Palestine Book Summary - Palestine Book explained in key points
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Palestine summary

Nur Masalha

A Four Thousand Year History

3.9 (376 ratings)
30 mins

Brief summary

In 'Palestine,' Nur Masalha offers a comprehensive history of the Palestinian people and their struggle for self-determination. He challenges popular myths and misconceptions and sheds light on the ongoing conflict in the region.

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    Palestine traces its roots back to the Late Bronze Age, nearly 3,200 years ago.

    Archaeological discoveries often change the way we view history. This is exactly what happened in 2017 when a 3,000-year old Philistine graveyard was discovered near modern-day Ashkelon in western Israel.

    The existence of the ancient people known as Philistines in current-day Palestine and Israel is widely accepted.

    Nevertheless, the discovery of the graveyard was remarkable. It helped disprove a theory in Israeli scholarship that argues Philistines were pirates invading from the Aegean Sea. Five inscriptions found at the graveyard clearly debunked this. The inscriptions read “Peleset,” an early written form of “Palestine.” This led archaeologists to the conclusion that the Philistines were indigenous to the land.

    What also helps prove the existence of indigenous Philistines – a name that later evolved into “Palestinians” – are a number of ancient texts. One of these is an Egyptian text that is about as old as the 3,000-year-old graveyard. It describes the neighboring peoples against whom the Egyptians fought. In this case, the Philistines.

    This, of course, conflicts with the Biblical Cana’anite narrative, cited since the nineteenth century by Zionists who sought to lay claim to the region of Palestine. While it’s technically true that Cana’an did exist as a place, history shows us that Cana’an is only a Biblical term referring to Phoenicia, a civilization corresponding to modern-day Lebanon. And “Cana’an” was only used to describe this region for a brief period, around 1300 BC.

    Meanwhile, Philistia refers to the region directly to the south of Phoenicia. And after the eighth and seventh centuries BC, the whole southern Levantine region corresponding to modern Israel, Palestine – and later even southern Lebanon – was no longer referred to as Cana’an or other ancient names, and became known as Philistia.

    At the turn of the Iron Age in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, Philistines developed a sophisticated urban civilization. Besides their advanced shipbuilding techniques, they left behind a legacy of artistic craftsmanship in the pottery, metalwork and ivory carvings excavated in archaeological digs all over historic Palestine. During this time, many ancient Palestinian cities were founded, such as Ghazzah, ‘Asgalan and Isdud. These exist today as Gaza, Ashkelon and Ashdod, though Israel expelled the Palestinian inhabitants of the latter two in 1948.

    Archaeological discoveries reveal it’s likely that the city-states of ancient Palestine were similar to the advanced city-states in ancient Greek civilization. The Philistine city-states established extensive trade networks with Egypt, Phoenicia and Arabia. Not only did trade support the economy of ancient Palestine, but it also fostered a multicultural and polytheistic society.

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    What is Palestine about?

    Palestine (2015) chronicles the long history of the land straddling the eastern Mediterranean between modern-day Lebanon and Egypt. By compiling an impressive set of sources both ancient and modern, Nur Masalha presents a nuanced history of the region, from its roots in ancient Philistine civilization to the advent of modern Palestinian nationalism in the nineteenth century, and Israel’s founding in 1948.

    Palestine Review

    Palestine (1997) is a thought-provoking exploration of the history and ongoing conflict in the region. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • By delving into a wide range of historical records and sources, Nur Masalha offers a comprehensive and well-researched analysis of the Palestinian narrative.
    • The book provides insightful accounts of the experiences and perspectives of Palestinian people, shedding light on the complexity of the situation.
    • With its critical examination of colonialism, nationalism, and geopolitics, Palestine offers a nuanced understanding that challenges common assumptions, making it a compelling read.

    Best quote from Palestine

    The modern term abbot descends from Palestinian Christians of the Byzantine era. In Aramaic and Arabic, the term abba means my father, used by the regions Christians to refer to the father of a monastery. This term is still used in English and other languages to this day.

    —Nur Masalha
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    Who should read Palestine?

    • Students of history or politics
    • Supporters of both Israel and Palestine looking to inform themselves on the region
    • Palestinians who’d like to learn more about the complex historical tapestry of their land

    About the Author

    Nur Masalha is a Palestinian academic and professor of history at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. In addition to being a member of the SOAS Centre for Palestinian Studies, he’s the editor of the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies and has authored numerous books, including A Land Without a People and The Palestine Nakba.

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    Palestine FAQs 

    What is the main message of Palestine?

    The main message of Palestine is a comprehensive analysis of the history of the Palestinian people.

    How long does it take to read Palestine?

    The reading time for Palestine varies depending on the reader, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Palestine a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Palestine is a thought-provoking and compelling read, making it definitely worth your time.

    Who is the author of Palestine?

    The author of Palestine is Nur Masalha.

    What to read after Palestine?

    If you're wondering what to read next after Palestine, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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    • The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James
    • A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
    • Jerusalem by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    • A History of God by Karen Armstrong
    • Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari