The late and much missed Tanya Reinhart wrote this 2002 analysis at height of the second intifada during the darkest days of the violence. It is extremely solid and many of her arguments here have been borne out by more recent events. Although one should always be wary of making predictions, many of her warnings have — unfortunately — come to pass. First of all, her deconstruction of Israeli war crimes, quoting almost entirely from Israeli media sources is devastating. She proves here how — contrary to the Israeli propaganda line, accepted in the western media — at its outset, the second intifada was in fact an unarmed, spontaneous, civilian uprising. The reaction of the Israeli army — systematically firing on unarmed demonstrators, killing dozens before the Palestinians fired a single shot — escalated the situation into an armed confrontation. Critically, she points out that the first suicide bombing inside Israel did not take place until over a month into the intifada: November 2nd, 2000. On October 4th (a mere week into the intifada), the Palestinian death toll already stood at 60. Another of her key points is that, far from being the “spontaneous defence against terrorism” of the Israeli propaganda line, the re-invasion of the Palestinian Authority areas had been long planned by Israel. Again, she convincingly backs this up with evidence from the Israeli media.
She also demolishes the myth of Camp David, showing that it was Barak that effectively destroyed the mainstream Israeli peace consensus, not Sharon. The best section of the book is the part in chapter 9 titled The Two Poles in Israel’s Politics. Here, she irrefutably shows how mainstream Israeli politics is in fact divided not between “hawks” and “doves” but between the road of apartheid under the guise of endless negotiations (the Alon-Oslo road) and outright ethnic cleansing (often with the slogan “Jordan is Palestine” — Sharon).
Here, she quotes from an article she wrote in 1994, which seems amazingly prescient in light of the recent rise of Hamas: “From the start, it has been possible to identify two Israeli conceptions that underline the Oslo process. One is that it will reduce the cost of the occupation, using a Palestinian patronage regime, with Arafat as the senior cop responsible for the security of Israel. The other is that the process should lead to the collapse of Arafat and the PLO. The humiliation of Arafat, and the amplification of his surrender, will gradually lead to loss of popular support. Consequently, the PLO will collapse, or enter power conflicts. Thus, the Palestinian society will loose its secular leaderships and institutions.”
But she also argues fairly convincingly that the majority of Israelis support withdrawal from the occupied territories and forced evacuation of the settlements.
The appendix — another 1994 article — is also brilliant. Even back then she saw the inherit problems in Oslo, describing the 1994 Gaza-Jericho agreement signed in Cairo as the beginning of apartheid. This analysis has by now been totally borne out, with even mainstream figures like Jimmy Carter describing Israel’s rule in the occupied territories as apartheid (although ANC veterans describe it as far worse than apartheid these days).
The only really negative point of this book is in its copy-editing: it is pretty poor in several places and there are what appear to be editor’s notes mistakenly left behind. But there is a second edition out by now and I assume these problems are fixed there.
In reply to the previous review by Bren Carlil [see comments section below]: it appears you belong to that category of thinkers who “refuse to be grounded by the reality” of what is actually happening, as opposed to state propaganda. You have swallowed several key Israeli government propaganda themes whole. Firstly the idea that the “security fence along or near the Green Line” protects Israel. In fact 80% of the apartheid wall is built on the Palestinian side of the Green Line, mostly deep inside the West Bank. This is illustrated clearly by the fact that the length of the wall is more than twice the length of the Green Line. If it was genuinely built with the security concerns of normal Israelis in mind, it would have been built on the Israeli side. In fact the wall is, in large part, the latest in a long line of land-grab policies, following a long held doctrine of “maximum land, minimum Arabs”, something that goes back to the “a land without a people” Zionist delusions of the 1920s and 30s (but never abandoned since then).
Suicide bombs in fact stopped because Hamas and the other armed groups went into a truce. And since coming into power in the PA, Hamas has continuously offered Israel a comprehensive ceasefire, but Israel has simply refused to even discuss the idea, preferring instead to escalate its attacks and siege on Gaza, forcing Hamas’ hand. As to the main points of the rest of your argument, you may be right, but you fail to mention that you are essentially weighing the difference between apartheid (“Sharon intended to annex the major settlement blocs”) and ethnic cleansing (Olmert in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank).
Reviewed 3 April 2008.