by Franziska Grillmeier
Cate Malek opens her newly published book‚ Palestine Speaks: Voices from the West Bank and Gaza and strokes over the first page. “The devil is in the details,” she says, and explains the details she and her co-editor Mateo Hoke have chosen over a period of four years to reduce 70 oral stories from Gaza and the West Bank to 16 poignant stories about life under occupation. The focus in the stories is a description of the details of everyday life under the Israeli occupation. These details are also used as a strong basis to enable the international reader to identify with the life of Palestinians, living under occupation.
The stories were obtained through interviews, which let a diverse group of 70 Palestinians and two Israelis from an activist and settler background to speak their minds. For some of the interviews, the editors returned to the narrators for over 15 times, going back and forth in their story, life and emotions.
A diverse group of people, young & old, male & female
The 16 people whose stories were selected for publication are male and female, young and middle-aged, and they narrate their experiences growing up and living next to Israelis or in areas where Israel controls major aspects of their lives. Some took part in the Intifadas, some spent time in prison, and some lived for years outside Palestine and then chose to move back. Some are resigned to the restrictions of their lives, while some are hopeful of a brighter future.
“Time was the essential element of putting this book together in order to tell all these stories fully,” Malek answers an audience question about how she could get the main narrators to tell about their experiences in such detail.
Humanizing the daily life of people under occupation
The book aims to humanize the people behind the daily struggle of life under the occupation and to make them no longer objects but humans in an ongoing conflict that tends to get lost behind figures, numbers and databases in the international media. “Nobody in the book is representing anybody but themselves,” Cate Malek concludes and loops back to her initial introduction of the book: “it’s the detail that joins us as humans, nothing else.”
Unfortunately none of the original storytellers could be present at this lecture, which took place at the Educational Bookshop on April 20th, since they were not permitted to enter Jerusalem that evening.