Image and Reality of the Israel–Palestine Conflict

Image and Reality of the Israel–Palestine Conflict

"Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict" is a controversial book by Norman G. Finkelstein. It is a study of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by the author of "The Holocaust Industry". Finkelstein examines and scrutinizes popular historical versions of the conflict by Joan Peters, Benny Morris and Anita Shapira. The 2003 revised edition offers an additional appendix devoted to criticism of Michael Oren's 2002 bestseller "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East".

Publishing history of "Image and Reality":
*1995; first published, by Verso Books (London) as a 243-page paperback (ISBN 1-85984-040-X) and hardcover (ISBN 1-85984-940-7).
*2001; a second edition was published by Verso, as a 224-page paperback (ISBN 1-85984-339-5).
*2003; a 287-page paperback revised edition was published (ISBN 1-85984-442-1).

Content (based on 2003 edition):

Introduction to the Second Edition

(p. xxvi): Finkelstein writes: "With assistance from European diplomats, militants that Hamas was on the verge of accepting a cease-fire in July 2002 when Sharon deliberately ordered dropping of a one-ton bomb that killed a Hamas leader and sixteen others (including eleven children), which saw the violence massively escalate."


PART I Theory and History

Zionist Orientations The Theory and Practice of Jewish Nationalism

Finkelstein writes: "In Zionism and the Arabs, 1882-1948: a study of Ideology", Yosef Gorny has provided the most authoritative study on the crucial period when the Zionist movement made its first contacts with, struggled against and ultimately prevailed over Palestine's indigenous population. As its subtitle indicates, the focus is Zionist ideology. Gorny reveals in fascinating detail both the variousness of possibilities in the Zionist idea and its intransigent kernel that precludes any modus vivendi with the Palestinian Arabs."

Defining the Zionist Enterprise

Justifying the Zionist Enterprise

Implementing the Zionist Enterprise

=A Land Without a People Joan Peter's "Wilderness'

See: Norman Finkelstein on From Time Immemorial(Same article printed in Blaming the Victims, as "Disinformation and the Palestine Question: The Not-So-Strange Case of Joan Peters's From Time Immemorial" )

="Born of War, Not by Design" Benny Morris's `Happy Median'

A critical study of Benny Morris´s: "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949" and "1948 and After; Israel and the Palestinians."

=Settlement, Not Conquest Anita Shapira's ´Benign Intentions'

Finkelstein focus on Anita Shapira´s: "Land and Power: the Zionist resort to force, 1881-1948," which he says effectively summarizes the current state of mainstream Zionist scholarship.

The Virgin Land or Wilderness´ Myth

The Myth of ´Purity of Arms´

PART II War and Peace

=To Live or to Perish. Abba Eban "Reconstructs" the June 1967 War =


Finkelstein: "Eban's account effaces Israel's provocations of Nasser and its responsibility for the failed diplomacy."

(p. 129-130): The then United State Secretary of State Dean Rusk wrote in his autobiography about the 1967 war:

"We were shocked...and angry as hell, when the Israelis launched the surprise offensive. They attacked on a Monday, knowing that on Wednesday the Egyptian vice president would arrive in Washington to talk about re-opening the Strait of Tiran. We might not have succeeded in getting Egypt to reopen the strait, but it was a real possibility." (In Dean Rusk: "As I saw it," New York 1990, pp. 386-387)
Rusk's speculations that Egypt may have been amenable to compromise is sustained by the most improbable source. "Middle East Record" is a quasi-official Israeli publications assembled by the Shiloah Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies in Tel Aviv. In volume 3, a comprehensive synthesis of the June war, the editors observe that `a number of facts seem to indicate Abdel Nasser's belief in the possibility of terminating ... the conflict through diplomacy´. Specifically, they point to "the navigation through the Straits of Tiran be taken to the international Court of Justice´; and `his vagueness´ at the end of May `on the exact definition of the materials that were not to be permitted through the Straits to Israel`. (Ref.: Dishon, "MER, 1967", p.199. Questioned at a news conference on 28 May about what was meant by strategic materials, Nasser carefully skirted the issue; cf. Jabber, pp.549f.)


Finkelstein: "none of Eban's rationales for the preemptive strike can withstand critical scrutiny".

"Syrian based terrorism"

Major-general Carl von Horn (UNTSO chief of staff before Odd Bull) wrote: "gradually, beneath the glowering eyes of the Syrians, who held the high ground overlooking the zone, the area had become a network of Israeli canals and irrigation channels edging up against and always encroaching on Arab-owned property." "This deliberate poaching was bitterly resented by the Syrians." Finkelstein quotes from UNTSO chief of staff, Norwegian General Odd Bull, who wrote in his "War and Peace in the Middle East: The Experiences and Views of a U.N. Observer":

"I imagine that a number of those evicted settled somewhere in the Golan Heights and that their children have watched the land that had been in their families for hundreds of years being cultivated by Israeli farmers. From time to time they opened fire on these farmers. That, of course, was a violation of the armistice agreement, though I could not help thinking that in similar circumstances Norwegian peasants would almost certainly have acted in the same way."

"Egyptian troop concentrations on the Sinai"

"Blockade of the Straits of Tiran"


Finkelstein examines the international consensus in the war's wake, as expressed in UN Resolution 242. Finkelstein's conclusion is that "Eban's interpretation of Resolution 242 is well outside consensus"

= Language of Force The Real Meaning of the October War and its Aftermath =

Diplomatic Overtures

The Jarring Initiative

Regarding Gunnar Jarring´s initiative.

After Jarring

The Language of Force

Oslo: The Apartheid Option

Appendix: Abba Eban with Footnotes

In the 2003 revised edition, Finkelstein devotes a 14-page Appendix (entitled "Abba Eban with Footnotes") to a deconstruction of Michael Oren's recently published and highly praised work, Six Days of War.

As for the chapter on "From Time Immemorial", Finkelstein begins by quickly reviewing the critical reception of the book in the United States:

Although weighed down with nearly a hundred pages of endnotes and bibliography, this "most comprehensive history ever published" (book blurb) of the June war immediately leapt to the top of best-seller lists. The "New York Times" lavished unstinting praise on the book ("gripping", "fascinating", "staggering", "masterly", "engrossing", "fabulous", "thrilling", "powerful") in several reviews, while "Newsweek" reported that even President Bush had been greatly influenced by it.

Finkelstein begins his deconstruction by mocking Oren's claims of objectivity: "In his introduction Oren, an American-born Israeli historian, professes that his account is uncommonly detached (SDW, pp. xiv-xv). Were this the case it would surely be an achievement, especially in the light of the author's own pronounced right-wing political biases." In support of these allegations of bias, Finkelstein cites Oren's fellowship of "...the Shalom Center, a conservative research institute in Jerusalem", his praise of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's "restraint" in dealing with the Palestinian Intifada and his opining that the "good part" of President Bush is "when he is Manichean - when he's saying that there are good guys and bad guys and you're with us or against us." [Finkelstein, pp. 184, 276]

Finkelstein next questions the book's claims of groundbreaking research:

Notwithstanding [Oren's] claim that the book's conclusions are based on massive new research findings culled from multiple, recently opened state and United Nations archives, it happens that all the Arab and most of the crucial Israeli (and Soviet) archives remain closed, while the UN archives have been accessible for many years. The only substantially new documentation Oren brings to bear comes from US archives, yet none of his cited findings significantly alter the known picture of American policy during these fateful months while, on the most controversial questions - e.g. Did the US give Israel a "green light" on the eve of its pre-emptive strike? - no new light is shed.

Finkelstein then summarizes the book's allegedly flawed methodologies as follows:

It would seem that Oren's main achievement is lending a scholarly veneer to, as it were, the Abba Eban version of the June war. To reconcile the historical record with this apologetic narrative he resorts to several distinct, if overlapping, procedures:
* attaching equal weight to a public statement (or memoir) and the hard evidence of an internal document contradicting it;
* burying in an avalanche of dubious evidence a crucial counterfinding;
* minimizing, misrepresenting, or suppressing a crucial piece of evidence.

The remainder of the Appendix deals with alleged examples of these methodologies in action. Finkelstein concludes his analysis with the following comments:

"Six Days of War" serves the same political agenda as "From Time Immemorial". In the introduction Oren states as his goal that the June war "never be seen the same way again". In fact he simply repeats the same old, tired apologetics. Like "From Time Immemorial", its real purpose is to reclaim the lost world of Zionist heroism and innocence. With so much water under the bridge, however, except among true believers (admittedly not a small number) it's unlikely to succeed.

Response to "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict"

:"The most revealing study of the historical background of the conflict." —Noam Chomsky

:"...both an impressive analysis of Zionist ideology and a searing but scholarly indictment of Israel's treatment of the Arabs since 1948." —"London Review Of Books"



Finkelstein, Norman G. (2003): "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict", Verso Books, ISBN 1-85984-442-1

External links

* [ Review] by Edna Homa Hunt, in WRMEA, August/September 1996, Page 63
* [ Review] by Ronald Bleier in "Middle East Policy", Volume VII, Number 1 (October 1999).

* [ "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict"] at Finkelstein's official website.

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