wordt. Degelijk gerechtelijk onderzoek bestaat niet en een beschuldiging van collaboratie kan tot de doodstraf leiden.

Zelden was een titel zo juist gekozen. Gaza zit in het hoofd van Inge Neefs. De verhalen, de getuigenissen, ze laten je niet los. Wanneer je denkt dat je het ergste wel hebt gelezen, blijkt één verhaal verder een nog gruwelijker aspect van de militaire blokkkade in je hoofd te kruipen.

Wie er nog aan twijfelde of de BDS-actie tegen Israël wel de beste strategie is, heeft met dit pretentieloze boek zijn antwoord. Erger dan dit kan niet. Gaza is een hel. Elke dag wachten, is zoveel meer slachtoffers van blinde repressie.

Toch is dit geen deprimerend boek. Stuk voor stuk hoor je achter de schrijnende verhalen de wil om te leven, om gelukkig te zijn, om gewoon met rust te worden gelaten. Deze gewone menselijke verhalen zeggen zoveel meer dan droge analyses. Dit is een boek dat je niet onberoerd laat, een boek dat ‘in je hoofd’ blijft nazinderen.

(Source / 01.12.2013)

Ahmad Abu Saud’s new book on prisoners’ movement launches in Gaza


abusaudeventA national strategy to free Palestinian prisoners from occupation prisoners – and address the needs of sick prisoners, elderly prisoners, and administrative detainees – is needed, said Comrade Ahmad Abu Saud as he released his new book, “Flashes from Behind Bars.”

The book launch was held Sunday, November 25 at the Red Crescent hall in Gaza, attended by former prisoners, friends, comrades, and allies from prisoner support organizations and Palestinian factions.

Dr. Ibrahim Abrash, political science professor at Al-Azhar University, spoke at the event, entitled “The reality and challenges for the national prisoners’ movement.” Abrash noted that Abu Saud offered concrete proposals in his valuable book to develop the prisoners’ movement and its relationship with internal and external forces in order to develop the movement to support the struggle of prisoners for their freedom. Abrash said that the book belongs to the line of prisoners’ literature that has always been part of the Palestinian cause.

Former prisoner Hisham Abdel Razeq spoke about the accuracy of Abu Saud’s description of life inside prison in the period prior to Oslo, through that time, and later in the second intifada. The political situation outside the prison impacts the prisoners inside the prisons as well, from all factions, said Abdel Razeq. He noted that the word “prisoners” did not appear in the Oslo agreement, saying this indicated a real disregard for prisoners’ human dignity by the leadership that signed the Declaration of Principles.

Abdel Nasser Ferwana, former prisoner and statistics director in the Ministry of Prisoners, said that there are over 4900 prisoners in occupation prisons, in 17 prisons and detention centers. There are 190 children under 18 out of nearly 10,000 children who have been arrested and imprisoned since the beginning of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, Ferwana noted. He spoke about the situation of women prisoners and in particular Lena Jarbouni, who has been held for 11 years and faces a continuing health crisis, as well as the imprisonment of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council and other Palestinian political leaders, particularly PFLP General Secretary Ahmad Sa’adat. Ferwana urged a higher level of international action to support the prisoners who are exposed to ongoing attacks on their lives, quality of living, dignity and human rights.

Former prisoner Tawfiq Abu Naim said that often the experiences of the prisoners are not written down and that is important to record the experiences of the prisoners for historical reference, and that in particular, prisoners and former prisoners’ stories must be recorded as unique experiences that collectively form an encyclopedia of struggle.

Abu Saud said the book is part of a deep and wide history of struggle and suffering, an attempt to document what he experienced and heard for the benefit of new generations of strugglers and of prisoners.

He said that the prisoners’ issue is a national, political and humanitarian imperative that must be prioritized. Abu Saud said that he wrote specifically about his experience, as a true history of the prisoners’ movement is a collective process of all forces and factions inside and outside the prisons. He focused on the history of struggles within the prisons, the organizing of early prisoners in occupation prisons, the development of national unity within the prisoners’ movements, and their struggles to achieve their demands. In particular, he described the 1992 prisoners’ strike and its achievements through collective struggle and unity that secured all of their demands inside the prisons, forcing the occupation to concede.

The book surveys facts, events and historical developments in the national prisoners’ movement, and the lives of prisoners, seeking to document and analyze experiences of the prisoners’ movement and putting forward conclusions and proposals based on the lessons of the movement’s experience. He thanked the comrades who contributed to the book’s development and content.

Abu Saud was born in 1956 in Beit Furik, Nablus area, where he belonged to the PFLP. He was detained for the first time in occupation prisons in 1980 for PFLP membership, serving 20 months. Upon his release, he organized volunteer committees in Beit Furik as well as developing secret military groups of the PFLP in the area. He was arrested again in 1985 and released again after he would not confess in interrogation, and then arrested and imprisoned a third time in 1987. This time he was imprisoned under a life sentence until his release in October 2011 as part of the Wafa al-Ahrar prisoner exchange agreement. He is a member of the Central Committee of the PFLP and was the chair of the Front’s prison branch from 2009 until his release. He participated in over 6 hunger strikes including the September-October 2011 strike, where he held principal responsibility.

(Source / 25.11.2013)

Gaza Writes Back, paperback

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Product Description

This book is available for pre-order and will ship in early January, 2014. We can offer free shipping through December 31, 2013.

ISBN: 978-1-935982-35-7 Gaza Writes Back: Short Stories from Young Writers in Gaza, Palestine, edited by Refaat Alareer is a compelling collection of short stories from fifteen young writers in Gaza, members of a generation that has suffered immensely under Israel’s siege and blockade. Their experiences, especially during and following Israel’s 2008-2009 offensive known as “Operation Cast Lead”, have fundamentally impacted their lives and their writing. Indeed, many of these writers saw the war as a catalyst for their writing, as they sought an outlet and a voice in its aftermath. They view the book as a means of preserving Palestinian memories and presenting their own narratives to the world without filters. Their words take us into the homes and hearts of moms, dads, students, children, and elders striving to live lives of dignity, compassion, and meaning in one of the world’s most embattled communities. (Some of the stories also take us with courage and empathy into the imagined world of Israelis living just on the other side of the great barriers Israel has built in and around Gaza and the West Bank to wall the Palestinians in.)

These stories are acts of resistance and defiance, proclaiming the endurance of Palestinians and the continuing resilience and creativity of their culture in the face of ongoing obstacles and attempts to silence them.

Whether tackling the tragedy that surrounds missile strikes and home raids, or the everyday indignities encountered by Palestinian refugees, Gaza Writes Back brings to life the real issues that the people of Gaza face. One prominent theme in many of the stories is the value placed on the wisdom of parents and grandparents. A sense of longing pervades the book, as the characters in the stories reveal desires ranging from the mundane to the complex—including, in several of the stories, a strong yearning to return to the characters’ long-cherished family homes and properties after many decades in exile from them. Social differences within Gaza are also sensitively explored. A few stories are especially difficult—but critical—to digest , for the vividness with which they depict the experiences of victims of Israeli military strikes and confront the legacy of violence and occupation, particularly on young people.

Readers will be moved by the struggles big and small that emerge from the well-crafted writing by these young people, and by the hope and courage that radiates from the authors’ biographies. The contributors are university students and recent graduates, Palestinians who have chosen to speak out in their second language, which is an “expressive way to be more creative in a world where words are significantly mighty,” according to Tasnim Hamouda. Another contributor, Nour El Borno, believes “that if a person can write effectively, it is his or her duty to get up, write, and help change this world to something better.”

Five years after Operation Cast Lead, these stories remind us that the pain lingers on and the people of Gaza will be forever scarred by the attack. Yet, the call for justice remains forceful and persistent, and these young Gazan writers refuse to let the world forget about them—their land, their people, and their story.

(Source / 01.11.2013)