For Palestine: What to read to put current events in context



Sun, 19 Nov 2023 - 04:39 GMT


Sun, 19 Nov 2023 - 04:39 GMT

Radwa Ashour, Susan Abul Hawa, Ghassan Kanafani, Norman Finkelstein, Rashid Khalidi, Ilan Pappe- collage photo by Egypt Today

Radwa Ashour, Susan Abul Hawa, Ghassan Kanafani, Norman Finkelstein, Rashid Khalidi, Ilan Pappe- collage photo by Egypt Today

CAIRO – 19 November 2023: In these heavy days, we bear witness to the atrocities committed by the Israeli occupation in Gaza carrying our sense of belonging to its people, our pain for their suffering, and the truth that we know like the back of our hands like a cross, a cross that we hope is going to deliver us from our helplessness to a more just world, and that will help us deliver others into the light of truth.

In an attempt to avoid despair amid all the lies and fabrications, we try our best to speak about the history of Palestinians and their present, to tell their original tale and indulge in their bravery and perseverance. We need to witness the past and present without looking away, to own this reality, engrave it in our beings, and expose the frail baseless narratives all over the biased media.  

The following gems of books can help.

Books to give you an overview on the Palestinian struggle:

“The Question of Palestine” by Edward Said (1935-2003)

In this book, Said sheds light on the price that Palestinians have had to pay for the Zionist project to come to life, focusing on the 1948 Nakba in details.

Born in Jerusalem, Mandate Palestine to a Palestinian-Lebanese mother and an American father, Said was a political activist, and an academic, who came among the founders of post-colonial studies.

“The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine” by Rashid Khalidi (Born in 1948)

Khalidi uses oral history (the stories passed down from one generation to another in Palestinian families), and his own experience to depict the Palestinian struggle under the colonial war waged against them as an indigenous people.

Khalidi is a Palestinian-American historian of the Middle East and a professor of the Modern Arab at Columbia University.

“The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” by Ilan Pappe (Born in 1958)

As made clear in the title, the book mainly revolves around purging the Palestinians from their land in 1948, a crime long concealed and denied. “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” seeks to find the reasons and perpetrators of the 1948 ethnic cleansing.

Pappe is a British-Israeli academic and political activist. Upon the release of relevant British and Israeli government documents in the 1980s, Pappe embarked on a journey to write the true history of Israel’s creation in 1948 and the consequent expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians in the same year. He, of course, had been condemned by the Knesset and received numerous death threats until he left Israel in 2008.

Books that bust their myths:

“Ten Myths about Israel” by Ilan Pappe

Pappe tackles some of the made up scenarios about how the Palestinians were either exterminated or displaced in 1948, and why the occupying forces never adhered to a peaceful solution in Gaza or the occupied territories. He investigates the lies pushed by the Israeli government as unquestionable facts, spread by the Western media, and accepted by numerous governments to impose the status quo.

“Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History” by Norman Finkelstein (Born in 1953)

Son of a holocaust survivor himself, the American academic Norman Finkelstein aims at exposing the Zionist exploitation of the horrors of the holocaust and the vicious anti-Semitism wave in Europe to shut down attempts to hold Israel accountable for the war crimes it has committed in Palestine since its creation in 1948. In his book, Finkelstein also highlights the bias of scholarship on Palestinian-Israeli conflict, comparing the on-ground records of human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, B’Tselem, and Human Rights Watch, to the claims of scholars like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz in his bestseller “The Case of Israel” and Joan Peters in “From Time Immemorial.”

“Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict” by Norman Finkelstein

Finkelstein’s thorough research in “Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict” looks further into the dominant scholarly narrative on the conflict, presenting well-thought arguments in criticism of Zionism and studies biased towards it.

Fictions vividly depicting the reality of Palestinians:

“Retuning to Haifa” Ghassan Kanafani (1936-1972)

Kanafani speaks in “Returning to Haifa” of the endless forms of loss a Palestinian couple lives with when they have to flee Haifa during the 1948 Nakba. He speaks of their never-ending shock and bitterness, while never failing to grasp an occupant’s multi-layered perception of the whole situation.

Kanafani was born in Acre and grew up seeing his father fighting against the British mandate and getting arrested for it several times. He was sent to a French mission school in Jaffa to receive education, but the 1948 Nakba disrupted the course of his life. He had to escape to Lebanon then move to Syria to live as a refugee. It was in refugee camps where Kanafani got his first job as a teacher, and it was there that he began to take interest in writing short stories to make sense of the hard reality of his students.

A journalist, a fiction writer, and a spokesman for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Kanafani moved to Beirut in 1960 to become editor to several newspapers with Arab nationalist affiliations, to then be assassinated there by car bomb at the age of 36.

“Mornings in Jenin” by Susan Abulhawa (Born in 1970)

Reading through Palestinian literature, I have come to realize that loss is an essential part of the Palestinians’ lives. Abulhawa writes in intricate detail about the struggle to love and move forward toward freedom with so much lost.

“Mornings in Jenin” was Abulhawa’s debut novel. It was translated into 30 languages and sold more than a million copies. Her second novel “The Blue between Sky and Water” was translated into 20 languages before its release and received similar acclaim, making Abulhawa the most widely-read Palestinian author.

Born to refugees of the 1967 war, Abulhawa is also a human rights activist. She founded Playgrounds for Palestine, a non-profit organization that builds playgrounds for Palestinian children in Palestine and the refugee camps in Lebanon.

“The Woman from Tantoura” by Radwa Ashour (1946-2014)

Ashour accompanies Ruqayya, a smart Palestinian girl from the village of Tantoura, as she tries to figure out a way to deal with her feelings, thoughts, and relationships. Ashour gives Ruqayya a voice to tell the world how someone with her background might go about life, and that voice sticks to your head.

Winner of the 2007 Constantine Cavafy Prize for Literature, Ashour is an Egyptian writer and scholar. She published seven novels, an autobiographical work, two collections of short stories and five criticism books, and co-translated, supervised, and edited the Arabic translation of Vol. 9 of The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism.

Radwa Ashour was married to Palestinian author Mourid Bargouthi and is the mother of Palestinian-Egyptian poet Tamim Barghouthi.




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