Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Life in Occupied Palestine

Academic journal article Arab Studies Quarterly

Life in Occupied Palestine

Article excerpt

Cynthia G. Franklin, Morgan Cooper, and Ibrahim G. Aoudé. (eds.) Life in Occupied Palestine (Special Issue of Biography 37,2). Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2014. 723 pages.

Reviewed by Ghada Hashem Talhami

There have been anumber of authenticatedreports of life under the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but none can rival this volume for emotional intensity and reflexive probity. In the past, most accounts recorded events after the fact, cataloging and classifying various facets of this unique system of oppression and control. The reports were able to highlight the improbable longevity, persistence, and preposterous propaganda of the Israeli occupation regime with considerable success. But where this volume differs from the rest is by providing an invaluable running account as a witness to history with each page crackling with emotive clarity born of the historic immediacy of incidents and events. By focusing on the experience of the victims, furthermore, the volume achieves the near-impossible task of unveiling the particulars of the occupation which tried assiduously to minimize the guilt and responsibility of the perpetrators of oppression in the past. The study will certainly touch many raw nerves, but will also enlighten others by exposing the abstruse aspects of this Kafkaesque phenomenon. The reader will inevitably benefit from this vantage point granted by an authentic set of players whose only objective was to expose and educate about the vagaries of colonialism.

In addition to breathing life into a suppressed narrative which many forces were always trying to conceal, this document turned into a meditation on the historical inevitability of resistance and its inescapable ennoblement of the victim through pain and suffering. Some of the authenticity of this account derived from the narrators' ability to shed many cultural and national illusions in order to come to terms with the humanity of the other. Realizing that the phenomenon before them was not simply a case of lingering colonialism but also of apartheid, racism, settler colonialism, and occupation combined drove the writers to combat Zionist dedication to the erasure of the Palestinians' memory and history. Some of the contributors to this volume are Jewish Americans who managed to cross from one continent to another and from one culture to another in affirmation of all of their essential humanity. By redefining borders and crossings expertly, they also managed to force the gate ajar and gain a novel insight into this specific human tragedy.

As part of a UN faculty development seminar designed to forge links with Palestinian academics and cultural workers, Cynthia G. Franklin, the editor of this volume and co-editor of the anthropological journal Biography, managed to achieve much more than what was originally asked to accomplish. Her product, in essence, turned out to be an act of solidarity with fellow academics under a brutal occupation. By listening to accounts of professors, students, cultural workers, and some American expatriates, she laid bare the story of Palestinian loss and regenerative hope. Her piece set the tone for the entire volume as she laid out the parameters of the subject-matter, urging participants to reconnect, and not just to communicate as academics, as the original charge of this grant required.

From the inception of this study when she detailed the obstacles to education refined by the occupation as a system of control, collective punishment, and impeded movement, we began to understand the Palestinians' obsession with learning. They not only recognized it as a human right or a matter of cultural or professional attainment, Palestinians also viewed education as a guarantor of social mobility, democracy, and national survival. Franklin described not only the travails of this seldom-acknowledged and overburdened professoriate, but also the tortuous and daily living conditions of students and professors alike. …

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