Reviewed by Ibrahim G. Aoude
This timely work is a thorough indictment of Israel's destructive policies toward indigenous Palestinian culture and society in the Gaza Strip. Roy's work falls into four parts. Part one, comprising four chapters, gives a flavor of the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation, especially its economic, social, and political structures, along with a useful comparison between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Roy's discussion entices the reader to go on to chapter two where she situates the study in the proper historic context of Palestine's development, in order to expose nefarious British and Zionist colonial policies that created two separate economies: a well-organized Jewish sector; and a peripheralized "non-capitalist" Arab sector. Zionist political objectives had primacy over its economic interests. The slogan, "land over people," summarizes Zionist policies during the British Mandate and after.
Chapter Three divides the discussion of political and economic developments under Egyptian rule into two distinct periods: 1948-1957; and 1957-1967. Two-thirds of the Gaza district became part of Israel when the Gaza Strip was created as a result of the 1949 Armistice Agreement. Israel violated that Agreement by expelling a quarter of a million people from southern Palestine most of whom became refugees in the Gaza Strip. Egyptian centralized military rule offered nothing important to develop Gaza. Later, UNRWA set up relief programs for the refugees.
The second period witnessed the formation of student, trade and women's unions. The Gaza Legislative Council leadership became Palestinian and the Palestine National Union was formed. Increased political activity was also due to the creation of the PLO in 1964.
The economic discussion is more detailed. Roy provides an analysis of the special conditions in the Gaza Strip as compared to the rest of Palestine. Gaza was economically nonviable with a collapsed tax base due to the sudden increase in population. Although Egypt became more active in promoting Gaza's economy in the second period, it did little to alter the existing structures and had no long-term planning to change the status quo. Egypt's strategy was to keep Gaza's economy separate from its own. This constraint on Gaza's development largely explains the low productivity in agriculture, the largest single economic activity, and the neglect of industry. Further, employment had little to do with indigenous development imperatives, and, despite some growth, the economy remained dependent.
While underdevelopment was a clear consequence of Egypt's rule, Gaza has also suffered from de-development under Israeli occupation. Chapter Four discusses the political context of the occupation that rested on the strategic goal of "land over people." Evidence demonstrates how Israel's political policies made Gaza inseparable from Israel through the latter's control of land and water, its denial of any Palestinian political movement, and its fight against the guerrilla movement. Israel's building of settlements and eviction of Bedouins provide further evidence of this point. Despite all that, the Ganzans rejected Camp David because they saw that it reinforced Israel's political policies.
Part two, which comprises the central and...