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Anything But Ordinary

Kanchi Gupta

By Laila El-Haddad
Women Unlimited, Delhi, 2013, pp. 288, Rs. 375.00


Much has been written and spoken about as well as protested against the brutality of Israel’s occupation over the Palestinian territories. However, Palestinian freelance journalist, Laila El-Haddad’s honest account of being a wife, mother, daughter and simply a Palestinian under occupation exposes the reader to a reality incomprehensible beyond the boundaries of the separation wall.   A compilation of her personal blog, detailing the experiences of bringing up her son, Yousuf, and political articles for various media outlets, Gaza Mama, adds a new depth to the existing global discourse on Israeli policies. As a distant spectator to the complexities of being Gazan and limited to social media perpetuated objectivity, Laila El-Haddad’s time-testing struggles coupled with a resilient spirit convey the idiosyncrasies and absurdities in a manner almost impossible to detach from.  The book offers powerful insights into the securitized environment of her homeland including the clauses around a Palestinian’s refugee status, ‘the right of return’, visa restrictions—all of which are at the mercy of the Israeli military authorities. For instance, only the Hawiya, an all-important identification or residency card issued by the Israeli authorities can render a Palestinian a legal resident of Gaza. However, holding the Hawiya prevents Gazans from travelling to other areas under Israeli occupation, including the West Bank or Jerusalem. Thus, thousands of Palestinians holding different residency cards are forced to live in separation from their families, friends and other loved ones.  ‘It allows Israel alone to decide which Arabs it will recognise as Palestinian, which couples it will recognise as families that qualify for reunification and thus, residency, and who is allowed to move where, when—all inside our own homeland.’ With El-Haddad’s husband, Yassine, being born in Beirut and denied any right to enter or even visit Gaza, the helplessness of a Palestinian’s daily existence appears as routine as a cup of coffee.  The reader journeys with El-Haddad as she documents unfolding events from 2004 to 2007, including the much ‘misunderstood’ Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The once-upon-a-time ground-breaking and internationally applauded agreement ‘out-sourced’ the administration of Gaza to the Palestinian National Authority while retaining excessive control over sea space, airspace and borders. The ‘smokescreen of the disengagement’ persisted through settlement expansion and restrictions on the access and free movement of people and goods.  Interspersed with the sombre detailing of the packaged and re-packaged occupation policies is a bittersweet politicization of her ...

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