7 Informative books to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict

Much-needed reading


By Marissa Chin

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7 Informative books to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict

Since 7 October, heartbreaking images of mass destruction and human loss have become inescapable as social media feeds and offline discussions have been dominated by the Israel-Palestine conflict

As with any conflict of this scale that has lasted over 120 years, the relationship between Israel and Palestine is complex, convoluted and highly contentious. Sentiments surrounding national identity, land ownership and religious practices are often divided. As the war between these two great powers continues, you might be looking for resources on what both sides are fighting for or how the conflict began.

To help you navigate the labyrinthian history between Israel and Palestine, we glean seven educational and informative books that provide useful insights into the conflict and the emotional toll it has caused on its people. 


Arabs and Israelis: Conflict and Peacemaking in the Middle East 

Written by a distinguished group of scholars consisting of an Israeli, a Palestinian and an Egyptian, this book offers a broad and well-balanced discussion on a much-debated subject. With its second edition published in 2022, Arab and Israelis contain up-to-date coverage on key developments such as the shift from Obama to Trump, the Abraham Accords, and the fall of Netanyahu. Further, it is also complemented by detailed full-colour maps, timelines and photos for visual aid. Readers who are looking for a wider context of the current situation in Gaza should pick this textbook up for a nuanced introduction to the topic.

Purchase the book here.


A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict 

Widely considered to be the least biased single-volume history of the conflict, Mark Tessler’s academic tome is highly praised for its objective, comprehensive and balanced stance. With over 800 pages long and littered with citations and footnotes, Tessler leaves no stone unturned in this herculean effort to recount the earliest times to present the history of the Israeli-Palestintian dispute, and how several peace talks and diplomatic solutions over the decades have failed both sides. Tessler’s work is not as easy to read as the others on the list due to its impressive breadth and depth; however, its rich and exhaustive content makes A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict a must-read for anyone looking for the most comprehensive literature on the subject.

Purchase the book here.


The Question of Palestine

Written by one of the most important intellectuals of our generation, Edward Said’s formative book, The Question of Palestine cannot be left out of this list. As a Palestinian author who was born in Jerusalem, Said imparts the same level of meticulous scholarship and probing examination of the collision of two peoples in the Middle East, its consequences in the lives of the occupied and the occupier and the conscience of the West that earned him critical acclaim in his seminal work, Orientalism. For readers who wish to learn more about Palenstine’s history and future, The Question of Palestine is one of the most authoritative accounts available. 

Purchase the book here.


Side by Side: Parallel Histories of Israel-Palestine 

Israel and Palestine have constantly been at war with each other but that doesn’t mean that they cannot come together for informative and constructive discussions. Utilising perspectives from both sides of the conflict, Side by Side is a groundbreaking dual narrative history of Israel and Palestine. By laying out two sentiments literally side by side, readers will be able to conceptualise how the conflict has shaped the narratives and histories of both powers in different ways. Co-written by Israeli and Palestinian history teachers, the book’s fascinating and unprecedented format will allow readers to easily track and consider opposing viewpoints and the logic behind each side more straightforwardly.   

Purchase the book here.


The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction 

Looking for a bite-sized version of the war that isn’t riddled with constant citations? Martin Bunton’s The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction is your answer. Part of Oxford’s Very Short Introduction series, Bunton illuminates the origins of the great dispute in twenty-year segments, each highlighting its historical complexity, exploring watershed events that shaped the evolution of the conflict and how peace has not been achieved to this day. This includes the 1897 Basle Congress, the 1917 Balfour Declaration, Britain’s occupation of Palestine, and the 1947 UN Partition Plan. With digestible information from Bunton, this read will serve as a great jumping-off point to kickstart your further reading on the topic.

Purchase the book here.


Six Days of War

While it is called the Six-Day War (also known as the 1967 Arab-Isareli War), make no mistake that the aftereffects of the battle continue to ripple across the Middle East and around the world to this day. To unpack its lasting legacy, historian and former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael B. Oren grippingly recounts the event in this comprehensive guide. Full of exhaustive and extensive research, Six Days of War is largely considered to be an essential read for anyone looking to understand how Israeli-Palestinian relations came to be.

Purchase the book here.


My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

Sometimes, reading about how a conflict has affected someone on a more human level as opposed to historical or academic accounts is the best way to understand its history. If you are one such reader who prefers a more anecdotal approach, My Promised Land by Ari Shavit offers an in-depth perspective as an Israeli writer. In it, he uncovers the untold stories of normal civilians and creates a riveting portrait of Israel as it’s never been told before. Further, the former reporter draws parallels between the past and present, offering exacting observations about modern Israel and how it came to be an influential power in determining peace in the Middle East and world politics.

Purchase the book here.


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