Gaza, the world’s largest open air prison, could be viewed broadly through the lenses of history, argues Jean Pierre Filiu, in his book Gaza: A History, in order to make sense of the current situation in which the strip is surrounded by disorientation, horror and hatred. In his attempt to discover the circumstances which produced the current phenomenon of Gaza, where deprivation and dissatisfaction characterize life, Filiu offers a re-examination of Gaza’s history. Aside from being a large volume, his perspective marks a high-quality contribution to the literature.
The book is built up around a simple argument: if there is a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is Gaza itself. Filiu argues that it is necessary to re-examine the history of Gaza to come up with a solution to the conflict in the future. While historically the Gaza Strip has been regarded as less important than the West Bank, since the latter was the motherland for the Palestinian struggle, Gaza in time, has become a knot to be untied. The accounts on Gaza need to be stripped from the violent daily political reality to build peace, and history presents a possibility.
The key question is what granted Gaza this central role? According to Filiu, Gaza, especially after 1948, has become a key constituent in the formation of the Palestinian National Movement. The reason for this is Gaza’s fundamental role in shaping the identity of the Palestinians. The harsh conditions imposed upon the Gazans for decades has raised their awareness of themselves, and contributed to their group and nation formation. For that reason, it seems difficult to achieve sustainable peace in the region without taking into consideration the vessels that keep the reality of Gaza alive.
Writing a history of Gaza has its difficulties. It is a challenge to reach the archives due to the conflictual environment, and significant parts of these archives have been destroyed in the course of