The Palestine Nakba: Decolonising History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory. Nur Masalha. (London: Zed Books, January 2012). 288 pp. Hardback. ISBN: 978-1848139718
2012 marks the 63rd anniversary of the Nakba – the most traumatic catastrophe that ever befell Palestinians. This book explores new ways of remembering and commemorating the Nakba. In the context of Palestinian oral history, it explores ‘social history from below’, subaltern narratives of memory and the formation of collective identity. Masalha argues that to write more truthfully about the Nakba is not just to practise a professional historiography but an ethical imperative. The struggles of ordinary refugees to recover and publicly assert the truth about the Nakba is a vital way of protecting their rights and keeping the hope for peace with justice alive.
This book is essential for understanding the place of the Palestine Nakba at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict and the vital role of memory in narratives of truth and reconciliation.
‘As a meticulous scholar, historian and above all Palestinian, Nur Masalha is eminently suited to write this excellent book. He has produced a marvellous history of the Nakba which should be essential reading for all those concerned with the origins of the conflict over Palestine.’ — Ghada Karmi, author of ‘Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine’
‘Nur Masalha has a distinguished and deserved reputation for scholarship on the Nakba and Palestinian refugees. Now, with his latest book, his searching analysis of past and present makes for a powerful combination of remembrance and resistance.’ — Ben White, journalist and author of ‘Israeli Apartheid: A Beginner’s Guide’
‘Nur Masalha’s ‘The Palestinian Nakba’ is a tour de force examining the process of transformation of Palestine over the last century. One outstanding feature of this study is the systematic manner in which it investigates the accumulated scholarship on the erasure of Palestinian society and culture, including a critical assessment of the work of the new historians. In what he calls ‘reclaiming the memory’ he goes on to survey and build on an emergent narrative. Masalha’s work is essential and crucial for any scholar seeking this alternate narrative.’ — Salim Tamari, Visiting Professor of History, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University
‘This book is the most comprehensive and penetrating analysis available of the catastrophe that befell Arab Palestine and its people in 1948, known as the nakba. It shows how the expulsion and physical obliteration of the material traces of a people was followed by what Masalha calls ‘memoricide’: the effacement of their history, their archives, and their place-names, and a denial that they had ever existed.’ — Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies Department of History, Columbia University
Table of Contents
1. Zionism and European Settler-Colonialism
2. The Memoricide of the Nakba: Zionist-Hebrew Toponymy and the De-Arabisation of Palestine
3. Fashioning a European Landscape, Erasure and Amnesia: The Jewish National Fund, Afforestation, and Green-washing the Nakba
4. Appropriating History: The Looting of Palestinian Records, Archives and Library Collections (1948-2011)
5. New History, Post-Zionism, the Liberal Coloniser and Hegemonic Narratives: A Critique of the Israeli ‘New Historians’
6. Decolonising History and Narrating the Subaltern: Palestinian Oral History, Indigenous and Gendered Memories
7. Resisting Memoricide and Reclaiming Memory: The Politics of Nakba Commemoration among Palestinians inside Israel
Epilogue: The Continuity of Trauma
About the Author:
Nur Masalha is Professor of Religion and Politics and Director of the Centre for Religion and History at St. Mary’s University College, London, and Professorial Research Associate, Department of History, SOAS. He is also Editor of ‘Holy Land Studies: A Multidisciplinary Journal’ (published by Edinburgh University Press).