Gaza: A History
By Jean-Pierre Filiu. John King, tr.
2017, Oxford UP, 978-0-19062- 3-081. $21.95 pb.
Reviewed by Matthew Teller on July 15, 2020
Histories of Palestine tend to be overarching, rarely focusing in tightly on one city and its hinterland. Alongside an obvious exception to that—Jerusalem—Jean Pierre Filiu has added Gaza. Filiu’s first sentence, “The word ‘Gaza’ arouses passions and emotions whenever it is uttered,” sets the tone for the book, first published by Hurst in 2014, as he unearths new sources in what the publishers claim is the first comprehensive history of Gaza in any language. Fifty pages are devoted to “Gaza before the Strip,” charting the city’s path from the earliest times into the 20th century. After that, more than 300 pages meticulously examine the aftermaths of 60 years of wars and refugee influxes as Gazans repeatedly led the Palestinian struggle against occupation. The story is often a bitter one, but as Filiu recognizes, Gaza “lies at the heart of the nation-building of contemporary Palestine.”