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National Observer Home > No. 56 - Autumn 2003 > Book Reviews

Book Review: Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948

by Tanya Reinhart

Sydney: Allen Curwin, 2003, pages 265 and index, $17.95.

Professor Reinhart is a professor of linguistics and cultural studies at Tel Aviv University. She is one of a number of Israelis who are now prepared to stand back critically and state that her country is behaving oppressively to the Palestinians:

"During the war of 1948, more than half of the Palestinian population at the time - 1,380,000 people - were driven off their homeland 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 U.N. resolution demanded shortly after the 1948 war. Thus, the Israeli land was obtained through ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants."

Professor Reihnart comments of current Israeli policy,

"Sharon, now Israel's prime minister, describes its present war against the Palestinians as ‘the second half of 1948’. Israeli military echelons had already used the same description in October 2000, at the outset of the second Intifada - the present Palestinian reprising. By now, there can be little doubt that what they mean by that analogy is that the work of ethnic cleansing was only half-completed in 1948, leaving too much land to Palestinians."

Professor Reinhar notes many facts that undermine Israeli propaganda intended to show the Palestinians to be unreasonable. For example, only 22 per cent of historical Palestine is allowed by Israel to be even open to discussion; in Gaza, 6000 Israeli "settlers" occupy one-third of the area, and one million Palestinians are squeezed into the other two-thirds; the Palestinians in Gaza are kept by Israel in extreme poverty, and are kept in what amounts to a large prison; the various Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory are being expanded; various Israeli promises that settlements will be removed are carefully hedged and not acted upon, whilst the numbers of settlers is allowed to increase; Israeli government members have consistently misrepresented and maligned Palistinian leaders and organisations; the Palestinians are treated by the Israelis as Untermenschen; Israelis shoot dead children who throw stones at them; and repression of the Palestinians has worsened materially under Sharon and is still worsening.

Professor Reinhart concludes,

"For true negotiations to occur, Israel must first withdraw unilaterally - as it did in Lebanon. It is astounding how simple it would be to do this. Most of the occupied territories can be evacuated immediately, within two or three months. The only way out is to begin right now."

Israel/Palestine is a depressing but illuminating work, revealing as it does the heartlessness and dishonesty of Israel, in its callous oppression of the unfortunate Palestinians and the sustained and misleading propaganda to which the world is subjected. The only encouraging aspect is that there are others in Israel who, like Professor Reinhart, oppose conscientiously the grossness of their compatriots’ conduct.

Israel/Palestine is essential reading.

I.C.F. Spry

National Observer No. 56 - Autumn 2003