This is a big book about a small place: the Gaza Strip, sometimes referred to as the world’s largest open-air prison. Filiu confirms that image in meticulous, sometimes numbing detail. This is a chronological political history, devoid of social and economic history. Gaza’s population grew from 35,000 in 1948 to over 1.5 million today. Filiu barely addresses the question of how the strip has accommodated all that growth. Instead, he narrates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violent blow by violent blow, through the prism of Gaza’s internal politics. His primary argument is that despite Israel’s attempts to repress Hamas in Gaza, the Israelis have undercut the credibility of moderate Palestinian leaders, such as Yasir Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas. By unilaterally withdrawing from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005, Israel signaled that the occupation could best be resisted through violence, not negotiation. Recent discussion in Tel Aviv and Washington of a “West Bank–only” solution is detached from reality, he argues: “Peace between Israel and Palestine can assume neither meaning nor substance except in Gaza.”
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