Afar-from-the-mid­dleMid­dleEastview

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts&entertainment -

ac­cord is not recorded. It was de­signed to pre­vent nor­mal­i­sa­tion be­tween or­di­nary Is­raelis and Pales­tini­ans and to un­der­mine the Is­raeli peace camp.

Sh­laim makes no dis­tinc­tion be­tween Pales­tinian na­tion­al­ists and I s l amists. Mere as­ser­tion rather than con­crete ev­i­dence i n f o r m s t h e con­tention that dis­en­gage­ment from Gaza was “a victory for Ha­mas an­dahu­mil­i­a­tion for the IDF”. The de­pic­tion of the Gaza con­flict ear­lier this year fits the tem­plate ver­sion with lip ser­vice paid to “prim­i­tive rocket at­tacks”.

Sh­laim fea­tures Zion­ism de­scrip­tively in his early chap­ter on the Bal­four Dec- la­ra­tion but, by the end of the book, the set­tle­ment drive has be­come “a Zion­ist colo­nial project”. So, are set­tlers the only Zion­ists? Peace Now, Yossi Beilin, the ar­chi­tect of Oslo, and even re­fuseniks who will not serve in the West Bank have not dis­avowed Zion­ism.

Sh­laim re­it­er­ates his be­lief in a twostate so­lu­tion — a proper, con­tigu­ous Pales­tinian state, side by side with Is­rael. Not the Sharon ver­sion of en­claves sur­rounded by Jewish set­tle­ments. Yet he writes that he wished to draw at­ten­tion toth­is­bya­gree­ing­tos­peak­totheOx­ford Union in 2007 in sup­port of the mo­tion that “this House be­lieves that one state is the only so­lu­tion to the Is­rael-Pales­tine con­flict”. The logic es­capes me.

The demise of the Oslo process, the in­tifada and the pres­ence of re­cy­cled, failed politi­cians at the helm in Is­rael have cre­ated deep fis­sures within the Is­raeli peace camp. Sh­laim’s later writ­ings bear tes­ti­mony to this frus­tra­tion. He re­marks dis­parag­ingly on Benny Mor­ris’s change of view, but Sh­laim him­self has re­nounced his sup­port for the Oslo ac­cord. There is no dis­hon­our in recog­nis­ing that the sit­u­a­tion has changed. Bet­ter to grasp the hard re­al­ity than the wish­ful think­ing that Ha­mas’s Khalid Meshal is re­ally a lat­ter­day Arafat, ready for a com­pro­mise.

The fi­nal chap­ter ar­gues for the right freely to crit­i­cise Is­raeli gov­ern­ment pol­icy, as if there were no plat­forms around to ex­pound dif­fer­ent views, as if Jonathan Freed­land, Howard Ja­cob­son and David Aaronovitch did not ex­ist.

Sh­laim’s is a se­lec­tive, par­tial view of the com­plex Is­rael-Pales­tine sit­u­a­tion. As Pres­i­dent Obama’s ex­cel­lent Cairo speech demon­strated, the road to peace can be trav­elled only by recog­nis­ing that there are two sides to this ter­ri­ble, ap­par­ently in­ter­minable con­flict. Colin Shindler is Pro­fes­sor of Is­raeli Stud­ies at SOAS, Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don

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