For centuries, the land of Palestine has been fought over by competing faiths, nations and empires. Today, even the name itself has become a battleground for conflicting Israeli and Palestinian visions of the country's past. Israelis treat the very notion of 'Palestine' as a modern invention, while rooting their own nation's history in the ancient Kingdom of Israel. But, as Nur Masalha shows, the concept of Palestine (derived from the biblical 'Philistine') is one which can be traced to the beginning of recorded history, grounded in a distinctive Palestinian culture that long predates the Old Testament narrative of Israelite conquest.
Beginning with the earliest references to the area in ancient texts, Masalha explores how the concept of Palestine and its associated identity has evolved over thousands of years, from the Bronze Age to the present day. Drawing on a rich body of sources and the latest archaeological evidence, Masalha shows how Palestine's past has been distorted and mythologised by Biblical lore and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the process, this magisterial work uncovers the true depth and complexity of Palestine's millennia-old heritage, and represents the authoritative account of the country's history.
About the Author
Nur Masalha is a Palestinian historian and a research associate at SOAS University of London. He is editor of the Journal of Holy Land and Palestine Studies. His books include Expulsion of the Palestinians, A Land without a People, The Politics of Denial, The Bible and Zionism, and The Palestine Nakba, the latter two from Zed Books.
`Masalha has now admirably unearthed this forgotten Palestine. He settles securely and authoritatively into a narrative that commands respect and is not impaired by the passion behind it ... Masalha's confidence that all will not be extinguished offers hope in the face of a still-uncertain future. He has written his history to encourage the survivors and to enlighten those who sympathise with them. He strives to keep alight the flame of Palestinian culture that, despite every attempt to snuff it out, still burns brightly in the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and in the world he never left behind.'
New York Times Review of Books
`A sharp, powerfully understated denunciation of Israel's founding mythology. Masalha's narratives provide ballast and backstory to the contemporary claims of the dispossessed.'
`The attention to detail, as well as the rigorous explanation is impeccable. Every reading, or re-reading, of this book, will provoke new contemplation.'
Middle Eastern Monitor
`Nur Masalha has produced an impressive work that challenges those who are trying to erase the Palestinians from history.'
`Masalha has done an extraordinary job, collating evidence from an abundance of rich sources, to give us a stunning narrative substantiating these identities.'
`The most comprehensive English language history of Palestine to date. This book is a painstakingly researched and well-documented deconstruction of the myths too many Zionists and their western apologists have convinced the world to be factual history.'
`It is the first true history of Palestine, and should be read by anyone with an interest in the Middle East.'
Karl Sabbagh, author of Palestine: A Personal History
`A significant contribution to the restoration of the history of ancient Palestine, written by a prolific indigenous historian of international repute. Brilliantly explicating the relationship between history and colonial ideology in Palestine, with this book Masalha puts Palestinian history back on track.'
Hamdan Taha, archaeologist and former Deputy Minister for Tourism and Antiquities, Palestine
`An amazing book, long overdue. A tour de force which demystifies the distortions and fabrications around Palestine and the people living in it.'
Ilan Pappe, author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
`A masterpiece of history writing. It serves to set the record straight, methodically and rigorously debunking the myth that Palestine is a new concept.'
Mazin Qumsiyeh, Founder and Director of the Palestine Museum of Natural History
`This erudite, comprehensive study of Palestine explodes many myths. Essential reading for a proper understanding of the efforts to deny the deep historical rootedness of this name, and of its indigenous people.'
Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University
`A work of broad and impressive scholarship. It fills a critical gap in our knowledge of Palestinian history and provides a long overdue corrective to traditional histories.'
Ghada Karmi, author of Return: A Palestinian Memoir
`Masalha's meticulous and multifaceted coverage of the history of Palestine from the late Bronze Age to modern times is essential reading for all who hope to understand its people's irrepressible struggle against occupation and exile.'
Rosemary Sayigh, author of The Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries
`This book by Nur Masalha is the fullest and richest text he has produced to date, bringing together his decades of work as a historian to produce a master narrative on Palestine.'
Haim Bresheeth, SOAS, University of London