This book presents the background information that plainly shows that Israel´s much promoted image as a “benevolent democratic state” no longer has credibility at home or globally.
There are many reasons for this including the treatment of the Palestinian minority who live behind a ´glass wall´. Cook writes, “The glass wall like –like the “iron wall” is designed to intimidate and silence its captive Palestinian population; but unlike the iron wall it conceals the nature of the subjugation…”Thus Israel has tried through its image makers to hide the second class nature of life for Palestinians; land ownership is blocked, education is limited by poor funding and limited opportunity and the law is constantly applied differently for these citizens than for those who are classified as Jewish. The decades of ´silent oppression´ are ending.
Recent events – the blockade and invasion of Gaza and the stealing of land in the West Bank, the extension of the wall and the building of illegal colonies have all contributed to the cracks in the glass wall as well as the crackdown on Palestinians who dare to resist grows. Cook sees the hardening of ideological doctrine and he writes: “If secular and religious Jews are to unite, it will be around the principle that the Other, the enemy, is the Arab,…a Jewish state ultimately knows the Arab only by what he is not: he is not Jewish, He is the unwelcome guest, the intruder, the saboteur, the terrorist.”
I heard Jonathan Cook speak at the Bil´in Conference on non–violent resistance in April, 2010. He is a careful researcher and journalist with a strong sense of truth and justice. He is unique among journalists in Israel. He lives in Nazareth, a Palestinian Arab community, and has married into it, so he has an insider´s understanding and access to combine with his professional skills.
He writes for many publications and has also written Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel´s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books).
Blood and Religion focuses on the Israeli state and its Palestinian Arab population that now makes up 20% of Israel´s occupation while also providing documented background on the situation of all Palestine and Palestinians. He sees the issue of blood– who can be the only full citizens of Israel are those who can claim Jewish ethnicity wherever they are in the world and the religious doctrine of Zionism as the forces that have driven all Israeli leaders and their followers.
Although this book was written five years ago, Cook´s analysis is prophetic. Increasingly Palestinians within Israel have been organizing resistance – both in social and political organizations. As I write two key leaders of social movements are in jail and an Arab member of the Knesset has been stripped of her parliamentary privileges because she joined the Free Gaza movement and went on the flotilla. The government of Israel is on the defensive as people organize in Israel and Palestine and world opinion is turning against Israeli policies. We can expect more repression and more attacks on rights activism and the general population – including supportive Jewish Israelis.
In the end, it will be up to international governments to stand up against the assumed and long supported power of ´fortress Israel´; they must actively support the cry for real democracy and rights for all in Palestine–Israel. Support what Aznu Bishara (Knesset member in 1990s) called the reinvention of Israel from a Jewish state into a ´a state for all its citizens´. We can support that call by changing the present policies of all political parties in Canada into policies that actively support justice for all Palestinians.
In the appendix we can read the words of Palestinian teenagers in Nazareth after the killing of unarmed civilians by the Israeli police. A rare opportunity to experience directly the voices of Palestinians.