August 2018: Marilyn Garside and Gaza

Over the last few months I’ve been reading chapters of a book for the author, Marilyn Garson. Among a whole host of other things she’s done, Marilyn’s worked in Cambodia, Afghanistan, and Gaza – she doesn’t choose the easy options. Now she’s back in New Zealand, and she’s writing about five years in Gaza. She’s writing about her work in economic development there, and about being a Jew living in Palestine.

Reading her work, for the first time I’ve really understood the desperate situation of people in Gaza as a result of the blockade by Israel. I didn’t know that Gaza is one of the most densely populated territories in the world – two million Palestinians crammed into 362 square kilometres (NZ has 268,000 square kilometres) – the collapse of basic services, severe shortage of goods – it all makes desperate reading.

I’ve just read a review of an earlier, smaller book by Marilyn, Reading Maimonides in Gaza, in the Green Party publication te awa. I want to quote from it:

“This is a story from inside, written by a woman who went to help, as she had been doing in other countries, and found that ’the violent waste of its potential overturned what I knew about conflict and aid, and challenged the content of my Judaism’.”

Working with Marilyn on her book overturned what I knew about Gaza, and Palestine, and Israel. I like to think that I’m reasonably well-informed, but I just hadn’t grasped the enormity of that situation. As the reviewer says, ‘the sheer waste of human potential, the intelligence and creativity stunted by the actions of a hostile neighbor.’ I think about that, because in New Zealand one of the most important things we can do for new migrants is to give them the opportunity to use their potential. Whether we do so is another conversation.

Marilyn’s book is available from the publisher, Mondoweiss,  I’m not planning to use this blog for advertisements, but I’m really happy to wave the flag for this book.