When you have seen the vast extent and permanence of Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem; when you have endured the checkpoints that squeeze and confine Palestinians and stop any hope of Palestinian economic development in its tracks; when you have watched homes, the very center of people’s lives, being demolished for no other reason than that their owners are not Jews; when even inside Israel you have seen the homes and villages of Palestinians and Palestinian Bedouins who are citizens of Israel being destroyed because they stand in the way of Jewish development and expansion — when you have seen all these things, it is crystal clear that Zionism’s design is absolute Jewish control over the entirety of Palestine swept clean of Palestinians.
Kathleen and Bill Christison’s Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation is a labor of love. Compellingly written and meticulously structured, this book combines historical fact with narrative accounts and photographic images of the everyday realities faced by Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in order to provide the reader with an experience-near understanding of what it means to live in a state of dispossession.
The book begins by revealing how the ever expanding map of Israel has ‘developed’ over time, and then moves on to describe the real-life impact of Israeli policies, concerning settlements, the separation wall, checkpoints, roadblocks, and housing demolitions, from the narrative perspective of those who have been and remain its subjects. We learn of Palestinian men and women who build and rebuild their homes only to have them once again raised to the ground; about men and women who sometimes tenaciously and sometimes timidly approach Israeli officers at checkpoints and roadblocks from which they are all too often turned away, for any reason at all; and we are told about the obstacles that Palestinians face in attempting to accomplish routine tasks, like traveling between settlements along unpaved, pot-holed country roads while Israelis move seamlessly across “high-speed, limited-access settler roads that bypass Palestinian towns and villages as if they did not exist.”
These tales of dispossession, which represent not exceptional but everyday circumstances, are supplemented by visually arresting images of homes reduced to rubble, Israeli soldiers pointing guns at Palestinians who stand at a distance throwing rocks in protest, and with images of a separation wall that is marked by the desperate and yet hopeful sentiments of a people under siege.
Alongside this narrative of dispossession exist yet other narratives – stories which reveal the resilience and generosity of Palestinians who, in spite of bleak circumstances, open their homes and their hearts to the Christison’s as they journey through what remains of Palestine. During the course of their travels, the authors observe that although the meager existence of an overwhelming majority of Palestinians in no way affords excess, they somehow manage to embody and maintain an excessive sense of generosity. In coming face-to-face with what is, in many ways, an ‘unreasonable’ warmth – that is, a warmth for which little reason exists- Bill and Kathleen Christison experience the ironic circumstance of having discovered a sense of home, alive and well, amidst a people who live as strangers in their own land.
Through the interweaving of historical, oral and visual narrative, Palestine in Pieces emerges a text that must be read. It is a book that not only belies the systematic and inhumane manner in which the Israeli state has and continues to act in order to limit, if not annihilate, the possibility of a future for Palestinians, but also confirms that the memory of and hope for Palestine continues to animate the Palestinian imagination – despite every attempt by the Israeli state to render any such possibility moot.