From Gaza, with Love

Monday, April 30, 2012

in solidarity

Dear Mona, You don't know me - but I have just read your wonderful book, From Gaza with Love. It was given to me as a present last month by my dear friend Julia South from Sheffield. Julia is part of the Sheffield women's organisation (UK) which raises funds for Palestinian women's scholarships. I think perhaps you know her from your visits to England. I am copying this message to her. I wanted to tell you how important your book has been to me and how moved I was to read your blog. I am so amazed by your commitment and resilience in the work you do in Gaza and the ability you have - when things get very very hard - to continue to work and to believe that justice will prevail. I have been active in Palestinian Solidarity work now for almost ten years and am a member of the Brighton and Hove PSC. I am also a feminist and a socialist so have been sympathetic for many years before that. What your book brought home to me was the courage and strength that is demanded - but also what terrible atrocities you have had to endure in Gaza especially during the Israeli Cast Lead operation - for yourself and as a doctor. Reading about your bravery, and your resistance redoubled my own commitment to the campaign in Brighton where I live. I visited the Occupied West Bank in 2004 with a political tour group but have never been to Gaza. I have an older male friend, in Brighton however, who went on the convoy to Gaza a year or two ago taking supplies from Brighton and we have very occasionally met Palestinians who have been able to get out of Gaza. But my real reason for writing now is to tell you about how I incorporated extracts from your blog into a lecture I gave last week at the University of Sussex (although now retired, I am still attached to this university as an honorary professor). I was invited to give a special lecture to 170 first year undergraduate History students (so mostly young people of 18 or 19 years of age. The subject was left open for me to choose - the series was called "The History of Now" and guest lecturers were asked to talk about what kind of history they thought was important or interesting or significant. For ages I felt quite blank about what I could offer them, but I was reading your book and it came to me! My specialism is the value of using personal testimony in History, using oral history, diaries, letters and other personal writing (I am an archivist by profession). I would give them a lecture on the use of personal testimony in history-writing using the very ordinary diary of a woman in Britain during the heavy bombing of Britain during the Second World War but I would bring it up to date with the account of another woman - YOU - living through bombing in present day Gaza. This enabled me to show the students maps and photos of Gaza and describe the Occupation, the history and the extent of the Israeli military onslaught on such a densely populated and small strip of land. I wanted to demonstrate that 'History' isn't safely in the past, but is going on now. Your personal testimony (I read three extracts from your book and described who you were) is a powerful way to illustrate the terrible experiences that the Gazan people have endured, and I hope brings home to quite young people in this country the terrible injustice of the situation. I was a little nervous after the lecture about the reactions both of the students and their regular tutors who were also present. They were too shy to ask many questions at the time. However soon after, some of them emailed me to say I had opened their eyes and they thought the lecture inspiring. Their main tutor told me that in the seminars they held afterwards , they had had to discuss what I had said. She said the seminars - were the best and liveliest she had ever had - the students were so full of questions and ideas. So thank you dear Mona for your eloquent blog which first inspired me and then my students - I hope I will at least have introduced some of the students to the issues about Palestine - I am sure most of them would not even have known where Gaza was before. I hope my lecture sent them to their books and the internet to find out more. I gave out your blog address in a handout together with details of your book. If you ever able to come to England again and it is possible for you to visit Brighton in the south of England, you would be most welcome. I would love to meet you and I would ask my PSC group to support you with travel costs. I know your access to the internet can be intermittent and that you are very busy with very important work so please feel under no obligation to reply. In sisterhood and solidarity, Dorothy