Review: “Israel/Palestine: How To End The War Of 1948” by Tanya Reinhart

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.”

Continue reading Review: “Israel/Palestine: How To End The War Of 1948” by Tanya Reinhart

Review: “Reporting from Ramallah” by Amria Hass

This is really disappointing. I’ve long respected Amira Hass’ reporting from the occupied West Bank and Gaza. And there’s is no question that, as the only Israeli reporting regularly from Palestine these are historically important news reports, taking us through some of the darkest moments of the second intifada.However, in retrospect, Hass frankly supports her “own side” too much here. The worst example of this is when she describes the second intifada as “the war the Palestinians have declared on us” and “Israel’s defensive war”, while her own reporting of events shows that it was the Israeli army who began shooting at unarmed demonstrators at the beginning of the intifada, escalating it into an armed conflict. Worse, there are moments that betray a frankly colonist mindset, the most egregious example of this being her description of Palestinians in a Hebrew class as having “lapsed” back into Arabic during discussions with her (a fluent Arabic speaker herself). It is possible that this is a bad choice of words by the translator, but somehow I doubt it. Instead of implicitly criticising the Palestinians for daring to speak their own native tongue, she should take a look at how many Israelis outside of the secret police take the time to learn Arabic. Again, she unambiguously describes the execution of Palestinian collaborators by Palestinian fighters as “murder” while at the same time describing in very neutral language “the shooting of children” by the Israeli army.

No doubt this is all typical Israeli terminology, but I thought Amira Hass was supposed to be “radical”? Maybe the selection of articles is bad (the editing of the volume is frankly pathetic with several amateurish typographical errors). But this still does not excuse the problems such as those described above.

On the plus side, her reporting has some very good moments. The best article here is probably the one in which she famously grills an Israeli sniper, extracting the news that they are told to shoot dead 12-year-old Palestinian children since they are considered adults: “he’s already had his bar mizvah”. Her reports on internal Palestinian issues are also very good, such as the interviews with unemployed workers and the families of those detained by the PA. Her report from Jenin is very good too. For moments such as these, the book gets three stars.

Reviewed 22 March 2008.

Review: “Hamas: A Beginner’s Guide” by Khaled Hroub

Hm. I’m in two minds about this one. Reading it, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was rushed out in the wake of the January 2006 Hamas election victory — an attempt by Pluto Press to make a quick buck. It reads somewhat like a first draft in places, as if it were barely copy edited (there are several grammatical errors). However, in Pluto’s defence, they regularly publish extremely important books whose commercial value is probably less than “best seller”, so one can’t really blame them for wanting to make a bit of cash.All this is not to say that Hroub does not know what he talking about. Quite the contrary. It is clear he is extremely knowledgeable about the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement. But the book is frustratingly short on detail and, often, named sources. It is true that this is only meant to be a basic introduction, and insofar as that was the goal of the book it certainly succeeds. And if you are new to the conflict, it does a good job of dispelling the main Western myths about Hamas.

All, in all good, but it left me wanting to read Hroub’s more detailed book on Hamas.

Reviewed 3 March 2008.

Review: “V for Vendetta” by Alan Moore

It takes a little while to get going, and is a bit slow at the beginning, but it pays off in the end. The vision of home-grown British fascism (as opposed to a “what if” scenario where in the Nazi won WII) is all too convincing. Also, I love the way that the “surveillance society” aspects of the story just seem really tame to the Britain of 2008! Moore even got the propaganda on the CCTV cameras right: “for your protection”!The best aspect of “V for Vendetta”, though, is the well developed characters. It would have been all too easy for a lesser writer to make V an unambiguous super hero (and indeed, that’s apparently what the idiot Wachowski brothers set out to do in the Hollywood film — which I have no intention of watching and Alan Moore had his name removed from) and the fascists into Evil Nazi Baddies. But Moore is far too good an artist for that. That said, he still makes no apologies for fascism, and is obviously a supporter of V’s brand of philosophical “anarchy” (in contrast to the the socialism of the historical Anarchist movement). V’s actions and motivations are ambiguous at times, though — a fact that does credit to Moore and leads to a far more rounded and satisfying work.

Lloyd’s artwork is great, but the only thing stopping me giving this volume 5 stars is the colour work. To my mind, the whole thing would have worked 100% better in black and white, in which the original serialization of the first two books was apparently published in Warrior. The whole art style is made up of shadows and light. This may be just DC’s fault (and indeed, their reproduction here is pathetic — the pages are far too small as they are trying to squeeze the larger page size of British comics into the US format), but the authors apparently colourized it for the final volume when DC picked it up, allowing them to finish the story.

All in all, a political, noir classic, but I wish DC would issue a black and white version in the Absolute format. Because this work does indeed deserve the Absolute treatment. Read it, but I advise hold off buying it since they may well release an Absolute version (probably in colour though — bah).

God’s Warriors: Jewish

Kach party logo graffitiI seem to be somehow attractive to CNN. The producers of this three-part CNN documentary currently airing in the US bought the above photo of mine for use in the “Jewish Warriors” part which was on last night. I took the photo in Hebron back in 2005. You can read one of my reports from Hebron here. I wrote it back during the January 2005 Palestinian presidential elections.The documentary itself is not bad. It has certain problems, not least of which is the typical inclination to portray Israeli violence as by definition a response to Palestinian violence, when the reverse has historically been the case. I may do an AH commentary on it soon.The whole thing is on YouTube, first part here. The other ten parts are linked to from that part. My picture is wards the end (it’s a detail of the Kach logo graffiti). Also look out for my name in the credits at the end of the last part.

Blog upgrade

Today, I finally got round to upgrading to WordPress 2.2 — yay me. It was about time really, since this site was stuck in 1.5 for ages.

Now I’ll have less spam to deal with on this blog, which will be a big relief. Coming soon: a new look to the site (probably). For now, it looks the same on the outside, but the underlying software is a lot better.

Update, 1st August: trying a new theme. It’s only the WordPress default, but it allows me to experiment with the brilliant new widgets. Will probably try various other themes over the next week or so.

Update, 23rd August: I think I’m settled on this one now, BigBlue. It’s rather nice and has the all-important widgets — a feature that on its own makes upgrading to the 2.0 branch of WordPress worth it.

Subversion in Gaza

The recent hostilities between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Gaza and the West Bank have been presented in the media as a sort of small-scale Palestinian civil war, ending (for now) with a Hamas coup in the Gaza Strip.

It is far more accurate to understand it as a failed coup attempt against the elected government by US-sponsored gangs in Gaza — “the Palestinian Contras” as Ali Abunimah puts it. Chief among their leaders was Gaza warlord Mohammed Dahlan, who earned the contempt of Hamas during the Oslo years with round-ups and torture of their activists.

Furthermore, it’s not only Hamas who sees things this way. Hani al-Hassan, one of the founders of the Fatah movement recently supported this view during an interview with al-Jazeera TV. In the current Al-Ahram weekly, veteran Palestinian journalist Khaled Amayreh reports from Ramallah that: “He argued that the recent showdown in Gaza was not a confrontation between Fatah and Hamas but one between Hamas and the Dahlan faction. Referring to Dahlan’s supporters as ‘the Dayton group’, a reference to the American General Keith Dayton who was in charge of arming and financing the former Gaza strongman, Al-Hassan said that Hamas had to do what it did in order to protect the overall national cause”. After he spoke out, al-Hassan’s house was shot at by unknown gunmen.

US backing of Dahlan via General Dayton is a matter of record as reported in the New York Times on the 18th of May:

Israel has made no secret of backing Fatah and attacking only Hamas targets. When a Fatah leader, Muhammad Dahlan, needed to bring in reinforcements on Tuesday — a brigade of guards undergoing training in Egypt — Israel made sure in a widely publicized move that the Rafah bordere crossing would be open to admit them.

The training of the guards is being supervised under an American program devised by the American security coordinator, Lt. Gen. Keith W. Dayton, which is being financed by some $40 million from Congress and more from Western allies.

There is currently a theory popular those among Palestinian supporters of Fatah, who nevertheless recognise that Dahlan and his ilk are US stooges — those that Hamas refers to as “genuine Fatah” and that a Palestinian friend of mine calls “the Fatah of the first intifada”. The theory goes that Palestinian President, and Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas actually conspired with Hamas to rid Gaza of Dahlan, since the violent chaos his armed gangs caused there was (presumably) becoming too much of an embarrassment. Once it succeeded, and Hamas by default ended up in control of the whole of Gaza, Abbas then turned on Hamas and used it as an excuse to dismiss the democratically elected government and install a government comprised of his and the US government’s favourites.

Whether or not this part is true (that Abbas wanted rid of Dahlan), the fact that Fatah-tending people in the West Bank believe it shows just how unrepresentative Dahlan and his gangs are. But a story published in Israel’s most popular paper Yedioth Ahronoth yesterday, that the PA emergency government has confiscated millions of dollars from Dahlan would seem to support the theory.

Also well worth reading is this op-ed on YA about Israel’s hypocrisy when it claims to want “Palestinian democracy” whilst saying it supports Abbas. It is worth remembering (as most media reports about the “new” government seem to forget or ignore) that this government is, according to Palestinian law, only supposed to be an “emergency government,” lasting one month.

Let’s see what anti-democratic steps are taken to extend it when this runs out…

At last — Palestine Times site is free!

UPDATE, April 4: The site statistics I’ve seen are very good indeed: over 22,000 unique page hits in April SO FAR! I’m no advertising expert but that sounds pretty good to me — Google AdSense ads will follow on the site soon…

Finally, my boss saw the light and made the Palestine Times website free! This may be just temporary in the hope people will pay in the future, but I hope not. This means my front page story is now available on the site. You can also view my excellent weekly page called Eyewitness Reports, an edited selection of reports on non-violent demonstrations from groups such as ISM, IWPS, CPT, AATW, IMEMC, PNN etc.

The site has room for improvement:

  • No archive for issues older than the date the site went online (so my Bil’in feature is still not there. However, luckily you can read it here on my site).
  • Archive is a bit tricky to navigate. Weird typos still on the site, probably down to the fact that the files they use are the pre-proof-read copy. Doh.
  • Weird formating in some stories (no bold for bylines or placelines etc).
  • Hard to browse by day (a common problem for newspaper sites).
  • No original web content (an issue that would require a whole new staff to solve).

But all in all it’s pleasing to the eye and not that hard to navigate. This paper is too important to lock the website down with paid-for only areas. Please click on the site’s ads to convince management they will make more money that way than through paid subs.