The best books for insight into the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

Who am I?

I have spent my working life as a journalist, author and storyteller, aiming to uncover complexity that sheds new light on stories we think we know. I got my training at the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times—and from the wonderful editors of my twelve books. An Innocent Bystander, my book that deals with the Middle East, began as the story of a hijacking and a murder of an American citizen. But as my research widened, I came to see this story couldn’t be told without understanding many perspectives, including the Israeli and the Palestinian, nor could the political be disentangled from the personal.

I wrote...

An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

By Julie Salamon, Julie Salamon,

Book cover of An Innocent Bystander: The Killing of Leon Klinghoffer

What is my book about?

My book is about the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro and the killing of Leon Klinghoffer, a disabled American passenger. His murder became a historic flashpoint for the intractable struggle between Israelis and Palestinians and gave Americans a horrifying preview of what it means when terrorism hits home. An Innocent Bystander began as the story of that shattering moment and what it meant to the world and to the Klinghoffers, an American-Jewish family. As I learned more, the book’s scope widened, to investigate the tragic reverberations for the wives and sons of the Palestinian mastermind behind the hijacking.

Running through the core of my book lies the painful history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Through the stories of these families, An Innocent Bystander illuminates the complex web of personal and historic grievances that lay behind the geopolitics of a region that remains in turmoil.

The books I picked & why

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My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

By Ari Shavit,

Book cover of My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel

Why this book?

My Promised Land is beautifully written, a story deeply informed by the author’s family history and the body of knowledge he built as an influential Israeli journalist. Shavit loves the place of his birth but doesn’t retreat from hard questions. He tells a powerful, poignant story of a state-created out of tragedy, and the brutal reality of what Jewish statehood has wrought for yet another disinherited group. There are no easy answers and Shavit offers none. But he presents the complexities and frustrations with intellectual rigor and literary grace.


By Mahmoud Darwish (lead author), John Berger (illustrator), Rema Hammami (translator)

Book cover of Mural

Why this book?

This collection of poetry by a revered Palestinian poet illuminates his people’s emotional and historic connection to the land that is now the state of Israel. His poems, many of which were set to music, are credited with solidifying a Palestinian national consciousness. His family was displaced from their home by the Israeli army; when they returned, they lived as second-class citizens. The work achingly describes an abiding sense of love and loss.

Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

By Scott Anderson,

Book cover of Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East

Why this book?

T.E. Lawrence, best known from David Lean’s monumental film, is the centerpiece, but this book goes well beyond biography. It has the pace and feel of a thriller, but the research and analytical thinking of a serious historic account. Anderson, a novelist and war correspondent, finds the roots of today’s Middle East turmoil in World War I. He finds alliances, intrigue, and deceit that foreshadowed the turbulent future. His story provides valuable insight into the international politics that shaped the Mid-East after World War I, and set the stage for the dissonant future.

Death as a Way of Life: From Oslo to the Geneva Agreement

By David Grossman, Haim Watzman (translator),

Book cover of Death as a Way of Life: From Oslo to the Geneva Agreement

Why this book?

In novels and non-fiction, Israeli author David Grossman has spent much of his career writing about the failed struggle for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. This series of essays, written over a period of years, chronicles moments of good will and hope on both sides, constantly undermined by sectarian passion and extremist opposition to peace. 


By J.T. Rogers,

Book cover of Oslo

Why this book?

Oslo is a theatrical rendering of the behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to the Oslo Accords in 1993. This Tony-Award-winning play takes a perhaps unreasonably optimistic view of potential peace. Nor will reading (or better yet, seeing) this play satisfy a serious researcher’s desire for historic detail. But it lays out the emotional stakes with humanity and humor, not qualities one usually dares to associate with the conflict in the Middle East.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Palestinians, Israel, and politics?

5,215 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Palestinians, Israel, and politics.

Palestinians Explore 13 books about Palestinians
Israel Explore 41 books about Israel
Politics Explore 308 books about politics

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History, Lion of Jordan: The Life of King Hussein in War and Peace, and All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 if you like this list.