Book Review: “Popular Resistance in Palestine” by Mazin Qumsiyeh

As a break with the usual posts about recent news developments but in line with a blog I posted the other day I decided to review a book I have recently read and liked enough to review. The book is a new release by the Palestinian Professor and author Mazin Qumsiyeh of Bethlehem and Bir Zeit University. If one is a frequent viewer of RamallahRamallah Yahoo group or various alternative news outlets such as MondoWeiss you may have read something by him. He has recently returned to Palestine after giving a multi-week speaking tour in Europe and the United States talking about his book.

As a preface I believe his book is important for a few reasons. The first being it is written by a Palestinian Professor who lives in Palestine. This may seem like a moot point but being a student at a Zionist university you are told there are no “true” Arab (especially Palestinian) authors. Meaning as I was told in a class with a guest lecturer Avraham Sela, “All Arabs that live in Arab countries are inherently unable to write a non-biased history, they always feel the need to glorify their leader and blame Israel.” Now granted if anyone started off a sentence with “All Jews…” they would immediately be cut off and called anti-semitic, but making blanket statements about 350 million people of which he has met maybe a thousand in his life is halal. Not that I believed this blanket statement, but the point is that it is taught like this. Also I believe his book is very important because it is not of the usual history people refer to when they say resistance, especially referring to Arabs or Palestinians. There are countless books about Palestinian “infiltration” after 1948 and many more about Fedayeen and initial sabotage missions carried out post 1967. This book deals with neither is a fresh recount of the peaceful nature of the resistance of Palestinians against a colonial settler movement/state.

His book describes popular resistance (as he terms to be a non-violent resistance against an oppressor) displayed by Palestinians since the outbreak of the Zionist movement. His focus is mostly pre-Israel but also has very revealing chapters involving Palestinian Israeli resistance under the military government (1948-1966), post 1967 resistance, and First Intifada resistance. He sources many foreign and Arabic sources to document the intelligentsia resistance to Zionism in the form of leaflets, strikes, etc before and during the mandate. In addition he documents various methods used by Palestinians to resist against the partitioning of their land and the brutal tactics used before during the Mandate to crush any form of resistance to British/Zionist rule. He also goes against traditional history to describe the ways Muslim and Christian organizations worked together to resist Zionist colonization throughout the history of Zionism from 1882-present day. His detailed analysis of the First Intifada being a mode of popular resistance to be emulated is a refreshing account of the solidarity Palestinians faced and could be a future mode of popular resistance, as opposed to the Second Intifada that after a brutal and deadly crack down by Israel resulted in the death of thousands of people.

Mazin Qumsiyeh overall writes a very thorough and well documented account of non-violent Palestinian (and later with individual international and Israeli support) resistance to the fourth most powerful military in the world with minimal symbolic help from the outside world. He spends his last chapters describing the possibility of building a movement based off of lessons learned from the past in Palestine and other regions. Towards the end like any theoretical book it gets a tid lofty and less substantive but what book on the subject of popular resistance would not be. Overall a great read from cover to cover and a recommended read for anyone interested in the subject. Anyone can purchase the book on Amazon as it just got there or if they are in Palestine can get the book in any alternative book store. A solid 9.5/10.

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