By Aisha Ghani
Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation. Kathleen and Bill Christison. London: Pluto Press, 2010. (Order Here)
"When you have seen the vast extent and permanence of Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem; when you have endured the checkpoints that squeeze and confine Palestinians and stop any hope of Palestinian economic development in its tracks; when you have watched homes, the very center of people’s lives, being demolished for no other reason than that their owners are not Jews; when even inside Israel you have seen the homes and villages of Palestinians and Palestinian Bedouin who are citizens of Israel being destroyed because they stand in the way of Jewish development and expansion — when you have seen all these things, it is crystal clear that Zionism’s design is absolute Jewish control over the entirety of Palestine swept clean of Palestinians."
Kathleen and Bill Christison’s Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation is a labor of love. Compellingly written and meticulously structured, this book combines historical fact with narrative accounts and photographic images of everyday realities faced by Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, thereby providing the reader with an experience-near understanding of what it means to live in a state of dispossession.
The book begins by revealing how the ever expanding map of Israel has developed over time, and then moves into describing the real-life impact of Israeli policies concerning settlements, the separation wall, checkpoints, roadblocks, and housing demolitions from the narrative perspective of those who have been and remain its subjects. We learn of Palestinian men and women who build and rebuild their homes only to have them once again raised to the ground; of men and women who sometimes tenaciously and sometimes timidly approach Israeli officers at check points and roadblocks from which they are all too often turned away, for any reason at all; and we learn of other the difficulties that Palestinians face in attempting to accomplish simple tasks, like traveling along unpaved and pot-holed country roads while Israelis enjoy the benefits of “high-speed, limited-access settler roads that bypass Palestinian towns and villages as if they did not exist.”
These tales of dispossession, which represent not exceptional but everyday circumstances, are supplemented by visually arresting images of homes reduced to rubble, Israeli soldiers pointing guns at Palestinians who stand at a distance throwing rocks in protest, and by images of a separation wall that is marked by the desperate and yet hopeful sentiments of a people under siege.
Alongside this narrative of dispossession exist yet other narratives – stories which reveal the resilience and generosity of Palestinians who, despite grim circumstances, open their homes and their hearts to the Christison’s as they journey through what remains of Palestine. What the authors find during their travels is that although the meager existence of an overwhelming majority of Palestinians in no way affords excess, they are greeted time and again by people who embody an excessive generosity. In coming face-to-face with what is, in many ways, an unreasonable warmth- that is, a warmth that has little reason to exist- the authors’ experience the palpable irony of having discovered a sense of home, alive and well, amidst people who live as strangers in their own land.
Through an interweaving of historical, oral and visual narrative, Palestine in Pieces emerges a text that must be read. It is a book that not only belies the systematic and inhumane manner in which the Israeli state has acted and continues to act in order to limit, if not annihilate, the possibility of a future for Palestinians, but also shows us that the idea of Palestine continues to animate the Palestinian imagination – despite every attempt by the Israeli state to render any such possibility moot.
– Aisha Ghani contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.