Sunday, December 18, 2011

Israel's experiments in human despair

British journalist Jonathan Cook knows his subject intimately. The only Western journalist based in Nazareth, the capital of the Palestinian minority in Israel and married to a Palestinian woman, he experiences Israel’s experiments in human despair on a daily basis. The experience is not a pleasant one, and “Disappearing Palestine” is not an easy book to read. In fact, I found the experience -- though enlightening -- a deeply depressing one. His subtitle -- “Israel’s experiments in human despair” -- is attention-grabbing, biting, and deadly serious. It is also deadly accurate. Israel’s consistent goal has, from before it became a nation in 1948, been to rid Palestine of its Arab residents and claim the whole thing for Jews alone. Here is how the author explains it in his Introduction: “It is my contention that Israel has turned the increasingly confined spaces left to the Palestinians not only into open-air cages but also into laboratories where experiments to encourage Palestinian despair, and ultimately  emigration, are being refined. In fact, these experiments were begun inside Israel, only being ‘exported’ to the occupied territories after their conquest in the 1967 war,” something that is confirmed by Hatim Kanaaneh’s “A Doctor in Galilee: The Life and Struggle of a Palestinian in Israel”. “Without the constraints impose by trying to maintain its image as a Western-style democracy inside its own borders, Israel has been able to develop a more aggressive and transparent form of imprisonment for the Palestinians under occupation. It has ‘industrialized’ Palestinian suffering through curfews, checkpoints, walls, permits and surveillance systems, creating a lucrative ‘homeland security’ industry that has grown in importance since the US began a similar occupation of Iraq. The holding pens in which the Palestinians are kept today are ideal places for testing new methods of urban warfare, crowd control and ghettoization, as well as developing techniques for excluding observers such as journalists and aid workers. The gradual ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians from their homeland, on both sides of today’s Green Line, is likely to take place with few witnesses to record it” (pages 7, 8). Within these enclosed areas, “Palestinians are being deprived of any economic prospects -- even the basic ability to subsist. Their immiseration ... is designed with one end in mind: the encouragement of ‘transfer’, the word Israelis prefer to ‘ethnic cleansing’.” (page 8)
The rest of the book’s 251 pages of text (plus 30 pages of notes) is a detailed description of what goes on in Israel and the Occupied Territories on a daily basis. As the old saying goes, the Devil is in the details, and the details are horrendous. If reading them is like taking an acid bath, imagine what living them every day of your life must be like. There hasn’t been a single Israeli leader who has not been directly complicit in this horror. Nor a single U.S. president -- with the possible exception of Jimmy Carter -- who hasn’t steadfastly supported Israel’s abhorrent behavior, all of it justified in the name of “security needs”. 
There is no excuse at all for supporting Israel in its inhuman treatment of Palestinians and its blatant racism concerning anyone who is not a Jew. This book ought to be required reading for every US Senator and Representative, and anyone running for those offices. The same goes for political leaders in the UK and Europe. That the West continues to condone and outright support Israel in this is a bitter indictment of all of us. 
If you don’t know this book, go to your local book store or one of the online booksellers and buy your copy today. It is an eye-opener, even if you consider yourself knowledgeable on the subject, as I did. I didn’t know the half of it.
A  5 star read. 

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