An Inquest into Its Martyrdom

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Norman Finkelstein
  • Oakland, CA: 
    University of California Press
    , January
     440 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


In the geo-political landscape, the Arab-Israel-, or more specifically, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is a tragedy in the ethos of human history. It is an established fact that colonization is always destructive, and an impediment to the emancipation of the colonized. The creation of Israel, in 1948, in the heartland of Palestine could have been an example of the co-existence of such communities which have a common Semitic culture and tradition but unfortunately, this union has become distorted by concepts of colonization and racial superiority dilemma. In the post-World War II era, the super powers (in terms of economy and military might and not in moral and ethical considerations) used Israel as a guise to demolish, disrupt, and discourage the advancement of developing nations for their vested interests in gaining dominance and economic control over the region’s oil resources. In the context of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, non-Jewish Zionist lobbies set the Jews and Muslims against each other. In such conflict zones, it is the population that faces the wrath of war. The people of Palestine are no exception: their land is grabbed, their freedom snatched and air-choked such that they became refugees in their own homes. In the contemporary era, international organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and its Human Rights Subsidiaries, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch Dog, and others must realistically recognize the causes of conflict in a truthful manner. To that end, Norman G. Finkelstein’s GAZA: An Inquiry Into Its Martyrdom is an in-depth analysis of reports about Israel-Palestine conflict in that region as furnished by UN, Amnesty, Watchdog, B’Tselem (Israeli information Centre for Human Rights in the occupied Territories), Al Meezan (Palestinian Centre for Human Rights), and others. This compilation specifically focuses on Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip—including the Operation Cast Lead, the Incident of Mavi Marmara, the Operation Protective Edge, and moreover, the reportings of the UN, Amnesty International, and the human rights organizations of Palestine and Israel—in an accessible, unbiased manner.

From the date of its birth, the state of Israel has regularly expanded its borders to incorporate Palestinian territories yet, the Gaza strip remained unoccupied after the 1948 war, providing shelter to the Palestinians who migrated there after that turmoil (3). In the post 2nd Intifada period (2000-2005), Israel’s hostile treatment towards the Gaza region intensified, and it is against this back drop that Operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) was forced on the population by Israel in an attempt to reestablish Israel’s Deterrence capabilities (18), and to stop the rocket and mortar force of Hamas (23, 63). Adding to the need for Operation was the UN’s General Assembly Resolution—Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Israel and Palestine—on the Israel-Palestine peace process which held that Israeli settlements in the Palestinian occupied territories since 1967, including East Jerusalem, was illegal. The Israeli-Palestinian peace process had always been encouraged by the Palestinians, for example, before Operation Cast Lead, the Hamas’ chief Khalid Mishal claimed that Palestinians—including both the Palestine Liberation Organization and Hamas—had achieved almost consensus on Israel’s establishment of its 1967 borders, and were ready to accept any peace agreement which was ratified in a democratic referendum (31-32). While covering the Operation Cast Lead, UN agencies such as the Office for theCoordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the United Nation’s Relief and Works for Palestine Refugees Agency (UNRWA) were critically damaged by the Israel’s Defense Force (IDF), nullifying the Israeli claims of minor humanitarian losses in Gaza, despite the reportings of the human rights organizations (UNHRC, Amnesty, Al Meezan, BT’selem, etc) which indicated that the Operation Cast Lead took a high death toll in Gaza, especially among children (49, 68). In an effort to tease out the truth, and document the magnitude of damage to Gaza by Operation Cast Lead, the UNHRC, in April 2009, created a Fact Finding Mission under Richard Goldstone. The Goldstone Report found that Israel’s attack on Gaza was politically motivated, and according to the report, the term “cast-lead” was meant to humiliate and dehumanize the Palestinian population (88). As an ideological Zionist,  Goldstone left no stone unturned in highlighting Israel’s draconian policies towards the Palestinians, even prior to Operation Cast Lead (90), distorting the image of the IDF as a “moral army” which acted in accordance with international law as had been claimed by Israel. Goldstone’s efforts were in vain when he was forced to recant his findings in April 2011, under the pressure tactics of the Israeli Administration and its sympathizers (117). The destruction of Operation Cast Lead was still fresh in the minds of all when the Mavi Marmara Incident occured on May 31, 2010.  This Israeli attack in which nine non-combatant passengers of a flotilla carrying essential supplies to Gaza were killed by the IDF, was camouflaged as an act of self defense, claiming that it was not the Israelis who are the actual perpetrators of the assault on flotilla, but rather the people who produced the reports in favor of Israel, that were responsible for the destruction of human values. Two such reports—the Turkel Report in June 2010, and the UN Panel Report released in July 2011—expectedly blamed the passengers of the flotilla with a terrorist attack on the IDF, and in the following naval blockade of Gaza by Israel, as justified, though the murder of the nine innocent passengers was condemned (178).

A series of military actions, including Operation Protective Edge, are the most recent attacks on Gaza. From the UN to the International Committee for the Red Cross, all human rights organizations condemned Operation Protective Edge, which killed 1,500 Gazian civilians (216). Operation Protective edge was investigated by Amnesty International and the UNHRC with the former concluded that both the IDF and Hamas had breached the International Humanitarian and War Laws (240). While on the other hand, the magnitude of human and material losses in Gaza were—in comparison to Israel—the most destructive attacks since the 1967 War. Operation Protective Edge lasted for 51 days, killing 550 children, and damaging more than 18,000 buildings (211). Subsequently, the UNHRC report—under the direction of Mary Mcgowan Davis, found in favor of the IDF and against Hamas concluding that Hamas committed war crimes, and upholding Operation Protective Edge as a necessary and legitimate military operation marred by excesses (306), though several points in the report criticized the blockade of Gaza by Israel, and lamented insufficient international efforts to lift that blockade (307).

About the Reviewer(s): 

Athar Shahbaz Wani is Research Scholar in the Department of Islamic Studies at the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Awantipora, Kashmir, India.

Date of Review: 
August 8, 2019
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Norman G. Finkelstein received his doctorate from the Princeton University Department of Politics. His many books have been translated into some fifty foreign editions. He is a frequent lecturer and commentator on the Israel-Palestine conflict.


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