The Paradoxes of Occupation

PIPES, DANIEL

The Paradoxes of Occupation The West Bank Story By Rafik Halabi Translated by Ina Friedman Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 304 pp. $12.95. Reviewed by Daniel Pipes Historian, University of Chicago;...

...Its story in a nutshell: An 11th-century Egyptian caliph acted so mad that he attracted disciples who thought him divinely inspired...
...Its tenets remained secret to all except a few elders until a French Orientalist published the Druse holy books in 1830...
...Even some of the outstanding kibbutzim have come to rely on Arab children to pick their crops, in blatant defiance of the country's labor laws...
...The author resists the temptation to propose solutionsórestricting himself to a cride coeur for rationality and moderationóbut he plainly believes that Israel's best course lies in relinquishing the West Bank .Continued occupation multiplies dangers...
...Jordan lost its standing to the PLO in the eyes of West Bank residents, who became radicalized, and a new generation of local leaders emerged...
...Halabi reaches an arresting conclusion that he supports with ample evidence: While the occupation has uniformly injured Israelis, it has had beneficial as well as evil consequences for West Bankers...
...That writing a comprehensive account of the West Bank under Israeli rule poses little challenge to Halabi is therefore hardly surprising...
...Thus began Rafik Halabi's 15-year association with the politics of the West Bank...
...author, "Slave Soldiers and Islam" WITHIN DAYS after the Six Day War ended in June 1967, a young man who was still a student of the Hebrew language and Semitic philology at Hebrew University opened Israel's first municipal office in East Jerusalem, the section of the city just captured from Jordan...
...Halabi implies that the Israelis still can act to save their interests, though time grows short...
...Far more difficult, though, is understanding this controversial territory's passions and significance, and here he does an outstanding job...
...The moral corruption wrought by this change disturbs the author...
...The West Bank has experienced an economic boom, a near doubling in education and the beginnings of social modernization...
...For 19 years he and his grandson, King Hussein, worked to bind the West Bank to the rest of their kingdom (the East Bank) with considerable success...
...for example, an occupied West Bank radicalizes the Arab citizens of Israel proper and raises questions about their future in a manner unthinkable only a few years ago...
...A native of the Carmel Hills south of Haifa, the author does not wholly belong to either party in the disputed territory because he is a Druse, a member of one of the world's smallest and most peculiar religions...
...The emphasis on Israel's essential role in strengthening its own enemies is the book's most telling observation...
...As contributing factors he cites the increased repression, the hopeless attempts to stamp out nationalist expression, (including closing down galleries showing "political" art), the double standards of justice (one for Israelis, another for Arabs), and the Jewish settlements (which usually make no pretense about wanting their Arab neighbors out...
...He also draws abuse from Israelis who wish him to prove his allegiance through un' critical support of government actions, and from Arabs who view him as a traitor...
...By accepting the burden of military service, the Druse became full members of Israeli society, a unique step for a non-Jewish people that enables Halabi to begin his account: "I am an Israeli patriot, though I am not a Jew...
...she then assumed a new identity and went to live in another part of the country...
...The pay for a day's toil in the tomato fields, he discovered, comes to about 25 cents...
...Halabi envisions the possibility of dependence on Arab farm hands growing to the point that Israeli landowners "end up leasing out the land and conducting their enterprises as if they were kulaks or ef-fendis [the pre-Zionist landlords of Palestine...
...Moslems hounded the new sect out of Egypt, so its adherents sought refuge in the Levantine hills, where they evolved a religion apart from Islam...
...The region's relative calm was shattered in 1967, when Hussein launched an attack on Israel that cost him the entire West Bank...
...The late Ka-mal Jumblatt led the sect's community in Lebanon...
...After all, no major cultural or political differences distinguished West Bankers from East Bankers, and Transjordan itself had first been created in 1922 by the British Colonial Office...
...Moreover, living under the occupation has galvanized a disparate group of towns into a pro-to national unit and transformed their small-time mayors into a national leadership...
...The West Bank Story recounts what has happened during the last 15 years in a sliver of land 80 miles long and 30 miles wide, with a population of not much more than 1 million...
...Now the territory lurched into the limelight: Israel annexed East Jerusalem, tore sections of it down and smashed terrorist networks...
...Coming into existence only in 1948, the West Bank was one of two sections of British Palestine not brought under Israel's control (the other being Gaza...
...his subsequent disappearance in the desert confirmed their faith...
...At the same time, Halabi notes, the Arabs have gained from close contact with Israel...
...In response, West Bankers have developed a fervent sense of political camaraderie and expectation that did not exist before Israeli rule...
...Indeed, he perhaps personifies the success and limitations of Zionism...
...Halabi contends that Israeli policies "in effect paved the way for the advent of a fiercely nationalist leadership in the West Bank...
...They occupy an exceptional position in Israel, where alone of the Arabic-speaking native population they have volunteered to serve in the Armed Forces...
...King Abdullah of Transjordan took advantage of a power vacuum to partially fulfill a long-nursed dream and annex the strip (in the process dropping the first syllable of his country's name...
...He has served there as deputy administrator of East Jerusalem affairs, as an Israeli soldier, and since 1974 as a reporter for Israel Television...
...Like Alsace-Lorraine and Macedonia earlier, it focuses international attention, excites rancor and may decide the fate of nations...
...In the last capacity especially, he has covered the area's major events and gotten to know the key participants, both Israeli and Arab...
...In the case of the Israelis, there is the irony of a people who recently experienced the suppression of their own nationalist movement today feeling compelled to repress that of another people...
...Since 1956, they have had a distinguished role in the military, forming their own units and often taking on especially dangerous missions...
...But out of his anguish comes a humane, compassionate and decent book...
...The corrosion on the Arab side centers on terrorism, widely condemned by West Bankers in the first years after 1967 yet now almost universally condoned...
...He feels a part of the two cultures in conflict and in fact has ties to each...
...One vivid example is taken from a television report Halabi did on Israeli exploitation of child labor...
...Although Arabic is their mother tongue, the Druse emphasize religious affiliation over language...
...In such an environment, ethical values increasingly fall victim to extremist impulses, producing grave social and spiritual results...
...Not employing Arabs to do the dirty work had been a point of pride among the early Zionists (however little sense this made economically), but an abundance of cheap labor from the West Bank and Gaza has overwhelmed these principles...
...Halabi's own background facilitates the task...
...Halabi tells a depressing story of a mother who turned over her two sons to the police after hearing that they had killed a man whom she had nursed when he was an infant...
...Originally published in Hebrew and directed toward an Israeli audience, The West Bank Story provides a well-written and sensible vision of a small trouble spot capable of causing enormous mischief...
...The book's most important contribution is its analysis of the impact of Israel's occupation on victor and vanquished...

Vol. 65 • May 1982 • No. 9


 
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