11 Books and Films About Israel and Palestine, Recommended by Scholars

Photo Illustration: Ava Cruz

Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to include the scholars' names on each piece of media they recommended.

As the Israel-Hamas war continues, the horror and grief have only escalated. The war has also ignited deeply polarized debates on social media, with people across the world consuming news (as well as misinformation and disinformation) about the war. With so many different perspectives, it can be difficult to understand a conflict that stretches back decades. Many POPSUGAR readers have expressed seeking other forms of media to learn more about Israeli-Palestinian relations.

So, we asked three scholars to share media that they personally find helpful to better understand the historical context of Israeli and Palestinian relations — in the form of nonfiction books, novels, and films. We tapped Yara M. Asi, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Central Florida and a fellow at Arab Center DC and the Foundation for Middle East Peace; Shayna Weiss, PhD, senior associate director at Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University; and Rebecca Carol Johnson, PhD, an associate professor of English and Middle East and North African Studies at Northwestern University, for their recommendations.

The following is by no means a comprehensive list — and as you'll see, all recommendations are the personal picks of the three scholars we spoke with — but it may serve as a starting point.

A Nonfiction Book: "The Hundred Years' War on Palestine" by Rashid Khalidi

Considered a landmark history on the topic written from a Palestinian perspective, "The Hundred Years' War on Palestine" combines author Rashid Khalidi's own family records and historical documents to chart the last hundred years of what Palestinians consider a colonial war; it critiques Israeli and US policies, as well as Palestinian leadership. Khalidi, the Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, is considered one of the preeminent historians of the Middle East.

— As recommended by Rebecca Carol Johnson and Yara M. Asi

A Nonfiction Book: "The Art of Leaving" by Ayelet Tsabari

Ayelet Tsabari was born in Israel to a Jewish family of Yemeni descent and has written two books that focus on the experience of Jews from Arabic-speaking and Muslim countries. "The Art of Leaving" is her memoir and gives voice to a population whose existence challenges the idea that Jewishness and Arabness are binaries.

— As recommended by Shayna Weiss

A Nonfiction Book: "Freedom Is a Constant Struggle" by Angela Y. Davis

In "Freedom Is a Constant Struggle," renowned feminist activist Angela Y. Davis connects movements for justice across the globe. Reflecting on Black feminism, intersectionality, and abolitionism, Davis traces movements such as the Black Freedom Movement, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, and the Palestinian struggle.

— As recommended by Rebecca Carol Johnson

A Nonfiction Book: "Justice For Some" by Noura Erakat

"Justice For Some: Law and the Question of Palestine" by Noura Erakat looks at the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of international law. Erakat, a human rights lawyer, explores how international law has done more to advance Israel's interests than Palestine's.

— As recommended by Rebecca Carol Johnson and Yara M. Asi

A Nonfiction Book: "Drinking the Sea at Gaza" by Amira Hass

In the early 1990s, Amira Hass, a young Israeli reporter, entered Gaza and stayed as the first Israeli journalist to live and document daily Palestinian life there. "Drinking the Sea at Gaza: Days and Nights in a Land Under Siege" recounts what she saw during her time covering Gaza for Haaretz newspaper.

— As recommended by Rebecca Carol Johnson

A Novel: "Salt Houses" by Hala Alyan

"Salt Houses" by Hala Alyan chronicles three generations of a Palestinian family displaced after the 1967 War, in which Israel gained territory four times its original size. Described as lyrical and heartbreaking, the novel charts the Palestinian diaspora in Kuwait, Paris, the US, and beyond. It's the winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the Arab American Book Award.

— As recommended by Shayna Weiss and Yara M. Asi

A Novel: "Miral" by Rula Jebreal

Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal takes a turn to fiction in "Miral," a novel that focuses on women whose lives unfold along the borders of Israel and Palestine.

— As recommended by Yara M. Asi

A Novel: "Against the Loveless World" by Susan Abulhawa

A Palestine Book Awards Winner, "Against the Loveless World" follows Nahr, a woman born in Kuwait in the 1970s to Palestinian refugees. After a brief marriage falls apart and the US invasion of Iraq makes her a refugee, she finally lands in Palestine, where she makes a home, falls in love, and lives her life under Israeli occupation.

— As recommended by Yara M. Asi

A Documentary Series: "Our Boys"

"Our Boys," a 2019 limited series from HBO, is based on the true events of the summer of 2014. That year, three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank; two days later, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy living in Jerusalem was murdered. The series, co-created by a team of Israelis and Palestinians, asks painful questions about possibilities for reconciliation and justice.

— As recommended by Shayna Weiss

A Documentary Film: "5 Broken Cameras"

This 2011 film, directed by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi, follows a Palestinian farmer's chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army in the West Bank. "5 Broken Cameras" was nominated for a 2013 Academy Award for best documentary feature.

— As recommended by Yara M. Asi

A Feature Film: "Farha"

"Farha" — a historical drama about a Palestinian's coming-of-age experience during the Nakba, which displaced Palestinians from their homeland in 1948 — was met with critical praise when it was released in 2021. Some Israeli politicians, however, criticized Netflix after it began streaming the film in 2022.

— As recommended by Yara M. Asi

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