TOP TEN: Books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
As the crisis in Gaza deepens, Culture Whisper lines up history, context and passionate argument on both sides of the divide
Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore
The best-selling non-fiction masterpiece from award-winning British journalist, historian and author Simon Sebag Montefiore, Jerusalem, is the definitive history of the city that for some 3,000 years has formed the battlefield of the clash of civilisations. In comprehensive but never overwhelmingly scholarly style, Montefiore manages to cover an epic subject matter without once making it feel laboured or biased, taking readers through a richly detailed but gripping and eloquent narrative.
Cursed Victory by Ahron Bregman
For something more current but equally profound, Ahron Bregman's recently published Cursed Victory manages to shed new light on an exhausted subject. Bregman's credentials to weigh in on such a sensitive issue are certainly impressive; a University of London academic, he served in the Israeli military for six years, before leaving Israel on account of their violent suppression of the first intifada.
The Cursed Victory of the title refers to Israel's triumph over the armies of Egypt, Jordan and Syria in the 1967 Six Day War, 'Cursed' because it left Israel in control of the Sinai Peninsula, the Syrian Golan heights, Gaza, the West Bank, and Arab East Jerusalem - making its extrication from certain occupied areas since nigh impossible, as over half a million of its citizens are already implanted in settlements within these territories.
The Question of Palestine by Edward Said
The influence of the late Edward Said, one of the world's foremost advocates of the Palestinian cause, still very much resonates today and alongside his most influential work, Orientalism , The Question of Palestine is a must-read. Articulate and insightful as well as understanding and open-minded, Said's writing makes clear on every page his passionate desire for peace and co-existence. However, he also states these will never prevail if Israel continues its dispossession and destruction of Palestinian lives. Even for the most staunch Israel supporters, Said's argument will, if not convince, certainly make one think twice.
Sleeping on a Wire: Conversations with Palestinians in Israel by David Grossman
Based on conversations with Palestinians in Israel, this engrossing book is entirely unique. Largely in its directness - asking seemingly harsh questions, noted Israeli writer Grossman provides readers with the unusual opportunity of hearing Palestinians criticizing the approaches of their own society. Addressing the complexity of responsibility when it comes to the Arabs and the continuation of the conflict, as well as various other thought-provoking topics, this is essential reading for anyone attempting to understand the situation in the Middle East today.
Mornings in Jenin by Susan Abulhawa
Though technically a fictional creation, Mornings in Jenin is obviously rooted in reality and offers a rare perspective of the tragedy for many Palestinian Arabs. Following a girl named Amal Abulheja and her family, this story of love, war and loss spans 54 years beginning with the family's removal from their home in Ein Hod in 1948 and is both heart-wrenching and memorable.
When I lived in Modern Times by Linda Grant
Winning the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2000, When I Lived in Modern Times is another compelling fictional story following the protaganist Evelyn, a young Jewish woman who, having survived the Blitz, is sent to Palestine by her mother's lover following her mother's death. Catapulted into a hostile and bewildering environment, this coming of age story follows her attempts to navigate a life surrounded by constant political and personal turmoil, offering a vivid glimpse into a world many of us struggle to imagine.
A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz
With a cinematic adaptation starring Natalie Portman due to grace the silver screen this year, Amos Oz's seminal autobiographical novel is just as important now as it was upon publication. It is a moving and eloquently written exploration of why Oz's mother killed herself and the effect it had on him, as a young boy growing up in Jerusalem during the last years of the British mandate and the War of Independence. A sensitive self-portrait set within the context of war-torn Jerusalem, this is the story of the boy who, having left his family aged 15 to join a kibbutz, went on to become one of the most revered voices on the political life of his nation.
Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid by Jimmy Carter
Former U.S. President and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize Jimmy Carter has, over the years, established a reputation for himself as one of the West's most vocal anti-Israel activists. The controversial title of this book led to criticism and accusations of anti-Semitism upon its publication in 2006 but Carter has always insisted that he would never allege 'that the framework of apartheid existed within Israel at all'. His main argument that Israel's continued control and colonization of Palestinian territories have prevented a comprehensive peace agreement is a powerful one, and has merited Carter considerable praise for his attempts to speak honestly on the subject in a media environment generally seen as hostile to critics of Israeli policy.
Gaza In Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians by Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappé
American linguist, philosopher, political commentator and activist Noam Chomsky, aka the 'father of modern linguistics', teamed up with Israeli historian and socialist activist Ilan Pappé for this enlightening collaborative work consisting of relatively short but informative essays. Documenting the repercussions of Israel's conduct in Gaza with the equally principled and perceptive voice of Pappé, Chomsky maintains his stance that while Israel have the right to defend themselves, this should not entail force.
From Beirut to Jerusalem and Back by Thomas Friedman
Yet another insightful tome, examining the two warring cultures and the conflict not only between them, but within. A juxtaposition of Beirut and Jerusalem (Friedman lived in both places as a reporter for about a decade from 1979-1988), the book focuses on each society's search for identity, as the author makes observations based on his own experiences to paint an impression of the region. An informative and interesting study invaluable to anyone interested in Israeli politics or history.
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