TAMIL NATION LIBRARY: Conflict Resolution
The Road Map to Nowhere: Israel/Palestine Since 2003-
Tanya Reinhart, Published by Verso, September 2006, 260 pages
"..My major source of information in constructing the
history of this period is the Israeli media. In the Israeli newspapers much
more information is available about what is happening and what is being
planned than appears in any foreign coverage. ... part of the reason
it is more revealing is its lack of inhibition. Things that would look
outrageous in the Western world are in Israel considered natural daily
Nevertheless, a central point in the book is that the last few years were
not just years of victory for Israel�s expansion. World-wide opposition to
Israel's policies has substantially grown in this period...This
turn of events shows the limits of propaganda � it appears possible to
manufacture silence or consent, but it may be impossible to manufacture
consciousness. Basic concepts like justice, international law, solidarity
with the oppressed, have disappeared from mainstream political discourse,
but they are present in people�s minds.
Reinhart interviewed by Znet...
Can you tell
ZNet, please, what your new book, The Road Map to Nowhere, is about? What is it
trying to communicate?
This book offers a detailed history of the
Israeli occupation of Palestine since 2003, where my previous book on this
topic ended (Israel/Palestine:
How to End the War of 1948).
In the present political atmosphere in the US and Europe, anybody who
expresses criticism of Israel�s policies is immediately silenced as an
anti-Semite. Part of the reason why the pro-Israel lobbies have been so
successful in their use of this accusation is the massive lack of
knowledge about what is really happening in Israel-Palestine. Without
the facts, the dominant narrative remains that Israel is struggling to
defend its very existence. Attention focuses mainly on the horrible,
despicable Palestinian terror; hence critics of Israel are often accused of
justifying terror. My aim in this book is to provide the facts, as they
unfold � openly - in the Israeli media.
During the period covered in the book, Israel did everything possible to
stall any chance of an agreement with the Palestinians. As has become
commonplace in the recent history of the occupation, this period opened with
a new peace initiative � the road map. The Palestinians accepted the plan
and declared a cease fire, while the Western world was celebrating the new
era of peace, the Israeli army under Sharon intensified its policy of
assassinations, maintained the daily harassment of the occupied
Palestinians, and eventually declared all-out war on Hamas, killing all its
first-rank military and political leaders. Later, as the Western world was
once again holding its breath in an eighteen-month wait for the planned Gaza
pullout, Sharon did his best to fail the newly elected Palestinian
president, Mahmoud Abbas, and turned down his offers of renewed
negotiations. Later, when this policy led to the collapse of Abbas'
government and the victory of Hamas in the elections, Israel declared war on
the Palestinian leadership and society.
Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948, I described the period
between 2000 and 2002 as the darkest period in the history of the Israeli
occupation of the
But in the period since, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, it became
even worse. Sharon started a massive project of ethnic cleansing in the
areas of the West Bank bordering Israel. His wall project robs the
land from the Palestinian villages in these areas, imprisons whole towns,
and leaves their residents with no means of sustenance. If the project
continues, many of the 400,000 Palestinians affected by it will have to
leave and seek their livelihood in the outskirts of cities in the center of
the West Bank, as has already happened in the northern West Bank town of
Qalqilya. The Israeli settlements were evacuated from the Gaza Strip, yet
the Strip remains an open-air prison, completely sealed off from the outside
world, nearing starvation and terrorized from land, see and air by the
Throughout this period, the Israeli political system has been in a gradual
process of disintegration. (In a World Bank report of April 2005, Israel
was found to be one
of the most corrupt and least efficient in the Western world.)
It became even more evident than before that the
military is the dominant force in Israeli political life, often dictating
both political and military moves. At the same time, what Israel has brought
to perfection in this period is that war can be always marketed as the
tireless pursuit of peace.
Can you tell
ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the content come from? What
went into making the book what it is?
My major source of information in
constructing the history of this period is the Israeli media. In the Israeli
newspapers much more information is available about what is happening and
what is being planned than appears in any foreign coverage. One often hears
statements interpreting this as signifying that the Israeli media is more
liberal and critical of Israel�s policies than other Western media.
This, however, is not the explanation. With the notable exception of
courageous and conscientious journalists like Amira Hass, Gideon Levi and a
few others, the Israeli press is as compliant as elsewhere, and it
faithfully recycles military and governmental messages. But part of the
reason it is more revealing is its lack of inhibition. Things that would
look outrageous in the Western world are in Israel considered natural daily
I try to bring as much of the story
as possible in the direct voice of the media sources I use, because often
the tone is no less revealing than the content. I also try to give some of
the stage to alternative critical voices in Israeli and international media.
While the Israeli media remains the
best source for government and military plans, a change I have noted since
the writing of Israel/Palestine
is that its reporting of the Israeli army�s actions in the territories has
substantially shrunk. Often, daily atrocities are either ignored, or pushed
to the back pages with minimal coverage. A reliable alternative source of
information during this period has been the British
Guardian. But to get a full
picture of the daily reality of the occupation one also needs to read the
Palestinian internet media.
What are your hopes for
The Road Map to Nowhere? What do you
hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and
aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success? What
would leave you happy about the whole undertaking?
These are difficult times, when Israel's
policies seem to be winning, with no barriers of international law or
justice on its road of destruction.
Two years ago, on July 9 2004, the
International Court of Justice (ICJ) found the current route of the wall
that Israel is constructing to be a serious and egregious violation of
international law. The first reactions in Israel were of worried concern.
Attorney General Menachem Mazuz presented the government with a report
stating: "The decision creates a political reality for Israel on the
international level, that may be used to expedite actions against Israel in
international forums, to the point that they may result in sanctions" (Ha'aretz,
August 19, 2004). Israel hastened to clarify that the wall is a temporary
security barrier, which in no way would determine facts on the ground. But
in the current political atmosphere, Israel declares it intends to make this
wall its border, and no European government even blinks.
Still a year ago, the Western world was
celebrating the dawn of democracy in the Middle East. Following Arafat's
departure, the Palestinians were engaging in a real election campaign. Hamas
declared its intention to participate in the elections, and to shift from
armed struggle to working in the political arena. One would think that this
would be viewed as an encouraging and positive development after years of
bloodshed. Indeed, the U.S. insisted on the election taking place, despite
Israel's objections. But alas, the Palestinians have elected the wrong
party. How natural it seems to the Western world that the Palestinian people
should be collectively punished for their wrong understanding of democracy.
The U.S. dictates, and Europe agrees that all aid to Palestinians should be
cut, leaving them close to starvation, with the remaining infra-structure
and health system crumbling.
Nevertheless, a central point in the book is
that the last few years were not just years of victory for Israel�s
expansion. World-wide opposition to Israel's policies has substantially
grown in this period. For example, despite the apparent success of
pro-Israel lobbies in silencing any criticism of Israel in Europe, in a
comprehensive European poll the majority viewed Israel as the country most
threatening to world peace. I argue that for a short while during this
period, the U.S. had to yield to European public opinion, and exerted real
pressure on Israel. Sharon's evacuation of the Gaza settlements was not an
act of free will, but a decision enforced on him at the peak of
international pressure that followed Israel�s sabotaging of the road map and
its construction of the West Bank wall. Though it was kept fully behind the
scenes, U.S. pressure was quite massive, including military sanctions. The
official pretext for the sanctions was Israel's arm sale to China, but in
previous occasions, the crisis was over as soon as Israel agreed to cancel
the deal. This time, the sanctions were unprecedented, and lasted until the
signing of the crossing agreement in November 2005.
This turn of events shows the limits of
propaganda � it appears possible to manufacture silence or consent, but it
may be impossible to manufacture consciousness. Basic concepts like justice,
international law, solidarity with the oppressed, have disappeared from
mainstream political discourse, but they are present in people�s minds.
This also shows that persistent struggle can
have an effect, and can lead governments to act. Such struggle begins with
the Palestinian people, who have withstood years of brutal oppression, and
who, through their spirit of zumud � sticking to their land - and daily
endurance, organizing and resistance, have managed to keep the Palestinian
cause alive, something that not all oppressed nations have managed to do. It
continues with international struggle � solidarity movements that send their
people to the occupied territories and stand in vigils at home, professors
signing boycott petitions, subjecting themselves to daily harassment, a few
courageous journalists that insist on covering the truth, against the
pressure of acquiescent media and pro-Israel lobbies. Often this struggle
for justice seems futile. Nevertheless, it has penetrated global
consciousness. The Palestinian cause can be silenced for a while, as is
happening now, but it will resurface.
My hope is to contribute to this struggle. In
the last chapter of the book, I tell the story of the struggle inside
The Palestinians along the wall
are struggling to save their land. Armed only with the marvelous spirit of
people who have held to their land one generation after the other, they
stand in front of one of the most brutal military machines of the world. An
amazing development of the last three years is that Israelis have joined the
Palestinian struggle. For the first time in the history
of the occupation, we are witnessing joint Israeli-Palestinian struggle.
As an Israeli, I believe that this struggle
provides hope also for the Israelis. Israel�s policies threaten not just the
Palestinians but also the Israelis themselves. In the long run, this war
over land is suicidal. A small Jewish state of 7 million residents (5.5
million Jews), surrounded by two hundred million Arabs, is making itself the
enemy of the whole Muslim world. There is no guarantee that such a state can
survive. Saving the Palestinians also means saving Israel.