Two human rights lawyers are crowdsourcing funds to help rebuild Gaza’s Samir Mansour Bookshop, which was levelled by an Israeli airstrike. The twenty-one-year-old store was the largest English-language bookseller in Gaza before it was destroyed by Israeli bombs on May 18. TRT World calls the bombing “a manifestation of a multidimensional war that disconnects besieged Palestinians from the world.” The fundraiser, organized by Mahvish Rukhsana and Clive Stafford Smith, has a goal of $250,000; as of the afternoon of June 21, it had raised $213,695.
Writing in The Guardian, Alison Flood quotes Rukhsana on the impetus behind the push to help rebuild the store:
Dropping bombs on Samir Mansour’s bookshop is not the worst tragedy to have hit the people of Gaza – but this particular air strike targeted access to books. It was an attack on the knowledge and literacy of this community. Samir lost almost 100,000 books and served schoolchildren and adults alike. … I knew hospital[s] and roads would receive funding, but secondary cultural institutions such as libraries are often overlooked but equally critical to the community.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Mansour received an early-morning cellphone call giving him ten minutes’ warning of the impending bomb attack on the building that housed his store. He watched the first wave of the attack on television, then made his way to the store, hoping to salvage at least some of his stock. He was close by when a second missile destroyed what was left of the edifice.
Flood quotes Mansour, whose “heart was burning” at the loss of his bookstore, which also served as a library and a cultural hub for the Gaza community:
I sat thinking about why my shop was bombed. … I did not publish, write, or attack any country or person in my life. I did not spread hatred but spread culture, science, and love. I did not find answers to my questions.
Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah area of Jerusalem, meanwhile, have opened their own bookshop named after Mansour as a show of support. From Middle East Eye:
Ahmed Rukn, a Palestinian activist who regularly participates in acts of solidarity, spoke to Middle East Eye’s Latifeh Abdellatif about the newly established bookshop.
“The idea was for the bookshop to be the Sheikh Jarrah bookshop, but after the recent events in Gaza, the collective decision was to name it the Samir Mansour bookshop as a matter of support for Gaza, linking Jerusalem with Gaza,” Rukn said.
When asked about the link between the people in Jerusalem and Gaza, Rukn responded: “We are one people and one suffering and one cause. They are us and we are them.”
An article in LitHub indicates that the Israeli airstrike that destroyed the Gaza store was meant to target Hamas tunnels. TRT World quotes writer and translator Hanya Aljamal on the cultural significance of Mansour’s shop, especially in the context of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine: “Even under blockade, it made us feel as a part of the world.”