The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories” by Ilan Pappe— Living in Prisons?

Pappe, Ilan. “The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories”, Oneworld Publications,2016

Living in Prisons?

Amos Lassen

Ilan Pappe is a former Israeli who left his country and has yet to say anything good about it. He is a chronic complainer and every book he writes is basically the same book with a different title. He really seems to enjoy doing his dirty laundry in public and there are obviously those who enjoying helping him iron and fold it and putting it away. It would be nice if they closed the door after putting it in the closet but instead we hear it about over and over again. There will be a lot of people who will not like what he has to say here and I am one of them.

Pappe argues that we need to understand the occupied territories as the world’s “largest ever mega-prison” and he claims to support that with primary sources. What he forgets to mention are the number of suicide bombers that have emerged from the territories and the number of needless murders that have taken place at the hands of those that live in his “prisons”.

Pappe earlier investigated “the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in the 1940s” and is proud that this was so critically acclaimed by whom, I have no idea). Now he focuses on the annexation and occupation of Gaza and the West Bank thus telling us that he is bringing forth the first comprehensive critique of the Occupied Territories.

Pappe refers to the research he did as “bureaucracy of evil”. He explores the brutalizing effects of occupation, from the systematic abuse of human and civic rights, the IDF roadblocks, mass arrests, and house searches to the forced population transfer, the settlers, and the infamous wall that he claims is rapidly turning the West Bank into an open prison. We then gives us a look at life in Israel and shows us the contrasts between the two ways that people live.

Pappe begins by describing Israeli preparations made several years before 1967’s Six-Day War to control large portions of Palestine without formally annexing them and thereby granting civil rights to the Palestinians living there. He says that “the Palestinians living there were incarcerated for crimes they never committed and for offences that were never committed, confessed, or defined.” The Israelis offered an “open-air prison” when the Palestinians were compliant and a “maximum security prison” when they offered resistance. In both cases, Palestinians were left without basic human rights and with harsh punishments up to and including military attacks on civilians. Pappe cites violations of international law as well as “generally duplicitous behavior by Israeli leaders toward other nations and international bodies, particularly during the Oslo Accord negotiations”. According to a 2016 U.N. report, Israel’s actions toward the Gaza Strip will render life there “unsustainable” by 2020.

What he does not say is that none of the surrounding Arab nations have offered to take in the Palestinians from Israel and this says a great deal to me. Pappe even dares to write the word “Zionism” with a small “z”. He summarizes “the zionist policy in the Occupied Territories, settler colonialism, as well as the measurements towards and consequences for the indigenous population” in the way that he sees it from his new home that is far away from Israel. Israel, he claims is responsible for the dispossession and rightless position of the Palestinians.

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