This week has witnessed the loss of too many lives, and far too much racialized violence — between the acquittal of Philando Castille’s murderer, the murder of Nabra Hassenen and Charleena Lyles, the attack at Finsbury mosque, the fire and loss of life at Grenfell Tower, or the Daesh destruction of the Great Masjid al-Nuri.
Amidst it all, news broke that a book erasing Palestinian history, identity, trauma and resiliency was becoming an “instant bestseller on Amazon.” Erasure is not an understatement, as the book contained 132 blank pages. Shoppers could choose to purchase their copy in Hebrew, Arabic, German, or English – but all would receive blank pages negativing the existence of rich and valuable Palestinian life, history, and resistance.
The erasure of history and public memory is a standard and widely documented series of actions that take place over a long expanse of time, that ultimately elicit a warped perception of history, colonization, and resistance to such.
The book went on sale last week, and became the most sold title in the “Israel and Palestine History” category on Amazon.com. Fortunately, the book has been removed from the site — but at this point is it unclear if Amazon pulled the book as a result of criticism, or if the publisher removed the title. Either way, Alhamduillah.
Amidst the mass-violence and stigma perpetuated against black and brown bodies this week, this ploy by Assaf Voll, an editor and adjunct lecturer at Haifa University, is a violent and widely held symbol of the Israeli-right. That’s why it’s important that this publication, and subsequent removal is more than just a blip on our radar.
From the systematic destruction of Palestinian villages, homes and olive groves, to the criminalization, imprisonment and torture of Palestinian bodies and movement through a complex imposition of apartheid laws. The erasure of history and public memory is a standard and widely documented series of actions that take place over a long expanse of time, that ultimately elicit a warped perception of history, colonization, and resistance to such.
This multi-level map by left-wing Israeli NGO, De-Colonizer, carefully documents the erasure of Palestinian villages and in turn, history from the first bouts of Zionist migration near the end of the 19th Century to the present. Other organizations, such as Zochrot and Palestine Remembered document aspects of this same history. According to Dror Etkes, Director of an Israeli NGO that monitors government land policies, Kerem Navot, “One secret of the success of the settlement movement is that people have been taught the wrong facts.” He elaborated by demonstrating that this is done when Israel erases the Green Line, erases Palestinian towns on maps while giving prominence to illegal Israeli-settlements in the West Bank which falsely shows that the West Bank is predominantly home to Jewish-Israeli.This is particularly relevant now, as Netanyahu just announced the construction of a brand new Israeli settlement, Amichai, in the West Bank, the first “new” settlement since the 1990’s, although settlement and outpost expansion continued vigorously since that time.
Projects like the Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope, which was based out of Washington DC, documented the experiences of elders who were affected by the Nakba, or catastrophe, which coincided with the displacement of over 700,000 Palestinians after the founding of Israel in 1948. Due to old age, soon they will no longer be here to tell their own stories. Israeli laws and regulations fail to recognize, even, the West Bank and Gaza in terms other than Judea and Samaria, Biblical names for the region. The list of erasure of Palestinian identity goes on and on, and serves as underbelly of concern for moments like this, where a blank book on “Palestinian history” is touted as an Amazon “bestseller.” From Palestine to Punjab, from Sioux lands to Central America, erasure of indigenous history and control of future narratives, go hand in hand in creating a future that prioritizes certain lives over others.
A Hebrew PDF of the “book” is still making rounds on the internet, which will undoubtedly continue to be wielded as a racist-tool for years to come. Critics angered that the title was removed were quick to cite that other inextricably racist neo-Nazi titles such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and the Turner Diaries, were still easily accessible on Amazon. These are foundational texts of anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi, white-supremacist, narratives. These are dangerous texts that insight violence, murder, and hatred of Jews and other non-white bodies. These texts should NOT be widely accessible. For the radical Jewish-right to uphold that Voll’s violent erasure of the Palestinian people should be accessible on Amazon, because these other violent texts are similarly available, is a perverse logic that exposes a racist and violent truth at the core colonial-Zionist ideology.