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Barrier: The Seam of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Hardcover – November 29, 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade (November 29, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566702615
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566702614
  • ASIN: 1403968012
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #670,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

One of the effects of the highly controversial barrier being erected by Israel between itself and Occupied Palestine has been the creation of a weird nether-world dubbed "the Seam Zone," which Jerusalem Report editor Kerchner describes with both compassion and coherence. Using numerous interviews and impressive legwork, Kerchner conveys both the tragic necessity of a physical separation to shield Israelis from terrorism, as well as the bureaucratic nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions the arbitrary divide represents for the Palestinians caught on the wrong side as they are subjected to a barrage of hardships, humiliations and expropriations. Kerchner follows a plethora of protagonists, including academics, military fence planners, disillusioned kibbutzniks, Arab farmers cut off from their olive groves, Israeli antiwall activists and the parents of Arab "martyrs" who applaud their murderous progeny but crave peace with their Jewish neighbors. Her diligence pays off, and the rigorous in-the-field reporting and simple human empathy of this engrossing study more than makes up for a few easy generalizations on one or two contentious issues. Her volume provides stunning insights into the latest, and perhaps most potent, symbol of the impasse the Arab-Israeli peace process has lumbered into since the promising Oslo Accords over a decade ago. (Dec.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Isabel Kershner turns a complicated issue into a gripping story without sacrificing the nuances or the complexities. Barrier is an elegantly written and eloquent page turner."
-- Bob Simon, 60 Minutes Correspondent

"Isabel Kershner has provided a distinctly human perspective on the Israeli security barrier. She weaves a compelling story, wonderfully written and told largely through the eyes of individual Israelis and Palestinians. But this is more than only the story of the barrier and how it is seen; it is also an explanation of the conflict and the pain it continues to impose on both sides. The Israeli quest for security and acceptance and the Palestinian yearning for dignity and freedom emerge unmistakably in this very moving book."
-- Dennis Ross, chief Middle East peace negotiator for Presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton, author of The Missing Peace

"Nothing expresses the folly of the two peoples as this thing does. When viewed close-up, the barrier turns into a tall hideous curtain, still ugly even if made from cement rather than iron, swallowing cities and hopes. As with most walls in history, fear may have created the impulse to build it; but greed and other human faults determine its path. Isabel Kershner's book is not about the concrete and wire fences; it is about those who created them, the bombers as well as the mighty occupiers; but most importantly, it is about those victimized by its unwelcome and destructive presence. We hear their voices and feel their pain. More than that, Kershner's storytelling digs deeper into the strategic implications, making her book useful to experts as well as all concerned with the Middle East"
-- Khalil Shikaki, Director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in Ramallah

"Barrier is superb. Extraordinarily balanced and perceptive, it is a sympathetic but unflinchingly honest portrayal of two peoples irreversibly entangled in their own historic tragedies. Veteran journalist Isabel Kershner portrays their conflict from the bottom up--through the eyes and voices of Palestinians and Israelis on both sides of the barrier. If you can only read one book about this conflict, this is it: It is brilliant and unique."
-- Samuel Lewis, U.S. Ambassador to Israel under Presidents Carter and Reagan, and former President, United States Institute of Peace
"Kershner carefully and humanely shows how the wall built by Ariel Sharon's government has not only exposed divisions but also created them--physically, politically and psychologically."--Washington Post Book World

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By C. Brown on April 28, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I picture the Israeli-Palestinian conflict like the graphic computer simulations of a black hole in space-time. What you see is a neat mesh of lines that, near the black hole, becomes wildly distorted. So, too, is there a similarity with Einstein's thought-experiment of travel near the speed of light...what the traveler experiences and what the "stationary" observer of that traveler sees appear unreconcilable, yet both the traveler and the observer could claim truth is on their side.

This book follows the strands of human life, the mesh of those lives near the black hole, the "holy land". The author lets us see different perspectives while easing us through the background of events and people that have created the situation and live with it.

Less than a year old (published late 2005), this book takes us up past the death of Arafat but ends before Sharon's stroke. We meet farmers and townspeople, the highly placed and the low, the wealthy and the poor, the bitter, the outraged and the complacent, the victims on both sides. You begin to understand the tragedy of the whole situation, of the dreams that end in nightmare, of the horrors that some wish to make reality, of those who are determined beyond the reach of reason, of those who work to destroy all hope while claiming to preserve it.

I am 55 years old and have lived through a good portion of the episodes of this tragic region, though at a far remove. I know reasonable people who, when this subject arises, become unrecognizable in their thinking. I expect my last breath will be drawn with it still unresolved. It is the place where the rock meets the hard place, where for every one who would make a concession, there is another who will give none and this book portrays it revealingly.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dr Adam Weiss VINE VOICE on February 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I always wanted to know more about this "Barrier" and it's affects it would have in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I was not disappointed.The author shows both view points and it's relationship to the people lives on a daily basis. A must read for anyone interested in learning more about the middle east and the people who live there.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 27, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Isabel Kershner is currently a NYTimes Correspondent in Israel. She has covered Israeli-Palestinian issues for some time and is an experienced hand. In considering the question of the defensive barrier built and being built by Israel to prevent terrorist attacks on its population she speaks to all parties involved. She speaks to Palestinian Arab villagers whose lives are made more difficult by the barrier, and to Israeli settlers who also oppose it as dividing the land they wish to see unified. She speaks with Israeli defense people who defend the Barrier , and human rights demonstrators who rally against it. She appears to be in one sense objective but her tilt is more to the Palestinian side.
There is a feeling that she does not underline strongly enough the Palestinian rejection of the very right of existence for Israel.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Guy on November 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Kershner is married to a PR man for Israel. She's a liar that feigns objectivity. She doesn't care that Israel kills children, and then when Palestinians react, they're called terrorists. She doesn't mention that the attacks from Palestinians are actually retaliations for Israelis that love to kill Palestinian children. Even the title show's you her lack of objectivity. The barrier is placed in Palestinian territories. Israel is breaking international law by even building settlements there, let alone placing barriers in other people's lands.

Right now, Israel has a manifest destiny outlook. They came in and displaced the people living in those lands. They believe that the land is theirs, given to them by God. They believe that any person of Jewish faith, living anywhere, as more right to live in the west bank because there were Jewish people living there thousands of years ago. The people that are currently inhabiting the land must go, just like they had to leave before. Kershner will be there rooting of the death of all Palestinians (or exile) while pretending to be objective. Yet for those Muslim-haters, this Jewish woman married to a man whose official job is to make Israel look good, will be seen as pro-palestinian. What a joke.

If you're one of the many people that love genocide of brown people, buy this book.
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6 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jill Malter on December 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Isabel Kershner does tell us quite a bit about the Arab-Israeli conflict. But she owes it to us to put it in better perspective. It's not "balance" to tell the truth some of the time and repeat lies some of the time. Israeli desires for peace are simply not analogous to Arab demands for war. If Arab aggression against Israel ceases, there will be peace between Arabs and Israelis. If Israel ceases to defend itself, not only will there be a catastrophe, but there still will not be peace.

Yes, it is true that many Arabs sincerely desire a return to the, um, good old days (if indeed they were all that good) when Jews had no rights. Some people want to return to the days in the antebellum South when Blacks were slaves. But society needs to put that behind it, not in front of it.

To Kershner's credit, she does explain that the Israeli security barrier is "less an expression of choice than a measure of last resort." Suicide bombers had killed and maimed plenty of Israelis and "posed an existential threat to the Israeli way of life." In addition, the suicide bombings precluded peace negotiations. So Israel came up with a barrier. She mentions that only 5 or 6 per cent of the barrier is a wall, with the rest being a fence. She interviews both Arabs and Jews, and we get plenty of information about what some of them think. And we see that for most people, the conflict is not about land. It is indeed about rights.

Also to Kershner's credit, she tells us that in general, Israelis do see the United Nations and the International Court of Justice as seriously biased. And that Israel considers the West Bank to be disputed territory, not occupied territory.

One can write books that describe the attitudes of terrorists and racists and their supporters.
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