Conference Proceeding: Literature or Propaganda? How They Write About the Arab Israeli Conflict

Despite its complexity, the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict is a surprisingly popular theme in contemporary children’s fiction and fictionalized memoirs. This presentation will focus on books written in English by American, Canadian and British authors, as well as on translations from Hebrew and from bilingual Arabic-Hebrew picture books from Israel. It will examine this literature from both political and literary perspectives, comparing how authors from different interest groups present the history and lives of Jews and Arabs in Israel and the West Bank. Drawing on personal interviews with several authors, Marjorie will explore their goals in addressing this highly controversial topic in books for young readers. This paper will also examine the sources authors consulted or ignored in their research into the daily lives of the residents of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. Marjorie will situate this wave of political literature within a comparative context, comparing these books with classics of the American Civil Rights Movement. Finally, she will explore the literary quality of these highly political books. The discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of these novels should help school and synagogue librarians choose appropriate novels on the Middle East conflict for middle grade and high school students.