Posted: July 26, 2013 – 15:48
During February 3rd to 17th the film was screened 6 times in some leading Universities on the East Coast of the US. Among them, Columbia, Cornell, and the University of Pittsburgh. The screenings were well attended; the audience comprised of students, teachers, and members of the community. In Columbia we had Mariam Said the widow of Eduard Said and prominent Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi. The Q&As usually lasted 60-90 minute and were of high quality. A recurring feedback I got from the organisers: “The film energised us and the activists in our group.”


Posted: July 26, 2013 – 15:46
During January 2013 the film was screened in the three major Israeli cinematheques of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa 6 times. We produced for these screenings Arabic and Hebrew versions of the film. We participated in 3 well attended screenings in Israel. The Q&As, as expected, were emotional and at times resulted in shouting matches among the audience. I was accused of “distorting history” and “being a disgrace to Israel” among others. But most of the people were genuinely open to the film’s alternative narrative of 1948.


Posted: May 22, 2012 – 18:43
I know, I didn’t post for many long months. Simply put, I just didn’t have the time. The work on editing the film and everything around it consumed all my time. Now, that we are post the Aljazeera broadcast and the


Two weeks into the editing; only logging the material but the story’s contours begin to get into shape. Next to dramatic testimonies of Palestinians we have some really arrogant Israeli justifications of what took place in 1948. It is fascinating to watch many of our interviewees struggling with fading memories and elusive recollections of their distant past. But, memory and the struggle to shape it form a key subject matter of this film. After all, one of this project’s aims is to avoid the memory of what happened to the Palestinian books in 1948 from fading into oblivion.


Posted: November 18, 2011 – 13:36
This past Wednesday I spoke on West Philadelphia’s Radio Against Apartheid on WPEB 88.1 hosted by Matt Graber. Author of ‘Mornings in Jenin’ Susan Abulwaha and I discussed the importance of The Great Book Robbery and how it can be viewed through the lens of Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism. Below is the link to listen to the podcast in full. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, tune in every Wednesday night at 9:00pm for a new show.


Posted: October 9, 2011 – 16:37
This last and final post contains quotes from Gish Amit’s essay which features an excerpt from the National Library’s annual booklet entitled, “The National Library News.” The following quote comes from their January 1948-June 1949 report. “Throughout the years of fighting, the National Library has collected tens of thousands of abandoned books, thus saving them from ruin. This operation has been carried out with dedication and sacrifice on the employees’ part.


Posted: October 7, 2011 – 16:10
In the summer of 1948, another memo was published concerning the looted Palestinian books. This time the memo was issued by Dr. Strauss, the head of the Eastern Sciences Department at the National Library. Dr. Strauss received, catalogued and stored the books. His memo was entitled, “Processing the Arab books from the occupied territories.”


Posted: October 6, 2011 – 13:48
On July 26, 1948 Kurt Warman, the director of the National Library received a letter from an unknown source. The letter read, “According to my estimates, 12,000 books or more have been collected so far. A large portion of the libraries of Arab writers and scholars is now in a safe place. Several bags of manuscripts, whose value has not been evaluated yet, are also in our hands. Most of the books come from Katamon, but we have also reached the German Colony and Musrara. We found some magnificent Arab libraries in Musrara. We also removed from Musrara part of the Swedish School’s library.


The director of the National Library, Kurt Warman wrote the following concerning the handling of the looted, Palestinian book.


Posted: September 28, 2011 – 15:44
In mid-June 1948, the first letters were written directly referring to what is now known as The Great Book Robbery. David Senator, a Hebrew University administrator, sent the first letter to the Jewish Agency’s directorate. The letter was labeled for “urgent discussion.” Attached to the letter was a memo from the director of the National Library, Kurt Warman.



was established in Febuary 2010 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, by filmmakers Benny Brunner,  Alexandra Jansse of Xela Films and Amsterdam Art Station, and lobbyist, digital media proponent, and member of Parliament Arjan El Fassed in order to produce The Great Book Robbery project. The three shared a common appreciation of the project’s importance and the vision of how it should be made.

For contributions, payments, and DVD purchase:

2911 Foundation
Account number: 412430622
IBAN: NL63ABNA0412430622
Banking institution: ABN-AMRO bank (Netherlands)
PayPal:  2911foundation(at)
2911 Foundation
Weteringschans 40/1
1017SH Amsterdam
The Netherlands
T +31 20 6277859



(b. 1954, Israeli-Dutch) has written, directed, and produced documentary films internationally since the late 1980s. Brunner sides with the dispossessed, unrepresented, and the ‘other’. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish and modern Israeli history, and inspiring individuals are the subject matters of his films. His work is subversive in nature and has proven to be a thorn in the collective Israeli establishment’s backside.


is a member of parliament in the Netherlands. He is the son of a Palestinian father and Dutch mother. He was interim head of humanitarian campaigns at an international development organization and has worked for several human rights organisations in Palestine. El Fassed is the author of ‘Niet iedereen kan stenen gooien’ and has initiated several successful social media initiatives.


is the soul-child of veteran director-producer Alexandra Jansse who founded it in 2001 with the mission to produce films that matter – stories that utilize our collective human experience and offer new perspectives on our existence. Xela Films productions have been shown internationally on ARTE, TVE (Spain), Spiegel TV (Germany), Al-Jazeera, SBS Australia, Discovery Channel Europe, Dutch TV, Israeli TV, and others.


is an idea-driven graphic design collaborationbased in Rotterdam, formed by Ties Alfrink and Hugo de Pagter. In early 2009, after having gained experience as designers at Categorie 1, Studio Dumbar (Ties), Nike and Vijf890 (Hugo) they felt the need to set up their own shop.


is a design studio founded by James Burke which explores and critically thinks about culture, communities and new technologies to meaningfully intervene or develop new products and services.



  • Build a virtual library for the 70.000 “collected” books.
  • Find the books’ legal heirs.
  • Mobilise legal action.
  • Podcast “collected” literature and poetry.
  • Raise funds for documentation and outreach programmes; especially for turning this website into a genuine interactive site with a database streaming video, audio, and much more.
  • Organise exhibitions and art installations around the looted books; reprint some of them as an act of cultural renewal.

The website will become an interactive repository, allowing visitors to upload and rearrange information to it according to their needs. People will be able to create narratives of this event according to date, location, specific family library or any other criteria they choose.

This is a major undertaking that in time will evolve into more than just online activity. We imagine collaboration among academics, researchers, and grass roots groups with the aim of documenting and reviving Palestinian culture before 1948.



The Great Book Robbery

chronicles of a cultural destruction


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Cat Food

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The Destruction of Palestinian Library and Cultural Resources in 2002 by Tom Twiss

  The Great Book Robbery may have been the first case in which the government of Israel conducted an assault upon libraries, but it was not the last. Here, I want to recall a more recent case of the destruction of Palestinian libraries.

I Come From There and Remember…Only to Make a Single Word Called Homeland by Lubna Bandak

Israel Can Never Steal Our Heritage by Rana Baker

  We Palestinians have nothing to cherish more than our roots and ancestral identity. To us, olive trees and the shade in which our grandparents rested or lovers used to secretly meet weave together sweet pre-dispossession memories.

The Displacement of an Imagined People: Tourism, Biblical Romanticism, and Orientalism in Pre-Mandate Palestine 1840-1922

  This is an introduction to Kali Harper’s undergraduate Honors thesis.    Introduction


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Overdue Books: Returning Palestine’s “Abandoned Property” of 1948 by Hannah Mermelstein

This article first appeared in the Jerusalem Quarterly in Autumn 2011. Cultural genocide extends beyond attacks upon the physical and/or biological elements of a group and seeks to eliminate its wider institutions… Elements of cultural genocide are manifested when artistic, literary, and cultural activities are restricted or outlawed and when national treasures, libraries, archives, museums, artifacts, and art galleries are destroyed or confiscated. – David Neressian.1

Book plunder, the loss of culture and the way forward

Since occupation started erasing Palestinian culture, by the grand book theft, by the appropriation of historic sites, the change of place names into Hebrew names, and the daily control of books that can access the Palestinian areas, many have struggled to preserve our culture. The Arab Women’s Union in Bethlehem re-printed old Palestinian books, researchers such as Khalil Shokeh worked on publishing books documenting and archiving old Palestinian photography, people such as the Nashashibi’s preserved what was left of their old libraries.

The significance of the arts

Listening. Its a radically loving act that involves not only hearing an individual, but empathizing with their situation and in turn internalizing their feelings and expressions as your own.

Old and Knew Knowledge by Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh

Colonial history is a history of attack on native people and everything associated with them.   It is an attempt not only to erase the people but to erase their memory.  No other colonial system developed as many tools  to achieve this erasure than Zionism.  Zionsits used the classic brute force forms of ethnic cleansing where 530 villages and towns were depopulated and destroyed.


In time we intend to translate their entire online catalogue – close to 6000 – of these books. We are looking for volunteers who can translate from Arabic to English in order to complete this work. Please contact us if you are interested.

Record number Author Title Classification Publisher Year of publication
AP 10
A-Dur Al-Nadid: Basics of Quran Intonation Quran Studies Jaffa: Al-Samhura
AP 65
Collections of Classical Letters Arabic Prose Cairo: Mustafa Al-Babi-Alhalabi 1913
AP 68
1001 Nights Classic Literature Egypt: Muhammad Ali Sabih Library
AP 93
Kalila wa Dumna Classic Literature Egypt: Khazandar Publishing 1934
AP 130
Book of Literary Tips: For Students of Arabic Literature Studies Egypt: Al-Saada Publishing 1907
AP 428
Book of Intonation for Worship Arabic literature Beirut 1857
AP 402
Abdallah, Tawfiq Al-Qissas Al-Hadithat (The Modern Stories)  French fiction Egypt: The Modern Printing Press 1924
AP 129
Abdel-Raziq, Haroon  The Constructive Didactic Principles Education Alexandria: The Publishing House of Egypt
AP 35
Abdul-Jawad, Muhammad AL-Tathkira Linguistics Egypt: Al-Maaref Publishing House 1935
AP 507
Ahmed Shawky Layla’s Fool Egypt: Egypt Press 1931
AP 501
Ahmed Timoor Translations of the Elites from the 13th and Early 14th Century Egypt: Abd Alhamid Ahmed Hanafy 1940
AP 28
Al-Abyari, Abdul Hadi Naja The Piercing Star Historiography Egypt 1862
AP 5
Al-Adawi, Sayed Qutub Hidayat Al-Mureed: The Theory of Quran Intonation Quran Studies Egypt, Tanata: The Public Library 1927
AP 129
Al-Alusi, Mahmmud Shukri  Translations of Baghdad Thinkers in the 12th and 13th Centuries Literature Baghdad: The Arab Library 1930
AP 91
Al-Ansari, Zakariya Abu Yihya Al-Lulu Al-Nathim Dictionaries Egypt: The Encyclopedia PrinHouse 1901
AP 92
Al-Ansari, Zakariya Abu Yihya Introduction to Common Phrases in Islamic Thought Dictionaries Egypt: The Encyclopedia PrinHouse 1901
AP 71
Al-Aqad, Abbas Mahmoud The Story of Qambiz and The Scale Plays Beirut: Al-Majal Al-Jadida Publishing House
AP 4
Al-Asma’ai, Muhammad Abdul Jawad Arab Epochs: Arabs and Arabic in the Jahilya Epoch History and Linguistics Egypt: Al-Jamliya Publishing House 1912
AP 101
Al-Azhari, Khaled bin Abdullah Hassan Al-Attar’s Notes on Al-Azhariya Interpretation Linguistics Egypt: The Ottoman Publishing House 1901
AP 102
Al-Azhari, Khaled bin Abdullah Hassan Al-Attar’s Notes on Al-Azhariya Interpretation Linguistics Egypt: Al-Khiriya Publishing 1891
AP 103
Al-Azhari, Khaled bin Abdullah Hassan Al-Attar’s Notes on Al-Azhariya Interpretation Linguistics
AP 144
Al-Azhari, Khaled bin Abdullah Hassan Al-Attar’s Notes on AL-Zahiriya’s Interpretation Linguistics Egypt: Al-Castaliya Publishing 1864
AP 148
Al-Azhari, Khaled bin Abdullah Hassan Al-Attar’s Notes Linguistics Egypt: Al-Hajar Publishing 1862
AP 150
Al-Azhari, Khaled bin Abdullah Hassan Al-Attar’s Notes on AL-Zahiriya’s Interpretation Linguistics Cairo: AL-Kahiriya Publishing 1885
AP 152
Al-Azhari, Khaled bin Abdullah Hassan Al-Attar’s Notes on AL-Zahiriya’s Interpretation Linguistics Egypt: Al-Maumaniya Publishing 1889

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The drive to “collect” the books came from the management and librarians of Israel’s National Library – a leading cultural institution of the Zionist movement and the state of Israel – where all the valuable books ended up. Another forty thousand (40,000) Palestinian books were “collected” in Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth and other places.

Today, about six thousand of the these books can be found on the shelves of the National Library, organised like a fossilized army of a dead Chinese emperor, accessible but lifeless, indexed with the label AP – Abandoned Property.

This entirely unknown historical event came into light by chance; an Israeli PhD student – while researching in various state archives – stumbled upon documents from 1948-9 that mentioned “collecting books in Arabic from occupied territories.”

The plunder affair is a remarkable illustration of how one culture emerges from the dust of another after it has laid it to waste; the moment Palestinian culture is destroyed is also the moment a new Israeli consciousness is born, based not only on the erasure of the Arabs’ presence in Palestine but also on the destruction of their culture.

Dramatic new light illuminates the disaster inflicted upon the Palestinian people and their culture in 1948. A particularly chilling document from March 1949 lists tens of Jerusalemites whose libraries were “collected” – it reads like a Who’s Who of the Palestinian cultural elite of the time.

For decades Zionist and Israeli propaganda described the Palestinians as “people without culture.” Thus, the victorious Israeli state took upon itself to civilise the Palestinians who remained within its borders at the end of the 1948 war. They were forbidden to study their own culture or to remember their immediate past; their memory was seen as a dangerous weapon that had to be suppressed and controlled.