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 2013 or later; earlier books previously listed on this page can be found here.
Nahla Abdo: From captive revolution to grand Gaza prison (2014)
Diana Allen: Refugees of the revolution: Experiences of Palestinian exile (2013)
Max Blumenthal: Goliath: Life and loathing in Greater Israel (2013)
Noam Chayut: The girl who stole my Holocaust: A memoir (2013)
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)
Ghada Karmi: Return: A Palestinian memoir (2015)
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)
Pamela Olson: Fast times in Palestine (2013)
Mohammed Omer: Shell-shocked: On the ground under Israel’s Gaza assault (2015)
Lipika Pelham: The unlikely settler (2014)
Vijay Prashad (ed.): Letters to Palestine: Writers respond to war and occupation (2015)
Jo Roberts: Contested land, contested memory: Israel’s Jews and Arabs and the ghosts of catastrophe (2013)
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)
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: 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: 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.
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: 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
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: 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: 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.
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: 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: 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
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: 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: 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.