By Jim Miles
The Road Map to Nowhere –Israel/Palestine Since 2003. Tanya Reinhart. Verso, New York, 2006.
Tanya Reinhart’s “Road Map to Nowhere” is an important and thorough extension of her previous work “Israel/Palestine”, continuing her well-referenced and hard-hitting analysis. The overall idea has not changed – the Israeli government continues its plan of action by using ‘negotiations’ as smoke and mirrors to the reality of continuing with the imprisonment and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Two other themes, one stated directly, the other minor but still very obvious from the narrative, accompany the main narrative. The minor theme, very obvious from the flow of the narrative is that of Israel as the “victim” with the “finger of blame…pointed at the Palestinians for any and all future violence that occurred.” The second clearly identified theme concerns the complicity or at best acquiescence and acceptance of government and military rhetoric by Israeli and western media.
Reinhart continues right where she left off, identifying Sharon, “the most brutal, cynical, racist and manipulative leader Israel has ever had”, as a peace hero created by the “propaganda system” which has reached its “perfection in manufacturing consciousness,” by showing that “war can be always marketed as the tireless pursuit of peace” (having also a familiar American ring to it as well). The ideas and manipulations explored here cover the period of the “Road Map”, the failed attempt to achieve some sort of solution for Israel/Palestine.
The issues covered, with references mainly to Israeli sources, concern the withdrawal from Gaza, the ongoing settlement patterns within the Westbank, the democratic election of Hamas into the government, and the construction of the wall, euphemistically called a fence. Throughout it all is the recognition, by the military and the government, that Hamas was perhaps the only party that proved good to its word by maintaining the various truces it implemented, unilaterally, in an attempt to arrange some form of deal with the Israelis. The truce was systematically interrupted by Israeli incursions and attacks which seldom made the news, but resulted in some form of Palestinian counter-measure that made the headlines and were used to show that Israel was under attack and in danger for its very survival from the Palestinians.
The story of Israelis as victim included the “tens of thousands of Israeli families, with children who grew up in the settlements and had never known another home” being evicted from Gaza. This is of course a specious argument (as most of them are) as it can readily be turned around and applied to the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have been cleansed from their homeland, their fields, farms, and villages, as well as those newly created landless as the wall slithers its way in a circuitous route around villages and fields. This engendered what Rinehart sees as the myth of the “calculated risk, sacrificing the Israeli settlements in Gaza in order to tighten and expand Israel’s grip in the Westbank.” I will return to that thought in a moment but the idea of Israel as victim continues.
Syria and Hizbollah become a part of the story, supposedly causing much of the “terror” instigated by the Palestinians in the Westbank, even though no proof of this was ever revealed. The Israeli’s proposed “concessions” were seen as “painful”, twisting the return of occupied lands into another case of victim hood. The attacks and acts of devastation in both Gaza and the Westbank are described as “self-defence”, hardly imaginable with the immense military superiority and clear control of all facets of Palestinian life. With the election of Abbas after Arafat’s death, the situation quickly changed from Arafat being someone the Israeli’s could not deal with to Abbas being placed in the same position, there was no partner for peace (whereas Sharon had become the man of peace for Israel). Support for the victimization came from the Americans with comments from the American ambassador stating, “the terrorists are trying to provoke Israel,” and “we fully understand Israel’s right to defend itself.”
While the general perception was that Israel and the U.S. worked together on the Gaza pullout, Reinhart presents a different picture. With Bush worried about the opinion polls at home, she describes American pressure against Sharon to continue with the pullout and to settle on some prescribed dates that could be followed on. Sharon cornered himself with his own words, trying as always to keep the Gaza pullout from happening, quite ready to send in a massive military assault as “preparation” for the pullout, looking for the excuse not to have to proceed. The U.S. applied significant military sanctions against Israel, all this occurring behind the scenes, resulting in the actual pullout and the conclusion that the “powerful pro-Israel lobby could be silenced easily, if the White House so desired,” and that with true U.S. pressure, “no Israeli leader is able to defy its injunctions.” What the public saw, what the media presented, what Bush continually extolled, were the virtues of Sharon as a man of peace. With the pullout realized, the U.S. pressure ended, Israel returned to its goal of maintaining “poverty and despair” in Gaza as “necessary to prevent political development and struggle.” With the settlers gone, Gaza became one large concentration camp, with over a million inhabitants reduced to starvation.
Effectively, Israel has reduced itself to the immoral position of the Nazis in Germany, a racist government ideology used to imprison and ethnically cleanse millions of people.
Having continued with the settlements, under the guise of temporary settlements and in contradiction to the “Roadmap” Israel is applying the Gaza lessons to the Westbank. Reinhart follows the development of the wall, its effects on the land and people, reducing the Westbank to a series of concentration camps as well, with the same policy of starving the Palestinians into submission, hoping they might eventually pull up and leave. The factors that delineate the course of the wall show that it has little to do with terror prevention – which would be achieved by straighter lines and stronger defensive placements – and everything to do with agricultural land and the water aquifer underlying the Palestinian territory – as well as basic control of all Palestinian movement.
The Palestinian people have remained surprisingly resilient through all this. They have stubbornly elected a government in elections that were considered very democratic by all concerned. Yet very quickly after that, the idea of ‘no partner for peace’ quickly resurfaced as Israel, fully supported by the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe, indicated they would not support a government that would not recognize Israeli right to existence. Even though offers of a truce were presented, and considered a serious possibility by Israel, the context again became that of a terrorist state trying to destroy Israel. Conditions were stated for Palestine to demonstrate its positive intentions – recognition of Israel, disarmament of the militias, and cessation of attacks – while no conditions were applied to Israel.
Supported by a small cadre of Israeli and western peace activists, the Palestinians continue to non-violently protest against the construction of the wall, declared illegal by the International Court, with minor victories being achieved within the Israeli court system. Still, these orchestrated non-violent protests are considered the most dangerous, and have resulted in “increasingly harsh means of repression” including the use of snipers firing live ammunition into the demonstrators. Victims of terror at one time, now using terror to suppress any opposition to their own goals.
It is hard to read the latter part of the book without becoming angry, more angry, towards the actions of the Israeli government and its militaristic tendencies. The stories of individuals standing against the bulldozers and bullets, the tear gas and ‘screamer’, make one wonder about this so called society made of false rhetoric and contorted and violent religious idealism, a society supported by the United States for a combination of religious ethos, strategic location, ideological hubris, and resource ownership.
The actions of the Israeli government, supported by the American government, are truly going nowhere, but remain stagnated in a web of deceit and lies. Tanya Reinhart continues to expose these deceits and lies, leaving the last word for the Palestinian people, who “have clung to their land for generation after generation,” as they “stand in the path of the most brutal military machines in the world. The daily struggle is our hope.” Walls can be defeated, walls can tumble. They all have. They all will.
-Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles. His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government.