In 400 pages, Rubenstein presents his vision of the war over the future of Palestine at the end of the British Mandate period. Drawing on the biography of Commander Abd al-Qadir al-Husseini, Rubenstein identifies important milestones in Al-Husseini’s life and his extensive activities domestically and regionally in April 1948. Rubenstein places a special focus on the Battle of al-Qastal as a critical juncture in the course of the war.
According to Rubenstein, scores of books, articles, and research papers have been authored about the battles on Jerusalem in general and al-Qastal in particular. The vast majority of these rely on Israeli and foreign sources; few have consulted Arabic-language references, for the simple reason that little has been written on the subject in Arabic. Even if documentation on this period is available, it is often difficult, or entirely impossible, to access these documents, because available archives are limited and unorganized. Another major problem is that many Israeli and foreign researchers do not master the Arabic language. Often the reliability and credibility of Arabic documents are disregarded for other reasons, including ideological motives. This underestimation of Arabic sources is deep-rooted among most Israeli researchers.
Either Us or Them is primarily informed by Arabic language sources, including family accounts that have remained almost completely unused for many years. The book’s title borrows from a statement made by al-Husseini, which captures what was at stake for Palestinians in 1948. In that year, the Jewish Yishuv managed to establish a state only by dismembering Palestinian society. Rubinstein provides an account of this devastation by focusing on Jerusalem and the Battle of al-Qastal, one of the most significant moments in the history of Palestinian Nakba. In retrospect, one might conclude that the defeat at al-Qastal and the death of al-Husseini presaged the fall of Arab Jerusalem. This is probably the essence of the Palestinian Nakba in its entirety. Historical events have proven the truth of the belief shared by both Jews and Arabs in 1948: whoever controls Jerusalem will seize control over the whole country (Palestine).