We were all guilty of it. Even those of us who went out and protested, donated money, or got involved in some other form of activism. At some point during the 51 day onslaught in which 2145 Palestinians lost their lives, we will have seen the growing number on the TV and switched over, or glimpsed it in an article and turned the page. They were becoming just numbers. Even when we heard that 578 of the people that lost their lives were children, we looked away. It was just too incomprehensible.
Atef Abu Saif couldn’t look away. He was there. The people who were dying were his neighbours and his friends. His cousins. His brother-in-law. In The Drone Eats With Me, he tries to makes sure that we can no longer look away either. Every reported death is mentioned – as many names as are known are typed into the footnotes. Those footnotes are often the most powerful part. When you see the numbers mentioned above, you still see just a number. When so many names are put down in front of you, each person becomes real. It is worth picking up this book just to see that.
But there are also many more reasons to read this book. Several of these diary entries were published previously, in places like The Guardian and The New York Times. They were written while Saif’s world crumbled around him. That he could conjure up such prose under these conditions is nothing short of remarkable. Parts of this book are so beautifully written that you have to stop and reread the sentences. He creates beauty out of an ugly situation.
Any Cop?: There’s little more to be said. This book will appeal to some and it won’t appeal to many others. It should, though, be read by everyone. Without getting too political, there is a situation that has been ignored by some sections of society for too long. In 250 pages, Saif demonstrates why it shouldn’t be ignored with more skill and honesty than any documentary or article to date.