Before Their Diaspora — Palestinian scholar’s monumental pictorial history now available online

In a landmark new project, the Institute for Palestine Studies (IPS) has made available online Palestinian scholar Walid Khalidi’s immensely important work Before Their Diaspora: A photographic history of the Palestinians, 1876-1948 in its entirety for free. Not only that, but the IPS has gone to the trouble of fashioning an innovative new interactive website around the work.

You can watch Khalidi talk about his book and the new website in this video.

The book is great collection of photographs and historical documents of the Palestinian people from the late Ottoman period, up to the eve of the Nakba, the 1948 wave of ethnic cleansing that Israel used to establish itself. Everything is laid out in chronological order, with well researched captions, and contextual writings on the historical context of each period. The book is both an essential reference work and a useful introduction to the history.

The new interactive website has features useful even for those who own a physical copy. Photographs can be searched for according to location, era, subject and so forth.

Before Their Diaspora is hugely influential, and I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen it referenced in footnotes in books about Palestine over the years.The book reclaims the Palestinians’ own history, and debunks the Zionist myth that the Palestinians were not a people before the rise of Zionism and the establishment of Israel.

A screenshot of the digital edition in action

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I own hard copies of both Before Their Diaspora and All That Remains - The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 and find them invaluable in our work promoting the Palestinian right of return and in confronting rampant Nakba denial in our so-called "progressive" community.

I'm so happy that Before Their Diaspora will now be easily accessible to the younger generation and hope that high school teachers especially will find this a valuable resource in the classroom. Al- Nakba, the Palestinian history of dispossession, should be included as part of the public school curriculum. It won't happen unless we make it happen. We must give courageous teachers a visible safety net of support as they will face tremendous opposition in many forms.

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the book All That Remains is a superb reference for anyone like me who wishes to confirm which Israei Kibbutz was built over the remains on the ravaged Palestinian villages. Tel Yosef of which i lived in 1990 for three months was just one. On searching this book I was appalled to realize that I had lived there.

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I got a copy of All That Remains from a university library as our local library didn't have it. I found it shocking and very disturbing. It just gave definitive proof of what Ilan Pappe wrote about in his excellent book. The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine as well as other books. I was wanting to get it from Amazon but the cost of $180.00 was prohibitively expensive. I have also read Before the Diaspora which greatly informed and broadened my mind about pre-Nakba Palestinian society. It gives the lie to the Israeli claim that the Palestinians were not a society but rather were a primitive people with little or no culture.
Every time I think about what the Zionist Israelis have done to the Palestinians I get angry. Surely their crimes must come to an end and the Israelis held accountable for them. I also admire the Palestinians for holding on to their dream of returning to their homeland despite appalling harassment, death and destruction inflicted upon them by self-deluded Israelis who claim that God gave them the land and therefore they alone have the right to live in the Holy Land. They are living in a self-created world of myths that allows them to exist
untroubled by the monstrous historical tragedy that they have inflicted upon the Palestinians.

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Asa, I am the Business Development Manager at the Institute for Palestine Studies. I wanted to thank you for supporting our work and sharing this critical resource to your audience. We appreciate this news coverage. Feel free to contact me in the future for any questions or comments about upcoming projects of the Institute. Thank you again.

Wafa

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He first visited Palestine in 2004.