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A Palestine Library

Suggestions from Spectre Editors

April 30, 2024

We asked Spectre editors to recommend English-language books that had been especially important to them in understanding Israeli colonialism and the Palestinian liberation movement. Here are some of their choices. Two editors named the same novel, Minor Detail, and we have included both of their recommendations. We conclude with links to other Palestine reading lists.

Historical Background

Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History, by Nur Masalha (Bloomsbury, 2023)

This tremendous historical work, reaching as far back as the late Bronze Age, gives us the tools to resist any narrow understanding of Palestine. In Masalha’s reconstruction, “Palestine” names far more than the geography of the British mandate, the nationalism of the late Ottoman period, or any bounded place beyond the horrors of Zionist colonization, necessary as it is. Masalha reminds us that codified political geographies themselves flow from the consciousness of the people, and that this consciousness is always in a process of becoming. By appreciating the deep roots of contemporary Palestine as intertwining and nourishing a living, growing, and evolving set of self-identifying Palestinians, we are given the tools to imagine a home deeply marked by Indigenous Arabic and Islamic cultures, but one which, drawing on its deep history is, at the same time, an essentially living, evolving, and internationalist place.

—Aaron Jaffe

Plowshares into Swords: From Zionism to Israel, by Arno J. Mayer (Verso, 2008)

“I write as a non-Jewish Jew born into a Zionist family.” This is the final book—one part memoir, a dozen parts polemical history—of the eminent Marxist historian Arno Mayer, who passed away in December, 2023. Far reaching, it traces the origins of Zionism against the backdrop of fin-de-siècle imperialism, the emergence of Israel as a settler colonial project, and, returning to Mayer’s origins as a diplomatic historian, the role of Israel in American geopolitical strategy.

—Zachary Levenson

Ten Myths about Israel, by Ilan Pappé (Verso Books, 2017)

This book is, without question, the best contemporary introduction to the history of Zionism and the Israeli state’s settler colonial project in Palestine. Pappé—one of the leading “New Historians” of Israel whose works documented the systematic expropriation and exclusion of the Palestinian population from their homeland—systematically demolishes claims ranging from “Palestine Was an Empty Land” to “Palestinians Voluntarily Left Their Homeland in 1948” to “The Two-State Solution is the Only Way Forward.” This is essential reading for all Palestinian solidarity activists.

—Charles Post


On Palestinian Resistance

Behind the Intifada: Labor and Women’s Movements in the Occupied Territories, by Joost Hiltermann (Princeton University Press, 1991)

Hiltermann looks at working class struggle in the West Bank and Gaza leading up to the First Intifada and writes about how these movements, and the limitations set on them by Israeli policies, shaped much of the character of the Intifada.

—Shireen Akram-Boshar

Greater than the Sum of Our Parts: Feminism, Inter/Nationalism, and Palestine, by Nadia Elia (Pluto Press, 2022)

This book is a powerful example of how to do anticolonial, abolitionist feminism. This is no ordinary book that simply talks about Palestine; instead in every chapter Elia positions the question of Palestine within a global matrix of imperial violence and capitalism. In so doing, she reminds us again that all struggles share a kinship and the fate of one determines the liberation of all.

—Tithi Bhattacharya

Palestine: A Socialist Introduction, edited by Sumaya Awad and Brian Bean (Haymarket Books, 2020)

This book puts forward a socialist-from-below analysis of Palestinian history, resistance, and what it will take to get to liberation. A must-read for anyone who is both a socialist and involved in Palestine solidarity activism.

—Shireen Akram-Boshar


Understanding Israeli Apartheid

The Stone Men: The Palestinians who Built Israel, by Andrew Ross (Verso, 2019)

There is a reason why this book won the 2019 Palestine Book Award. Through an extensive set of interviews with Palestinian stone masons, Ross shows us the building of apartheid, literally stone by stone. And hence the need for its dismantling.

—Tithi Bhattacharya

Palestine is Throwing a Party and the Whole World Is Invited: Capital and State Building in the West Bank, by Kareem Rabie (Duke University Press, 2021)

If you’re wondering how the Palestinian Authority has been actively complicit in the perpetuation of Israeli occupation, this book is a great place to start. Meticulously researched and engagingly written, Rabie narrates the PA’s full-scale privatization of the West Bank, courting investment rather than national autonomy, and showing how the production of a neoliberal state-form is an ongoing process. This is political anthropology at its best.

—Zachary Levenson


Some Classic Texts of the Left

Israel: A Colonial-Settler State?, by Maxime Rodinson (Monad Press, 1973; available online)

This book helped shape the pro-Palestine sentiments of a whole generation of young radicals, including me. The product of an astute French Marxist scholar whose parents had died at Auschwitz, Israel: A Colonial-Settler State? laid out in under one hundred pages a rigorous and lucid anticolonial critique of Zionism long before settler colonial theory had emerged as a field in its own right. The Zionist project of a Jewish state in Palestine, he wrote, “could not help but lead to a colonial-type situation and to the development . . . of a racist state of mind.” This book was dynamite fifty years ago, and it remains a powerful introduction to understanding the anticolonial struggle of the Palestinian people today.

—David McNally

The Other Israel: The Radical Case Against Zionism, edited by Aire Bober (New York: Doubleday/Anchor Books, 1972; available online)

For the generation that radicalized in the late 1960s and early 1970s, The Other Israel was a seminal text. While many of that generation actively opposed US imperialism in Vietnam and racism at home, they harbored illusions in Israel as a socialist utopiaa Sweden on the Mediterraneanin a sea of reactionary-feudal regimes. Produced by the militants of Matzpen, the Socialist Organization in Israel which included both Israeli and Palestinian Marxists, The Other Israel exposed the history of Zionist settler colonization of Palestine, its reliance on Western imperialism and the thoroughly capitalist character of Israeli society. While much of the analysis needs to be updated fifty years later, it remains one of the most cogent Marxian works on Zionism, Palestine, and the revolution in the Arab world.

—Charles Post

The Question of Palestine, by Edward W. Said (Vintage Books, 1979)

During the challenging decades of the 1980s and 1990s, Edward Said made it his mission to counter the American invisibilization of Palestinians as a people with a history and aspirations for freedom. “Self-determination is only possible when there is some clearly seen ‘self’ to determine,” he wrote. And so he bent his back to demonstrating Palestinian existence—and resistance. More than forty years later, this remains a work of great intellectual clarity and moral urgency.

—David McNally

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine, by Rashid Khalidi (Picador, 2020)

In this brilliant book, Khalidi chronicles the Palestinian struggle for self-determination against British and US support for Zionist settler colonialism. Weaving his family’s history with archival research, he recounts the Zionist project’s six wars against the Palestinian people, beginning with the colonist’s seizure of Palestinian land after the Balfour Declaration and culminating in Ariel Sharon’s brutal suppression of the Second Intifada and the subsequent siege imposed on Gaza. Throughout, he focuses on Palestinian resistance, its leadership, and the strategic questions Palestinians have faced in the struggle for liberation. This book is essential reading for all activists that want to understand the roots and nature of today’s seventh Zionist war on the Palestinian people.

—Ashley Smith

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappé (One World, 2006)

In this meticulously researched book, Pappé demolishes the myth that the Nakba, the violent dispossession of Palestinians of their homeland, was unintentional. Based on previously classified Israeli documents, Pappé argues that, in their creation of a Zionist state, the settler colonialists “did not wage a war that ‘tragically but inevitably’ led to the expulsion of ‘parts’ of the Indigenous population, but the other way round: the main goal was ethnic cleansing of all of Palestine.” Every activist should read Pappé’s book to understand how Zionism’s logic of dehumanization, dispossession, and extermination has driven Israeli policy from its founding right down to its war in Gaza.

—Ashley Smith


A Novel Not to be Missed

Minor Detail, by Adania Shibli (New Directions, 2020)

This novella can be devoured in a single sitting. Shibli deftly writes the history of dispossession into the present, narrating the violent effects of racialized expropriation—of land, of bodies, of culture—in two moments: in 1949, a year after the Nakba, and in the present day, as an amateur historian anxiously crosses checkpoints in search of the truth. This is the most disarming work of fiction I’ve read in some years.

—Zachary Levenson

In October 2023 Shibli was to be awarded the prestigious LiBeraturpreis prize at the Frankfurt book festival. After October 7, she was “disinvited” without any explanation. When you read this pitiless but quiet novel, which contains at its heart a brutal act of colonial violence, you will know instantly why the powers-that-be fear Shibli’s voice.

—Tithi Bhattacharya


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