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Israel's open air prisons


12 October 2006

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Tanya Reinhart
Tanya Reinhart

Speaking out against Israel' s handling of the Palestinian conflict is the best act of solidarity one can show towards Israelis and the Jewish people, argued Tanya Reinhart in the latest of the Sydney Ideas lecture series.

Israel' s current policies threaten not just the Palestinians and its Arab neighbours, but also the Israelis themselves, she said. "In the long run, this war over land is suicidal."

Drawing on the struggle of civil rights leader Nelson Mandela, Professor Reinhart suggested that "consistent, international, non-violent political action can lead Israel to make political concessions".

Professor Reinhart, eminent Israeli academic, author and linguist, is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics and Media Studies at Tel-Aviv University and Professor of Linguistics at the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands.

She is an outspoken critic of Israeli policies, and accused Israel of implementing a complex system of open-air prisons, completely strangulating Palestinian society.

"These days 3.5 million Palestinians live under Israeli occupation. By using a method of invisible transfer, which involves taking systematic steps to move Palestinians out, Israel hopes to destroy Palestinian political and social infrastructure," she argued.

According to Professor Reinhart, Israel is implementing a vision of "ethnic cleansing" for the West Bank where Palestinian self-ruled areas are separated by Israeli settlements and the Israeli army. Its goal, she said, is to create the same situation in the West Bank that exists in Gaza.

"By controlling crossings and the economy, and by starving Palestinians through the control of the movement of goods, Israel will force 400,000 Palestinians from their land. Palestinians are losing their farms and schools, their way of life. Eventually they'll have to give up and move," she predicted.

Professor Reinhart is in Australia to deliver the University of Adelaide' s Edward Said Memorial Lecture. During her talk, Said- the Palestinian-American literary theorist, critic, and outspoken Palestinian activist- was never far from her mind.

"When I think of Edward Said, I not only think about a voice of reason and justice, but also a life in exile, losing the landscape of your childhood," she said.

Israel' s policies have prompted Professor Reinhart to make the most painful decision of her life: to leave her homeland.

"Morally, I can no longer stay in Israel. I love the country, but I cannot stay there. I'm going into exile, like Edward Said, but mine is an exile of choice."

This lecture was part of the Sydney Ideas lecture series. The next lecture in the series is:

Gerry Stoker, Professor of Politics, University of Manchester UK
Politics: does it matter?