Older books – Memoirs/Biography/Oral testimonies
This page contains details of books previously listed on the Most Recently Published Books page. Books are listed in alphabetical order of the author. All the books were published in 2012 or later; earlier books previously listed on this page can be found here.
Avigail Abarbanel: Beyond tribal loyalties: Personal stories of Jewish peace activists (2012)
Nahla Abdo: From captive revolution to grand Gaza prison (2014)
Diana Allen: Refugees of the revolution: Experiences of Palestinian exile (2013)
Hillel Bardin: A Zionist among Palestinians (2012)
Bidisha: Beyond the Wall: Writng a path through Palestine (2012)
Max Blumenthal: Goliath: Life and loathing in Greater Israel (2013)
Noam Chayut: The girl who stole my Holocaust: A memoir (2013)
Henriette Dahan-Kalev & Emilie Le Febvre: Palestinian activism in Israel: A Bedouin woman leader in a changing society (2012)
Cynthia Franklin et al. (Eds.): Life in Occupied Palestine: A special issue of Biography (2014)
David Gershon-Harris: What do you buy the children of the terrorist who tried to kill your wife?: A memoir (2013)
Yossi Klein Halevi: Like dreamers (2013)
Norma Hashim (Ed.): The prisoners’ diaries: Palestinian voices from the Israeli Gulag (2013)
Neil Hertz: Pastoral in Palestine (2013)
Sarah Irving: Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian liberation (2012)
Penny Johnson & Raja Shehadeh (Eds.) Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian writing on exile and home (2012)
Ghada Karmi: Return: A Palestinian memoir (2015)
Samia Nasir Khoury: Reflections from Palestine: A journey of hope – a memoir (2013)
Antony Lerman: The making and unmaking of a Zionist (2012)
Mark Levine & Gershon Shafi (Eds.): Struggle and survival in Palestine/Israel (2012)
John McCarthy: You can’t hide the sun: A journey through Israel and Palestine (2012)
Cate Malek & Mateo Hoke (Eds.): Palestine speaks: Narratives of lives under Occupation (2015)
Altemad Muhanna: Agency and gender in Gaza (2013)
Dervla Murphy: A month by the sea: Encounters in Gaza (2013)
Dervla Murphy: Between river and sea, Encounters in Israel & Palestine (2015)
Guy Mannes-Abbott: In Ramallah, Running (2012)
Jacob Nammar: Born in Jerusalem, Born Palestinian (2012)
Pamela Olson: Fast times in Palestine (2013)
Mohammed Omer: Shell-shocked: On the ground under Israel’s Gaza assault (2015)
Miko Peled: The General’s son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine (2012)
Lipika Pelham: The unlikely settler (2014)
Birzeit People’s Museum: People’s Museum: Birzeit (2012)
Edward Platt:The city of Abraham: History, myth and memory: A journey through Hebron (2012)
Vijay Prashad (ed.): Letters to Palestine: Writers respond to war and occupation (2015)
David Ranan: A land to die for? Soldier talk and moral reflections of young Israelis (2012)
Jo Roberts: Contested land, contested memory: Israel’s Jews and Arabs and the ghosts of catastrophe (2013)
Brant Rosen: Wrestling in the daylight: A Rabbi’s path to Palestinian solidarity (2012)
Najla Said: Looking for Palestine: Growing up confused in an Arab-American family (2013)
Atef Abu Saif: Drone eats with me (2015)
Shlomo Sand: How I stopped being a Jew (2014)
Ari Shavit: My promised land (2013)
Raja Shehadeh: Occupation Diaries (2012)
Tom Sperlinger: Romeo and Juliet in Palestine: Teaching under Occupation (2015)
S.Tamari & I.Nassar (Eds.): The storyteller of Jerusalem: The life & times of Wasif Jawhariyyeh, 1904-48 (2014)
Louisa Waugh: Meet me in Gaza: Uncommon stories of life inside the Strip (2013)
Erica Weiss: Conscientious objectors in Israel: Citizenship, sacrifice, trials of fealty (2014)
Publisher’s description: There is an expectation in Jewish communities around the world that all Jews embrace Zionism and offer unquestioning support for Israel, ‘right or wrong’. Jewish identity and Zionism are commonly and deliberately blurred. Jews who criticise Israel or question Zionism are often excluded, vilified and threatened. If they express sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people, they risk being branded as traitors and accused of ‘supporting the enemies of Israel’. Beyond Tribal Loyalties is a unique collection of twenty-five personal stories of Jewish peace activists from Australia, Canada, Israel, the United Kingdom and the United States. (…) The stories focus on the complex and intensely personal journey that Jewish activists go through to free themselves from the hold of Zionist ideology and its requirement to support all Israeli policies. (…) In many cases this journey involved a reassessment of personal values, belief systems and identity. Beyond Tribal Loyalties seeks to discover what makes it possible for Jewish peace activists to follow through with this transformative journey and their activist work, despite fanatical and sometimes violent opposition.
Publisher’s description: Women throughout the world have always played their part in struggles against colonialism, imperialism and other forms of oppression. However, there are few books on Arab political prisoners, fewer still on the Palestinians who have been detained in their thousands for their political activism and resistance. Nahla Abdo’s Captive Revolution seeks to break the silence on Palestinian women political detainees, providing a vital contribution to research on women, revolutions, national liberation and anti-colonial resistance. Based on stories of the women themselves, as well as her own experiences as a former political prisoner, Abdo draws on a wealth of oral history and primary research in order to analyse their anti-colonial struggle, their agency and the appalling treatment. Making crucial comparisons with the experiences of female political detainees in other conflicts, and emphasising the vital role Palestinian political culture and memorialisation of the ‘Nakba’ have had on their resilience and resistance, Captive Revolution is a rich and revealing addition to our knowledge of this little-studied phenomenon.
Reviews: Red Pepper
Publisher’s description: Some sixty-five years after 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from their homeland, the popular conception of Palestinian refugees still emphasizes their fierce commitment to exercising their “right of return.” Exile has come to seem a kind of historical amber, preserving refugees in a way of life that ended abruptly with “the catastrophe” of 1948 and their camps—inhabited now for four generations—as mere zones of waiting. While reducing refugees to symbols of steadfast single-mindedness has been politically expedient to both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict it comes at a tremendous cost for refugees themselves, overlooking their individual memories and aspirations and obscuring their collective culture in exile. Refugees of the Revolution is an evocative and provocative examination of everyday life in Shatila, a refugee camp in Beirut. Challenging common assumptions about Palestinian identity and nationalist politics, Diana Allan provides an immersive account of camp experience, of communal and economic life as well as inner lives, tracking how residents relate across generations, cope with poverty and marginalization, and plan––pragmatically and speculatively—for the future. (…) This groundbreaking book offers a richly nuanced account of Palestinian exile, and presents new possibilities for the future of the community.
Publisher’s description: A Zionist among Palestinians offers the perspective of an ordinary Israeli citizen who became concerned about the Israeli military’s treatment of Palestinians and was moved to work for peace. Hillel Bardin, a confirmed Zionist, was a reservist in the Israeli army during the first intifada when he met Palestinians arrested by his unit. He learned that they supported peace with Israel and the then-taboo proposal for a two-state solution, and that they understood the intifada as a struggle to achieve these goals. Bardin began to organize dialogues between Arabs and Israelis in West Bank villages, towns, and refugee camps. In 1988, he was jailed for meeting with Palestinians while on active duty in Ramallah. Over the next two decades, he participated in a variety of peace organizations and actions, from arranging for Israelis to visit Palestinian communities and homes, to the joint jogging group “Runners for Peace,” to marches, political organizing, and demonstrations supporting peace, security, and freedom. In this very personal account, Bardin tries to come to grips with the conflict in a way that takes account of both Israeli-Zionist and Palestinian aims.
Publisher’s description: Their voices come from Bethlehem and Hebron. You can hear them from Jerusalem to Nazareth, and witness their protests in Gaza and Ramallah. From the refugee camps in the West Bank, you can hear the voices of the Palestinian people call out to demand self-determination and a better quality of life. But outside of Israel and the occupied territories, these individual voices are rarely heard—until now. In Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path through Palestine, internationally renowned feminist critic and writer Bidisha collects the testimonies of an occupied people—ordinary citizens, activists, children—alongside those of international aid workers and foreign visitors for a revelatory look at a population on the margins.
Reviews: none yet available
Publisher’s description: In Goliath, New York Times bestselling author Max Blumenthal takes us on a journey through the badlands and high roads of Israel-Palestine, painting a startling portrait of Israeli society under the siege of increasingly authoritarian politics as the occupation of the Palestinians deepens. Beginning with the national elections carried out during Israel’s war on Gaza in 2008-09, which brought into power the country’s most right-wing government to date, Blumenthal tells the story of Israel in the wake of the collapse of the Oslo peace process. As Blumenthal reveals, Israel has become a country where right-wing leaders like Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu are sacrificing democracy on the altar of their power politics; where the loyal opposition largely and passively stands aside and watches the organized assault on civil liberties; where state-funded Orthodox rabbis publish books that provide instructions on how and when to kill Gentiles; where half of Jewish youth declare their refusal to sit in a classroom with an Arab; and where mob violence targets Palestinians and African asylum seekers scapegoated by leading government officials as “demographic threats.” Immersing himself like few other journalists inside the world of hardline political leaders and movements, Blumenthal interviews the demagogues and divas in their homes, in the Knesset, and in the watering holes where their young acolytes hang out, and speaks with those political leaders behind the organized assault on civil liberties. As his journey deepens, he painstakingly reports on the occupied Palestinians challenging schemes of demographic separation through unarmed protest. He talks at length to the leaders and youth of Palestinian society inside Israel now targeted by security service dragnets and legislation suppressing their speech, and provides in-depth reporting on the small band of Jewish Israeli dissidents who have shaken off a conformist mindset that permeates the media, schools, and the military. Through his far-ranging travels, Blumenthal illuminates the present by uncovering the ghosts of the past—the histories of Palestinian neighborhoods and villages now gone and forgotten; how that history has set the stage for the current crisis of Israeli society; and how the Holocaust has been turned into justification for occupation.
Publisher’s description: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.
Publisher’s description:Palestinian Activism in Israel closely describes Amal El’ Sana-Alh’jooj’s experiences as a Palestinian Bedouin female activist living in Israel’s southern al-Naqab desert. While the “empowering” and organizational aspects of women’s activisms in the Middle East have been well canvassed, few works detail the professional and personal practices of charismatic activists leading rights-based initiatives. In response to this gap, this book explores Amal’s activisms and how she navigates her identities in sociopolitical relationships with Israeli Jewish, Palestinian, al-Naqab Bedouin, and international representatives. The authors argue that by focusing on activists’ biographies we can further understand the pluralisms, strategies of identification, and dialectics of recognition typifying contemporary third sector politics in the Middle East.
Reviews: none yet available
Cynthia Franklin et al. (Eds.): Life in Occupied Palestine: A special issue of Biography (University of Hawaii Press, 2014, $15 or downloadable from Project Muse – details here)
Publisher’s description: not available
Publisher’s description: A man seeks out the Hamas bomber who changed his family’s life in this unflinching, mesmerizing literary debut. David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, moved to Jerusalem full of hope. Then, mere days after Israel thwarted historic cease-fire negotiations among the Palestinians, a bomb ripped open Hebrew University’s cafeteria. Jamie’s body was sliced with shrapnel; the friends sitting next to her were killed. When a doctor handed David some of the shrapnel removed from Jamie’s body, he could not accept that this piece of metal changed everything. But it had. The bombing sent David on a psychological journey that found him digging through shadowy politics and traumatic histories, eventually leading him back to East Jerusalem and the Hamas terrorist and his family. Not out of revenge. Out of desperation. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, this fearless debut confronts the personal costs of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and our capacity for recovery and reconciliation.
Publisher’s description: In Like Dreamers, acclaimed journalist Yossi Klein Halevi interweaves the stories of a group of 1967 paratroopers who reunited Jerusalem, tracing the history of Israel and the divergent ideologies shaping it from the Six-Day War to the present. Following the lives of seven young members from the 55th Paratroopers Reserve Brigade, the unit responsible for restoring Jewish sovereignty to Jerusalem, Halevi reveals how this band of brothers played pivotal roles in shaping Israel’s destiny long after their historic victory. While they worked together to reunite their country in 1967, these men harbored drastically different visions for Israel’s future. One emerges at the forefront of the religious settlement movement, while another is instrumental in the 2005 unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. One becomes a driving force in the growth of Israel’s capitalist economy, while another ardently defends the socialist kibbutzim. One is a leading peace activist, while another helps create an anti-Zionist terror underground in Damascus.
Norma Hashim (Ed.): The prisoners’ diaries: Palestinian voices from the Israeli Gulag (2013) [PDF version can be downloaded for $1.99 from here ]
Publisher’s description: This is a compilation of 22 Palestinian prisoners’ experiences in Israeli jails . 1,027 prisoners were released in 2011 as part of the exchange with Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and 22 of them were interviewed by journalists. Their commentaries were translated by CPDS and edited. The book is dedicated to Samer Issawi and all Palestinian prisoners, past, present and future, and was released on 17April 2013, in conjunction with Palestinian Prisoners’ Day.
Publisher’s description: For decades, Israel and Palestine have been locked in ongoing conflict over land that each claims as its own. The conflict is often considered a calculated land-grab, but this characterization does little to take into account the myriad motivations that have shaped it in ways that make it seem intractable, from powerful nationalist and theological ideologies to the more practical concerns of the people who live there and just want to carry out their lives without the constant threat of war. In 2011, Neil Hertz lived in Ramallah in Palestine’s occupied West Bank and taught in nearby Jerusalem. With Pastoral in Palestine, he offers an engaging personal take on the conflict. Though the situation has resulted in the erosion of both societies, Hertz could find no one in either Israel or Palestine who expressed much hope for a solution. Instead, they are resigned to find ways to live with the situation. Illustrated throughout with full-color photographs captured by Hertz, Pastoral in Palestine puts a human face to politics in the Middle East.
Reviews: World Literature Today
Publisher’s description: Dubbed ‘the poster girl of Palestinian militancy’, Leila Khaled‘s image flashed across the world after she hijacked a passenger jet in 1969. The picture of a young, determined looking woman with a checkered scarf, clutching an AK-47, was as era-defining as that of Che Guevara. In this intimate profile, based on interviews with Khaled and those who know her, Sarah Irving gives us the life-story behind the image. Key moments of Khaled’s turbulent life are explored, including the dramatic events of the hijackings, her involvement in the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (a radical element within the PLO), her opposition to the Oslo peace process and her activism today. Leila Khaled‘s example gives unique insights into the Palestinian struggle through one remarkable life – from the tension between armed and political struggle, to the decline of the secular left and the rise of Hamas, and the role of women in a largely male movement.
Publisher’s description: How do Palestinians live, imagine and reflect on home and exile in this period of a stateless and transitory Palestine, a deeply contested and crisis-ridden national project, and a sharp escalation in Israeli state violence and accompanying Palestinian oppression? How can exile and home be written? In this volume of new writing, fifteen innovative and outstanding Palestinian writers—essayists, poets, novelists, critics, artists and memoirists—respond with their reflections, experiences, memories and polemics. What is it like, in the words of Lila Abu-Lughod, to be “drafted into being Palestinian?” What happens when you take your American children—as Sharif Elmusa does—to the refugee camp where you were raised? And how can you convince, as Suad Amiry attempts to do, a weary airport official to continue searching for a code for a country that isn’t recognized? Contributors probe the past through unconventional memories, reflecting on 1948 when it all began. But they are also deeply interested in beginnings, imagining, in the words of Mischa Hiller, “a Palestine that reflects who we are now and who we hope to become.” Their contributions—poignant, humorous, intimate, reflective, intensely political—make for an offering that is remarkable for the candor and grace with which it explores the many individual and collective experiences of waiting, living for, and seeking Palestine.
Publisher’s description: 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. She starts work with the Palestinian Authority and gets a firsthand understanding of its bizarre bureaucracy under Israel’s occupation. In her quest, 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. Her encounters with politicians, fellow Palestinians, and Israeli soldiers cause her to question what role exiles like her have in the future of their country and whether return is truly possible.
Publisher’s description: Reflections from Palestine tells the story of life under Israeli occupation. The book opens at the outset of 1967 “Six-Day” war” and describes the relentless series of “temporary measures” that became the binding, suffocating reality of occupation leading up to and following the Oslo Accords. Khoury explains the wide-ranging social and political problems facing Palestinians under occupation through the sweet and sorrowful experiences of family and community life.
Reviews: Palestine Book Awards
Antony Lerman: The making and unmaking of a Zionist (Pluto Press, 2012, £20)
Publisher’s description: Antony Lerman traces his five-decade personal and political journey from idealistic socialist Zionist to controversial critic of Zionism and Israeli policies towards the Palestinians. As head of an influential UK Jewish think tank, he operated at the highest levels of international Jewish political and intellectual life. He recalls his 1960s Zionist activism, two years spent on kibbutz and service in the IDF, followed by the gradual onset of doubts about Israel on returning to England. Assailed for his growing public criticism of Israeli policy and Zionism, he details his ostracism by the Jewish establishment. Through his insider’s critique of Zionism, critical assessment of Jewish politics and analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict Lerman presents a powerful, human rights-based argument about how a just peace can be achieved.
Publisher’s description: Too often, the study of Israel/Palestine has focused on elite actors and major events. Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel takes advantage of new sources about everyday life and the texture of changes on the ground to put more than two dozen human faces on the past and present of the region. With contributions from a leading cast of scholars across disciplines, the stories here are drawn from a variety of sources, from stories passed down through generations to family archives, interviews, and published memoirs. As these personal narratives are transformed into social biographies, they explore how the protagonists were embedded in but also empowered by their social and historical contexts. This wide-ranging and accessible volume brings a human dimension to a conflict-ridden history, emphasizing human agency, introducing marginal voices alongside more well-known ones, defying “typical” definitions of Israelis and Palestinians, and, ultimately, redefining how we understand both “struggle” and “survival” in a troubled region.
Reviews: none yet available
Publisher’s description: Transported as a young boy by his father’s tales of Palestine, John McCarthy has always been drawn to the mystique of the Middle East. Remarkably, his first-hand experience of its brutal conflicts – he was kidnapped and held hostage in the Lebanon for five years – only strengthened his determination to return and explore its myriad complexities. In the years since his ordeal, McCarthy travelled through Israel and East Jerusalem, from the shores of the Mediterranean to the Bedouin encampments of the Negev desert. His intensely moving encounters with the inhabitants of this beautiful but tormented region reveal the continuing tragedy of the Palestinians who remained in Israel after its formation in 1948 – and who still dare to think of it as home. You Can’t Hide the Sun weaves their vivid testimonies with McCarthy’s own experience of living under constant threat. And in doing so it asks: how can humanity endure in the face of unimaginable oppression, and how can any of us thrive without a place of safety?
Publisher’s description: For more than six decades, Israel and Palestine have been the center of one of the world’s most widely reported yet least understood human rights crises. In Palestine Speaks men and women from the West Bank and Gaza describe in their own words how their lives have been shaped by the conflict. This includes eyewitness accounts of the most recent attacks on Gaza in 2014. The collection includes Ebtihaj, whose son, born during the first intifada, was killed by Israeli soldiers during a night raid almost twenty years later. Nader, a professional marathon runner from the Gaza Strip who is determined to pursue his dream of competing in international races despite countless challenges, including severe travel restrictions and a lack of resources to help him train.
Publisher’s description: In Ramallah, Running represents Guy Mannes-Abbott’s uniquely personal encounter with Palestine, interweaving short, poetic texts with exploratory essays. International artists and prominent writers have been invited to respond both directly and indirectly to the texts with newly commissioned works. The text consists of 14 parts, which alternate running within the limits of the city and walking out from it to, along, beyond and off limits, discovering how insidiously mobile those limits are under Occupation. With singular style and compelling force, Mannes-Abbott’s texts generate a very special intimacy with a rarely seen or experienced Palestine. Jean Fisher contributes a substantial introductory essay, while the poet and critic Najwan Darwish and novelist Adania Shibli have written further captivating responses. Visual contributions include a project linked to a pair of paintings by Francis Alys, drawings of stoney aridity with ambiguous structures by Paul Noble, and a searingly intimate journal-based piece by Emily Jacir. Jananne al-Ani, Khalil Rabah and Mark Titchner contribute varying photography-based projects focused on the place and its relationship to the body and word. Olaf Nicolai contributes an angular text-based project and Sharif Waked highlights the abysmal ambiguities of the political context.
Publisher’s description: Drawing on rich interview material and adopting a life history approach, this book examines the agency of women living in insecure and uncertain conflict situations. It explores the effects of the Israeli policy of closure against Gaza and the resulting humanitarian crisis in relation to gender relations and gender subjectivity. With attention to the changing roles of men in the household and community as a result of the loss of male employment, the author explores the extension of poor women’s mobility, particularly that of young wives with dependent children, for whom the meaning of agency has shifted from being providers in the domestic sphere to becoming publicly dependent on humanitarian aid. Without conflating women’s agency with resistance to patriarchy, Agency and Gender in Gaza extends the concept of agency to include its subjective and intersubjective elements, shedding light on the recent distortion of the traditional gender order and the reasons for which women resist the masculine power that they have acquired as a result.
Publisher’s description: Over the summer of 2011, in her eightieth year, Dervla Murphy spent a month in the Gaza Strip. She met liberals and Islamists, Hamas and Fatah supporters, rich and poor. Used to western reporters dashing in and out of the Strip in times of crisis, the people she met were touched by her genuine, unflinching interest and opened their hearts to her. What she finds are a people who, far from the story we are so often fed, overwhelmingly long for peace and an end to the violence that has so grossly distorted their lives. The impression we take away from the book is of a people whose real, complex, nuanced voice has never been heard before. A MONTH BY THE SEA gives unique insight into the way in which isolation has shaped this society: how it radicalizes young men and plays into the hands of dominating patriarchs, yet also how it hardens determination not to give in and turns family into a towering source of support. (…) Dervla looks long and hard at the hypocrisies of Western and Israeli attitudes to ‘peace’, and at Palestinian attitudes to terrorism.
Publisher’s description: Dervla Murphy describes with passionate honesty the experience of her most recent journeys into Israel and Palestine. In cramped Haifa high-rises, in homes in the settlements and in a refugee camp on the West Bank, she talks with whomever she meets, trying to understand them and their attitudes with her customary curiosity, her acute ear and mind, her empathy, her openness to the experience and her moral seriousness. Behind the book lies a desire to communicate the reality of life on the ground, and to puzzle out for herself what might be done to alleviate the suffering of all who wish to share this land and to make peace in the region a possibility.Meeting the wise, the foolish and the frankly deluded, she knits together a patchwork picture that constitutes both sides of the divide – Hamas and Fatah, rural and urban, refugee,Bedouin nomad, indigenous inhabitant, Black Hebrew, Kabbalist, secular and Orthodox. She finds compassion and empathy in both communities, but is also appalled by instances of its lack on both sides. Overall her sympathies are with the Palestinians, remorselessly dispossessed of, and cut off from, their lands and frustrated and humiliated on a daily basis. Clinging to hope, she comes to believe that despite its difficulties the only viable future lies in a single democratic state of Israel/Palestine, based on one person, one vote – the One-State Solution.
Publisher’s description: When Jacob Nammar was a young boy growing up in Harret al-Nammareh, his family, his friends, and the streets of his West Jerusalem neighborhood were the center of his life. It wasn t long, however,
before his existence was turned upside down when his family was forced out of their home during al-nakba, the catastrophe that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of nearly 750,000 natives and the destruction of over 500 Palestinian villages and towns. In this heartwarming memoir, Jacob paints a vivid portrait of Palestinian life from his childhood days in pre-1948 Jerusalem, the struggles of the Palestinian community under Israeli rule, to his ultimate decision to leave for America at age 23. Readers will laugh, cry, and be inspired by this charming coming of age story set amid the backdrop of one of the most tragic historical events that engulfed the region.
Pamela Olson: Fast times in Palestine (Seal Press, 2013, paperback, £10.99)
Publisher’s description: For much of her life—like many Westerners—most of what Pamela Olson knew of the Middle East was informed by headlines and stereotypes. But when she traveled to Palestine in 2003, she found herself thrown with dizzying speed into the realities of Palestinian life. Fast Times in Palestine is Olson’s powerful, deeply moving account of life in Palestine—both the daily events that are universal to us all (house parties, concerts, barbecues, and weddings) as well as the violence, trauma, and political tensions that are particular to the country. From idyllic olive groves to Palestinian beer gardens, from Passover in Tel Aviv to Ramadan in a Hamas village, readers will find Olson’s narrative both suspenseful and discerning. Her irresistible story offers a multi-faceted understanding of the Palestinian perspective on the Israel–Palestine conflict, filling a gap in the West’s understanding of the difficult relationship between the two nations.
Publisher’s description: What was it like to live under Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip last summer? In these pages, journalist Mohammed Omer, a resident of Gaza who experienced the terror with his wife and three-month-old son, provides a first-hand account of life on-the-ground. The images he records in this extraordinary chronicle are a literary equivalent of Goya’s “Disasters of War”: children’s corpses stuffed into vegetable refrigerators, pointlessly because the electricity is off; a family rushing out of their home after a phone call from the Israeli military informs them that the building will be obliterated by an F-16 missile in three minutes; fishing boats ablaze in the harbour. Throughout this carnage, Omer maintains the cool detachment of the professional journalist, determined to create a precise record of what is occurring in front of him. But between his lines the outrage boils, and we are left to wonder how a society such as Israel, widely-praised in the West as democratic and civilized, can visit such monstrosities on a trapped and helpless population.
Publisher’s description: In 1997, a tragedy struck the family of Israeli-American Miko Peled: His beloved niece Smadar was killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem. That tragedy propelled Peled onto a journey of discovery. It pushed him to re-examine many of the beliefs he had grown up with, as the son and grandson of leading figures in Israel’s political-military elite, and transformed him into a courageous and visionary activist in the struggle for human rights and a hopeful, lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Publisher’s description: The Unlikely Settler is none other than a young Bengali journalist who moves to Jerusalem with her English-Jewish husband and two children. He speaks Arabic and is an arch believer in the peace process; she leaves her career behind to follow his dream. Jerusalem propels Pelham into a world where freedom from tribal allegiance is a challenging prospect. From the school you choose for your children to the wine you buy, you take sides at every turn. Pelham’s complicated relationship with her husband, Leo, is as emotive as the city she lives in, as full of energy, pain, and contradictions. As she tries to navigate the complexities and absurdities of daily life in Jerusalem, often with hilarious results, Pelham achieves deep insights into the respective woes and guilt of her Palestinian and Israeli friends. Her intelligent analysis suggests a very different approach to a potential resolution of the conflict.
Reviews: Kirkus Reviews
Publisher’s description: People’s Museum is a special museum, created by a group of Danish artists together with their Palestinian colleagues, with and for the people in one village, Birzeit, without any specific selection principles, without any other aim than listening to some individuals and their stories, and together with the people in the village remember the history for this specific place. There are three chapters: The Process, The Archive and The Stories. Each chapter contains a rich section of colour photographs, maps and illustrations. Every item in the Peoples Museum collection, given to the museum by the citizens of Birzeit, is pictured. And all the different stories are transcribed into English and Arabic. The idea and realization of People’s Museum could be situated anywhere in the world, but its location in occupied Palestine gives it a special significance. In a country where people cannot travel freely – but where their tales and objects can – the intention is to spread the idea so that knowledge and culture can be shared. Palestinian culture is usually neglected and suppressed by occupation forces with the intention of denying its very existence: since there is no Palestine, there can be no Palestinian culture. In this context, a museum exhibition showcasing historic and everyday Palestinian culture also becomes an act of resistance.
Reviews: The Jordan Times
Publisher’s description: The City of Abraham is a journey through one of the world’s most divided cities – Hebron, the only place in the West Bank where Palestinians and Israelis live side by side. It begins with a hill called Tel Rumeida, the site of ancient Hebron, where the patriarch Abraham – father of the Jews and the Arabs – was supposed to have lived when he arrived in the Promised Land. Through a mixture of travel writing, reportage and interviews, Platt tells the history of the hill and the city in which it stands, and explores the mythic roots of the struggle to control the land. He meets the Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida, and the messianic settlers who have made their homes in a block of flats that stands on stilts on an excavated corner of the site. He meets the archaeologists who have attempted to reconstruct the history of the hill. He meets the soldiers who serve in Hebron, and the intermediaries who try to keep the peace in the divided city. The City of Abraham explores the ways in which Hebron’s past continues to inform its tumultuous present, and illuminates the lives of the people at the heart of the most intractable conflict in the world.
Publisher’s description: This book traces the 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.
Reviews: none yet available
Publisher’s description: Israeli governments have for many years maintained a consensus concerning the need for the nation’s citizens to serve in the army. This consensus was based on the ethos of a Jewish state surrounded by Arabs who want to destroy it. The Iranian nuclear program is the most recent of the many threats to the Israeli state. But for some time Israel’s black and white view of itself has been eroding. Conscientious objection to conscription and ‘draft dodging’ as well as the rights and wrongs of occupation and settlements have become explosive issues for all shades of Israel’s political spectrum. Can we expect young Israelis, who are called to serve their country at eighteen, to have the maturity to weigh such complex issues? Does Israeli society really want them to? For this stimulating book, David Ranan held interviews with Israelis aged between eighteen and thirty. The twenty-seven monologues presented here reveal some of the difficult moral questions that concern this generation. First published in German in 2011, this English-language edition contains a comprehensive introduction to Israel’s history that has been revised and updated to maintain its relevance.
Jo Roberts: Contested land, contested memory: Israel’s Jews and Arabs and the ghosts of catastrophe (Dundurn, 2013, paperback, £16.99)
Publisher’s description: 1948: As Jewish refugees, survivors of the Holocaust, struggle toward the new State of Israel, Arab refugees are fleeing, many under duress. Sixty years later, the memory of trauma has shaped both peoples’ collective understanding of who they are. After a war, the victors write history. How was the story of the exiled Palestinians erased – from textbooks, maps, even the land? How do Jewish and Palestinian Israelis now engage with the histories of the Palestinian Nakba (“Catastrophe”) and the Holocaust, and how do these echo through the political and physical landscapes of their country? Vividly narrated, with extensive original interview material, Contested Land, Contested Memory examines how these tangled histories of suffering inform Jewish- and Palestinian-Israeli lives today, and frame Israel’s possibilities for peace
Reviews: Electronic Intifada
Amazon (review by JfJfP signatory)
Publisher’s description: Rabbi Rosen who serves a Jewish Reconstructionist congregation in Evanston, Illinois, launched a blog called Shalom Rav, in which he explored a broad range of social-justice issues. The focus of his writing—and his activism—changed dramatically in December 2008, when Israel launched a wide, 23-day military attack against Gaza, causing him to deeply question his lifelong liberal Zionism. Unlike the biblical Jacob, who wrestled in the dark of night at a crucial turning point in his life, Rabbi Rosen chose to make his struggle public: to wrestle in the daylight. Over the two years that followed, Shalom Rav became a public and always highly readable record of his journey from liberal Zionist to active and visionary Palestinian solidarity activist. Wrestling in the Daylight: A Rabbi’s Path to Palestinian Solidarity is Rosen’s self-curated compilation of these blog posts.
Publisher’s description: The daughter of a prominent Palestinian father and a sophisticated Lebanese mother, Najla Said grew up in New York City, confused and conflicted about her cultural background and identity. Said knew that her parents identified deeply with their homelands, but growing up in a Manhattan world that was defined largely by class and conformity, she felt unsure about who she was supposed to be, and was often in denial of the differences she sensed between her family and those around her. The fact that her father was the famous intellectual and outspoken Palestinian advocate Edward Said only made things more complicated. She may have been born a Palestinian Lebanese American, but in Said’s mind she grew up first as a WASP, having been baptized Episcopalian in Boston and attending the wealthy Upper East Side girls’ school Chapin, then as a teenage Jew, essentially denying her true roots, even to herself—until, ultimately, the psychological toll of all this self-hatred began to threaten her health. As she grew older, making increased visits to Palestine and Beirut, Said’s worldview shifted. The attacks on the World Trade Center, and some of the ways in which Americans responded, finally made it impossible for Said to continue to pick and choose her identity, forcing her to see herself and her passions more clearly. Today, she has become an important voice for second-generation Arab Americans nationwide.
Publisher’s description: On 7 July 2014, in an apparent response to the murder of three teenagers, Israel launched a major offensive against the Gaza Strip, lasting 51 days, killing 2145 Palestinians (578 of them children), injuring over 11,000, and demolishing 17,200 homes. The global outcry at this collective punishment of an already persecuted people was followed by widespread astonishment at the pro-Israeli bias of Western media coverage. The usual news machine rolled up, and the same distressing images and entrenched political rhetoric were broadcast, yet almost nothing was reported of the on-going lives of ordinary Gazans – the real victims of the war.One of the few voices to make it out was that of Atef Abu Saif, a writer and teacher from Jabalia Refugee Camp, whose eye-witness accounts (…) offered a rare window into the conflict for Western readers. Here, Atef’s complete diaries of the war allow us to witness the full extent of last summer’s atrocities from the most humble of perspectives: that of a young father, fearing for his family’s safety, trying to stay sane in an insanely one-sided war.
Publisher’s description: Shlomo Sand was born in 1946, in a displaced person’s camp in Austria, to Jewish parents; the family later migrated to Palestine. As a young man, Sand came to question his Jewish identity, even that of a “secular Jew.” 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.
Publisher’s description: Not since Thomas L. Friedman’s groundbreaking From Beirut to Jerusalem has a book captured the essence and the beating heart of the Middle East as keenly and dynamically as My Promised Land. Facing unprecedented internal and external pressures, Israel today is at a moment of existential crisis. Ari Shavit draws on interviews, historical documents, private diaries, and letters, as well as his own family’s story, illuminating the pivotal moments of the Zionist century to tell a riveting narrative that is larger than the sum of its parts: both personal and national, both deeply human and of profound historical dimension. We meet Shavit’s great-grandfather, a British Zionist who in 1897 visited the Holy Land on a Thomas Cook tour and understood that it was the way of the future for his people; the idealist young farmer who bought land from his Arab neighbor in the 1920s to grow the Jaffa oranges that would create Palestine’s booming economy; the visionary youth group leader who, in the 1940s, transformed Masada from the neglected ruins of an extremist sect into a powerful symbol for Zionism; the Palestinian who as a young man in 1948 was driven with his family from his home during the expulsion from Lydda; the immigrant orphans of Europe’s Holocaust, who took on menial work and focused on raising their children to become the leaders of the new state; the pragmatic engineer who was instrumental in developing Israel’s nuclear program in the 1960s, in the only interview he ever gave; the zealous religious Zionists who started the settler movement in the 1970s; the dot-com entrepreneurs and young men and women behind Tel-Aviv’s booming club scene; and today’s architects of Israel’s foreign policy with Iran, whose nuclear threat looms ominously over the tiny country.
Publisher’s description: It is often the smallest details of daily life that tell us the most. And so it is under occupation in Palestine. What most of us take for granted has to be carefully thought about and planned for: When will the post be allowed to get through? Will there be enough water for the bath tonight? How shall I get rid of the rubbish collecting outside? How much time should I allow for the journey to visit my cousin, going through checkpoints? And big questions too: Is working with left-wing Israelis collaborating or not? What affect will the Arab Spring have on the future of Palestine? What can anyone do to bring about change? Are any of life’s pleasures untouched by politics?
Publisher’s description: Is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ really a love story, or is it a play about young people living in dangerous circumstances? How might life under occupation produce a new reading of ‘Julius Caesar’? What choices must a group of Palestinian students make, when putting on a play which has Jewish protagonists? And why might a young Palestinian student refuse to read? For five months at the start of 2013, Tom Sperlinger taught English literature at the Abu Dis campus of Al-Quds University in the Occupied West Bank. In this account of the semester, Sperlinger explores his students’ encounters with works from ‘Hamlet’ and ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ to Kafka and Malcolm X. By placing stories from the classroom alongside anecdotes about life in the West Bank, Sperlinger shows how his own ideas about literature and teaching changed during his time in Palestine, and asks what such encounters might reveal about the nature of pedagogy and the role of a university under occupation.
Publisher’s description: The memoirs of Wasif Jawhariyyeh are a remarkable treasure trove of writings on the life, culture, music, and history of Jerusalem. Spanning over four decades, from 1904 to 1948, they cover a period of enormous and turbulent change in Jerusalem’s history, but change lived and recalled from the daily vantage point of the street storyteller. Oud player, music lover and ethnographer, poet, collector, partygoer, satirist, civil servant, local historian, devoted son, husband, father, and person of faith, Wasif viewed the life of his city through multiple roles and lenses. The result is a vibrant, unpredictable, sprawling collection of anecdotes, observations, and yearnings as varied as the city itself. Reflecting the times of Ottoman rule, the British mandate, and the run-up to the founding of the state of Israel, The Storyteller of Jerusalem offers intimate glimpses of people and events, and of forces promoting confined, divisive ethnic and sectarian identities. Yet, through his passionate immersion in the life of the city, Wasif reveals the communitarian ethos that runs so powerfully through Jerusalem’s past. And that offers perhaps the best hope for its future.
Louisa Waugh: Meet me in Gaza: Uncommon stories of life inside the Strip (Westbourne Press, 2013, £16.99)
Publisher’s description: Do Gazans ever have fun? Is the Strip beautiful? And do TV reports actually reflect ordinary life inside the world’s largest ‘open-air prison’? From beautiful beaches to sealed borders, from a secret New Year’s Eve party to a lingerie market staffed entirely by men, award-winning writer Louisa Waugh paints an intimate picture of Gaza, revealing the pleasures and pains, hopes
and frustrations of Gazans going about their daily lives. Meet Me in Gaza is an evocative portrait of a Mediterranean land and its people, and a touching account of what it means to be Gazan.
Publisher’s description: In Conscientious Objectors in Israel, Erica Weiss examines the lives of Israelis who have refused to perform military service for reasons of conscience. Based on long-term fieldwork, this ethnography chronicles the personal experiences of two generations of Jewish conscientious objectors as they grapple with the pressure of justifying their actions to the Israeli state and society—often suffering severe social and legal consequences, including imprisonment. While most scholarly work has considered the causes of animosity and violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Conscientious Objectors in Israel examines how and under what circumstances one is able to refuse to commit acts of violence in the midst of that conflict. By exploring the social life of conscientious dissent, Weiss exposes the tension within liberal citizenship between the protection of individual rights and obligations of self-sacrifice. While conscience is a strong cultural claim, military refusal directly challenges Israeli state sovereignty. Weiss explores conscience as a political entity that sits precariously outside the jurisdictional bounds of state power.