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Narratives of Life Under Occupation

edited by Mateo Hoke ; Cate Malek

Pub Date: Nov. 11th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1940450247
Publisher: McSweeney's/Voice of Witness

An oral history of life in Gaza and the West Bank, obtained through interviews conducted over a period of nearly four years, lets a diversity of Palestinians speak their minds about their situations.

Hoke (English/Bethlehem Univ.) and Malek are journalists with Voice of Witness, a nonprofit organization dedicated to examining human crises around the world. With the aid of translators and transcribers, they recorded the voices of 50 interviewees and then edited the transcripts for clarity. Of the 16 people selected to tell their stories here, only two are Israelis, for the object is not to provide balance but to illustrate what life is like for Palestinians. Male and female, young and middle-aged, educated or not, mostly but not all middle class, these Palestinians narrate their experiences growing up and living next to Israelis or in areas where Israel controls major aspects of their lives. Some took part in the Intifadas, some spent time in prison, and some lived for years outside Palestine and then chose to move there. Some are resigned to the restrictions of their lives, while some are hopeful of a brighter future. About 50 pages of appendices give context to their personal stories. The first, “Timeline of Modern Palestine,” opens with the date 8000 B.C. and ends with 2014 but has no mention of the events of that explosive summer. Appendix III is an essay on Palestine and international law by Allegra Pacheco, the wife of one of the Palestinian interviewees, and Appendix IV is a piece by journalist Nicolas Pelham on the Gaza tunnels that focuses on their economic importance to Hamas. The oral histories that make up the bulk of the book paint a harsh picture of Israeli restrictions on the lives of Palestinians; however, failure of the lengthy appendices to discuss the necessity for such restriction—suicide bombers, rocket attacks, Hamas’ stated goal of the destruction of Israel—is a serious flaw.

A sympathetic view of Palestinians not to be mistaken for objective reporting.