Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, by Charles D. Smith, 7th ed.—Smith’s work has long been considered a classic, and is a commonly utilized textbook in university courses. Smith has copiously kept the book up to date through re-issuing the text, with new history and documents. This is a standard and comprehensive examination of the history of the conflict.


The Lemon Tree, by Sandy Tolan—If you have not read it already, this book tells the story of two individuals and their families, one Palestinian Muslim and one Israeli Jew, and how they managed to have important discussion over issues of the different and competing narratives. The work reads like a novel, but is full of very important history, in a highly readable form. It treats the issue of narratives and debate in a very helpful way. 


Fast Times in Palestine, by Pamela Olsen—In a very well-written account, this book is one of discovery. Olsen chronicles her time spent in Palestine, and the process of learning and discovery of the reality of occupation. Through her discovery the reader learns much that reveals a perspective and narrative not often available. Olsen humanizes the conflict through recounting her experience which makes her journey that much more compelling. [Pamela is interviewed on Rick Steves’ travel show]


Whose Land? Whose Promise? What Christians are not being told about Israel and the Palestinians, by Gary Burge (revised and updated)— A personal exploration of feelings about the crisis in the Middle East and seeks answers to questions such as: How do I embrace my commitment to Judaism, to which I am bound by the Bible, when I sense in my deepest being a profound injustice afoot in Israel? How do I celebrate the birth of Israel when I also mourn the suffering of Arab Christians who are my brothers and sisters in Christ? This book lays out the critical biblical and political issues that affect a modern Christian’s perceptions of the Holy Land and its peoples. In this revised and updated edition, Burge further explores his personal emotions and opinions; and sharpens his theological argument in the context of the new developments surrounding the crisis in the Middle East. Whose Land? Whose Promise? offers insight on an explosive topic and challenges personal truths on peace.


Jerusalem Testament: Palestinian Christians Speak 1988-2008, edited by Melanie May—A comprehensive collection of all of the statements and letters issued by the heads of churches in Jerusalem, together, over a period of 20 years, May enhances this presentation of the documents with historical context. This book is useful as a reference, as history, and as theological insight into life under occupation. Over the course of these two decades, the heads of churches have addressed their statements to a variety of audiences. Their message is consistent, though, and it is one that should be heard directly from them: Peace and Justice must prevail. This book allows that voice to come through clearly. 

 Books Written By Global Ministries Partners And Friends


The Forgotten Faithful: A Window into the Life and Witness of Christians in the Holy Land, edited by Naim Ateek, Cedar Duaybis, and Maurine Tobin—This collection of presentations from the 2005 International Sabeel Conference is a trove of valuable insight about the history, demographics, and witness of the Palestinian Christian community. With special articles on various church histories and presence, and deep foci on the current realities Palestinian Christians face as part of the Palestinian community, this book is exceedingly valuable.


Occupied with Nonviolence: A Palestinian Woman Speaks, by Jean Zaru. Mrs. Zaru is the Clerk of the Friends Meeting (Quaker), our partner in Ramallah. She has recently published a collection of speeches and papers. The book is highly readable, and is full of insightful content. It is an excellent treatment of a number of issues relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with a greater vision at stake. Mrs. Zaru treats issues of interfaith relations, women’s rights, human rights, Jerusalem, violence and nonviolence, and others in a way that some of us have come to know well. 


Justice and Only Justice, by Rev. Naim Ateek—Published first in 1989, this book is considered by many to be the foundational book of Palestinian liberation theology. It is seminal in that it addresses, from a theological and experiential point of view, the issues at stake in seeking justice and peace between Israelis and Palestinians. 


A Palestinian Christian Cry for Reconciliation, by Rev. Naim Ateek. Rev. Ateek is the founder and director for the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, a partner of Global Ministries. Ateek’s new book is remarkable, provocative and challenging, and quite poignant. It is part personal narrative and part political commentary/observation, all framed through a theological lens.


I am a Palestinian Christian, by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb—Rev. Raheb is pastor of Bethlehem’s Christmas Lutheran Church, and president of the Diyar Consortium. This book is a thorough examination of the issues faced by Palestinian Christians today, and is set in the context of history and theological reflection. Rev. Raheb’s book has become a classic on this less-known community. 


Bethlehem Besieged, by Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb—Written in the form of a journal, Rev. Raheb recounts the re-occupation of Bethlehem by Israeli forces in April 2002. 


Sailing through Troubled Waters: Christianity in the Middle East, by Mitri Raheb—In this collection of seven lectures and papers, Rev. Raheb offers historical and theological insight into the current reality of Christians in the Middle East. The chapters offer the current context of the Christian communities, including encounter with Islam and contextual scriptural readings of the Qur’an; the situation of Palestinian Christians; a brief history of the Lutheran Church in Palestine and Jordan; and reflections on revolution and human rights.


Faith in the Face of Empire, by Mitri Raheb—This is an essential read to anyone who desires new insight into scripture, seeks a reorientation of geopolitical perspective, and maintains hope for justice for Palestinians. Preeminent Palestinian contextual theologian Mitri Raheb has woven a profound biblical study and theological reflection on empire with contemporary realities and personal reflection in his new book. Inspired by the prophetic tradition and a liberating understanding of the Trinity, Rev. Raheb challenges accepted notions and offers a vision of imagination and hope that he is already making real.


Witnessing For Peace in Jerusalem and the World, by Bishop Munib Younan—Bp. Younan is the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, based in Jerusalem. He writes this thoughtful and insightful book on the Christian concept of martyriyya, reclaiming it for its original meaning of witnessing. This book is theological but highly accessible to laypeople as well, and provides valuable insights on the situation in Israel/Palestine.


Kairos for Palestine, by Rifat Odeh Kassis—Part memoir, part political history, part theological reflection, this volume examines the history of Kairos documents from Christians in various global contexts, shares the background of the Palestine Kairos document of December 2009, and demonstrates the importance and urgency of this voice and movement from Palestinian Christians. Kassis’s contribution also answers some of the critique that the Palestine Kairos has received. [Please contact Global Ministries’ Middle East and Europe office if you would like to order a copy.] 


Blood Brothers is Archbishop Elias Chacour’s international best seller an addresses issues of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking from within the context of Israel. Archbishop Chacour is the Melchite archbishop and is well-known globally as a prominent advocate for peace in the region. His writing style is smooth and lucid. 


Water from the Rock: Lutheran Voices from Palestine, edited by Ann Haften—In this short collection of articles, diary entries, and reflections, Palestinian and American Lutherans share the context of Palestine, from their perspectives. The selections include writings by Bishop Munib Younan, Rev. Mitri Raheb, his sister Viola Raheb, and Dr. Nuha Khoury, as well as some US Lutherans who have served in Palestine with partners there. Each section has study questions so this book can be used in an adult education class.


Christians and a Land Called Holy: How we can foster justice, peace, and hope, by Charles P. Lutz and Robert O. Smith. Smith, the Middle East executive for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and Lutz, have written this very helpful book introducing the conflict, the actors (including Christian Zionists), and church partners, and offering guidance on what church people (and others) can do to be agents of change. This compact volume is especially helpful for those eager to engage locally, and the final chapter lays out suggestions. The bibliography is extensive.


Towards Golgotha: The Memoires of Hagop Arsenian, a Genocide Survivor, translated and annotated by Arda Arsenian Ekmekji—In this very personal chronicle of the period before, during, and after the Genocide, Arsenian records the events of his daily life. It is a poignant first-hand account, a personal story that so illuminates the tragedy. Beginning in Western Turkey, Arsenian’s path is that of many others—some who survived, most who didn’t—through central Anatolia. His resourcefulness help him survive with his immediate family, eventually arriving in mandate Palestine. His accounts of both the “deportations” and of Palestine are very insightful, and are complemented by the personal journey of his granddaughter, who translated the book, and who is today the Dean of Arts and Sciences at Haigazian University in Beirut. 

Books About The Current Palestinian Situation


The Battle for Justice in Palestine, by Ali Abunimah—This volume is a clear-headed and honest analysis of the current situation, with critique of various parties involved in the conflict. Abunimah cuts through mainstream discourse, making important observations on colonialism, analogies to race relations in the US and to conflict resolution in Northern Ireland. Unabashedly skeptical of the two-state solution, and Abunimah promotes a vision of peace with justice, concluding with thoughts on the imperative of self-determination.


Global Palestine, by John Collins—Writing from a colonial framework, Collins explores the ways in which the situation of Palestinians is a microcosm for realities in other places in our time, and proposes that Palestine has been a laboratory for other countries’ policies and practices. In addition, phenomena witnessed globally are manifest in Palestine as well. This book is conceptually rigorous and thoughtful. For anyone interested in connections between the Palestinian local and current global trends, this will be a stimulating read. 


Brokers of Deceit: How the US has undermined peace in the Middle East, by Rashid Khalidi—An historian and participant in some of the negotiations discussed, Khalidi examines three “moments” in peacemaking efforts: the 1982 efforts and foundational documents; the Madrid/Oslo period; and Pres. Obama’s first term. This is a much broader history, though, connecting the consistency and evolution of US involvement, identifying guiding US interests and their consequences, and showing the ultimately negative role the US has played. Khalidi’s focus on language, describing it as Orwellian, is astute. This is a short, but quite valuable, contribution. 


Pathways to Peace: America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, edited by Daniel Kurtzer—In this collection of chapters written by knowledgeable insiders and analysts, prospects for possible paths forward are examined. The book is divided into three sections: the regional dimension, the Israeli and Palestinian dimensions, and the United States and the peace process. Twelve experts present insight and suggestions. A fast read, this volume is a timely assessment. Every reader will not necessarily agree with each writer, thus adding value.


The Peace Process: From Breakthrough to Breakdown, by Afif Safieh—It is striking, in reading this collection of essays, speeches, and interviews from 1981-2005, to what extent nothing has changed. A Palestinian Christian who has served as Palestinian head of mission in Washington and London, and who is a prominent Palestinian intellectual in his own right, Safieh’s descriptions, analysis, and prescriptions for peace in the IsraeliPalestinian conflict hold true just as much today as they did when he made them. Safieh’s book is a must-read.


Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, by Saree Makdisi—Makdisi combines UN resolutions and reports with statistics, history and maps; Palestinian rights and multiple Palestinian and Israeli narratives; and individual stories and experiences to give a thorough and highly readable picture of the occupation. Makdisi offers clear analysis and fluid style to make this a must-read for people at different levels of familiarity with the facts on the ground. There is much to draw on from the book. One provocative quote, by a local Israeli school director, was, “Anyone who tells you that there was no ethnic cleansing here will be lying, and anyone who tells you that without the ethnic cleansing Israel would have been established will also be lying.”


Israel’s Occupation, by Neve Gordon—This is a more academic look at the occupation, and is written by an Israeli, the Senior Lecturer and head of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Gordon considers modalities of control (temporariness, arbitrariness, invisibility, “restraint,” and continuity) in analyzing decades of occupation of Palestinian lands and people through Foucaultian lenses. He draws on the simply complex matrices of biopower, sovereign power, and disciplinary power to trace the changes (and consistency) in Israeli policies of occupation, a defining moment of which was the creation of the Palestinian Authority as part of Oslo, by which Israel could cede Authority but retain authority of the occupation. 


Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, by Eyel Weizman—Weizman uses concepts of architecture to analyze Israel’s practices of occupation. He most effectively looks beyond the maps, and adds the third dimension (both above and below ground) to the perspective he uses, and identifies the philosophical and conceptual bases for such an approach. This is an intelligent and complex analysis, but one that is worth the investment, as it covers Jerusalem, settlements, checkpoints, the separation barrier/wall, urban warfare, and targeted assassinations. 


Lords of the Land, by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar—Perhaps the most comprehensive and thorough history of the Israeli settlement movement, this book was originally published in Hebrew. The two authors, both journalists, track the history of the Yesha Council and movement and its interaction with the Israeli government authority. This book is indispensible in understanding Israeli settlement on occupied land. 


A Wall in Palestine, by René Backmann—If you want to know what impact the separation barrier/wall/fence has had on the people of the West Bank, and on Israeli society, you must read this book. Written in a facile narrative style, Backmann, a French journalist has done many interviews and tells in an easily comprehensible way the difficult issues associated with the wall. This book is translated from French, and is an important contribution to the literature on Israel/Palestine.


Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Meshal and the Rise of Hamas, by Paul McGeough—This is a page-turner, not just for the first half, which recounts the attempt on Meshal’s life. McGeough has done his homework, and provides access as well as much insight into the role and internal politics of Hamas. This is a most helpful book to understand Hamas and the multiple contexts in which it exists. 


Between Religion and Politics, by Nathan Brown and Amr Hamzawy—The emergence of Islamic groups and parties on the Middle East’s political scene has been a cause of concern. Brown and Hamzawy analyze this emergence, focusing on the development of such groups’ participation, their contexts, their platforms, and outlook. Each chapter deals with a different country in the region, including Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood, Palestine and Hamas, and several others (Algeria, Morocco, Kuwait, Yemen, and Jordan). This book represents sound academic research and writing. (Interestingly, Hamzawy was elected to the Egyptian parliament from a Cairo district in December, 2011.)


Gaza Writes Back, edited by Refaat Alareer—This short volume is a collection of stories written by young Palestinians from Gaza, published to mark the 5th anniversary of the Israeli Operation Cast Lead (2008-09). The stories are poignant and bold, conveying what it is like to live in Gaza, and communicating on a human level hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, and deep sadness. The stories are remarkable for their conveyance of profound emotion and humanity. It is a collection that is relevant far beyond a particular moment in history, and begs the end of the tragedy of Gaza’s isolation. 


I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey on the Road to Peace and Human Dignity, by Izzeldin Abuelaish—A moving autobiography, Dr. Abuelaish has written an account of his life centered on the deep feelings of loss of his three daughters during the Israeli attack on Gaza in 2008-09. Beyond polemics, this book gives a picture of life in Gaza over the course of the last 60 years that is not often heard, but focuses on the work Dr. Abuelaish does to overcome sentiments of revenge and hatred, to build peace. This is an inspiring personal story that is a lesson in faith and hope.


Once upon a Country, by Sari Nusseibeh—A Palestinian intellectual, Nusseibeh has been involved in politics and society in Jerusalem and abroad for decades. This memoir is an intelligent reflection on the Palestinian reality. Nusseibeh is both honest and courageous in his approach with both Palestinian and Israeli officials. He plays close attention to historical detail, and is a gifted storyteller; this book is a very informative and well written account of recent Palestinian history from the perspective of one who has been actively involved in it. 


I Saw Ramallah, by Mourid Barghouti—With lyrical brilliance, Barghouti describes in clear and evocative terms what it is like to return to Palestine after 30 years of exile. This book is part memoir, part observation on the situation of the West Bank postOslo, from an insider/outsider. The book is fairly short, but is rich in the telling of the story, as well as in the way the author is in touch with so much—political and social, as well as emotional. In addition to the main text, an excellent preface by Edward Said puts Barghouti’s journey into perspective. Thoughtful and acute, Barghouti helps the reader to understand realities faced by Palestinians, in addition to offering insight into culture and customs.


Gate of the Sun, by Elias Khoury—Khoury shares, in epic form, the true-to-life realities of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon over the course of the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through the words of a Palestinian “doctor” attending to a comatose patient in the Shatilla Camp, Khoury gives voice to stories of Palestinians he collected over the years. The novel is poignant in its tone, and hopeful in its inevitable outcome. The history of the conflict is background to personal memories. 


Children of Catastrophe: Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America by Jamal Krayem Kanj—Brilliantly combining personal family memory and historical socio-political writing, Kanj takes the reader to the Nahr al-Barid Palestinian refugee camp in northern Lebanon, where he was born and raised. Kanj conveys the sense of displacement a refugee living in this camp has felt, on many levels. He sheds helpful light on the last 60 years of history of the Lebanese relationship with Palestinian refugees, the Lebanese civil war, and the destruction of the Camp in 2007. His conclusion is poetic and profound. 


Palestinian Walks, by Raja Shahadeh—This book is both nature and politics. Shahadeh is a Palestinian lawyer, who was instrumental in the establishment of Al-Haq, a legal agency and human rights organization in Ramallah. Shehadeh employs the vehicle of ambulating the landscape to reflect upon, and convey the experience of, occupation and changes over time. 


A River Dies of Thirst, by Mahmoud Darwish—This collection of poems by Darwish, a scion of modern Palestinian literature, is his final published works, most of which were written during the 2006 war. He focuses on that experience, the wars in the Middle East, and global politics, as well as more literary themes. This collection is both profound and impactful. 


Holy Fire: The Battle for Christ’s Tomb, by Victoria Clark—The Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem is one of the most sacred Christian places in the world. The complex arrangements around custody, and the implications of the so-called status quo rules governing them, are the subject of Clark’s fascinating book. 


A Child in Palestine: The Cartoons of Naji al-`Ali—Perhaps the most famous cartoonist in the Arab world, Naji al`Ali’s works were cutting critique of so much, including the Israeli occupation, the role of Arab governments and leaders, and the involvement of the global powers in Middle East affairs. All of the cartoons include the most famous Palestinian child, Handhala, who is always an 11-year-old, marking the age of al-`Ali when he was made a refugee at the time of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. A fascinating compilation; despite al-`Ali’s assassination in 1987, many cartoons resonate today.


Palestine: The Special Edition, by Joe Sacco—Actually, Palestine: The Special Edition is a collection of nine graphic art books that Sacco did during the first intifada and captures life in the Occupied Territories quite well. Sacco is gifted, and committed to issues of war and peace, and more than that, to capturing the human side of conflict. His cartoon books (I hesitate to call them “comic” books) are excellent, and worth the quick read—and longer reflection. 


Footnotes on Gaza, by Joe Sacco—In the medium of cartoon, in this book, nothing is comic. Sacco decided to go to Gaza over a couple trips and research the massacres of Khan Younis and Rafah in 1956. In interviews with survivors and relatives who have heard the stories, Sacco attempts to re-create the massacres at the hands of the Israeli army through his drawings and the eye-witness accounts, which are central. In researching, though, he also conveys through the book the continuing isolation and attacks on Gaza by Israel, and the sentiment among some that 1956 is irrelevant as injustice is contemporary. A striking book, Sacco writes and draws well. 


The Scar of David, by Susan Abulhawa—This is an historical novel that focuses on the lives and experiences of several generations of a Palestinian family, going back to the mandate period and stretching to the 2000s. It employs a multiple-narration technique to convey the reality of the Palestinian experience. It has some very unexpected twists that add to its readability. It has since been reissued as Mornings in Jenin. 


Miral, by Rula Jebreal—This auto-biographical novel spans midto late-20th century history in Palestine and Israel and is the gripping fictional story of Miral, a boarding student at Dar al-Tifl, a real school/orphanage in Jerusalem established by Hind Husseini following the Deir Yassin massacre in 1948. Through the narrative of Miral and those she comes in contact with, Jebreal treats a variety of issues in their historical context, especially the first intifada, leading up to the Oslo Agreements in 1993. It is hard to put down as the reader engages in making choices along with the protagonist and the other characters. [This novel has been made into a movie.]

Diplomatic History and US Engagement


Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace, by Josh Ruebner—This is a clearly written and comprehensive chronology and analysis of Obama’s first term engagement with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Divided into two parts, Ruebner first offers a history of events on the I/P front from 2008-2012, and then analyzes Washington’s involvement thematically. Ruebner’s indictment of US engagement is wellfounded; his analysis and perspectives are clear and forthright. This book is essential as time for a two-state solution runs out. 


The Much Too Promised Land, by Aaron David Miller—Miller recounts diplomatic history from the 1970’s through the present, by someone on the inside of American administrations. Focusing on Kissinger, Carter, and James Baker, as well as Clinton, Miller offers some honest and helpful assessment of the US’s role in seeking peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Not overly partisan, Miller attempts to identify key issues and assess what the US has done right and wrong. 


The Missing Peace, by Dennis Ross—This dense volume is a very thorough account of the negotiations that took place at Camp David in July 2000, written by one of the central players. Written with much detail, and personal impressions, Ross’s book is important as documentation of the meetings with Pres. Clinton, Prime Minister Barak, and Pres. Arafat. 


The Truth About Camp David, by Clayton Swisher—If you have read Dennis Ross’s 800-page account of Camp David 2000, this book will be very helpful in understanding Camp David through the eyes of insiders other than Ross, and provides perspectives that sometimes contradict Ross’s account. This book is indispensable in understanding what happened in the year leading up to the summit, during the days at Camp David, and in the weeks following it. It is well-researched and told in a very readable fashion.


Palestine, Peace not Apartheid, by Jimmy Carter—While too much attention has been given to the title of Pres. Carter’s book, the content is more about his role in brokering the Camp David accords and how his emphasis on the occupation of Palestinian land has not been followed through. President Carter also helps to describe accurately the situation in the occupied West Bank. 


We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, by Jimmy Carter—Pres. Carter spends much time recapitulating history, most insightfully with excerpts from his own journal. He shares impression of the people he engaged with as President, and much the work he has done since. He then offers analysis and some ideas for the new president on pursuing peace in the Middle East. His most important point is that it is immediately urgent to decide what Israel-Palestine will look like: a one- or two-state solution, and pursue that fervently, with the hard choices involved.


Thirteen Days in September, by Lawrence Wright—In this briskly paced book, Wright chronicles the 1978 Camp David summit that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty the following year. But this book is more than that; it provides important biographical background of Presidents Carter and Sadat, and Prime Minster Begin. It is a study of the characters involved and the historical contexts that led them each to Camp David. Positions staked out then have bearing on the state of the conflict today, and is therefore is an especially relevant as contemporary insight. 


A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, by Allis Radosh and Ronald Radosh—This book walks the reader through the internal debates within the Truman administration and the internal debates within the American Jewish community on the issue of Israel and Jewish statehood. It is most valuable for these two aspects, as the research is quite good.


Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance, by Warren Bass—Tracing the chronology of the Kennedy presidency in its Middle East engagements, this book will offer insight into the development of the “special relationship” between the U.S. and Israel from the early days. It treats on questions of military support as well as nuclear capabilities. 


A Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S., by Trita Parsi—A book full of interesting international relations history related to this triangle of apparent enemies, Parsi’s book is quite stimulating and very informative. The book is divided into three parts: the Cold War, the post-Cold War, and prospects for the future. This book is well worth one’s while to understand the differences between official rhetoric and actual dealings, as well as ideological vs. strategic approaches to international relationships. It is especially helpful in these days when Iran is at the center of much discussion. 

Books about Israel by Israelis and American Jews


Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel, by Max Blumenthal—In this troubling account of the rise and influence of the far right in Israel today, Blumenthal offers important background and personal encounter to reveal a culture of discrimination and racism. The rise of the right wing is a trend that is familiar to followers of Israeli politics and society, but the documentation Blumenthal provides is especially troubling. His reporting is brave—not only in what he writes, but his willingness to experience the culture and encounter the people he writes about, first hand. [Here is a link to Part 1 of an interview with the author on Democracy Now]


The Crisis of Zionism, by Peter Beinart—In this challenging volume, Beinart describes the differences between the political realities in Israel and in the occupied Palestinian territories, in terms of democracy and rights. He then looks at the intellectual history of Zionism to suggest two main strands, one of which has resulted in those important differences. This tight and clear presentation is an important contribution to understanding Israeli, and American Jewish, perspectives and engagement on the IsraeliPalestinian conflict. 


Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish romance with Israel is coming to an end, by Norman Finkelstein—Not one to shy away from clear and searing critique of mainstream narrative, Finkelstein’s book is an enlightening read in which he proposes that American Jews must choose between their progressive liberalism and their support for Israel, as the two are at odds. The main section (and appendix) of the book is a critical analysis of published works that echo the traditional Israeli narrative. Finkelstein uses available information to challenge that narrative and show that there are plenty of sources to offer a more correct perspective on the conflict. 


The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled—This inspiring memoir of family is a poignant account of two generations of the Peled family and their principled stand on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Miko traces—and discovers—his father’s (the Israeli general) public engagement with Palestinians, and conveys his own discovery of the reality of occupation. This narrative can serve as a model of how Israelis might explore the occupation and the impact on individual Palestinian lives. [Click here to watch Mr. Peled speak]


The Girl Who Stole My Holocaust: A Memoir, by Noam Chayut— This is a poignant memoir written by a former Israeli Defense Forces solder who is now a member of Breaking the Silence. Chayut poses very profound questions about collective memory and individual responsibility, and offers perspective on the ways and means of Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories. He hopes to convey those truths to the reader, acknowledging his role, all the while hoping that the book’s eponymous girl can hear. 


How I Stopped Being A Jew, by Shlomo Sand—In this lucid extended essay, Sand exponds in a provocative and profound way that it means to be Jewish historically and in the context of 20th century Zionism, especially in Israel today. He discusses strands of Jewish identity, not least among them religious and secular, but also historical, geographical, and linguistic. Which of these identities have been dominant, at the expense of the others? He also discusses Jewish relations with Jews, and with non-Jews, including Palestinians and Arab Israelis. 


The Hebrew Republic, by Bernard Avishai—Avishai, an Israeli, discusses with sharpness the legal and economic realities in Israel, particularly engaging the issue of Israel as a Jewish state. His first chapter is especially pertinent, as he discusses the lack of an Israeli constitution and the implications for rights and responsibilities, as well as the important distinction between “Israeli citizen,” which covers Jews and non-Jews, and “Israeli national” who are only Jewish citizens of Israel—and of course, the differences between the two, and the discrimination against “non-national” citizens. 


We Look Like the Enemy: The Hidden Story of Israel’s Jews From Arab Lands, by Rachel Shabi—An often overlooked aspect of the social reality in Israel is the stratification of Jewish populations. Shabi attempts to offer a perspective not often understood or available about the Mizrahi and Sephardic communities, those who came to Israel from Spain, North Africa, and the Middle East. This book sheds light on their experience in a place where the Ashkenazim have enjoyed the power and have been able to direct the ideology of the state. Shabi also explores some of the difficulties of Zionism for Arab Jews. 


How Israel Lost: The Four Questions, by Richard Ben Cramer—A journalist, Ben Cramer is an American Jew who has spent significant time in the Middle East professionally, and personally. This book is an engaging read. The “four questions” is a format that Jews use during the Passover seder, but Ben Cramer has changed the context to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His critique of both sides is strong, and while the book is now several years old, much of the critique holds up. He is critical of both the Israeli and Palestinian establishment, and perhaps most importantly, examines why the continuation of the conflict is in the interest of both elite. He concludes with some hope for peace (dated, but yet hope!). Ben Cramer is a clear writer and observer, and his journalist’s style makes this a book that is hard to put down. 


The Holocaust is Over: We Must Rise from Its Ashes, by Avraham Burg—This book is a challenging look at Judaism and its predominant paradigms through which to view history. Naturally, Burg asserts, the Holocaust is one of them. He discusses ways that the Holocaust has been used in memory and to convince the reader to honor that memory but transcend it. 


Elvis in Jerusalem: Post-Zionism and the Americanization of Israel, by Tom Segev—Segev is among the “new historians” of Israel, and this book-length essay is an excellent discussion of Zionism’s origins, its critics, and its development into post- and post-post-Zionism. The book also traces the impact of American culture on Israel, and how that has affected national sentiment in Israel. 


Old Wine, Broken Bottles, by Norman Finklestein—In straightforward style, this short book is rather a long (and scathing) critique of Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land. Given the extensive positive media attention Shavit’s book has received, Finklestein does not hold back in identifying inconsistencies and highlighting what Shavit failed to include as it relates to the Occupation and treatment of Palestinians. 

Historical, Theological, Political, and Sociological Analysis


The Question of Palestine, by Edward W. Said—Every so often, one should read Said, an intellectual giant. This book is one of his so-called trilogy, which also includes Orientalism and Covering Islam. This book treats the question of Palestine through an intellectual and analytical approach. Said weighs the good of Zionism for the Jewish people against the dispossession of land, property, and life for Palestinians; he treats the idea of representation in depth; and he looks at the political situation of the early 1980s, when the book was written. He also focuses on the imperative of Palestinian self-determination.


The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst—In this masterful historic analysis of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hirst offers much more than narrative history; he offers an alternative point of view that is likely to disturb one’s understanding of history. Well-documented, this book complements the mainstream presentation of the last century of conflict in the Middle East. With Zionism and Israel at the center of this telling, Hirst has written a book that has been described as “classic.” The second edition ends with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its consequences (1982-3), and the third edition takes the reader through Oslo and its impact.


Mapping Exile and Return: Palestinian Dispossession and a Political Theology for a Shared Future, by Alain Epp Weaver— Employing the actual and metaphoric idea of maps, Weaver, a Mennonite theologian, explores the contesting narratives of Palestinians and Israelis. The ideas of exile and return are central in this theological analysis; Weaver draws on post-colonial concepts to work toward a possible resolution of competing claims as he seeks to contribute to a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on shared space and mutual acknowledgement of presence. 


The Bible & Zionism, by Nur Musalha—Musalha makes analyzes the current reality through the lens of biblical archaeology and themes that have been appropriated to serve the agenda of Zionism—both Jewish and Christian. In a sweeping book, Musalha explores the uses of the ideas of Maimonides, various religious extremist groups, archaeological minimalists, and liberation theology, as well as Edward Said’s contributions. He explores how biblical themes have been used to justify the transfer of Palestinians. This book is especially valuable in its discussion of biblical archaeology and liberation theology. 


More Desired than Our Owne Salvation: The Roots of Christian Zionism, by Robert O. Smith—In this sweeping and revelatory examination of the evolution of Christian Zionism, Smith traces the Anglo-American strands of this influential movement. Bookended by discussions of contemporary manifestations of Christian Zionism, this book focuses on its roots, including ideas regarding the place of Jews, Muslims, and the Catholic Church. 


The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood, by Rashid Khalidi—Khalidi is an historian and that shows through very clearly in this small but filled book about Palestinian efforts to achieve statehood. Tracing the movement back in time, Khalidi demonstrates the consistency of the movement, and the obstacles it faced. 


The Least of All Possible Evils, by Eyel Weizman—In this tight but replete volume, Weizman explores war theory and issues related to proportional damage, with a focus on an “acceptable threshold.” What sacrifices become acceptable to avoid greater loss and death in times of war? Weizman uses Gaza as a paradigm and demonstrates the philosophical difficulties of determining what is acceptable—concluding that no death is what should be understood. In forensics, witness accounts are replaced with scientific investigations to “reconstruct” attacks and to determine what “really” took place. Layers of destruction prevent an accurate “reconstruction,” Weizman points out, layering decades of destruction on top of each other. 


Itineraries in Conflict: Israelis, Palestinians, and the Political Lives of Tourists, by Rebecca L. Stein—Two quotes stand out from the last pages of this book: “The Palestinians have emptied our cafés. We Israelis have emptied their nation.” And “The foreigners will fill the streets of our cities in masses, until it is no longer clear who lives here and who is a tourist.” Both of these refer to the dynamics and directionality of tourism and pleasure in the Middle East. This book is an important study of Israeli tourism before, during, and after the Oslo process, both throughout the Middle East and within Israel/Palestine. It is clear that that the main actors, and indeed the marketing audience, are Ashkenazim, and not Sephardim or Mizrahim, let alone Palestinian Israelis, West Bank and Gaza Palestinians, or other Arabs. The stratification is important and the paradigm is natural in Stein’s post-colonial reading of tourism. 


BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, by Omar Barghouti—No matter your position on boycott, divestment, and sanctions in relation to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, this book is a must-read to understand the history and logic of the movement as articulated by Palestinian civil society. Barghouti helps the reader understand the debates and discussion about BDS, and the arguments used against it. More than that, he re-centers the debate on the issues the BDS campaign seeks to address: occupation, rights of Israeli Arabs, and those of refugees. 


The Case for Sanctions, ed. Audrea Lim—This volume is a series of articles, essays, and statements in support of various aspects of BDS. Whether you support this idea or not, it is worth hearing activists—including Palestinians, Israelis, and people from all over the world—articulate their case. The bottom line is that, for them, this is an asymmetric conflict and the BDS approach can help level the playing field. BDS is a tactic/strategy to offer solidarity, pressure, and morale. 


One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, by Ali Abunimah—The value of this book is less in the proposal for ending the conflict—indicated by the title—but rather in the critique of various plans that have come before. The rather short book is an entirely accessible critique of various proposals, and concludes with the idea of a single state—an idea that is taking on a vogue in the mainstream more and more. There is a section in this book on the churches’ work and advocacy, and the UCC is noted. 


Overcoming Zionism, by Joel Kovel—This book has drawn so much attention as a challenging book in the debate on Israel and Palestine. Kovel is highly critical of Zionism as an historical and current reality, and concludes by arguing for a one-state solution, what Kovel calls “Palesrael,” joining four letters from each entity and linking them with the “s” that is common in both. 


The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappé—Another of Israel’s “new historians,” Pappé presents research in this book supporting the claim that the creation of 750,000 refugees at the time of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was not simply the consequences of war, but was part of a plan. Controversial and provocative, this book provides insight into the issue of Palestinian refugees, one of the central points of disagreement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 


Citizen Strangers, by Shira Robinson—This study focuses on the period beginning with the establishment of the State of Israel and looking at its first decade. The focus is on the laws and practices that affected Palestinian citizens of Israel, not only in terms of how they might obtain legal status, but also the application of laws and military rule to ensure a separate status for them. It is remarkable that such legal and practical norms of the late 1940s and through the 1950s in Israel are recognizable in the occupied Palestinian territories today. This book is especially valuable for its insight and extensive documentation. 


The Forgotten Palestinians, by Ilan Pappé—In this important book, Pappé chronologically and analytically presents the tension of the Palestinian presence in Israel, from 1948 to the present. Pappé describes Israel as an “ethnocracy” in which Palestinians are viewed and treated as a fifth column—a security threat to the state. He shows the legal and practical barriers to full inclusion and the reality of discrimination, unhelpful legislation, and state violence. 


The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish/Arab Divide, by Susan Nathan—The relationship between Jewsish and non-Jewish Israelis is not often discussed. Nathan, who immigrated to Israel from the UK, makes a decision to live in an Arab village in Israel, and what she discovers is the subject of this important book. 


Israel’s Palestinians: The Conflict Within, by Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman—This scholarly examination of the socio-politicaleconomic realities of the Palestinian citizens of Israel is enlightening and very readable. In exploring the history of Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel, their rights in relation to Jewish rights, and the political engagement of this community (which is a little over 20% of Israel’s citizenry), Peleg and Waxman conclude that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be adequately resolved without addressing this issue as well. They provide some outlook and possible approaches, including a possible definition of Israel as a “Jewish homeland and state for all its citizens.”


The Wrath of Jonah: The Crisis of Religious Nationalism in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Herman Ruether—This book explores religious and secular Zionism and its impact on the development of the conflict’s history. Not sympathetic to Israeli religious nationalsim, this book is nevertheless a helpful analysis.


Khirbet Khizeh, by Yizhar Smilansky—This novella tells the story of the expulsion of Palestinians during the 1948 war, from the point of view of an Israeli soldier. It is a haunting tale, and offers some insight on the refugee issue by a Jewish author who was born in Palestine before the establishment of Israel.