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Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege

by Amira Hass & translated by Elana Wesley & Maxine Nunn Kaufman

Pub Date: June 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-8050-5739-0
Publisher: Henry Holt

Remarkable but vehemently Marxist reportage from an Israeli journalist who adopts Gaza as her home. Hass, the child of Holocaust survivors and “rabble-rousing” Communists, identified completely with the defiant, impoverished ,and sometimes violent denizens of Gaza when she went there in 1993 to cover a story for the Israeli newspaper Ha—aretz. Soon living with over a million other people in Gaza’s 140 square miles, she displays a curious enthusiasm for a society where “women killed for the sake of family honor are not included in the regular crime statistics [because they] are regarded as male property.” Hass stresses political, not social, freedoms, vividly documenting the daily degradation of ID checking, security sweeps, crushing border closures that cut off the Palestinians” economic lifeline of menial jobs in Israel, and rubber bullets, tear gas, or mass arrests by an overreacting occupation army. This is a partisan, emotional book rather than a historic probe of the Israeli-Arab conflict: rioters who throw bricks or grenades at soldiers or Jewish civilians are “protesters”; and among the issues not discussed is the role of wealthy Arab states who chose to let Arab refugees fester for political expediency. The poignant tragedy of being stateless in Gaza is further diminished by the author’s failure to compare it with conditions for Gazans under Egyptian rule before 1967. Consistent with her special attention to the Communist wing of Gaza’s political tangle, Hass tilts her discussion of the intifada and Arab self-rule away from Arafat’s efforts and toward the few Marxist contributors to the cause of liberating Palestine. The book turns as bitter as sipping from the Mediterranean when all that suffering and sacrifice for denied democratic rights culminates in a totalitarian Palestinian Authority police state where dissenters are jailed and tortured without trial. Hass graces Gaza with revolutionary fire, but ultimately, her book only proves that nothing positive is built on rage.