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General Articles
University of California Press One-Sided Recommended Reading

19.07.17

Editorial Note


       The University of California Press (UCP) announced a recommended reading to commemorate the anniversary of  the Six Day War and promote the understanding of the occupation.  The UCP announcement is biased against Israel, ignoring the historical background of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, which include prior Arab assaults against Israel that culminated in the restriction of Palestinian polity. The UCP announcement includes the following statement: "Fifty years ago this week, the Six-Day War transformed the Middle East. Fought from June 5-10 in 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the conflict lasted just six days, yet its impact endures today. For Palestinians, this year marks fifty years of military occupation. During the war, Israeli forces captured east Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories — the West Bank and Gaza — as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai. In observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, we’ve selected a list of recommended titles for understanding the nature of the occupation, the reasons for its longevity, and its impact on Israeli and Palestinian lives, with the following deeply researched titles." 

       These are the recommended booksA Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict by Gershon Shafir; Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom by Norman G. Finkelstein; Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror by Gary Fields; Israel’s Occupation by Neve Gordon; One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States edited by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg; Sustaining Conflict: Apathy and Domination in Israel-Palestine by Katherine Natanel; Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel edited by Mark LeVine and Gershon Shafir.

       Gershon Shafir, Norman Finkelstein, Neve Gordon and Gary Fields are self-proclaimed neo-Marxists, who put much of the blame to the ills of the world on capitalism. Neo-Marxist cohorts cherry-pick evidence to fit their arguments while dismiss evidence which counter their arguments.  All of the books present Israel in a negative light while none provide a factual historical account. Most importantly, they all downplay the role of Palestinian aggression. More to the point, most of the authors are also academic activists, some with a history of engaging in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. 

The following is an overview of the recommended books:

       A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World’s Most Intractable Conflict by Gershon Shafir, 2017, The book has three chapters: 1. What is the occupation? 2. Why has the occupation lasted this long? 3. How has the occupation transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?. Much of the book is ignoring historical facts which lead to the loss of the Palestinians in a war which the Arabs have started. A good example of the author's twisted logic can be seen in the following statement:  "I suggest that it is time to replace the Israeli assertion of being 'the only democracy in the Middle East' with the claim of being the 'most legalistic country in the Middle East'. This is not particularly surprising. After all, the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine) has been the long-term beneficiary of international legal bodies and frameworks. From the League of Nations' incorporation of the Balfour Declaration into the British Mandate for Palestine, through the UN General Assembly's November 1947 resolution to partition Mandatory Palestine into Jewish and Arab states, to the rejection of claims of Israeli aggression in Security Council Resolution 242 (which concluded the 1967 War), it has been a favored party and wishes to remain so in the future." (p. 23) First, the author does not provide evidence for the assertion that Israel is no longer the only democracy in the Middle East. Second, the author's reading of the history of the conflict is questionable. Israel was legally created by the international bodies he correctly named. But the Palestinians and their Arab supporters had rejected all these decisions and started wars which they had the misfortune to lose.   At the very least ,Shafir should have informed his readers that in the dominant realist paradigm in International Relations, belligerents who lose a war suffer the consequences.  Even if Shafir does not accept this paradigm, it is important that he explains why the Palestinians should be exempt from the rules of international relations.   Absent such an explanation, the book is an emotional exercise in favor of the belligerent Palestinians.

    Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom by Norman G. Finkelstein, 2018:  Finkelstein became notorious for accusing the Jews of creating a "Holocaust industry" to subjugate the Palestinians, he had lost all academic credibility along with his academic position.   Hardly chastened by the experience, his new book presents some of the same selective and, at times, tortured logic. The blurb for the book states: "Gaza is among the most densely populated places in the world. Two-thirds of its inhabitants are refugees, and more than half the population is under eighteen years of age. Since Israel occupied Gaza in 1967, it has systematically de-developed the economy. After Hamas won democratic elections in 2006, Israel intensified its blockade of Gaza, and after Hamas consolidated its control of the territory in 2007, Israel tightened its illegal siege another notch. In the meantime, Israel has launched no less than eight military operations against Gaza—culminating in Operation Cast Lead in 2008–9 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014—that left behind over three million tons of rubble. Recent UN reports predict that Gaza will be unlivable by 2020.    Israel’s actions of the last decade. He argues that although Israel justified its blockade and violent assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions were cynical exercises of brutal power against an essentially defenseless civilian population. Based on hundreds of human rights reports, the book scrutinizes multifarious violations of international law Israel committed both during its operations and in the course of its decade-long siege of Gaza. It is a monument to Gaza’s martyrs and a scorching accusation against their tormenters."    Finkelstein's writing reflects another popular genre of academic apologists for the Palestinians, namely the eternal victim who is not responsible for any action.  Not once does he mention that Hamas, a terror organization, has ruled Gaza with an iron fist.  Finkelstein who lists all of Israeli violations of international law is quite shy about admitting that the military wing of Hamas, the Izzadin al Qassam Brigades has routinely dispersed its military assets among the civilian population, including schools and hospitals.   

       Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror by Gary Fields, 2017:  The author put Israel in a colonial setting of land-grabbing, ignoring the legal title to the land by the League of Nations, as the following blurb indicates: "Enclosure marshals bold new and persuasive arguments about the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Revealing the Israel-Palestine landscape primarily as one of enclosure, geographer Gary Fields sheds fresh light on Israel's actions. He places those actions in historical context in a broad analysis of power and landscapes across the modern world. Examining the process of land-grabbing in early modern England, colonial North America, and contemporary Palestine, Enclosure shows how patterns of exclusion and privatization have emerged across time and geography. That the same moral, legal, and cartographic arguments were copied by enclosers of land in very different historical environments challenges Israel's current rationale as being uniquely beleaguered. It also helps readers in the United Kingdom and the United States understand the Israel-Palestine conflict in the context of their own, tortured histories".    Quite clearly, the author views the entire conflict from the colonial perspective, a fashionable paradigm among radical academic critics of Israel. Fields does not bother to mention that this is not the only paradigm through which the creation of Israel has been explained.  Not surprising, the author is an endorser of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. 

       Israel’s Occupation by Neve Gordon, 2008:  As described by the author, "This first complete history of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows us to see beyond the smoke screen of politics in order to make sense of the dramatic changes that have developed on the ground over the past forty years. Looking at a wide range of topics, from control of water and electricity to health care and education as well as surveillance and torture, Neve Gordon's panoramic account reveals a fundamental shift from a politics of life—when, for instance, Israel helped Palestinians plant more than six-hundred thousand trees in Gaza and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds—to a macabre politics characterized by an increasing number of deaths. Drawing attention to the interactions, excesses, and contradictions created by the forms of control used in the Occupied Territories, Gordon argues that the occupation's very structure, rather than the policy choices of the Israeli government or the actions of various Palestinian political factions, has led to this radical shift."    But there is enough evidence to prove that Gordon is highly biased. For example, when he listed the initial efforts to improve the standard of living of the Palestinians after 1967, he wrote, "In the health field practices were introduced to encourage women to give birth at hospitals (a means of decreasing infant mortality rates and monitoring population growth) and to promote vaccinations (in order to decrease the incidence of contagious and noncontagious diseases)".  While most people would applaud the progressive and beneficial measures improving the lives of the Palestinians, to Gordon they were instances of control mechanism.  Also, Gordon was one of the first to argue that Israel is an apartheid state and in 2009 he called for boycotting Israel on the pages of the Los Angeles Times.

       One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States edited by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg, 2014:  The project was initiated in 2008 and later received support from the Swedish Foreign Ministry and the Swedish Research Council, orchestrated by Sweden's Lund University.  The book description states that, "One Land, Two States imagines a new vision for Israel and Palestine in a situation where the peace process has failed to deliver an end of conflict. 'If the land cannot be shared by geographical division, and if a one-state solution remains unacceptable," the book asks, "can the land be shared in some other way?'   Leading Palestinian and Israeli experts along with international diplomats and scholars answer this timely question by examining a scenario with two parallel state structures, both covering the whole territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, allowing for shared rather than competing claims of sovereignty. Such a political architecture would radically transform the nature and stakes of the Israel-Palestine conflict, open up for Israelis to remain in the West Bank and maintain their security position, enable Palestinians to settle in all of historic Palestine, and transform Jerusalem into a capital for both of full equality and independence - all without disturbing the demographic balance of each state. Exploring themes of security, resistance, diaspora, globalism, and religion, as well as forms of political and economic power that are not dependent on claims of exclusive territorial sovereignty, this pioneering book offers new ideas for the resolution of conflicts worldwide."      Mark LeVine is a known supporter of the one-state solution, and the book which he co-edited essentially discredit the current two-state solution.  Of course, academics can support whatever solution they prefer, but it is highly dishonest to construct a book which pushes one proposal only, under the guise of academic scholarship.

       Sustaining Conflict: Apathy and Domination in Israel-Palestine by Katherine Natanel, 2016:  The blurb states, "Sustaining Conflict develops a groundbreaking theory of political apathy, using a combination of ethnographic material, narrative, and political, cultural, and feminist theory. It examines how the status quo is maintained in Israel-Palestine, even by the activities of Jewish Israelis who are working against the occupation of Palestinian territories. The book shows how hierarchies and fault lines in Israeli politics lead to fragmentation, and how even oppositional power becomes routine over time. Most importantly, the book exposes how the occupation is sustained through a carefully crafted system that allows sympathetic Israelis to 'knowingly not know,' further disconnecting them from the plight of Palestinians. While focusing on Israel, this is a book that has lessons for how any authoritarian regime is sustained through apathy."    This is an adopted version of the author's PhD thesis in SOAS, Gender studies.   In a typical convoluted phrasing, she writes, "Yet despite its seeming polarity, normalcy at the (Jewish Israeli) end of the road relies upon and arises through the relations of power which necessitate agricultural subsistence within cityscapes, lock academics at Birzeit University within metaphorical and material prison cells, and fashion understandings of ‘freedom’ through experiences of oppression at the border. Read thus, continuity replaces disparity as occupation, colonisation and domination trace a thread binding Israel with Palestine and Jewish Israelis with Palestinians." But if this is not clear yet, the author aligns herself with the Neo-Marxist, critical scholarship, "including history (Shlaim 2000, 2010; Abu El-Haj 2001; Masalha 2003; Khalidi 2006; Pappe 2006; Pappe and Hilal 2010), sociology (Lentin 2000; Shafir and Peled 2002; Ron 2003), political economy (Gordon 2008; Hever 2010; Abdo 2011) critical geography (Yiftachel 2006; Weizman 2007) and activism (De Jong 2011; Richter-Devroe 2011, 2012; Weizman 2013)".  No wonder the book has won the Palestine Book Award in 2016.  
        
       The book Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel, is a compilation of articles, moving from the British Mandate, to "a nation is born a nation is dispersed" to a questionable shared future, The book discusses figures such as Benni Gaon, Jonathan Pollack, Yigal Amir and Hillel Kook among others. It includes two chapters that stand out.    The first chapter "Becoming a Hamas Suicide Bomber" by Bader Araj detailing with great sympathy the story of Na'el abu-Hilayel, a suicide bomber, recalled by his father the last meeting with his son "with mixed feelings of pride and sadness... He always cared about the afterlife, not this life... He realized his wish to die as a martyr". Na'el carried on his attack in 2002 when he wore an explosive belt packed with five kilograms of explosives and shrapnel, detonating himself on a crowded bus in Jerusalem. The attack killed eleven Israelis including five children.  The author complained of the harsh actions taken by Israel against families of suicide bombers.  Another suicide bomber discussed in this chapter is Maher Hubashi who detonated himself on a bus in Haifa in 2001. Both suicide bombers were working and earning an income. The author questioned the motives behind these suicide attacks whether they were religion, revenge and liberation.  The chapter ends with praising the good personality of Maher and how he supported his family financially before his death. In the ending acknowledgements the author thanks the families and close friends of the two suicide bombers.     The second chapter by Sonia Nimr, "Abdul Rahim Hajj Mohammad and the Arab Revolt" describes the "most respected leader of the Great Revolt" and his guerrilla warfare against the British troops and the Jews. The chapter compares the Arab revolt of 1936-9 to other Palestinian violent aggression and offers an account to the emergence of grassroots armed struggle since the 1920s.  The author also acknowledges the importance of civil disobedience, as an important part of the revolt since its earliest days.  The author postulates that the rebel leaders were "very strict and declared anyone who dealt with the British to be a collaborator... and the sentence was usually death by shooting... They killed anyone suspected of collaboration even without a trial."  The author noted it was a widely known fact that during the revolt the Haj Amin al-Husseini faction and others got rebels "to assassinate their traditional rivals".   

       Analyzing the recommended reading leaves the reader with the impression that the UCP is promoting pro-Palestinian views including terrorism.  Missing from the reading list is the Israeli perspective. By publishing Israeli authors UCP hoped to present a balanced view but this is not the case. By promoting Israeli neo-Marxist, critical scholars known as post-Zionists, their reading list looks exceptionally imbalanced.  But this is the case with the UCP books as a whole, not just the recommended reading. A glance on their website reveals that most books on Israel and Palestine present a pro-Palestinian stance, avoiding any criticism of the Palestinians.  This kind of literature resembles the notorious polemical genre "Israel cannot do anything right and the Palestinians can not do anything wrong."

It is deeply disheartening to see that the UCP books on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict take a place of pride in this discredited category.  





On the Anniversary of the Six-Day War, Recommended Reading for Understanding the Occupation
Fifty years ago this week, the Six-Day War transformed the Middle East. Fought from June 5-10 in 1967 by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, the conflict lasted just six days, yet its impact endures today. For Palestinians, this year marks fifty years of military occupation. During the war, Israeli forces captured east Jerusalem and the Palestinian territories — the West Bank and Gaza — as well as the Golan Heights and Sinai. In observance of the fiftieth anniversary of the Six-Day War, we’ve selected a list of recommended titles for understanding the nature of the occupation, the reasons for its longevity, and its impact on Israeli and Palestinian lives, with the following deeply researched titles.

“An indispensable guide for anyone who wants to understand the occupation that has blighted Israeli and Palestinian lives for fifty years.”Peter Beinart, author of The Crisis of Zionism
In these timely and provocative essays, Gershon Shafir asks three questions—What is the occupation, why has it lasted so long, and how has it transformed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? His cogent answers illuminate how we got here, what here is, and where we are likely to go. Shafir expertly demonstrates that at its fiftieth year, the occupation is riven with paradoxes, legal inconsistencies, and conflicting interests that weaken the occupiers’ hold and leave the occupation itself vulnerable to challenge.
This excerpt from the book, just published in Mondoweiss, asks the question: Why has the Occupation lasted this long?
Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom by Norman G. Finkelstein | available January 2018
“An exceptional, singular work that will stand as a vital contribution to the literature on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while also securing an essential place in the fields of international and human rights law.”—Sara Roy, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University
Norman G. Finkelstein presents a meticulously researched and devastating inquest into Israel’s actions of the last decade, arguing that although Israel justified its violent assaults in the name of self-defense, in fact these actions were cynical exercises of brutal power against an essentially defenseless civilian population. Based on hundreds of human rights reports, Gaza scrutinizes multifarious violations of international law Israel committed both during its operations and in the course of its decade-long siege of Gaza.
Enclosure: Palestinian Landscapes in a Historical Mirror by Gary Fields| available September 2017
“An original and eye-opening argument which places the dispossession of Palestinians by Israel within the age-old system of land enclosure—a broader and deeper logic typifying the political geography of modernity.”—Oren Yiftachel, Professor of Geography, Ben-Gurion University 
Enclosure marshals bold new and persuasive arguments about the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians. Revealing the Israel-Palestine landscape primarily as one of enclosure, geographer Gary Fields sheds fresh light on Israel’s actions. He places those actions in historical context in a broad analysis of power and landscapes across the modern world. Examining the process of land-grabbing in early modern England, colonial North America, and contemporary Palestine, Enclosure shows how patterns of exclusion and privatization have emerged across time and geography.
Israel’s Occupation by Neve Gordon
“A powerful and convincing structural framework for explaining Israel’s changing methods of rule in the Palestinian territories from 1967 and until today. This book will change the debate on Israel and its occupation.”Yinon Cohen, Columbia University
This first complete history of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows us to see beyond the smoke screen of politics in order to make sense of the dramatic changes that have developed on the ground over the past forty years. Looking at a wide range of topics, from control of water and electricity to health care and education as well as surveillance and torture, Neve Gordon’s panoramic account reveals a fundamental shift from a politics of life—when, for instance, Israel helped Palestinians plant more than six-hundred thousand trees in Gaza and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds—to a macabre politics characterized by an increasing number of deaths.
Yesterday in The Nation, Gordon wrote about this shift from “a politics of life to a politics of death” which he covers in the book. He says: “To really understand Israel’s colonial project, it is crucial to examine the mechanisms of control.”

One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States edited by Mark LeVine and Mathias Mossberg
“A coterie of bold, open-minded international academics offers a fresh paradigm for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence. . . . A visionary approach so daring that it could actually work.”Kirkus
One Land, Two States imagines a new vision for Israel and Palestine in a situation where the peace process has failed to deliver an end of conflict. “If the land cannot be shared by geographical division, and if a one-state solution remains unacceptable,” the book asks, “can the land be shared in some other way?”
Leading Palestinian and Israeli experts along with international diplomats and scholars answer this timely question by examining a scenario with two parallel state structures, both covering the whole territory between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, allowing for shared rather than competing claims of sovereignty.
“In chapter after chapter, Natanel records the relentlessness of a kind of detachment that allows for Israelis to live a ‘normal’ life while only miles away from them a brutal apparatus of occupation attempts to pacify Palestinians.”Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics, University of London
Sustaining Conflict examines how the status quo is maintained in Israel-Palestine, even by the activities of Jewish Israelis who are working against the occupation of Palestinian territories. The book shows how hierarchies and fault lines in Israeli politics lead to fragmentation, and how even oppositional power becomes routine over time. Most importantly, the book exposes how the occupation is sustained through a carefully crafted system that allows sympathetic Israelis to “knowingly not know,” further disconnecting them from the plight of Palestinians.
Struggle and Survival in Palestine/Israel edited by Mark LeVine and Gershon Shafir
“This wonderful volume illuminates the human dimensions of the complex and often painful history of modern Palestine/Israel by exploring how [individual] experiences have been profoundly shaped by the recurrent struggles over this land.”Zachary Lockman, New York University.
With contributions from a leading cast of scholars across disciplines, the stories here are drawn from a variety of sources, from stories passed down through generations to family archives, interviews, and published memoirs. This wide-ranging and accessible volume of personal narratives brings a human dimension to a conflict-ridden history, emphasizing human agency, introducing marginal voices alongside more well-known ones, defying “typical” definitions of Israelis and Palestinians, and, ultimately, redefining how we understand both “struggle” and “survival” in a troubled region.


 



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