With eyes in and on Gaza : Tanya Reinhart on Israel/Palestine since 2003

8 October 2006.

  • A modified version of what seems originally to have been an interview with Professor Tanya Reinhart on the occasion of the publication of her new book The Road Map to Nowhere – Israel/Palestine since 2003[1] has been published on ZNet under the same title. What is the book about ? Professor Reinhart explains* :

    This book covers the history of the Israeli occupation of Palestine since 2003; it is framed against my previous book Israel/Palestine,[2] which covers the period between 1999 and 2002. At the opening of Israel/Palestine I wrote:

    The state of Israel was founded in 1948 following a war which the Israelis call the War of Independence, and the Palestinians call the nakba - the catastrophe. A haunted, persecuted people sought to find a shelter and a state for itself, and did so at a horrible price to another people. During the war of 1948, more than half of the Palestinian population at the time - 1,380,000 people - were driven off their homeland [78 % of Mandate PalestineMHD] by the Israeli army. Though Israel officially claimed that a majority of the refugees fled and were not expelled, it still refused to allow them to return, as a UN resolution demanded shortly after the 1948 war. Thus, the Israeli land was obtained through ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants.

    This is not a process unfamiliar in history. Israel’s actions remain incomparable to the massive ethnic cleansing of Native Americans by the settlers and government of the United States. Had Israel stopped there, in 1948, I could probably live with it. As an Israeli, I grew up believing that this primal sin our state was founded on might be forgiven one day, because the founders’ generation was driven by the faith that this was the only way to save the Jewish people from the danger of another holocaust. But it didn’t stop there.[3]

    She goes on to examine the occupation of the remaining 22 % of Mandate Palestine (in addition to Syria's Golan Heights) subsequent to the 1967 war and the consequences this occupation has had for the now over three and one half million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (those who respond that the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied by the Israeli state and its military had better do their homework - these entities still hold the power of life and death over the inhabitants of this 360 km2 plot of land with more than one million inhabitants/prisoners, and this second power, at least, they do not hesitate to exercise, as the events of the last several months have clearly demonstrated). The picture Professor Reinhart paints is dark (again, remember that the book went to press before the latest Israeli atrocities) :

    In Israel/Palestine, I described the period between 2000 and 2002 as the darkest period in the history of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. But in the period since, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, it became even worse. Sharon started a massive project of ethnic cleansing in the areas of the West Bank bordering Israel. His wall project robs the land from the Palestinian villages in these areas, imprisons whole towns, and leaves their residents with no means of sustenance. If the project continues, many of the 400,000 Palestinians affected by it will have to leave and seek their livelihood in the outskirts of cities in the center of the West Bank, as has already happened in the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya. The Israeli settlements were evacuated from the Gaza Strip, yet the Strip remains a big prison, completely sealed off from the outside world, nearing starvation and terrorized from land, see and air by the Israeli army.

    Despite these facts, the received wisdom in polite circles, not only in the United States but here in Europe as well, is that it is the colonised, rather than the colonisers who are the aggressors, and that while Israel wants peace, that state has no partner with whom to talk. How could this particular sleight of hand be successfully pulled off ? Professor Reinhart addresses the issue :

    How did it happen that Sharon, the most brutal, cynical, racist and manipulative leader Israel has ever had, end[ed] his political career as a legendary peace hero? The answer in this book is that Sharon has never changed. Rather, the birth of the Sharon myth reflects the present omnipotence of the propaganda system, which, to paraphrase a notion of Chomsky, has reached perfection in manufacturing consciousness.

    As has become commonplace in the recent history of the occupation, the period covered here opened with a new peace initiative – the road map. The Palestinians accepted the plan and declared a cease fire, but as we will see, while the Western world was celebrating the new era of peace, the Israeli army under Sharon intensified its policy of assassinations, maintained the daily harassment of the occupied Palestinians, and eventually declared all-out war on Hamas, killing all its first-rank military and political leaders. Later, as the Western world was once again holding its breath in an eighteen-month wait for the planned Gaza pullout, Sharon did everything possible to fail the newly elected Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and turned down his offers of renewed negotiations.


    At the same time, what Sharon has brought to perfection was the manufacturing of consciousness, showing that war can be always marketed as the tireless pursuit of peace. He proved that Israel can imprison the Palestinians, bombard them from the air, steal their land in the West Bank, stall any chance for peace - and yet still be hailed by the Western world as the peaceful side in the Israel-Palestine conflict.

    (While not mentioned in the interview, it should here be noted that Europe's massive strategic dependence on the United States in the political, military, and economic fields readily disposes us to accept and reinforce the myths that the corporate leadership on the other side of the Pond feed to their own people. And there is always the matter of the complicity of many European peoples - not only the Germans ! - in the slaughter of European Jewry during WW II, a complicity which can be conveniently expiated at the cost of yet another people - the Palestinians - for whose fate Europe is unwilling to accept any responsibility.)

    Recommending a book which one has not read oneself is always a foolhardy leap into the unknown, but having read the interview, I should be very surprised if Professor Reinhart's tome (260 pp) will not abundantly repay the time and effort it takes to read it. This, in any event, is the brief response I posted to StumbleUpon :

In reading this interview with Professor Reinhart, it is important to remember that her book was written before the latest Israeli excursion into Lebanon, which was called a war. The present war on Palestine, part and parcel of that which has been going on since 1947, is not, however, given the title of war - at least not here in Europe, where our leaders are much too concerned to avoid embarrassing their Israeli counterparts (in the US, of course, it is the Palestinians who are waging aggressive war against the innocent Israelis, who are merely defending themselves - it would seem that in the United States geography is no longer taught in the schools, and no one is able any longer to read a map and determine who is aggressing against whom)....

*Footnotes from the original article :
    [1] An earlier version of this book appeared in French in April 2006 as L’Héritage de Sharon: Détruire la Palestine, Suite, La Fabrique, Paris.

    [2] Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine –How to end the war of 1948, Seven Stories Press, New York, 2002. Expanded second edition, 2005.

    [3] Israel/Palestine, Introduction, pp.7-8.

No comments: