A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World's Most Intractable Conflict by Gershon Shafir (review)
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A Half Century of Occupation: Israel, Palestine, and the World's Most Intractable Conflict, by Gershon Shafir. Oakland: University of California Press. 2017. 283 pages. $26.95.

Gershon Shafir frames his latest book, A Half Century of Occupation, around three themes: the colonial features of Israel's post-1967 occupation, its extraordinary longevity, and its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He minces no words in describing Israel as a colonial settler state extending itself into conquered Palestinian Territories (the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip), coveting the land without Palestinians. He details Israeli methods employed to reduce Palestinian lived lives in the Territories to a subjugated people without rights, while extending all the privileges and protection of citizenship to Jewish [End Page 670] settlers there. He untangles the incredible web of "laws" manufactured to justify the never-ending occupation and Jewish settlements, and he acknowledges the role of the United States in enabling it. His final and most interesting chapter analyzes how this occupation has transformed, i.e., intensified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, leading to a cycle of oppression and resistance. This in turn produced an international consensus for a two-state solution, followed in 1993 by fruitless protracted negotiations fallaciously known as the (Oslo) "peace process."

Western governments continue to give lip service to a two-state solution, although a growing number of observers agree it is dead. However, Shafir argues that it is still possible. First, he presents arguments as to why proposed forms of one-state solutions are not feasible. Second, he puts forth a case for the feasibility of a two-state solution. His reasoning stems from his review of Israeli settler electoral patterns and possible land exchanges, which he projects would allow space and contiguity for a Palestinian state and require the evacuation of only 27,000 settler households from the West Bank. He recognizes that there are three Palestinian "fragments" (as he terms constituencies) whose status must be resolved to achieve a real solution: those under occupation, refugees, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. With inclusion but little discussion of the last two categories, he sees a solution for all three hinging on the development of a Palestinian state. However, he spotlights the anti-normalization feature of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) program as obstructing Israeli/Jewish and Palestinian relationships at the grassroots level. Such relationships, he believes, would promote joint support for the proposed two-state solution. Since 1988, Palestinians announced their historic compromise to accept a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories. In theory, Israelis also claimed support for two states after 1993. Since BDS did not exist until 12 years ago, why then are there not now two fully sovereign states?

Shafir focuses correctly on settler colonialism as the process producing conflict, as well from 1948 on as in 1967. What he neglects by default is the trigger role of Zionist ideology embedded in the culture and institutions of Israel. From its inception, Zionism called for the territorial and demographic transformation of Palestine into a Jewish state. Today, it remains the driving and guiding force for the completion and maintenance of that mission. It has endowed the undertaking with compelling secular "legal" and sacred trappings. Tactical and momentary "concessions" aside, Israel continues to confound efforts for any sovereign solution to Palestinian rights. The issue is Zionism and its hold on Israeli society.1

Therefore, in the context of the stated mission of Zionism, the 1967 war was an Israeli war of choice, a second stage in pursuit of its ultimate goal: Palestine without Palestinians.2 The war also netted almost all the land and water sources originally coveted and identified on the map presented by the World Zionist Organization to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The war was not a result of Arab boasts about destroying Israel as Shafir implies in his introduction.

Shafir has written an honest and informative critique of the 1967 occupation. He has also acknowledged the existence of, but not the root cause of what he identifies as the three "fragments" of Palestinian grievances. Nonetheless, he suggests that these can be resolved, even if not fully redressed, if the...


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