A tale of three contested states (Taipei Times review of Palestine, Taiwan and Western Sahara)

The following book review appeared in Taipei Times on December 14.

When this book was published in July, few could have foreseen the resurgence of violence in Gaza.

The Hamas attacks of Oct. 7 and Israel’s reprisals have rendered the dim prospects of long-term peace even fainter. With the death toll accelerating at a terrifying pace, academic discussions of Palestine’s statehood based on points of international law might seem an irrelevance or an insensitive misfocus.

But, at a time when extremists on both sides are siphoning the last residues of empathy from a parched well of moderation, creating what Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari calls a “tribalism” of suffering, the relevant chapters of this book offer insights on potential escape routes.

Not that the single-state solution advocated by Italian social movement scholar Federica Stagni is generally recognized as a viable option.

Focusing on a campaign to save the village of Susiya in Palestine’s West Bank from destruction, Stagni examines coalition-building between Palestinians, Israelis and “International Jews.” (Given the historical associations of that latter term, including the title of antisemitic screed published by Henry Ford in 1920, we must assume that its use resulted from clumsy translation and/or editing.)

The effectiveness of these small activist groups, writes Stagni, is premised on acknowledgment of the inherent power asymmetry between the participants and efforts to redress this by underlining “the need to listen to and follow Palestinian leadership when organizing and structuring collective actions.”

While the intentions are laudable, a British war correspondent friend of mine is hardly alone in the view that, “in practice, it’s a recipe for horrific civil war.”

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