What Does Israel Fear from Palestine by Raja Shehadeh

Reviewed by Richard Tutin

This review has been difficult to write because of the sensitivity of the topic and the emotion that comes with it. Since 7th October 2023, raw emotion has been the catalyst for the many outpourings of grief and anger from different elements of society within the world community. Raja Shehadeh’s slim volume is but one contribution to the ongoing debate that still has a long way to go on its already lengthy and involved journey.

Raja Shehadeh is a respected Palestinian writer and lawyer. He lives in Ramallah on the West Bank the larger of the two Palestinian territories. The other is Gaza that has been at the centre of the war between Israel and Hamas that has been raging since October. His insights on the relationship between Israel and the Palestinian people are worth taking on board as readers look at what is happening and wonder how the future will look for both communities.

The essay he has produced is based on a lecture given in London and Japan in 2016 along with extensions and revisions that were added in 2024. While he explores the question that forms the essay’s title, Shehadeh also offers his take on the tortured history of the way in which the State of Israel came into being at the expense of the already settled Palestinian people. The lack of input from Palestinian writers to the ongoing debates about topics such as the two-state proposal has been missing in some parts of the western world, so it is good that this volume has been published.

Underneath the historical information and the conclusions Shehadeh offers, there is another element that perhaps he might not want readers to consider further. This element is that of the narrative. He makes many points about the ways in which Israel has shaped the narrative of the situation that allows it to have the upper hand while denigrating and ignoring the wishes of the Palestinian people is how they would like to go about their daily lives.

Yet Shehadeh is offering a Palestinian narrative that he would like the reader to consider and perhaps take up for themselves. As events have unfolded on the streets of many cities around the world the competition of the two narratives has put a lot of pressure on governments, academic institutions and ordinary people to accept one or the other but not necessarily consider both or seek some compromise to ease the suffering that has affected both Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Shehadeh’s preference is that both sides work together to promote peace in this volatile region. If it can be achieved, then the pervading fear of both sides can be turned towards a more positive direction that builds nations rather than destroying them.

Raja Shehadeh is Palestine’s leading writer. He is also a lawyer and the founder of the pioneering Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq. Shehadeh is the author of several acclaimed books published by Profile, including the Orwell Prize-winning Palestinian Walks and We Could Have Been Friends, My Father and I, which was a 2023 National Book Award finalist. He lives in Ramallah.

What Does Israel fear From Palestine?

by Raja Shehadeh



ISBN 978 180522 347 4

$29.75; 113pp


🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

🤞 Want to get the latest book reviews in your inbox?

Scroll to Top