“How many wars have I survived; how many times have I held my baby and made a run for it; how many times have I been forced into exile; how many times have I begun life again? How I have dreamt of my return, dreamt of the day I could reclaim my innocence and live again, live a normal life without fear of revealing my identity which could result in death. Crazy is this war, crazy are the guns that are not aimed at the occupier.”

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Palestine and Israel have been locked in a fresh, bloody cycle of violence for nearly seven months now. This latest escalation of the over seven-decade-old conflict, the deadliest since the 11-day war in 2021, has resulted in the death of thousands and counting, and the displacement of many more who are fleeing the furious gun battles ongoing in southern Israel and Gaza.

More than 33,000 people have been killed in Israel's offensive in Gaza, the majority of them civilians. Months of Israeli restrictions have prevented the delivery of sufficient aid into the region and according to Volker Türk, the United Nations’ human rights chief, “The extent of Israel’s continued restrictions on the entry of aid into Gaza, together with the manner in which it continues to conduct hostilities, may amount to the use of starvation as a method of war, which is a war crime.”

Israel, however, rejects accusations that it is engaging in genocidal acts in its campaign in Gaza, and has insists it has the right to defend itself following the armed incursion by Hamas on October 7, 2023.

Today, there are widespread protests against the conflict, in Tel Aviv; and vociferous sit-ins have gripped campuses across the US and Europe, in a bid to urge Western governments, who have firmly backed the Israel offence, to come through on a peace deal. Nonetheless, there seems to be no end to the distressing ordeal of the millions caught in the crossfire—without food, healthcare and education. The war has destroyed every modicum of a living a decent life, every level of education. More than 80 percent of Gaza’s schools have been severely damaged or destroyed by fighting, according to the United Nations, including every one of its 12 universities. In fact, a group of 25 UN experts said in a statement in April 2024: “These attacks ... present a systematic pattern of violence aimed at dismantling the very foundation of Palestinian society. “

The average Palestinian has lived with displacement, trauma and a sense of statelessness for more than 75 years now. The 1948 war uprooted 7,00,000 Palestinians from their homes, creating a refugee crisis that remains unresolved till date. Palestinians call this mass eviction the Nakba—Arabic for “catastrophe”—and its legacy is one of the most intractable issues in the on again-off again peace efforts.

The struggle to be heard, to share their lived reality continues for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, whether at home or in exile. What is it like, in the words of Lila Abu-Lughod, to be “drafted into being Palestinian?” What happens when you take your American children, as Sharif Elmusa does, to the refugee camp where you were raised? How can you convince, as the author and architect Suad Amiry attempts to do, a weary airport official to continue searching for a code for a country that isn’t recognised?

Here’s a selection of books that offers heartfelt accounts from one of the volatile regions of the world, offering insight into what “being Palestinian” really means. Hapless. Homeless. But never hopeless.

* A Party for Thaera: Palestinian Women Write Life in Prison
In a first, nine politically-diverse women, former Palestinian political prisoners, sat around a table in a small room in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, to share their stories of incarceration. These non-writers expressed the reality of their time in prison, of the separation from their children, of the endless struggles against Israeli occupation, to produce heartfelt narratives that go beyond simply recalling the details of their sentence or revisiting their trauma.

An exceptional insight into an almost unknown women’s world, of life and love behind bars and beyond. *Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile & Home
How do Palestinians live, imagine and reflect on home and exile in this period of a stateless and transitory Palestine, a deeply contested and crisis-ridden national project, and a sharp escalation in Israeli state violence and accompanying Palestinian oppression? How can exile and home be written? Fifteen innovative and outstanding Palestinian writers—essayists, poets, novelists, critics, artists and memoirists—respond with their reflections, experiences, memories and polemics.

* Gaza Mama: Politics & Parenting in Palestine
How does a mother explain the complex reality of Gaza to her own young children, rightly perplexed at the attitude of visa authorities, the threats of Israeli soldiers and the pain and unbelonging experienced by those around them, for a homeland they are often denied entry to and seldom see? How can a journalist cover the story of her homeland ‘objectively’, while it is being bombed and occupied, its occupants imprisoned and dispossessed? El-Haddad’s book is the story of a Gazan, life and blood; it is both a personal diary and a selection of political articles.

* Menopausal Palestine: Women at the Edge
Palestine, menopausal? Can a women’s condition called ‘change of life’ afflict a nation-in-the-making? Suad Amiry’s wacky, irreverent, unmistakably political account links the state of Palestine to the lives of ten women for whom Palestine—or its absence—was the centrifugal force around which their lives revolved. Amiry recalls the social and political history of Palestine ‘through the lives of my PLO women’s generation’, in what can only be called a personal-political tour de force.

* Golda Slept Here
This is Suad Amiry’s hard-hitting and witty take on Palestinian homes in historic Palestine occupied by Israelis. Mixing nostalgia with anger, while mocking Israeli doublespeak that seeks to wipe out any trace of a Palestinian past in West Jerusalem, Amiry juxtaposes serial bombardments and personal tragedies; evokes the sights and smells of Palestinian architecture and food; and weaves for us readers the tapestry that is the Palestinian reality, caught between official histories and private memories.