The “forced geography” of Tel Aviv

The “forced geography” of Tel Aviv


White City, Black City: Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa by Sharon Rotbard (Pluto Press, 256pp)

On 11 January 2013, around 250 activists erected tents on privately owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, on which the Israeli government intended to build a 4,000-house settlement. The activists declared: “We hereby establish the village of Bab Al Shams to proclaim our faith in direct action and popular resistance.”

It was noted at the time that their tactics deliberately mimicked those of Israeli settlers. The act of naming the village after a work of fiction by Elias Khoury also had its echo in Israeli history.

Israel boasts “the only city in the world named after a novel,” Sharon Rotbard claims in White City, Black City. The novel in question is Theodor Hertzl’sAltneuland, known in English as “Old New Land” and in Hebrew as “Tel Aviv.”

Rotbard’s book opens (and closes) with a description of how in July 2003 UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee recommended inscribing the “White City” of Tel Aviv in its list of world heritage sites, in recognition of around a thousand “modernist” buildings it contains that are loosely inspired by the Bauhaus style. Rotbard, an Israeli architect who “decided some twenty years ago” to settle in the “Black City” of Jaffa, is skeptical about the Bauhaus influence on Tel Aviv’s architecture.

“Encyclopedia of ruins”

At its heart, the book focuses on how Jaffa was all but absorbed into Tel Aviv and thus “ceased to exist as an urban and cultural entity” after 5,000 years. This focus on a city that isn’t there, which Rotbard describes as “an encyclopedia of ruins,” makes this a peculiar book to categorize.

It is not exactly a study of history or architecture. In fact, it can be quite frustrating as either, sometimes eliding past and present in the course of its argument. But it is compelling as a ghost story, in which the perpetual fictions created about Tel Aviv cannot obscure its past.

The text’s haunted quality is reinforced by the many images it offers of landscapes that have disappeared: maps, aerial photographs, postcards and a playing card. Other pictures sketch out imaginary futures. They include an image of a 1984 project of skyscrapers which never materialized in Manshieh, a suburb on the border between Jaffa and Tel Aviv.

In a section titled “Urbicide,” Rotbard documents in chilling detail how in 1948 the city itself became a weapon. Amichai “Gidi” Faglin, a commander of the Etzel — more commonly known as the Irgun, a Zionist paramilitary group — led his fighters in what became known as a “mouse hole” technique. This involved placing his forces on either side of Palestinians in order to trap them.

Rotbard associates Faglin’s techniques with the later tactics of the Israeli military, as described by Brigadier-General Aviv Kovachi: “We no longer wish to conform to the alleys, the streets or the city … That is the reason we chose the method of passing through walls, like a worm chewing and ending up in a different place every time.”

Deliberate subversion

Rotbard describes these strategies as “forced geography” — a deliberate subversion of the city as it was planned.

In 1948 the effects were devastating. Thousands drowned as they fled and were forced into the water.

Rotbard writes: “Of all the numerous, unwarranted times the phrase ‘push them into the sea’ has been flippantly bandied around in the context of the Arab-Israeli conflict, this may well be the only instance when the expression has literally taken form.”

Some of the ghosts in this account may never tell their stories, as Rotbard notes: “To this day it is unclear what happened to most of Jaffa’s residents.”

Rotbard explains how in the decades since 1948, Tel Aviv has continued to push anything unwanted into the shadow city at its side:

Everything unwanted in the White City is relegated to the Black City: … garbage dumps, sewage pipes, high voltage transformers, towing lots and overcrowded central bus stations; noise and air pollution factories and small industries; illegal establishments like brothels, casinos and sex shops; unwelcoming and intimidating public institutions such as the police headquarters, jails, pathological institutes and methadone clinics; and finally, a complete ragtag of municipal outcasts and social pariahs — new immigrants, foreign workers, drug addicts and the homeless … Paradoxically, this has actually ensured that the Black City is the most colorful, heterogeneous and cosmopolitan city space in the whole of Israel.

White City, Black City is at its strongest with such concrete details. It is less persuasive as it moves away from them, positing that the history of Tel Aviv might be understood as a parable of modernity.

White City, Black City was first published in Hebrew in 2005 and this edition ends with a downbeat note to the non-Hebrew reader. Rotbard records that Tel Aviv has “accumulated a large number of trophies and titles in addition to its UNESCO diploma” over the past decade, while the violence committed against its neighbors has only intensified.

Rotbard adds relatively little that is new to our understanding of the history of the erasure of Palestine post-1948. But he makes a powerful case that the language of planning and architecture are essential to that narrative: “construction and destruction are the primary expressions of the division of power in Israel.”

Rotbard writes with a compelling mixture of clarity and rage. Yet this book shows that it is not enough just to “tell the story” differently. Certainly the fate of the tent city of Bab Al Shams — whose residents were evicted after just a few days — indicates how hard it can be, in the face of brutal violence, to imagine a different future.

Tom Sperlinger is the author of Romeo and Juliet in Palestine: Teaching Under Occupation, which will be published by Zero Books in June.

Gaza child unable to walk because of Israeli bullet

Gaza child unable to walk because of Israeli bullet


Soldiers frequently fire towards Palestinians who venture close to the boundary between Gaza and present-day Israel.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)

Fourteen-year-old Fadi Abu Mandi is unable to walk because of Israel’s routine violence against Palestinians in Gaza.

On Friday, 24 April, Fadi had been asked to study for school exams by his father Akram in their home in the Maghazi refugee camp. Fadi had just returned from watching a soccer match in Nuseirat, another camp.

Suddenly, the boy felt a pain in his back. He could not move, so Akram rushed him to hospital.

Fadi was struck by a bullet fired on Palestinian farmers by Israeli soldiers. The bullet appears to have entered his family’s home through a corner that was not roofed. Fadi had been sitting in that corner, his father told The Electronic Intifada.

Initially, Fadi was brought to al-Aqsa Hospital, which is close to Maghazi. After three hours there, he was transferred to al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza. He remained there until the following Monday, when he was moved to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

Fadi has been operated on in Musallam Specialty Hospital in Ramallah. He has lost most of the mobility in his left leg and is expected to require a considerable amount of physiotherapy.

Speaking to The Electronic Intifada by phone, Fadi said he missed his family and friends and was very sad that he would probably not be taking his final school exams for this year.

“I hope that the Israeli siege is lifted so that we can start feeling safe inside our own homes,” he added.

Hole in spine

Akram stated that an M16 bullet was removed from Fadi’s spine during surgery. “The bullet caused a small hole into Fadi’s spine yet doctors said he will start recovering in a few weeks,” Akram added.

M16 bullets are widely used in the Israeli military’s rifles.

Soldiers frequently fire towards Palestinians who venture close to the boundary between Gaza and present-day Israel. This is despite commitments given by Israel following its 51-day attack on Gaza last summer that it would enlarge the “buffer zone” beside the boundary so that Palestinian farmers would be able to access their land.

The bullets used by Israel can travel long distances, inflicting serious injuries on or even killing those they hit. Fadi was about 2.5 kilometers from the boundary when he was shot.

“It was totally unexpected,” said Fayza, Fadi’s mother. “I was doing my regular household chores when Akram screamed and came out of the room, carrying Fadi between his arms and moving towards the front door. God must punish those who shot and wounded my child.”

Fathi Abu Daher, who is also 14 years old, said: “My friend and neighbor Fadi is such a lovely person. He does not make anyone angry. He likes to help others, especially old people. I feel so sorry that he is now lying in a hospital bed because of that stray bullet.

“We, the children of Gaza, are the same as children anywhere else in the world. Why are the Israelis attacking us, even inside our homes?”

Rami Almeghari is a journalist and university lecturer based in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian village fights to survive as Israel sends in bulldozers

Palestinian village fights to survive as Israel sends in bulldozers


Thousands of Palestinian citizens protest against home demolitions in central Tel Aviv on 28 April.

(Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)

When hundreds of Israeli police and border patrol officers arrived in the village of Dahmash at 3am on 15 April, they sealed off the homes and forbade local residents from venturing outside. Within two hours, their bulldozers had torn through homes.

Eighteen members of the Assaf family, including several children, were left homeless. In total, five apartments in three different buildings were flattened.

A video of the demolition has since been posted on YouTube.

“It was very scary for the kids,” Miada Assaf, who lived one of the buildings, told a group of activists and journalists visiting the village on 2 May. “It’s very difficult for us when they come and destroy homes.”

Residents told The Electronic Intifada that police arrived in heavy riot gear and fired gas bombs in the area before bringing in the bulldozers.

Home to 700 Palestinians, Dahmash is tucked between Ramle and Lydd, two cities in present-day Israel. Although its residents carry Israeli citizenship and have in many cases lived in Dahmash for decades, the government claims it was built illegally and has slated the entire village for demolition.

Residents of Dahmash have filed an appeal against the planned demolition in a district court. But the Israeli police carried out the demolition without waiting for the court’s ruling.

Because the village is not recognized by Israel, the government does not provide it with basic services like electricity, running water, sewage treatment, transportation and education.

Children have to travel to Lydd and Ramle to attend school.

“Not a democracy”

“We cannot afford to buy homes elsewhere,” Assaf said, adding that nearby Palestinian communities in Lydd and Ramle are already suffering from overcrowding and that residency restrictions, such as acceptance committees, effectively ban Palestinians from living in many of the neighboring Jewish areas.

“There is a war on us here,” said Arafat Ismail, president of Dahmash’s Popular Committee, a group that represents the village.

After the most recent bulldozing, there are 16 demolition orders still pending in the village.


Residents of the unrecognized village of Dahmash protest in front of the Ramle municipatlity on 20 April.

(Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)

Throughout the last two decades, Ismail explained, the village has repeatedly sought remedy in the Israeli court system, but to no avail.

“Why can [Israel] build new Jewish neighborhoods all around us,” asked Ismail, “but they cannot recognize our village? Dahmash is the clearest evidence that Israel is not a democracy with equality.”

Residents nonetheless maintain that they will stay on their land and continue to rebuild their homes.

“Difficult conditions”

“Israel puts settlers in beautiful homes on other people’s land,” said Shireen Assaf, whose home was demolished two weeks ago. “But we live in difficult conditions on our own land.”

An estimated 240 dunams (60 acres) of Dahmash’s farmland is completely off limits to local residents, most of whom rely on agricultural work to make ends meet.

Ismail noted that Israel’s “policy of forced displacement has continued from 1948 until today.”

Dahmash is not an isolated case. According to Ismail, there are 16,000 pending demolition orders on homes in Palestinian communities across present-day Israel, not including the dozens of unrecognized communities in the Naqab (Negev) region.

In the Naqab desert area, more than 50,000 Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel live in approximately 40 unrecognized communities where home demolitions are frequent.

A five minutes’ drive down the road from Dahmash, al-Rabat neighborhood, which sits on the outskirts of Ramle, faces a similar fate. “We’ve been living here since the days of the British occupation,” said Sheikh Masood Abu Muammar, referring to the period between 1917 and 1948.

Israel has placed demolition orders on the homes of 13 families in al-Rabat and the entire neighborhood is considered “illegal” by the government.


The rubble of three buildings belonging to the Assaf family hours after they were demolished by the Israeli authorities on 15 April.

(Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)

Sheikh Muammar’s home is among those scheduled to be bulldozed. “I tried to get a permit,” he told The Electronic Intifada. “I filled out all the forms and went to the municipality [in Ramle]. Eventually they told me there is no hope.”

Much like in Dahmash, al-Rabat’s residents are deprived of basic services, although they pay taxes to the Israeli-controlled municipality in Ramle.

Meanwhile, in the Galilee region of present-day Israel, police flattened a Palestinian home in Kufr Kana village last month.

And on 20 April, bulldozers plowed throughal-Araqib, an unrecognized Palestinian village in the Naqab. The village has been destroyed 83 times since 2010.

An estimated 1.7 million Palestinians carry Israeli citizenship. According to the Haifa-based Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, they face dozens of discriminatory laws that stifle their political expression and limit their access to state resources, particularly land.

“We want to escalate our struggle”

In response to the recent uptick in home demolitions, Palestinians in Israel have pushed back by launching strikes and holding protests. On 28 April, the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel held a general strike.

That same night, thousands assembled in Tel Aviv to protest home demolitions.

In Wadi Ara, a Palestinian village in the Galilee, protesters came out on 25 April and called for Israel to stop demolishing Palestinian homes, the Arabic-language website Arab48reported at the time.

That same day in Qalansaweh and Taybeh, villages in the central Triangle region, dozens demonstrated and decried Israel’s policy of home demolitions and land confiscation.

Newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to finalize agreements to form a right-wing coalition in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, this week.

Basel Ghattas, a Knesset member from Balad, which belongs to the Joint List of mainly Arab political parties, expects the coming government to continue to target Palestinian citizens of Israel with new discriminatory legislation.

“This government is even more radical than the previous one,” he told The Electronic Intifada, “and we don’t see any checks and balances within the Knesset that can put the brakes on the racist laws.”

Explaining that home demolitions will further anger Palestinians in Israel, Ghattas said, “It was clear during the last demonstration in Tel Aviv that we want to escalate our struggle against any further home demolitions.”

Back in Dahmash, Arafat Ismail called for people across Israel to fight the destruction of Palestinian homes. “If Dahmash survives, it could set a precedent for other areas going through the same struggle,” he said.

Patrick O. Strickland is an independent journalist and regular contributor to The Electronic Intifada. His website is Twitter: @P_Strickland_.

The Month in Pictures: April 2015

The Month in Pictures: April 2015


Children walk inside a school in Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus on 14 April.

(Moayad Zaghmout / Reuters)

Israeli forces shot and killed five Palestinians in the occupied West Bank during the month of April.

The first Palestinian child to be killed by Israel this year, 17-year-old Ali Abu Ghannam was slain by Border Police at a checkpoint in the al-Tur neighborhood of Jerusalem on 24 April. The police claimed that the teen charged at occupation forces with a knife but Abu Ghannam’s family dismissed the accusation as a fabrication to cover up a killing “in cold blood.” His mother told media that her son had gone out that night to attend a wedding party, and was not carrying any weapon.

In a similar case, 18-year-old Muhammad Yahiya died of bullet wounds sustained near Israel’s wall in Araqa, a village near Jenin. The youth’s father said that his son was “assassinated in cold blood” while walking with his friends after a family wedding. An Israeli army spokesperson said that Yahiya was shot after he “refused to halt” while “attempting to breach the security fence.”

Muhammad Karakra was shot dead at Sinjil junction near Shilo, an Israeli settlement north of Ramallah on 8 April after allegedly stabbing two Israeli soldiers, one of whom was critically injured.

In Beit Ommar village near Hebron, Ziyad Awad, 27, was killed when soldiers opened fire on the funeral of his cousin, Jaafar Awad, 22, who died from complications stemming from a severe illness contracted while in Israeli prison.

Twenty-year-old Mahmoud Abu Jheisha was killed by Israeli forces outside the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron after allegedly stabbing a soldier, who was reported as moderately injured.

Also in the West Bank, two pregnant Palestinian women and their husbands were injured when they were run over by an Israeli-plated vehicle near al-Nabi Elias village in the Qalqiliya area. The driver fled the scene.

A 25-year-old Israeli man died after he was hit by a car driven by a Palestinian man at a bus station in East Jerusalem; an Israeli woman was seriously wounded in the same incident. Palestinian media reported that the motorist claimed it was an accident but Israeli media reported that the man confessed that it was a planned attack.


Two young Palestinian men were reported killed in accidents while working in tunnels used to smuggle commercial goods from Egypt into the besieged Gaza Strip.

Israeli forces continued to open fire on Palestinian civilians in Gaza’s boundary areas on a daily basis, causing injuries. Meanwhile, Egyptian naval forces fired at Palestinian boats approaching Egyptian waters.

Rafah crossing, the sole entry and exit point for the vast majority of Gaza’s 1.8 million residents, remained closed during April. The crossing has been closed since late October except for 12 days on which it was opened with restrictions.

A Palestinian child was killed mid-month when a fire broke out in his family’s home north of Gaza City. The fire was caused by candles lit during a power outage.

By the end of the month, electricity outages increased from 12 to 16 hours per day to up to 20 hours per day after fuel delivery for the operation of Gaza’s power plant was halted during Israeli holidays and due to damage to fuel pipelines on the Palestinian end, the United Nations monitoring group OCHA reported.

Meanwhile, six months after a ceasefire ended 51 days of intensive shelling of Gaza, there is still virtually no reconstruction of the tens of thousands of homes destroyed there.


On 29 April, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, condemned Syrian government shelling and aerial bombardment of Yarmouk refugee camp near Damascus.

Days earlier, Syria’s envoy to the UN told the Security Council that the camp had been vacated and only terrorists and male civilians remain.

Thousands of Yarmouk’s remaining 18,000 residents fled last month after the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS or ISIL, infiltrated the camp and entered into battle with Palestinian armed groups in the camp.

Once home to the largest Palestinian community in Syria, most of Yarmouk’s 150,000 residents fled after it became an arena of fierce fighting between opposition and government forces in late 2012. Dozens of residents starved to death there after government forces and allied groups in the camp imposed an ongoing siege on the camp.

The commissioner-general of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said that thousands of civilians remained in Yarmouk late last month.


Palestinian girls stand in a doorway in Jabaliya, northern Gaza Strip, that previously housed a mural of a weeping woman, 2 April. Reportedly painted by the British street artist Banksy, the mural had decorated the remains of a home destroyed by Israeli shelling last summer. A Gaza man said he was tricked into selling the mural for a paltry sum of 700 shekels ($180).

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Manal Tamimi, a prominent figure in her village’s grassroots resistance movement, is treated by medics after she was shot in the leg with a live bullet fired by an Israeli soldier during the weekly protest against the occupation in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on 3 April.

(Anne Paq / ActiveStills)


Palestinian students in Gaza City take part in a protest to show solidarity with refugees living in Syria’s Yarmouk camp, which is besieged by government forces and was recently overrun with ISIS fighters, 8 April.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Palestinians living in temporary housing after their homes were destroyed by Israeli shelling last summer bail rain water from outside their shelters in Beit Hanoun, the northern Gaza Strip, on 12 April.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Palestinian protesters hold photos of prisoner Khalida Jarrar, a Palestinian lawmaker, during a protest marking Palestinian Prisoners Day outside the Ofer military prison near the West Bank town of Beitunia on 16 April.

(Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)


Fighters with the Qassam Brigades stand near a model of a Hamas-manufactured drone during a ceremony marking the eleventh anniversary of the death of former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi in the eastern Gaza City district of Shujaiya on 17 April.

(Mohammed Asad / APA images)


Palestinian children take part in a Gaza City protest to show solidarity with prisoners held in Israeli jails on 20 April.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Palestinian journalists and activists in front of the Red Cross office in the West Bank city of Nablus protest against Israel’s detention of journalist Amin Abu Wardeh, 21 April. Abu Wardeh was one of 27 Palestinians who were arrested during a late-night raid on their houses during a wide-scale arrest campaign in Nablus and its suburbs a few days previously.

(Ahmad Al-Bazz / ActiveStills)


Supporters of rival Palestinian political parties attend a rally prior to Student Council elections at Birzeit University on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Ramallah on 21 April.

(Shadi Hatem / APA images)


A Palestinian man carries his child on 22 April as he looks out of his Gaza City house that was damaged by Israeli shelling last summer.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Palestinians in Gaza City take part in a symbolic funeral for Jaafar Awad, who died of a severe illness contracted while in Israeli prison, 11 April. Ziyad Awad, Jaafar’s cousin, was shot dead by Israeli forces during the former prisoner’s West Bank funeral.

(Mohammed Asad / APA images)


Thousands of Palestinian citizens in Israel take part in the March of Return on the lands of the destroyed village of Hadatha, near Tiberias, on 23 April. The march is held every year on Israel’s Independence Day to commemorate the dispossession of Palestine and to advocate for the right of the Palestinian refugees and internally displaced to return to their land and property.

(Oren Ziv / ActiveStills)


Artist Jihad Al-Ghoul, 23, works at his house in Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip on 25 April. Al-Ghoul said that he lost his leg in an Israeli attack on the camp in 2008.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


The room of Palestinian teenager Ali Said Abu Ranam in his East Jerusalem home on 25 April. Police said the 17-year-old approached a checkpoint with a butcher’s knife and tried to attack soldiers who shot him.

(Faiz Abu Rmeleh / ActiveStills)


Palestinians mourn during the funeral of Muhammad Yahiya in Araqa village near the West Bank city of Jenin on 28 April. Yahiya was shot dead by Israeli forces, who claim that the teen refused an order to halt while “attempting to breach the security fence.” The 18-year-old’s father said the youth was “assassinated in cold blood.”

(Shadi Hatem / APA images)


A Palestinian woman harvests wheat in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, on 28 April.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Palestinian youths call for an end to internal political divisions and for opening Rafah crossing, Gaza City, 29 April.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Palestinian workers crush stones and cement blocks from houses destroyed by Israeli shelling last summer in the eastern Gaza City district of Shujaiya on 30 April.

(Mohammed Asad / APA images)


Aysha Ali, the wife of Ibraheem Mustafa, a blacksmith, sharpens a handmade knife at their small workshop in Gaza City on 30 April.

(Ashraf Amra / APA images)


Palestinian farmers harvest carrots in Tammun village near the West Bank town of Tubas on 30 April.

(Nedal Eshtayah / APA images)

South Africans apologize over forest planted on Palestinian village

South Africans apologize over forest planted on Palestinian village


Palestinians displaced from Lubya place a sign where the village school once stood.

(Sarah Levy)

Many donors to the South Africa Forest in present-day Israel probably do not realize that they are helping to cover up the results of ethnic cleansing. Such details have been omitted from a Jewish National Fund website promoting the Lower Galilee project as environmentally sound and offering a certificate to anyone who finances the plantation of at least two trees.

Campaigners with the group Stop the JNF in South Africa are trying to highlight how the land where the forest is located was once the site of the Palestinian village of Lubya. It was destroyed by Zionist forces during the Nakba (Arabic for catastrophe), the forced displacement of Palestinians in 1948.

In a novel ceremony on 1 May, a number of South Africans who have previously given money to the JNF issued a public apology.

“Whether we knew it or not, the money that we donated to the JNF bought the seeds that grew into these trees that cover your houses, your wells and your sacred places,” Shereen Usdin, a South African Stop the JNF activist, said during a ceremony held at the forest.

“While this forest may be an attempt to erase the memory of Lubya, there can be no denying what happened here. These stones, these graves, these wells, these cacti plants, are all bearing witness. Now as Jewish South Africans we have come here to this forest and to the ruins of Lubya in order to acknowledge and to take responsibility for this injustice,” she added.

The ceremony took place in the forest following a tour of the destroyed village.

“While you are walking I invite you just to look around,” said Umar al-Ghubari, a representative of Zochrot (Hebrew for remembering), a group seeking to educate Israelis about the Nakba. “On both sides you will see ruins of houses. All these stones that you see around you are actually houses.”

“Another level of erasure”

The South Africa Forest is one of 86 public parks across Israel that sit on ethnically cleansed Palestinian villages.

In order to remove any physical evidence of the villages’ destruction, the JNF has long been involved in covering villages with non-indigenous pine trees, which if not by design, had the effect of making the country look more European.

Several of these forests are funded by international donors.

According to Heidi Grunebaum, a South African writer and narrator of a film about Lubya titled The Village Under the Forest, the JNF worked to cultivate the idea of a Jewish homeland among diaspora Jews through tree planting. In more recent years, she said, the organization has shifted its image and begun marketing itself as an “environmental” or “eco-Zionist” organization.


Shereen Usdin speaks at a ceremony at the site of Lubya village.

(Sarah Levy)

“Given what South Africa’s history has been, there’s something abominable and unthinkable in Israel proclaiming a South Africa Forest not only on stolen land, but on land where there used to be a village,” Grunebaum, an organizer of the ceremony, told The Electronic Intifada. “It’s almost another level of erasure.”

Grunebaum’s film was one of the factors that influenced the activists with Stop The JNF to visit the forest and apologize to Lubya’s displaced residents.

The activists who came — twelve from South Africa and one from Australia — all either donated to the JNF in the past or had trees planted in their name.

“We wanted to publicly acknowledge how Palestinians have been displaced and dispossessed, and to let them know that there are Jewish people who support their struggle,” Jessica Sherman, one of the activists, told The Electronic Intifada. She had previously been involved in her own country’s struggle against apartheid.

“Greening as act of obliteration”

“We cannot undo the past,” said Usdin.

“However, as South Africans who continue to grapple with the legacy of land dispossession, we commit to challenging ‘greening’ as an act of obliteration. We see clearly the parallels with what is happening in historic Palestine and what has happened in our own country’s apartheid past,” she added.

Wakim Wakim, head of the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced People in Israel, also spoke during the ceremony: “We have no problem living with Jews in this country. We want coexistence,” he said. “But coexistence here can only come after racism has ended.”

Several of the South African activists also noted how even though white minority rule was ended in their country, this does not mean that the model of South Africa holds all the answers for Palestine.

“People look to South Africa for hope and I think that’s great,” said Emma Daitz, one of the South African activists. “But the problem with that is that we had a transition that brought formal democracy but it didn’t bring social or economic change. The same people who were impoverished and dispossessed twenty years ago are still the same people today.”

Fathi al-Eidi, a refugee from Lubya who now lives in Taybeh village about three kilometers away, said he appreciated the event, but understood it was only symbolic.

“I am happy that people came,” he said. “To say sorry is always good. But I hope that one day all the people from Lubya can come back.”

Sarah Levy is an independent journalist living in the West Bank. Twitter: @levysarahm

Mahmoud Darwish and the intimacy of Israel’s occupation

Mahmoud Darwish and the intimacy of Israel’s occupation

Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? by Mahmoud Darwish, translated by Mohammad Shaheen (Hesperus Press)

Mahmoud Darwish always denied that he spoke for or represented the Palestinian people, despite being the poet whose transcendent skill captured, for many, the sorrows of their situation. And yet, in his 1995 poem-cycle Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone, the resonances of his individual experiences do just that, evoking something much greater and more universal.

Darwish opens with “I See my Ghost Coming From Afar” — a poem which frames the collection, asserting the poet’s overview of the histories contained in the rest of the works. In a series of statements beginning with “I look at…” and culminating in “Like the balcony of a house, I look at whatever I will,” Darwish signals a kind of omniscience, laying claim to a knowledge of his own past which defies appropriation and distortion.

Nowhere is this more strongly expressed than in the first sequence of poems, set in Darwish’s native Galilee, recording a growing boy’s wanderings and interactions with his parents and the oppressive presence of British colonial troops: “My son, remember: here is where the British crucified/Your father on a prickly pear hedge for two nights,/But never did he confess.”

Despite this, there remains a sense of being rooted in the landscape — a familiar strand from Darwish’s earlier works. The poem continues: “The whole sky is ours from Damascus/To the lovely walls of Acre.”

The second sequence is titled “Abel’s Space,” evoking the Biblical story of Adam’s son, murdered by his brother in a killing which symbolizes the fratricidal violence of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine at the time of Israel’s establishment in 1948.

The origination of Arabs through Ismail, the brother of Isaac, is drawn from the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam alike. But in Darwish’s formulation, Ismail’s oud, the archetypal Arabic musical instrument in which “the Sumerian wedding is raised,” contrasts with the new, foreign guitar. The outcome, as Darwish sees it, is “merely two witnesses, two victims.”

Tinged with passion and grandeur

In the third section, Darwish evokes separation, distance and longing but, in a reflection of his own life story, tinges them with passion and grandeur. His mother is contrasted with beautiful foreign girls; the reader is reminded that the Palestinian rural traditions which are rooted in the land coexist with a history that is indebted to far-flung cultures, so that “I want both of you together, love and war… Two women who will never be reconciled…”

The emotion of the following sequences folds back in on itself, returning to inward reflection and imagery on a smaller scale — sparrows and butterflies, and the personal burdens of prison and separation.

Homer’s Helen of Troy becomes part of the everyday, in a meeting “on Tuesday/At three o’clock… In a street narrow as her sock.”

Lovers leave each other in sadness and chaos, and beauty and music always seem to exist alongside breakage and loss.

In the final sequence, we seem to meet a mature, sober, sometimes regretful Darwish. Moving from mythical and classical references he shifts to his literary companions — from the Arabic poet Imru al-Qais in the sixth century to Bertolt Brecht in the twentieth — and from love on a grand, sweeping scale to a more everyday scale: “And in order to dream I do not need/A large house.”

Cruelly perfect

In the closing poem of the book, Darwish shapes a scenario which could be that of the West Bank in which he lived his final years. “The enemy” drinks tea in “our hut,” rests his rifle on “Grandfather’s chair” and “strokes our cat’s fur” while “he constantly says to us: Don’t blame the victim! We ask him: Who is that?”

In images which are unusually direct by Darwish’s standards, but characteristically powerful, he evokes in cruelly perfect words the appalling intimacy of Israel’s occupation, the ways in which on the levels of both discourse and physical appropriation everything down to “our coffee cups” is stolen away.

If anything detracts from this edition of Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone?, it is the translation. Although Mohammad Shaheen is an able translator, his approach is sometimes overly literal.

While, for instance, the glittering arcs of Fady Joudeh’s translations have sometimes been criticized for straying too far from the Arabic originals, at least his style captures the literally breathtaking experience of reading Darwish.

In Shaheen’s versions, the occasionally clunky English fails to convey the greatness of Darwish’s writing, the combination of technical cleverness and soaring imagery and metaphor which makes his work so special.

This raises an issue about the translation of Darwish’s poetry which goes beyond this single volume. At least a dozen different translators have issued collections of Darwish’s work in recent decades.

Why Did You Leave the Horse Alone? has itself been translated at least once before, in a 2006 bilingual edition by Jeffrey Sacks.

All — or most — of those translators have brought their own unique touch to the notoriously difficult art of capturing the poetry of one language and trying to convey sense, meaning and feel into another, with all of the linguistic and cultural baggage that attends such a project.

But it does mean that readers, especially those in different parts of the English-speaking world, are subjected to a bewildering array of similar, often overlapping, editions. As well as the varying translations, these also diverge in, for instance, the extent to which they include context and background information — on Darwish, his works, the political and cultural environment in which the works were written.

Surely, given the stature of Mahmoud Darwish not only in the Arabic-speaking world but globally, and given the level of global interest in Palestine and its culture, there is a real need for a more coherent and serious approach to translating his work. A critical volume of complete works, properly contextualized and with a seriously considered translator, would be a major asset in conveying the greatness of Darwish to an international readership.

Sarah Irving is the author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine and co-editor of A Bird is not a Stone, a collection of contemporary Palestinian poetry in translation. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh.

Poem: “No search, no rescue”

Poem: “No search, no rescue”

To the families and lovers at the bottom of the sea, trying to reach Europe.


How do we overcome war and poverty only to drown in your sea?


Misrata, Libya

Habeebi just take the boat.

In front of you : Bahr.

Behind you : Harb.

And the border, closed.

Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.


Augusta, Italy

Where is the interpreter?

This is my family.

Baba, mama, baby all washed up on the shore. This is 28 shoeless survivors and thousands of bodies.

Bodies Syrian, Bodies Somali, Bodies Afghan, Bodies Ethiopian, Bodies Eritrean.

Bodies Palestinian.

Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.


Alexandria, Egypt

Habeebi, just take the boat.

Behind you Aleppo and Asmara, barrel bombs and Kalashnikovs.

In front of you a little bit of hope.

Your Sea, Mare,Bahr. Our war, our Harb.


Maps on our backs.

Long way from home.

Jehan Bseiso is a Palestinian poet, researcher and aid-worker currently based in Cairo. Twitter: @jehanbseiso. Contact her at: Jehan.bseiso AT gmail DOT com.

Why won’t Sydney University admit its professor Jake Lynch has been cleared of anti-Semitism?

Why won’t Sydney University admit its professor Jake Lynch has been cleared of anti-Semitism?


Jake Lynch (screenshot)

Jake Lynch, an associate professor at Sydney University, has been cleared of any suspicion of anti-Semitic behavior while defending students who disrupted an 11 March talk by pro-Israel lobbyist Richard Kemp.

You’d think that this finding would be good news for the University of Sydney management. It can now come to the defense of its employee and seek to remedy the damage done to his reputation and to its own.

In recent times, the university has been embroiled in a racism scandal surrounding Professor of English Barry Spurr, who referred to Aboriginal Australians as “human rubbish tips.” One could assume, then, that its management might be relieved not to have a similar anti-Semitism controversy to deal with.

So far, though, university management has not publicly announced the investigation results, effectively allowing the accusation of anti-Semitism to continue to tarnish the reputation of Lynch and other staff and students who support the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

It fell to Lynch’s union, the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), to inform its members that the accusations of anti-Semitism had been dismissed.

Tens of thousands of students and non-union staff, who all received correspondence headlined “Concerns about anti-Semitism on campus” from Michael Spence, the university’s vice-chancellor, remain in the dark on this point.

Aspersions left hanging

Why is the university’s leadership keeping silent about Lynch’s vindication? Surely it would be appropriate, at the very least, for Spence to reassure his institution’s Jewish staff and students that troubling rumors of anti-Semitism on campus have been shown to be groundless.

Spence has stated that he wishes to avoid prejudicing the outcome of the ongoing disciplinary processes by making further comment. Yet is it not highly prejudicial to leave aspersions of anti-Semitism hanging in the air, while the university begins prosecuting pro-Palestine activists on entirely different grounds?

The defeat of the anti-Semitism slur will be disappointing for those who raised it so insistently: groups such as the Australasian Union of Jewish Students, who petitioned for Lynch to be sacked for anti-Semitic behavior.

By keeping quiet, the university is allowing these pro-Israel voices to avoid questions about their role in formulating and promoting the evidently false charge of anti-Semitism against Lynch.

Although the main thrust of the attack on Lynch — the accusation of anti-Semitism — has now collapsed, the university has initiated formal proceedings against him for breaches of a staff code of conduct. It also intends to bring disciplinary action against five pro-Palestine students.

The codes of conduct, according to a recent statement from the university, “require all staff, students and affiliates to be tolerant, honest, respectful and ethical at all times.” Punitive measures to enforce these codes are necessary, the vice-chancellor has argued, because Sydney University “must remain an institution where discourse is civil.”

Affront to civil liberties

These words will be familiar to those following the case of Steven Salaita, who was “un-hired” by the University of Illinois for his supposedly uncivil tweets about Israel’s attack on Gaza during the summer of 2014.

Joan W. Scott has recently chronicled the history of “civility” as a concept invoked to silence dissent on campus, a study highly redolent of the situation at Sydney University.

While the specific charges against Lynch and the students remained wrapped up behind confidentiality clauses, the basic facts of the meeting involving Kemp, a former colonel in the British Army, are well known.

Students raised their voices in protest against a notorious apologist for Israeli war crimes. While remonstrating with security guards to stop them from brutalizing these students, Lynch defended himself against abuse and physical assault from other audience members.

The suggestion that these actions warrant disciplinary action, carrying penalties up to and including sacking (for Lynch) and expulsion (for the students), plainly constitutes an affront to civil liberties on campus.

This continuing witch-hunt will be fought with a vigorous political campaign. The open letter calling on Spence to drop charges against pro-Palestine activists has already attracted more than 1,600 signatories, including prominent figures such as Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky and John Pilger, along with politicians from the Australian Greens and Australian Labor Party.

The NTEU has taken a strong stance in defense of Lynch, writing to Spence that it “believes the allegations are without substance and solely designed to placate external parties that have pressured the vice-chancellor.”

For its part, the Student Representative Council has unanimously endorsed a motion expressing solidarity with the victimized students.

The next step in this campaign will be a joint staff-student forum on the defense of civil liberties on campus, to be held on 29 April. All members of the university community and public are invited.

David Brophy is a lecturer at the University of Sydney. He is a member of Sydney Staff for BDS and National Tertiary Education Union Members for BDS.

Did Hillel board member inappropriately advise Stanford on divestment request?

Did Hillel board member inappropriately advise Stanford on divestment request?

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine at Stanford say board member of pro-Israel group should not have advised the university on their divestment request. (via Stanford SJP)

A board member of an Israel-aligned group played a key role in discussions which led administrators at California’sStanford University to reject calls for the college to divest from firms which abet the oppression of Palestinians.

This week, the Students for Justice in Palestine group at Stanford learned that Susan Weinstein, chairperson of the Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing (APIRL) — which evaluated the request to pull university investments in US companies that profit from violations of Palestinians’ rights — was, until late January, concurrently serving as a director on the board of Stanford’s Hillel chapter.

Hillel, a national network of campus centers for Jewish students, staunchly opposes the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and works to silence critics of Israeli policies in Palestine.

Stanford SJP member Sid Patel told The Electronic Intifada on Monday that the group has demanded a new review of the divestment request. The university’s handling of SJP’s push for divestment, he said, “is practically farcical.”

Stanford SJP initiated the divestment request to the university administration in April 2014. In February this year, the Stanford student senate passed a separate divestment resolution.

“University administrations are both blundering and actively manipulating their processes to silence criticism of Israel — and at the same time, the support for that criticism is growing and they can’t shake that,” Patel remarked.

SJP, he said, has built “a tremendous coalition of student groups and student communities who support this divestment request.”

Last week, the Stanford University Board of Trustees stated it “will not be taking action” on SJP’s request to divest the university’s holdings in US companies which profit from Israel’s occupation, “nor will it consider this request further.”

The board’s statement, Stanford SJP notes, “echoes the cautions about ‘divisiveness’ and ‘complexity’ in the positions of the Coalition for Peace (CFP), the main student organization opposed to divestment.”

“Stanford Hillel supported the CFP financially and organizationally,” SJP adds.


Patel said the board’s dismissal of the divestment request constitutes “a betrayal” of intellectual examination “and cowardice totally unbefitting to a university.”

Documents from Stanford University confirm that Weinstein was a member of APIRL at least since the 2010-2011 school year. In an email message seen by The Electronic Intifada, Weinstein told SJP members that she resigned from the Hillel board on 26 January this year.

This means that she served both groups for nine months after SJP initiated its request for divestment in April 2014.

“You have to think that they know that Hillel is organizationally opposed to divestment, and to have [a Hillel board member] chairing the committee that’s hearing our request … it looks so wrong,” Patel said.

He added that several SJP members met with Weinstein and a university official to discuss their concerns. “In that meeting,” Patel said, the official admitted to the SJP members, “ ‘you’re right, this has the appearance of impropriety.’”

Weinstein did not respond to The Electronic Intifada’s request for comment.

Smearing students of color

Meanwhile, the Stanford Students of Color Coalition (SOCC) has been refuting “baseless accusations” of anti-Semitism leveled by a student senate candidate who sought endorsement from SOCC in a recent election.

Molly Horwitz claimed that she was subjected to questioning during her SOCC endorsement interview in mid-March that singled out her Jewish identity. Horwitz has alleged that a SOCC interviewer asked her, “Given your strong Jewish identity, how would you vote on divestment?”

There was no corroboration to back up her claim, although mainstream media outlets publishedHorwitz’s allegations without substantive evidence.

SOCC maintains that no interviewer asked her that question.

The media storm around SOCC’s endorsement process aligns with national efforts by anti-Palestinian groups attempting to conflate support for Palestinian rights with anti-Semitism.

Liz Jackson, staff attorney with Palestine Solidarity Legal Support (PSLS), says that out of 240 reports of incidents of repression and requests for legal advice, which they collected in 2014 alone, “virtually all of these cases resulted from unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism and unrelenting pressure from Israel advocacy groups to censor and punish those organizing and engaging in speech activities advocating for Palestinian rights.”

PSLS adds that they have taken 135 new cases in 2015, including both incidents of repression and requests for legal advice — more than fifty of which are in California alone.

In a report in The Stanford Review, unnamed “multiple sources” claimed that SOCC forced its endorsed candidates to sign contracts “barring them from associating with specific student groups and campus communities” including Jewish groups.

SOCC says that such rumors are “categorically false.”

In an update to its article, the Review admitted that there is “no mention of Jewish groups” in SOCC’s contract.

“False equivalency”

The Anti-Defamation League, a leading Israel lobby organization, immediately condemned SOCC and pointed to growing support for divestment initiatives on campus as a reason for the “flourishing” of “anti-Semitism.”

In a letter to the associate dean, the ADL claims that “BDS resolutions foster divisiveness in the campus community and create an atmosphere in which anti-Semitic expression may flourish.”

Jewish students in support of divestment wrote an opinion piece for The Stanford Daily, another campus newspaper, “rejecting the false equivalency” between anti-Semitism and support for Palestinian rights.

“The subtext is clear: We cannot discuss divestment from the occupation of Palestine on campus without eventual accusations of anti-Semitism, whether that discussion is in an endorsement interview, in a dormitory or in the undergraduate senate,” write Stanford students Melanie Malinas and Emma Hartung.

“As Jews supportive of divestment, we challenge the notion that the discussion of divestment is inherently anti-Semitic or necessarily leads to anti-Semitic acts,” they add. “It is the silencing of open discussion on Israel/Palestine within and outside of the Jewish community by mainstream Israel advocacy organizations such as Hillel and the ADL, as well as by individual students, that is truly discriminatory.”

In a strong statement posted Friday night on their website, SOCC again refuted Horwitz’s claims.

“The claims made by Molly Horwitz regarding her SOCC interview are baseless and refuted by the documentation and testimony of the nine other students present at her interview, who represent the leadership of the Black, Asian, Muslim, Native and Latino communities on campus,” the statement adds.

SOCC writes that Horwitz “falsely alleged that her Jewish heritage played a role in her not receiving a SOCC endorsement, a notion which, if true, would fundamentally violate SOCC’s values of diversity and cultural celebration.”

The group’s decision not to endorse Horwitz stemmed from her “lack of familiarity with SOCC communities,” SOCC adds. It says that out of the six student organizations that comprise SOCC, Horwitz could not identify a single group.

Singled out for vilification

Maria Diaz-Gonzalez, a member of Stanford’s chapter of MEChA — the national Chican@/Latin@ student organization and a coalition partner of SOCC — told The Electronic Intifada on Monday that as an endorsing body, SOCC is a powerful coalition on campus.

Even amid the slew of false allegations against it, most of SOCC’s endorsed candidates were elected to the student government.

However, SOCC has historically been vilified, especially by The Stanford Review, she said.

“Every year, SOCC is singled out as an endorsing body that receives a lot of criticism and attacks by campus publications and otherwise,” Diaz-Gonzalez explained.

Whether campaigning on national and international issues of race or human rights, she said that the university itself has a history of asking SOCC constituents “for dialogue or for civility as a way to silence us when we’re trying to bring these difficult issues to the table.”

Calls by university officials for “civility” have becometools to crush academic inquiry and debate on campuses — especially around criticism of Israel.

SJP’s Sid Patel remarked that “Stanford peddles its diversity to the world while taking a hostile attitude toward [students of color] on campus.”

Speaking “truth to power”

Diaz-Gonzalez said that following initial reports in the Review condemning SOCC and repeating Horwitz’s claims, “I was surprised and pretty disappointed that more reputable sources” — like The New York Times, for example — “would follow in the Review’s footsteps, taking these very serious unsubstantiated claims that affected our groups and our community and running with them.”

Diaz-Gonzalez said that because of the growing support around the US by students in favor of divestment campaigns, it is not surprising that anti-Palestinian organizations are targeting student governments.

Because SOCC’s constituent groups were supportive of the divestment push on Stanford’s campus — and the growing alliances that students of color in the US have with Palestine solidarity campaigns — Diaz-Gonzalez said that “we’re all being put into this uncomfortable position of being labeled ‘racist’ for speaking truth to power.”

“At the same time,” she continued, “I do not believe that this delegitimizes our efforts or our organizations at all. We expect the response that comes when people speak truth to power and when we stand in solidarity with peoples who are oppressed — peoples who mainstream media, and more powerful nations like Israel and the US, do not want to listen to.”

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article stated that Palestine Solidarity Legal Support had taken eighty new cases in 2015. That number has been updated to 135.

Nora Barrows-Friedman is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books).

Chomsky and Pappe clash on “solutions” for Palestine in new book

Chomsky and Pappe clash on “solutions” for Palestine in new book

On Palestine by Ilan Pappe and Noam Chomsky (UK: Penguin, 224 pp, US: Haymarket)

When they write or speak about Palestine, few academics on the left command the same attention as Noam Chomsky and Ilan Pappe. Their latest joint effort, a sequel to the 2010 book Gaza in Crisis, is titled simply On Palestine.

This slim volume, which runs to approximately 200 pages, is notable not only for the many issues on which the two men agree but also for their disagreements. Both center on some of the principal strategic and tactical issues facing the global Palestine solidarity movement.

These include applying the “apartheid model” to Israel, the effectiveness of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, and the debate over the one-state and two-state solutions. For these discussions alone, this book merits attention.

The first part of the book consists of dialogues between Chomsky and Pappe on Palestine’s past, present and future. Editor and human rights activist Frank Barat guides these conversations. He also separately interviews Pappe on the current political situation inside his native Israel and Chomsky on the current role of the United States in the so-called peace negotiations.


An introductory chapter by Pappe helps frame these conversations. In it, the historian and author of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine outlines four paradoxes confronting the solidarity movement.

The first paradox is why international public opinion overwhelmingly condemns Israel’s human rights violations and yet Israel can still rely on the support of Western governments. The second is why Israeli society has failed to acknowledge global opinion and continues to perceive itself in a positive way.

The third is why the Palestine solidarity movement has largely failed to make Zionist ideology the centerpiece of its critique of Israel despite the fact that Zionism is at the root of Israel’s criminality. The fourth paradox is why Israeli propaganda has still largely succeeded in portraying the conflict as “complicated” when in reality, as Pappe puts it, it’s a familiar and simple case of settler colonialism.

To address these paradoxes, Pappe suggests that the solidarity movement needs to introduce a new lexicon that frames the struggle in terms of decolonization, “regime change” and the imperative of a one-state solution. These terms, Pappe argues, give activists a way of getting beyond the old orthodoxy of resolving the conflict through peace negotiations and a two-state solution, which have failed, he says, because Israel is guided by an ideology that seeks to “de-Arabize” all of historic Palestine.

The Israeli government will never cease to seek this goal until it’s confronted with the necessity to end its colonial project, become a state of all its citizens, pay reparations to the Palestinians it forced into exile, and abandon the project of apartheid that is implicit in the two-state solution.

Tantalizing ideas

Chomsky and Pappe agree on many of these issues. The dialogues show both men acknowledging that Israel is a settler-colonial society.

Chomsky notes that this fact probably explains why Australia, Canada and the United States are Israel’s most consistent supporters since the settler-colonial origins of all four countries make them natural allies.

Like any conversation, much of the content in these dialogues is often suggestive rather than grounded in rigorous argument. The two scholars throw out some tantalizing ideas.

Pappe, for example, proposes that Islamophobia is not a recent phenomenon and that it played a prominent role in winning Western support for Israel’s existence. Chomsky says it is critical for the BDS movement to target the US role in supporting Israel since Israel, like apartheid South Africa before it, understands that it can persist as a “pariah state” as long as it has US backing.

Chomsky comes off as much less hostile to and dismissive of the BDS movement in this volume than he was in a notorious article he wrote for The Nation last year. He criticizes advocates of an academic and cultural boycott for failing to prepare the groundwork for their campaign, resulting, he says, in a vulnerability to charges of violating academic freedom.

Pappe disagrees, but despite his defense of the academic boycott, one of the deficiencies of this book — namely the absence of Palestinian voices — becomes particularly glaring here.

Chomsky also appears to be much less rigid in maintaining that US support for Israel is solely guided by its own imperialist interests, an argument forcefully sustained in his 1983 book The Fateful Triangle. Here he appears to envision waning US support for Israel, especially because of the shift in US public opinion among young people.

Peace talks charade

The sharpest divergence between Pappe and Chomsky becomes apparent in part two, which consists of several articles previously published by Chomsky and original contributions by Pappe. Both scholars agree that the peace negotiations have been an elaborate charade allowing Israel to continue to colonize the West Bank.

Chomsky argues that Israel’s conception of a two-state solution is at best a group of isolated, landlocked cantons in the West Bank in which a tiny Palestinian elite enjoys limited autonomy in Ramallah and Gaza exists wholly apart so that a Palestinian state will have no access to the outside world.

Nevertheless, Chomsky believes that a two-state solution is the only realistic one given that there is an international consensus behind it. The US government, he argues, could be compelled to cease providing support for Israel’s violations of international law.

Facing that prospect, Israel might recognize its total international isolation and negotiate a two-state solution based on the international consensus.

Pappe, on the other hand, argues that the two-state solution is no solution at all because it doesn’t address the problem: Zionism as a colonialist movement and Israel as a “racist, apartheid state.” The solution starts, he writes, “within a framework where all [including Palestinian refugees] enjoy full rights, equality and partnership.”

Unfortunately, neither Pappe nor Chomsky invoke the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination. That was the fundamental right denied the Palestinians in 1948, and until that right is exercised, it’s hard to see how the Palestinian people will win liberation from colonialism.

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He is active with Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace-Portland Chapter and the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.