RECENT BOOKS RELATING TO ISRAEL/PALESTINE
It is planned to try to update this section every 3 to 4 months. Please contact us if you have any comments or ideas for new books to be included in a future posting. When the page is updated, all books previously posted on this page are transferred to a set of pages organised under the following headings:
Posted: 1st January 2018
THE ARTS – FICTION/POETRY/PHOTOGRAPHY
Publisher’s description: Stretching over decades, encompassing bombing campaigns, ceasefires and mass exoduses, The Last Earth tells the story of modern Palestine through the memories of those who have survived it.
Palestinian history has long faced obstacles, first from Orientalist readings of the Middle East, and then by attempts from Zionists to replace Palestinian historical narratives. The Last Earth challenges previous takes on Palestinian history, unearthing the commonalities within the Palestinian narrative, separated through political divisions, geographical barriers and walls, factionalism, military occupation, and exile. Through testimonies and accounts, we come to understand the complexities and contradictions of memory and the telling of history in the midst of conflict. As well as offering a history of the conflict and the region, The Last Earth also acts as a reclamation of history for the Palestinian people, allowing them to be active participants in shaping the present and the future.
Reviews: Palestine Chronicle
Publisher’s description: Baskin’s memoir of 38 years of intensive pursuit of peace begins with a childhood on Long Island and a bar mitzvah trip to Israel with his family. Baskin joined Young Judaea back in the States, then later lived on a kibbutz in Israel, where he announced to his parents that he had decided to make aliya, emigrate to Israel. They persuaded him to return to study at NYU, after which he finally emigrated under the auspices of Interns for Peace. In Israel he spent a pivotal two years living with Arabs in the village of Kufr Qara. Despite the atmosphere of fear, Baskin found he could talk with both Jews and Palestinians, and that very few others were engaged in efforts at mutual understanding. At his initiative, the Ministry of Education (…) created the Institute for Education for Jewish-Arab Coexistence with Baskin himself as director. Eight years later he founded and co-directed the only joint Israeli-Palestinian public policy think-and-do tank in the world, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information. For decades he continued to cross borders, often with a kaffiyeh (Arab headdress) on his dashboard to protect his car in Palestinian neighborhoods. Airport passport control became Kafkaesque as Israeli agents routinely identified him as a security threat. During the many cycles of peace negotiations, Baskin has served both as an outside agitator for peace and as an advisor on the inside of secret talks (…). Baskin ends the book with his own proposal, which includes establishing a peace education program and cabinet-level Ministries of Peace in both countries, in order to foster a culture of peace.
Reviews: NY Journal of Books
Publisher’s description: Bethlehem is so suffused with history and myth that it feels like an unreal city even to those who call it home. For many, Bethlehem remains the little town at the edge of the desert described in Biblical accounts. Today, the city is hemmed in by a wall and surrounded by forty-one Israeli settlements and hostile settlers and soldiers. Blincoe tells the town’s history through the visceral experience of living there, taking readers through its stone streets and desert wadis, its monasteries, aqueducts, and orchards to show the city from every angle and era. His portrait of Bethlehem sheds light on one of the world’s most intractable political problems, and he maintains that if the long thread winding back to the city’s ancient past is severed, the chances of an end to the Palestine-Israel conflict will be lost with it.
Publisher’s description: “The first childhood memory I have of my father is linked to the destruction of empires – the collapse of a world order that had once seemed eternal.” So begins Burg’s authoritative and deeply personal inquiry into the ambitions and failures of Israel and Judaism worldwide. Born in 1955, Burg witnessed firsthand many of the most dramatic and critical moments in Israeli history. Here, he chronicles the highs and lows of his country over the last five decades, threading his own journey into the story of his people. He explores the misplaced hopes of religious Zionism through the lens of his conservative upbringing, explains Israel’s obsession with military might while relating his own experiences as a paratrooper officer, and probes the country’s democratic aspirations, informed by his tenure in the Knesset. With bravery and candor, Burg lays bare the seismic intellectual shifts that drove the country’s political and religious journeys, offering a prophecy of fury and consolation and a vision for a new comprehensive paradigm for Judaism, Israel, and the Middle East.
Reviews: none yet available
Publisher’s description: Leading Australian journalist John Lyons will take readers on a fascinating personal journey through the wonders and dangers of the Middle East. From the sheer excitement of arriving in Jerusalem with his wife and eight-year-old son, to the fall of dictators and his gripping account of what it feels like to be taken by Egyptian soldiers, blindfolded and interrogated, this is a memoir of the Middle East like no other. Drawing on a 20-year interest in the Middle East, Lyons has had extraordinary access – he’s interviewed everyone from Israel’s former Prime Ministers Shimon Peres and Ehud Olmert to key figures from Hezbollah and Hamas. He’s witnessed the brutal Iranian Revolutionary Guard up close and was one of the last foreign journalists in Iran during the violent crackdown against the ‘Green Revolution’. He’s confronted Hamas officials about why they fire rockets into Israel and Israeli soldiers about why they fire tear gas at Palestinian school children. By telling the story of his family travelling through the region, this book is extremely readable and entertaining, full of humour, colour. It is sometimes dazzling in its detail, sometimes tragic. (…) Lyons also looks at 50 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank – the mechanics of how this works and the effect it now has on both Israelis and Palestinians.
Reviews: Electronic Intifada
Publisher’s description: A coastal civilisation open to the world. A flourishing port on a major international trading route. This was Gaza’s past. Can it be its future?
Today, Gaza is home to a uniquely imprisoned people, most unable to travel to the West Bank, let alone Israel, where tens of thousands once worked, and unable to flee in wartime. Trapped inside a crucible of conflict, the surprise is that so many of them remain courageous, outspoken and steadfast. From refugee camps to factories struggling under economic stranglehold and bombardment, Macintyre reveals Gaza’s human tragedy through the stories of the ordinary people who live and work there. He portrays the suffering through siege and war, the failings – including those of the international community – that have seen opportunities for peace pass by and the fragile, lingering hope that Gaza, with its creativity and resilience, can be part of a better future for the Middle East.
THE ARTS – FICTION/POETRY/PHOTOGRAPHY
Publisher’s description: Al-Barghouti is probably one of the most widely read Palestinian poets of his generation. His poetry readings are attended by thousands, sometimes packing stadiums and amphitheaters. The reception of his poetry among a diverse audience from various backgrounds and age groups is a testimony to the vitality of the centuries-old tradition of classical Arabic poetry. (…) In 2007, Al-Barghouti’s long poem “In Jerusalem,” which describes an aborted journey to the city, became something of a street poem. (…) On the January 26, 2011, one day after the Egyptian Revolution that toppled President Hosni Mubarak, Al-Barghouti wrote the lyrical poem “Hanet”; its Arabic title roughly translates as “It’s Close.” With the internet down, he faxed the poem to a Cairo newspaper, copies of which were distributed in Tahrir Square. Soon after, Al-Jazeera TV Channel broadcast a recording of it and a video of his reading was projected in the Square every couple of hours on makeshift screens.
Publisher’s description: Maps are widely believed to be objective, and data-rich computer-made maps are iconic examples of digital knowledge. It is often claimed that digital maps, and rational boundaries, can solve political conflict. But in Mapping Israel, Mapping Palestine, Jess Bier challenges the view that digital maps are universal and value-free. She examines the ways that maps are made in Palestine and Israel to show how social and political landscapes shape the practice of science and technology. How can two scientific cartographers look at the same geographic feature and see fundamentally different things? In part, Bier argues, because knowledge about the Israeli military occupation is shaped by the occupation itself. Ongoing injustices—including checkpoints, roadblocks, and summary arrests—mean that Palestinian and Israeli cartographers have different experiences of the landscape. Palestinian forms of empirical knowledge, including maps, continue to be discounted. Bier examines three representative cases of population, governance, and urban maps. She analyzes Israeli population maps from 1967 to 1995, when Palestinian areas were left blank; Palestinian state maps of the late 1990s and early 2000s, which were influenced by Israeli raids on Palestinian offices and the legacy of British colonial maps; and urban maps after the Second Intifada, which show how segregated observers produce dramatically different maps of the same area.
Reviews: none yet available
Publisher’s description: A century after Britain’s Balfour Declaration promised a Jewish ‘national home’ in Palestine, veteran Guardian journalist Black has produced a major new history of one of the most polarising conflicts of the modern age. Drawing on a wide range of sources – from declassified documents to oral testimonies and his own decades of reporting – Enemies and Neighbours brings much-needed perspective and balance to the long and unresolved struggle between Arabs and Jews in the Holy Land. Beginning in the final years of Ottoman rule and the British Mandate period, when Zionist immigration transformed Palestine in the face of mounting Arab opposition, the book re-examines the origins of what was a doomed relationship from the start. It sheds fresh light on critical events such as the Arab rebellion of the 1930s; Israel’s independence and the Palestinian catastrophe (Nakba in Arabic) of 1948; the watershed of the 1967 war; two Intifadas; the Oslo Accords and Israel’s shift to the right. It traces how – after five decades of occupation, ever-expanding Jewish settlements and the construction of the West Bank ‘separation wall’ – hopes for a two-state solution have all but disappeared, and explores what the future might hold.
Publisher’s description: Enclosure marshals bold new arguments about the nature of the conflict in Israel/Palestine. Fields examines the dispossession of Palestinians from their land—and Israel’s rationale for seizing control of Palestinian land—in the contexts of a broad historical analysis of power and space and of an enduring discourse about land improvement. Focusing on the English enclosures (…), Amerindian dispossession in colonial America, and Palestinian land loss, Fields shows how exclusionary landscapes have emerged across time and geography. Evidence that the same moral, legal, and cartographic arguments were used by enclosers of land in very different historical environments challenges Israel’s current claim that it is uniquely beleaguered. This comparative framework also helps readers in the US and the UK understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in the context of their own histories.
Reviews: NY Review of Books
Publisher’s description: The Gaza Strip is among the most densely populated places in the world. More than two-thirds of its inhabitants are refugees, and more than half are under eighteen years of age. Since 2004, Israel has launched eight devastating “operations” against Gaza’s largely defenseless population. Thousands have perished, and tens of thousands have been left homeless. In the meantime, Israel has subjected Gaza to a merciless illegal blockade. What has befallen Gaza is a man-made humanitarian disaster. Based on scores of human rights reports, Finkelstein’s new book presents a meticulously researched inquest into Gaza’s martyrdom. He shows that although Israel has justified its assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions constituted flagrant violations of international law. But Finkelstein also documents that the guardians of international law (…) ultimately failed Gaza. One of his most disturbing conclusions is that, after Judge Richard Goldstone’s humiliating retraction of his UN report, human rights organizations succumbed to the Israeli juggernaut. Finkelstein’s magnum opus is both a monument to Gaza’s martyrs and an act of resistance against the forgetfulness of history.
Reviews: none yet available
Publisher’s description: Pappe offers a comprehensive exploration of one of the world’s most prolonged and tragic conflicts. Using recently declassified archival material, Pappe analyses the motivations and strategies of the generals and politicians – and the decision-making process itself – that laid the foundation of the occupation. From a survey of the legal and bureaucratic infrastructures that were put in place to control the population of over one million Palestinians, to the security mechanisms that vigorously enforced that control, Pappe paints a picture of what is to all intents and purposes the world’s largest “open prison”.
Reviews: Electronic Intifada
Publisher’s description: After seizing Jerusalem’s eastern precincts from Jordan at the conclusion of the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel unilaterally unified the city and plunged into an ambitious building program, eager to transform the very meaning of one of the world’s most emotionally charged urban spaces. The goal was as simple as it was controversial: to both Judaize and modernize Jerusalem. Seizing Jerusalem chronicles how numerous disciplines, including architecture, landscape design, and urban planning, as well as everyone from municipal politicians to state bureaucrats, from Israeli-born architects to international luminaries such as Louis Kahn, Buckminster Fuller, and Bruno Zevi, competed to create Jerusalem’s new image. This decade-long competition happened with the Palestinian residents still living in the city, even as the new image was inspired by the city’s Arab legacy. (…) Drawing on previously unexamined archival documents and in-depth interviews with architects, planners, and politicians, Nitzan-Shiftan analyzes the cultural politics of the Israeli state and, in particular, of Jerusalem’s influential mayor, Teddy Kollek, whose efforts to legitimate Israeli rule over Jerusalem provided architects a unique, real-world laboratory to explore the possibilities and limits of modernist design—as built form as well as political and social action.
Reviews: none yet available
Publisher’s description: In 1991, the Israeli government introduced emergency legislation canceling the general exit permit that allowed Palestinians to enter Israel. The directive, effective for one year, has been reissued annually ever since, turning the Occupied Territories into a closed military zone. Today, Israel’s permit regime for Palestinians is one of the world’s most extreme and complex apparatuses for population management. Yael Berda worked as a human rights lawyer in Jerusalem and represented more than two hundred Palestinian clients trying to obtain labor permits to enter Israel from the West Bank. With Living Emergency, she brings readers inside the permit regime, offering a first-hand account of how the Israeli secret service, government, and military civil administration control the Palestinian population. Through interviews with Palestinian laborers and their families, conversations with Israeli clerks and officials, and research into the archives and correspondence of governmental organizations, Berda reconstructs the institutional framework of the labyrinthine permit regime, illuminating both its overarching principles and its administrative practices. In an age where terrorism, crime, and immigration are perceived as intertwined security threats, she reveals how the Israeli example informs global homeland security and border control practices, creating a living emergency for targeted populations worldwide.
Reviews: Electronic Intifada
Publisher’s description: Israel is surrounded by an array of ever-changing threats. But what if its most serious challenge comes from within? There was once a national consensus in Israeli society: despite a left-right political split, its people were broadly secular and liberal. Over the past decade, the country has fractured into tribes with little shared understanding of what it means to be a Zionist—let alone an Israeli—and contesting the very notion of a ‘Jewish and democratic’ state. While this shift has profound implications for Israel’s relationship with the broadly liberal Jewish diaspora, the greatest consequences will be felt at home. Israel’s tribes increasingly lead separate lives; even the army, once a great melting-pot, is now a political and cultural battleground. Tamir Pardo, former head of Mossad, has warned of the risk of civil war. Carlstrom maps this conflict, from cosmopolitan Tel Aviv to the hilltops of the West Bank, and asks a pressing question: will the Middle East’s strongest power survive its own internal contradictions?
Publisher’s description: Boycott and divestment are essential tools for activists around the globe. Today’s organizers target museums, universities, corporations, and governments to curtail unethical sources of profit, discriminatory practices, or human rights violations. They leverage cultural production – and challenge its institutional supports – helping transform situations in the name of social justice. The refusal to participate in an oppressive system has long been one of the most powerful weapons in the organizer’s arsenal. (…) Assuming Boycott is the essential reader for today’s creative leaders and cultural practitioners, including original contributions by artists, scholars, activists, critics, curators and writers who examine the historical precedent of South Africa; the current cultural boycott of Israel; freedom of speech and self-censorship; and long-distance activism. Far from withdrawal or cynicism, boycott emerges as a productive tool of creative and productive engagement.
Publisher’s description: A farmer from a village in the occupied West Bank, cut off from his olive groves by the construction of Israel’s controversial separation wall, asked Israeli human rights lawyer Sfard to petition the courts to allow a gate to be built in the wall. While the gate would provide immediate relief for the farmer, would it not also confer legitimacy on the wall and on the court that deems it legal? The defense of human rights is often marked by such ethical dilemmas, which are especially acute in Israel, where lawyers have for decades sought redress for the abuse of Palestinian rights in the country’s High Court—that is, in the court of the abuser. In The Wall and the Gate, Sfard chronicles this struggle—a story that has never before been fully told— and in the process engages the core principles of human rights legal ethics. Sfard recounts the unfolding of key cases and issues, ranging from confiscation of land, deportations, the creation of settlements, punitive home demolitions, torture, and targeted killings—all actions considered violations of international law. In the process, he lays bare the reality of the occupation and the lives of the people who must contend with that reality. He also exposes the surreal legal structures that have been erected to put a stamp of lawfulness on an extensive program of dispossession. Finally, he weighs the success of the legal effort, reaching conclusions that are no less paradoxical than the fight itself.
Reviews: none yet available