SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom - Samir Kassir Foundation

The Israeli Aggression Leaves Publishing Houses and Bookshops Destroyed in Gaza

Tuesday , 01 June 2021

“My dream was finally being realised, but then it crumbled all of a sudden,” Ramadan Al-Nujaili explains as he grapples with the wreckage of his erstwhile bookshop and printing company Ro’ya. Israeli warplanes had reduced Ro’ya mostly to rubble on May 18, 202. Another couple of bookshops and publishing houses, Iqra’ and Samir Mansour, along with a number of training centres, were also destroyed in Gaza’s Kahil building.

“Never did I think that the Israeli air force would target my bookshop and printing company. My entire work is about books, notebooks and printing. I set up my bookshop in early 2014, six months before the Gaza Strip war. It was like a daughter to me; we grew up together. Now, it has completely vanished. Thousands of books were in there, along with stationery, printing materials, and machines that cost around 50,000 USD. The apartment my family and I live in also collapsed. Today, I became jobless, without any source of livelihood and homeless”, Al-Nujaili told the SKeyes correspondent.

Furthermore, the Iqra’ bookshop and publishing house owner and director, Shaban Esleem, told our correspondent that he had sold hundreds of books and offered several printing services. “The bookshop was completely destroyed. Hundreds of books are either under the rubble or caught fire. The losses range from 50,000 to 60,000 USD,” he lamented.

Shirine Al-Akka, the media and public relations officer at the Samir Mansour bookshop and publishing house, said that the financial losses exceeded 70,000 USD. “The bookstore was flattened after the building collapsed,” she elaborated, adding, “Readers could previously enjoy books in various scientific, cultural, and religious fields. We also printed the Al-Aqsa mosque Quran, along with the work of many Palestinian authors in different fields, giving them the chance to participate in international book fairs.”

Mahmoud Labbad, the Al-Nahda bookstore and stationery general manager, detailed the severe financial losses, after Al-Nahda was razed to the ground when Israeli airstrikes rained down upon the Al-Awqaf building in western Gaza on May 17. “The losses amount to 350,000 USD, along with computers, printers, electronic devices, stationery, office and school supplies, as well as hundreds of educational and cultural books inside the structure,” Labbad explained.

The bookshops and the publishing houses were not the only ones affected, so too the writers and novelists whose works were in line to be printed and published by said houses. Such authors include Rasha Farhat and Yousri Al-Ghoul.

“I’ve been looking to publish my books, and participate in fairs outside the Gaza Strip, for some time. The Samir Mansour publishing house was the first of its kind to print high quality books, fully preserve the publisher’s rights, and participate in book fairs around the world. Before being bombed, it was catering for some 150 writers in the Gaza Strip. My first book, We Must Change, reached readers beyond Palestine due to the Samir Mansour publishing house’s efforts. Bombing publishing houses and bookshops is part of Israel’s will to silence Gaza and prevent its writers from raising their voices and sharing their writings with the world,” Farhat exclaimed.

“Israel wants to obscure Palestinian history and literature,” Al-Ghoul said.

“By bombing these structures, Israel seeks to erase our heritage, burn our books and rewrite history,” Al Ghoul continued, adding, “But this is delusional. Our generation will never forget history. We write and document facts. Israel deliberately aims to suppress the Palestinian narrative and murder thinkers and writers, just like it did with Ghassan Kanafani, Naji Al-Ali, Bassel Al-Araj and Majed Abu Sharar, among numerous other writers, artists and journalists. Israel wants to eradicate all aspects of Palestinian history and identity. But we will never stop writing. We will rise from the ashes. By destroying publishing houses and bookshops, the Israeli occupation is only strengthening the authors’ determination and eagerness to write more and share the Palestinian story with the world.”

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