The Biggest Prison on Earth: A History of the Occupied Territories by Ilan Pappe, Oneworld Books (2017)
By Rod Such / The Electronic Intifada
September 18, 2017
Everything that followed the 1967 War, notes Pappe, follows the “logic of settler colonialism” and that logic in turn foresees the eventual elimination of the indigenous Palestinians. That outcome, however, is not inevitable. An alternative is possible, Pappe maintains, if Israel decolonizes and makes “way for the logic of human and civil rights.”
As early as 1963 — four years before the 1967 War — the Israeli government was planning the military and administrative takeover of the West Bank, according to The Biggest Prison on Earth, a new book by the Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.
The planning for that operation — codenamed Granit (granite) — took place over a month on the campus of Hebrew University in the Givat Ram neighborhood of western Jerusalem. Israeli military administrators responsible for overseeing Palestinians within Israel joined military legal officials, interior ministry figures and private attorneys to create the judicial and administrative decrees required to rule over the one million Palestinians then living in the West Bank.
These plans were part of a larger strategy for placing the West Bank under military occupation. That strategy was codenamed the Shacham Plan for the Israeli colonel, Mishael Shacham, who authored it, and was formally presented by the Israeli chief of general staff to the army on 1 May 1963.
Pappe has long maintained that the 1967 War and the occupation that followed was not the “accidental empire” described by liberal Zionists. A “Greater Israel” was envisioned as early as 1948, Pappe argues, and planning for it occurred as early as the 1956 Suez War.
What is new in The Biggest Prison on Earth is Pappe’s detailed accounting of exactly what the Israeli planners were contemplating in 1963; namely, “the largest ever mega-prison for a million and a half people — a number that would rise to four million — who are still today, in one way or another, incarcerated within the real or imaginary walls of this prison.”