Keep reading Palestine: The top 2023 books on the strength of Palestinian resistance
From poetry, and historical and collective memory, to complicity in colonisation, this year’s books on Palestine have spanned many important subjects and imparted insights that enrich our understanding of the Palestinian experience.
Bringing together what is hidden in plain sight, obscured by more politically powerful narratives due to the prevailing hegemony, here are five books published this year that show the strength of the Palestinian collective resistance, as well as what Palestinians are up against in terms of the violent security narrative that the entire world is complicit in.
Dareen Tatour’s bilingual collection of poetry, I Sing From the Window of Exile (Drunkmuse Press, 2023), reads like an evocative extension of her well-known poem, Resist, My People, Resist Them, for which she was arrested and imprisoned by Israel.
Tatour’s poetry imparts the impact of colonisation to the reader, how it permeates through dreams and breaks them, and how land becomes a synonym for deprivation despite its abundance.
Palestinians will understand from experience what Tatour expresses in her poetic works. For all who have not lived the experience, reading the poetry is an invitation to imagine what the experience of the colonised feels like, and in that quiet space, the Palestinian voices resonate. Tatour encourages Palestinians to speak up as a form of resistance – words landed her in prison, but words are also freedom.
In Sumud: Birth, Oral History and Persistence in Palestine (Syracuse University Press, 2023), Livia Wick focuses on birth in Palestine and brings a different perspective on Palestinian resistance.
Through interviews with Palestinian mothers and the Palestinian medical profession, Wick’s study shows how birth is associated with loss due to Israeli colonialism and military occupation since both impact the experience of giving birth in Palestine which is not shielded from the implications of Israel’s restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement.
In terms of memory, Wick notes that there is no linear trajectory and that language varies in oral history, depending upon experience, gender and social class – the latter most visible in the medical profession’s hierarchy. With Palestinian memory largely associated with the Nakba, Wick’s study brings a different perspective which also portrays the women’s input in Palestinian oral history.
Imagining Palestine: Cultures of Exile and National Identity (Bloomsbury, 2023) portrays the vast Palestinian experiences of the Nakba by delving into Palestinian literature, which juxtaposes the anti-colonial narratives against the erasure of Palestine by Zionist colonialism.
The ongoing Nakba is reflected in the imagining of Palestine in the post-colonial era, where Palestine remains colonised. Tahrir Hamdi’s analysis of works from Ghassan Kanafani, Mahmoud Darwish, Susan Abulhawa and Edward Said, to name a few, shows that language plays a major role in the urgency of preserving Palestinian memory.
Hamdi’s analysis of literature, return and resistance insists upon the necessity of the imaginary as part of the Palestinian struggle for decolonisation, both against Israel and the Palestinian Authority’s complicity, which targets Palestinians for Israel’s benefit.
“Decolonisation in a settler-colonial context simply cannot be achieved without land restitution,” Nada Elia writes in Greater than the Sum of our Parts (Pluto Press, 2023).
Elia’s book brings up questions that are largely overlooked due to the absence of a settler-colonial context when discussing Palestine. The book discusses the similarities between the US and Israel in their treatment of indigenous populations through ethnic cleansing and the carceral system and notes that while Palestine’s history is unique, its struggles are also shaped by the imperialist and settler-colonial forms of violence that oppressed other populations.
Elia’s book discusses the ramifications of white colonialism on women and feminism, which is not liberating and runs contrary to indigenous feminism, which seeks sustainability and transformation. One important point that ties into land restitution and decolonisation is the indigenous view that colonialism is reversible, hence the importance of collective internationalist struggle.
What Palestinians are up against is an international web of complicity that spans decades. Antony Loewenstein’s book, The Palestine Laboratory: How Israel Exports the Technology of Occupation Around the World (Verso Books, 2023) is a timely read as Israel continues its ethnic cleansing of the Gaza strip and the world rallies around it in overt support for the settler-colonial state’s security narrative.
Israel has benefited economically from its alleged security concerns, however, the Zionist arms trade dates back to the British Mandate era and its arms exports commenced in the 1950s. Loewenstein’s book starts with a discussion of Israel supplying weapons to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and notes how other US-backed Latin American dictatorships benefited from the Israeli arms trade.
Israel’s global reach with its weapons and surveillance systems backs human rights violations everywhere, from the militarisation of the Mediterranean to prevent refugees from seeking haven to the targeting of individuals such as Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The international community’s complicity in buying military and surveillance technology from Israel supports the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and nowhere is this more evident than international silence over Gaza and the refusal to hold Israel accountable.
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