In This Review

Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948
Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948
By Meron Benvenisti
University of California Press, 2000, 366 pp

Benvenisti zeroes in on the crucial issue that Hazony slights: the Zionist-Palestinian struggle over the same small plot of sacred land. Zionist mapmakers from the early Mandate days on, he writes, worked to give every village, shrine, and site a Hebrew name and a Jewish history -- or failing that, a history unlinked to the existing Palestinian population (e.g., Roman, Crusader, or Mameluk). The flight of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948-49 war left the new Israeli government with territorial "white patches" that could then be filled in with Jewish people, names, and histories. Distancing himself from both Palestinian scholars and certain Israeli "new historians," Benvenisti absolves the Zionists of any "ethnic cleansing" plans before May 1948. In painstakingly documented accounts, however, he severely criticizes post-1948 Israel for working to erase the Palestinian heritage on the land and preventing Palestinians from coming back. Benvenisti accepts that there will be no significant return of Palestinians, but he urges a strong and secure Israel to respect the Palestinian as well as the Jewish nature of the shared landscape (and thus finance restoration of mosques, churches, and cemeteries) and provide genuinely equal rights for Israeli Arabs.