Socialist Worker

The diary of a people's agony

by Simon Behrman
Issue No. 1767

IN THE aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington the media repeatedly played the same footage of a small number of Palestinians who were celebrating. The message was clear-Palestinians are fanatics with little regard for human life.

This is what the Israeli government says every time a suicide bomb goes off in Jerusalem, or after a particularly violent day of clashes in the Occupied Territories.

As Refugees in Our Own Land by Palestinian-US journalist Muna Hamzeh powerfully shows, Israel, supported by the US, has terrorised Palestinians for 53 years. The description of a neighbouring family first losing one of their sons during an Israeli attack, followed two days later by the bulldozing of their home, gives a sense of the unending terror of life as a Palestinian. The first half of the book reproduces Hamzeh's diary from the opening weeks of the intifada last October.

Hamzeh lives in a refugee camp near Bethlehem. She records the fear and terror as Israel bombards the camp, cuts off its basic services and bars the inhabitants from leaving the 90 acres that are home to 10,000 refugees. Her diary records the anger and despair as the 'international community', especially the Arab states, ignores Israel's atrocities. However, Hamzeh is concerned to show that alongside the fear there is a strong spirit of resistance.

Mothers are proud when their sons are killed fighting against the Israeli occupation. After all, they reason, it is better to die fighting oppression rather than succumbing to it.

The second half of the book consists of articles written throughout the 1990s. They provide the background to seven years of a 'peace process' during which the Israeli army allowed settlers to terrorise Palestinians while pretending that it was observing ceasefires.

The first essay describes the awful irony of having to get a US passport in order to be allowed to return to her homeland. Just as the media showed Palestinians celebrating the attacks in New York and Washington last week, during the Gulf War in 1991 Palestinians were shown cheering on the Scud missiles landing in Israel.

In a brilliant piece, 'Urging on the Scuds', Hamzeh both exposes the distortion of these images and gives a powerful justification for why people were cheering. This book is a powerful weapon in fighting the lies and hypocrisy of the US and Israeli governments when it comes to questions of democracy and terrorism.

Refugees in Our Own Land by Muna Hamzeh (£18.99) is available from Bookmarks


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Sat 22 Sep 2001, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1767
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