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Staff Pick: Palestine Women

Name: Muhammad Harziq Amin bin Jaharudin
Book: Palestine Women
Author: Fatma Kassem
Publisher: Zed Books Ltd
Publication Year: 2011
Book Language: English

Official Synopsis:

The book examines and documents the historical narrative and lived experiences of common Palestinian women who experienced the events of 1948 and were forced into naturalised citizenship in the State of Israel.

The women’s experiences, as told in their own words, provide a lens through which to examine the intricate relationships between citizenship, nationalism, and gender in the context of an ongoing, deadly political conflict.

The events that occurred sixty years ago, which are still very much present in Palestinian-Jewish relations in the State of Israel, are referred to in Palestinian discourse as the “Nakba,” or the “Catastrophe.” The author claims that through telling these stories, the space of memory serves as a place of resistance and commemoration.


The book delves into the historical journey of Palestinians enduring oppression under Israeli forces since 1948. Authored by Fatma Kassem, a Palestinian postgraduate student residing in Israel, the book is based on her doctoral research on Palestinian women titled “The Case of Palestinian Women from Lyd and Ramleh: Between Private and Collective Memory.”

The experiences of Palestinian women  highlight their resilience amidst conflict and displacement. By centering on women’s narratives, the author acknowledges their often overlooked roles as caretakers, activists, and survivors, and provides  a more comprehensive understanding of Palestinian struggles.

This book challenged stereotypes of Palestinian women as passive victims, showcasing their active roles as agents of change and contributors to the fight for justice and equality. Through their everyday acts of resistance and resilience, Palestinian women emerged as central figures in the ongoing quest for freedom and dignity.

Driven by her own family’s story of displacement, Fatma delved into their history and forced relocation. Members of her family, particularly her grandparents and mother, were directly affected by the 1948 occupation of Sabalan. When Israeli forces occupied the village on October 30th, 1948, Fatma’s mother was forced to seek refuge in a cave located in Ghabbatyya to escape the brutal nighttime killings carried out by the Israeli army against sleeping villagers in Sabalan.

A powerful quote from Um Omar reflects the sudden upheaval endured by Palestinians: “I belong to this country, not a foreigner. We owned land, olive groves, soap-making and olive-pressing machines, and had servants. But then, everything changed abruptly, and life turned upside down.” This statement captures the deep sense of displacement felt by countless Palestinians.

Fatma blends personal narratives, academic analysis, and historical context to provide readers with a vivid portrayal of Palestinian women’s experience. Through their stories, readers can appreciate their immense courage and determination in the face of adversity.

Overall, the book offers a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of what it means to be a Palestinian woman, particularly during the violence of Nakba and subsequent displacement, enriching our understanding of their extraordinary resilience amidst oppression.

– Muhammad Harziq Amin, Internship Student in the Library Unit

Excerpts :

 “First, referring to Palestinians as “Philistines” in Hebrew is a linguistic manoeuvre, the intention of which is to claim that Palestinians are a foreigner and not indigenous or native to their homeland. As such, they have no legitimate entitlement to the land of Palestine/Israel, in contrast to ‘Native Israelis’.”Palestinian Women, page 12

“The forced affiliation of Palestinians to Israel, by naming them as Arab Israelis, has connotations of humiliation. It designates Palestinians as Arabs who now belong to Israel-Jacob. This affiliation was meant to detach Palestinians from their entitlement to the land of Palestine to become legitimate in the state of Israel. The only acceptable way for Palestinians to live in their own homeland, according to the Zionist nationalist agenda, is by becoming “Arab Israelis”, rather than natives in their homeland as Palestinians people, living as free people.”Palestinian Women, page 14

“My father’s story about my uncle refers to the procedure of selecting the four men by the Jewish Zionist Brigade when the village was occupied in 1948. On that day, the soldier had originally pointed in my uncle’s direction, but when my uncle proceeded towards the soldier (who had been shouting), he stopped my uncle and pointed at a man behind him, who was shot instead.”Palestinian Women, page 25

“My grandmother’s family, her husband’s family, and the rest of the village residents from Suhmata, like most of the residents in Sabalan, were expelled to Lebanon in October 1948. However, my grandmother refused to leave. She found refuge in Hurfaysh and her husband hid in the mountains. My grandmother believed that the Israeli soldiers eventually would leave Sabalan and then they could return to their homes. Israeli forces did leave, but they destroyed Sabalan and forbade its residents to return.”– Palestinian Women, page 37

“The statements “ I’m originally from here’ and ‘By origin, we are from here ” were said in the opening remarks of nearly all of these women, who began their life stories by defining themselves as original residents of Lyd and Ramleh (or not, as the case may be). By identifying themselves this way, these women sought to remember the Palestinian cities that they lived in before 1948 and where they continue to live today.”Palestinian Women, page 88