cover image The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories

The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories

Ilan Pappe. Oneworld, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-85168-587-5

Israeli expat historian Pappe (The Idea of Israel), director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies at the University of Exeter, boldly and persuasively argues for understanding the occupied territories as the world’s “largest ever mega-prison.” He 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. Instead, with the imposition of Israeli rule, “the Palestinians living there were incarcerated for crimes they never committed and for offences that were never committed, confessed, or defined.” Pappe shows that the Israelis offered an “open-air prison” when the Palestinians were compliant and a “maximum security prison” when they offered any resistance. Both left them shorn of basic human rights but the latter also featured harsh punishments up to and including military attacks on civilians. Pappe cites numerous 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. Moreover, according to a 2016 U.N. report, Israel’s actions toward the Gaza Strip will render life there “unsustainable” by 2020. Pappe’s conclusions won’t be welcome in all quarters but this detailed history is rigorously supported by primary sources. Maps. (Aug.)