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Reading List

Palestine Must be Free Reading List

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Israeli forces carried out more strikes across the Gaza Strip a few weeks ago, and Benjamin Netanyahu won another term as Israeli prime minister, continuing a long winning streak for Israel's right wing, making it more important than ever to stand in solidarity with Palestine and against Israel's apartheid state.

In an attempt to understand the catastrophe, we bring you a reading list of key books on the Israel-Palestine conflict, from Ghada Karmi, Bernard Regan, Mahmoud Darwish, Naji al-Ali, Ilan Pappe, Edward Said, Shlomo Sand, and more.

Andrew Ross's Stone Men: The Palestinians Who Built Israel, exploring how Palestinian labor built the houses and the state of Israel, is on sale for 40% off until Sunday, April 21 at 11:59PM EST.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews in Palestine and Israel, Ross’s engrossing, surprising, and gracefully written story of this fascinating ancient trade shows how the stones of Palestine, and Palestinian labour, have been used to build out the state of Israel—in the process, constructing “facts on the ground”—even while the industry is central to Palestinians’ own efforts to erect bulwarks against the Occupation. For decades, the hands that built Israel’s houses, schools, offices, bridges, and even its separation barriers have been Palestinian. Looking at the Palestine–Israel conflict in a new light, this book asks how this record of achievement and labour be recognised.

A hundred years after its signing, Bernard Regan recasts the history of the Balfour Declaration as one of the major events in the story of the Middle East. Offering new insights into the imperial rivalries between Britain, Germany and the Ottomans, Regan exposes British policy in the region as part of a larger geopolitical game. Yet, even then, the course of events was not straightforward and Regan charts the debates within the British government and the Zionist movement itself on the future of Palestine.

The book also provides a revealing account of life in Palestinian society at the time, paying particular attention to the responses of Palestinian civil society to the imperial machinations that threatened their way of life. Not just a history of states and policies, Regan manages to brilliantly present both a history of people under colonialism and an account of the colonizers themselves.

On its publication in 2009, Shlomo Sand’s book The Invention of the Jewish People met with a storm of controversy. His demystifying approach to nationalist and Zionist historiography provoked much criticism from other professional historians, as well as praise. Drawing on four decades in the field, Sand takes a wider view and interrogates the study of history, whose origin lay in the need for a national ideology. Despite his trenchant criticism of academic history, Sand would still like to believe that the past can be understood without myth, and finds reasons for hope in the work of Max Weber and Georges Sorel.

In this groundbreaking book, published on the fiftieth anniversary of the Occupation, the outspoken and radical Israeli historian Ilan Pappe examines the most contested ideas concerning the origins and identity of the contemporary state of Israel.

He explores the claim that Palestine was an empty land at the time of the Balfour Declaration, as well as the formation of Zionism and its role in the early decades of nation building. He asks whether the Palestinians voluntarily left their homeland in 1948, and whether June 1967 was a war of “no choice.” Turning to the myths surrounding the failures of the Camp David Accords and the official reasons for the attacks on Gaza, Pappe explains why the two-state solution is no longer viable.

Having grown up in Britain following her family's exile from Palestine, doctor, author and academic Ghada Karmi leaves her adoptive home in a quest to return to her homeland.  In her journey, she takes the reader on a fascinating journey into the heart of one of the world’s most intractable conflict zones and one of the major issues of our time. Visiting places she has not seen since childhood, her unique insights reveal a militarised and barely recognisable homeland, and her home in Jerusalem, like much of the West Bank, occupied by strangers.

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. A powerful biographical story, In Search of Fatima reflects the author's personal experiences of displacement and loss against a backdrop of the major political events which have shaped conflict in the Middle East. Speaking for the millions of displaced people worldwide who have lived suspended between their old and new countries, fitting into neither, this is an intimate, nuanced exploration of the subtler privations of psychological displacement and loss of identity.

AVAILABLE IN THE UK ONLY

Too often the everyday lives and voices of the people in Gaza and the West Bank are forgotten. In Palestine Speaks men and women living under the occupation describe in their own words how it has shaped their lives. This includes eyewitness accounts of the attacks on Gaza in 2014.

This book traces this swelling American recognition of Palestinian suffering, struggle, and hope, in writing that is personal, lyrical, anguished, and inspiring. Some of the leading writers of our time, such as Junot Díaz and Teju Cole, poets and essayists, novelists and scholars, Palestinian American activists like Huwaida Arraf, Noura Erakat, and Remi Kanazi, give voice to feelings of empathy and solidarity—as well as anger at US support for Israeli policy—in intimate letters, beautiful essays, and furious poems.

Naji al-Ali grew up in the Palestinian refugee camp of Ain al-Hilweh in the south Lebanese city of Sidon, where his gift for drawing was discovered by the Palestinian poet Ghassan Kanafani in the late 1950s. Early the following decade he left for Kuwait, embarking on a thirty-year career that would see his cartoons published daily in newspapers from Cairo to Beirut, London to Paris.

For the first time in book form, A Child in Palestine presents the work of one of the Arab world’s greatest cartoonists, revered throughout the region for his outspokenness, honesty and humanity.

A major translation of remarkable, late poems by the great Palestinian poet.

“Darwish’s poetry is an epic effort to transform the lyrics of loss into the indefinitely postponed drama of return.”
– Edward Said

The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust is the deeply moving memoir of Chayut’s journey from eager Zionist conscript on the front line of Operation Defensive Shield to leading campaigner against the Israeli occupation. As he attempts to make sense of his own life as well as his place within the wider conflict around him, he slowly starts to question his soldier’s calling, Israel’s justifications for invasion, and the ever-present problem of historical victimhood. 

Noam Chayut’s exploration of a young soldier’s life is one of the most compelling memoirs to emerge from Israel for a long time.

Since its foundation in 1948, Israel has drawn on Zionism, the movement behind its creation, to provide a sense of self and political direction. In this groundbreaking new work, Ilan Pappe looks at the continued role of Zionist ideology. The Idea of Israel considers the way Zionism operates outside of the government and military in areas such as the country’s education system, media, and cinema, and the uses that are made of the Holocaust in supporting the state’s ideological structure. 

“A discursive yet polemical work that systematically undermines the claim that Jewishness is necessary – let alone sufficient – to justify the claims of the Israeli state to the territory formerly known as Palestine.” - Will Self, Guardian

With this meditative and thoughtful mixture of essay and personal recollection, he articulates the problems at the center of modern Jewish identity.  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.

Following his acclaimed and controversial Invention of the Jewish People, Shlomo Sand examines the mysterious sacred land that has become the site of the longest-running national struggle of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The Invention of the Land of Israel deconstructs the age-old legends surrounding the Holy Land and the prejudices that continue to suffocate the region. The modern concept of the "Land of Israel" came into being in the nineteenth century, he argues. It motivated the early Zionists to colonize the Middle East and establish the State of Israel, and today it threatens Israel's political stability and continued existence. 

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. 

Israel’s 2009 invasion of Gaza was an act of aggression that killed over a thousand Palestinians and devastated the infrastructure of an already impoverished enclave. The Punishment of Gaza shows how the ground was prepared for the assault and documents its continuing effects.  From 2005—the year of Gaza’s “liberation”—through to 2009, Levy tracks the development of Israel policy, which has abandoned the pretense of diplomacy in favor of raw military power, the ultimate aim of which is to deny Palestinians any chance of forming their own independent state. 

This new edition of the classic work on the politics of architecture—and the architecture of politics—appears on the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, which expanded Israel’s domination over Palestinian lands.  From the tunnels of Gaza to the militarized airspace of the Occupied Territories, Eyal Weizman unravels Israel’s mechanisms of control and its transformation of Palestinian homes into a war zone under constant surveillance. This is essential reading for those seeking to understand how architecture and infrastructure are used as lethal weapons in the formation of Israel. 

As Eyal Weizman shows in this brilliant exploration of forensic architecture, this can be seen in particular in the regime imposed upon Gaza by the state of Israel. Examining the damage following the 2010 bombardment, he pieces together the systematic process of destruction, revealing the political atrocity within the debris. The way he gathers together the evidence forces us to rethink our understanding of justice and human rights in the modern world. 

In his iconoclastic and controversial study, Norman G. Finkelstein moves from an interrogation of the place the Holocaust has come to occupy in global culture to a disturbing examination of recent Holocaust compensation settlements. It was not until the Arab–Israeli War of 1967, when Israel’s evident strength brought it into line with US foreign policy, that memory of the Holocaust began to acquire the exceptional prominence it has today. 

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. 

In July 2011, Israel passed legislation outlawing the public support of boycott activities against the state, corporations, and settlements, adding a crackdown on free speech to its continuing blockade of Gaza and the expansion of illegal settlements. Nonetheless, the campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) continues to grow in strength within Israel and Palestine, as well as in Europe and the US. This essential intervention considers all sides of the movement—including detailed comparisons with the South African experience—and contains contributions from both sides of the separation wall, along with a stellar list of international commentators. 

Writer and political analyst Josh Ruebner charts Obama’s journey from optimism to frustration in the first hard-hitting investigation into why the president failed to make any progress on this critical issue, and how his unwillingness to challenge the Israel lobby has shattered hopes for peace. 

AVAILABLE IN THE UK ONLY

Beginning July 8, 2014, Israel launched air strikes and a ground invasion of Gaza that lasted fifty-one days, leaving over 2,000 people dead, the vast majority of whom were civilians. During the assault, at least 10,000 homes were destroyed and, according to the United Nations, nearly 300,000 Palestinians were displaced.  Max Blumenthal was on the ground during what he argues was an entirely avoidable catastrophe. In this explosive work of reportage, Blumenthal reveals the harrowing conditions and cynical deceptions that led to the ruinous war. Here, for the first time, Blumenthal unearths and presents shocking evidence of atrocities he gathered in the rubble of Gaza.