Gaza – A History

Jean-Pierre Filiu, Oxford University Press (2014) – Translated by John King


Author Jean-Pierre Filiu

Jean-Pierre Filiu is professor of Middle East studies at Sciences Po, Paris School of International Affairs. A historian and an Arabist, he has also been visiting professor at Columbia University and Georgetown University.

This book goes wa-a-ay back in time, before there was a Gaza Strip, and carries the reader chronologically forward through the turbulence that seems to be a part of Gaza’s history as much as its present.  Clearly a heavyweight and an indispensible resource which I’ll keep handy with me (on my Kindle).


Gaza Before the Strip (The Crossroads of Empires, The Islamic Era, The British Mandate)

1947 – 67: The Generation of Mourning (The Catastrophe, Refugees and Fedayin, The First Occupation, Nasser’s Children)

1967 – 87: The Generation of Dispossession (The Four Years War, The Era of the Notables, The Alien Peace, The New Wave)

1987 – 2007: The Generation of the Intifadas (The Revolt of the Stones, A Sharply Limited Authority, Days of Fury, One Palestine Against Another)

Conclusion: The Generation of Impasses? (Five Years in the Ruins)

Notes, Select Biography, Chronology, Population Statistics, Biographies, Index of Organizations, Index of Personal Names

I was pleased with myself that I knew so much of the history already (acquired just the past 10 years) but this book certainly filled in alot of the details — names, dates and places. The author is meticulous for details.

What surprised and distressed me was the level of intercine violence between rival factions. Friends in Gaza have told me about it, (one even feared for his own life he told me) but not until I saw the chronology of repetitive killings day after day, year after year, page after page, did I begin to ask myself:

Islam is a religion of peace — why did Muslims resort to weapons and bloodshed against one another so quickly and so often? Are these intrafamilial battles still occurring in Gaza?

Of course, the history of Gaza (at least for the past 70+ years) is the history of the occupation and the violence perpetrated by the Zionists and the Israeli state against the Palestinians. The author is a French historian whose recounting of the facts is consistent with Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.  (Which reminds me that I need to write a book review for Pappe’s book which really was the cornerstone for my education of this history.)

I recommend this book to students and activists and scholars alike because it’s easily digestible yet ladden with footnotes and references for anyone who wishes to explore more deeply. The author didn’t strike me as someone with an agenda other than to lay out the facts and honor the reader’s intelligence to draw his or her own conclusions.