Many books have explored Palestine from various perspectives, but few have offered as comprehensive an analysis of its history, dynamics, and strategic dimensions as Azmi Bishara’s Palestine: Matters of Truth and Justice (June 2022).
Bishara, a renowned Palestinian intellectual whose decades-long struggle forced him into exile, explores how to reconstruct the national movement using the principle of organised resistance. The book emphasises justice over superficial policy solutions, noting that the duality of equality and freedom constitutes the antithesis to Zionism, the ideological underpinning of Israeli settler-colonialism.
Acknowledging the belated nature of Israel’s settler-colonialism, which coincided with the 20th-century global era of decolonisation, Bishara highlights the peculiarity of the Zionist project. Israel combines features of past colonial projects, from South African apartheid to French settlement-building in Algeria. The Oslo process, as Bishara long predicted, laid the groundwork for the current situation in Israel/Palestine.
Bishara’s book provides a historical genealogy of the violent birth of the Jewish state in 1948, the trajectories leading to the Nakba, and the far-reaching consequences of the settler-colonial project on Palestinians and the broader Arab region.
Different dates have been selected to mark the same occasion. What is annually commemorated as the Palestinian Nakba on 15 May, is celebrated in Israel as its independence day according to the Hebrew calendar. Bishara interprets this temporal gap “as an appropriate metaphor for the distance between two irreconcilable narratives concerning the same historical event”.
Bishara’s book powerfully deconstructs the Zionist claim to land ownership as a political and national right inherited from ancient Israelites. Yet, he also suggests it is not fruitful for Palestinians to self-identify with ancient groups, such as the Canaanites. Palestine is a by-product of rich civilisational interactions that took place over centuries, developing an Arab-Palestinian identity before the advent of Zionist colonisation.
The conceptualisation of “native indigenous people with national consciousness” usefully distinguishes Palestinians and their national ambition for liberation and independence from other indigenous groups whose struggle is oriented towards cultural autonomy within an existing state.