Books: History


Scroll down to see the books in this category.

These collections of books have been assembled from many sources of recommended reading on Israel/Palestine, including: the United Church of Christ (UCC) and UCC PIN, Sabeel, Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JFJFP) and others. Many of the book descriptions are taken from Amazon.com; some come from the source of that book recommendation.

Presented in the following categories on individual pages:
About/By Palestinian Christians
Religion; The Bible; Christian Zionism
History
Personal Histories: Memoirs, Autobiographies, Novels
Political Analysis; Diplomatic History
The Current Situation
About Palestinians inside Israel
Zionism; Jewish Identity
Faith Relations; Anti-Semitism
Art; Illustration; Poetry
Tourism; The Politics of Tourism
Please note: some books are listed in more than one category.
The order of the books within each category is random and is not related to the importance of the work.

Please send us your suggestions for additions to these lists; contact us at info@palestineportal.org.

Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer, by Phyllis Bennis (6th edition, 2015)
This irreplaceable introduction to the conflict is highly recommended for all who want to better understand what is happening in the Holy Land. If you have ever wondered “Why is there so much violence in the Middle East?”, “Who are the Palestinians?”, “What are the occupied territories?” or “What does Israel want?”, then this is the book for you. With straightforward language, Phyllis Bennis, longtime analyst of the region, answers basic questions about Israel and Israelis, Palestine and Palestinians, the US and the Middle East, Zionism and anti-Semitism; about complex issues ranging from the Oslo peace process to the election of Hamas. Together her answers provide a comprehensive understanding of the longstanding Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Sections include: The Crisis; The Other Players: The Role of the US, the UN, the Arab States, and Europe; Recent History: Rising Violence; Looking Backward (1900-1991); The Future.


Palestine and the Arab Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, by Charles D. Smith
Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict provides a comprehensive, balanced, and accessible narrative of a complex historical topic. The narrative is supported by more than 40 primary documents that highlight perspectives from all sides of the struggle. Throughout the book, the author examines how underlying issues, group motives, religious and cross-cultural clashes, diplomacy and imperialism, and the arrival of the modern era shaped this volatile region. Maps, photographs, chronologies, public opinion polls, and discussion questions help facilitate student understanding. A fully updated final chapter makes this the most current history of the topic.
Smith’s work has long been considered a classic, and is a commonly utilized textbook in university courses. Smith has copiously kept the book up to date with new history and documents. This is a standard and comprehensive examination of the history of the conflict.


America and the Founding of Israel: An Investigation of the Morality of America’s Role, by John W. Mulhall (1995)
A look at moral issues in question concerning U.S. involvement in the conflict between Israel & Palestine, this book is a valuable tool for understanding the history and moral character of what we now call the “Israel-Palestine conflict.” The author, a Catholic priest and a writer on social justice issues, asks important questions about the legitimacy of claims in the region, the pressures that have been applied to governments and peoples, and the morality of our nation’s policies toward Arabs and Jews in this volatile part of the world.


The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappe (2007)
Renowned Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe’s groundbreaking book revisits the formation of the State of Israel. Between 1947 and 1949, over 400 Palestinian villages were deliberately destroyed, civilians were massacred and around a million men, women, and children were expelled from their homes at gunpoint. Denied for almost six decades, had it happened today it could only have been called “ethnic cleansing.” Decisively debunking the myth that the Palestinian population left of their own accord in the course of this war, Ilan Pappe offers impressive archival evidence to demonstrate that, from its very inception, a central plank in Israel’s founding ideology was the forcible removal of the indigenous population. Indispensable for anyone interested in the current crisis in the Middle East.


The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel, by Ilan Pappé
For more than 60 years, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have lived as Israeli citizens within the borders of the nation formed at the end of the 1948 conflict. Occupying a precarious middle ground between the Jewish citizens of Israel and the dispossessed Palestinians of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the Israeli Palestinians have developed an exceedingly complex relationship with the land they call home; however, in the innumerable discussions of the Israel-Palestine problem, their experiences are often overlooked and forgotten. In this book, historian Ilan Pappé examines how Israeli Palestinians have fared under Jewish rule and what their lives tell us about both Israel’s attitude toward minorities and Palestinians’ attitudes toward the Jewish state. Drawing upon significant archival and interview material, Pappé analyzes the Israeli state’s policy towards its Palestinian citizens, finding discrimination in matters of housing, education, and civil rights. Rigorously researched yet highly readable, The Forgotten Palestinians brings a new and much-needed perspective to the Israel-Palestine debate.


The Question of Palestine, by Edward W. Said
This original and deeply provocative book was the first to make Palestine the subject of a serious debate–one that remains as critical as ever. With the rigorous scholarship he brought to his influential Orientalism and an exile’s passion (he is Palestinian by birth), Edward W. Said traces the fatal collision between two peoples in the Middle East and its repercussions in the lives of both the occupier and the occupied–as well as in the conscience of the West. He has updated this landmark work to portray the changed status of Palestine and its people in light of such developments as the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, the intifada, the Gulf War, and the ongoing MIddle East peace initiative. For anyone interested in this region and its future, The Question of Palestine remains the most useful and authoritative account available.


The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East, by David Hirst
In this masterful historic analysis of the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Hirst offers much more than narrative history; he offers an alternative point of view that is likely to disturb one’s understanding of history. Well-documented, this book complements the mainstream presentation of the last century of conflict in the Middle East. With Zionism and Israel at the center of this telling, Hirst has written a book that has been described as “classic.” The second edition ends with the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and its consequences (1982-3), and the third edition takes the reader through Oslo and its impact.


The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle For Statehood, by Rashid Khalidi (2007)
In The Iron Cage, Rashid Khalidi, one of the most respected historians and political observers of the Middle East, homes in on Palestinian politics and history. By drawing on a wealth of experience and scholarship, Khalidi provides a lucid context for the realities on the ground today, a context that has been, until now, notably lacking in our discourse. Rashid Khalidi’s engrossing narrative of this torturous history offers much-needed perspective for anyone concerned about peace in the Middle East.


Palestine and The Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History With Documents, by Charles D. Smith (2012)
Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict provides a comprehensive, balanced, and accessible narrative of a complex historical topic. The narrative is supported by more than 40 primary documents that highlight perspectives from all sides of the struggle. Throughout the book, the author examines how underlying issues, group motives, religious and cross-cultural clashes, diplomacy and imperialism, and the arrival of the modern era shaped this volatile region. Map, photographs, chronologies, and discussion questions help facilitate student understanding.


Jerusalem 1913: The Origins of the Arab‐Israeli Conflict, by Amy Dockser Marcus
Though the origins of the Arab-Israeli conflict have traditionally been traced to the British Mandate (1920-1948) that ended with the creation of the Israeli state, a new generation of scholars has taken the investigation further back, to the Ottoman period. The first popular account of this key era, Jerusalem 1913 shows us a cosmopolitan city whose religious tolerance crumbled before the onset of Z ionism and its corresponding nationalism on both sides-a conflict that could have been resolved were it not for the onset of World War I. With extraordinary skill, Amy Dockser Marcus rewrites the story of one of the world’s most indelible divides.


Palestine, Peace not Apartheid, by Jimmy Carter
Following his #1 New York Times best seller Our Endangered Values, the former president, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, offers an assessment of what must be done to bring permanent peace to Israel, with dignity and justice for Palestine. President Carter, who was able to negotiate peace between Israel and Egypt, has remained deeply involved in Middle East affairs since leaving the White House. He has stayed in touch with the major players from all sides in the conflict and has made numerous trips to the Holy Land, most recently as an observer of the Palestinian elections in 2005 and 2006. In this book, President Carter shares his intimate knowledge of the history of the Middle East and his personal experiences with the principal actors, and he addresses sensitive political issues many American officials avoid. Pulling no punches, Carter prescribes steps that must be taken for the two states to share the Holy Land without a system of apartheid or the constant fear of terrorism. The general parameters of a long-term, two-state agreement are well known, the president writes. There will be no substantive and permanent peace for any peoples in this troubled region as long as Israel is violating key U.N. resolutions, official American policy, and the international “road map” for peace by occupying Arab lands and oppressing the Palestinians. Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid is a challenging, provocative, and courageous work.


We Can Have Peace in the Holy Land, by Jimmy Carter (2010)
In this urgent, timely, and passionate book, Nobel Peace Laureate and former President Jimmy Carter argues that the present moment is a unique time for achieving peace in the Middle East—and he offers a bold and comprehensive plan to do just that.


Against Our Better Judgment, by Alison Weir
Soon after WWII, US statesman Dean Acheson warned that creating Israel on land already inhabited by Palestinians would “imperil” both American and all Western interests in the region. Despite warnings such as this one, President Truman supported establishing a Jewish state on land primarily inhabited by Muslims and Christians. Few Americans today are aware that US support enabled the creation of modern Israel. Even fewer know that US politicians pushed this policy over the forceful objections of top diplomatic and military experts.

As this work demonstrates, these politicians were bombarded by a massive pro-Israel lobbying effort that ranged from well-funded and very public Zionist organizations to an “elitist secret society” whose members included Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis. AGAINST OUR BETTER JUDGMENT brings together meticulously sourced evidence to illuminate a reality that differs starkly from the prevailing narrative. It provides a clear view of the history that is key to understanding one of the most critically important political issues of our day.

Alison Weir is the president of the Council for the National Interest and executive director of If Americans Knew, a think tank that provides information on Israel-Palestine and the American connection. She is a former journalist.


Thirteen Days in September, by Lawrence Wright
In this briskly paced book, Wright chronicles the 1978 Camp David summit that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty the following year. But this book is more than that; it provides important biographical background of Presidents Carter and Sadat, and Prime Minster Begin. It is a study of the characters involved and the historical contexts that led them each to Camp David. Positions staked out then have bearing on the state of the conflict today, and is therefore is an especially relevant as contemporary insight.


The Missing Peace, by Dennis Ross
This dense volume is a very thorough account of the negotiations that took place at Camp David in July 2000, written by one of the central players. Written with much detail, and personal impressions, Ross’s book is important as documentation of the meetings with Pres. Clinton, Prime Minister Barak, and Pres. Arafat.


The Truth About Camp David, by Clayton Swisher
The collapse of both sets of Arab-Israeli negotiations in 2000 led not only to recrimination and bloodshed, with the outbreak of the second intifada, but to the creation of a new myth. Syrian and Palestinian intransigence was blamed for the current disastrous state of affairs, as both parties rejected a “generous” peace offering from the Israelis that would have brought peace to the region. The Truth About Camp David shatters that myth. Based on the riveting, eyewitness accounts of more than forty direct participants involved in the latest rounds of Arab-Israeli negotiations, including the Camp David 2000 summit, former federal investigator-turned-investigative journalist Clayton E. Swisher provides a compelling counter-narrative to the commonly accepted history. The Truth About Camp David details the tragic inner workings of the Clinton Administration’s negotiating mayhem, their eleventh hour blunders and miscalculations, and their concluding decision to end the Oslo process with blame and disengagement. It is not only a fascinating historical look at Middle East politics on the brink of disaster, but a revelatory portrait of how all-too-human American political considerations helped facilitate the present crisis.


A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, by Allis Radosh and Ronald Radosh
“[This] revelatory account of Truman’s vital contributions to Israel’s founding. . .is told. . . with an elegance informed by thorough research.”
Wall Street Journal
“Even knowing how the story ends, A Safe Haven had me sitting on the edge of my seat.”
—Cokie Roberts
A dramatic, detailed account of the events leading up to the creation of a Jewish homeland and the true story behind President Harry S. Truman’s controversial decision to recognize of the State of Israel in 1948, drawn from Truman’s long-lost diary entries and other previously unused archival materials.


Support Any Friend: Kennedy’s Middle East and the Making of the U.S.-Israel Alliance, by Warren Bass
At the Cold War’s height, John F. Kennedy set precedents that continue to shape America’s encounter with the Middle East. Kennedy was the first president to make a major arms sale to Israel, the only president to push hard to deny Israel the atomic bomb, and the last president to reach out to the greatest champion of Arab nationalism, Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser. Now Warren Bass takes readers inside the corridors of power to show how Kennedy’s New Frontiersmen grappled with the Middle East. He explains why the fiery Nasser spurned Washington’s overtures and stumbled into a Middle Eastern Vietnam. He shows how Israel persuaded the Kennedy administration to start arming the Jewish state. And he grippingly describes JFK’s showdown with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion over Israel’s secret nuclear reactor. From the Oval Office to secret diplomatic missions to Cairo and Tel Aviv, Bass offers stunning new insights into the pivotal presidency that helped create the U.S.-Israel alliance and the modern Middle East.


A Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S., by Trita Parsi
In this era of superheated rhetoric and vitriolic exchanges between the leaders of Iran and Israel, the threat of nuclear violence looms. But the real roots of the enmity between the two nations mystify Washington policymakers, and no promising pathways to peace have emerged. This book traces the shifting relations among Israel, Iran, and the United States from 1948 to the present, uncovering for the first time the details of secret alliances, treacherous acts, and unsavory political maneuverings that have undermined Middle Eastern stability and disrupted U.S. foreign policy initiatives in the region. Trita Parsi, a U.S. foreign policy expert with more than a decade of experience, is the only writer who has had access to senior American, Iranian, and Israeli decision makers. He dissects the complicated triangular relations of their countries, arguing that America’s hope for stability in Iraq and for peace in Israel is futile without a correct understanding of the Israeli-Iranian rivalry. Parsi’s behind-the-scenes revelations about Middle East events will surprise even the most knowledgeable readers: Iran’s prime minister asks Israel to assassinate Khomeini, Israel reaches out to Saddam Hussein after the Gulf War, the United States foils Iran’s plan to withdraw support from Hamas and Hezbollah, and more. This book not only revises our understanding of the Middle East’s recent past, it also spells out a course for the future. In today’s belligerent world, few topics, if any, could be more important.


The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, by Miko Peled
A powerful account, by Israeli peace activist Miko Peled, of his transformation from a young man who’d grown up in the heart of Israel’s elite and served proudly in its military into a fearless advocate of nonviolent struggle and equal rights for all Palestinians and Israelis. His journey is mirrored in many ways the transformation his father, a much-decorated Israeli general, had undergone three decades earlier. Alice Walker contributed a foreword to the first edition in which she wrote, “There are few books on the Israel/Palestine issue that seem as hopeful to me as this one.” In the new Epilogue he takes readers to South Africa, East Asia, several European countries, and the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel itself.


Once upon a Country, by Sari Nusseibeh
A teacher, a scholar, a philosopher, and an eyewitness to history, Sari Nusseibeh is one of our most urgent and articulate authorities on the conflict in the Middle East. From his time teaching side by side with Israelis at the Hebrew University through his appointment by Yasir Arafat to administer the Arab Jerusalem, he has held fast to the principles of freedom and equality for all, and his story dramatizes the consequences of war, partition, and terrorism as few other books have done. This autobiography brings rare depth and compassion to the story of his country.


Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Meshal and the Rise of Hamas, by Paul McGeough
“Providing a fly-on-the-wall vantage of the rising diplomatic panic that sent shudders through world capitals” (Toronto Star), Kill Khalid unfolds as a masterpiece of investigative journalism. In 1997, the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad poisoned Hamas leader Khalid Mishal in broad daylight on the streets of Amman, Jordan. As the little-known Palestinian leader slipped into a coma, the Mossad agents’ escape was bungled and the episode quickly spiraled into a diplomatic crisis. A series of high-stakes negotiations followed, which ultimately saved Mishal and set the stage for his phenomenal political ascendancy. In Kill Khalid, acclaimed reporter Paul McGeough reconstructs the history of Hamas through exclusive interviews with key players across the Middle East and in Washington, including unprecedented access to Mishal himself, who remains to this day one of the most powerful and enigmatic figures in the region. A “sobering reminder of how little has been achieved during sixty years of Israeli efforts in Palestine” (Kirkus), Kill Khalid tracks Hamas’s political fortunes across a decade of suicide bombings, political infighting, and increasing public support, culminating in the battle for Gaza in 2007 and the current-day political stalemate.


Lords of the Land, by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar
Perhaps the most comprehensive and thorough history of the Israeli settlement movement, this book was originally published in Hebrew. The 1967 Arab-Israeli War was a devastating triumph for Israel, which immediately began to establish settlements in the newly conquered territories. Those settlements, and the movement that made them possible, have utterly transformed Israel, and yet until now the full history of the occupation has never been told. Lords of the Land tells that tragic story, and reveals what a catastrophe it has been for both Israel and the Palestinians.


State of Terror: How Terrorism Created Modern Israel, by Thomas Suárez (2017)
How did terrorism originate in Palestine and what was its outcome, both historically and today? Suárez’s principal thesis is that Zionist terrorism “ultimately dictated the course of events during the [British] Mandate, and it is Israeli state terrorism that continues to dictate events today.”


Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits In a Promised Land, by David K. Shipler (2015)
The expanded and updated edition of David Shipler’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book that examines the relationship, past and present, between Arabs and Jews. In this monumental work, extensively researched and more relevant than ever, David Shipler delves into the origins of the prejudices that exist between Jews and Arabs that have been intensified by war, terrorism, and nationalism.


Whose Promised Land? The Continuing Crisis Over Israel and Palestine, by Colin Chapman (2015)
A new and fully updated edition includes the history of the area since 9/11, the impact of the Gulf wars, the building of the security wall, and the increased importance of Hamas. The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has profoundly affected the Middle East for almost 70 years, and shows no sign of ending. It remains a huge political and humanitarian problem. Writing from the perspective of someone who has lived and worked in the Middle East at various times since 1968, the author explains the roots of the problem and outlines the arguments of the main parties involved. He also explores legitimate and illegitimate ways of using the Bible in relation to the conflict.


Whose Holy City? Jerusalem and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, by Colin Chapman (2005)
Jews, Arabs, and Muslims alike have fought over Jerusalem, the city of peace, for centuries with no foreseeable solution. In Whose Holy City?, Middle East expert Colin Chapman covers the history and background of “the most famous city in the world” and traces its days from Old Testament times to the contemporary scene. Many regard Jerusalem as the key to peace in the Middle East. Still, Chapman believes that the Middle East question is not one that will be easily resolved. Bringing biblical insight and expert analysis to the search for peace, he reflects on Jerusalem’s place in Scripture and history, assesses the present-day conflict, and all the while looks at possibilities for peace and resolution.


Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, by Norman Finkelstein (2003)
This acclaimed study surveys the dominant popular and scholarly images of the Israel–Palestine conflict. Finkelstein opens with a theoretical discussion of Zionism, locating it as a romantic form of nationalism that assumed the bankruptcy of liberal democracy. He goes on to look at the demographic origins of the Palestinians, with particular reference to the work of Joan Peters, and develops critiques of the influential studies of both Benny Morris and Anita Shapira. Reviewing the diplomatic history with Aban Eban‘s oeuvre as his foil, Finkelstein closes by demonstrating that the casting of Israel as the innocent victim of Arab aggression in the June 1967 and October 1973 wars is not supported by the documentary record.


The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East, by Robert Fisk (2007)
A sweeping and dramatic history of the last half century of conflict in the Middle East from an award-winning journalist who has covered the region for over forty years, The Great War for Civilisation unflinchingly chronicles the tragedy of the region from the Algerian Civil War to the Iranian Revolution; from the American hostage crisis in Beirut to the Iran-Iraq War; from the 1991 Gulf War to the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. A book of searing drama as well as lucid, incisive analysis, The Great War for Civilisation is a work of major importance for today’s world.


Brokers of Deceit: How the US has undermined peace in the Middle East, by Rashid Khalidi
An historian and participant in some of the negotiations discussed, Khalidi examines three “moments” in peacemaking efforts: the 1982 efforts and foundational documents; the Madrid/Oslo period; and Pres. Obama’s first term. This is a much broader history, though, connecting the consistency and evolution of US involvement, identifying guiding US interests and their consequences, and showing the ultimately negative role the US has played. Khalidi’s focus on language, describing it as Orwellian, is astute. This is a short, but quite valuable, contribution.


Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, by Saree Makdisi
Makdisi combines UN resolutions and reports with statistics, history and maps; Palestinian rights and multiple Palestinian and Israeli narratives; and individual stories and experiences to give a thorough and highly readable picture of the occupation. Makdisi offers clear analysis and fluid style to make this a must-read for people at different levels of familiarity with the facts on the ground.


Israel’s Occupation, by Neve Gordon
This is a more academic look at the occupation, and is written by an Israeli, the Senior Lecturer and head of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Gordon considers modalities of control (temporariness, arbitrariness, invisibility, “restraint,” and continuity) in analyzing decades of occupation of Palestinian lands and people through Foucaultian lenses. He draws on the simply complex matrices of biopower, sovereign power, and disciplinary power to trace the changes (and consistency) in Israeli policies of occupation, a defining moment of which was the creation of the Palestinian Authority as part of Oslo, by which Israel could cede Authority but retain authority of the occupation.


The Much Too Promised Land, by Aaron David Miller
Miller recounts diplomatic history from the 1970’s through the present, by someone on the inside of American administrations. Focusing on Kissinger, Carter, and James Baker, as well as Clinton, Miller offers some honest and helpful assessment of the US’s role in seeking peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Not overly partisan, Miller attempts to identify key issues and assess what the US has done right and wrong.


Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, Mazin B. Qumsiyeh (2011)
The Western media paint Palestinian resistance against Israeli occupation as exclusively violent: armed resistance, suicide bombings, and rocket attacks. In reality these methods are the exception to what is a peaceful and creative resistance movement. In this fascinating book, Qumsiyeh synthesizes data from hundreds of original sources to provide the most comprehensive study of civil resistance in Palestine. The book contains hundreds of stories of the heroic and highly innovative methods of resistance employed by the Palestinians over more than 100 years. The author also analyses the successes, failures, missed opportunities and challenges facing ordinary Palestinians as they struggle for freedom against incredible odds. This is the only book to critically and comparatively study the uprisings of 1920-21, 1929, 1936-9, 1970s, 1987-1991 and 2000-2006. The compelling human stories told in this book will inspire people of all faiths and political backgrounds to chart a better and more informed direction for a future of peace with justice.