The Shift: Israel-Palestine From Border Struggle to Ethnic Conflict

In This Review

The Shift: Israel-Palestine from Border Struggle to Ethnic Conflict (Columbia/Hurst)
By Menachem Klein
Columbia University Press, 2010
144 pp. $30.00
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This dense little book, a fact-filled account of Israel and the Palestinians since the June 1967 war, treats not peace-process politics but actual developments on the ground. Klein traces the emergence of an overall Israeli “control system” that deals differently with five distinct Palestinian groups: citizens of Israel (about 20 percent of Israel’s population), the 260,000 residents of East Jerusalem, the 2.4 million who live in Gaza, and, in the West Bank, the 500,000 who live to the west of the separation barrier and the 3.3 million who live to the east. Since 1967, the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation has turned into what it was before 1948: an ethnic conflict, not a border struggle. But now, the initiative lies overwhelmingly with the stronger party, Israel. Klein even likens Israeli control of the Palestinians to colonialism, with striking comparisons to Algeria under French rule. He hits another hot button in arguing cogently that the system amounts to apartheid, but a softer apartheid than prevailed in South Africa. Clearly, getting back to borders should be the goal. But, Klein writes, “Israelis and Palestinians find themselves trapped between what is unachievable today -- the two-state solution -- and what can never be achieved -- a unitary non-ethnic democracy.”