Crossing the Green Line between the West Bank and Israel
by Avram S. Bornstein
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001. 192 pages. $36.50.
Reviewed by Steven Plaut
University of Haifa
Middle East Quarterly
Perhaps the fastest way to make sense of this book by an anthropologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in the City University of New York system, is to note how he uses quotation marks: Israel is an apartheid regime (without quotes) and it's Palestinian "terrorism," with them. Need one say more?
Basically, his book consists of a travelogue to the West Bank and Gaza in the 1990s by someone whose mind was made up about local circumstances long before he booked plane tickets and who apparently speaks neither Arabic nor Hebrew. He indicates that he was basically on a mission to show solidarity with the Palestinians; and now he dares peddle the results as a work of "anthropology" (yes, note the quotes).
Bornstein's working axiom is that Palestinians have an automatic entitlement to work in Israel and to use Israeli services because Israelis have an average higher standard of living than Palestinians (and never mind the standard of living of Saudis and Kuwaitis), regardless of how many atrocities the Palestinians perpetrate. Murders of Jews by Palestinian terrorists strike him as irrelevant, because, in his learned "anthropological" opinion, they do not represent a threat to Israel's existence.
Bornstein never quite finds the time to speak to any Jewish victims of Palestinian terror and atrocities. He never notes how Palestinian standards of living rose astronomically after 1967, when Israel "occupied" them, and how much they went down when Yasir Arafat took over in 1994. It never occurs to him that Palestinians have themselves and their leadership to blame for any "poverty" or "underprivilege" they suffer. And Bornstein never inquires into how many Israelis are perfectly willing to have Palestinians hold day jobs in Israel if they would just first stop murdering Israelis.
The book meanders about, offering random interviews with Palestinians. A representative bit of Bornstein's scholarship would be: "The Palestinians believed that the border closures were intended as punishment to discourage them from sympathizing with the (‘terrorist') attacks." Very insightful: Israel excludes Palestinians not to prevent Palestinians from murdering more Jews but to prevent Palestinians from feeling sympathy. Crossing the Green Line between the West Bank and Israel should be taken about as seriously as a book on the sufferings of Germans in post-war Europe that never mentions Nazism, Hitler, or World War II.
But the biggest mystery is why the University of Pennsylvania Press saw fit to publish this tawdry and poorly written piece of propaganda.
Related Topics: Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians | Steven Plaut | Spring 2003 MEQ
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