Since the 1940s, Palestine has been subjected to occupation, apartheid, and settler-colonialism by Israel. This has led to various forms of resistance, especially from writers and scholars of Palestinian and Middle Eastern origin. In this curated recommendation, we have compiled a list of books to read in order to gain an understanding of Palestine’s struggle for freedom. Our book recommendations include novels, non-fiction reads, and poetry. All of these examine and highlight the history of tensions between Israel and Palestine, Israel’s blockade of Gaza, the Nakba of 1948, Israeli settler-colonialism, Palestinian resistance, and more. Some of these books also offer a comparative study between apartheid in Africa (especially South Africa) and the experiences of Palestinians.
For our recommendations, read on.
GAZA IN CRISIS
Author: NOAM CHOMSKY AND ILAN PAPPÉ
From the targeting of schools and hospitals, to the indiscriminate use of white phosphorus, Israel’s conduct in ‘Operation Cast Lead’ has rattled even some of its most strident supporters. In Gaza in Crisis, Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé survey the fallout from that devastation, and place the massacre in Gaza in the context of Israel’s long-standing war against the Palestinians. It is a rigorous, historically informed and much-needed analysis of the situation and will be welcomed by all those eager for Chomsky’s and Pappé’s insights into yet another political catastrophe. Co-authored by two leading voices in the struggle to liberate Palestine, this book provides a clear-sighted and essential analysis of the political context around this region at a desperate impasse.
NEOLIBERAL APARTHEID: PALESTINE/ISRAEL AND SOUTH AFRICA AFTER 1994
AUTHOR: ANDY CLARNO
In recent years, as peace between Israel and Palestine has remained elusive, scholars and activists have increasingly turned to South African history and politics to make sense of the situation. In the early 1990s, both South Africa and Israel began negotiating with their colonized populations. South Africans saw the state democratized and Black South Africans gained formal legal equality. Palestinians, on the other hand, won neither freedom nor equality, and today Israel remains a settler-colonial state.
After a decade of research in the Johannesburg and Jerusalem regions, Andy Clarno presents an ethnographic study of the precariousness of the poor in Alexandra township, the dynamics of colonization and enclosure in Bethlehem, the growth of fortress suburbs and private security in Johannesburg, and the regime of security coordination between the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The first comparative study of the changes in these two areas since the early 1990s, the book addresses the limitations of liberation in South Africa, highlights the impact of neoliberal restructuring in Palestine, and argues that a new form of neoliberal apartheid has emerged in both contexts.
FREEDOM IS A CONSTANT STRUGGLE
AUTHOR: ANGELA DAVIS
In these newly collected essays, interviews, and speeches, activist and scholar, Angela Y. Davis, illuminates the connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. Reflecting on the importance of Black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine. Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build the movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that ‘Freedom is a constant struggle’.
AUTHOR: MOHAMMED EL-KURD
Rifqa is Mohammed El-Kurd’s debut collection of poetry, written in the tradition of Ghassan Kanfani’s Palestinian Resistance Literature. The book narrates the author’s own experience of dispossession in Sheikh Jarrah—an infamous neighborhood in Jerusalem, Palestine, whose population of refugees continues to live on the brink of homelessness at the hands of the Israeli government and US-based settler organizations. The book, named after the author’s late grandmother who was forced to flee from Haifa upon the genocidal establishment of Israel, makes the observation that home takeovers and demolitions across historical Palestine are not reminiscent of 1948 Nakba, but are in fact a continuation of it: a legalized, ideologically-driven practice of ethnic cleansing.
First published in Arabic in 1976, this novel chronicles life in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. As the novel opens, Usama, a young Palestinian, is returning there from the gulf, where he has been working as a translator. A supporter of the resistance movement, he has come home on a mission: to blow up the buses that transport Palestinian workers into Israel every day. The novel portrays the lives of Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the town of Nablus in 1972 by closely following the lives of cousins who have drastically different experiences under the occupation.
THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR ON PALESTINE: A HISTORY OF SETTLER-COLONIAL CONQUEST AND RESISTANCE
AUTHOR: RASHID KHALIDI
In 1899, Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi, mayor of Jerusalem, alarmed by the Zionist call to create a Jewish national home in Palestine, wrote a letter aimed at Theodore Herzl: the country had an indigenous people who would not easily accept their own displacement. He warned of the perils ahead, ending his note, ‘in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.’ Thus Rashid Khalidi, al-Khalidi’s great-great-nephew, begins this sweeping history, the first general account of the conflict told from an explicitly Palestinian perspective.
Drawing on a wealth of untapped archival materials and the reports of generations of family members—mayors, judges, scholars, diplomats, and journalists—Khalidi traces a hundred years of colonial war on the Palestinians, waged first by the Zionist movement and then Israel, but backed by Britain and the United States. He highlights the key episodes in this colonial campaign, from the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the destruction of Palestine in 1948, from Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon to the endless and futile peace process.
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine is not a chronicle of victimization, nor does it whitewash the mistakes of Palestinian leaders or deny the emergence of national movements on both sides. In reevaluating the forces arrayed against the Palestinians, it offers an illuminating new view of a conflict that continues to this day.
AUTHOR: ADANIA SHIBLI
This book begins in 1949, one year after the war that the Palestinians mourn as the Nakba—the catastrophe that led to the displacement and expulsion of more than 700,000 people—and the Israelis celebrate as the War of Independence. Israeli soldiers capture and rape a young Palestinian woman, and kill and bury her in the sand. Many years later, a woman in Ramallah becomes fascinated to the point of obsession with this ‘minor detail’ of history. A haunting meditation on war, violence and memory, Minor Detail cuts to the heart of the Palestinian experience of dispossession, life under occupation, and the persistent difficulty of piecing together a narrative in the face of ongoing erasure and disempowerment. Shibli’s novel is inspired by real life events and translated by Elisabeth Jaquette.