cover image A Rebel in Gaza: Behind the Lines of the Arab Spring; One Woman’s Story

A Rebel in Gaza: Behind the Lines of the Arab Spring; One Woman’s Story

Asmaa al-Ghoul and Selim Nassib, trans. from the French by Mike Mitchell. DoppelHouse, $28.95 (208p) ISBN 978-0-9987770-2-3

Debut author Al-Ghoul, a journalist from Rafah, picks apart the paradoxes of being female in Palestine, illustrating in vivid and direct language how Hamas and Fatah, on one hand, and the Israelis, on the other, conspire to restrict acceptable behavior for women in the territory. The qualities Gazans prize in men—being rebellious, fearless, and uncompromising—are anathema in women, who are expected to submit unquestioningly to the dictates of their families’ and community’s leaders. Men respond to humiliation and abuse, al-Ghoul writes, by humiliating and abusing the women over whom they wield power: “The harsher the occupation is, the more resistance to the occupation expresses itself in a pathological hardening of attitudes in the matter of ‘honor.’ ” Religion is implicated throughout; al-Ghoul struggles to reconcile her understanding of Islam with the way she sees it used. These are sentiments not often voiced in Gaza, but, al-Ghoul narrates, she found tens of thousands of allies as she led like-minded activists in protests inspired by the Arab Spring. Her enthusiasm is tempered by the indiscriminate violence that stalks the region, claiming many of her friends and relatives. Now living in Europe, she is ambivalent about what activism can achieve in a society where “all those who have the power to kill exercise that power as they see fit.” This searching exploration illuminates the crossroads of gender and Palestinian identity. (Oct.)