Friday, July 27, 2007

Review: Jonathan Cook, Blood and Religion

Jonathan Cook's Blood and Religion offers a different perspective on a problem if continuing import. Rather than focusing on the Israel/Palestinian problem as a dispute between two "states," Cook focuses on the internal problems in Israel regarding the disposition of Israeli Arabs and non-Jewish citizens and their contradictory role in Israeli society. Although officially "Israeli citizens," they are demographic "enemy's within," due to the legal mandate of Israel as a "Jewish State." As Israel is not a nation of its citizens, but a Jewish State, what if non-Jews became majority? What if they had political parties which could represent them effectively? What if they could change the nature of Israel from within using democratic means? According to Cook, this is the real threat that Israel faces with the issues of the "right to return," the extremist settler movement, and the decision to build a wall and limit the movement of Palestinians. Israel can't remain both Jewish and retain the cloak of democracy without tightly controlling the non-Jewish population in the area.

In some respects the situation is similar to the American South during the heyday of Jim Crow. The only way to keep a "white man's democracy" was through the systematic denial of rights to African Americans. Of course, there was no "black state" created in the US south (akin to Bantustans in South Africa), however, voter intimidation, violence, residential segregation and gerrymandering generated a similar result.

Overall, the book is interesting and well written and offers a different perspective on the problem. It is a little repetitive and some of the chapters could have been pared down, but overall it is a good read.

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