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Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege Hardcover – June 15, 1999

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Editorial Reviews Review

In what is sure to be a controversial book, Israeli reporter Amira Hass offers a rare portrait of the Palestinians in Gaza. Very few journalists have lived in that troubled region; Jewish ones are rarer still. "To most Israelis," Hass writes, "my move seemed outlandish, even crazy, for they believed I was surely putting my life at risk." But Israelis desperately need to understand the plight of the Palestinian people, she writes, and few of them read the unvarnished truth in the Jerusalem press. This has made most of them ignorant of what goes on right next door, and inspired unduly "harsh" attitudes toward Gaza and its one million residents. Hass even quotes the late Yitzhak Rabin, who wished that Gaza "would just sink into the sea," shortly before he signed the Oslo Accords. Wishing away the problem, however, is no solution, and Hass delivers a detailed--and highly opinionated--diagnosis of what's wrong with Israeli policy toward Gaza. Strong supporters of Israeli will say that Hass is nothing but a mouthpiece for the Palestinians. Indeed, this book's subtitle could apply as much to Israel, surrounded by bitter enemies, as it does to Gaza. Yet it would be wrong to ignore Hass: the scene in Gaza is woefully unreported. The book is not likely to change many minds--this is one of those subjects where passions run deep and fierce. Those who already sympathize with Hass's pro-Palestinian views will find Drinking the Sea at Gaza an invigorating book. --John J. Miller

From Library Journal

In recent years, several Israeli scholars, journalists, and even a few individuals with ties to the Israeli military have written critical and pathbreaking books on the degradation of life in the Palestinian refugee camps and other areas under Israeli control. This book, written by an Israeli journalist for the daily Haaretz, belongs to that category of work. The author lived in the Gaza Strip and personally observed the events she so eloquently relates in this highly readable and lucid book. She describes in agonizing detail the hardship and deprivation experienced by ordinary Palestinians as they live their lives under Israeli rule. As the author points out, the unrelenting difficulties and humiliations experienced by ordinary Palestinians have not changed since the Oslo peace process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Stories and moving testimonials gathered by the author add a much-needed human dimension to the Palestinian tragedy. Highly recommended for all readers interested in the future of the Palestinian-Israeli peace process.Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1st edition (June 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805057390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805057393
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,102,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 84 people found the following review helpful By Philip Greenspan on December 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
Amira Hass is an Israeli citizen. She is the daughter of holocaust survivors. She is a reporter for the newspaper, "Ha'aretz".
In 1992 she became a resident in the Occupied Territories (OT) because as a resident "I learned to see Gaza through the eyes of its people, not through the windshield of an army jeep...". She was warned that her neighbors were savage, violent and hostile to the Jews. Her experience proved to be quite different. Everyone knew she was an Israeli Jew; still they welcomed her into their homes. Those Palestinians who spoke Hebrew spoke to her in Hebrew.
Palestinians in the OT suffer many indignities, harassments, and cruelties. The Israeli military, the IDF, is always present and watching. Palestinians are restricted to the OT and can leave only with permission. Obtaining a permit can be quite difficult. Even those with medical emergencies have been denied permits. Unmarried men and men under forty can not leave.
Making a living is onerous. If a Palestinian is able to find work in Israel he will work at a low end unskilled job for substantially less than an Israeli doing similar work--but he would still be making more than someone who works in the OT.
The Israeli military, the IDF, is constantly watching the inhabitants. People live in constant fear of arrest; being subjected to brutal, humiliating interrogations; being held for months, without seeing a lawyer, without being tried, without charges being brought against them, without being told their offense, without seeing members of their families. Homes have been demolished long before guilt or innocence has been extablished. The army, when searching for wanted men, will break into homes, usually in the middle of the night, and needlessly shoot, destroy and vandalize the contents.
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59 of 64 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 28, 2001
Format: Paperback
As an American Jew, this book was highly informative if equally difficult. It isn't the writing that makes this book hard since Hass is clear and ultimately convincing. What was hard, small h, was the way she left anecdotes aside after the first few chapters and went into somewhat tedious details about Gazan lives, their suffering while losing her initial sense of story. Yet what was Hard, capital H, were the truths embodied in this book. As a loyal visitor to Israel, it was really Hard to know that what Hass documents about Israeli cruelty to the Palestinian peoples had the undeniable ring of truth about it. That what she says here is authentic, however hard to reconcile with how we lovers of Israel see "our" homeland. It helps that Hass is an Israeli citizen and that she is the child of Holocaust survivors--that helps to understand her empathy with suffering. I finally have decided that she is not anti-Israel but pro-Justice and that is the framework I suggest others use when reading this difficult, important report from the frontlines.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Gilling on August 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is as extraordinary and inspiring as its author. Hass is an Israeli, a Jew, a woman and an atheist who, uniquely in Israel, has chosen to live among the Palestinian people she writes about. To most people this would be as fatal a combination of attributes as could be imagined. Yet throughout her book she tells only of the warmth, generosity and acceptance she is offered, in a region regularly described as among the most dangerous on the planet.

Many of the best, most relentless and devastating critiques of Israel's colonialism come from Israelis, and none more so than Hass. The most powerful passages are where she likens the lot of the dispossessed in Gaza to the experiences of her own family, Holocaust victims and survivors, in being uprooted by the Nazis from their ancestral homes in Romania. It was her mother's account of the indifference on the faces of the German women who watched as she and the rest of the human cargo were herded from the cattle train en route to Bergen-Belsen that convinced Hass that "my place was not with the bystanders".

This book is no hagiography. She savages the Palestinian Authority leadership for their corruption and brutality (while giving it the necessary context of "a land under siege"). She meticulously documents the inferior position of women in Gaza - their exclusion from the few positions of authority, their lives of domestic drudgery while their unemployed husbands and brothers sit idly by.

Hass gives voice, humanity and a history to a people who live wretchedly on the doorstep of the homes and the lands from which they were expelled barely fifty years ago; who must now accept that neither their own leadership nor the world at large any longer insists on their right of return.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1999
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who truly wants to understand the plight of Palestinians - in Gaza in particular, in Israel in general - this is the book to read. Compassionate and brave, the Israeli journalist Amira Hass holds up for examination the 1001 administrative rules which hold Palestinians back from the chance to live with dignity - rules which imprison and control every aspect of their lives. This book was a bestseller in Israel, read and discussed by all who cared about the nature of their developing country. It should be read with attention and admiration in America too.
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