Some of the best writing on key concepts and skills that every Palestine activist needs to understand and develop is found well outside of the usual activist canon. The framing may be different — sometimes radically different — but the ideas are the same. Here are three books that can benefit any Palestine activist who wants to become more effective:
This groundbreaking book by Albert-László Barabási helped inspire a revolution in thinking across disciplines ranging from computer science to neurology. By shifting our focus beyond the nature of things to the nature of the relationships that exist between things, we uncover patterns that can make or break how something functions, whether it’s a colony of fire ants, a campus activist group, a church, or a corporation. This area of study is known as network science.
Anti-Palestinian advocacy groups have been onto these concepts for years, and human rights activists definitely have some catching up to do. Barabási offers a highly accessible introduction to all the fundamental concepts, written in a way that emphasizes their applicability to virtually any discipline. For a more detailed exploration of the myriad ways in which these ideas apply to Palestine solidarity activism, read my 2012 article “Network analyisis for Palestine activists: Science for a successful BDS campaign.”
Though the title of Dale Carnegie’s book sounds cheesy to a modern audience, this 1936 volume is still in print for a reason. Carnegie identifed the core principles behind understanding what makes a person tick and how to influence them to adopt an idea or to take an action in a way that makes them feel important and respected. From accurately reading body language to remembering how much people simply love the sound of their own name, Carnegie covers all the essential skills required to be convincing without making a person feel pressured or manipulated.
If you can’t influence a person one-on-one, you have precisely zero chance of influencing an organization. Carnegie’s ideas form much of the basis for what campus anti-Palestinian adocacy gurus The David Project promote as “personal advocacy,” coupled with a form of relationship mapping that’s every bit as effective as it is cynical and manipulative. Caution: Be sure to read one of the updated editions unless you can deal with the occasional distraction of Carnegie’s 1930s-style racism and sexism.
First published in 1984, Joy Conrad Levinson’s book spawned a whole universe of related tomes, from Guerilla Public Relations to Guerilla Social Media Marketing. Levinson doesn’t just provide a laundry list of low- and no-cost methods for drawing attention to a product, business, event, or cause (though the framing is clearly focused on the commercial side). He trains readers to think creatively about whom they want to reach, when and how they want to reach them, and the best possible ways of doing it. For one example of guerilla marketing concepts applied to Palestine activism, see another of my previous Electronic Intifada articles: “Passionate attachment: How people are using stickers for activism.”
From the theoretical to the practical, Palestine activists cannot afford to limit ourselves to drawing solely from activism-specific resources like the (also highly-recommended) classic Organizing for Social Change if we’re serious about maximizing our effectiveness. Sure, a book that assumes its readers are motivated primarily by personal financial success may not exactly be speaking directly to the average Palestine solidarity activist, but we’re the ones who get to decide what we’ll take away from it.