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The confiscation of Palestinian land and continued occupation of the Palestinians,
This review is from: Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Paperback)
Jonathan Cook is a British journalist based in Nazareth, the capital of the Palestinian minority in Israel, his articles regularly appear in The National, The Electronic Intifada, and Counterpunch. Cook has steadily emerged as one of the most knowledgeable and outspoken critics of Israeli policies through his documentation of the suffering of the Palestinians.
In chapter one Cook discusses ways that Zionists have sought to obscure their seizure of Palestinian land. Early Zionist myths included the claim that the natives (Palestinians) had no ties to the land, as they were 'Arabs' belonging to other 'Arab nations' in the Middle East. There have also been attempts to justify rights to the 'Promised Land' by using the Bible as a historical text. As Cook points out, even if one was to accept the Bible as a historical text, 'why would the fact that Jews were a nation 2,000 years ago in an ancient Israel confer on their descendants the right to dispossess the Palestinians now?' (p.16). Especially given the fact that 'Israelites and Judeans have held sovereignty over the country for only 1,300 of its 10,000 years history', why should these claims trump those of the Babylonians, Greek, Roman, or Muslim rulers? Despite Zionist propaganda that claimed Palestine was 'a land without people for a people without a land', in fact neither Palestinians nor Jews could claim a distinct national identity until well into the twentieth century' (p.21).
Cook also documents the massacres, rapes and destruction of over 400 Palestinian villages that coincided with the creation of Israel which are celebrated by Israeli's as their 'War of Independence' and mourned by Palestinians as the Nakba (Catastrophe). In the aftermath of the war Israel seized vast amounts of Palestinian land and sought to erase the remains of these Palestinian villages, maps were similarly redrawn and Arab names replaced under the guise of 'sites of biblical discoveries'. Despite all this Palestinians remained one-fifth of the population, and Israel would continue to try and erase them through a process of 'De-Palestinisation' whereby they were labelled 'minorities' or 'Israeli-Arabs'. Israeli archives also reveal continued efforts to expel these Palestinians that remain in what was now Israel. 2,000 Palestinians were expelled from Beersheva to the West Bank in late 1949, 2,700 expelled from al-Majdal (now Ashkelon) in 1950 as well as 17,000 Bedouin forced from the Negev between 1949 and 1953. Simultaneously, the process of 'Judaising' the land began; the Absentee property Law of 1950 enabled the state to seize the Palestinian land of one in four, by labelling them 'Absentees'. The land was then designated as 'state land' and sold to the Jewish National Fund for exclusively Jewish settlement projects.
Chapter two discusses how the growth of Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories after 1967 served several purposes for Israel. The settlements undermined the chance of a viable Palestinian state being created and attempted to illegally redraw the borders of Israeli territory. As settlements moved across the Green Line, the Green Line was removed from maps in Israeli texts books and the terms 'Judea and Samaria' were used instead of Gaza and the West Bank, in an attempt to obscure the true nature of the Israeli occupation. Since 1967 Israel has passed more than 1,000 military orders in the West Bank and Gaza controlling every aspect of Palestinian life. This military regime labeled, 'Civil Administration' is little different to the 'Military government' to which Palestinians were subject in Israel from 1948 to 1966. It has enabled widespread House demolitions, curfews, the confiscation of private Palestinian land, and restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
chapter three documents the legal mechanisms Israel has created to justify the illegal seizure of Palestinian land. In addition, Cook details how the Israeli state gives generous financial packages to encourage Jewish settlements; B'Tselem estimates that this is 'at least 50 billion shekels ($12 billion' (p.87). In East Jerusalem Palestinian land continues to be confiscated under the pretext of 'archaeological discoveries' as Israel seeks to expel Palestinians from the capital. The state similarly revokes Jerusalem residency status of Palestinians and prevents family unification all in bid to evict Palestinians and undermine chances of Israel having to share Jerusalem with a future Palestinian state.
chapter four looks at the increasing confinement of Palestinians in inhumane conditions that Cook argues is based on policies developed in Israel through its treatment of 'Israel-Arabs' after 1948, then exported to the Occupied Palestinian Territories after 1967. This includes the use of checkpoints, permits, walls, surveillance, and the rise of a lucrative 'security' industry all constructed to control, dominate and occupy the Palestinians.
'Disappearing Palestine' is the best book currently available in terms of its thorough documentation of the injustice, suffering and abuse that the Palestinians are subjected to both in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and within Israel itself. Furthermore, Cook raises important questions surrounding the future direction of the Israeli state, and the fact that given Israel's desire to remain a Jewish state and accordingly ignore the rights of many of its inhabitants, it has constructed a difficult situation for itself. Cook claims, Israel now finds it impossible to accept either a one-state, or a genuine two-state arrangement while it continues to desire an exclusively Jewish ethnic state. Israel must either give up the Occupation, the territory it has illegal seized and withdraw to the legal 1967 borders, or alter the nature of the Israeli state and give equal rights to Jews and non-Jews and move away from the notion of 'Israel as an exclusively Jewish state'.