Hostile Intelligence: Reflections from a Visit to the West Bank



In Nablus, every street seems to have a men’s hair salon. There are literally thousands of them. Most stay open until at least 2 at night; often other than mosques they’re the only places lit up and open at two at night; and it seems any time you pass by one, there are likely to be four or five nicely coiffed young men clustered inside, watching someone get a haircut. The odd thing is that women’s hair salons seem entirely absent. Occasionally you do see impressive posters for women’s cosmetics and hair products; often, the women are blonde (and a surprising number of Palestinians in Nablus are, in fact, blonde; even children), but the shops are absent. I asked a friend why this was. He explained that while Palestinian society was traditionally considered the most liberal Arab society outside of Beirut, and young women never used to go with their hair covered, things started to change in the ‘90s with the political rise of Hamas. But in the case of women’s hair salons, there was another, much more immediate factor. During the ‘80s, Israeli intelligence agents began taking advantage of their existence to spike the sweet tea with knock-out drugs, and take nude pictures of women so as to blackmail their husbands into turning collaborator or informant.  So now women’s salons exist, but they’re not visible from the street, and women no longer take tea from strangers.

My first reaction on hearing the story was: Did this really happen? It sounds like the very definition of a paranoid fantasy. But Palestinians in Nablus are living in an environment where insane things do happen; where there actually are people conspiring against them; spies, informants, security forces of a dozen varieties including many with advanced degrees in psychology and social theory do exist and are actively trying to come up with ways to destroy social trust and tear apart the fabric of society. Innumerable stories circulate. Only some are true. How can anyone possibly know which?




And of course that’s always half the point in such situations. The Stasi, the East German secret police, at one point developed a technique of breaking into dissidents’ homes at night and rearranging their furniture. Doing it left the victim in an impossible situation. Either you tell people that spies broke into your house and rearranged your furniture, leaving many with the impression you are insane, or keep the information to yourself, and gradually begin to doubt your own sanity. Sometimes, in Palestine, you feel you’re in an entire country that’s been given such treatment.

In this case, however, the rumor turns out to be at least partly true. Someone put up a web page for Mossad agents with guilty consciences to make anonymous confessions. And one did, indeed, make reference to drugging the tea in hair salons.



My friend Amin said: “I’ve always felt that the turn to religious conservatism, the headscarves, the covering up—it’s not just the political rise of Hamas in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I think it’s partly a reaction to the fact that you always know that people are staring at you. I mean look around. Practically every other hill, there’s a Jewish settlement. But you look up and it’s just architecture, the blank face of some pre-designed gated community, you can’t see the people. And next to that there’s always a military base, fenced, with towers which may or may not have someone gazing out at you. And then there’s the actual wall. Everybody talks about the wall as being an impediment to movement. And it is that, and it’s incredibly annoying, but the other thing about the wall is, it’s an impediment to vision. You can never see what’s going on right next to you. They have their own roads. Actually they have two sets of roads: there are settler roads. Then there are the military roads. You can’t really see either from roads we Arabs get to use. Just glimpses here and there, or there are spots where you cross the road to a settlement, and there are guards and posters for right-wing Israeli politicians and kids wearing yarmulke’s hitchhiking. But other than that you never see them. But you know they can see you when you’re driving, or walking, or whatever you’re doing they’re starting at you from a thousand different angles from places you don’t even know about. You’re trapped in these little pockets where you can see each other but you never get the panoptic view, there’s a little chunk of city you live in, a little chunk of country where you take your sheep, these discontinuous islands; you don’t even have a proper map, the maps you get to use are wrong or out of date, you never get to look down from the commanding heights. So you start covering up. You don’t go out so much. Women hide their hairstyles, even. It’s just a gesture, but it’s one tiny way of asserting control.”

This what it feels like, to live in Palestine. The constant awareness of the existence of a ferocious, hostile intelligence that is organizing the terms of one’s existence, but which, ultimately, does not wish one well. One never sees them. But one knows what they must be like: a brain trust of extremely well educated and sophisticated men and women meeting in air-conditioned offices, presenting power-points, tabulating research, and developing sophisticated plans and scenarios; except, all you know is that these people are utterly inimical to your existence, and you have no idea what they say and do. You can only grasp at rumors and analogies.


The North Korean regime in the ‘50s developed a series of remarkably effective torture techniques, techniques that were so effective, in fact, that they were able to make captured American airmen admit to all sorts of atrocities they had not in fact committed, all the time, being convinced they had not, actually, been tortured. The techniques were quite simple. Just make the victim do something mildly uncomfortable—sit on the edge of chair, for example, or lean against a wall in a slightly awkward position—only, make them do it for an extremely long period of time. After eight hours the victim would be willing to do virtually anything to make it stop. But try going to the International Court of Justice at The Hague and tell them you’ve been made to sit on the edge of a chair all day. Even the victims were unwilling to describe their captors as torturers. When the CIA learned about these techniques—according to Korean friends of mine, they’re actually just particularly sadistic versions of classic Korean ways of punishing small children—they were intrigued, and, apparently, conducted extensive research on how they could be adopted for their own detention centers.

Again, sometimes, in Palestine, one feels one is in an entire country that’s being treated this way. Obviously, there is also outright torture, people who are actually being shot, beaten, tortured, or violently abused. But I’m speaking here even of the ones that aren’t. For most, it’s as if the very texture of everyday life has been designed to be intolerable—only, in a way that you can never quite say is exactly a human rights violation. There’s never enough water. Showering requires almost military discipline. You can’t get a permit. You’re always standing in line. If something breaks it’s impossible to get permission to fix it. Or else you can’t get spare parts. There are four different bodies of law that might apply to any legal situation (Ottoman, British, Jordanian, Israeli), it’s anyone’s guess which court will say what applies where, or what document is required, or acceptable. Most rules are not even supposed to make sense. It can take eight hours to drive 20 kilometers to see your girlfriend, and doing so will almost certainly mean having machine guns waved in your faces and being shouted at in a language you half understand by people who think you’re subhuman. So you do most of your dalliance by phone. When you can afford the minutes. There are endless traffic jams before and after checkpoints and drivers bicker and curse and try not to take it out on one another. Everyone lives no more than 12 or 15 miles from the Mediterranean but even on the hottest day, it’s absolutely impossible to get to the beach. Unless you climb the wall, there are places you can do that; but then you can expect to be hunted every moment by security patrols. Of course teenagers do it anyway. But it means swimming is always accompanied by the fear of being shot. If you’re a trader, or a laborer, or a driver, or a tobacco farmer, or clerk, the very process of subsistence is continual stream of minor humiliations. Your tomatoes are held and left two days to rot while someone grins at you. You have to beg to get your child out of detention. And if you do go to beseech the guards, those same guards might arbitrarily decide to hold you to pressure him to confess to rock-throwing, and suddenly you are in a concrete cell without cigarettes. Your toilet backs up. And you realize: you’re going to have to live like this forever. There is no “political process.” It will never end. Barring some kind of divine intervention, you can expect to be facing exactly this sort of terror and absurdity for the rest of your natural life.

But when someone does snap under the pressure, and, say, stabs a soldier at a checkpoint, or joins a cell to shoot at settlers, there’s no one specific act one can point to that seems to justify what seems like an act of disproportionate madness.

Palestine was, after all, the land that produced Gnosticism—the belief that human beings lived in a universe created by a hostile Demiurge, full of arbitrary moral regulations which exist only to bewilder and demoralize us, because the real God is in some absolute, unknowable Elsewhere. But what possible reason would a political regime have to try to consciously create a system of rule that actually brought a simulation of such a corrupt and meaningless universe into being?

The strategy seems especially puzzling because even from the Israeli point of view, it’s impossible to figure out the logic. Back in the ‘90s, had the opportunity to peace with its neighbors. The terms offered were extremely advantageous, both economically and politically. No one was even really expecting Israel to allow any significant number of the ‘48 refugees to return; all it would have taken was the clearing out of what were then a handful of settlements inhabited by what most Israeli citizens then considered to be violent religious lunatics, and handing the PLO some kind of toothless rump state. Instead Israeli governments have used the diplomatic cover of a two-state solution—a solution nobody now believes could ever possibly happen, even as hundreds of lucrative bureaucratic careers have been created under the pretense that it will—to turn the West Bank into a maze of military bases and Jewish-only planned communities, condemned by almost every country on earth as illegal under international law. It is extremely difficult to imagine how this project will not, ultimately, lead to catastrophe. Already it has transformed the image of the country in most of the world from a group of idealistic holocaust survivors making the desert bloom, into a collection of snarling bigots who have made a science out of techniques for brutalizing 12-year-olds. They have ensured they will remain a nation surrounded by bitter enemies, even as economically and politically, they have become almost entirely dependent on the unquestioning support a single rapidly declining imperial power.

How could this possibly end well? 

So: what is the Israeli long-term strategy, really?

Insofar as there’s an answer, it seems to be that they simply don’t have one; the Israeli government no more has a long-term strategy for dealing with their future in the region than Exxon Mobil has a long-term strategy for dealing with climate change. They seem to just figure that, if US power does collapse or give up on them, something will turn up. No doubt too they have people in thinktanks brainstorming that, too, coming with reports and scenarios, but all this is basically an afterthought. The driving force behind the colonization of ’67 Palestine is not any sort of grand strategy; it’s a kind of terrible confluence of short-term political and economic advantage.





First, the settlements. They were originally the project of a relatively isolated, if well funded, collection of religious zealots. Now everything seems to be organized around them. The government pours in endless resources. Why? The answer seems to be that since at least the ‘90s, rightwing politicians in Israel have figured out that the settlements are a kind of political magic. The more money gets funneled into them, the more the Jewish electorate turns to the Right. The reason is simple. Israel is expensive. Housing inside the 1948 boundaries is exorbitantly expensive. If you are a young person without means, you increasingly has two options: to live with one’s parents until well into your 30s, or find a place in an illegal settlement, where apartments cost perhaps a third of what they would in Haifa or Tel Aviv—and that’s not to mention the superior roads, schools, utilities, and social services. At this point the vast majority of settlers live on the West Bank for economic, not ideological, reasons. (This is especially true around Jerusalem.) But consider who these people are. In the past, young people in difficult circumstances, students, well-educated young parents, have been the traditional constituency of the Left. Put these same people in a settlement, and they will, inexorably, even without realizing it, begin to think like fascists. Settlements are, in their own way, giant engines for the production of right-wing consciousness. It is very difficult for someone placed in hostile territory, given training in automatic weapons and warned to be constantly on one’s guard against a local population seething over the fact that your next-door neighbors have been killing their sheep and destroying their olive trees, not to gradually see ethno-nationalism as common sense. As a result, with every election, the old Left electorate further dissipates, and a host of religious, fascist, or semi-fascist parties win a larger and larger stake of the vote. For politicians, who can barely think past the next election, the lure is inescapable. 

But what of the policies towards the Palestinians? How does that make any sort of sense?

Again, it’s important to underline that the people designing Israeli policy in the West Bank are anything but idiots. Most are clearly extremely intelligent. Large proportions have advanced degrees, and are very well read in the history and sociology of military rule and the science of civil governance. They are well aware of the techniques that have been successfully applied by occupying powers in the past aiming to pacify and coopt a conquered population. It isn’t rocket science. There’s a standard playbook: cooptation, divide and rule, a certain carefully nuanced balance of carrot and stick, the application of certain strategies for the creation of dependencies and mixed allegiances… And it’s not as if those developing Israeli strategy don’t apply these techniques. But they seem determined to offer as small a carrot, and wield as large a stick, as they possibly can without sparking a major conflagration. The old PLO leadership, the political cream of the Palestinian diaspora, had indeed been coopted: it was allowed it’s own small-scale right of return from their former bases in Lebanon or North Africa, and granted special privileges in exchange for agreeing to help police the Arab population. They in turn organized incoming aid money in such a way to absorb former leftist radicals into NGOs. A few rich Arab businessmen do move back and forth freely across checkpoints and make lucrative housing deals. There’s even a minor housing bubble, as money pours in from doctors and lawyers the diaspora to relatives with nothing to spend it on, with the result that endless great cement mansions with red Chinese roofs pop up in areas under the Palestinian authority, only, mansions whose toilets still don’t really work properly for lack of water. (All the water, needless to say, is going to the settlers’ swimming pools.) The territories are, ironically, Israel’s biggest export market, and since they’ve largely destroyed the old agricultural, trade, and light industrial economy through hostile “regulations,” what this basically means is seizing their cut of Palestinian remittance money by any means available. Still, what’s really remarkable about these divide-and-rule strategies is how little of it there really is. Economically, it would be extremely easy to create a sizeable middle class with a strong economic interest in cooperation with the occupation authorities. Yet the authorities seem to have intentionally decided not to do this.

Instead I think we have to ask the same question as we did with the settlements. Settlements are engines for the production of a certain kind of ethno-nationalist consciousness, funded basically for political advantage. What sort of Palestinians, then, are the occupation authorities trying to create? Clearly not docile and obedient ones. There would be no reason to engineer a life of continual hardship, terror, and humiliation—to ensure, for instance that practically every Palestinian mother and father has to worry if their 12-year-old son or daughter will come home safely from school, or is already lying shackled and blindfolded in a concrete cell—if one were trying to pacify a former enemy. The only answer that makes sense is that the Israel forces want the Palestinians to seethe; they want there to be resistance; but the also want to ensure that political resistance is completely ineffective. They want a population that is compliant on a day-to-day basis, but that periodically explodes, individually or collectively, in a unstrategic and uncoordinated fashion that can represented to the outside world as irrational demonic madness.  

And why would they wish to do this? Almost every Arab political analyst I talked to considered the answer self-evident. Israel’s economy has become largely dependent on the high-tech arms trade, and the supply of complex electronic “security” systems. Israel is today the world’s fourth largest arms exporter, after the US, Russia, and UK (it has recently pushed back France to #5). This is actually quite a feat for such a tiny country. But as everyone also hastens to add: Israeli arms and security systems have an enormous advantage over their rivals, one Israeli firms never fail to emphasize in their promotional literature. They are extensively field-tested. This new type of shell that was used to destroy tunnels in Gaza! This new type of random-distribution tear gas dispenser was successfully used against protestors in the Balata refugee camp. This new type of laser-detection device has repeatedly foiled attacks on settlers. Arab resistance has become a key economic resource for Israeli capital, and were it to completely quiet down, the export economy would take an immediate hit.

If bullying is to be defined as, in its essence, a form of aggression designed to produce a reaction that can then be used as retroactive justification for the initial act of aggression itself, then the Israeli Occupation has taken bullying and turned it into a principle of governance. Everything is designed to provoke. The provocations are daily. They are ugly and humiliating. But they are also designed to fly just under the point of flagrant, undeniable aggression, where you can claim they were not even, precisely, an “attack,” but like the schoolyard bully who’s constantly subtly poking and jabbing and kicking his victim, hoping for some outraged burst of ineffective rage that can get the victim hauled before the principal.


I only came to fully understand the agony of the Palestinian situation when I came to understand that the entire point of life, in traditional Palestinian society, is put oneself in a position where you can be generous to strangers. Hospitality is everything. When I first entered Nablus, in a van full of an American film crew, everyone in the neighborhood we entered (of course I only learned this later) immediately began pulling out cell phones to try to figure out what was going on. Who were these foreigners? What kind of equipment were they carrying? Why were they here?  The moment we entered a local home everything was different. A neighborhood committee quickly assembled a group of 30 or 40 young volunteers who pledged to physically intervene if corrupt elements of the Palestinian authority, or Israeli security forces, tried to give us any trouble. After all, we were now somebody’s houseguest, and our security was a matter of the neighborhood’s collective honour.

Of course we had no idea this was happening at the time. We only found out a week later, when someone mentioned it to Amin in a casual aside.

One of the film crew’s first trip was to Arraba, an agricultural town whose center is full of posters and black flags of Islamic Jihad and the remains of Medieval mosques and forts. At first it sometimes seemed as if people were trying to avoid us, the houses were mostly shuttered, but eventually we realized, that was just because the sun had not yet set: it was Ramadan and people were embarrassed to receive visitors if they were unable to offer them food. By dusk it seemed like everywhere we went we were regaled with lamb, pastries and sage tea. Old women in headscarves endlessly refilled our glasses as they sat on patios telling stories of how archeologists had discovered the graves of some kind of ancient Jewish leaders—I didn’t catch the names, I think they might have been Maccabees—and since then, the tombs had been declared a place of pilgrimage. Normally, of course, the discovery of such a site is an economic windfall for the community. In Palestine, it might mean an entire village is simply expelled. Arraba was too big for that. So in this case it merely meant that periodically, hundreds of Israeli soldiers would sweep into town in full battle gear, snipers would position themselves on rooftops, and there would be a 12-hour curfew as religious settlers marched in to carry out commemorative rituals. And then they’d go away.

Then they started telling the stories of various children of the village currently in prison for conspiring to ambush settlers.


It was at the moment it suddenly occurred to me—someone who had grown up in a Jewish family in New York fed almost entirely on Zionist propaganda—exactly what things must look like from the other side. Wherever we went, Palestinians would tell us about all the different sorts of people they had historically welcomed to the Holy Land: Armenians, Greeks, Persians, Russians, Africans, Jews… They saw the Zionists as originally their house-guests. Yet they were the worst house-guests one could possibly imagine. Every act of hospitality, of welcome, is turned into license for appropriation, and the world’s most skillful propagandists leapt into action to try to convince the world that their hosts were depraved inhuman monsters who had no right to their own homes. In such a situation, what can you possibly do? Stop being generous? But then one is absolutely, existentially defeated. This is what people really meant when they talked about a life of calculated degradation. People were being systematically deprived of the physical, the economic, and the political means to be magnanimous.  And to be deprived of the means to make that kind of magnificent gesture is a kind of living death.


David Graeber




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42 Responses to Hostile Intelligence: Reflections from a Visit to the West Bank

  1. Kyle Stone says:

    incredible piece. Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Charlie Grafton says:

    Fine,humane, balanced,enlightening analysis. The implications are that not only is Israel a microcosm of global-power conflict dynamics, but it is also a development laboratory for military/security repressive equipment and techniques and one providing data for all governments to use in shaping and controlling their societies and in crushing dissent.

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  4. Mark Ajita says:

    *Evidence that Graeber is much better at tourist writing than at sociology: That stab at analysis of the Palestinian lifeway in the trendy theoretical terms of Social Death in the last line trivializes the easygoing atmosphere he did so well at establishing during the entire essay up to that point.

    • David Graeber says:

      Actually I just said “living death” which was just a metaphor, and not a reference to the concept of social death.
      For my actual views on the notion of social death, check Debt: The First 5000 Years, Chapter 7 (“Honour and Degradation”), and particularly pp. 168-171 (“Honour as Surplus Dignity.”)

    • Suzanne says:

      I like the piece, but I have to agree, the last couple of paragraphs def feels like the writer is trivializing.

  5. lcl says:

    Powerful stuff. In case any readers aren’t familiar another “function” of Israel to the US security state was as an indirect way to arm dictatorships that Congress put any kind of obstacle towards arming directly.

    Dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador, apartheid South Africa, Pinochet (a literal Nazi sympathizer, no problem!), Somoza, and a broad assortment of brutal and corrupt African tyrants.

    These owed their continued existence to Israeli arms. The US pushed for these deals behind the scenes.

  6. genevieve says:

    A brilliant and timely piece. It describes exactly the auto-deluded state of Israeli society as well as it enables the reader to feel what it is like to be the victim of such a society’s warped mechanisms. Where will such a predatory and victim-hungry society turn, if there are no more victims? Will they start consuming themselves, like survivors of a shipwreck? Or will they turn their attentions outwards and nuke the neighbours? Israel is the most disassociated and damned state on earth, right now and holding a mirror up to it, as this piece has done, could show it what a degenerate fiend it has become and hopefully start the process, for the many silenced, humane and caring Israelis, of doing something about it.

    • Deb Reich says:

      Hi Genevieve… Many “silenced, humane and caring” Israelis — thank you for that! — are, and have been, doing things about it. With little enough result so far. Do you have specific, concrete suggestions? Please share them…

  7. Ehud says:

    Dear David,
    Several points i’d like to make.
    1. You do not cover the other half of the problem that the Palestinian society is not doing enough for itself. Its not constructive.
    2. There some very good relations between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Thats also a piece of the puzzle.
    3.Im not saying the tea story isn’t true. However i find it hard to believe that it is the reason that you didn’t see any women hairdressers. I find the way you deal with that point as very weak journalism.
    I think that the general point of hardships of life in the west bank is important and true however your analysis is very biased a bit demonising and does not capture many complexities of the situation

  8. Ben B says:

    thats the bad shit the right are creating around the world. social engineering through coercion and resulting frustration n fear. that doesnt excuse whats happening, thats reason to do something about that. we need to flood Israel with quality acid, people need to question how they live, and acid has been scientificaly shown to do that.

  9. Fatima G says:

    Dear Ehud
    With regard to your point on “Palestinian society is not doing enough for itself” you are conveniently forgetting that all of the West Bank is under a violent and oppressive occupation that stifles any kind of development. I have lived with Palestinians under this occupation and it is not designed to make life easy for Palestinians at any point. israel deliberately undermines any kind of Palestinian development at every step. There is a deeply asymmetrical power relation at work here that your point misses completely.

    Then, David, I applaud you for your analysis of what I have also experienced while living and working on the occupied West Bank of Palestine. israel’s constant, violent and conniving undermining of Palestinian life is often too fantastically (and deliberately so) evil; it has been deliberately designed as such to make it easy for the Palestinian narrative to be dismissed as unbelievable. I do find, though, that you have not gone into the fact that much of this violence against Palestinians is about land appropriation at any cost. Much, if not all, of israel’s action is driven by this.

    • David Graeber says:

      that’s true, I guess I should have emphasised the slow-motion ethnic cleansing and land grab element more

  10. Rena Kessem says:

    I believe there’s an ethnic, anthropologic angle to Israelis’ long-term strategy, too. It’s probably conscious to some extent. We – speaking as part of this collective, even if not party to most of its accepted views – Israeli Jews, especially of Western backgrounds, expect the Palestinians to do what we did in similar circumstances for thousands of years: emigrate. Jews didn’t fight, they migrated, from one place that was considered exile to another. I think that at some level people here cannot help but believe that if things are that miserable, at some point the Palestinians will finally pick up and leave.

  11. Ari says:

    “Someone put up a web page for Mossad agents with guilty consciences to make anonymous confessions. And one did, indeed, make reference to drugging the tea in hair salons”

    So your proof that this implausible story occurred is a complete lack of proof in that you have no idea who this individual poster was, or if he or she was even Israeli. An anonymous post on a propaganda blog isn’t proof.

  12. Roba says:

    I love the conclusion – would make a hilarious tragic comedy. It even makes sense, in a way. Being stupidly nice to guests is something I can see Palestinians do, even to this level.

  13. ilan shalif says:

    The story of David miss the Palestinian popular non armed struggle which include as partner the mainly anti Zionist Israelis of the really radical left.

  14. Ira Rifkin says:

    You write that Palestinians throughout the ages have welcomed as guests various peoples, some of whom go back to antiquity. Are you claiming that the people presently called Palestinians were the aboriginal inhabitants of what is currently Israel/Palestine?
    If so, please offer scientifically and internationally accepted proof. Citations, please, not just unsubstantiated Palestinian political lore.

    • David Graeber says:

      perfect illustration of my point in the text

      “Yet they were the worst house-guests one could possibly imagine. Every act of hospitality, of welcome, is turned into license for appropriation, and the world’s most skillful propagandists leapt into action to try to convince the world that their hosts were depraved inhuman monsters who had no right to their own homes.”

      As if anyone could produce “scientific” proof that Jewish settlers bear any meaningful relation to people who lived there two thousand years ago.

      • jonabark says:

        “..who lived there 2000 years ago” And left voluntarily as shown in the Israeli historian Shlomo Sand’s ” The Invention of the Jewish People” in which he shows that there was no forcible expulsion of Jews from Israel.

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  16. Kathleen Lowrey says:

    A powerful set of observations. Thank you for the essay.

  17. David G. says:

    Best piece I have read on what occupation really means. Thank you.

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  19. Ana says:

    heartbreaking…. You managed to capture the essence of what I try to explain to my friends when I talk about Palestine with friends and family. Their hospitality and their focus on survival are tied together. It’s their essence also, what they have left. Thank you for that. Only kind hearts and open minds have the ability to really see what’s in front of their eyes.

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  21. Kora Z. says:

    All of the countries in the Middle East have become more socially conservative over the past 40 years. The famous example is the pictures of the graduates of the University of Cairo over the years where 40 years ago all the female graduates had their hair uncovered and in Western clothing and over the years they gradually start to appear with their hair covered until in the last few years they are all covered up. To blame Israel for such an outcome which is common in pretty much all Middle Eastern Muslim countries is pretty lazy journalism.

    Secondly the economic and political failures of the Palestinian Authority are primarily the result of the mismanagement of the economy due to adopting the social/economic structures of the surrounding Arab countries. When Arafat went back to Gaza he brought with him the way to structure society and economy from Tunis and various other dictatorial Arab countries. The Palestinian economy was doing far better under the direct Israeli occupation. It is pretty common to hear the Palestinians point out that the introduction of the Palestinian Authority significantly undermined the economy compared to the situation that was in place before it. Additionally much economic damage was caused by Israeli responses to Palestinian terrorism against Israeli civilians and that includes the building of the wall and checkpoints. Prior to the breakout of the First Intifada there were no checkpoints and entry into Israel was entirely open. It is again pretty sloppy to claim that the security measures that the Palestinian disdain is the result of Israeli evil as opposed to being the direct result of the need to defend Israeli civilians that they obviously are when one looks at their emergence over time.

    Lastly, the Israeli approach towards the Palestinians is the result of a lack of belief that the Palestinians are actually interested in living in peace with Israel as evidenced by their rejection of each and every peace proposal ever put forward by Israel. If the Palestinians are suffering, the people to blame are primarily themselves. In 2000 the Palestinians could have had their own country and they would indisputably been better off on every possible indicator right now. Instead then, and since, the Palestinians chose the path of rejection and violence. This does indeed seem irrational and unreasonable to most Israelis and nonetheless we have to deal with it the way it is not the way we would wish it to be.

    • David Graeber says:

      You know I used to believe that sort of Zionist propaganda. Especially about the peace process. But around the time of Oslo I – like most honest observers – realised there was something very, very, wrong with the line we’d been given (and that most of us were actively disseminating.) I’d assumed the settlers were just a handful of religious crazies, and that the actual Israeli political establishment, or the largest part of it, sincerely wanted a reasonable peace. So when Oslo was signed, I said to myself, “well, so now what are they going to do about the settlers? It’s going to be hard to get some of those guys out. But I guess if they cut off funding to the settlements, and all those incentives to go live there, most of them will leave and then it’ll be just the die-hards…” I expected them to start moving settlers out right away. Instead they did exactly the opposite. They started moving in more and more settlers, grabbing more land and more territory. This after just having committed to abandon the West Bank and turn it over to the Palestinian Authority. It was then I realised I’d been snookered. Sorry. If you are really intending to hand a territory over to its inhabitants, you don’t use the occasion to a peace treaty promising to do so to move EVEN MORE settlers onto their territory. A lot of our eyes were opened at that point. We realised the Palestinians did accept the Israeli peace offer, and the Israelis showed they didn’t have the slightest intention of actually making peace.

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  23. Brozovic says:

    Tnank you so much for making to understand much better the situation the Palestinian’s people endure.

  24. Anne Gudbrand says:

    Aa a young woman I, a Danish citizen, lived in Palestine on The West Bank right untill The 1967 war. Being part of a UN family I could freely move between what we then called The Jordanian site, including East Jerusalem with The Old City, and The Israeli Site. I Can fully confirm the way you have described the friendliness and hospitality of The Palestinian People to all us strangers. And certanly it is true, that the Young people were mostly quite free and westernly dressed, ,though it was more Commons to see The Palestinian woman in her embroidered traditional dresses and wearing a veil in the smaller villages.It is so heart breaking to witness the strangulation of this poor occupied people, The cruelty and terrorisme that they are Living under disgusts the majority of the rest of the World,something that will probably create a Big backlash on Israel one day, I’m sure.
    Thank you for sharing your observations in Palestine.

  25. Daniel R says:

    Yet another article by an ex-Zionist explaining how his eyes were opened. And analysing the psychologies of Jewish Israeli settlers and the indigenous West Bank Palestinians whose land they are incrementally stealing, as well as their economic well-being, privacy and dignity and sometimes life. Since the mid-1980s there have been tens of thousands of articles with identical content. They achieve nothing, especially when, like Graeber’s, they make the towering mistake of claiming that the Israeli elite and the majority of voters behind it has no long-term plan.
    This is dangerous rubbish. Draw a graph with time on one axis and degrees of land usurpation and freedom-deprivation on the other. Digest the fact that this majority-Israel speaks never of the West Bank, but rather of Judea and Samaria. Note the dozens of cases in which Israel shows the West the finger, i.e. shows it can get along very well, thank you, without the West; it has China, India, Africa as trading partners. The Israeli elite and the majority behind it ‘wants it all’: Eretz Israel. Method: ongoing, usually ‘soft’, ethnic cleansing. This plan is perfectly coherent and look: it works. In 1948 it worked and post-1967 it has worked, the Allon Plan being only the nicest version.
    Graeber’s detailed description of ‘life under occupation’ keeps the discourse firmly embedded in the the view that basically, Israel can’t be touched, is OK, should remain a Jewish state but just clean up its act a bit. The two-state discourse whose principal function is to protect Zionism: Here at most 20% of Palestine ruled by the usurpers; there Israel, 20% of whose citizens are non-Jewish, as the unassailable safe haven. This genre and this discourse does not waste a single syllable on these people still residing as second-class citizens in the huge illegal settlement of “48”, i.e. Israel proper. (Graeber might learn that the Palestinians distinguish between the ’48 occupation and the 67 occupation; they are both ‘occupations’.)
    Worse, the majority of Palestinians – the refugees and their descendants – reside outside of historic Palestine and as far as this genre of article is concerned might as well not even exist.
    So we have this troubling but non-huge problem of hoping the Israelis might be nice one day and give the Arabs a real Bantustine. As if this vision weren’t as unrealistic as it is undesirable. This kind of article is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Move on.

    • David Graeber says:

      what a load of shit I described life in ’67 I made no political proposals of any kind, did not mention and in fact don’t support a two-state solution.

  26. Alwi says:

    Thank you for a very detailed analysis of the current situation in Palestine. The article clears up a lot of misconception on life in Palestine.

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