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  • A good place to begin is with Martin Bunton’s The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Very Short Introduction. This is a quick primer on the history of the last 100 years. The situation on the ground is so complex, and people’s understanding of the history is often so limited or biased, that having a brief factual foundation to be very helpful.  Bunton parses the century into six bitesized pieces:
    • 1897–1917: Ottoman Palestine
    • 1917–1937: British Palestine
    • 1937–1947: Partitioned Palestine
    • 1947–1967: Atzmaut and Nakba
    • 1967–1987: Occupation
    • 1987–2007: The rise and fall of the peace process
  • It’s hard to find an unbiased history of the modern State of Israel. Let us offer one rich with complexity and nuance, one whose Zionist biases are transparent, one from which you can learn much. Ari Shavit is a columnist at Haaretz, whose My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragey of Israel offers a passionate and compellingly honest history of “the miracle of Zionism” and “the tragedy of 1948.”
  • If you want to explore the early 20th century precedents of the current situation, read David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace. A fascinating look at the intrigues and missed opportunities of the dying European empires.
  • If you want to dive more deeply into the abyss of 1948, you should read Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Pappe is an Israeli historian now teaching at Exeter, who examines the policies and practices of the nascent State of Israel uprooting Palestinian communities, destroying villages, and forcing into exile 750,000 people — what the Palestinians refer to as al Nakba (“the disaster”).
  • For an examination of the birth of the settler movement in Israel, read Gershom Gorenberg’s The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967–1977.
  • If you’re interested in learning about Islam, read Karen Armstrong’s Islam: A Short History. Karen is a brilliant writer on religion in general, and a renowned religious historian. She has written many books, all worthwhile. If you enjoy her Islam, you might consider The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism, which examines the rise of fundamentalism as a response to modernism in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, and also the biography Muhammad: A Prophet for Our Time.
  • If you want to get a sense of the strange ambivalence where history, culture and politics collide in Jerusalem, read Guy Delisle’s Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City. Delisle is a cartoonist who kept a graphic diary while living in Jerusalem for a year. Despite being a graphic book, its tone is spot on.
  • If you want a view from the front lines, read Michael McRay’s Letters From Apartheid Street: A Christian Peacemaker in Occupied Palestine. McRay is a young divinity student who chronicles his two months working with Cristian Peacemaker Teams, bearing witness to the daily oppression in the West Bank.
  • If you’re looking for a ray of hope, read Mark Braverman’s A Wall in Jerusalem: Hope, Healing, and the Struggle for Justice in Israel and Palestine. Braverman is an American psychologist who had been a passionate Zionist until he visited Palestine with Interfaith Peace Builders. That trip challenged his own beliefs and assumptions, perhaps even his faith, and transformed his thinking. He now writes and speaks about  peace in Israel and Palestine, based on his reaffirmed faith and on what he sees as the common elements among the three great monotheistic faiths. His writing is particularly inspiring.