Drinking the Sea at Gaza
Days and Nights in a Land under Siege
by Amira Hass
New York: Metropolitan Books, 1999. 352 pp. $26, ($16, paper).
Reviewed by Jonathan Schanzer
Middle East Quarterly
As a Palestinian affairs writer for Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper, Hass bravely moved to Gaza City and worked as a foreign correspondent rather than reporting on the region from the safety of Tel Aviv. While living in the strip, she befriended Palestinians who bemoaned their bitter, poverty-stricken existence under Israeli occupation; moved by their accounts, Hass spun them into a book. She relays the tales of intifada activists, Hamas supporters, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hardliners, Fatah backers, and second-generation refugees among snippets of Gaza's turbulent history from the establishment of Israel in 1948 through the Oslo accords and beyond.
However, she loses some credibility by relying on revisionist historian Benny Morris for information and loses even more by failing to address Israel's security concerns as the impetus for the policies that she viciously attacks. Hass's legitimacy is further undermined when she prints refugees' tales of dispossession as gospel even as she admits that some have made "mythical connections" between times and events. She portrays herself as a journalist with integrity but unprofessionally weaves herself into the narratives of others.
The author also seems to bear an exceptionally deep animus toward Israel. For example, she denounces the Palestinian Authority for its corruption but only after vilifying Israel as the root of all Gaza's problems. She humanizes Israeli soldiers but only after painting Israel's leadership as bloodthirsty and brutal. Hass's bald attacks on Israel are shameless, and her naked empathy for convicted Palestinian criminals is shameful. That Hass lived among Gazans and provided a window into their world makes her book intermittently readable. That she has become a revisionist journalist makes it unreliable and unpalatable.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Palestinians | Jonathan Schanzer | Spring 2001 MEQ
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