Another mid-book review, combined with commentary from Truthdig.

I’m a little past the halfway point of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, by Ali Abunimah.


Although I spend most of my reading time on inequality and taxation, I’m frequently drawn to the Israel-Palestine debate. I’ve read a fair amount, but my knowledge base on subject is only modest at best. So there are a lot of gaps in my understanding.

Abunimah is helping to fill some of those. Most importantly, although I’ve read articles by Palestinian scholars, this is the first Palestinian-authored book I’ve read. My thought before I started was that it would be helpful to understand the Palestinian perspective emotionally. The book actually adds very little in that regard, at least so far. And, really, several of the Jewish-authored books I’ve read did a good job of capturing this aspect of the situation.

Ironically, I’m finding that Abunimah’s focus is inequality and economic justice. He rejects the notion of Palestinian statehood for statehood’s sake and argues instead that the resolution must be one that gives Palestinians a chance to break free of economic domination by Israel.

Interestingly (and, to me, effectively), Abunimah seems to consciously refrain from using emotions to persuade. Instead, using historical analogies, primarily from South Africa and Northern Ireland, he employs a sober, logical analysis to make his points.

That is not to say Abunimah argues in the abstract. He brings facts to bear, but to support a  logical argument, not an emotional one. For example, in discussing Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2009, Abunimah’s takeaway point is not about the 1400 hundred or so Palestinians killed in the invasion, but on the evidence of advance planning by Israel to use the attack to achieve an economic objective. Specifically, Israel used the occasion to wipe out the chicken farming industry in Gaza. There was no military need to bomb the crap out of Gaza’s chicken farms, but there sure was an economic one. Now, post-invasion, most of the chicken and eggs on Gaza supermarket shelves are made in Israel. Israeli chicken farmers benefitted handsomely from the attack on Gaza, to the detriment of Gazans, whose food insecurity and malnutrition worsened.

Unfortunately, while Abunimah is speaking and thinking logically, Israel (and many of its American supporters) is not. William Pfaff touches on this in his Truthdig column, Obama Could Spare Israel Terrible Outcome:

The suicide will probably be lengthy and agonized, accompanied at some point in the future by return to armed struggle, as Zionist Israel again tries to destroy whatever entity or community that is the successor to the present Palestinian state, as presently recognized by the UN General Assembly. Palestine’s existence, where it is, as it continues to exist, will increasingly become morally, as well as strategically, insufferable and unbearable to Israel.

Barack Obama could spare Israel this terrible outcome, as I will argue, but the insolence of the Netanyahu government towards the American ally which has empowered Israel’s survival, prosperity and progress, and connived in Israel’s oppression of its Palestinian victims, has clearly inspired in President Obama a profound hatred and contempt toward Netanyahu and his fellow-aggressors, who choose the eventual destruction of Israel itself for reasons of their own advantage, and to satisfy the blind and deaf fanaticism of the settlement movement.

The best in Israel—the people (so few it seems)—who grasp what their fellow citizens are doing to Israel, are begging the United States and the West Europeans (from among whom came those, who in another century, were responsible for the infamy inflicted upon the Jews of Europe), to save them today.

How? I will quote one of the most important and influential Israeli journalists, Gideon Levy, writing in the newspaper Haaretz:

“It is unacceptable, in the 21st century, for a state that purports to be a permanent member of the free world to keep another nation deprived of its rights. It is unthinkable, simply unthinkable, for millions of Palestinians to continue to live in these conditions. It is unthinkable for a democratic state to continue to oppress them in this way. It is unthinkable that the world stands by and allows it to happen.”

Pfaff is no doubt correct. Israel is committing suicide.  That by itself is okay, IMO. The idea that there should be a “Jewish state” is ludicrous. To argue for that is to support racism. As Abunimah argues, if there is a “right” to a Jewish state, there would have to be a morally acceptable remedy if that right is violated or threatened. What would that remedy be? Expulsion of non-Jews? Concentration camps? Anti-miscegenation statutes? Measures to limit non-Jewish childbirth? Sorry, none of those remedies would be acceptable. So, there really is no right to a Jewish state according to modern-day morals.

What scares me is the further injustices Palestinians will have to suffer along the way, while the world, as Pfaff notes, and particularly the United States, “stands by and lets it happen.”

And what if Israel’s suicide winds up being a murder suicide?