Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation

How do you review a book that articulates what your life under occupation is like so honestly and clearly that you are left feeling shocked and angry? To an outside world that sees only the issues of “peace” and “terrorism,” occupation loses its significance and becomes a mere abstraction. This book brings it back to reality. Our demonization, hardly questioned in the West, makes no sense in this portrayal. The occupation has relegated us to non-beings, undeserving of the fundamental freedoms and basic rights people everywhere else are entitled to. To survive we start to live in denial, creating an artificial world to block out the reality of occupation. We might occasionally convince ourselves that we really don’t want to pass the concrete walls and checkpoints around us – that we are fine… really.

Saree Makadisi reminds readers and those of us under occupation that a people – young, old, professionals, farmers, politicians, unemployed, men, women, children – exists within the occupation. We have been forced to endure daily policies intent on humiliating us and making life so difficult that exile, of one kind or another, seems a better option – if we aren’t killed or imprisoned along the way. Saree Makadisi tells deceptively simple stories of everyday human beings trying to live normally in the abnormal world of occupation. While television reporters concentrate on the sensational, the mundane is where the occupation is really happening. How can Palestinian men and women who actually want to live with their spouses in East Jerusalem penetrate a “security wall” that separates them forever? Any reader who wants to understand how Palestinians live under Israeli occupation, far from the rhetoric, will find a more accurate picture here than in the newspapers.

This compelling narrative seeks neither sympathy nor pity for the Palestinians. Makdisi calls it as it is and leaves it to the reader to decide. He does, however, propose one way out of a problem that began with Zionist colonisation in the 1880s. Israeli policies to cleanse Palestine of its original inhabitants and the Palestinian refusal to disappear mean that both people are going to live on the same land, and they might as well do so in the same state. As one flawed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan after another fails, the conclusion must be that no people should be occupied and have its rights denied, regardless of the packaging. One democratic, secular state would allow Israelis and Palestinians to live on an equal footing. It would free the Palestinians of perpetually seeking ways to survive and to retain dignity in the undignified conditions of occupation. It would also liberate Israelis from having to devise new ways to subjugate people who have lived under military rule since 1967. This may be the only route to a just (and lasting) peace.

Reviewer: Najwa Najjar, a filmmaker in occupied Palestine, has made many documentaries on the Mideast and has just directed her first feature, Al Mor wa Al Rumman (Pomegranates and Myrrh).