Due to system upgrades, ebooks will not be available for direct purchase on our site. Thank you for your patience.

An Excerpt from “Stories of Palestine” by Marda Dunsky

In Stories from Palestine: Narratives of Resilience, Marda Dunsky presents a vivid overview of contemporary Palestinian society in the venues envisioned for a future Palestinian state. Dunsky has interviewed women and men from cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps who are farmers, scientists, writers, cultural innovators, educators, and entrepreneurs. Using their own words, she illuminates their resourcefulness in navigating agriculture, education, and cultural pursuits in the West Bank; persisting in Jerusalem as a sizable minority in the city; and confronting the challenges and uncertainties of life in the Gaza Strip. Based on her in-depth personal interviews, the narratives weave in quantitative data and historical background from a range of primary and secondary sources that contextualize Palestinian life under occupation.

Excerpt from Chapter 6: 

The challenges in compiling the collection of narratives that is Stories from Palestine are not merely intellectual, moral, and philosophical. There is also the challenge of access. Not access to the sources themselves, per se, for they and those who have served as bridges to them have been overwhelmingly cooperative and ready to assist. Physically, most of the locales referenced herein—with the exception of the Gaza Strip, where barriers to entry by outsiders are substantial but nonetheless pale in comparison to barriers to egress by the Palestinians who live there—have also been accessible. This physical accessibility has allowed for face-to-face contact with most of the sources and for firsthand observation of their surroundings. In cases where this was not possible, including Gaza, digital communication technology has enabled real-time, direct voice contact with other sources over great distances, across many time zones, and at no expense.

The issue of access arises in the obscuring of Palestinian society itself by the imposed conditions of occupation under which Palestinians live—and in effect, this obscuring impacts the audience as well as having consequences for the sources themselves and for those who would attempt to interact with them. This obscuration serves to discourage if not prevent entirely some outsiders from interacting with Palestinians directly, interactions that can yield broader knowledge about their everyday lived existence and understanding of their humanity. This obscuring lessens the type and quality if not the quantity of information that is publicly accessible, and it renders the audience’s task of assessing what is accessible—of making sense of it and judging its credibility—more challenging.

For reasons attributed to security, Israeli citizens not in military service are prohibited from entering Gaza. Throughout the West Bank, red warning signs posted near Palestinian cities, towns, and villages declare in Hebrew, Arabic, and English:

This Road leads To Area “A”
Under The Palestinian Authority
The Entrance For Israeli
Citizens Is Forbidden,
Dangerous To Your Lives
And Is Against The Israeli Law

This Road Leads To
Palestinian Village
The Entrance For
Israeli Citizens
Is Dangerous

In addition to segregating Israelis from Palestinians and their environments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the occupation imposes a distancing of some official representatives of the international community who seek to document qualitative human rights issues, while at the same time allowing for the collection of quantitative metrics of Palestinian life that measure and map demographics, territory, and resources. United Nations designees known as “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967” have routinely and systematically been denied direct physical access to Palestinian individuals and institutions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for the purpose of compiling assessments. The report of Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, presented to the Human Rights Council of the UN General Assembly in January 2014, emphasized the importance of this mandate as providing an independent witness to the evolving effects of the continuing occupation of Palestine by Israel. This exposure is centered upon the presentation of information received on the persistence of severe violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. . . . It was unfortunate that Israel refused even minimal cooperation with this mandate to the extent of allowing the Special Rapporteur to have access to occupied Palestine during the past six years or of responding to several urgent appeals addressing specific situations of immediate concern that fell within the purview of the mandate.

The 2017 report of Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk stated: “The Special Rapporteur would like to draw attention once again to the fact that he has not been granted access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, nor have his requests to meet with the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations been accepted”; and Lynk consequently based his report “primarily on written submissions as well as consultations with civil society representatives, victims, witnesses, and United Nations representatives.” The 2018 and 2019 Special Rapporteur reports were submitted under the same circumstances, with the preamble in both reports noting in identical language: “The Special Rapporteur re-emphasizes that an open dialogue with all parties is an essential element of his work in support of the protection and promotion of human rights. He further notes that access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory is a key element in the development of a comprehensive understanding of the human rights situation on the ground.”

Such restrictions on access, coupled with the imperatives of geopolitics that often limit and code the public statements of diplomatic representatives, make it all the more imperative that other observers fortunate enough to have physical access to engage and interact relatively freely with Palestinians—including academics, journalists, and activists from a range of civil societies, including Israel—do so in venues that are not limited to arenas of protest and violent confrontation. Seeing Palestinians’ creative and productive endeavors and listening to them speak about their work and everyday lives—absent the notion of “news” or “trends”—is the space from which it is possible for narratives of Palestinian humanity to emerge.

Recent Posts