This book is a collection of essays published between 2011 and 2014 dealing with Israel’s three recent wars on Gaza, as well as its deadly assault on the humanitarian ship the Mavi Marmara. In a very brief introduction Finkelstein identifies some unifying themes.
First, Israeli policy has no intention of recognising a Palestinian state in any of the occupied territories, and explicitly intends to maintain Israel’s position against all opposition by using disproportionate force to establish its deterrence capacity.
Second, while there has been a huge humanitarian cost to these wars and prima facie evidence of war crimes, Israel has largely got away with it. The international community has mainly stood by and, even when it has condemned, has not acted effectively.
Third, Israel has not – and cannot – achieve victory. Every war, including that against Hezbollah in Lebanon in 2006, has ended in a compromise in which Israel has failed to achieve its stated objectives. Nor, of course, despite its frequent claims of victory, has Hamas. There is in reality a stalemate, much more acceptable for Israel – though not what it wants – than for the people of Gaza who continue to suffer appallingly. War has failed as a strategy for Palestinian liberation, and Finkelstein, in passing, touches on the possibilities of non-violent resistance.
The collection is at its most brilliant when Finkelstein is engaged in his forensic dissection of others’ justifications for Israel’s actions, most notably in his analysis of Judge Goldstone’s recantation of the highly critical UN report on Operation Cast Lead previously issued under his name and of the shockingly partisan UN Uribe report on the Mavi Marmara massacre.
But it could have been much better. It bears too much the hallmarks of being a collection of six essays written at different times and would have benefited greatly from some rigorous editing or even rewriting to achieve one unified narrative. It also has a miserable chronology tucked away on page 168, which lists only eight items in its ‘recent key events’ section, 2008‑2014.
Still, despite these reservations, it’s well worth reading.
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