Book Reviewed: One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse, by Ali Abunimah (New York: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Co., 2006)
The Arab-Israeli conflict over ownership of the former Mandate of Palestine has persisted for sixty years with no hint of a negotiated or imposed conclusion. In principle, there are four possible roads to resolution: attrition, ethnic cleansing, partition, and assimilation.
Attrition has been the central element of Israel strategy. One Country opens with a lucid account of how Palestine reached the present impasse between a powerful Jewish state and its disempowered, largely stateless, but indomitable Arab subjects in the Occupied Territories of East Jerusalem, The West Bank, and The Gaza Strip. By relegating Arab-Israelis to second-class citizenship, and making life miserable for Arabs in the Territories, the Israeli regime has sought to preserve a Jewish majority in Greater Israel (which also includes the Syrian Golan). Efforts to repress Palestinian autonomy and goad Arabs into emigration have included: destruction of homes and orchards; confiscation of land; steady expansion of Jewish settlements, roads, and military areas; reprisals against resisters (including peaceful demonstrators from the United States); construction of the Separation Barrier; and violation of the decisions of international agencies, like the ruling of the International Court of Justice against the Barrier. The unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem and the progressive cantonization of the West Bank have exacerbated the Palestinians' failure to build a united resistance movement.
Nevertheless, attrition is a failed strategy. Abunimah cites an official census of August 2005 that shows that Greater Israel's non-Jews outnumber Jews by approximately 300,000. The gap will continue to widen. Sharon's stratagem for dealing with this "demographic time-bomb," partial withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which is still under Israeli control, did not change the demographic reality that Israel has lost its prized Jewish majority.
In previous (more brutal) eras, governments preferred ethnic cleansing as the solution to land disputes. European colonists employed this strategy against native populations in America and Australia. Israel got away with two mass expulsions--700,000 Arabs in 1948 and 300,000 in 1967. The Israeli far right has always wistfully spoken of "transferring" superfluous Arab subjects. In the global village...