BEFORE it was blown up in 2005, I sometimes stayed at the UN Beach Club by Gaza’s long and sandy shore. In the evenings, I would watch the great waves sweeping in.
Gaza’s decline into a place where most people live impoverished, hopeless, oppressed, and hungry lives is like watching that sea: a period of calm followed by a wave of further destruction. Christians reading this book will be a reminded of the power of Original Sin, and the need to pursue truth.
Few of the big players in this well-written book come out well. Some, such as Israeli politicians who have deliberately hindered peace by murdering Palestinian resistance leaders who were willing to compromise to bring peace and justice, are monstrous. Fatah politicians based in the West Bank have too often been deeply corrupt, as well as incompetent. Hamas, shown as sometimes being less corrupt, is often more violent. There are decent people: Israeli officials who warn the increasingly right-wing political Establishment that their path is leading to catastrophe; and defenders of law and justice and human rights, again often Israelis.
Macintyre’s narrative is well researched, and his description of the complexities of the politics is clear. Most stirring, however, are the times when he goes through the stories of individual Gazans, of families, of their creativity, humour, and business flair; but also of the catastrophic violence poured upon innocent civilians, especially children.
He tells stories of children playing in orchards blown up, maimed, blinded, or killed; of teenagers longing to be doctors or engineers, musicians or artists; of sportsmen whose hopes of competing at the highest level hit a wall built by Israelis. There are quotations enough here that show Israeli extremists who want death for them all — genocide.
What emerges is the hypocrisy of the Western narrative: the failure to recognise the lack of proportionality in Israel’s violence towards a people it has imprisoned, and often driven to insanity by the power of its weapons.
It isn’t just Israel’s political leadership, though. The lies of Western, and especially United States, politicians in defending extreme Israeli expansionism must be a warning to us all. Tony Blair admits mistakes made about Gaza, and the need to “talk to terrorists”, but he admits it too late. The Palestinian leadership is often wicked or foolish, also.
The people of Gaza themselves, most being unaligned, and many traumatised, come out of this with dignity, and with dreams as well as nightmares. But in a final chapter that is a tour de force, Macintyre shows the situation’s many causes, and possible solutions — not least because the US and the EU have the power to bring hope, justice, and peace. But who listens?
Read this book. His style is easy, but his story is almost unbearable.
The Revd Stephen Griffith is a retired priest. He specialises in Syria and the Syriac community in Turabdin.
Gaza: Preparing for dawn
Church Times Bookshop £18