Norman Finkelstein, 'Images and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict', Baruch Kimmerling, 'Politicide: Ariel Sharon's War Against the Palestinians' and Tanya Reinhard, 'Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948'

IssueSeptember - November 2003
Review by Mokey

As its title suggests, Norman Finkelstein's Myth and Reality explodes a series of myths about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Among the myths tackled are: that the dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 was “born of war, not by design”; that the 1967 war was a “live or perish” battle for Israel's national existence; and that Israel's victory in the 1973 war forced Sadat to sue for peace with Israel (in fact the reverse is true). In each case Finkelstein's analysis, backed by prodigious scholarship, is devastating.

This second edition contains three new sections: an extensive new introduction; a detailed comparison between Palestine under the Oslo accords and apartheid South Africa's bantustans; and a critical review of Michael Oren's recent book on the 1967 war. All in all a must-read for anyone interested in the conflict.

Reinhart and Kimmerling's books complement one another nicely.

Packed full of fascinating details, Kimmerling's Politicide dovetails Sharon's history with that of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The weakest element here is undoubtedly his treatment of the “peace process” and the infamous negotiations at Camp David in July 2000.

On the other hand Reinhart's Israel/Palestine contains a detailed examination of the myths surrounding these negotiations. Other topics covered by Reinhart (often drawing on otherwise inaccessible Israeli sources) include: Barak's bad-faith negotiations with Syria and long history of co-operation with Sharon; Israel's “shoot-to-maim” policy in the occupied territories; and a chilling account of “Operation Defensive Shield”.

Reinhart also debunks the notion that there is no majority in Israel for the sweeping concessions - such as an end to the occupation - necessary to end the conflict. Indeed in 1993 two-thirds of the Israeli public supported Oslo even “though it was conceived [by them] as leading to Israeli withdrawal and the evacuation of the settlements”, and this majority has remained stable.

Reinhart and Kimmerling pin their hopes on a growing Israeli peace movement consisting of COs and groups such as Gush Shalom and New Profile which “no longer obey the political leaders of the peace camp” (who, Reinhart observes, have long “divert[ed] the majority of the occupations' opponents toward the route of maintaining the status quo”).

Neither is under any illusions but, as Kimmerling observes, if those Israelis who oppose the occupation “became as active as the settlers ... the result would be massive civil disobedience that would bring down the entire system of colonisation and oppression”.

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