On October 7th, 2023, the terrorist group Hamas launched a surprise attack on southern and central Israel, killing 1,400 people and injuring 3,400 others.
Two days later, on October 9th, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant called for a “complete siege” of the Gaza Strip, also known as Gaza. October 9th marked the beginning of the Israeli government’s retaliation against Hamas, which at the time of this writing has gone on for 20 days and has a death toll of at least 5,000 Gazan citizens.
The current conflict is quickly becoming one of the bloodiest in Israel and Palestine’s combined history. The number of casualties grows each day, with several buildings, including hospitals and churches, destroyed, leaving many civilians without shelter as attacks increase. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the casualties and injuries sustained by Palestinians and Israelis since the attack on October 7th are more than the casualties and injuries sustained by the two peoples from 2008 to September 2023.
In times of war, it’s important to stay educated and spread awareness to fight misinformation. Here is a list of resources to help provide historical context to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, as well as border policy and international law as it relates to the conflict. These books are written by professors, journalists, and reporters who have dedicated their careers to Middle Eastern studies and educating others on Palestine and Israel and how the two are so closely connected.
Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Y. Davis
In this collection of essays and interviews, political activist Angela Davis places Palestine’s current issues within the global context of past and present liberation struggles. She also reflects on several ideological theories that are at the root of many present-day crises, like feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism. Although this collection does not center around Palestine or Israel, it uses recognizable examples from America’s own issues with state terror to humanize the struggles Palestinians are currently facing in their conflict with Israel.
Canadian activist Harsha Walia examines the current state of the world, zooming in on specific countries to relate their issues to the wider global context and showing how the impact is the same regardless of the country or culture. In her analysis, Walia focuses on international migration patterns and the immigration policies of several countries, including the United States, Canada, and the Arab Gulf States. Walia’s research provides insight into the border policy of Western countries that their non-western allies also implement, showing how Israel’s border enforcement directly affects Palestine for readers who may not be aware of the connection. Like in Davis’s collection, Walia does not center on Palestine and Israel but situates them through their international connections so Western readers can relate the countries to their own current events.
This book is from Middle East correspondent David Hirst, who first wrote it in 1977 to serve as a general history of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. He does not pose a solution but rather gives an evenly balanced account that includes Israel, Palestine, and the relationship each country has had over the years. He combines reaches and his first-hand experience as a reporter in the Middle East to create a narrative that, at the time of its release, was his response to America’s coverage of the conflict. Hirst’s writing is not only a valuable overview and timelines of events but also a chance to see how the United States framed issues in other countries and how the American government can and does impact international affairs.
Until his death in January 2023, British journalist Ian Black spent four decades studying, writing, and reporting on the Middle East, concentrating especially on Israel and the Arab-Zionist conflict. Black’s last book, Enemies and Neighbors, focuses on Palestine and Israel’s political relationship, analyzing documents, testimonies, and reports from the past one hundred years. Black starts with the arrival of the first Zionist settlers in the Holy Land and covers events that are significant for both countries, from the Arab Rebellion in the 1930s to Israel’s settlement project. Black’s writing incorporates both Palestinian and Israeli narratives to provide a comprehensive overview for people new to learning about their shared history who may be intimidated by the fierce contestations from both countries on each other’s narratives.
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine: A History of Settler Colonialism and Resistance by Rashid Khalidi
The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine is Dr. Rashid Khalidi’s latest in a line of books that take a deep dive into the history of Palestine. The book begins in 1899 when Jerusalem’s mayor responded to the first reports of a Zionist settlement in Palestine and charts major moments in Israel’s colonial campaign, ending at the attempts for peace in the present day. Dr. Khalidi’s account is regarded as the first general account that solely focuses on the Palestinian perspective, possibly due to his ancestors’ roles in Palestine’s history. He paints a picture of Palestine as it engages in the colonial war started by Israel and its Western allies, chronicling the actions of Palestinian leaders and the emergence of nationalist movements on both sides of the war. In a combination of historical fact and family history, Dr. Khalidi presents a thorough narrative of the history that resulted in Palestine’s place in the world today.
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé
Israeli historian Ilan Pappé has earned himself the status of a controversial figure in what scholars refer to as Israeli’s “New Historians.” Since the release of British and Israeli documents in the 1980s, New Historians have begun rewriting the history of Israel’s formation to accommodate the previously confidential information. Formatted as an investigator clamoring to solve a historical mystery, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine specifically argues that Palestinians did not leave their homeland willingly, a fact Pappé states was denied for decades. The violence and displacement he covers show there is a precedent for the hostility and brutality that plague the conflict in the present.
Justice for Some: Law and The Question of Palestine by Noura Erakal
Legal scholar and human rights attorney Noura Erakat dives into the legal perspective of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Although Israel and Palestine are at the forefront of this text, Erakat zooms out to explain international law and how the deployment of international and border law has shaped the current conditions of the two countries. Erakat stresses the power and control international law holds, relating law to the politics it serves. She finds change possible through political intervention and asserts that the present shape of Palestine and Israel was not an inevitable consequence of history but the result of conflict that has been left unresolved by judicial intervention.
Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine by Jeff Halper
Anthropologist Jeff Halper uses his perspective as an Israeli-American living in Israel to advocate for a single democratic state made of Palestinians and Israeli Jews that replaces the current two-state model. He uses the 10-point program provided by the One Democratic State Campaign to facilitate the thinking of decolonization to a post-colonial conclusion. Halper offers a hopeful solution for the future based on events of history and the present inequitable existence Palestinians experience under Israeli occupation. Halper has written several other books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is a vocal member of Israeli politics, using his platform to encourage nonviolent methods to solve the conflict.
The Question of Palestine by Edward W. Said
Edward Said was a Palestinian American who, as a professor of literature at Columbia University, was a founding member of postcolonial studies. Said wrote what many scholars consider to be the founding piece of literature on Palestinian history and the Israel-Palestinian conflict. When it came out in 1979, Said began the serious debate about the relationship between Palestine and Israel, setting the foundation on which all the works on this list would be built. He charts the collision of the countries and how the conflict sits in the conscience of the Western world. The book received one update in 1992 to reflect the changed status of Palestine, as well as other significant events, like Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, the Gulf War, and peace initiatives in the Middle East. More than a look at how the international topic came to be, Said’s work also shows how the issues and concerns plaguing Israel and Palestine are still relevant in the present day, possibly more than ever before.
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco popularized a new form of literature that exists in the intersection between journalism in comics in his graphic novel Palestine. Compared to Maus by Art Spiegelman, Sacco uses the comic book medium to bring interviews to life. The interviews provide a personal perspective on a topic that is largely discussed in political terms. Disguised as a travel documentary, Sacco provides a look at life in 90s Palestine to provide a crucial portrait of humanity that is often lost when people discuss countries at war.
These titles are only a few of the dozens that exist to document, explain, and contextualize the Israel-Palestine conflict, with the most recent title being released in 2021. For pieces that have been written about or responding to the 2023 Hamas-Israel war, click here.
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