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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 46-47 November 11 & November 18, 2023

Reading Israel’s Brutality in the Gaza Strip | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 11 November 2023, by Arup Kumar Sen


The barbaric violence inflicted on Palestinians recently in the Gaza Strip by Israel is unimaginable. The Gaza Health Ministry said that more than 9,400 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza so far, including more than 3,900 Palestinian children. Thomas White, who travelled “the length and breadth of Gaza in the last few weeks” described the place as a “scene of death and destruction.” He said that no place is safe now, and people fear for their lives, their future, and their ability to feed their families.

Such violence on Palestinians has a long history. In his introduction to the book, After the Last Sky: Palestinian Lives (1986: Vintage edition, 1993), Edward W. Said stated: “The one thing that none of us can forget is that violence has been an extraordinarily important aspect of our lives.”

Said’s book, published with photographs by Jean Mohr, is a vivid account of multiple forms of violence inflicted on Palestinians by Israel over a long period of time. To put it in the words of Said: “Since 1948, our existence has been a lesser one. We have experienced a great deal that has not been recorded. Many of us have been killed, many permanently scarred and silenced, without a trace. And the images used to represent us only diminish our reality further. To most people Palestinians are visible principally as fighters, terrorists, and lawless pariahs.” He further argued: “In 1948, Israel was established; Palestine was destroyed, and the great Palestinian dispossession began…Across our children’s lives, in the open fields in which they play, lie the ruins of war, of a borrowed or imported industrial technology, of cast-off or abandoned forms…Our parents bore on their faces the marks of disaster uncomprehended. Suddenly their past had been interrupted, their society obliterated, their existence radically impoverished.”

Said also recorded the class character of ‘the great Palestinian dispossession’: “…we are a migratory and impoverished labor force in our own country. There is a flourishing market in Arab child labor from the poorest areas like Gaza, and the economic depression in Israel has turned the Arab daily wage laborer into a disconsolate, transportable commodity, loitering in the marketplace until picked by a Jewish labor entrepreneur for piecework elsewhere.”

Edward W. Said’s book on Palestinian Lives, written more than three decades back, provides the perspective for reading the current brutal attacks against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

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