Citizen Strangers: Book Critique Book Review

Length: 6 pages Sources: 4 Subject: History - Israel Type: Book Review Paper: #95570930 Related Topics: Israel, Book, Novel, Gaza

Excerpt from Book Review :

¶ … Israel was created after the war in 1948, fifteen percent of the population was made up of Palestinian Arabs (Stendel, 1997). While that would seem like a small group, they actually had spread out and held onto significantly more than fifteen percent of the territory. They were given suffrage rights immediately, with the creation of the state of Israel, and over time they were able to also attain citizenship status (Ben-Sasson, 1985). However, being granted those things did not have the helpful and protective effect they were hoping for when it came to how they were treated. Shira Robinson's 2013 book Citizen strangers: Palestinians and the birth of Israel's liberal settler state addresses the issue of how these Palestinian Arabs struggled in the face of poor treatment from their fellow citizens and their government. The book works through the concerns dealt with by the Jewish leaders of the time, and how they worked to advance their settler project while being forced to share power with people with whom they had very heavily conflicting political beliefs. The Palestinian Arabs of the time found that their suffrage rights and eventual citizenship did not mean a great deal to others, even though it was supposed to make them free people and allow them to lead good lives where they were located (Bregman, 2002). Not only were the Palestinian Arabs' movements restricted and they were limited as to where they could travel and when, they also found that civil rights and employment opportunities were not what they thought they would be (Robinson, 2013). The reason behind this was the draconian nature of the government. Being a military government, it operated somewhat differently than it would have if people would have been elected or otherwise come to power some other way. The government was put into place so that the land could be colonized, but had specific ideas about who should be colonizing it (Robinson, 2013).

The Jewish leaders of the time had their settler project, which had been a historic advancement that was continuing to show promise and help Palestinian Arabs, as well as others, find safe places to settle and be properly taken care of (Stendel, 1997). The project allowed people to develop and build (or in some cases, rebuild) their lives, so they could have a true home and a sense of belonging to a country or area. Citizenship was an important part of the project, as well, because being a citizen was designed to provide a person with a multitude of rights and privileges that he or she would not otherwise be able to attain (Bregman, 2002). That is what should have taken place for those who were in the settlements in Israel when the state was created, but it became a far different story for the Palestinian Arabs who were there. Even those who attained citizenship were still treated differently by their military government, and there was really nothing they could do in the way of fighting back in an attempt to force equal treatment.

The Jewish leaders also had little influence with the government. Even though they were sharing power, they could not make laws and regulations on their own that would help the Palestinian Arabs, and the military government was not going to go along with anything that would assist that group. The main reason that the Jewish leaders and the military government did not get along was that the Jewish leaders had sought to uproot that government, but were forced by changing international norms on human rights to work with them, instead of removing them and building a government of their own (Robinson, 2013). Naturally, that led to a huge discrepancy in how rules and laws were made, because the military government and the Jewish leaders wanted as little to do with one another as possible. They were not able to completely avoid one another, but their differences in beliefs about how the states of Israel should be ruled kept them at odds.

For the 20 years that followed the...


They were subjects of the colonial regime created by the military government, but they were also citizens of a state that was formally liberal, based on the Jewish leaders (Robinson, 2013). That left their status a bit questionable, at best, because there were serious and significant differences in how the two groups (military government and Jewish leaders) handled a number of issues that came up and that belonged to the people of their country. How they felt about the value and worth of the Palestinian Arabs in the region also played a significant part in how they treated these people, leaving the group caught in the middle of what was, essentially, a tug of war for their rights and freedoms. Robinson (2013) works to show the reader how nothing could really address what could be done with or for the Palestinian Arabs at the time, because there was a fundamental lack of agreement in government.
There was a state campaign created with the sole purpose of reducing the size of the Palestinian population, and citizenship was formulated as a way to collectively include and exclude certain groups, based on those to whom that citizenship was granted. While both of those were important, they were not able to solve the main, fundamental dilemma that was underlying everything: how could Palestinian Arabs who were indigenous to the area be bound to the state, while still making sure they were not allowed to have access to any of that state's resources (Robinson, 2013). In short, the government wanted control of the Palestinian Arabs, but did not want to provide any of the services to them that usually went along with that control. Most countries provide a trade-off, in that their citizens are bound by laws and, in return, those citizens receive certain resources (police protection, etc.). The military government was not interested in this trade with the Palestinian Arabs.

There was also significant tension between many political activities who were also Palestinian Arabs. The opposing aspirations these people had were significant, because they were so sharply divided in what they stated that they wanted, and what they seemed to feel would be important to them and their fellow countrymen. On the one hand there was the end of Jewish privilege, but the other hand offered a national independence that could be had by them and their fellow compatriots who were essentially being forced to live in exile at the time (Robinson, 2013). The beliefs held by the Palestinian Arabs, like the beliefs held by many other groups, were very different based on the individual people in the group, and did not represent the entirety of the group. In other words, there was no autonomous unit that could be said to make up the beliefs and feelings of all of the Palestinian Arabs in the area. People had different feelings about what could (and should) be done to make things more equitable, and those different feelings often stretched across the whole of the group, changing as they moved past different people with unique ideas.

Robinson (2013) is careful to show that the tensions inherent in the foundation of the state of Israel were deeply rooted at the time, and have remained so throughout history. Even in the present day, the tensions between inclusion and separatism, and those seen between equality and privilege, still haunt most of Israel. While it is unfortunate that the area must struggle in this manner, it mostly harms groups like the Palestinian Arabs, as they are marginalized in many ways by their government and are not able to fully have the rights and privileges they believe should come with being citizens of Israel. The balance that is kept through the government there is a delicate one, and also one that can and should be adjusted to be fairer to all citizens. However, as Robinson (2013) points out, this is not a likely scenario based on the type of government seen in the country.

Robinson's (2013) book answers a number of questions about what took place in Israel in the period beginning in 1948 and ending in 1967. Most of those questions and answers revolve around how the Palestinian Arabs, who should have been a significant amount of the population, ended up being marginalized based on the boundaries that were taken on when Israel became a state. The UN Partition Plan map, which was created in 1947, showed that more than 55% of what was Palestine would be allocated to the Jewish state (Stendel, 1997). If that were to be the case, the Palestinian Arabs would have been nearly one-half of the population total in the area (Stendel, 1997). However, taking a careful look at the 1948 boundaries that belonged to the official state of Israel showed that there were large and significant discrepancies that needed to be considered (Bregman, 2002). After 1948, there…

Sources Used in Documents:


Ben-Sasson, H. (1985). A history of the Jewish people. NY: Harvard University Press.

Bregman, A. (2002). A history of Israel. MA: Palgrave Macmillan.

Robinson, S. (2013). Citizen strangers: Palestinians and the birth of Israel's liberal settler state. NY: Stanford University Press.

Stendel, O. (1997). The Arabs in Israel. UK: Sussex Academic Press.

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