Israeli-Palestinian Conflict by Dale Hanson Bourke
Reviewed by Yohanna Katanacho
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Tough Questions, Direct Answers is a helpful book. The reader will find seven parts addressing dozens of basic questions. The first part asks some of the most common, such as "What is the West Bank?" or "What's the difference between Israelis and Jews?" The second deals with the history of the region and the conflict, raising such questions as "Were Arabs and Jews always at war?" or "What is the Nakba?" The third part poses questions about basic political structures and realities: "How can Israel be a democracy and a Jewish state?" or "What is the barrier being built between Israel and the West Bank?"
The fourth addresses questions people ask about life inside Israel, like "What is it like to live in Israel?" or "Are there Christians in Israel?" The fifth part deals with the Palestinian infrastructure and identity, asking, "Why are the Palestinian Territories split into the West Bank and Gaza?" or "What is Hamas?" The sixth presents an overview of relationships both Palestinians and Israel have with other nations and entities. It asks: "Why do Iran and Israel have such a bad relationship?" or "What is the International BDS Campaign?" The seventh part presents a brief overview of the issues that divide the Palestinians and the Israelis, asking questions like "Why is Israel always so concerned about security?" or "What would happen to the Israeli settlements if the West Bank became a Palestinian state?"
The author offers not only useful questions and appropriate answers but also addresses complex political, theological, and historical concerns. Unfortunately, there are a few minor areas where the book fails to present accurate or consistent information. For example, the author states that there are 177,000 Christians living in Gaza, while the actual number is less than 4,000. She does not always distinguish between East Jerusalem and Jerusalem, or between Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship. She presents the Israeli military and Palestinian police checkpoints together, which could misguide the reader by implying that the Palestinian police restrict the movement of Palestinians between villages.
I wish that the book had addressed a few additional concerns, such as the absence of legal recognition of evangelicals in Israel and the Palestinian Territories, or the struggles of Palestinians who hold Israeli passports, or the contributions and challenges of Palestinian theology. Perhaps the book's right emphasis on listening and being fair diverted the author from highlighting the prophetic voice that needs to challenge and condemn hatred, violence, marginalization, and oppression.
Nevertheless, I welcome this book as it fills a needed gap and paves the way for reconsidering the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in a fresh light. It is based not only on scholarly research but also on meeting and interacting with people who hold conflicting convictions. It does not seek to marginalize or demonize any views but instead patiently and courageously listens. Then it presents complex questions in simple—but not simplistic—ways. The questions are crucial and the answers accessible. Further, the author's humility, commitment to listen, and insistence on modeling peace and openness transforms her book from an informative discourse into a transformative encounter. Although the book has some limitations, it succeeds in introducing the basic issues and fills a significant gap in the current literature on Palestine/Israel.
Rev. Yohanna Katanacho is the academic dean of Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem and Galilee Bible College in Nazareth.