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Life Arts    H4'ed 2/27/10

Gaza's Untold Story

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Ramzy Baroud, editor of Palestine Chronicle

One year on since Israel's criminally-insane war on Gaza, many are still unaware of the roots of the 'conflict' and the plight of the Palestinian people. Israel would like to have us believe that its latest onslaught was a direct response to resistance rockets or even Hamas's democratic accession to power, forgetting that both of which came into existence as a response to Israeli policies.

But even those of us who have seen the true light, and are no longer deceived by the barrage of 'flat earth news', sometimes forget - if we were ever aware of - the depth and complexity of the tragedy.

And that is the gap in understanding that veteran American-Palestinian author Ramzy Baroud seeks to fill in his latest book "'My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story" (Pluto Press, London: 2010).

In our preoccupation with the Goldstone report (among other UN probes), human rights groups assessments, war crimes allegations, high civilian casualties, UNRWA statistics, official statements here and there, we become overwhelmed with information that makes many of us lose sight of context.

And many of those who do take a step back to get a clearer picture of why such things are happening tend to stop at 1967; Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. Yet for Palestinians, and for those in Gaza in particular, the tragedy goes back to 1948; dispossession.

For those who are serious about achieving peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians, the issue of Palestinian refugees must be duly addressed.

Baroud's book provides an exceptional understanding of that very topic, beautifully combining the personal experiences of Palestinians (his family as one example, with a special focus on his father) with that of their collective history - in English.

The book shows us an example of the human face to that suffering at a time we have grown accustomed to debating cold facts and figures, and interpretations of humanitarian and international law.

These laws are meant to protect real people, and these statistics correspond to human beings - flesh and blood - who have their own dreams, aspirations, fears and even shortcomings.

And these Palestinians are not demons (as some would like to have us believe) but nor are they angels who are above feeling human pain and hardship.

As some of the book's pages cause you to burst into laughter, others would lead you to flood in tears as you interact with the true stories of his family, but Baroud's words of reason frequently resurface to the text to provide you with context and relevant collective history and background.

This parallel of facts and feelings keeps you aware that these moving (sometimes comic but mainly tragic) stories are not meant for entertainment, but are part of history. Yet you could never understand the impact of this history if you did not try to relate to the book's real-life characters.

Baroud relies on context to explain the moral superiority of the plight of Palestinians, but the book's characters invite everyone - even, no, especially Israelis - to step into their shoes to understand their legitimate grievances and systematic suffering.

The book is a must-read for even those who are extremely familiar with the Palestinian question. But such narrative should not be confined to educated readers. Its universal message must reach a wider audience via film.

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Mamoon Alabbasi (M.A. in applied linguistics) is a news editor and translator based in London. His Op-eds, reports, and reviews have appeared in a number of media outlets.
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