The book Eyes in Gaza is being totally ignored by the British press. Why?
It consists of an eyewitness account of the tragedy of Gaza during the Israeli assault between December 2008 and January 2009, as seen by two Norwegian doctors who were present on a humanitarian mission.
Surely on these grounds it merits attention, being a rare Western account of those terrible events from observers whose sole motive was to heal and save life.
The story of what happened during those weeks needs to be read – as well as seen from the illustrations – if its recurrence is to be prevented in the future. The ravages of war should no longer be acceptable to civilised society as a way of solving problems in the twenty-first century.
Did we learn so little in the previous hundred years, from wars that culminated in the Holocaust?
Have we become immune to the lessons of history?
It seems nothing changes. Iraq continues to be a cauldron of unrest and savagery, while in Afghanistan war rages with increasing fatalities each day, including innocent civilians.
The media is complicit in all this. As often as not it either toes the government line or shields those in power, including lobbies that support one side or another.
Why can’t we pursue the line of justice, irrespective of the pressures created by lobbying powers, whose interests are purely of a political nature and have nothing to do with the realities of a conflict?
Transparency is a term we use loosely for something desirable, yet never manage to practise. We manipulate language to make the unthinkable acceptable – as George Orwell foresaw we would – and to justify crimes such as torture, claiming these methods protect national security and the lives of our citizens.
Only this week George W. Bush has come out in his memoirs as defiant and unrepentant over these issues, and presumably Tony Blair would fall into line as well.
It is utter baloney, and the religious piety of those two former leaders looks more farcical than ever.
Before that pair of warmongers came on the scene, and following the success of peace talks in Ireland, we were living a relatively peaceful existence in our British cities. Our buses were safe and our trains and planes were not threatened by terrorists who, it seems, have grown up in our midst as a result of British government policies, egged on by our American political allies. With the whole dubious enterprise of the second Gulf war, the hectoring phrase, ‘If you are not with us, you are against us!’ took on fresh currency.
Where has free expression disappeared to in the world’s mother of democracies?
Books like Eyes in Gaza, which present uncomfortable truths, become victims of suppression as they are tacitly ignored.
Kill Khalid tells the extraordinary story of the attempted assassination of the Hamas leader, Khalid Mishal, and the boost it gave to Hamas as a rising political power that went on to gain the support of many beleaguered and frustrated Palestinians.
As I wrote before Hamas is, like it or not, a political reality not to be ignored in any progress towards a peace settlement. The lesson of the end of British colonialism was that you have to talk to those you previously considered as your enemies.
How is the tactic of pretending something does not exist supposed to help in our present circumstances? Should we not be trying to shock people out of their stupor into realising what a wicked world we live in?
Ever since I acquired Quartet Books in July 1976, I have continued the policy of its founders in supporting the underdog and ensuring that the voices of minorities are heard loud and clear. Certainly I have published a number of books supporting the Palestinian cause, but have always sought to redress the balance. While George Weidenfeld, who was in the first Israeli cabinet, did a great deal to espouse the policies of Israel and its politicians, I always made sure that, to maintain an equilibrium, Quartet published more Jewish authors than perhaps any other publisher in the UK.
My campaign to highlight the Palestinian cause was because I diligently strove to create an environment for peace, in which the two sides in the debate could work out their destinies in converging tangents. The killing of a Jew is as tragic as that of a Palestinian.
Life is precious and to avoid taking it at all costs should be beyond argument.
I continue to believe that one day goodwill shall prevail and peace in the Holy Land become a reality. I therefore appeal to all those on both sides who believe in peaceful co-existence to read Eyes in Gaza, and feel reinforced in using their influence to outlaw the thought of violent conflict ever being a means to attain an objective.
By December 2008, the Israeli authorities had done their utmost to shut out aid workers and the media from Gaza before beginning their military offensive. The Norwegian Aid Committee nevertheless managed to get these two doctors, Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, into the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.
The book is their day-by-day account for sixteen days of being on the receiving end of the attack – and trying to cope with the human results.
The days … blurred into each other like a long patchwork of faces, looks, mutilated human bodies and surreal sensory impressions. In the background there was the constant, intense whirring of drones. They were like faceless and evil insects, or perhaps predators. The sounds of the bomb blasts and the shells exploding came closer and closer … When would this stop? Were they going to bomb al-Shifa? Were we going to be killed too?
Happily they survived to bear witness through their book, and throw some much-needed light on a deliberately obscured corner of the world. The Norwegian press has hailed the result while the British press takes refuge in indifference.
Please buy a copy of Eyes in Gaza if you are in support of peace, and distribute it among your friends.
This is the only way to lift the embargo.