The bombs were falling when two VQR reporters made it through the Rafah Crossing and into the Gaza Strip. What they saw shocked them—cities destroyed, whole families killed, lives shattered. In documenting the aftermath of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, however, Elliott Woods and Asim Rafiqui did not want to simplify their reporting into snapshots of anonymous suffering. They stayed on for weeks, then months, getting to know the Palestinians there and gaining their trust.
At the same time, we commissioned additional pieces on neighboring Lebanon to investigate how this latest fighting fit into the context of the 2006 Lebanon War. What we discovered was a regional history of factionalized parties then physically separated by border fences and barbed wire in the name of maintaining peace. The reality, however, is that such separation seems instead to have fostered animosity and allowed each side to demonize the other. Collectively, these essays explore that Catch-22—and question the wisdom of repeating that strategy of division as we put up separation walls in preparation for our withdrawal from Iraq.
Our portfolio of work on this theme is the anchor for our Summer 2009 issue, and includes Tom Bissell’s “Looking for Judas,” Peter Lagerquist’s “Tracing Concrete,” Christopher Merrill’s “Relative Calm,” Michelle Orange’s “Beirut Rising,” Asim Rafiqui’s “Portraits of Survival,” and Elliott D. Woods’s “Hope’s Coffin.”
In addition to those featured pieces, we’ve got lots of fiction, poetry, and essays, including work by Chris Ware, Carl Phillips, and the late Mahmoud Darwish.