Iqbal Jassat: The Road Map to Nowhere – Book Review

Reviewed by Iqbal Jassat
Special to

The Road Map to Nowhere: Israel/Palestine Since 2003 by Tanya Reinhart

In her book “The Road Map to Nowhere”, late Professor Tanya Reinhart recounts a poignant observation made by an Israeli philosopher almost 40 years ago.

Yeshayahu Leibovitz anticipated that in the occupied territories  “Concentration camps would be erected by the Israeli rulers……….Israel would be a state that would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.”

Such bold critique is reflective of views shared by many Israelis who have regularly warned about the consequences of dehumanizing Palestinians who, under occupation, remain helpless victims of state terrorism.

Reinhart, a highly respected academic, author and political commentator – contributed insightful analysis as a regular columnist for the largest Israeli daily, Yediot Aharonot, produced this powerful and devastating book providing a scathing account of contemporary Israeli politics.

Her eloquence as a writer which earned her much respect from luminaries such as the late Edward Said and Noam Chomsky when her “Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948” was published, remains a pleasant trait in “Road Map to Nowhere”.

That she was able to package vital analysis dealing with a crucial period from the spring of 2003 [the Road Map Era] to the winter of 2007 [the Palestinian Elections] within 200 pages, attests to her remarkable scholarship which, even with her passing, will remain an impeccable source of credible commentary.

Reinhart’s major source of information in constructing the history of this period has been the Israeli media. This does not mean it is more liberal and critical of state policies than other Western media. As she explains, with the notable exception of courageous and conscientious journalists like Amira Hass and Gideon Levy, the Israeli press is “as compliant as elsewhere, and it faithfully recycles military and governmental messages.”

An interesting detail which emerges in her examination of Mahmoud Abbas’ emergence as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority is his relationship with Israeli leaders. In spite of his disavowal of “terror” and presenting his political vision as “moderate”, the demand posed by Israel as a condition for accepting the Road Map, was that he completes the “dismantling of terrorist organizations [Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front, the Democratic Front, Al-Aqsa Brigades and other apparatuses] and their infrastructure.”

This demand meant a confrontational showdown between Abu Mazen [Abbas] and Mohammed Dahlan on the one hand and Hamas, Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades on the other. It also demanded that not only their military wings be dismantled, but their “infrastructure” – which according to Reinhart meant the political and social organizations that support them and provide welfare and education.

The political landscape in Gaza and the West Bank today, suggests that four years later, Abbas has finally surrendered to these demands. Dahlan’s failed coup and provocation of a civil war within Palestinian society alongside Abbas’ illegal wresting of power from Hamas and the equally tyrannical shut down of over a hundred NGO’s and other civil society formations attests to this.

Another uncomfortable fact for many in the Fatah hierarchy of Abu Mazen: Reinhart confirms that while “the political branches of the Fatah-led PA may have been just passive in the Palestinian struggle for freedom, some of its security forces have been active collaborators with the Israeli occupation, most notably the Preventive Security apparatus, headed by Mohammed Dahlan in the Gaza Strip and Jibril Rajoub in the West Bank.

“These forces, trained by the CIA, have worked during all years of the Oslo Agreements in tight collaboration with the Israeli security forces, including collaborations in assassinations of Hamas militants.”

Reinhart’s excellent treatise provides a keen understanding of patterns of political conduct on the part of Israeli leaders. While on the surface appearing to be complex, Israeli politics is in effect inconsistent with international laws and built on a platform of defiance. Yet in its vulnerability, commits excessive atrocities knowing that US support will render it immune from UN censure.

Her exposition of the apartheid wall’s real purpose is equally compelling. She devotes an entire chapter titled “A System of Prisons: the Plans Behind the West Bank Wall”.  In this section she unpacks Ariel Sharon’s vision of Israeli control of the West Bank, which is shared by Ehud Olmert together with most of the political and military elite today. It is motivated by a preoccupation to retain as much of the occupied land as possible.

The solution to retaining a long-term method of control over the occupied people was to develop [under Sharon] a complex system of prisons wherein the Palestinians are pushed into locked and sealed enclaves, fully controlled by the Israeli army. Reinhart confesses that as far as she is aware “this imprisonment of a whole people is an unprecedented model of occupation – and it is being executed with frightening speed and efficiency”.

Unconvinced by Israeli propaganda that the wall is vital for security, she dismisses this argument and explains that it is no less than a massive project of land grab on Israel’s part. Ethnic cleansing is another aim. In response to her own question about the likely fate of Palestinians cut off from their land and livelihood and imprisoned in isolated enclaves, Reinhart spells out the answer: “With no means of subsistence, they will eventually be forced to leave the enclaves ………….In this way, sections of the West Bank that border Israel will be ‘cleansed’ of Palestinians”. 

Tanya Reinhart’s book is a significant contribution to understanding the wide gap between myth and reality. Its exposition is accurate, sharp and as urged by Chomsky, must be taken very seriously.     

Reinhart’s study becomes all the more imperative given the current hype being generated by the Bush administration regarding their so-called “peace conference” being planned for year-end. Since he is determined to claim some fictitious “victory” in the midst of humiliating reversals in Iraq, Bush’s desperation coupled with Abbas’ collaboration is likely to allow Israel to yet again point its middle finger at international conventions!  

-Iqbal Jassat is a regular contributor to; he serves as the Chairman for the Media Review Network –

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