Disappearing Palestine, Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair by Jonathan Cook
London and New York
Jonathan Cook is a journalist based in Nazareth and previously was a staff journalist for The Guardian and Observer newspapers. He has also written for The Times, International Herald Tribune, Al-Ahram Weekly and Al Jazeera.
Palestine is not only fast disappearing, but on my way into London by underground yesterday it had finally gone, conclusively taken over by Israel. It is a fact that for the Israeli tourist board inviting us to come to sunny Israel, Palestine no longer exists. The colourful full size poster depicting Israel makes no mention of the lands of Gaza, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. In the poster, they are all one. All Israel. So as a tourist do I expect to be able to swan around Palestinian lands? Gaza? The lies continue. The deception planted in our minds reinforced. The reality is far far worse.
Jonathan Cook is based in Nazareth, and well placed to report on Israel’s daily attempts to crush the Palestinian spirit. He reports on its policies to disperse, imprison and impoverish the Palestinians. Israel has learnt everything from Dachau and Warsaw it seems with its curfews, checkpoints, walls, permits and land grabs. 42% of the West Bank is directly controlled by settlers; in Har Homa near Jerusalem families are given huge incentives to move in and take over. The Judaisation of Palestine continues unabated.
B’Tselem is Israel’s foremost human rights group, it clearly delineates the destruction and continuing oppression of the people of Gaza, but their logic fails all of us when we are told to believe that Israel does this out of revenge for the capture of Gilad Shalit. So that’s OK then, revenge is sweet, and justifiable in their eyes, the fury of killing 1400 Palestinians understandable? At least in Warsaw they didn’t bomb the citizens to smithereens, but let them die slowly, as Israel is trying to do in Gaza, but the occupation is more than 40 years old, Shalit is a new phenomenon, and the noose tightens every day. Extremism becomes understandable when talking about Hamas, but Cook is keen to point out that like the IRA, Hamas has many factions, some of which promote aid to its people.
Cook is a fair reporter, he counters the usual attacks on dissenters of Israel, and tries to show how individuals make decisions outside of all norms of engagement. A grandmother in her 60’s straps on a suicide belt and blows herself up close to Israeli soldiers. Who in their right mind has not thought about this while waiting for hours in the unbearable heat for the whim of a spotty faced IDF soldier to make a decision about life and death, about whether they will allow a baby in desperate need of heart surgery to pass through for treatment.
Human Rights Watch suffers the same myopia as B’Tselem it seems. Yes, it relates the horrors, but somehow it is the fault of ‘the other side’, Hamas, the Palestinians and so the double standard continues and groups set up to observe the situation just reinforce the stereotypes and Israeli propaganda. The young idealists who act independently of all these organisations, the hopeful journalists who once moved around the occupied territories, freelancers with no agenda but the truth, find it harder to put into practise what their professions demand. James Miller the cameraman is murdered, the activist Brian Avery’s face is practically removed, and the litany goes on. Israel will not issue passes to those journalists it does not like, they all have to go through the hoops to get passes, and Israel absolves itself of all responsibility for its actions in those territories and continues on its murderous spree.
Cook should know that many young Gazans have left, and feel they can do more in the wider world in their battle for freedom; the Palestine Telegraph is proof of that and increases its readership by the hour. The staff make up a tiny but vocal proportion of the Palestinian diaspora with all the hopes of returning to a free Palestine. Cook is an excellent writer, well informed, and alongside Ilan Pappe essential reading for the region. Cook’s ‘Israel and the Clash of Civilisations’ was published last year by Pluto Press (ISBN 9780745327549) and should be read alongside ‘Disappearing Palestine’. The war on terror continues, having been shaped by Bush’s desire to make Israel the sole regional power. Cook’s style is compelling, he tells a horror story that you want to be resolved, you want to hear the ending. Cook is one of the most valuable observers on the ground, keeping a close eye on Israel’s devastating human rights abuses, and its ever expansionist Zionist policies, using his knowledge and talent to further justice and peace in the Middle East.