Reflections from Palestine is a personal account of life under Israeli occupation. Seen through the eyes of Samia Nasir Khoury, a Christian Palestinian born in Jaffa in 1933, it describes the countless challenges and obstacles faced by Palestinians on a daily basis. Starting from the dramatic nights which changed her life in 1967 through decades of subjugation under the nightmare of occupation and the ongoing peace process, she provides a very lucid portrait of life under occupation.
Khoury has been an active community volunteer throughout most of her life. She is deeply involved with the YMCA (Young Women's Christian Association) and is a founding member of the Board of Trustees of Birzeit University and Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre. She earned recognition from local NGOs and a citation of merit award from the alumni association of Southwestern University.
Khoury begins by describing the new reality; almost overnight they faced a new military occupation. "We were not prepared for war; nor were we prepared for occupation. It was a completely humiliating and traumatic experience for all Palestinians."
She poignantly recalls the moment immediately after the occupation where many Palestinians had faith that the international community would not allow seizure of land by force, and that no occupation would be viable in the 20th Century. But the slow realisation, despite Israel's pretence that this was going to be a "benevolent occupation" begins to weigh heavily as her life was turned upside down.
She describes how "violations of human rights marked every town, every family and every organization". Khoury then takes us through the occupied landscape which includes: arrest and detention which no family was spared, series of "temporary measures" that suffocated their lives, the crippling of life through the many checkpoints, the agony of family separation as a result of termination of residency, euphoria of the peace process followed by a realisation of the futility of negotiations and the ongoing solidarity with activists struggling to gain their freedom and independence from Israeli aggression.
The occupation "is a process of dehumanization and deprivation of freedom of all basic rights". This sentiment is not unique and has been shared by millions of other Palestinians. Her ability to weave in and out of the reality of an occupation endured by millions interspersed with her own personal stories; by someone who is fully interconnected with Palestinian life, history and culture and who has a unique flare in providing thoughtful insights, makes this book uniquely readable.
The occupation she describes has locked their ambition, spirit and dreams. "It has locked our hopes, our plans and our whole future." This sense of imprisonment is gravely felt having seen the false promises of the peace process. She described "what was being cooked behind closed doors" was "not a good meal at all" and indeed "as the years passed the meal proved to be poisonous". Far too many concessions were being made for very little in return.
Khoury is critical of the PA but she is more critical of the international community which has allowed Israel to continue entrenching its occupation further. She describes how in recent times the PA, after decades of failure, was blackmailed into negotiations. They were set up for failure because the only options made available were between very bad and worse offers despite the moral and legal right of their historical claims.
Samia Khoury successfully provides the reader with an engaging and at times emotional description of the misery experienced by Palestinians by exploring the wide-ranging social and political problems facing them under occupation through the sweet and sorrowful experiences of family and community life.