Palestinian child killed by American weapons
In this book review by Henry Siegman (London Review of Books, April 10, 2008), Grab More Hills, Expand the Territory, we come to understand the disingenuousness of our friend and ally, Israel. By lying to the American public through a vast propaganda and censorship filter, Israel has most Americans, including their politicians, believing that America is supporting a just conflict against terrorists, the Palestinians, who are otherwise fighting a long standing military occupation, while their lands are being stolen. Americans just do not know the truth about the death and destruction our weapon systems contribute to Palestinian society.

The books reviewed are: The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-77, by Gershom Gorenberg, and Lords of the Land: The War over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007 by Idith Zertal  and Akiva Eldar. I hope that they will entice people to learn more, the truth about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Here are excerpts:

No Israeli government has ever supported the establishment of a Palestinian state east of the 1949 armistice line that constituted the pre-1967 border. At the very least, the settlements were designed to make a return to that border impossible.

There has been general agreement that, rather than adopt a formal position on the future status of the West Bank’s residents and risk provoking international opposition, Israel should continue to create `facts on the ground’ while remaining discreet about their purpose. In time, it was thought, the world would come to accept the Jordan River as Israel’s eastern border.

These books give the lie to the carefully cultivated narrative that has sustained the occupation. According to that narrative, the government of Israel offered peace to the Palestinians and to its Arab neighbours in the aftermath of the war of 1967 if they would agree to recognise the Jewish state. But at a meeting of the Arab League in Khartoum on 1 September 1967, the Arab world responded with `the three “no”s of Khartoum’: no peace, no recognition and no negotiations. This left Israel no choice but to continue to occupy Palestinian lands. Had Palestinians not resorted to violence in resisting the occupation, the story goes, they would have had a state of their own a long time ago.

The story is a lie. Israel’s military and political leaders never had any intention of returning the West Bank and Gaza to their Arab residents.

The decision to retain control of the territories was taken days after the end of the 1967 war, and was not a response to Palestinian terrorism, or even to Palestinian rejection of Israel’s legitimacy.

Security was the reason offered by Israel to justify the founding of the settlements. But the overwhelming majority of them actually created new security problems, if only because vast military and intelligence resources had to be diverted to their defence. The settlements have also enraged the Palestinians, whose land has been stolen to make room for them – this, too, has done nothing to increase Israel’s security.

Lords of the Land and The Accidental Empire reveal the massive scale of Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands and the involvement of every part of Israeli society in advancing the settlement enterprise in clear and deliberate violation not only of international law but of Israel’s own laws.

….as foreign minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, (Sharon) called on settlers to `grab’ hilltops in the parts of the West Bank from which he and Netanyahu had agreed to withdraw, as stipulated by the Oslo Accords. `Grab more hills, expand the territory,’ Sharon urged on Israel Radio. `Everything that’s grabbed will be in our hands. Everything we don’t grab will be in their hands.’

The `hilltop youth’ reject the authority of the Jewish state and its institutions. They run around in what they imagine to be biblical dress, assaulting Palestinians, stealing and destroying their homes, crops and orchards, occasionally beating them and every so often killing them. Occasionally the IDF intervenes, but their efficacy is undermined by their belief that their main job is to protect the settlers, not the population under occupation.

…all in the name of the alleged sanctity of the land and of the Jews’ exclusive right to it.

Since 1967, the IDF has transformed itself into the army of the settlers, to which abused Palestinians cannot turn for protection.

The belief that people who spend some of their most impressionable years in the IDF will return from their service with their democratic, humanitarian and egalitarian sensibilities intact is the absurd myth underlying the IDF’s conceit that it is the most moral army in the world.

Equally absurd is the notion that Israel has a model justice system in which Palestinians can get fair treatment. Israelis concerned about the double standards of their justice system have taken comfort in the enlightened rulings of Israel’s Supreme Court. But these can no longer be counted on. Recently, in an interim decision, the Supreme Court accepted for the first time the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories; the Association for Civil Rights in Israel sees the arrangement as marking the onset of legal apartheid.

The claim that it is only Palestinian violence and rejectionism that compelled Israel to remain in the territories is a fabrication.

…the assiduously promoted story of Israel’s pursuit of peace and its search for a Palestinian `partner for peace’ was fashioned to buy time to establish `facts on the ground’: settlements that would so completely shatter the territorial and demographic contiguity and integrity of Palestinian land and life as to make the establishment of a Palestinian state impossible.

The expansion of the settlements and of a Jews-only highway system in the West Bank continues without interruption. The price that Israel and Jews everywhere – not to speak of the Palestinian people – may yet have to pay for this `success’ is painful to contemplate.

Palestinian mother and children killed by American weapons

Henry Siegman is director of the US/Middle East Project and a research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Programme at SOAS. He was a senior fellow on the Council on Foreign Relations from 1994 to 2006.

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