From Camp David to Cast Lead

Book: From Camp David to Cast Lead: Essays on Israel, Palestine and the future of Peace Process
Edited by Daanish Faruqi
Publisher: Lexington Books, Maryland, USA
Year of Publication: 2011
Pages: 173                                          
Price: Not mentioned
ISBN: 978-0-7391-4456-5
Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander

The issue of Palestine has been on the priority list of the United Nations as an unsolved and perpetual dispute since the unjust creation of Israel on 14 May, 1948, the day which is commemorated as Nakba (Catastrophe) by the Palestinians. Many wars have been imposed on Palestinians and the neighbouring Arab countries by Israel since then, which have consumed thousands of souls, maimed hundreds and destroyed properties worth billions. Israel illegally justifies these wars as a struggle for its survival among hostile Arab nations. The unconditional and unrelenting support which Israel has been getting from the superpowers during and after the Cold War has encouraged it to commit more aggression with impunity. Despite the occasional hue and cry by human rights activists, UN General Assembly resolutions and the condemnations pouring in every other day, Israel isn’t pressurized even by an iota to bring a bit of relaxation in its atrocities against Palestinians.

The present book is a compilation of different essays on Israel-Palestine conflict, why peace is still elusive, and why reconciliation efforts are bringing no respite in violence especially during the last one decade. As the name of the book suggests, it covers the failed negotiations of Camp David (2000) to the Operation Cast Lead (2008-09). It is edited by Daanish Faruqi who in his powerful introduction to the collection says that “The idea of a bi-national state shared by Israelis and Palestinians, previously considered sacrilegious in public discourse, is now garnering renewed interest”. Describing the purpose of the book, he writes that, “It’s purpose is to address the limitations of conventional discourse towards this conflict which the rapidly shifting political dynamics of the past decade have made unabashedly apparent”.

The volume has been divided into four sections. The first section Beginnings consists of three chapters. Henry Pachter, in his essay, “Who are the Palestinians?” touches the cord with a history of the Palestinians, their agony since the creation of Israel and how they became refugees in their own land but infers a unique solution, “The solution for Jerusalem will have to be imposed by great powers; it cannot be negotiated between the parties concerned. As long as they pretend to negotiate about it, they merely indicate that they do not mean to make peace”(p. 17). But will such an imposed solution be respected by both Israel and Palestine? Who can guarantee that the imposed solution even if respected wouldn’t initiate a new spate of violence?

“Deconstructing Israeli Democracy: On the cultural pre-requisites of Political Modernity” is the title of Michael J Thompson’s paper which deliberates that a liberal democracy as pronounced by John Locke is completely absent in the Israeli polity which is rather a Jewish hegemony via ethnocentrism which is a pre-modern concept. Thompson proves that the presupposition of Uncle Sam and various other countries that Israel is the only country in the Arab World which is a democracy and hence a model to be emulated is a brazen sham as, “the very idea of a State defined by religious and ethnic identity becomes anti-liberal and therefore anti-democratic since it privileges a conception of politics which survives on the basis of exclusion”(p. 22), whereas democracy thrives and survives on pluralism, inclusiveness and mass participation.

Menachem Klein discusses the “Security-Settlement Complex” in the third chapter and unveils the settlement and expansion of Israel in the West Bank, though Gaza is ignored. Klein describes how Palestinian land is confiscated and no compensation is paid for the same, and how the nexus of military-settlement-bureaucracy complex tries every tactic to squeeze and suffocate the Palestinian inhabitants of West bank in all aspects. In many cases the military even supports the unauthorized construction and expansion of illegal settlements.

Part two of the book 2000 to 2006: Sharon, the Intifada, and the Roadmap contains four essays which deal with various aspects of Israel-Palestine conflict during these years. Avi Shlaim in his essay, “Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians,” traces the various roles of Ariel Sharon from military to politics and how Sharon was following Jabotinsky’s way while dealing with Palestinians (Jabotinsky is the father of Jewish right). Sharon was of the firm belief that Palestinians could never be peace partners, hence it was necessary to decimate and annihilate them wherever you find them. Hence with all the military might at his disposal he expanded the Jewish settlements scuttling the Oslo accords in the process. For Sharon, power was the deciding factor for his politics and negotiation too.  “The Arabs, first the Egyptians, then the Palestinians, then the Jordanians, learnt the hard way that Israel could not be defeated on the battlefield and were compelled to negotiate with it from a position of palpable weakness” (p. 44). He tried every tactic to defeat Palestinians and make them negotiate on his own terms. Sharon was the father of the Iron Wall strategy, hence the ‘security barrier’ was erected along the West bank.

“The Building of a Wall” is the title of the next essay by Moshe Zuckermann. He takes the reader into the dynamics of the wall debate and will it serve the purpose of curbing ‘terrorism’ according to Israel. He concludes that this policy of “shuttering terror…is nothing other than a perfidious ideology as long as the actual causes of terror, and the…Israeli occupation and systematic oppression of the Palestinian people, are not abolished”(p. 56).

“West Bank Settlements Obstruct Peace: Israel’s Empire State Building” is the title of Marwan Bishara’s essay who believes that the greatest barrier to peace in the Middle East are the ever expanding Israeli settlements. He says that “the settlement drive and its ideology have become a cornerstone of modern Israeli national identity” (p. 59). The settlements have various ramifications on different aspects of life and even the power of settlers is growing in the electoral politics. Settlers believe in ethnic cleansing and targeting innocents under the veil of War on terror, plus the discriminatory laws prevalent between the settlers and Palestinians make peace an illusion and distant dream.

Mustapha Barghouti’s essay, “A Place for our Dream” takes the settlement debate further. He writes that, “through its settlement activities, Israel has sought to transform the West Bank into an ethnically Israeli territory, in which Palestinian villages and towns are nothing more than isolated outposts” (p. 65). He also deliberates on several steps to be undertaken for the restoration of peace in Palestine.

Part three of the book, “2006 to 2008: Hamas Election Sweep, Gaza Incursions, and the Annapolis Peace Conference” contains three essays, starting with Elna Sondergaard’s long essay, “Trails in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” which lucidly but academically discusses the helplessness of judiciary and the fate of litigations. In case of settlements, courts can’t decide or provide judicial protection and usually have to take the official position, thus courts fail to take an independent stance or come to rescue of the wronged ones who are facing the Israeli State’s wrath.

“Blitzkrieg in Gaza,’ is the title of Lawrence Davidson’s essay according to which there have been more than three hundred Israeli incursions into Gaza, West bank and Lebanon since 1967. This essay has been written in the backdrop of Operation Summer Rains of 2006 which was imposed on Gaza by Israel to recover an abducted soldier and the purpose of the war was to dismantle and dislodge the elected Hamas government. Despite opting for peaceful means of resistance, the biased media always stereotypes and reports the suicide bombings by Palestinians only while sidelining the peaceful methods and making them die in oblivion.

Stephen Eric Bronner tries to describe “Who are the Palestinians Today?” in his essay and goes back into history when, during the Cold War, the atrocities and breach of treaties by Israel were overlooked by USA because it was supposed to check the spread of communism in the Arab world, but now when the elected Hamas government is in place, Israel is also being condemned for its violations of treaties and human rights. Various conferences like Annapolis are discussed too which had no outcome, plus the attempts of unity between Hamas and Fateh are discussed too, alongwith the stance of Israel to talk to Hamas only when it recognizes Israel, but till date no such reconciliation attempts have been opted for.

The fourth and the last part “Gaza in 2009-2010: Operation Cast Lead and the Future of the Peace Process” contains two essays, “Unjust and Illegal: The Israeli attack on Gaza” is the fist essay by Stephen R Shalom, which deals with the Operation Cast Lead when Israel attacked Gaza on the pretext of stopping  rockets fired into Israel. Shalom is of the opinion that no self-defence theory of Israel is justified as Palestinians are struggling by just means to end occupation.

The settlements in the occupied territories are illegal, and it is always Israel which breaches every truce and on the pretext of Operation Cast Lead, Israel did the same though Hamas was ready to extend the truce again. There are no means by which Israel can justify the Operation Cast Lead and the atrocities committed against the Palestinians were just unheard of earlier, like using Palestinian civilians as human shields, mingling Israeli Defence Forces(IDF) with Israeli civilians, targeting hospitals and ambulances on the charge of harbouring militants and acting as their safe havens.

In the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead no IDF soldier was prosecuted for the massacres, intentional killings and atrocities perpetuated on Gazans. To add insult to injury collective punishment in the form of economic blockade was imposed on the people of Gaza.

Sara Roy’s essay “Gaza’s Diminishing Landscape” speaks about the agony and devastation which people of Gaza underwent as a result of the Operation Cast Lead and various other earlier Israeli incursions, how their lives are ruined by the war and now by the economic blockade which has resulted in a crises of every type in Gaza. Roy is of the opinion that whether settlements are expanding or Israel is militarily occupying Gaza water, transport, food items, trade, taxes and tourism, everything is controlled by Israel. Roy tries to highlight the dichotomy between West Bank and Gaza, but is all praises for the spirit of Gazan’s who have started to rebuild their lives once again.

The book is an essential read for everyone interested in the last decade of Israel-Palestine conflict and even a general reader cannot afford to miss this book, which contains opinions, analyses and solutions of varied hues. The book lives to its promise which its Editor Daanish Faruqi makes in the Introduction to the volume, “Whether the two states solution is the most desirable outcome is beside the point; instead, the goal of this volume is to challenge the underlying assumptions of prevailing peace paradigms by exposing their limitations in the aftermath of the past ten years”. The book is successful in addressing the challenges.

Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir and can be reached at