“This book is not about Gaza,” the author writes. “It is about what has been done to Gaza.”
Gaza is sinking, if not into the sea, into desperation. The Israeli embargo has rendered 65 percent of Gazans under the age of 30 unemployed. Health care suffers from lack of equipment and medicine. People cannot leave to find work outside, and children live with the trauma of never knowing when their homes will be bombed. When I was there in 2002, Dr. Eyad Sarraj of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program told me that almost half the children under 16 suffered bed-wetting due to constant fear. That was before the military invasions of the last 10 years.
Israel celebrates a double anniversary on May 15 this year, the founding of the state and the formal establishment of the Israeli Defense Forces, the name the state gave to its combined army, navy, and air force. Armed statehood fulfilled the political Zionists’ dream of gathering Jews from the ancient Diaspora under their own government in what they declared to be their “promised land.” During the battle over the land between 1947 and 1949, the IDF expelled three-quarters of the indigenous population. Of the 750,000 Palestinian Arabs who fled, 250,000 took shelter in Gaza, a tiny pocket of southwest Palestine then occupied by the Egyptian army. The destitute and traumatized refugees were three times more numerous than the 80,000 Gazans who took them in.
The United Nations passed but did not enforce annual resolutions calling for the refugees’ return. Israel invaded the territory in 1956, withdrew under American pressure in 1957, and invaded again in 1967. As its population grew to nearly 2 million souls packed into a pocket five miles wide and 40 miles long, Gaza has become a byword for misery. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, no advocate of the Palestinian cause, called it “an open-air prison.”
In his new book, “Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom,” Norman Finkelstein presents Gaza’s case like a veteran prosecutor at a homicide trial. “This book is not about Gaza,” he writes. “It is about what has been done to Gaza.” He asks the reader to decide “whether this writer is partisan to Gaza or whether the facts are partisan to it.” He dissects three major Israeli military actions against Gaza — Operation Cast Lead in December 2008, Operation Pillar of Defense in November 2012, and Operation Protective Edge in July 2014 — as well as the Israeli commando raid on a Turkish aid flotilla in May 2010. His blistering critique encompasses the international response to those events and the prolonged siege of Gaza by Israel and Egypt. The book makes for harrowing reading, replete with exhaustive research and detailed analysis to explain Israeli objectives in Gaza. Summarizing the IDF’s use of Gaza, Israeli journalist Gideon Levy in the New York Times last April called it Israel’s “training field, a giant lab — for gauging the reactions of the nearly two million people it keeps under siege there, and for testing its innovating weapons, as well as the limits of what the world will let it get away with.”