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Sharyn Lock and Sarah Irving, 'Gaza: Beneath the Bombs'

Pluto, 2010; ISBN 978-0-745-330-24-2; 240pp; £12.99

Sharyn Lock and Sarah Irving, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs (Pluto, 2010; ISBN 978-0-745-330-24-2; 240pp; £12.99).

In September 2009, the United Nations released the findings of the Goldstone report concerning Israel’s attack on Gaza in December 2008–January 2009, which killed 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

The 575-page inquiry noted that Israel’s offensive was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population, radically diminish its local economic capacity both to work and to provide for itself and to force upon it an ever-increasing sense of dependency and vulnerability.”

Gaza: Beneath the Bombs collects Sharyn Lock’s blog entries from Gaza during the attack. As a member of the International Solidarity Movement, Australian-born Lock worked to “support and strengthen the Palestinian popular resistance by providing the Palestinian people with two resources, international protection and a voice with which to non-violently resist an overwhelmingly military occupation force.”

During the attack she assisted the emergency services (often targeted by the Israeli forces) as they raced around Gaza picking up the dead and wounded, protected Palestinian farmers from Israeli gunfire as they picked their crops, and recorded the heartbreaking stories of individual Palestinians whose lives were devastated by the war.

Using refreshingly unaffected prose, her own photographs, contextualising introductions and explanatory information boxes, Lock manages to give a terrifying snapshot of the plight of the 1.5 million Gazans during what Amnesty International called “22 days of death and destruction”. The narrative pace is relentless, her description of the bombing of al-Quds hospital, her de facto home during the war, being particularly moving.

Echoing the Goldstone report, she notes “everything I have seen suggests the Israeli army doesn’t even understand the concept of ‘innocent civilians’.” She also quotes Amnesty International, who estimate more than 3,000 houses were destroyed and 20,000 damaged.

“Journalism’s main task is to monitor Power, to locate Domination and to follow its characteristics and effects on the people”, argues Israeli journalist Amira Hass, herself a champion of the Palestinian people.

Following in the courageous footsteps of Rachel Corrie in Gaza and Jo Wilding in Fallujah, Lock has produced a harrowing and humanising eyewitness account of US- and UK-backed Israeli aggression that puts the mainstream media to shame.