International Studies

Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh & Gaza edited by Raimond Gaita

by
October 2010, no. 325

It is a great pity that Efraim Karsh could not have read Raimond Gaita’s new collection of essays before completing his own. The essays might have prompted him to reflect that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not nearly as straightforward as he would have us believe.

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Barack Obama has promised to change the way America does things. If he is serious about this when it comes to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, we can only hope that he will read Neve Gordon’s examination of Israel’s post-1967 rule of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The subject matter, and the occasionally choking academic writing, do not make for a pretty story. But the book might serve to temper the new president’s apparently effusive support for Israel. That country’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its determined settlement-building programme, are an ongoing disaster for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

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When I started reading My Israel Question, the Israel Defence Force Chief of Staff had just vowed to ‘turn back the clock in Lebanon by twenty years’; and the demolition was underway. Beirut’s airport, major roads, bridges, power generation facilities and other civilian infrastructure had been bombed, and villages and densely populated suburbs were being reduced to rubble. In a report some weeks later (August 23), Amnesty estimated that 1183 Lebanese had been killed, mostly civilian, about one-third of them children. The injured numbered 4054, and 970,000 people were displaced; 30,000 houses, 120 bridges, 94 roads, 25 fuel stations and 900 businesses were destroyed. Israel lost 118 soldiers and 41 civilians, and up to 300,000 people in northern Israel were driven into bomb shelters. Israel estimates that Hezbollah, the putative object of its wrath, lost about 500 fighters.

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The intrinsic quality of a state is, in the final instance, determined by that which guarantees its claim to authority. In the case of Indonesia, such guarantee is its military, the Tentara Nasional Indonesia (TNI), while the rebellious, resource-rich province of Aceh has arguably been the site of its most concerted effort. At a time when Western political leaders and most Indonesia scholars champion Indonesia’s procedural democracy, despite a reduced political capacity, the TNI structurally remains the institution that it was. As a result, studying the role of the TNI in Aceh reveals critical insights into continuing aspects of the Indonesian state.

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Once the scourge of the conservatives, some practitioners of cultural studies are starting to make the stuffed shirts of English Departments look like mad-eyed anarchists.

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Kingdoms and kingdoms go, but great books last forever. Rowan Ireland’s is a great book. It catches the otherness of a Brazilian religious/political experience tenderly, humbly. It is masterfully academic and lovingly humane at the same time.

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