Sometime in the near future, the people of the Gaza Strip are still struggling to break the Israeli siege they have suffered under for many years. In his new novel, Toronto author Justin Podur takes us into the heart of that struggle, as seen through the eyes of the Palestinians, who are indigenous to the region.
Podur, an associate professor in the faculty of environment studies at York University, is also the author of Haiti’s New Dictatorship.
For those who would protest that Israel would never behave the way described in this novel, remember that although the narrative is fictional, the author has taken a number of real events and shaped them into a compelling and disturbing story.
Roseway, an imprint of Fernwood Publishing, is known for taking on books that stir the social justice pot, and Siegebreakers does just that, with a gritty trip through the ruins and tunnels of Gaza where Laila and Nasser, young members of the Palestinian Resistance, work with others in the fight to free their people.
While the Israeli troops are long since gone, Israel still maintains a stranglehold on the economic life of Gaza, and a rigid control on the movement of people.
Not only must the Resistance fight the Israeli occupiers, they are locked in a deadly struggle with the Palestinian Authority and an Islamic State insurgency. For them, Palestinian liberation is quite distinct from the Islamic cause.
The electoral mandate of the Palestinian Authority (PA) is long over, but they remain in power with the help of the Israeli occupiers, who use them to help control the Palestinian people and to provide excuses for brutal bombing attacks on Gaza. The PA will throw a firecracker into the desert to give the Israelis an excuse for a bombing raid to destroy yet another part of the region.
The Israelis have eyes everywhere, from guard towers just across the border to endless drones flying overhead. The operation against Gaza is under the direction of an Israeli general whose grandfather died in the Holocaust. His personal mission is to “prevent that from ever happening again.”
To that end, snipers are sent out to kill young Palestinian girls on their way to school, houses where suspects might be are bombed.
Collateral damage doesn’t matter to them; Palestinians are just animals to be slaughtered. Israelis are also trying to starve Gaza, limiting the food going into the region.
Ari, a brilliant young Israeli spy, is sickened by the starvation of Gaza, and by the discovery that the general has a contingency plan to start a war to wipe out all of Gaza. He develops a plan to stop this, and reaches out to his American mentor Mark and his wife Maria, members of an American security firm.
Nahla, a Palestinian doctor, is compiling a dossier “which shows a pattern of discriminate attacks on civilian targets, a deliberate attempt to destroy the society.” She leaves Gaza to attend a security conference in Abu Dhabi. The general sends out a team of assassins, but the hit is foiled by Mark and Maria.
The Resistance is elected to form a government representing all Palestinians, from Gaza to the West Bank to anywhere Palestinian refugee camps are found. The Israelis try to suppress a report verifying the election results, but when that doesn’t work the general sends out a team to kill the report’s author.
Siegebreakers offers a radically different view of the conflict in Gaza, and at the very least should leave readers with an appreciation for the daily struggles of the Palestinian people in a region where twice the population of Winnipeg is crammed into an area about two thirds of the city’s size.
— Winnipeg Free Press, Sept. 2019