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Lulu Abo-Elreich

Professor Tanya Nichols

English 117W

17 February 2018

P is for Palestine: a Palestine Alphabet Book

On November 17, 2017, author Goldbarg Bashi came out with her critically acclaimed book P is

for Palestine: a Palestine Alphabet Book. When this educational, powerful, and colorful book came out, it

became a controversial issue to many people - mainly people from the Jewish community. This innocent

children’s ABC book is not only educational in teaching and helping kids learn their alphabet, but it also

teaches them about a different country and their culture. A group of Jewish mothers in New York were

outraged when they saw that this book included the word “intifada,” which offended many of these

Jewish mothers. They say that this book is simply telling kids that it is okay to murder innocent people.

Others argued that this book is only disguised as an anti-Semitic (being hostile/prejudice against Jewish

people) propaganda promoting the murder of “innocent” Jewish people. I want to teach this book in my

classroom because I myself am Palestinian, and I would want my students to know where I came from

and what my culture consists of. They should always be proud of who they are, and were they come from!

With the wars happening in Palestine over the last decade, it is important to understand Palestine’s history

and why Palestine needs to be heard.

According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, ‘intifada’ is defined as “the Palestinian

uprising against the Israeli occupation in 1987.” Although this definition is open to anyone’s

interpretation, I believe that is all ‘intifada’ means: an uprising against the Jews and fighting for what is

right, not murdering anyone. Learning the definition of ‘intifada’ means is critical when people want to

start talking about why Palestinians are revolting against the Jews and why they won’t stop. Bree Akesson

wrote an article, “School as a Place of Violence and Hope: Tensions of Education for Children and

Families in Post-Intifada Palestine,” letting the readers know that this Israeli occupation affected the
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Palestinians’ everyday lives, limiting their access to everyday needs. They were not okay with people

controlling them over everything they do, so they decided to revolt against them, causing the intifada:

“When the occupation began in 1967, the Israeli army took full control over education in

Palestine. During the first ten years of the occupation, no new schools were built, and classrooms

became increasingly overcrowded with the average class size reaching up to sixty students per

class” (Akesson 192).

Israel had complete control of the West Bank and of Gaza, limiting their education, prayers at the

mosque, doing errands, having a curfew, no electricity, no hot water, and so on. No one sees this side of

Israel; many of the Jewish people that live in the West Bank and Gaza claim they’ve been living

peacefully with the Palestinians during the intifada, when they have not been. During the second intifada,

Israel put up a wall separating them from the Palestinians, making it even harder for them to live - and the

Jews still want to say that they haven’t treated them poorly or done anything wrong. This is exactly why I

want to read P is for Palestine to my class, to give them an understanding of what intifada stands for and

why the Palestinian people revolted against the Israelis.

There is a bookstore in New York that donates books to a local synagogue, and they just so

happened to donate P is for Palestine to them. Little did the bookstore owner know that this would cause

a huge uproar with the synagogue over this book, causing their partnership to deteriorate. In Ben Sales

article, “Kids’ Book on Palestine Lands Store in Dispute,” Sales states that, “The main reason for the

conflict wasn’t the book title or concept - rather it was the two page spread featuring the letter ‘I’ which

states, ‘I is for intifada, Intifada is Arabic for rising up for what is right, if you are a kid or a grown up!’”

(pg 16). The synagogue Rabbi, Ammiel Hirsh, described Bashi using ‘intifada’ as, “Glorification of the

Palestinian intifada- a cruel, murderous, and terroristic campaign, basically saying that it means

terrorism” (Sales 16). It is mostly Jewish people that made this a controversial issue because they don’t

want the Palestinians to show anyone what, and how the Jews actually treat the Palestinian people;

completely ignoring the true definition of the word ‘intifada.’ I went to Palestine years ago, right when

the second intifada was beginning; Jewish soldiers were roaming the streets, hands tightly around their
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guns, yelling at everyone in the streets if they didn’t like what they were doing. The poor Palestinians

only having their hands to defend themselves if the Jews were trying to harm them. Sales’ article goes on

to say the Ammiel Hirsh wanted to terminate their deal with the bookstore because the owner of the

bookstore had the same views as Bashi, agreeing that the word ‘intifada’ needs to be out there, and that

people need to understand its significance. In the end, they both came to an agreement where the

bookstore’s owner cannot share his views/beliefs agreeing with Bashi, that the bookstore is most

definitely on Israel’s side, and can still sell her book. The people of the synagogue went on to say that

they still want people to be educated about the Palestinians’ views and culture, but have still tried to ban

this book that educates many young children about Palestine and why intifada is included in P is for

Palestine. Bashi was not trying to say that intifada means “terrorism,” she was simply just trying to let the

world know that the Palestinians have been resisting the illegal occupation of Israel peacefully.

In Muna Hamzeh’s Refugees in Our Own Land: Chronicles from a Palestinian Refugee Camp in

Bethlehem, she put together different entries of diaries of these Palestinians during the two intifadas- the

Palestinian intifada, and Al-Quds intifada from 1987-2006. One nineteen-year-old, Nidal, was finishing

up his senior year when the intifada first happened, and was never able to go back to school and finish his

education. Instead of being in school like every other nineteen-year-old is doing, he was resisting the

occupation, and was actually wanted by the Israelis because he is standing up for something that is right,

something he believes in. Nidal recalls, “Altogether, I was jailed thirteen different times and was wanted

by the Israelis first for one year, and then for six months” (Hamzeh 108). If there was no occupation by

the Israelis, there would be no intifada, schools would be open, Nidal would have been able to finish his

education, and he would not have to fear for his life daily. Nidal described the intifada as being beautiful,

not because of the fighting and the war, but because everyone comes together to stand up for what is

right, even with the Israeli soldiers taunting them everyday.


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“The refugees were harmed the most as a result of the occupation. They were the ones

that lost their land and became refugees. This is why the refugees insist on their right of

return and will not settle for anything less” (Hamzeh 110).

Palestinians would have to obey to the Israelis laws and curfews, and if they broke any “laws,”

they would instantly be thrown in jail, beat heavily, or thrown into a detention, no matter how

old you are.

Goldbarg Bashi’s P is for Palestine: a Palestine Alphabet Book caused a huge

controversy over using the word intifada for depicting the letter ‘I’. According to many Jewish

people, the word intifada means terrorism, and that it is okay to murder innocent people. Intifada

is just an uprising to what you believe is right, no murder or terrorism involved. I want to read

this book to my class because I want them to know to always stand up to what you believe in. I

am also Palestinian, and I want my class to know where I come from, what my culture consists

of, and why the word intifada is so important to us.

Works Cited

Akesson, Bree. “School as a Place of Violence and Hope: Tensions of Education for

Children and Families in Post-Intifada Palestine.” International Journal of Educational

Development, vol. 41, 2015, pp. 192–199.


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Bashi, Goldbarg, and Golrokh Nafisi. P is for Palestine: a Palestine Alphabet Book. Dr. Bashi,

2017.

Hamzeh, Muna. Refugees in Our Own Land : Chronicles from a Palestinian Refugee Camp in

Bethlehem, Pluto Press, 2001. ProQuest Ebook Central,

https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/csufresno/detail.action?docID=3386207.

“Intifada.” Oxford-reference.com. Oxford Reference Dictionary, n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2018.

Sales, Ben. "Kids' Book on Palestine Lands Store in Dispute."

Washington Jewish Week [Gaithersburg] 07 Dec. 2017: 16-17. Web. 15 Feb. 2018