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Reliable Source: Review of "Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948"

By: 
Jay Murphy
Date Published: 
February 14, 2003

Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948
Tanya Reinhart
Seven Stories Press, 2002

In this book, the Israeli analyst Tanya Reinhart provides a relentless and cumulatively stunning exposé of official Israeli government policy starting with the widely heralded and little understood 1993 Oslo Agreements. It was the profound “fraud” of Oslo that led this professor of linguistics and cultural studies and former student of Noam Chomsky at MIT to take up regular political writing, including writing columns for Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest daily newspaper.

One of the latest Israeli “myths,” Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s “generous offer” to the Palestinians at the July 2000 Camp David talks has been widely analyzed as an extraordinary misrepresentation by mainstream media sources in the US, such as the New York Times and the New York Review of Books. However, that hasn’t slowed the success of Israeli propaganda that with the talks’ failure they have yet again been forced to go to war for their very existence.

One reason Reinhart’s account is of great value is because for the most part she draws on exclusively Israeli sources. It has long been true that accounts in the Israeli media – for example, openly discussing what is no longer only a lunatic fringe: the ultra-right wing urging of “population transfer” of Palestine’s indigenous people -- provide a frightening glimpse into what Judith Kippner of the Council of Foreign Relations has called “a disintegrating society.”

The extremism of Israeli political discourse or the remarkable intelligence information contained in Israeli media is only rarely reflected in accounts here in the US. As Reinhart points out, even the English online versions of Ha’aretz, the major Israeli daily, are often censored. For those of us who are activists or writers about the Middle East without the ability to read Hebrew, Reinhart shows us what we are all missing.

Damning indictment

In fact, rarely since the late Israel Shahak’s indispensable monthly, “Translations from the Hebrew Press,” has such a damning indictment of Israeli policy come from the land of Israel. Reinhart treads some familiar ground by showing how Barak’s fabled “generous offer” at Camp David of 95-96 percent of the West Bank really amounted to about 50 percent split by settlements and Israeli Defense Force outposts.

She goes further in making a convincing case that Barak planned for the talks to fail. As part of what Ha’aretz journalist Amir Oren called, “a line of political generals that started with Moshe Dayan”, Barak wanted to create a propaganda coup in order to implement Israel’s will on the Territories by force.

Although Israel portrays its every move as a “spontaneous” reaction to Palestinian terror attacks, plans to retake the Occupied Territories militarily date back at least to the 1996 “Field of Thorns” IDF exercises in the Negev Desert, accompanied by US advisors. Reinhart shows that all the most brutal characteristics of Israel’s re-occupation – the smashing of civilian infrastructure, the uses of economic strangulation, to name a few – follow from these plans.

For Reinhart “the military is the most stable – and the most dangerous – political factor in Israel, one that will remain in power long after Sharon falls.” It is due to the ascendancy of these “political generals” that Reinhart concludes that under the cover of a regional escalation, mass “transfer,” what General Moshe Ya’alon called completing “the second half of 1948,” is a real possibility.

Tanya Reinhart’s political columns can be found on her web site: http://www.tau.ac.il/~reinhart.