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Book Review

The nature of Israeli expansionism

Abdullahi Abubakr

Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: the Politics of Expansion by Nur Masalha. Pub: Pluto Press, London, UK, 2000. Pp: 320; Pbk: £14.99.

The Zionist invasion and occupation of Palestine is based on two dynamics which some have tended to regard as separate, but which are in fact closely linked. These are the typical Western drive for imperial settlement, and the racist zealotry of fundamentalist Jews.

In this new book, published by the Pluto Press in London, Nur Masalha, whose previous books include A Land Without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians 1945-96 (1997) and Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought 1882-1948 (1992), provides a history of Israel’s expansionist policies from 1967 until the present day. He points out that land, territory, demography and water have been central to the struggle between Zionist settlers and native Palestinians, and that expansionism and the expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territories are a common feature of all strands of Israeli opinion, from the ‘pragmatist’ and ‘secular’ left to the religious right.

The major part of this book contains a survey of major strands of thought among Zionist expansionists. Perhaps the most extreme, according to Masalha, is that of Yisrael Eldad, who advocated a Jewish state “from the Nile to the Euphrates”. While some would like to dismiss such ideas as those of a fringe minority, Masalha demonstrates how they are taken very serioously in Israel, and their proponents are influential in mainstream Israeli society. Eldad, for example, was a lecturer in humanities at a major university and a columnist for the daily newspapers Ha’aretz and Yedi’ot Aharonot.

Another theme of the book is the of settlers. The word is usually used for those who have moved into the West Bank since Israel’s conquest of it in 1967, but applies to all Israelis. Masalha shows how the drive for settlement of new areas is a major part of the Zionist strategy for securing permanent control over the whole of Palestine.

At a time when Ariel Sharon is trying to form a government after his recent victory over former prime minister Barak, Masalha’s comments on his role are particularly interesting. He points out that Sharon has long been an advocate of the expulsion of Palestinians from all occupied territories, and that this was a key objective of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, when Sharon was ‘defence’ minister.

While Israel is skilled in presenting a civil and reasonable face to world, books such as these are invaluable for understanding the true nature and ambitions of the Zionist problem.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 29, No. 24

Dhu al-Qa'dah 22, 14212001-02-16

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