The following book review by Sally Bland of After Zionism appears in The Jordan Times:
Writing in the face of Israel’s ravenous colonisation that has negated the option of a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, 14 esteemed writers, academicians and activists explore alternative solutions in this very timely and readable book. The authors are Palestinians, Israeli or American Jews, and international journalists specialising in the subject. They don’t agree on everything, but all are convinced that new thinking is needed to climb out of the stultifying box erected by years of meaningless “peace” negotiations. According to the editors, “We are connected by a desire to see peace with justice for our peoples.” (p. 10)
Ahmed Moor sets the tone: “The unacknowledged truth is that Palestine/Israel is already one country… but Apartheid’s ugly scrawl mars its surface.” (p. 17)
This reality threatens to permanently shelve Palestinian rights, while many contend that it poses a long-term danger to Israel. American Jews, who play such a pivotal role in insuring massive US support to Israel, will find it increasingly difficult to square Israeli Apartheid with their own, mainly liberal, values. As pointed out by several contributors, the Internet’s widespread exposure of Israeli crimes intensifies their dilemma. In the words of Antony Loewenstein: “The reach of the Internet strikes fear into the hearts of Zionist defenders of the Israeli state, because they’re no longer able to pressure editors or journalists to push a certain friendly angle.” (p. 191)
In the most upbeat chapter of the book, Phil Weiss tells of the awakening of Jewish progressive activists, such as Media Benjamin and Naomi Klein, upon visiting Palestine. He urges American Jews to break the unwritten “contract” with the Israeli lobby to automatically defend Israel: “We can brag of an unrivalled tradition of learning and achievement and political liberalism. Yet, we held the bag for Israeli crimes, forever. How did that happen?” (p. 173)
The challenge addressed by most of the contributors is how Palestine/Israel can be turned into a democratic state for all its citizens. Here the contributors diverge in their respective emphasis and proposals. Omar Barghouti musters a coherent argument for a secular, democratic, unitary state in historic Palestine to create “a truly promising land” (p. 209), while Ghada Karmi discusses feasibility and strategies. Jeff Halper presents several possible models, including a bi-national state that might eventually merge into a regional economic confederation. While most fault the racist exclusivity inherent in the Zionist project, Jeremiah Haber argues that this quality stems not from Zionism’s ideology but from its being embodied in a state; he argues for maintaining cultural Zionism post-Israel.
All agree that there are formidable obstacles to a just solution, but point to promising modes of action that promote an equal rights-based approach. These include non-violent popular resistance, joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle and BDS — not with the illusion that it can undermine the occupation economically, but as “a tool with which the Palestinians can highlight their moral claims to a receptive international audience”. (p. 20)
Recalling the civil rights movement, a struggle for equality will resonate with the US public far more than the struggle for a state.
Ilan Pappe revisits the Nakba to explain how its institutionalised denial in Israel is a major obstacle to justice, not least because ethnic cleansing is ongoing. In a very systematic chapter, Sara Roy points to new dynamics that are emerging as it becomes apparent that the Oslo process will never end the occupation, and the US will never pressure Israel to do so. This has pushed the Palestinian leadership to seek international legal legitimacy for the Palestinian cause. On the other hand, Saree Makdisi dismisses the seriousness of the leadership’s bid for statehood at the UN, and argues that the Palestinian people have “far more power than Mr. Abbas felt comfortable wielding at the UN… Switch the terrain”, he argues, to give the Palestinians the moral high ground. (p. 98)
Chronicling the severe difficulties facing Palestinians seeking decent housing in Israel, Jonathan Cook takes a hard look at what lies ahead if the Palestinians are to pursue a struggle for equal rights in the framework of a unitary state. His survey of land control and usage in Israel shows the need for dismantling Zionist structures. “Only a much more substantial and drastic reform — ending Israel’s Jewish character — can hope to provide Palestinian citizens with the equality they demand.” (p. 169)
These are only some of the interesting chapters in this book which will hopefully spark a broader debate, bringing in more activists in the field.