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Dear Palestine: A Social History of the 1948 War


In 1948, a war broke out that would result in Israeli independence and the erasure of Arab Palestine. Over twenty months, thousands of Jews and Arabs came from all over the world to join those already on the ground to fight in the ranks of the Israel Defense Forces and the Arab Liberation Army. With this book, the young men and women who made up these armies come to life through their letters home, writing about everything from daily life to nationalism, colonialism, race, and the character of their enemies. Shay Hazkani offers a new history of the 1948 War through these letters, focusing on the people caught up in the conflict and its transnational reverberations.

Dear Palestine also examines how the architects of the conflict worked to influence and indoctrinate key ideologies in these ordinary soldiers, by examining battle orders, pamphlets, army magazines, and radio broadcasts. Through two narratives—the official and unofficial, the propaganda and the personal letters—Dear Palestine reveals the fissures between sanctioned nationalism and individual identity. This book reminds us that everyday people’s fear, bravery, arrogance, cruelty, lies, and exaggerations are as important in history as the preoccupations of the elites.




  • Shay Hazkani is associate professor of History and Jewish Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is also currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Middle East Studies at George Washington University (GW) for 2024. He specializes in social and cultural history of Palestine/Israel. His book, Dear Palestine: A Social History of the 1948 War (Stanford University Press, 2021), was the recipient of the Korenblat and Azrieli-Concordia book awards, and longlisted for the Cundill History Prize. The book is slated to be published in Hebrew and in Arabic in 2024. He is also the co-creator of The Soldier’s Opinion, a documentary film based on his research. The film is the recipient of the 2023 American Historical Association John E. O'Connor Film Award.

  • Shira Robinson works on the social and cultural history of the Modern Middle East, with an emphasis on colonialism, citizenship, nationalism, and cultures of militarism after World War I. She joined GW in 2007 after two years of teaching at the University of Iowa and one year as Visiting Fellow at the Davis Center for Historical Studies at Princeton University. She received her B.A. in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Michigan and her M.A. and Ph.D. in History from Stanford University.