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On Israel and Anti-Semitism: A Reading List

Rowan Wilson 5 May 2016

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The storm over Labour's alleged "culture of anti-semitism" rolls on, with daily news of further suspensions and resignations - the latest of which is the suspension of anti-Zionist activist and Momentum member Jackie Walker because of a contrived controversy over a months old facebook comment.  

The more allegations  emerge, the more the gap between anti-semitism and legitimate criticisms of Israel seems to be closing for the commentariat. As acclaimed scholar Norman G. Finkelstein recently stated in a interview for Open Democracy, the scandal "has nothing whatsoever to do with the factual situation; instead, a few suspect cases of antisemitism – some real, some contrived – are being exploited for an ulterior political motive." While real anti-semitism undoubtably exists, the string of warnings about "new anti-semitism" must not act as a cover for Israeli state actions. As the powerful statement released on behalf of the Jewish Socialist Group states "criticism of Israeli government policy and Israeli state actions against the Palestinians is not antisemitism," - the two must be clearly seperated.

For more on Israel and Palestine, below is a Verso reading list on the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the politics of anti-Zionism.

For more on the Labour anti-semitism allegations
Tariq Ali: Notes on Anti-Semitism, Zionism and Palestine
Jamie Stern-Weiner: on Israel David Cameron's 'dodgy friends' and on the media coverage of the allegations
The Jewish Socialists' Letter to the Guardian: Labour, antisemitism and where Jeremy Corbyn goes from here
Independent Jewish voices statement on Labour anti-semitism
Alain Badiou: On Anti-Semitism real and imagined

For more news on this, follow Norman Finkelstein's blog

Myth vs Reality
The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering by Norman G. Finkelstein
An iconoclastic and controversial work due to the powerful and rarely discussed issues, Finkelstein's study scrutinises interpretations of the Holocaust that are often at variance with actual historical events and are employed to deflect any criticism of Israel and its supporters.

“The most controversial book of the year.” – Guardian 

Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History by Norman G. Finkelstein
In Beyond Chutzpah, Norman Finkelstein moves from an iconoclastic interrogation of the new anti-Semitism to a meticulously researched exposé of the corruption of scholarship on the Israel–Palestine conflict, especially in the work of Alan Dershowitz. Pointing to a consensus among historians and human rights organizations on the factual record, Finkelstein argues that so much controversy continues to swirl around the conflict because apologists for Israel contrive it. 

Reflections on Anti-Semitism by Alain Badiou, Eric Hazan, and Ivan Segré
Dissecting how facile accusations of "anti-Semitism" are used to stifle dissent.

If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew by Mike Marqusee
A passionate, thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be Jewish in the twenty-first century. Marqusee refutes the claims of Israel and Zionism on Jewish loyalty and laments their impact on the Jewish diaspora. Rather, he argues for a richer, more multi-dimensional understanding of Jewish history and identity, and reclaims vital political and personal space for those castigated as “self-haters” by the Jewish establishment.

Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict by Norman Finkelstein
First published in 1995, this acclaimed study challenges generally accepted truths of the Israel-Palestine conflict as well as much of the revisionist literature. This new edition critically reexamines dominant popular and scholarly images in the light of the current failures of the peace process.

The Idea of Israel: A History of Power and Knowledge 
by Ilan Pappe
"Pappé places Zionism under an uncompromising lens... The Idea of Israel is  a close study of the role of Zionist ideology in the making of modern Israel and of the continuing relevance of this ideology today in politics, the education system, the media, the cinema and Ashkenazi-Sephardi relations." - Avi Shlaim, Guardian

Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question edited by Christopher Hitchens and Edward Said
Since the 1948 war which drove them from their heartland, the Palestinian people have consistently been denied the most basic democratic rights. Blaming the Victims shows how the historical fate of the Palestinians has been justified by spurious academic attempts to dismiss their claim to a home within the boundaries of historical Palestine and even to deny their very existence.
Includes contributions from Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky and Rashid Khalidi.

A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity edited by Anne Karpf, Brian Klug, Jacqueline Rose and Barbara Rosenbaum A collection of strong Jewish voices exploring some of the most provocative topics faced by the Jewish diaspora such as international law, self-hatred, human rights and the multiplicity of the Jewish identity.

Includes contributions from Donald Sassoon, Lynne Segal, Richard Silverstein, Gillian Slovo, Julia Bard, Geoffrey Bindman, Emma Clyne and Eyal Weizman.

How I Stopped Being a Jew by Shlomo Sand
How I Stopped Being a Jew discusses the negative effects of the Israeli exploitation of the “chosen people” myth and its “holocaust industry.” Sand criticizes the fact that, in the current context, what “Jewish” means is, above all, not being Arab and reflects on the possibility of a secular, non-exclusive Israeli identity, beyond the legends of Zionism.

Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations by Avi Shlaim
“Shlaim does not aim at a comprehensive overview of the conflict so much as a running rebuttal of Israel’s version of it; an insurgency in the public relations war.”  – Observer

The Invention of the Jewish People by Shlomo Sand
“Perhaps books combining passion and erudition don't change political situations, but if they did, this one would count as a landmark.” – Eric Hobsbawm, Observer

The Invention of the Land of Israel by Shlomo Sand
“His achievement consists in debunking a nationalist mythology which holds sway in large sections of popular opinion. It also normalises Jews, since it challenges the belief in exceptionalism...Truth-telling may be painful but necessary.”– Donald Sassoon, Guardian

Plowshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel by Arno Mayer
"...a sweeping and often illuminating overview of the story of Zionism.” -New Statesman

The Conflict Explained

The Case for Sanctions Against Israel edited by Audrea Lim
“Provides clear arguments for international sanctions against Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians. This excellent collection of essays is an essential text for anyone interested in why they should support the movement to boycott Israel. The essays are not just good reading; they are also an eloquent call to the world to give a damn.” –  Ron Jacobs, Counterpunch

The Punishment of Gaza by Gideon Levy
“Gideon Levy’s passionate and revealing account is an eloquent, even desperate, call to bring this shocking tragedy to an end, as can easily be done.” – Noam Chomsky

The Least of All Possible Evils by Eyal Weizman
“Eyal Weizman’s work has become an indispensable source of both insight and guidance in these difficult times. He understands the evolving dynamics of war and sovereignty better than anyone.” – Paul Gilroy, Professor of Social History, London School of Economics
The Revenge of History
 by Seumas Milne
“Tracking a decade of ruinous lies from the right and unheeded warnings from the left, this is a book with an urgent message: it’s time to win more than arguments.” – Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine

The Conflict Considered

Being Arab by Samir Kassir  “This is an unusual book of such fluent and searing honesty that I almost wanted Samir Kassir to be kinder to himself. I salute his memory.” – John Pilger
Shattered Hopes: Obama's Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace by Josh Ruebner
“Ruebner’s timely contribution traces the Obama administration’s efforts, or lack thereof, at securing a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This book doesn’t pull any punches but rather is an honest assessment of Washington’s failed peace attempts that anyone who genuinely cares about a just peace should read.” – Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director, The Palestine Center

The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust by Noam Chayut  A haunting, beautifully written and deeply moving memoir of a young Israeli soldier Noam Chayut, detailing his journey from eager Zionist conscript on the front line of Operation Defensive Shield to leading campaigner against the Israeli occupation. 

“Measured, critical, self-conscious and excellently written ... this autobiography is also a travelogue, an initiation novel, and a morality play—all in one.” – Shira Stav, Haaretz   Hollow Land by Eyal Weizman
Eyal Weizman unravels Israel's mechanisms of control and its transformation of Palestinian towns, villages and roads into an artifice where all natural and built features serve military ends. A terrifying portrayal of urban warfare.

“The most astonishing book on architecture that I have read in years.” – Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times
The Obama Syndrome
 by Tariq Ali
Tariq Ali's challenge on the policies of the Obama administration. As the initial election of Obama signalled a political reform, Ali accounts for the escalation of war and conflict in Afghanistan and the continued appeasement of Israel.
The Myths of Liberal Zionism
 by Yitzhak Laor “…original and urgent… ”  – John Berger

An Orchestra Beyond Borders: Voices of the Western-Eastern Divan Orchestra
 by Elena Cheah
“The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a beacon of hope on the dismal political landscape of the Middle East ... Raised in enmity, these talented young men and women set an example by their devotion to their common craft. Together they play with wonderful energy and unanimity in an orchestra that is larger than life.” – Avi Shlaim

Mural by Mahmoud Darwish
“The most celebrated writer of verse in the Arab world.” – Adam Shatz, The New York Times

In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story
by Ghada Karmi
A powerful biographical story, Ghada Karmi's acclaimed memoir relates her childhood in Palestine, flight to Britain after the catastrophe, and coming of age in Golders Green, the north London Jewish suburb. 

Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward W. Said edited by Basak Ertur and Muge Gursoy Sokmen. “Edward Said’s anger against injustice must become ours, and his pen that challenged the sword must become our weapon in the battle for human values.” – Elias Khoury

A Child in Palestine: The Cartoons of Naji al-Ali

“This is a ground-breaking book. For the first time, Western readers are beckoned into Palestinian lives by the graphic warmth, inspiration and horror of the cartoonist Naji al-Ali, whose iconic Hanthala is our witness and conscience, imploring, rightly, that we never forget.” – John Pilger

Suffering As Identity: The Jewish Paradigm
 by Esther Benbassa “...Invaluable for both its political deconstruction of victimhood and its recollection of the lesser-known, non-lachrymose history of the Jews.”
– Jewish Quarterly 
  Peace Under Fire: Israel, Palestine and the International Solidarity Movement edited by Josie Sandercock, Radhika Sainath, Marissa McLaughlin, Hussein Khalili, Nicholas Blincoe, Huwaida Arraf, and Ghassan Andoni
The story of the International Solidarity Movement.

The Road Map to Nowhere: Israel/Palestine since 2003 by Tanya Reinhart
“Tanya Reinhart’s informative and chilling analysis could hardly be more timely. It should be read and considered with care, and taken very seriously.” – Noam Chomsky
A Civilian Occupation: The Politics of Israeli Architecture edited by Rafi Segal and Eyal Weizman
“The first detailed examination of the spatial form of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, examining how their physical layout is informed by the politics behind them.” – Esther Addeley, Guardian

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