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Marking a grim milestone: Gaza Unsilenced

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Gaza Unsilenced, On small bodies being piled in ice cream trucks.

Mark the first anniversary of the Israeli assault on Gaza – known for its horrific actions and numbers – over 2,250 killed, most civilians and perhaps a third of them children, thousands of families displaced, an infrastructure decimated – and mark how little accountability has come of it.

The grim milestone has been marked with Block the Factory campaigns and protests shutting down UK-based Israeli arms factories, with calls to stop arming Israel and establish a two-way arms embargo, with painful recognition of the enduring trauma suffered by too many children, with an in-depth retrospective by Ha’aretz, and with considerable commentary, and considerable silence.

And also with the launch of Gaza Unsilenced, an anthology of Gazan voices, photos, writing and art seeking to tell “the story of what happens when, despite an ability to do so, powerful nations choose to remain silent.”

In its powerful introduction, its editors – Gazans who were living abroad during the assault – explore the baffling discourse in mainstream media that Gazan residents who had already endured years of siege, blockade and brutal “put-them-on-a-diet” rhetoric by Israeli leaders, were “by some perverse and morally vacuous logic…’to blame’ for their suffering.”

They are also careful not to portray Gazans as simply “passive victims to be pitied, starving, impoverished, silenced into submission,” nor to see their task as advocating the mere rebuilding of “the laboratory, the holding pen, the ghetto” without dismantling the power structures behind it.

For during and after Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, voices within and outside Gaza bore powerful witness to the Israeli attacks – and to the effects of the crushing siege that has continued to strangle Gaza’s people long afterwards.

The co-editors, Laila El-Haddad and Refaat Alareer, are distinguished Palestinian writers and analysts.

In Gaza Unsilenced they present reflections, analysis, and images – their own, and those of many other contributors – that record the pain and resilience of Gaza’s Palestinians and the solidarity they have received from Palestinians and others around the world.

Among the contributors are Shahd Abusalama, Sarah Algherbawi and Sarah Ali, Ramzi Baroud, Diana Buttu, Lina H. Al-Sharif, Zeina Azzam, Hana Baalousha, Esther Rappaport and Lena Khalaf Tuffaha.

Laila El-Haddad is also the author of Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything In Between – and co-author of The Gaza Kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey, which was named Arab Cuisine Book of the Year 2012 by Gourmand magazine.

El-Haddad was born in Kuwait and raised mainly in Saudi Arabia, where her parents worked; but the whole family summered each year in her parents’ hometown, Gaza City.

She received her BA from Duke University, her MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and from 2003-2007, she was the Gaza stringer for the Al Jazeera English website, a regular contributor to the BBC and the Guardian online, and a radio correspondent for Pacifica’s Free Speech Radio News.

While in Gaza, she co-directed two documentaries, one of which was the award-winning film Tunnel Trade.

A running theme in El-Haddad’s writing is the personalisation of the situation of Gazans and other Palestinians.

“This story is not simply the story of a 51-day attack (or) of an Orwellian world where war is peace and victims are villains…

“Gaza is the example of what happens when we fail to hold our leaders accountable…

“And if we aren’t moved to act in solidarity, or at the very least speak out, then we have lost everything.”

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