Books for changing the world
Against Erasure
A Photographic Memory of Palestine Before the Nakba

A unique, stunning collection of images of Palestine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and a testament to the vibrancy of Palestinian society prior to occupation.

This book tells the story, in both English and Arabic, of a land full of people—people with families, hopes, dreams, and a deep connection to their home—before Israel’s establishment in 1948, known to Palestinians as the Nakba, or “catastrophe.” Denying Palestinian existence has been a fundamental premise of Zionism, which has sought not only to hide this existence but also to erase its memory. But existence leaves traces, and the imprint of the Palestine that was remains, even in the absence of those expelled from their lands. It appears in the ruins of a village whose name no longer appears in the maps, in the drawing of a lost landscape, in the lyrics of a song, or in the photographs from a family album.

Co-edited by Teresa Aranguren and Sandra Barrilaro and featuring a foreword by Mohammed El-Kurd, the photographs in this book are traces of that existence that have not been erased. They are testament not to nostalgia, but to the power of resistance.

  • Against Erasure invites us into a past before the rupture of the Nakba, and invites us to bear witness in the moments that created this catastrophe. Through viewing the photographs, we can read ourselves in the historical context that created our present, and imagine something different.” Los Angeles Review of Books

    Against Erasure reminds us that Palestine was never free….  Amid the routines of daily life is the Palestinian realisation that a storm is gathering and the first inklings of the Nakba. Black flags inscribed with “Long Live Palestine” are pictured hanging in the Jerusalem bazaar on the day of the Balfour declaration in 1917 – the British government’s commitment to “a national home for the Jewish people” in the territory just seized from the Ottomans.” The Guardian

    “As Against Erasure illustrates, the attempt to eliminate and expel Palestinians is not new. The obfuscation and denial are not novel, or unique. But a Palestinian memory will always remain, and that should terrify the perpetrators of their suffering most.” Middle East Eye

    The trauma of dispossession and expulsion is the Nakba and these photographs, from the end of the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth, bear visual and affective testimony to Palestine as a country where people and their culture thrived. It was not empty land when the first Zionist settlers arrived in the 1880s and by the time of the 1917 Balfour Declaration Jews accounted for 6% of the population and owned 1% of the land.” The Eye of Photography

    “In listening to some of the images in Against Erasure, we can hear some hums of political organizing, of resistance and defiance; heard in the triumph of striking laborers, raising their fists and fishhooks up high, or the bustle of the women at the train station at Lydda. Yet too, what is not present in Against Erasure represents missing possibilities: of the past, of what’s been lost, and of what may once again be.” Jacobin

    “The mundanity of Palestinian society before the Nakba becomes a gift in these images, filled with all of the usual activities that are easily taken for granted — people spending time with loved ones, going to and from their jobs, harvesting their fields.”

    To set the record right, Against Erasure: A Photographic Memory of Palestine Before the Nakba sets out as a reminder of not only the history of the people of Palestine, but also about the undying struggle against its very erasure. It is a tribute to the emotional power of memory, taking us back to the past of the Palestinians before the Nakba, rendering the whole period as an expression of their vibrant culture, traditions, principles and lifestyle, unraveled through spectacular images of their land demonstrating a life of joy and beauty, of perseverance and resistance.” Tribune India

    “Beneath the surface of biblical fantasy, we can glean a land alive with history and potential, a populace (of many faiths) immersed in the comings and goings of village, city, and family life — a vision of Palestine that is anything but, as the early Zionist slogan would have it, a “land without a people.”
    The Public Domain Review

    Against Erasure
    affirms that Palestinians have the right to exist; the right to live free from violence; the right to their language, their history, their culture and their land, a fertile one stretching from the river to the sea. Our duty is never to forget.” The Pensive Quill

    “Yet in the face of the now almost complete destruction of the Gaza Strip, with over 34,000 dead and the looming spectre of famine and an uncertain future for Palestinians, the German public – particularly those in positions of responsibility in politics and media – must engage more extensively with the Palestinian experience of injustice both in the past and in the present. This book is a good place to start.”

    “The photographs, visual and affective testimony to Palestine as a country where people and their culture thrived, are life affirming and urgently need looking at.”
    The Prisma

    “These photographs, forms of countermedia, express the authenticity and dignity of Palestinian culture, challenging Zionist narratives according to which the region was previously uninhabited – or that its inhabitants are uncivilized and hostile. And where Israel and its allies actively censor and manipulate reports on the conflict in the media, this archive serves as an indelible record of the social stakes of settler colonialism.”
    Strand Magazine

    “Remembering, writing and looking at photographs of Palestinian history isn’t only an act of reminiscence—it’s an act of defiance against those who want to wipe out an entire people.”
    Socialist Worker UK

    Unsurprisingly, the beauty of book is a painful beauty, but whilst it inflames our nostalgia for the Palestine before apartheid, it also renews our anticipation for a Palestine after apartheid.”  Counterfire

    "The photographs in this book are traces of that existence that have not been erased. They are testament not to nostalgia, but to the power of resistance. It reveals the “breadth and richness” of Palestine before the Nakba in 1948. It also reveals a diverse society which goes a long way to counter the zionist narrative that this was “a land without a people, for people without a land.”
    Morning Star

    “If you are curious about what Palestinians were like before the Nakba, before the 2014 Gaza massacres, and before the current Israeli genocide or, more importantly, if for some peculiar reason, you need further affirmation of Palestinian humanity get Against Erasure and humanize yourself.” CounterCurrents

    "At a time of an unfolding Israeli genocide against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza, enabled as much by racist, dehumanizing propaganda as by Western arms, funds and colonial complicity, it is more important than ever to always remember to see the human behind the number, the oppression behind the violence, and the complicity behind the genocide. This precious book shares a glimpse of Palestinian lives prior to the Nakba, the initial destruction of our beautiful homeland to project an image of a "desert" that needs a white colonial settler to make it bloom. In the face of this excruciatingly painful phase of our ongoing Nakba of ruthless, inherently supremacist settler-colonial conquest, celebrating our heritage, our cultural roots, our love for life, for freedom, for justice becomes more necessary than ever. This book helps us do so.“
    —Omar Barghouti, Palestinian human rights defender and co-founder of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights

    "Against Erasure is a stunning demonstration of Palestinian resistance, joy, and the beautiful persistence of our people. As argument, it documents the thriving existence of families, children, and whole communities before Nakba, illustrating our powerful connection to the homeland, which persists and resists until full liberation. This book is a testament to the schools we once occupied and the orange groves our great-grandfather's planted. Through this book, we look into the past as a means of creating and charging towards a future of return." —Noor Hindi

    ”This book is a precious record of Palestinian life before the catastrophe. Every photograph - in its innocent, casual, permanent testimony to the fact of Palestinian existence - speaks to the enormity of the crime of having not only attacked but tried to erase this history, this place, this people. Reading through it in early 2024, as that crime widens dramatically in Gaza with full European and American support, it confirms the iron necessity of the defeat of Zionism and its patrons.” —Clare Daly, Member of the European Parliament

    "We live in a moment when Palestinian life is being ruthlessly dehumanized in the service of a looming genocide. A critical defense of humanity amidst this atrocity is the constant assertion that these are a people who had a culture and a land before it was violently stolen. Against Erasure: A Photographic Memory of Palestine Before the Nakba, is not only beautiful and heart wrenching; it is a political reminder that we are fighting not only with Palestinian life but against an erasure of their entire history." —Dave Zirin, Sports Editor, The Nation Magazine

    "Such a stunning collection of images spanning this significant period of time can only broaden people's understanding of the history leading up to the current situation, horrendous as our current situation is. The book reveals many kinder moments in the lives of many Palestinians. I would hope that publications such as this do a great deal to further the cause. It is a treasure." —Jeremy Corbyn

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