In a feature length review for the Middle East Research and Information Project, Max Ajl welcomes Shir Hever’s The Political Economy of Israel’s Occupation as an important contribution to understanding the economic roots of the Israel/Palestine conflict:
Attitudes are well established. Yet actual explanations of the occupation’s endurance have been thin. Shir Hever’s The Political Economy of the Occupation is an effort to supply one that goes beyond partial or flawed theories and dominant obfuscations. Hever is first concerned to total the macro-economic costs and benefits of the occupation. He warns that aggregate numbers can conceal disparities of economic power and privilege in a blur of averages, but he uses them to paint a rough-and-ready picture of the relationship between the Palestinian and Israeli “sectors,” as well as the ways in which labor and capital, demand and tariffs, coil, braid and meld, making talk of Palestinian this or Jewish that not merely muddying but misleading.
Ajl questions Hever’s use of Veblen’s theory of industrial sabotage to explain why the occupation has lasted so long. But he is more taken by Hever’s explanation for why the Israeli working-class has allied itself to Zionism:
Hever goes further still, adducing Bourdieu’s notion of “distinction” as a way of explaining Jewish underclass support for the occupation. The creation of internal hierarchies allows for “prestige” to accrue even to those who get little else in the way of remuneration. Wealth correlates with ethnicity in Israel — the Mizrahim are far poorer than the Ashkenazi minority, and there is not much intermarriage — but Oriental Jews can consider themselves part of the dominant group when the conflict in Israel-Palestine is understood as a national one.
Despite some criticisms Ajl concludes:
There is no question that Hever has provided one of the more engrossing contributions to the political economy of the occupation to emerge in some time. Indeed, he has shown himself capable of writing the benchmark account. But we do not yet have it in our hands.
Visit the Middle East Research and Information Project to read the review in full.
Repression Beyond Exploitation
A careful and illuminating analysis of the economic dimensions of the Palestine-Israel conflict. Invaluable for students, journalists and activists.
“Shir Hever has emerged as one of the most incisive analysts of the critical Israeli Left. A truly engaged intellectual, Hever straddles the academic/activist divide. Unlike armchair analysts, he has “been there” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. This is the kind of book upon which effective political organizing depends.” – Jeff Halper, Director, The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)