Books have been the target of anti-Palestinian animus and military operations for as long as there has been a state of Israel. The Nakba that came with Israel’s War of Independence in 1948 included follow-up teams of self-described “looters” from the Israeli universities, backed by armed military units, that confiscated all of the books left behind by the highly educated, mostly middle-class Palestinians who fled their homes to save their lives. Tens of thousands of volumes were taken—irreplaceable historic and private libraries—and at least 6,000 of them remain in the collection of the National Library of Israel. They’re kept in a separate research-only section and are labelled AP—for “abandoned property.” The librarians say they are safekeeping the books, in case their rightful owners ever show up to claim them. In late-May this year, the Israeli military targeted several schools and at least four bookshops in the centre of Gaza City. They launched missile strikes against two bookshops. The largest and most venerated of them, Samir Mansour’s Bookshop, was completely buried under the rubble of the six-story building where it occupied the bottom two floors. Its destruction—and the dangerous, painstaking labour of trying to rescue any of the nearly one hundred thousand books the shop held while bulldozers comb through the rubble—have played out vividly in pictures circulating through social media. A GoFundMe campaign set up by sympathetic writers and lawyers has, as of this writing, raised $200,000 of the $250,000 needed so that Samir Mansour can rebuild his shop precisely as it used to be, and exactly where it used to stand. The violence of May did not end with the “ceasefire” of June. Hostilities are ongoing.
1 March, 2022