By Melanie Romero
From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.
Palestinian history is extensive, multi-faceted, and – oftentimes – misunderstood. It is, however, no misunderstanding that Palestine is under Israeli occupation; the dispossession and displacement of Palestine is a direct result of Israel’s criminal system of apartheid, which allows the perpetuation of deadly violence against the Palestinian people while segregating, controlling, and oppressing their rights. Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complicated, always at the epicenter of the one-state vs. two-state dilemma, flanked by Zionist beliefs, religious and geographical division, and America’s unnecessary meddling into international politics.
Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been around for decades, it has ferociously made its way through global borders through the rampant media coverage due to recent events. Because of its coverage, the conflict has resulted in an unleashing of dual-sided activist lists, from documentaries and articles to music and books. In fervent support of the Palestinian people, many organizations, specifically academia and publishers, have introduced the American masses to books that raise awareness on Palestine and its call to liberation. The list below is a selection of beloved books that offer another side to the conflict: a raw portrayal of what it means to be Palestinian. This list is, by no means, exhausting, but it includes books, with historical or personal context, that fuel the overall desire to end decolonization and finally await the era in which Palestine will be free from oppression.
1948 was the year of the Nakba, the year of conquest in which Palestine was dispossessed to allow for the creation of the state of Israel. The book is a collection of essays spotlighting the generational trauma stemming from the Nakba back in ‘48 and how singular and collective memory, through the forms of testimony, evidence, poetry, and narrative, depict the loss of Palestine. The point of this book is to illuminate the different ways in which Palestinians experienced and retained memory, often molded by trauma, in regards to the events of 1948 and the cataclysmic impact this catastrophe had in the further displacement of Palestine by the Israeli state. Using the differences in gender, class, and geography to dictate how memory is shaped, this collection of essays aims to reveal how memory forces Palestinians’ claims for justice against the standardized Israeli narrative that has remained in the forefront and been used as a blockade to Palestinian accounts.
GOLDEN LINE: “The Nakba is often reckoned as the beginning of contemporary Palestinian history, a history of catastrophic changes, violent suppression, and refusal to disappear. It is the focal point for what might be called Palestinian time.”
Light in Gaza: Writings Born of Fire is an anthology featuring works from eleven Palestinian writers. The book contemplates what Gaza’s future looks like, while also accepting the realities of what it means to live the Palestinian experience. This anthology sheds light on Gaza, especially through the voices of those living under Israeli occupation; although the pieces are a mixture of pain, loss, frustration, and anger, most hold their power through the humor and hope written between the lines by those authors and poets that have seen it all, but continue to humanize their experience. With the recent news that Gaza is now plunged in complete “darkness,” deprived of electricity & communication due to the forceful Israeli siege, this anthology lives on to signify that, even in darkness, light will once again fill Gaza. There is no blackout that can quell the voices of those that demand justice.
GOLDEN LINE: “The Palestinians’ connection to the land is thousands of years old, as can be seen, for example, in their attention to olive and citrus trees… Agriculture was an important expression of existence and connection to nature and the land. Just like indigenous peoples elsewhere, Palestinians transferred their agricultural knowledge and awareness through legends, songs, and proverbs, forming a heritage that was passed from one generation to another, creating an indelible and deeply rooted historical connection to the land and the landscape.”
Following her family’s exile from Palestine and their eventual move to Britain, Ghada Karmi makes the decision to leave behind the safety net of her adoptive home in exchange for the return to her homeland. While working with the Palestinian Authority and witnessing the violence at the hands of Israeli occupation, Karmi takes readers on a journey within one of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. Her voice lends itself to her lived experiences as a Palestinian woman now having lived abroad and returning to an unrecognizable country that was once hers, but is now overtaken by strangers who see her (and her people) as the enemy. The central focus of her memoir is whether return, for the long term, is possible for exiles just like her.
GOLDEN LINE: “The journey filled me with bitterness and grief. I remember looking down on a nighttime Tel Aviv from the windows of a place taking me back to London and thinking hopelessly, ‘flotsam and jetsam, that’s what we’ve become, scattered and divided. There’s no room for us or our memories here. And it won’t be reversed.”
There is a common phrase among progressive politics: “Progressive except Palestine.” This phrase refers to organizations around the world (mainly the United States) that label themselves to be on “the left” spectrum, such as progressive, liberal, or left-wing, but fail to comment on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or decide to not express pro-Palestinian sentiment. Hill and Plitnick’s book, Except for Palestine, argues against those organizations that label themselves as progressive in their journey to halt regressive policies on “inflammatory” sectors, such as immigration, LGBTQ+ rights, and racial justice, but drop short in their vocal opposition of Palestinian oppression. Although Hill and Plitnick focus on the limitations of the “progressive except Palestine” stance, they also manage to describe the political concerns of both Israelis and Palestinians and how the conflict from both sides has made it that much harder to attain peace. As well, the authors also delve into “the conflation of advocacy for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel.” The book recognizes the multiple dimensions of the conflict in relation to the complicated histories of Israel and Palestine and the role America plays in handling a matter beyond their means.
GOLDEN LINE: “To move beyond the current limits, we must be willing to hold the Israeli government—not just right-wing extremists, religious zealots, or neighboring regimes—accountable for its actions in the region, and especially for its denial of basic rights to Palestinians.”
In 1899, the mayor of Jerusalem, Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi wrote: “in the name of God, let Palestine be left alone.” This segment from his letter is an alarmed reaction to the Zionist call to create the state of Israel in Palestine.
In this book, Rashid Khalidi – Yusuf Diya al-Khalidi’s great-great-nephew – breaks down the Zionist claim to Palestine in the century from 1917 to 2017, mostly due to the effects of colonialism and then British and American imperialism. He breaks down his book in six chapters, the “six declarations of war,” as a way to take readers away from the preconceived notion that this conflict is merely a political, geographical, and religious clash between two people with claims to the same territory; instead, he traces a hundred years of colonial war on Palestine, first waged by the Europe-based Zionist movement, later taken upon by the Israelis, and then backed by the two leading countries of Britain and the United States. Khalidi does not ignore the shortcomings of Palestinian leadership over the century, but he also denotes how the failings are an effect from Israeli dispossession and occupation. His book is rooted in family archives and historical materials that give a vantage point of the conflict from the perspective of the Palestinians. However, his effort to create a historical book, on facts and figures, doesn’t have him picking Palestine’s side blatantly, but instead he focuses on describing both sides’ shortcomings and how this hundred years’ war has wedged a bigger gap between the two people and made little room for recognition of one by the other.
GOLDEN LINE: “[T]he modern history of Palestine can best be understood in these terms: as a colonial war waged against the indigenous population, by a variety of parties, to force them to relinquish their homeland to another people against their will.”
This book list is truly designed to help readers, whether familiar or unfamiliar with the conflict, to understand Palestine’s call for liberation. The world is currently witnessing, once again, another ethnic cleansing as millions of Palestinians flee a war-torn Gaza. As activists against apartheid, it is our role to shed light on the ongoing plight of Palestinians…and ensure that history will not repeat itself.
From the river to the sea, Palestine WILL be free.
Free Ebooks for a Free Palestine! In solidarity with Palestinians, all of us at LibroMobile, would like to encourage you to learn more about this 100 year war through Haymarket Books.
Publishing books on the struggle for justice in Palestine has been a central part of Haymarket’s mission since they published their first book, The Struggle for Palestine, in 2001. Now as ever, they recognize the root cause and ongoing perpetrator of violence in Palestine to be Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid, and they stand in solidarity with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom.
They also believe that books, as tools for education, analysis, combatting misinformation, and inspiration, have a vital role to play in the global Palestine solidarity movement. In that spirit, Haymarket has made three crucial books free to download: Click here!
Melanie Romero is a trilingual writer born and raised in Orange, CA. It was during childhood weekend trips to Randy’s $1-a-book stall at the OC Market Place that she discovered a passion for reading and, eventually, writing. Today, she serves as Editor at Lil’ Libros and has written two children’s books, Amor de colores and J is for Janucá under the publisher. In her free time, she can be found indulging in challah and getting lost among the shelves of independent bookstores.
Starting February 2023, #OffThePage is featuring Melanie Romero as our monthly columnist. Our Arts & Culture column was initially founded by local journalist Gabriel San Román in May 2020. Since then we have collaboratively featured over 25 stories and paid nearly 10 contributors from our community. Pitch Melanie a story or email us for more information!