Israel and Palestine: Reflections, Revisions, Refutationsby Avi Shlaim
Pub. Date: 09/07/2009
Publisher: Verso Books
Avi Shlaim, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Israel–Palestine conflict, reflects with characteristic rigour and readability on a range of key issues and personalities. From the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the failure of the Oslo peace process, from the 1948 War to the 2008 invasion of Gaza, Israel and Palestine places current/i>
Avi Shlaim, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Israel–Palestine conflict, reflects with characteristic rigour and readability on a range of key issues and personalities. From the 1917 Balfour Declaration to the failure of the Oslo peace process, from the 1948 War to the 2008 invasion of Gaza, Israel and Palestine places current events in their proper historical perspective. It assesses the impact of key political and intellectual figures, including Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon, Edward Said and Benny Morris. It also re-examines the United States’ influential role in the conflict, and explores the many missed opportunities for peace and progress in the region.
Clear-eyed and meticulous, Israel and Palestine is an essential tool for understanding the fractured history and future prospects of Israel-Palestine.
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Avi Shlaim, professor of international relations at Oxford University, is the author of The iron wall, the best book on Israel's relations with its neighbours. This erudite work is a collection of articles that were originally published in the Journal of Palestine Studies and the London Review of Books. Part 1 comprises ten articles on the 1948 war and after, Part 2 ten articles on the Oslo Accord of September 1993 and beyond, Part 3 five articles on the breakdown of the peace process, and Part 4 five articles looking at the current situation from various perspectives. He identifies three main watersheds, each the subject of heated debate: the founding of Israel, the 6-Day war of June 1967 and the Oslo Accord. Israeli governments usually oppose a Palestinian state and a return to its 1967 borders, even though, as Shlaim argues, ending the occupation of the West Bank would enhance Israel's security. The Oslo Accord, negotiated by Israelis and Palestinians, with virtually no US or EU involvement, was a great step forward towards creating a Palestinian state. But tragically Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his successor Ehud Olmert wrecked the Accord, as Shlaim shows. Shlaim recognises that the Iraq war had 'no solid basis in international law' and that the invasion did not help to resolve the Israel/Palestine conflict or promote democracy in the Middle East. You don't end one illegal occupation by starting another. Shlaim argues that Israel's brutal military occupation of Gaza was 'deliberate de-development'. The USA and the EU helped the Israeli state by imposing sanctions on Gaza, not on the occupier but on the occupied. As Shlaim writes, "The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence." In 2005-8, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire from Gaza; in 2005-7, the Israeli Defense Force killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children. In November 2008, Israel broke the ceasefire which had held for four months. In its 22-day attack on Gaza, 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed. Bush and Blair backed the attack and opposed UN calls for a ceasefire. Shlaim concludes, "A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria."
The Israeli State Archives opened in 1982 for the benefit of professional historians, journalists, as well as the wide public soon became a virtual treasure trove for leftist activists in Israeli academia. The activists, dubbed 'New Historians,' cherry picked the documents for their anti-Zionist value and interpreted them in the spirit of their ideological preferences. The interpretations were presented as iron-clad facts out of which the anti-Zionist 'New History' was made up. One of 'New Historians', an Israeli ex-pat Avi Shlaim, who is professionally bashing Israel for many years now, published a new book Israel and Palestine: Reflections, Revisions, Refutations. The book is a collection of sophisticated pasquilles written in the course of years. It does not contain new refutations or revisions, but old shibboleths like 'Israel missed every opportunity to make peace with Arabs', or, that 'Zionism is a colonialist movement', or 'give a country without people to people without country', etc. Readers, who are in the business of anti-Israeli propaganda and in need for anti-Israeli arguments, will find them in the book. Those, on the other hand, who are tired of regurgitating the same old 'stuff' can skip that book and save their money. They will not lose much since other books of similar content will, no doubt, be published next year and, then, the year after. Israel bashers have to make a living too.