Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle

Article excerpt

Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle By Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Pluto Press, 2004, 236 pp. List: $22.95, AET: $17

"What right brines in Russian Jews and what kind of peace deprives Palestinian refugees of the right to return home?" asks former Yale professor Mazin Qumsiyeh in his latest book. The author's answers to these and other questions constitute the essence of Sharing the Land of Canaan-and makes it part handy reference for virtually every possible question with regard to Israel and Palestine, and part Middle Bast peace proposal.

Qumsiyeh argues that, since Russian or other Ashkenazi Jews have very little in common genetically with Sephardic or "Oriental" Jews, or with Arabs-indeed with any of the Semites who originally settled the land of Canaan-they therefore are not entitled to "return" to a place from which they never came. Noting that Jews and those of other religions have lived peaceably in the Holy Land forever, Qumsiyeh believes that they can do so again. Indeed, he insists, they must, given that time cannot be turned back and Israeli "facts on the ground" are so entwined with Palestine that the situation is irreversible.

According to Qumsiyeh, a "peace" that deprives Palestinians of their right to return home is no peace at all. This should not come as a surprise, since he is a co-founder of Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right of Return Coalition. However, Qumsiyeh backs up his argument with history (genetic tracing, documentary, and archaeological) as well as with the documents of international law-the Fourth Geneva Convention, numerous United Nations resolutions, its charter, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, among the most important.

A geneticist, Qumsiyeh discusses in the early part of the book the ancient peoples and cultures who occupied the land now so fiercely contested. This study in "biology and ideology," though fascinating, will likely alienate many readers, for, despite its careful documentation, the topic is highly controversial, as the author notes. However, he does not use genetic data to argue that those Askenazi Jews resident in Israel or occupied Palestine should leave. Rather, he urges all who inhabit the land, as well as those in the diaspora, to share the land as one democratic secular nation. …

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