Advance Praise for Understanding Israel/Palestine

In: Understanding Israel/Palestine
Author: Eve Spangler
Free access

“This is not only an unflinchingly clear-eyed assessment of how Israel has gone so terribly wrong in persecuting another people, the Palestinians, in its efforts to secure for Jews a place of safety from European anti-semitism. Eve Spangler’s book also does that much rarer thing: it answers the more troubling question of why Jews and Palestinians are locked in a seemingly interminable struggle over a small patch of land.

This book places Zionism squarely in its historical and ideological context, showing how Israel’s founders were driven to repeat the follies and outrages committed by earlier, similar settler colonial movements. Israel’s leaders exploited the very racism that had forced Jews to flee Europe to galvanise western support – financial, diplomatic and military – for their own racist ethno-national project against the region’s native Palestinian population.

As Spangler so clearly sets out, the western narrative of a ‘good Israel’ inside its recognised borders and a ‘bad Israel’ in the occupied territories only serves to confuse and mislead. The Zionist ‘dream’ could be realised only at a terrible cost, including to the ‘victors’. Israel has turned its Jews into oppressors, created a self-ghettoising state, and failed to deliver on the promise of a safe haven.

In the post-Oslo era, when the old paradigms are obsolete, this is an important book that all interested observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict urgently need to read.”

Jonathan Cook, journalist and author of Disappearing Palestine

“Eve Spangler is a veteran teacher, and Understanding Israel/Palestine is a model of her profession: it does what it says it will do, and takes some of the thorniest issues facing humanity and makes them understandable and clear.

The book is written, as Spangler states clearly, for ‘students, parishioners, neighbors, voters or dinner guests’ – in short, anyone who recognizes the importance of the Israel Palestine conflict but does not know much about it. It is illuminated by dozens of personal vignettes, often involving an individual shedding conceptual confusions, about the west and Islam, about anti-Semitism and Jewish commitment to Zionism, that make this difficult path more visible.

Like other stellar primers, this one is not aimed at merely conveying information but in moving the reader to action. Spangler was called to the subject herself from other intellectual pursuits because she is Jewish; and her moral will be a hard one for many to swallow but it is a truthful one. There are two equally valuable human groups in equal numbers in this land, she says; but in profoundly unequal relationship to one another. So her story comes down to a simple question, of the denial of human rights.

That injustice will only change when more people in our country are engaged and conversant. Spangler has taken up that challenge with energy and seriousness, and Understanding Israel/Palestine is a marvelous gate that many will pass through.”

Philip Weiss, Co-Editor of Mondoweiss

“Professor Spangler, sociologist and daughter of Holocaust survivors, has written an engaging, well researched, and provocative primer on Israel/Palestine. Her intellectual foundation lies in a belief in human rights for all, but her quest for historical and political understanding takes us on a brave and intimate journey into the consequences of Jewish privilege and Jewish victimhood, the agendas of imperial superpowers, and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination.

With sensitivity and candor, she challenges much of the dominant paradigm, examining the ‘complexities’ of history, Islamophobia, as well as the price of political Zionism; the consequences of building a system of total subordination of Palestinians through settlement building, expulsions, pacification, and containment with the goal of creating an exclusively Jewish state. She finds the parallels between the Back to Africa movement and Zionism ‘startlingly strong’ and makes it painfully obvious that the US civil rights movement has indeed done far more for African-Americans than the existence of Liberia. There are important lessons to be learned.

Professor Spangler challenges the reader with humor and an abundance of historical material and analysis to examine every sacred myth from indigeniety, race, Jewish existential fears, failures of Palestinian resistance movements, and the roles of hallowed organizations such as the Jewish National Fund, Jewish Agency, and Zionist Organization that began their work in the 1890s.

Ultimately, she makes the case for the inherent dangers of establishing what is essentially a militarized Jewish ghetto in historic Palestine, based on systematic ethnic cleansing and sociocide, at a time in history when de-colonization, democracy, tolerance, and universal human rights are the basic standards for a civilized and sustainable world.”

Alice Rothchild, MD, author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience, On the Brink: Israel and Palestine on the Eve of the 2014 Gaza Invasion, and producer and director of documentary film, Voices across the Divide

“Just as one thought that all the primers that could be written about the Palestine-Israel conflict have already been published, Dr. Spangler proves us wrong with this sharp, poignant, well-documented dossier. Much more than merely a primer for newcomers to the issue, this factually-grounded overview buries tired slogans and provides readers with all the most-needed facts to grasp the conflict and get involved. Above all, knowing this comes from a researcher who understands that the current state of affairs are being propagated ‘in her name’ gives hope that she can light the way for others in the Jewish community to reclaim their history and sense of social justice and contribute to realizing human rights, freedom and independence for all, including all Palestinians.”

Sam Bahour, co-editor of Homeland: Oral Histories of Palestine and Palestinians and business development consultant and activist based in Palestine

“Of the tens – or is it hundreds? – of books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that have seen the light of day in the past few years, this one is exceptional! It recounts a historical tale; it provides theoretical underpinnings; it does comparative work; it examines all the details and aspects of ongoing debates; and it brings all to life with real-life stories. Eve Spangler melds all of these together with spectacular sensibility and incomparable personal integrity. She is not afraid to take risks and to tell her readers the unpleasant, sometimes devastating, truths about the history of Zionism and the intractable, current situation in Israel-Palestine. She doesn’t hesitate to take the side of the weak against the strong and the victim against the victimizer. And she is not shy about offering an explanation and a resolution for it all through the construct of human rights. Still, the wonder of this book is its insistence on hope – not a naïve, idealistic hope, but one accompanied by a tool-box for concrete action that might right the wrongs of this tragic tale.”

Anat Biletzki, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University and Albert Schweitzer Professor of Philosophy, Quinnipiac University; Chairperson of B’Tselem, 2001–2006

“Oriented firmly around a human rights perspective, this book will be an extraordinary introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many, as well as a good resource for those with some background in the conflict. This volume is both extremely well researched and admirably grounded, as much of it draws upon Spangler’s experiences taking student study groups to the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank and to Israel. Both the analytical sections and the narrative sections are eloquently delivered. Spangler masterfully brings many voices into the text, including those of prominent Palestinians and Israelis, Palestinians whose everyday experiences of conflict are rarely recognized, and Americans who encounter this issue from multiple perspectives and experiential backgrounds. As she does this, she maintains and strengthens the moral and intellectual center of the book. While she gives a strong historical background to the conflict, she also treats important contemporary issues, including the importance of the boycott movement, the analogy with apartheid, and resistance to the wall. I expect this book will do a lot of good in the world.”

Amahl Bishara, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Tufts University, author of Back Stories: U.S. News Production and Palestinian Politics, director of documentary film Degrees of Incarceration

“Eve Spangler has produced an impressive resource for anyone interested in understanding the historical underpinnings and contemporary reality of Israel-Palestine. With encyclopedic knowledge, careful precision, and meticulous documentation, Spangler chronicles what has been at stake for Israeli, Palestinian, and international central actors in the region. While being attuned to critical political and sociological details that have animated the conflict for more than six decades, she also delineates compelling and accessible conceptual frameworks through which to analyze this complex terrain. For beginners and experts alike, this book is a rich and important read.”

Sa’ed Adel Atshan, Assistant Professor of Peace Studies, Swarthmore College

Understanding Israel/Palestine

Race, Nation, and Human Rights in the Conflict (Second Edition)



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