THE WEST BANK STORY by Rafik Halabi
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THE WEST BANK STORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Rafik Halabi, an Israeli Druse, is the correspondent for Israel's state-run television in the occupied territories of Gaza and the West Bank--suspect to Israeli extremists as an Arab, to militant Arabs as a self-identified ""Israeli patriot."" Here, he only briefly retraces his steps from a dusty Druse village (where his father displayed a portrait of Ben Gurion) to secondary schooling in Haifa, study at Hebrew University, a commission in the Israeli Defense Forces; and only occasionally does he refer to the flak he's taken. But his precarious dual identity gives a tragic edge to his eye-witness report on the course of the occupation--a report, essentially, on the Israeli ""insensitivity and injustice"" that turned the occupied Arabs (and most Israeli Arabs) into Palestinian nationalists and adherents of the PLO. His first shock came as an administrator in the Old City of Jerusalem after its capture in the 1967 Six Day War--when the Maghrabi Quarter was demolished (on three-hours' notice to the inhabitants) to open up a plaza facing the Wailing Wall. Then came the annexation, the start of civil disobedience, the deportation of leaders, the spread of rebellion to other West Bank locales, underground resistance and terrorism, and Israeli counterterrorism: roughly the sequence of events that Halabi also chronicles, citing the displacement of pro-Jordanian moderates by PLO militants, in the West Bank proper. ""What most aroused the fury of the Arab population,"" he writes (variously) again and again, ""was the extensive appropriation of land for new Jewish developments."" What also rankled bitterly was the uneven justice meted out to Arab and Jewish law-breakers. Much attention is given to the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories-their outdated rationale (""that the map of border settlements would determine the boundaries of the Jewish state,"" ""that border settlements safeguarded Israel's security""); the ""mystical fervor"" of their leadership; their success in presenting one after another Israeli government with faits accomplis; Arab opposition on the very basis that sovereignty is at stake. In no way does Halabi condone PLO-inspired terrorism--either as a duplicate of Jewish anti-British terrorism or as an appropriate response to settler or IDF excesses. (Any movement prompted by any terrorism ""is in the direction of greater extremism."") Along with others, however, he does see ""a startling similarity between the mood that took hold in Jewish society during the period of the British mandate and the current mood in the West Bank."" ""In all spheres of life'-economic, cultural, political--there is ""a Palestinian 'state-in-the-making.'"" Certain paradoxes and ambiguities, therefore, remain. As a guide to the current impasse, nonetheless, Halabi is unsurpassed.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1982
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich