We’re up to over 200 dead in the latest round of Israeli–Palestinian fighting, the most recent installment in a conflict that seems like it will never end. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict has a long and complex history, one that involves more than the two places and people of Israel and Palestine, and has layers and layers to peel away to even begin to start to understand, whether you live there or not. It’s certainly more complicated than the formula provided by the media: one country provokes the other, the other attacks, innocent people die, then some other country brokers peace. There is always an endless supply of new books and articles on the subject, but if you’re looking for a little more information, different angles and points of view, these books might be helpful places to start.
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, Sarah Glidden
American writer and comic illustrator Glidden took a Birthright Israel tour to try to understand better what drives all the tension, hatred, and conflict between Israel and Palestine. She turned her experiences into this, one of the best graphic novels of the last few years.
I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey, Izzeldin Abuelaish
How would you react if rockets hit your home and killed three of your daughters and your niece? That “The Gaza Doctor,” Izzeldin Abuelaish, had to ask himself that question, a question so horrible that it’s almost impossible to contemplate. His answer: reach deep down and find compassion even in the face of unspeakable tragedy, and use your energy to try and forge something good, instead of adding to the bad.
The Crisis of Zionism, Peter Beinart
The first thing you want to do is read Beinart’s 2010 New York Review of Books essay, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” Then read this book. Beinart, one of the American Jewish Left’s most well-known and smartest critics of Israel, is usually a lightning rod for controversy, and this book shows why.
Falling Out of Time, David Grossman
After his soldier son was killed in the war between Israel and the Hisbollah, Grossman followed up To the End of the Land with this novel on how a person deals with grief. It doesn’t directly address all of the strife going on in the region, but you know this is a book about all those who have lost loved ones because of it.
Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007, Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar
The more you listen to the news, the more you hear about Israeli settlers. This book explains the history of settlers in occupied territories, and why the question of settlements comes up whenever any conflict arises.
Out of It, Selma Dabbagh
Great fiction from Israel and Palestine, whether it directly addresses the conflict or not, is often at least influenced by the environment in which it was written. While writers like, say, Israeli Etgar Keret is more often subtly influenced by the the conflict, Palestinian writer Selma Dabbagh’s novel addresses the subject head on. Either way, though, you can tell the fighting gets to these authors, and that it’s through fiction that they find the best — and possibly only — way to deal with the constant turmoil.