Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian at Exeter University. He is described as one of Israel’s new historians who since the release of pertinent British and Israeli government documents in the early 1980s, have been rewriting the history of Israel’s creation in 1948, and the corresponding expulsion or flight of 700,000 Palestinians in the same year. He has written that the expulsions were not decided on an ad hoc basis, as other historians have argued, but constituted the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, in accordance with Plan Dalet, drawn up in 1947 by Israel’s future leaders. He blames the creation of Israel for the lack of peace in the Middle East, arguing that Zionism is more dangerous than Islamic militancy, and has called for an international boycott of Israeli academics.
Pappé supports a one-state solution, which envisages a binational state for Palestinians and Israelis. He has been both supported and criticized by other historians. Before he left Israel in 2008, he had been condemned in the Knesset and the minister of education called for him to be sacked; his photograph had appeared in a newspaper at the centre of a target; and he had received several death threats.
After years of political activism, Pappé supports economic and political boycotts of Israel, including an academic boycott. He believes boycotts are justified because “the Israeli occupation is a dynamic process and it becomes worse with each passing day. The AUT can choose to stand by and do nothing, or to be part of a historical movement similar to the anti-apartheid campaign against the white supremacist regime in South Africa. By choosing the latter, it can move us forward along the only remaining viable and non-violent road to saving both Palestinians and Israelis from an impending catastrophe.”
This is a remarkable book, quite like any other. Ari Shavit is not a historian but a leading Israeli journalist and this book is a personal odyssey. Shavit draws on his family history and on historical documents, private diaries, letters and interviews with pivotal figures in Israel’s history since 1948 and with less well known but key players during Israel’s founding years. He describes how the mainstream Zionist peace movement was only born after the 1967 and 1973 wars when left wing parties demanded a peace initiative which dealt justly with the West Bank and right wing parties came to believe that a Greater Israel was possible and a pre-dominantly secular Zionism gave way to religious Zionism.
Shavit condemns the Occupation and the settlements but he stands alongside those who he describes as having done ‘the dirty work’ to establish the state of Israel. He experiences anguish at Israel’s loss of direction and descent into a moral abyss and he sees little prospect for peace until Israel can redefine its identity, share the land and come up with a new Israel narrative.
Jeff Halper is an Israeli anthropologist and he charts his progress towards becoming the peace activist he is today. He is head of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions which demonstrates weekly against Israeli house demolitions in East Jerusalem. He also describes how the settlements in the West Bank are all part of Israel’s Matrix of Control which seeks to ensure Israeli control over the whole land of Israel.
Susan Nathan, a British born Jew, took up the Law of Return when her children were old enough to be left to get on with their own lives. Immigrating to Israel, the book charts her rapid disillusionment with the Zionist ideology she was brought up to believe implicitly and which led her to go and live amongst Palestinians in the West Bank. She records her experiences and her increasing frustration at what she sees as qualified support for Palestinians by Israeli peace activists and her growing commitment to the Palestinians as she makes friends and builds relationships.
This is a very personal book. Dervla talks to supporters of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, to ordinary people who keep their opinion to themselves and to those who lives have been turned upside down by Israeli snipers, bombings, loss of land and deprivation. She weaves her observations with history and anecdote and it is almost possible to believe that you too have visited Gaza when you have read this book.
Miko’s grandfather was a Zionist leader and a signatory of Israel’s Declaration of Independence and his father a general in the 1967 war when Israel conquered the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza and the Sinai. Once this was accomplished Miko’s father became a peace activist. Miko career path was different and he went to live and work in the California. The death of a niece in a suicide bombing began Miko’s journey from being someone on the side lines to becoming an active advocate for peace. First he had to overcome an initial fear of visiting in the West Bank believing he would immediately become a target for Palestinians. Only when he overcame his fear and began to move around the West Bank with confidence and to meet and talk with Palestinians did he become convinced that he half measures were not enough and that he must make a full time commitment to working alongside Palestinians to end the Occupation.
Sari Nusseibeh’s Muslim family hold the keys to the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem! A philosopher and President of Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Nusseibeh is soaked in the history of his own family and that of Jerusalem A firm believer in dialogue he has had held appointments as a PLO representative and he understands fully the ambiguity between his practice and their policies. This book is a mighty tomb but immensely readable and difficult to put down.
Raja Shedadeh, a Palestinian lawyer and writer who lives in Ramallah; he is a founder of Al-Haq, a pioneering nonpartisan human rights organisation and the author of several books about international law, human rights and the Middle East.
Shedadeh writes beautifully and brings fully alive what it was like for a family to be uprooted from Jaffa in 1948 and exiled to Ramallah where he has lived ever since.
Besides recording the Occupation, Shedadeh has written lyrical accounts of walking in his beloved hills around his home and the pain of losing these to the onslaught of bulldozers slicing off the top of hills to make way for a settlement.
‘Strangers in the House’ describes how he grew up in the shadow of his father who believed that after the 1967 War Palestine should accept Israel and make peace. He stood firmly on this conviction and international law and stood firmly on the side of whoever needed to be defended in a court of law. This ran counter to those who did not believe in compromise and he was murdered in 1985. This book recounts Shedadeh’s growing up and his frustrating search for justice and closure.
Recounts what it was like when the Israeli army invaded Ramallah in 2002 and subjected its people to a long, humiliating and frightening period of terror and deprivation.
The title ‘Occupation Diaries’ written in 2012 speaks for itself recounting small details of daily life which tell us most of what it is like to live ‘under occupation.’
With Forewords by Gore Vidal, Edward Said, Norton Mezvinsky and Ilan Pappe, Shakah, a Holocaust survivor, takes Jewish history apart and examines Jewish fundamentalism and its roots in the Talmud.
Shakah concludes that “there can no longer be any doubt that the most horrifying acts of oppression in the West Bank are motivated by Jewish religious fanaticism.” He quotes from an official exhortation to religious Jewish soldiers about Gentiles, published by the Israeli army’s Central Region Command in which the chief chaplain writes:
“When our forces come across civilians during a war or in hot pursuit or a raid, so long as there is no certainty that those civilians are incapable of harming our forces, then according to the Halakhah (the legal system of classical Judaism) they may and even should be killed … In no circumstances should an Arab be trusted, even if he makes an impression of being civilised … In war, when our forces storm the enemy, they are allowed and even enjoined by the Halakhah to kill even good civilians, that is, civilians who are ostensibly good.”
Shakah is accused of being a self-hating Jew and anti-Semitic.
A monumental but enormously readable book especially from 1898 onwards when Montefiore offers an intimate account of the key players, Theodor Herzl, Lord Balfour, David Ben Gurion and others, who paved the way for the partition of Palestine in 1948. Descended from a long line of wealthy Sephardi Jews who were diplomats and bankers all over Europe, Montefiore who often spent his summer holidays in Jerusalem and he is able to draw on family archives to bring alive Jerusalem between the Two World Wars and the arrival of the British. There is no hint of bias in his account of all the various protagonists who have fought over Jerusalem for the last three thousand years. He cherishes every stone of the old City which is evident in his TV series: Jerusalem: The Making of a Holy City (BBC 2013)
David Golberg is a Rabbi who was educated at Manchester Grammar School and became Rabbi Emeritus of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in London.
Richard Holloway, author of ‘Leaving Alexandria’ and Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church until he retired in 2000, comments that ‘This is Not the Way’ “spreads its light upon the deceits and hypocrisies of all religious forms today.”
A book review in the Telegraph comments: ‘Goldberg’s views on Israel tend to be described as “trenchant”, his attitude to religious teachings as “radical”. Certainly in his new book his more conservative fellow clergy, along with the Israeli government, do get a battering. But the book is much more than a demolition job, and his criticism is grounded in a cogent, positive and humane outlook.
‘In his view, the majority of Jews today merely pay lip-service to traditional, religious Judaism. Any individual who applies his or her mind seriously to that body of teaching, Goldberg suggests, will be unable to sustain an honest belief in the God of the Jewish Bible, or in the narrative that has served so long as a bulwark of such belief. But, Goldberg argues, too many fail to apply their minds and instead take the easy route of conformism and satisfy their emotional appetites with a diet of Zionism and the Holocaust.
‘All of these issues – Judaism, God, the Bible (expressly its first five books in which the religious laws are located), Zionism and the Holocaust – are important to Rabbi Goldberg. He does not reject them. He wants them to be reconsidered in line with contemporary moral sensibilities and modern understanding of science and history.
‘One of Goldberg’s prime targets is “knee-jerk” defenders of modern Israel. People who insult the intelligence of their fellow Jews and gentiles alike, thoughtlessly stigmatise opponents (not to mention Palestinians) and promote an obdurate, self-righteous and dangerous attitude to peace negotiations. Goldberg’s strongest condemnation is for those who, he says, deflect criticism of Israel by calling it anti-Semitism in anti-Zionist clothing.’
Sand claims that Jews have little in common with one another – no common ethnic lineage, no common language since Hebrew was only used for prayer and not even spoken in the time of Jesus so it is only religion that unites them but religion does not make a people. Sand argues that the words “Jewish people” is a political construct and that the “Land of Israel” was invented and that it is barely mentioned in the Old Testament. Moreover when it is mentioned it does not include Jerusalem, Hebron or Bethlehem. Biblical “Israel” is only northern Israel (Samaria) and there never was a united kingdom including both ancient Judea and Samaria. Sand argues that had such a kingdom existed and been promised by God to the Jews statehood cannot be claimed after 2000 years. The Jews led by Moses and Joshua were themselves colonisers commanded by God to exterminate, “anything that breathes,” an injunction which today would lead straight to the international criminal court. In traditional Judaism there is no injunction to “return” to the “land of Israel.” The ritual “next year in Jerusalem” is part of the Passover Seder prayer but never constituted a call to action or to reconstitute a state.
Sand debunks Israel’s nationalist mythology and challenges Jewish exceptionalism. What made the “State of Israel” possible was not God’s promise of a return to a long-lost land, but the Holocaust and the Western reluctance to provide a shelter for the survivors.
From Wikipedia: While acknowledging “the affinity between Jews and the holy land,” Sand has said that “I don’t think the religious affinity to the land gives you historical right.” Still, he supports Israel’s existence “not because of historical right, but because of the fact that it exists today and any effort to destroy it will bring new tragedies.” He explained that he doesn’t call himself a Zionist, but “a post-Zionist and non-Zionist because the justification of this land is not historical right.
Comparing the Palestinians to children of rape, Sand has said that Israel “raped a population. And not only a population, “we destroyed this society in constituting the Israeli state.” He opposes the law of return and the right of return. Still, “Israel has to be the state of Israelis. That is the only way we can continue to live in the Middle East.” He argues that before Hitler, Jews were overwhelmingly against Zionism, and the concept of “Eretz Israel” was not about an earthly homeland but about something more spiritual. He opposes the one-state solution because, while “very popular in leftist circles,” it is “not serious” because Israelis, being “one of the most racist societies in the western world,” will never accept it. Thus he supports a two state solution on the borders of ’67, taking out most of the settlers and says “I don’t think it will be a big problem.”
Contains two speeches in Germany in 2002 with a postscript written in 2003 on the publication of the ‘Geneva Accords’. Oz observes how fanatics on both sides are hard at work trying to turn a ‘real estate dispute’ into a Holy war. He is pessimistic about a two-state solution compromise but no less committed and he believes that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians are ready to accept a two-state solution as an historical compromise. Coming face to face with fanaticism he argues that we must discover the will to exist within an open-ended situation. He challenges us to think imaginatively – I could be him or her, I could be a Jewish West Bank settler, I could be an ultra-orthodox extremist, I could be an oriental Jew from a third world country, I could be one of my enemies – and live and let live.
This small book could well be read alongside What Is a Palestinian State Worth? by Sari Nusseibeh which he calls a “thought experiment.” Spurning any need for a Palestinian state, he advocates a single state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean which remains Jewish in exchange for second-class Palestinian status: civil but no political rights. Many, perhaps a majority, cannot entertain the idea but Nusseibeh suggests that this might be the shortest route to the only just solution: a single secular and democratic state in historic Palestine. His proposal carries weight because it is Nusseibeh who makes it and because the idea of leaving aside statehood and campaigning for a just and equal society is gaining traction. Thinking the unthinkable often allows a chink of light to propel protagonists in a new direction. .
Formerly a Professor of Psychiatry as well as of Social Studies, Kovel has been a peace-activist all his life. He has written widely and engaged in political action concerning Israel and Palestine, South America as well as environmental issues. He was a Green Party candidate for the US Senate in 1998 and in 2000 he sought presidential nomination.
In Overcoming Zionism Kovel argues that the inner contradictions of Zionism have led Israel to “state sponsored racism.” He argues passionately for a single secular state for Israelis and Palestinians and the book captures his personal, social and political dynamic as, like Sari Nusseibeh, he dreams of a better world where borders are of little consequence but in the meantime, it is “the journey that counts, the seeking of good conscience, good will, and good comrades. That and living out the recognition, which we have scarcely begun to appreciate, much less live, that all human beings are brothers and sisters.”
Levy, an award-winning Israeli journalist, has recorded the Israeli Palestinian conflict for over twenty years, travelling regularly to the West Bank where he is widely known and respected. In this book of 146 pages he demonstrates how the ground for Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009 that killed over a thousand Palestinians, was prepared and documents its continuing effects.
Raja Shehadeh: Language or War, Language of Peace
Palestine, Israel and the Search for Justice (Profile Books 2015)
Raja Shhadeh’s reflections on the continuing agony of Palestine are not new but perhaps what matters most about his books is not only their eloquence but also that he continues to steadfastly sustain living in Ramallah and as a founding member of the Palestinian human rights organisation Al Haq, to assert his faith in the rule of law and in international law.
This slim volume is based on Shehadeh’s Edward Said’s memorial lectures in 2013 and in London in 2014.
Said advocated a bi-national solution, a view which is gaining increasing currency. Israel has effectively accomplished its aim of creating a state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Shehadeh dwells on pivotal moments in Palestinian history since the Nakba in 1948. Towards the end he comments as follows:
‘Our hope must lie with people, not governments. Anyone with an iota of political sense would realise that governments are the last to act. It has to be people who keep up the pressure: just as happened in the struggle to end the apartheid regime in South Africa.’ How true this is; Governments follow. Governments don’t ‘make peace’ they ‘manage conflicts.’ If Shehadeh can stick it out in Ramallah with his beloved Palestinian hills being bull-dozed out of existence around him, then surely we can stay in the struggle and keep our hope alive!
Other recommended titles:
- Susan Abulhawa: Mornings in Jenin (2010)
- Sandy Tolon: The Lemon Tree (2006)
- Ghada Karmi: In Search of Fatima: A Palestinian Story (2012)
- Ghada Karmi: Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine (2007)
- Mourid Barghouti: I Saw Ramallah (2004)
- Corporate Watch: Targeting Israeli Apartheid: A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Handbook
- Generation Palestine: Voices from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign. Edited by Rich Wiles(2013)