Security Issues Project
Occupation, Pacification, and Peace
Reviewed by Tanweer Akram
Reinhart, Tanya. Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press, 2002. 280 Pp. US$ 11.95. (paperback).
Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948 on Amazon.com
Tanya Reinharts new book, Israel/Palestine, dispels the myth of Baraks generous offer to the Palestinians at Camp David. It also exposes the brutal nature of Israels recent assault and its reoccupation of Palestinian territories. The author, who writes a biweekly column for the leading Hebrew newspaper Yediot Aharonot, is well positioned to comment on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
OSLO: A PACIFICATION PROCESS
Although the book is subtitled, How to End the War, most of the book provides a background to the on-going war on the Palestinian people, the deceit of Israeli leaders, and the complicity of the Palestinian authorities. The author develops a comprehensive critique of the Oslo accords, which were designed not to bring peace and justice but to perpetuate the subjugation of the Palestinian people under the guise of self-rule. It has enabled Israel to continue to create circumstances that increase the likelihood of further dispossession of the Palestinian people. Reinharts analysis exposes the failure of mainstream US media to accurately report the facts on the ground. She points to the fundamental asymmetry between Israel and the Palestinians since Israel is the occupier of Palestinian territories, while Palestinians live under colonial subjugation. Israels military force, which is one of the most powerful in the world, is backed by the political, economic and military power of the United States and is crucial for it to sustain its occupation of Palestinian territories. As a result, Israel is free to ignore UN Resolutions even those supported by the United States -- and the Geneva Conventions.
Reinhart examines how the Israeli leaders were able to project the image that they were willing to make substantive concessions during the Camp David negotiations when in fact they offered little to the Palestinians. In the mainstream press, Camp David negotiations were presented as breaking new grounds and offering to return 90 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza to the Palestinians. According to this version, the negotiations broke down due to Palestinians refusal to accept any compromises even though for the first time Israel was willing to discuss relinquishing its sacrosanct control of Jerusalem. Reinhart rebuts these claims basing her view on Robert Malleys articles (New York Times, July 10, 2001; and with Hussein Agha, New York Review of Books, August 9, 2001) as well as accounts in several books written by Israeli negotiators, such as Gilad Sher, Shlomo Ben-Ami, and Yossi Beilin which revise the mainstream view.
The Palestinian side argued for the creation of a state based on the June 4, 1967 borders. They accepted Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. They also held that the right of return would be implemented in manner that is consistent with Israels demographic integrity and security concerns. Reinhart notes that there is no official documentation of what Baraks alleged generous offer actually entailed. Actually he never made a concession on the record. He demanded that prior to any specific Israeli concessions, the Palestinians would have to agree to a declaration of an end of the conflict and thus renounce the legal basis of Palestinian negotiations, namely, UN Security Council resolution 242 which called for withdrawal from the occupied territories and a just settlement of the refugee problem, and UN General Assembly Resolution 194 which stipulated that Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so and that compensation should be paid to those choosing not to return.
Reinhart argues that Baraks generous proposals were based on an earlier document known as Beilin-Abu Mazen. Under Baraks offer, all Israeli settlements would remain intact. Though Palestinians would be given nominal sovereignty in approximately 90 percent of the West Bank, such sovereignty would amount to little because it would leave exclusivist Jewish settlements intact. Thus Palestinians would control at best over only 40~50 percent of the territories which would be separated into five cantons, including Gaza, and completely surrounded by Israeli-controlled territories. Israel would remain in control over borders and over Palestinian travel between their enclaves.
The Israeli plan was a variation of Allon and Allon plus plans, concocted one month after Israels 1967 war. These plans basically required the Palestinians to relinquish half of the West Bank to the Israelis. Although Baraks offer seemed to suggest a breakthrough on Jerusalem, Israeli leaders have refused to end the occupation of East Jerusalem and refused to allow Palestinians to name it as the capital of their state. Instead they offered to allow them to designate the nearby village of Abu-Dis as Al-Quds, the Arabic name for Jerusalem. They also insisted that Jerusalem-based Palestinian institutions would have to relocate to Abu-Dis.
Baraks proposal refused to acknowledge the right of Palestinians to return, a right acknowledged in international and human right and UN resolutions. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13(2), states that everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country; UN General Assembly Resolutions 194 and 3236 reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted. Israeli leaders used the legitimate demand for the recognition of the right to return to convince Israeli public opinion that the Palestinians want to transform Israel into an Arab-dominated state. At the same time, Arafat could not accept Baraks proposals because that would be tantamount to a complete and unconditional surrender that would legitimize a system of rule similar to South Africa in the days of apartheid.
Reinhart cites Israel-Syrian negotiations as an example of Israels public relations success and duplicity. She argues that the talks between Israel and Syrian broke down because Israel was unwilling to dismantle its settlements in the Golan Heights and commit itself to a timely and complete withdrawal. In the course of the negotiations, Israel was successful at deflecting attention toward Syrias insistence on the return of a small strip of land on the shore of Lake Kinneret rather than at the more substantive issue of its Golani settlements. The main objective of Baraks Syrian negotiations was to ensure their failure and to persuade the Israeli electorate that peace with Arabs was not possible.
Reinhart gives a brief overview of the origins of the al-Aqsa intifada. She shows how the Barak government began to change Israeli policy towards Jerusalems holy sites by proclaiming the Temple Mount as the holiest site of Judaism. Barak facilitated Ariel Sharons provocative and vicious visit to al-Haram al-Sharif by providing massive police and army cover.
Israel has a history of expelling Palestinians from their homeland. In 1948, Israel dispossessed 700,000 Palestinians, what is known as al-Nakbah, the Catastrophe, to the Palestinians and the War of Independence to Israelis. She documents that today Israeli politicians are again openly and shamelessly speaking of carrying out the unfinished task of 1948, that is, forcibly removing Palestinians who still remain in historic Palestine by expelling them. It is possible that the Israeli authorities may use the planned US war against Iraq as a cover for carrying out their not-so-secret agenda of the forcible transfer of Palestinians from the occupied territories.
Reinhart believes that the large number of Palestinian injuries reveals the viciousness of Israeli occupation of Palestine as much as the number of Palestinian civilians killed. It is not unusual for CNN news anchors of speak of relative calm in the occupied territories when Israeli occupation forces deliberately injure hundreds of civilians. She shows how Israeli occupation has had a devastating effect on Palestinian civil society. Since December 2001, Israels official policy has been to totally crush the Palestinian Authority and Arafat. Israeli assassinations of Palestinian political leaders are intended to provoke further violence and in turn provide a pretext to attack Palestinian civilians, create fear, and demolish homes. Israel has used excessive force and collective punishment, and has left little scope for non-violent resistance to its illegal occupation.
Reinhart does not dispute Palestinians legitimacy of armed struggle under colonial occupation. She believes, however, that there is no moral, political, practical, or strategic merit in Palestinians use of arms. Most people, including many Palestinians, have rightly condemned Palestinian terrorism and suicide bombings. Her primary concerns are to dispel misconceptions about the peace process and to provide a comprehensive account of Israel's Spring 2002 assault.
Although the author does not provide any new documentation or information not available to those who follow closely the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, she makes good use of the Hebrew language press, speeches by Israeli politicians, and diplomats published accounts of what transpired during the negotiations. She neither dwells much on the mechanics nor speculates about the minimalist conditions for peace. However, it follows from her analysis that there are two necessary conditions. First, Israel must end its occupation of Palestinian territories of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Second, Israel should recognize Palestinian refugees right to return to their homeland in accordance with UN resolutions. As a confidence building measure, Israel should apologize for its dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 and for its various war crimes. The implementation of these conditions is not only necessary but would also be sufficient to bring to an end to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Reinhart believes that a two-state solution is still possible if Israel withdraws immediately from the occupied territories. More people in Israel/Palestine believe in two-state solution rather than in a bi-national state. However, I would argue a two-state solution in Israel/Palestine appears less likely. First, the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied territories continues to grow. Second, Israeli leadership has become increasingly and openly expansionist. Third, the US administration has moved closer than ever before to the Israeli expansionist position: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfelds description of the West Bank and Gaza as the so-called occupied territories, reflects a rejection of international law. The US administrations ideological endorsement of occupation is likely to embolden the harshest elements of Israeli leadership.
The US elite and the Israeli leadership will not accept anything other than an apartheid-type arrangement in the Palestinian territories. Israel may even try to expel Palestinians from their homes. However, massive peace movements in the US and Israel may compel the elites to accept the necessary conditions for a just resolution of the conflict. Peace activists will have to educate public opinion in the U. S., other Western countries, and Israel about the history of Palestine, the brutality of the Israeli occupation and discuss what are the feasible options available for resolving this dispute. US activists should engage in constructive dialogue with mainstream American Jews and reach out to the US public. Palestinians will have to deal with the complicity of the Palestinian authorities because they have often done Israels bidding rather than advancing the cause of freedom. Israelis shall have to realize that ending the occupation and recognizing the Palestinians moral and legal right to return are the keys to ending the conflict.
The systematic and chronic misrepresentation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the deep-seated bias against Arabs and Muslims in the corporate media has made it quite difficult to convey essential facts to the US public. Reinhart explains not just the main factors responsible for the perpetuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also suggests how it can be resolved peacefully. This book deserves to be widely read. It may open many eyes. It may teach people to critically decipher the sermons of those who advocate continued Israeli occupation.
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