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Sharing the Land of Canaan (Book Review)

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    A democratic, secular state of Canaan Holy Lands Studies A review by Prof. Elaine Hagopian
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 1, 2005
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      A democratic, secular state of Canaan
      Holy Lands Studies
      A review by Prof. Elaine Hagopian

      Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the
      Israeli-Palestinian Struggle (London and Ann Arbor: Pluto Press,
      2004). 236 pp. Paperback.

      Mazin Qumsiyeh has written an extraordinary book in which he provides
      a meticulously researched and demonstratively compelling case for a
      single democratic, secular and pluralistic state in Canaan. He prefers
      Canaan to Israel and/or Palestine, both of which are burdened with
      emotional baggage. Canaan is historical and `neutral'. Qumsiyeh states
      the purpose of his book is `to provide a vision for peace based on
      human rights supported by international law'. In pursuit of that
      vision Qumsiyeh clears the way by providing documented and
      comprehensive responses to all of the issues put forth by Zionists to
      demonise Palestinians and deny them their legal and moral rights.
      These include Jewish-Zionist mythological claims to the land dating
      back 2000 years before the alleged Jewish diaspora; Palestinian
      refugees; Jerusalem; violence and terrorism; and the actual cause of
      the failure of the `peace' plans, especially Oslo. He also addresses,
      head on, the assertion by Zionists that Zionism is the answer to
      antisemitism and that Israel is a democracy. He notes that Israel uses
      these two constructed images to `justify' its violation of
      humanitarian and international law in `defence' of Israelis and Israel.

      Qumsiyeh has pulled together a wealth of existing data on the various
      issues and applies his keen analytical mind to them. The result is an
      enlightening clarity which exposes the absurdity of Zionist claims.
      Starting with the original inhabitants of Canaan he concludes, based
      on the many sources he consulted, that these Semitic-speaking,
      multiethnic, and multi-religious communities shared Canaan
      collaboratively and peacefully then, and they can do so today. The
      extensive references demolish the Zionist claims of a single Jewish
      origin in Canaan by demonstrating that Ashkenazi Jews (European),
      dominant in Israel today, do not share `genetic' affinity with
      `Oriental' (`Mizrahi') Jews. Therefore, the Ashkenazis' assertion of a
      `rightful' return to an alleged ancient Israel is faulty. On the other
      hand, `Mizrahi' Jews and Palestinians do share `genetic' affinity. He
      draws the conclusion that Palestinian-Israeli coexistence is possible
      especially when knowledge of this genetic `kinship' becomes known
      along with the present realities on the ground. Nonetheless he insists
      that Ashkenazi Jews now live in Canaan, and the foundation for
      coexistence includes them.

      Having clarified the historical context, Qumsiyeh follows with
      chapters that systematically take on all the issues and excuses which
      Israel and its US supporters have argued to stymie efforts for a
      durable peace. His final chapter fleshes out his vision for a durable
      peace based on human rights and international law. He makes it clear
      that attempts at a solution which are not rooted in human rights and
      international law have been and will be doomed to fail. He encourages
      Palestinians, Israelis and others of like mind to form the nucleus of
      a movement to educate and advocate for democratic secular state in
      Canaan based on equality and mutual respect.

      Like other serious scholars, he attributes the failure of Oslo to
      Israeli determination to force Palestinians to accept cantonal
      Bantustans and other degrading features, and to reject legal
      Palestinian refugee rights. Sovereignty in any meaningful way was
      precluded. Such unjust `peace' efforts will not produce a durable
      peace but will continue to generate Palestinian resistance to Israeli

      Throughout his book, Qumsiyeh draws on comparative cases where issues
      such as refugees and citizens' rights were settled in accordance with
      human rights and international law. He asks, `why not the same for
      Palestinians?' His analysis makes the double standards applied to
      Palestinians stand out in relief.

      Qumsiyeh argues convincingly that by denying the rights of refugees,
      attempting to maintain control over the 1967 territories and violating
      Palestinian human rights, Israel has made a travesty of humanitarian
      and international law. No peace can be had if the full set of
      Palestinian rights is not addressed and if Israel continues to
      imprison Palestinians behind an extended wall. He further notes that
      the interconnectedness of Israeli and Palestinian societies and the
      numerically near equal demographics between both peoples make it
      impossible today to pursue a two-state solution. Logic and morality
      drive towards a one-state solution constituted carefully to insure
      equality of all citizens and to safeguard cultural and religious
      rights. His analysis demonstrates conclusively that his vision is
      logical, feasible, and inevitable no matter how long it takes.

      I do have one minor observation. On page 149, Qumsiyeh gives the
      impression that the British Mandate officially began in 1920 by
      stating that Herbert Samuel, the first British High Commissioner of
      Palestine (1920-25) replaced the British military governor in
      Palestine `as soon as Britain had secured the League of Nations
      mandate...'. In actuality, it was the Supreme Council of the Allies at
      the San Remo Peace Conference that conferred the Mandate for Palestine
      to Britain on 25 April 1920. The League of Nations was approved in
      January 1920 by the Versailles peace conference, but it did not
      exist as such when Ottoman territories were transferred. The League of
      Nations Council approved the British Mandate for Palestine on 24 July
      1922. The Mandate itself was officially put into effect on 29
      September 1923. True, the military administration of Palestine was
      replaced when Samuel, himself a Zionist, was appointed High
      Commissioner in July 1920, but the League Mandate had not been secured
      at that time. Nonetheless, with Samuel's appointment in 1920, a shadow
      British Mandate was de facto initiated.

      My minor observation in no way compromises the extraordinary
      scholarship demonstrated in the book and the originality of its
      contribution. Qumsiyeh has given us a real road map to a durable
      peace. He provides a factual foundation rooted in Palestinian-Israeli
      reality for pursuing a just peace for all people living in modern-day
      Canaan. I recommend this book to others without any qualification as
      the most sophisticated analysis of the Palestine-Israel conflict I
      have read to date. Its form and style make it accessible to interested
      readers. His work is a tour de force for which he must be
      congratulated and thanked.

      Dr Elaine C. Hagopian
      Professor Emerita of Sociology Simmons College,
      Echagop @ aol.com



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