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“Gaza in Context”: Sajdi Details History of War in Palestine

An important part of Gaza’s history is its role as a link between Asia and Africa, according to Dana Sajdi.

“It was the gateway between Asia and Africa, linking to Egypt on the one hand, and a holding station on the route between the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, and Europe,” Sajdi said. “Its position as a crossroads meant that Gaza was going to be captured by the mightiest.” 

Sajdi, associate professor of history at Boston College, gave a talk on Wednesday titled “Gaza in Context: A History,” in which she presented a historical overview of the Palestinian city and its current condition.

During the lecture, Sajdi played a clip of a CNN interview with Israeli protestors objecting to humanitarian aid being sent to Gaza. One protester said Gazans should only have the “minimum amount of calories to survive.”

“This calculated statement by an average Israeli citizen shows a person who thinks of herself as willing and capable to exercise such power—power that is only divine really,” Sajdi said. “To deprive a population of 2.1 million people of any surfeit of food, to keep them on the brink.”

Some of the “mightiest” throughout history that have controlled Gaza include the Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire, Sajdi said. 

“The British, who held Egypt as a colony, established a consular and missionary presence in Gaza,” Sajdi said. “They established a dispensary which later became a hospital. That hospital was recently bombed out of commission, while one of my closest friends was performing surgery in it. He survived and lives on as a witness.”

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many European Jews migrated to Palestine due to rising antisemitism in Europe, Sajdi said.

“The 1930s marked the rise of Nazi Germany, when Jews needed refuge more than ever, and soon both Europe and the U.S. would close its doors to Jewish immigrants,” Sajdi said. “So both legal and illegal immigration of Jews into Palestine would increase.”

According to Sajdi, the British handed over control of Palestine to the United Nations in 1947. Then, in 1948, both the Arab and Zionist groups prepared for war. 

“This war was in stages, first as a civil war, and then between the Arabs and Israel,” Sajdi said. “It’s a war that lasted till 1949. This is what Israel called its ‘war of independence’ and what Palestinians called ‘the catastrophe.’”

Sajdi said 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homes throughout the war due to massacres and psychological warfare.

“Not only were Palestinians displaced, but the armistice lines that were drawn at the end of the war resulted in a much more enlarged Israel,” Sajdi said.

Since then, Gaza has faced much turmoil and many conflicts with Israel, ultimately leading to the current war, Sajdi said.

“I invite you to read rather than listen to the sound bites uttered by politicians and the media, especially the mainstream media, which tend to echo each other and only repeat and reiterate catchwords, flash words, or six or seven phrases that serve to bring up images that are devoid of any context or history,” Sajdi said.

April 5, 2024