The 7 best books to read on Israel's occupation of Palestine

The 7 best books to read on Israel's occupation of Palestine
Book Club: Hamas's 2023 attack on Israel shouldn't be the beginning of any timeline on Israel's occupation of Palestine. The New Arab has compiled a list of seven must-read books on Israel's occupation: from settler-colonialism to decolonisation.
5 min read
11 October, 2023
As these seven books show, Israel's settler-colonial enterprise is part and parcel of Palestine's occupation

While Gaza is once again bombarded and Palestinians murdered, injured and forcibly displaced, Israel’s security narrative dominates the international diplomatic discourse.

Where rhetoric fails to laud Israel’s so-called right to defend itself, Israeli diplomats step in, as happened with the Vatican, according to a Reuters report. “I would like to hear stronger words about Israel’s right to defend itself,” Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican Raphael Schults asserted to Reuters.

The compliance with Israel’s security narrative, however, is not as temporary as Israel would have anyone believe. Palestinian elimination from politics, history and memory is what lies behind Zionist territorial expansion; the latter is achieved by a web of international complicity that both Israel and the international community have normalised through legitimising both Israel’s settler-colonial presence in Palestine, as well as its violence against Palestinians.

"For people far removed from Gaza, understanding how Israel’s colonial violence is experienced by Palestinians is necessary"

Keeping in mind the importance of memory, the following books take a look at what mainstream media and the international community delight in obliterating – the context of Israel’s colonial violence, the politics that sustain it, and how Israel’s right to defend itself is an attack against the Palestinians’ legitimate anti-colonial resistance.

Starting with The International Diplomacy of Israel’s Founders: Deception at the United Nations in the Quest for Palestine, the book traces the history of the Zionist hasbara framework and how this was applied at the UN through misleading statements, which led to colonial powers becoming complicit with the emerging European Zionist ideology.

Strengthened by the concept of exclusion of Palestinians, including Jewish Palestinians, Zionism sought the international arena’s support to influence the UN in favour of the 1947 Partition Plan and later evade responsibility for the 1948 Nakba by saying that Israel had not yet been established and therefore could not be held accountable.

An Army Like No Other: How the Israeli Defence Forces Made a Nation traces the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) origins, the institutionalised incorporation of Zionist paramilitaries such as the Palmach and Haganah, and how the earlier impunity which enabled Israel to evade responsibility for the Nakba became entrenched in Israeli settler-colonial society. “An obvious element of any settler-colonial project is military violence, without which such undertakings are impossible,” Haim Bresheeth Žabner writes.

Raising that awareness with the reader, the book goes on to show how there is barely any separation between the military and society in Israeli settler-colonialism, and how the IDF permeates every aspect of society, becoming one of the most profitable industries for Israel, not to mention its role in maintaining settler-colonialism and military occupation across colonised Palestine.

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The Palestinian Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory shows how Zionist historiography maintains the myth of the barren land by eliminating Palestinian memory in several ways, not only through the atrocities committed by Zionist paramilitaries during the 1948 Nakba but also as a result of the Zionist rewriting of history. Nur Masalha makes the case for subaltern memory, which can challenge the Zionist colonisation of Palestinian collective memory.

Decolonising Palestine: Hamas Between the Anticolonial and the Postcolonial provides a discussion of Palestinian anti-colonial resistance as embodied by Hamas against the backdrop of the Oslo Accords, which author Somdeep Sen describes as generating a postcolonial framework which the Palestinian Authority adhered to, despite the fact that the anticolonial resistance is still in existence as a result of Israel’s settler-colonialism.

Hamas’s anticolonial resistance is generated through necessity, as a result of Israel’s colonial violence, and therefore resistance is also a form of protection against the erasure of Palestinians by Israel’s settler-colonial expansion.

 "Palestinian elimination from politics, history and memory is what lies behind Zionist territorial expansion"

The Oslo Accords make no reference to a Palestinian state but to the creation of “an institutional basis for Palestinian self-governance”. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank – The Theatrics of Woeful Statecraft exposes the illusion of state-building which the Palestinian Authority [PA] participates while damaging the prospects for statehood in the process.

International impositions, which the PA fulfils, shackle the PA, which has a role to perform in the non-existent state-building process. As a result, and notably through security coordination with Israel, the PA has normalised colonial and authoritarian violence against Palestinians.

Transitional (in)Justice and Enforcing the Peace in Palestine traces the peacebuilding efforts which harm Palestinians’ prospects for decolonisation and alter reality, particularly as the language of settler-colonialism is eliminated in favour of the diluted, and inaccurate, “conflict”.

The book illustrates how Palestinians have faced colonial violence since the 1948 Nakba to this day, which is embedded in the UN’s ongoing facilitation of settler-colonialism in Palestine as well as the institution’s complementing Israel’s colonial erasure of Palestine through peacebuilding efforts that impose “colonial management” upon Palestinians, which is also reflective of how the Oslo Accords shaped the current exclusion of the Palestinian people.

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Light in Gaza – Writings Born of Fire is an anthology of writings by Palestinians which brings the human aspect to the fore, so sorely missing in much discourse on Palestine. As Israel massacres Gaza yet again, this collection of writings breaks through the media’s perfunctory or sensational reporting.

The writings from the enclave, told simply and assertively, are a testimony to Palestinian narratives and memory, while also allowing the reader to feel and understand the complexities of Gaza’s reality. For people far removed from Gaza, understanding how Israel’s colonial violence is experienced by Palestinians is necessary.

To understand the significance of homes, the fallacy of humanitarian aid which is a profitable enterprise for donors, the loss of Gaza’s library in Israel’s aerial bombing, and to realise that international complicity plays a major part in Gaza’s annihilation.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger specialising in the struggle for memory in Chile and Palestine, colonial violence and the manipulation of international law.

Follow her on Twitter: @walzerscent