Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT: The West Bank and the Gaza Strip: A Geography of Occupation and Disengagement

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT: The West Bank and the Gaza Strip: A Geography of Occupation and Disengagement

Article excerpt

ARAB-ISRAELI CONFLICT The West Bank and the Gaza Strip: A Geography of Occupation and Disengagement, by Elisha Efrat. London, UK and New York: Routledge, 2006. 206 pages. Plates. Figures. Tables. Gloss to p. 208. Bibl. top. 212. Index to p. 216. $125 cloth; $34.95 paper.

Reviewed by Chad F. Emmett

This is a refreshing and forthright book by a respected Israeli academic who, after a long career focused on planning issues in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, is willing to take a stand, to challenge myths, and to say what many dare not say. Geographer Elisha Efrat sees the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory as harmful to Israeli and Palestinian alike. In his introduction he states:

The occupation of Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip drives home the realization that the occupied territories are the source of and breeding ground for the appalling deterioration this country has experienced in every sphere of life since the end of 2000. The public is paying in money, in blood, in social stamina, and emotionally for the absurd reality (p. 3).

Efrat's book explores "the policies, facts and figures" (p. 1) of the occupation from a geographical and planning perspective. He begins with a short chapter describing in general terms the links between occupation and geography, and then describes those links in great detail in chapters dealing with the West Bank (the bulk of the book), Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip (the book was completed shortly after Israel's August 2005 disengagement from Gaza). His main contention (and this is nicely summarized in his concluding chapter "Occupation and Delusions") is that since 1967 the Israeli occupation of land has not been and will not be successful for many different reasons including: ineffective settlement plans that have left Israeli settlers in the extreme minority and unable to create "an absolute Israeli dominance" on Palestinian lands (p. 205); Palestinians who will not give up and who are unwilling to adapt to or accept the "sprawling occupation" on expropriated lands (p. 205); an unflinching demand to maintain sovereignty over all of Jerusalem even though its Arab residents now comprise 33% of the population (up from 26.7% in 1967); by-pass roads (also referred to by the author as "apartheid roads") that have not provided security or decreased the conflict; and a separation fence and checkpoints that have been successful in inconveniencing Palestinians but not in effectively preventing terrorist attacks. …

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