Reading Herzl in Beirut: The PLO Effort to Know the Enemy

Publication Year



In September 1982, the Israeli military invaded West Beirut and Israel-allied Lebanese militiamen massacred Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. Meanwhile, Israeli forces also raided the Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center and trucked its complete library to Israel. Palestinian activists and supporters protested loudly to international organizations and the Western press, claiming that the assault on the Center proved that the Israelis sought to destroy not merely Palestinian militants but Palestinian culture as well. The protests succeeded: in November 1983, Israel returned the library as part of a prisoner exchange. What was in that library?

Much of the expansive collection the PLO amassed consisted of books about Judaism, Zionism, and Israel. In Reading Herzl in Beirut, Jonathan Marc Gribetz tells the story of the PLO Research Center from its establishment in 1965 until its ultimate expulsion from Lebanon in 1983. Gribetz explores why the PLO invested in research about the Jews, what its researchers learned about Judaism and Zionism, and how the knowledge they acquired informed the PLO’s relationship to Israel.

Reviews and Endorsements

Reading Herzl in Beirut is a meticulously researched and exquisitely crafted analysis of writings produced by scholars and publicists associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization Research Center. It raises fascinating questions about how occupied peoples understand the occupier and throws abundant new light on the PLO’s shifting concepts of Jews, Judaism, Zionism, and Israel over the two decades of the Research Center’s existence.”—Derek Penslar, Harvard University

“Meticulous in its sources and investigation, this is the first comprehensive treatment of the PLO Research Center in the English language, or in any language. It is an important contribution to the study of the conflict.”—Nadim Shehadi, International Advisory Board of UMAM Documentation and Research

Princeton University Press
Princeton, NJ
Cloth: 9780691176802; ebook: 9780691255637