[Marxism] "How the misperceptions roll on" : Misperceptions about Israel, Palestine, and Jews

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Apr 22 01:03:56 MDT 2005

This is a useful summary of what Sharon is up to, and of how the media
is laying the groundwork for further support from Washington for his

In addition, precisely because there is so much phony yelling about
anti-Semitism these days, it is useful to take note of an example of the
good old-fashioned real thing. Note this sentence: "Sharon is pragmatic
and therefore patient -- he and his countrymen have already been waiting
2,000 years to take this land." Who can "his countrymen" be who have
been plotting the seizure of Palestine? She can only mean the Jews of
the world.

The Zionist movement, laying claim to Palestine, was a product of the
rise of imperialism in the late nineteenth century.
It was the British and French who "siezed this land" from the Ottoman
empire. Before then, noone was "waiting 2,000 years to take this land."
(About 2,000 years ago, it is true, the Jewish residents of Palestine
were trying to "take this land from the Roman occupiers.)

The sweeping and factually bizarre historical assertion is typical of
the genteel anti-Semitism of many of the State Department and
CIA-analyst types who have disagreed with the level of US support to the
state of Israel and it's Zionist expansionism.

What's needed today to counter this sort of thing is not lots of yelling
and screaming and calls for the cops, but a civil debate that gets at
the facts behind both pro-Zionist and anti-Semitic lies and fantasies.
Fred Feldman

April 21, 2005 
Sharon's 92 Percent Solution
How the Misperceptions Roll On
Former CIA Analyst

Imagine my chagrin. While vacationing in beautiful Vancouver, I had my
sun-and-mountain reverie interrupted on Tuesday by a New York Times
article seeming to give the final word on Ariel Sharon's plans --
blessed, of course, by George Bush -- for the disposition of Israel's
border with the West Bank and the Israeli settlements inside that
territory. The article, by veteran diplomatic correspondent Steven
Erlanger, discussed the "small furor" supposedly set off inside the Bush
administration by Israel's announced determination to build 3,500 new
housing units in Maale Adumim, the largest of several Israeli
settlements in the West Bank, and the fact that this new move will
unilaterally expand Israel's borders into the Palestinian territory. But
Erlanger gives us the impression that this is not really the disastrous
development it might seem. He quotes David Makovsky, of the pro-Israeli
think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, as saying
that after all things are not so bad because Sharon, the Israeli most
associated with wanting 100 percent of the West Bank, has now scaled
down his sights to only 8 percent. This 8 percent is the proportion of
the West Bank to be incorporated on the Israeli side of the separation
wall when its new route, approved by the Israeli cabinet in February, is

This was bad enough for my vacation mood, but then come to find out a
columnist for Canada's national newspaper the Globe and Mail, Marcus
Gee, picked up the story the next day and, for all of Canada to see,
played it as indicating a great breakthrough:

"After decades of blood and tears, a solution to the conflict over the
Holy Land is emerging . . . . It is not an entirely just solution. But
it is a solution, and it could give both sides what they need most: an
independent homeland for the Palestinians and secure borders for Israel.
The solution is the work of one man: Ariel Sharon."
Thus are widespread misperceptions and gross distortions of reality born
among a broad segment of the media-savvy public.
Steven Erlanger might be excused for swallowing the unlikely story that
the Bush administration is really in anything like "small furor" over
Israel's settlement expansion plans, but it is dismaying to see a
correspondent of Erlanger's caliber allowing himself to be misled by an
apologist for the Israeli settlement enterprise like David Makovsky. 

Over the last several years, Makovsky has made a career of defending
Israel's settlements and its wall in a way that tries to minimize the
impact on the Palestinians of these massive Israeli intrusions into
Palestinian territory. He now seems unfortunately to have persuaded
Erlanger that the barrier (which is indeed a 26-foot-high concrete wall
throughout Jerusalem and environs, as well as in many sections elsewhere
along its route) is of relatively minor significance to the

Makovsky used to defend the old route of the wall as taking "only" 15
percent of West Bank territory; now he can triumphantly say that the new
route is "even better" because it puts only half that amount on the
Israeli side. But his math is screwy, his logic badly distorted, and
Erlanger has fallen for it. Makovsky doesn't care; Erlanger should know

The wall, Erlanger claims, relying on Makovsky's "research," puts a mere
8 percent of West Bank land and fewer than 10,000 Palestinians on the
Israeli side, leaving 99.5 percent of Palestinians living in 92 percent
of the West Bank. Yet this is what Erlanger and Makovsky leave out of
the equation:

1) the approximately 195,000 Palestinians living in Jerusalem (nearly 10
percent of the West Bank's total population) will remain on the Israeli
side of the wall, separated from the West Bank by a concrete wall,
multiple checkpoints, and a permit system going into effect in July that
will prevent nearly all Jerusalemites from entering the West Bank and
West Bankers from entering Jerusalem (Erlanger does note as an
afterthought that his numbers do not include the Palestinians in
Jerusalem -- an odd omission unless one assumes that actually counting
this huge number of people whose lives are being totally disrupted by
the wall is simply too inconvenient for his idyllic picture);

2) the wall to be built around Maale Adumim and the fact that the entire
area of Jerusalem and its environs will end up on Israel's side of the
wall mean that the West Bank will be divided into two totally
non-contiguous areas, attached only by a promised highway that will
permit Palestinians to skirt Jerusalem to the east; this is Ariel
Sharon's idea of contiguity, which he calls "transportation contiguity";

3) several Palestinian suburbs of East Jerusalem to the north and the
south have been or will soon be surrounded by the wall on all sides,
rendering them small concentration camps to which entry and egress will
be allowed only to permit-holders and only through a gate manned by
Israelis; the thousands of Palestinians in these areas whose livelihoods
lie in Jerusalem will be left high and dry;

4) the entire Jordan Valley, encompassing nearly one-quarter of the West
Bank, will most assuredly never be relinquished by Ariel Sharon or any
Israeli government on the right (even most Labor governments have
envisioned retaining this strategic, settlement-filled territory in
perpetuity, and Ehud Barak's best offer at Camp David in 2000 involved
Israel holding it under a long-term lease), meaning that Makovsky's
"92-percent solution" is actually only at best a "68-percent solution"
that would leave the so-called Palestinian "state" in three pieces
counting Gaza, each completely surrounded by and under the domination of
Israel, and with no capital; each of the two West Bank land segments,
moreover, would be made into Swiss cheese by the intrusion of fingers of
the wall built to accommodate Israeli settlements;

5) tens of thousands of Palestinians live in towns and villages along
the route of the wall that have been bisected by it, leaving rich
farmland, olive and fruit orchards, and fresh water wells on Israel's
side, unreachable by their Palestinian owners except via a limited
number of gates in the wall that are manned irregularly by Israeli
security personnel;

6) 53 Palestinian communities, according to the Israeli human rights
organization B'Tselem, will be surrounded on three sides by the wall --
twice the number so enclosed under the old route;

7) the hundreds of miles of wall and fence have necessitated the
demolition of hundreds of Palestinian homes, the bulldozing of hundreds
of thousands of acres of private agricultural land, and the razing of
thousands of olive and fruit trees; Israel has called this wall
temporary, but the demolished homes and the destroyed olive groves can
never be restored.
The pity about Erlanger's heavy reliance on Makovsky to interpret the
situation on the ground for him is that he is right there himself, able
to observe first hand what the wall is doing to the Palestinians or, if
he somehow cannot get out on the street, able at least to look at any
map, including ones issued by the Israeli government itself, to see with
his own eyes that what Israel is creating is not some benign situation
in which the Palestinians get almost all (well, 92 percent) of the West
Bank, but a truly horrific, Kafkaesque nightmare in which no Palestinian
will be free.

And it must not be forgotten that, far from leaving the Palestinians
alone to make a life for themselves in a few Bantustans comprising 50 or
60 or maybe even 90 percent of the West Bank, Sharon's actual long-term
intent is to make life so miserable for the Palestinians that those left
in the small remnants of their territory will simply gradually filter
out. This process may take a while, but Sharon is pragmatic and
therefore patient -- he and his countrymen have already been waiting
2,000 years to take this land -- and it is already beginning to happen
in any case. The wall has already turned some of the West Bank cities
that it most affects into virtual ghost towns as residents move into the
interior where some kind of livelihood might be possible. Sharon and his
right wing can wait before he needs to squeeze them further.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on
Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of
Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

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