Reading List: Israeli/Palestinian Conflict 1-Methodological Note
I compiled this list because I am genuinely disturbed by all the bad history that goes around social media in regard to this conflict and I want to help interested parties to understand the thousands of years of history which led us to where we are today. That is my only interest in compiling this list. I do have my own personal views on the conflict, but I am a responsible enough historian and MLIS that I know how to separate those views from my presentation of the secondary literature. The only bias you are likely to find here is in my categorization, as it inevitably reflects my fields of study.
In compiling this list, my process and methodology were as follows: I first wrote down all the relevant works I could think of off the top of my head, all hailing from my fields of Biblical Studies and Modern Jewish History. I then reached out to my friends in Modern Middle Eastern History, Conflict Studies, Jewish History, etc for recommendations, lists, and insight; one of my friends, an ABD PhD candidate in Modern Middle Eastern History, was particularly helpful in helping me understand Israeli historiography, and pointing me towards the best works in the field of Arab Nationalism.
After taking their recommendations, I conducted a series of google searches using “‘relevant search term’ site:.edu” to ensure that I received results from only academic domains. From there, I read syllabi for university courses, and examined comprehensive exam reading lists. After that, I searched the catalog of the New York Public Library using any and all relevant search terms, and I also conducted targeted searches on Amazon. By the time I finished, I had a 50 pages filled with book titles.
My next step was to divide the list into categories, deleting irrelevant titles and repeats as I went along. After dividing the books into categories, I put each title through a rigorous fact checking process. I checked the publication material for each book to ensure that it was either a. published by an academic press with a built in peer review process, and/or b. written by an academic historian—either a faculty member, or someone with an MA or PhD in history. If I was still unsure after that step, I searched the title in the University of Maryland’s database system, and read the academic (meaning, peer reviewed) book reviews of the title. From there I either kept it on the list or removed it. As I approached the late-Ottoman period, I became extra-critical of relevant titles. At this point, I made sure to read book reviews from at least two academic journals in different fields/subfields to ensure not only the text’s legitimacy, but its ability to hold firm against the scrutiny of scholars in multiple fields. I tended to remove a work if the word “polemic” appeared in the reviews.
This said, many of the works on this list, particularly, but not exclusively, in the Post-1948, Arab Nationalism and the Modern Middle East, Conflict Overviews, and Historiography Narratives, Memory and Theory categories will be slanted, or biased. Considering the topic at hand, this reality is both inevitable and perhaps necessary. I do advise you, however, to read any books you select from these categories critically.
The vast majority of these books are academic histories (simply put, I don’t trust popular historians with this topic), so if you are not accustomed to that type of writing, be sure to read the Introduction of whichever books you select very carefully, and understand that you are reading to learn—not necessarily to enjoy.
In terms of my categorization…it is imperfect and becomes admittedly fuzzy once we get into the late Ottoman Period. I’m not even 100% comfortable with some of these categories, but if there is one thing I learned from Library Science, it is that categories are both terrible and inevitable in the organization of information.
I hope that from this bibliography you will gain an appreciation for the long and enormously complex history of this region of the world, and I hope you gain an appreciation for the vast arrays of experiences, ethnicities, and histories tied up in this tiny, contested piece of land. Hopefully this appreciation will lead to a broad, complete understanding of the issues at stake today, and will help you to inject accurate historical understandings into dialogue when you come across it.