Palestine: Sixty Years Later: Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank 2008-2009 by Thomas Suarez (Americans for Middle East Understanding, 2010) 112 pages plus photos.

Written by admin on December 30th, 2010

Individuals insisting that the Palestinians reject peace with Israel found affirmation in a report analyzing Palestinian political opinion expressed in social media.  P@lestinian Pulse: What Policymakers Can Learn From Palestinian Social Media, examined an array of West Bank and Gaza-based internet resources to conclude that Hamas exhibited “little desire for a negotiated peace with Israel,” “most Fatah supporters embraced the notion that Israel was an enemy, rather than a peace partner,” and half its members seek “armed conflict and terrorism against Israel.” And if that was not sufficient argument for the Obama Administration to discard the Palestinians, the study warned that Hamas was aligned with “Salafists such as al-Qaeda” and that Iran’s influence in the territories goes unchallenged.

P@lestinian Pulse comports with the views of its sponsoring entity: the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a self-described “policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism” whose policy recommendations echo Likud party viewpoints. The report may be exaggerated hyperbola but there is no dispute that the Palestinians deeply hate their 60 years of Israeli military occupation. An overwhelming majority of Palestinians believe that Israel aspires to annex Palestinian lands, while denying them political rights or expelling them from the West Bank. That P@lestinian Pulse chose not to ask why such hostility toward Israel exists is characteristic of rhetoric that dismisses Palestinians as worthwhile political actors and deeply affects public opinion.

Palestine: Sixty Years Later provides a forceful explanation for Palestinian anger against Israel. It’s a full bore assault against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, rejecting assumptions of symmetry between Israel and Palestine or presumptions that Israel acts in self-defense.  Thomas Suarez thesis is straight-forward: the Zionist movement since its earliest days has sought to cleanse the land of non-Jews. Zionist acceptance of 1948 U.N. partition plan was only a tactical concession and the subsequent 20 years of conflict was geared toward conquering all of Palestine. Israel’s military provokes Arab attacks in order elicit a whole slough of attacks in the name of self-defense. By cloaking every offensive action as a defensive one, Israel successfully reversed the identity of the victim and aggressor. That is why, Suarez explains, statistics demonstrating vastly greater Palestinian casualties and suffering have no meaning in the West. The “peace process,” says Suarez, has always been a distraction from the reality of on-going Israeli aggression, whether it be attacks on Gaza or the settlement construction in the West Bank.

That last claim resonates today as Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu chose settlement construction over continued talks with Palestine Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas. Likewise, notwithstanding Netanyahu’s endorsement of an emasculated Palestinian state, the official platform of the ruling Likud Party of which he is chairman, “flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river” and affirms that Jewish settlement of “Judea and Samaria” “is a clear expression of the unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel.” That the mainstream media considers Likud’s policy statements insufficiently newsworthy to report underscores Suarez’s complaint about a compliant and uncritical media.

Readers may dispute Suarez’s historic critique of Israel but his photographs of contemporary Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank are incontestable. They offer an unnerving portrait of a people and a land under an inconsolable occupation. Israel’s fixed presence in Gaza was replaced by what Suarez makes clear is a suffocating land, air, and sea blockade. Photos illuminate everyday life, depicting children dressed in traditional as well as contemporary dress, at school, playing on the streets, or at home with family. Images of vendors at the seashore and merchants hauling produce on mule-drawn carts adds to the sense of normality. But as the photos shift to scenes of collapsed buildings destroyed during “Caste Lead,” Israel’s 2008 attack on Gaza, a child standing on the rubble of his home, or a family standing next to a UNICEF supplied tent they now call home, it become evident that Gaza is anything but normal. Most unnerving was a photo of a bomb crater so deep that it dwarfed the people standing atop its lip. It suggested the depth of terror the people of Gaza suffered under Caste Lead.  Photos of the tunnels that Gazians rely on for goods and products smuggled from Egypt underscored their everyday hardships.

Separate chapters on East Jerusalem and the West Bank provide similar images telling a similar story: Palestinians at work, at home, and at play but always enveloped in Israel’s intruding occupation. The value of this photo essay lay in its capability to remind its readers that Palestinians are people like themselves, wishing the best for their families, but living under extremely harsh conditions. The photos counter publications such as P@lestinian Pulse that propagates accounts of senseless Palestinian violence. Suarez’s narrative accompanying the photos provides a powerful indictment against Israel’s practices and ultimate goal of erasing the Palestinian presence. Critics rightfully will complain that he is partisan. But images of the military checkpoints, soldiers enforcing Jewish-only neighborhoods in Hebron, and the wall cutting through West Bank communities make clear why Palestinians resist Israel’s occupation.

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2 Comments so far ↓

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