The Gaza Strip Has Been Destroyed. So Has Hope For A Fair Future.

Cartoon recently published in Daily Herald.

As a Jewish leftist born in Israel, I feel a profound sense of grief and defeat.

Amira Hass in Hammer and Hope: I write these words from the West Bank with a profound sense of grief and defeat, as the clashing terms of victory, genocide, erasure, heroic struggle, and historic achievement come up again and again in reference to the Palestinian people and to Gazans in particular.

The Gaza Strip cast a spell on me, as it did for many who visited it and came to know its people. It was an inseparable part of historic Palestine until it was cut off after the creation of the state of Israel and the expulsion of Palestinians from their homeland in 1948-49. As a result, it emerged as a distinct sociological and geopolitical entity. Its core characteristic was its high proportion of refugees (about 75 percent of its population), whose roots were in dozens of villages and towns that Israel depopulated and destroyed.

The Gaza Strip we knew as a compact geographical entity of 365 square kilometers was still large enough to contain the diversity of village and city, of new neighborhoods and old, of the shore and the hills, of poor and rich, of refugees and native-born. And it was small and crowded, so its people lived in one another’s pockets, more and more as their numbers grew, and it felt that everyone knew everyone else and there were no secrets. It was so small and tightly bound it seemed that all people living there took an active part in whatever political, social, and military events were going on.

Despite the disconnection, destruction and passage of time, the refugees of 1948 and their descendants preserved their family and social bonds and emotional attachment to their lost villages and communities. Through the shared reality of isolation and expulsion, and in the compactness of the place, the people of Gaza developed the collective hallmarks of an entirely non-imaginary, non-abstract community: side-splitting humor, warmth and hospitality, ingenuity, industry and solidarity, stubbornness and suspicion, courage and tenacity, insularity and curiosity, pride of place and a sense of injury from the scorn of others.

As the effects of the closure imposed by Israel in 1991 grew more severe over the years, turning Gaza into a vast prison facility, the industry and ingenuity were replaced by widespread apathy and inaction, alongside the emergence of resourcefulness, impressive creativity, and a vivid will to live. With all these contradictions and hardships, the Gaza Strip evolved into its own framework of belonging and patriotic loyalty while also representing all Palestinians and their cause — a kind of Palestinian microcosm — more than any other group of Palestinians.

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