Review of 'Israel/Palestine', Tanya Reinhart, Seven Stories £7.99
Tanya Reinhart is a linguistics scholar who turned to political writing after the deception of the Palestinian people over the so called peace negotiations of Oslo. Reinhart has been a consistent political activist. She has produced a concise but detailed and accessible analysis of the machinations of the Israeli state. This book debunks myth after myth concerning the Camp David negotiations with a series of illuminating quotes from Israeli military and government officials shedding further light on Israel's true intentions.
Since Sharon's orchestrated visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque provoked the outbreak of the second Intifada Palestinian infrastructure has been gradually decimated. Palestinians are often forced to rely on food aid, which the Israeli state intermittently blocks. Schools and universities have been frequently closed since September 2000. When they are open students are prevented from travelling due to the barbaric system of checkpoints and harassment by the Israeli Defence Force. Reinhart also points to the victims of Israeli bullets who are disabled for life, unable to receive any proper rehabilitation from a destroyed healthcare system. Reinhart asserts that there has been a systematic policy by the Sharon government to shoot demonstrators and civilians in the legs and head to cause maximum damage, often paralysis, without adding to the death toll. This process he calls Israel's 'slow ethnic cleansing'.
Reinhart unpicks the Camp David negotiations which have been consistently held up by the Israeli government and the 'international community' as the prime example of the Palestinians refusing to compromise. But the playing field has never been level. Not only did Barak offer Arafat a set of plans he could never agree to, he also disappointed a lot of his supporters who had believed his dovish approach might end the long and bloody occupation.
Barak was presented as the compromiser at Camp David and Arafat the rejectionist. But accepting the idea of two states was an enormous concession by the Palestinians. The media has continually propagated the notion that Israel giving up even an inch of the Occupied Territories is a huge compromise. In doing this, so the argument goes, the Israeli state not only risked agitating its right wing, it was also giving up the historical and biblical ties to the Promised Land. However what has gained less attention has been the Palestinians' much more immediate, indeed current, association with this land. Until 1948 the Palestinians lived on the entire area of Palestine. Nevertheless, in 1988 they had agreed to give up 78 percent of that land in dividing the country along the pre-1967 borders. This was reconfirmed during Oslo. For seven years they waited for Israel to return 22 percent of their land.
Barak's offer at Camp David was not a 'generous' one. It completely ignored the right of return of the Palestinians and manipulated the question of East Jerusalem. Many were led to believe that Israel was agreeing to divide Jerusalem, implying that East Jerusalem would become the Palestinian capital. Reinhart explores this verbal trickery and Arafat's complicity in this.
There was no acknowledgement that the Zionist state was responsible for creating the massive Palestinians refugee problem. Barak demanded to keep the right of return issue at the 'sole discretion' of Israel, and the largest figure quoted of those allowed to return was to be only 10,000. The Palestinians would be given three options: to remain in the camps, settle in an overcrowded Palestinian state, or rely on the 'international community' to allow immigration. Hence in the summer of 2000 Barak had deceived the Israeli people and the world that he was willing to create some kind of equitable peace, but this was never the case.
This book, endorsed by Edward Said and Noam Chomsky, adds to the increasing body of work by Israeli writers and activists who dare to question the dominant discourse in Israeli society about the conflict in general as well as the Oslo negotiations, and the Palestinians' resistance.