The Gaza Writes Back book tour began in Philadelphia but I caught up with them in New York City on Friday night, many miles ago. At each stop, the writers have shared their stories and answered good questions.
The book includes 23 short stories from young Palestinian writers responding to the 23 days of Israel’s bombardment on the civilians in the Gaza Strip in Dec.’08-Jan. ’09, called Operation Cast Lead. Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, including many women and children. The most shocking and disturbing book I’ve ever read is the Goldstone Report from the U.N. fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict* and Operation Cast Lead.
Gaza Writes Back should come with a warning message on the cover because it may be difficult for some to read as well.
Refaat Alareer, the Editor of the book, said he decided to ask his university students to try their hand at writing fiction because he knew the therapeutic value of writing. “Writing fiction transcends everything” and “brings us back to our humanity.” He also believes fiction is timeless — connecting the past, present and future.
Refaat knew that his students could speak for themselves. So often the narratives we hear about Israel & Palestine in the mainstream media come from the colonizer’s perspective. It seems Americans can more easily identify with that perspective. Publishing his students’ stories would be a way for Palestinians to go global with their narrative about the horrific events of Operation Cast Lead.
Interestingly, 12 of the 15 contributors to the book are female, which demonstrates the importance of women and their voices in the culture. They wrote their short stories in English, not Arabic, to reach a larger audience and to educate people outside of Gaza.
Ironically, or perhaps tragically, Gaza Writes Back is available all over the world, but not in Gaza. Refaat has received tweets from people who have read the book in Europe, South Africa, Uganda, Malaysia, Argentina, New Zealand, Jerusalem and the West Bank. Last month, Medea Benjamin (CodePink) was carrying 30 copies of Gaza Writes Back when she tried to reach Gaza, but Egyptian security officials detained her at the Cairo airport, broke her arm, and deported her the following day.
Despite what the foreign desk of the New York Times believes, the Gaza Strip is occupied 100% — by land, sea and air. Every Palestinian in Gaza has a family member, friend or colleague who was killed or injured during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead.
Refaat notes that the Israelis have been doing the same thing day-after-day, year-after-year, decade-after-decade …. killing, destroying and acts of humiliation targeting Palestinians, the young and old alike.
But Palestinians are very creative in ways of resistance. Writing is resistance. Sharing their narrative with audiences in the USA on this book tour is fighting back.
* How anyone can call the Israel-Palestine occupation, massacres and oppression — a “conflict” — is beyond me. An employer & employee can have a conflict. A shopkeeper & customer can have a conflict. A parent & teenager can have a conflict. An oppressor & the oppressed do NOT have a conflict. They have a life of struggle and injustices.