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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

1999, Vol. 2 No. 1 .

The Palestinians
David Mc Dowall

(London: Minority Rights Group, 1998)

It is widely acknowledged that the issue of ethnic conflict in the geographic area of Israel/Palestine amounts to much more than the simplistic arguments of Israeli-v-Palestinian. Indeed, it is an amalgamation of the Palestinians Arabs residing in Israel, the Druze, the Bedouins, the Israeli settlers in the West Bank, and the Palestinian refugees which create an increasingly complex problem. As such, each of these groups are given in-depth attention in McDowall's report on 'The Palestinians'.

His chapter on 'Palestinians Inside Israel' discusses, among other things, how the Israeli constitution serves to make Palestinians unequal and inferior through the seizure of land, and by the fact that Palestinians living in Israel have no real status. It reviews how Israel has been successful in creating distinctions between the Druzes and Bedouins, and the Palestinians, by making the former more dependent on the state of Israel. His chapter on 'Palestinians Living in Exile' discusses the rights/lack of rights of the Palestinian refugees in each of the host Arab countries. The '1990's Peace Process' offers a frank discussion of the 1994 Declaration of Principles, analysing its problems and the sense of dismay, in some quarters, after the initial euphoria had died down. And in his final chapter on 'Challenges for the International Community', McDowall describes the situation with the Israeli settlers as one in which "no Israeli government is able to dismantle the settlements without alienating the electorate and triggering open conflict with the settlers and those who support them. No government will risk either. This has now become an intractably difficult problem." (p. 28)

Overall, the author is very even handed in his criticisms of both Palestinians and Israelis, something which is a rarity in this subject. The Palestinian Authority is rebuked for its human rights abuses and corrupt financial practices. The Israeli government comes under similar condemnation for its treatment of Palestinians living inside Israel through the continuation of an exclusion policy against them, and for its outward encouragement of the development of Israeli settlements in the West bank and Gaza Strip.

Generally, this report offers a concise, well written, and balanced account of the current situation for Palestinians. However, a few minor points did leave me feeling confused. There appears to be slight inconsistencies over the issue of Zone A and B percentages of land, which is in Palestinian control. Zone A changes from a 4% area of land on page 17 to 5% on page 21, and Zone B made a similar change from a 27% area of land to 26%. Although slight, this confusion on the issue of land and territory is enough to upset, and annoy some.

Still, for those with little or no background in this subject area, McDowall's The Palestinians provides a strong grounding, in what can only be described as an increasingly 'complex situation'.

Cathy Gormley, INCORE, University of Ulster

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