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Rebel in Gaza, Asmaa al-Ghoul

October 2, 2018

A Rebel in Gaza
Rebel in Gaza: Behind the Lines of the Arab Spring, One Woman’s Story, by Asmaa al-Ghoul and Selim Nassib.  Translated by Mike Mitchell.  DoppelHouse Press, Oct. 2018.  Forthcoming.

3 stars

An angry, emotional account of a secular young woman growing up in Gaza and becoming a journalist involved in the opposition both to Israeli and Islamic violence.

Asmaa al-Ghoul was born in 1982 in Rafah, in a Palestinian refugee camp in Gaza Strip. She grew up there and in other parts of the Middle East.  Returning to Gaza at 16, she became a journalist and a participant in protests there and a contributor to the international news media. Opposed to Hamas and Fatah as well as the attacks from Israel, she gained widespread recognition.  She has written about several incidents of being detained by Hamas, although Hamas denies that these actually took place.  Her journalism has been translated and won several international awards.  She now lives in France

In 2016, al-Ghoul published A Rebel in Gaza in French which she co-wrote with Selim Nassib, a Franco-Lebanese journalist and novelist.  They had collaborated on the book during the “Arab Spring” when her movements in and out of Gaza were strictly limited.  In 2018, it was translated into English by Mike Mitchell, an award-winning translator.

Al-Ghoul and Nassib both believe that writing and culture are part of movements for liberation.  This book meant to be part of the resistance, not simply resistance to the attacking Jewish forces but also to the oppressive, fundamentalist Arab leaders. The violence that al-Ghoul experienced in Gaza was not simply Jewish soldiers against Arab soldiers.   In addition to the Jewish bombings of civilians, Hamas was attacking those who did not live by their extreme demands. Al-Ghoul reports that the Israeli soldiers were those she feared and hated most, but she encountered them less frequently than her uncles who forced her to live as a proper Islamic woman on a daily base.  She is especially bitter about the ways in which women were particularly vulnerable.  Although not typical of all Islamic societies, in Gaza women were violently required to be silent and submissive.

I honor al-Ghoul for her courage and determination to find freedom for herself and her people. The information she shares is important.  Yet I cannot say that I liked her book.  She writes in an urgent voice, seldom stopping long enough for an outsider to figure out what is going on and whether or not her account is to be taken as factually true.

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