Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Secret Thoughts of A Palestinian Teacher in Israel

Ezies Elias Shehadeh

The airport security apparatus’s routine act of strip-searching Ezies Elias Shehadeh, an Arab teacher in a Jewish school, has generated too much media noise including Israeli TV and radio reports and interviews and the main editorial in Haaretz http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.576995
Local Arabic language papers veered off from their focus on the earthshaking Nazareth mayoral election rerun destined to decide the future of the Middle East and the world’s balance of power and nuclear armament, all to report on the teacher’s claims of injured pride. At the risk of angering friends and foes alike, let me be the devil’s advocate in pointing out the obvious:

For one thing, Ezies exaggerates. What she underwent is the routine that Arabs have to put up with as long as they refuse to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish state. Let us not forget the special circumstances of this incident, an Arab woman put in charge of Jewish youth for two decades. This, of course, triggers caution in the minds of all sane security officers. All they did was to have the woman take her clothes off and to feel around her arms, legs and scalp for explosives worn as hairpins or jewelry or as a chastity belt. You go figure what a sick Arab mind can concoct. In other sensitive circumstances requiring caution, such as in high security incarceration facilities, all body cavities are inspected including the performing of rectal and vaginal exams. We didn’t do anything of the sort to this woman though the risk we have to weigh, that of endangering Jewish lives, far outweighs such security infractions as drug smuggling in suspects’ orifices.

And this Ezies is upset because she was the only one in the entire group, students and teachers, who got the extra security inspection. You look at the woman in the picture in the paper or on your screen on the Internet and you realize what must be going through her mind. She must delude herself, as she manages to do to most readers, that she is a westernized female. Think for a moment how an Israeli Ashkenazi woman trying to pass herself as a Moslem Arab in Lebanon, Syria or Iraq nowadays would fare. I for one wouldn’t trust her. And lack of trust was all that we displayed towards Ezies. She must have forgotten the favor our government has just done her community, the Christian citizens of Israel. We passed laws designating them as our favorites, our pets, the least despised among the non-Jews in the country. We openly declared them non-Arabs. And the woman still complains!

And this sham of Ezies trying to pass herself as a western woman has a wider implication than first meets the eye: Think for a moment how much media time and how many newspaper pages we would have wasted had we paid equal attention to every Arab man or woman who underwent close scrutiny at the airport. We do that regularly day in and day out without anyone making a fuss about it as long as the subject is some old Moslem woman wrapped in hijab or an old Palestinian man donning a kufiyah. So what if they miss their flight? It is our airport and our security that counts. Think how much more is the damage that one such terrorist can cause. When was the last time that a Palestinian woman in the image of a modern Western model exploded on an El Al plane, you ask? Every day is my answer. It is what goes on in their sick minds, not what they actually do, that worries us.

Let us put ourselves in the shoes of this Arab teacher at a Jewish school: She must ask herself why do we have separate educational systems. And if separate, why do Jews decide on our curriculum and policy issues. And if separate, why blatantly unequal? She and the likes of her must think that their children deserve the same as ours.  She teaches at Tirat Carmel. Just join me for a tour inside her mind, please. The woman knows that this town on the beautiful mountainside overlooking the Mediterranean shore just south of Haifa was once, in the lifetime of her parents, a prosperous Palestinian Arab village. And yet she and her family couldn’t buy a home there and gain acceptance in its current Jewish milieu. And she knows just as well as we do that many stone homes in the town were built by Palestinians who are now unwanted refugees in South Lebanon or being starved in Yarmouk or, at best, are internally displaced, Present Absentees, who are transparent to Israel’s justice system. Believe me, when we think about it, what the Palestinians have forced us to do to them is enough to turn them all to terrorists. Regardless how flashy or wide Ezies’s sunglasses are, she remains a suspect. We have to remain on guard for the likes of her as long as she and her ilk deny us peace in our promised land, our Jewish only state. It is them or us, believe me.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

One Palestinian man’s reading of Susan Abulhawa’s "My Voice Sought The Wind"

I am no romantic poet. Yet Susan Abulhawa’s first published collection of poems (My Voice Sought The Wind, Just World Books, 2013) slices directly to my heart. Like her, I once wrote poetry in Arabic. A group of us, high school friends in Nazareth some of whom went on to become ‘real poets,’ put out an occasional handwritten pamphlet of poetry. And like Susan, my cultural exile robbed me of the finesse and flare of my mother’s tongue. I must admit though that, unlike her, I don’t suffer any phantom pains where it once sprouted in my heart. It was too long ago.
Susan opens with an ode to olive oil, the cure-all salve for all Palestinian wounds and the explosive charge in our mystical weaponry. I inherited some ancestral olives and a multi-millennial olive stands in my front yard. I drool reading Susan’s recipe:
And without bread or Za’ater, dip your finger in this oil
Press it between your tongue and palate
Do it again
Until you hear the primal calls of an earth packed
  beneath boot steps and tank treads
And it will haunt you with an unexpected song
I warble to the song in my heart and tears of joy flood my eyes.
I come to the second poem, ‘Black,’ where Susan addresses a very personal issue. Openly! She names names and recalls pain and humiliation. She looks in the mirror and has a dilemma: Are we white or black? European or African? Palestinians of my age are not used to our national poet, the late Mahmoud Darwish, describing his nose as “fucked up” though it actually was.  Have some shame, woman! You must watch your language if you want me to nominate you as Darwish’s rightful heir. But by God, despite her loose tongue, or perhaps because of it, I am drawn to the black side in her conundrum where she doesn’t miss a step. She is up front, powerfully pointing her finger, calling a spade a bloody spade, and hitting the mark every time. It doesn’t pay to be bashful in identifying the European as our collective rapist:
            A European took my grandma’s house
            Painted my country white
            Kicked us out to the cold curb
            Killed our neighbors
            Cut my brother’s balls off
            Motherfuckers fucked my mother
            Then dragged me by the hair
                 and told me I needed liposuction
    And a nose job
… dug up my ancestors bones
Built a “Tolerance Museum” over their graves
Moreover, she doesn’t shy away from taking on
“My Arab brethren (who)
Considered me human ONLY
After I got a USA passport.”
Finally Susan declares for Black:
I am Palestinian
And in the blue and bruise of my heart
I am become Black
Because Black is beautiful
And the beautiful in me
Is Black
It is difficult to skip a line in this slim collection of hard hitting, highly charged poems. They, every one of them, come alive for me as I savor their Palestinian flavor and universal truth. I find myself wrestling, almost physically, with one evoked image after another. None is barren enough not to hold my attention and force my immersion in it. I wipe my tears and struggle across Susan’s Ramadan in exile and her brief homage to Mahmoud Darwish, the other “Voice of Palestine”:
            We saw you tear off your limbs
            To pass through the narrow passage
            Now you know
Where birds fly after the last sky
Next, aroused from a fitful sleep, I come to “The Siege” and shed copious tears again. First I manage to cope with Suraya whose “poetry assembles as dreams” and with Mjahid, the Palestinian gladiator who
            … looks upward
            And plays his oud to
            Hang the stars back in place
            After the sky has fallen.
But when I get to Laila and Yousef, the separated Gazan lovers who have their
            Eyes upon the same empty moon
            And sky devoid of promise
            The winds caress her cheeks
            And, miles away, wrap around him
Until their fingers find each other
Inch closer.
And they hold hands
Across sky and wind and moon and miles
I am vanquished again. I take a cold shower to quell the tears in my red-shot eyes. I manage to recoup my tranquility. I eat breakfast with my foreign wife and get back to Susan’s “Sister Palestinian I” where I find myself taking things personally. The woman knows how to appeal to a Palestinian father’s sensibilities:
            When your father, king of his castle,
                was forced to sleep on dirt
            You served him coffee and scrubbed his feet
                to save his pride
That really works for me. But, God damn it, why do you have to be so bitchy? I didn’t have anything to do with all of that
The day you played hopscotch
When they pulled the land from under your feet
I had nothing to do with it
When your mother went mad and died with anguish (when)
Your tears watered a refugee’s garden
I never forced my daughter into an arranged marriage. I never raped or hit my wife nor ever claimed that European women were more “exciting fucks.” I never abandoned my wife to prostitution. And I never forced “the heart break of an empty orgasm” on anybody. You forgot? I am your brother! And they’ve cut my balls off. Take all of your insults back! Right now! Or, by God, I will go back on nominating you!
When I cool off I move on to “Sister Palestine II” where my detractor takes a well-deserved swipe at our common enemy, the Israelis colonizing our country,
a country siphoned from our veins
where the hills of God are carved and paved
and apartheid metastasizes into the wadis
through the sanasil and precious groves.
But, Susan, you got mixed up: Lena didn’t commit suicide. She was shot in the head by Israeli soldiers. They even confiscated her poster. You must have forgotten; you were only a little child then, a first-grader.   
And Ahmad: Do you mean Muhammad Al-Durrah’s surviving baby brother in our every home?  He is a fine young man now. He graduated from college. Don’t you go on shaming him with “shivering in his own piss.” He needs your moral support as his older sister. We have to continue dressing each other’s wounds. Don’t remind him of failures. It was only an occasional accident. We all did it at the time.
Was it the spider web in the sky, the
White phosphorus death?
Or the sonic booms?
Whatever! Just sing him some Fairuz songs or one of Rim Banna’s Palestinian lullabies.
Now I come to “Wala” and am totally stumped. What comment can one make about verity itself? I dwell on it once then again and again. I go online and listen to Susan’s rendition of it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUIqhxMdffE and watch the accompanying superb video many times.  This is the stuff of magic, of addictive poison. All I get from seeing it is the urge to shoot up with it again. It must be the trance the mystic achieves with self-flagellation.
I am that man,
The man you would have been
The man you should have been
Out there
Riding the family steed
The thoroughbred mares your grandfather
Raised and nurtured and loved
In a Palestine
I battle the daily routine of insult and injury to access my hard labor camp. How can they do this to me? I haven’t seen my three children awake in months. I don’t have the cash for cigarettes. All that my loving wife can prepare for me is
A jibneh sandwich
With cucumber
In a plastic bag
Clutched in your callused laborer’s hand
And it never survives the five hours in the cattle holding pen where we are reduced to animals stampeding and trampling each other to death before I am allowed to escape.
You are out of the line
Fifteen men between you were pulled aside
And you tried not to look
Not to hear the one begging
Don’t hit me
I make it to where I seek to serve the settler masters. You never knew, of course; I was too ashamed to admit it even to my wife. But my “Zionist settler boss-man” has been putting me to work on “my Jiddo’s farm” where his Jaffa orange grove in Kufr Huj once thrived.  As you know, today the boss-man shouted insults at me:
Mish hon el yom
Not here today
And all you can do is thank Allah that your
Wife and your babies are not
There to hear them call you
It is sweet of you Susan to keep that one just between us, not to have them insult me before my wife and children, not to rub my face in the dirt again. And I appreciate letting me keep the faith: I still have it in me to thank God for little favors. Many brothers and sisters have tired of thanking Him, Allathi la yushkaru ala makruhin siwah-- no other but him is thanked for hateful matters.
I shall stop here. I am emotionally drained, exhausted. Let others handle your love affair with Neruda and the section where we gain a peek at your vicarious life and family affairs. Others may understand better your controlled anger at “The Way Things Are.” It is enough for me that I tried to answer the accusations you flung against me, your Palestinian brother. I tried to do it without raising your ire. I don’t want to harm our common cause with factionalism over internal issues.
It was not politicians or media moguls who first turned the tide against the massacres in Vietnam or who freed South Africa. It was men and woman of conscience who did that: poets, writers, pastors, singers, actors, dancers, comedians and all sorts of artists and intellectuals. This week I saw Annemarie Jacir’s film “Lamma shuftak.” At the MOMA, no less! Believe me, change is in the air. And it is brave people like you and the courage of the likes of those in charge of Just World Books that give us hope.
There is a job to be done. My age group couldn’t have done it. But we are ready to help. We both are fallahin and know the spirit of collective action. Once we knew how to do it in facing nature’s disasters and in dealing with its gifts of plenty in our fields. Let us all join together and kick ass, as you would say.

Note: This review was first published in Palestine Chronicle.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thomas Friedman Occupies the BDS

Thomas Friedman is in Ramallah on a mission. Apparently he has to sell the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to the Palestinian National Authority. On repeated occasions the PA had announced it does not support the BDS campaign launched in 2005 by Palestinian civil society including labor unions, NGOs and student groups. The efforts of so many Palestinian volunteers and their international supporters are currently snowballing at a worrying rate, a much faster rate than the boycott against Apartheid South Africa did at a comparable time. It has become a veritable popular movement across the world. But Friedman ignores all of that and announces in his piece  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/05/opinion/friedman-the-third-intifada.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20140205

“But this Third Intifada isn’t really led by Palestinians in Ramallah. It’s led by the European Union in Brussels and other opponents of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank across the globe. Regardless of origin, though, it’s becoming a real source of leverage for the Palestinians in their negotiations with Israel.”

He thinks he can bribe all the BDSers by using the glorious name of “Third Intifada” and dumping it all in the lap of the PNA. What a low blow! What cleverness! He apparently doesn’t realize that a major worry of BDS activists that the PNA may undercut their achievements by signing some agreement that can serve as a fig leaf. Note that Friedman doesn’t mention BDS in his article, not once. He finds all kinds of culprits to blame it on, from Nelson Mandela to Ahmadinejad, but not Palestinians other than his hosts in Ramallah.

The man is a real con artist: Not only does he try to obfuscate the origin of the successful movement and the extent of its success but he tries to cut it down to acceptable proportions. Not only is BDS never mentioned by name but also it is pared down to one negotiable issue: the West Bank occupation and the fate of the settlements there. No right of return and no equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the other two integral parts of the campaign that add further universality and international appeal to it. To Friedman the only Palestinians are the PNA and the only issue for them is the fate of the West Bank settlers. Pressure the PNA enough to scuttle that and all is well.

Let us hope Friedman’s readers have read Omar Barghouti’s piece in the New York Times from last Sunday.
The difference between real and imagined is clear.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Ariel Sharon’s World Legacy

There is a social taboo on cursing the dead. But in the case of Ariel Sharon, there is a general consensus that he was a brutal thug and people are saying that openly. I struggle to say something about the man without betraying my utter disgust with his legacy of warmongering and power grabbing. “Brutal thug” is the nicest descriptive I find in the kindness of my heart to fling at the man in parting. I look at the cherubic smile on his bulldog face in the picture and wonder what makes it evoke such revulsion deep in my soul.

The man had a physical presence that was difficult to dismiss, a corpulence of bovine proportions that lent credence to the Palestinian mothers’ usage of his name to threaten their misbehaving babies. I never met Sharon in person. Yet every time I saw him on TV I had the urge to use the standard Boy Scout trick when threatened by a wild boar or an angry bear: to project an expanded body image myself by spreading my arms up with a sheet or a coat hanging from them while banging vigorously on a pot to intimidate the wild animal and drive it back from me.

Then I get an inkling of a rationale for my hateful attitude: Sharon nearly tricked me into choosing to abandon my native home. My wife, an American citizen, and I had another option to living in Israel. With his rapid climb to prominence in Israel’s political life we made a well thought-out plan, or so we thought at the time: If and when Sharon gets to lead Israel, we would leave, we promised ourselves. When the time came and the man’s inevitable rise to Israel’s premiership materialized we sat and reassessed our commitment again. Quickly, we concluded that in making our previous calculations we had evidenced undeserved trust in the Israeli electorate. Israel as a whole was becoming a sinister collective and it was a mistake to have placed our trust in it. In weighing our steps we had made a mistake in giving the reins of decision-making on our future to a society that defined itself as exclusive of us in the first place. We were not Jews and the vast majority of Israel’s citizens saw the state of Israel and its society as Jewish and understood that to exclude the likes of us. Whichever way we looked at it and hard as we tried it was impossible to balance the contradiction of a “democratic and Jewish state.” It just was too heavy at the base for us to balance it on its head so that we would fit in it. It left us out in the cold. So how had we dared put our future in the hands of an apartheid society mired deeper by the day in the violence, blood and slime of occupation of our brothers and sisters. The sweetest recurrent wet dream of Zionism had always been to dislodge me off of my native land. And here I was putting the decision on my sacred right to live on my land in the hands of Sharon and his fascist fans. What an illogical decision had my wife and I made! We reversed that decision on the spot and set ourselves a much more challenging goal: to help expose the falsity of Israeli democracy to the world and to challenge the world to meet its moral responsibility vis-à-vis the lie.

It can be said in Sharon’s defense that he was innocent of any sense of right or wrong. His acts of violence seemed to be like those of an unthinking being, not unlike a slug’s unawareness of what its actions might do to others. Or even like those of an inanimate object, an independent robot programmed to do harm. Not only that the concept of right and wrong didn’t count in calculating the outcome of its actions but that such concept wasn’t there in the first place. It gave the man a certain appearance of innocence, almost like a child’s. Except that a child displays readiness to learn, a quality that invites lecturing, reprimand and punishment. Here there was a self-evident uselessness of such interventions. The man did what he did because violence and harming others was in his nature not because he willed it.

Blood didn’t seem to soil Sharon’s hands. Hiis hands were always that way; it was part of his constituency. Very early in his military career, the grand master of Israel’s independence saw through Sharon clearly and advised him to abandon his studies and to pursue his natural bend for killing. Sharon never forgot or changed the track that Ben Gurion set him on. He went on from Qebya to Gaza to Sabra and Shatilla to Jenin, When his murderous legacy clashed with accepted international standards of behavior, the world had to adjust itself to his reality: Israel’s Labor government under Barak sent a thousand policemen and fired 1.3 million bullets in October of 2000 to guard him on his provocative visit to Al-Aqsa grounds. Belgium changed its laws to get him of the hook of Sabra and Shatilla war crime. And president George W. Bush praised him as a “man of peace.” Sharon just took it all in his stride and continued killing Palestinians and Arabs. His admirers saw all of this in a positive light. To them he was not a scary beast but a step beyond in lacking blame: To them he was a machine: They called him “The Bulldozer.” In my imagination the apt simile took hold when he, in the form of a D-9 Caterpillar, went over Rachel Corrie with the blade once then reversed to verify the kill.

Clearly, the man lacked a conscience. But what does that say about all the world leaders and media commentators who continue to pile accolades on the dead war criminal? Perhaps it just shows how low the world had sunk in its efforts to observe proper diplomatic protocol. But what does it say about Israel as the country that had chosen him as its leader and that continues to follow in his path to this day. After all, Netanyahu and Lieberman are practicing what Sharon had preached. Except that Sharon’s style of random violence is now being codified as Israeli law and adopted as mainstream policy.

All in all, John Kerry, the American Secretary of State, summed up the man’s legacy accurately: “Ariel Sharon’s journey was Israel’s Journey.” With America, as personified in its current president for example, spouting off its automotive mantra of “Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, has the right to defend itself,” Sharon’s journey has become America’s journey as well. It is on its way to becoming the world’s journey.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Castrate Them All

This morning’s portion of news articles collated by Dorothy Naor of Newprofile is alarming: Palestinian physicians are officially maligned in Israel. Take a look at Haaretz: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.553504

Channel 10’s main news broadcast last Wednesday evening reported that the National Civilian Service Administration had ordered its religiously observant women volunteers not to work after 9 P.M. According to the news broadcast, this decision was made by the Lehava anti-assimilation organization after “reports were received about intimate relationships between young women performing their national service and Arab physicians in the hospitals where they volunteered,” as reported on the Nana 10 online portal. The website quoted one of the rabbis as having said in the past, “I’m hearing horrible stories about good girls.” The head of the National Civilian Service Administration made sure to mention that the decision was made with the blessing of the minister in charge, Naftali Bennett.

And Palestinian lawyers are targeted for detention left and right in the OPT. http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/anas-bargouthi-released-2013-10-23
Of the classic elite triad in Palestinian society only architects go scot-free. Here is the likely plot for snaring the sneaky buggers (Pardon the vulgarity, but I am a physician and it irks me to see lesser professionals escape Israel’s dragnet):
It all started in the city of Sakhnin where the regional planning committee is located. It is made up exclusively of Arab representatives of the Arab member communities. Thank goodness the Interior ministry had appointed a Jewish head for the group with all the attendant arbitrary powers to restrain their freakiness. Someone has to hold the reins lest these scums of the earth with degrees in architecture from sundry East European make-believe institutes despoil our women and sully the purity of our virgin girls. Haven’t you heard of Arab physicians on night duty luring Jewish nurses to bed so often that the responsible ministry had to issue an edict banning those innocent girls from working night shifts? It is a shame we have to resort to such self-punishing steps to guard the purity of the race in this specific case. At least in Yehuda and Shomron, where our female lawyers and judges are at risk of being lured by Palestinian imposters that call themselves lawyers, we can put them in preventive detention forever or, at least, till our women drop from their excited hormonal highs.
And now we have these fake architects. Look at all the mini minarets and domes that so many of their planned palaces have. If those are not phallic symbols I don’t know what is. Look at a village like Arrabeh! Not one but eight mosques, for Gosh sake! And each with its own pointed high minaret or two. What is that all for if not to spite us? Every time I drive by I experience the pain that they surely intended to cause us. Personally, I am not sure if I find it all that exciting. But think what an imaginative young woman could feel. And what Arab village home doesn’t have those suggestive multiple arches. Look at the fancy sweep each pillar between the arches fans out to hint at in the deeply suggestive sexuality of their entire architectural style. What does the upward flare of each column say but ‘climax!’
Speaking of which, think of the three consecutive earthquakes that shook Tiberius over the week. What is that if not the work of Palestinian architects and engineers. They are digging their tunnels from the basements of their homes in Gaza clear across to Iran. Who said it doesn’t shake the foundations of our vulnerable country? Palestinian engineers and architects are an existential threat to the Jewish state in more ways than one. Something has to be done about all of that. It has to be stemmed at source, nipped in the bud, in the filthy minds of their jihadist architects. The Knesset should be able to pass a law to castrate all Arab architects and civil engineers. Period!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Preparing The Way For Truth And Reconciliation

A Review of Beyond Tribal Loyalties –Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activities.
Avigail Abarbanel, Editor; Cambridge Scholars Publishing; 2012.

Of late, the atmosphere in The Middle East has been murky; indeed murkier than usual. Violent weather systems and desert sandstorms have replaced the once promising Arab Spring. Forecasters predict hurricanes brewing out of control with more death and destruction for all of us. All around, sanity is ebbing fast. So it was no small matter for me to find a refreshing reservoir of lucidity in the midst of the mass mania. I chose to retreat from the raucous media incitement to this humble attempt at collective enlightenment initiated and overseen by my psychotherapist friend Avigail Abarbanel. The war mentality reigning all around us lent a sense of unreality to the straightforward 25 individual accounts of awakening to the lure of peace, justice and equality in Palestine/Israel. These together with a Foreword by the philosopher Sara Roy and an Introduction and Afterward by the editor, constitute this unique contribution to modern peace literature in the Middle East.
In her introduction, Abarbanel admits to having a hidden agenda. In recruiting the significant list of Jewish peace activists as contributors to her project, she outlined for them the task at hand: Each was to cover his or her background, the evolution of their views, what caused them to move in the direction they have chosen, and what price they have paid for their exceptional choices. She wanted to “know what is different or special about these activists that they are prepared to do this [peace activism] when the vast majority of Jews do not.” In the afterword she follows up on her set agenda delving into the contributed material with an ambitious plan to discover the magic factor that unites all of her fellow Jewish peace activists. She attempts to determine a single explanation, a shared turning point or a pivotal event common to all. As appropriate for a psychologist, she discovers the answer within the realm of the psychological makeup of the activists:
I realized that there is in fact something that all the activists in this book have in common: they all have the capacity to tolerate difficult emotions. I call this “emotional resilience.”
Then Abarbanel proceeds to expound the subtleties of such a psychological trait.

As I went through the book, I first jumped around enchanted by the pieces of the half dozen contributors I knew in person before attempting to read the book in an orderly fashion. By then I had set a private scheme of my own. I wanted to construct a model Jewish peace activist, the average character that would emerge from adding up all 25 contributions and selecting for common attributes that a clear majority if not all of them do have. I decided to fall back on my limited but good founding in mathematics and came out with the following average character, the representative Jewish career peace activist:
The figure that emerged is akin to the proverbial horse designed by a committee: She is usually a woman who grew up in a liberal Jewish family. Her parents were mostly of the PEP (Progressive Except on Palestine) variety with solid WIZO and JNF credentials, accepting and propounding their dominant communal mythology and undisputed gospel, both that of the Old Testament and of the Zionist doctrines with all the required founding ‘truths.’ These included the Promised Land being “a land without a people for a people without a land,” the Palestinians’ placid departure in 1948 despite their ill will and violent nature, and the benign and peaceful nature of the state of Israel. The family’s constricted constellation has a multitude of missing segments, often larger than the remaining ones, due to the atrocities of the Holocaust, facts that justify faithful solidarity with Israel as the homeland for all Jews in the face of the ever-present threat of genocide against them by the hateful Goyim and with the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) as the protector of all Jews.
So far the figure is hardly distinctive. She also follows the standard routine of most Jewish youth born and raised abroad of visiting Israel for a vacation, for study, for a summer camp or for a volunteer service experience. Then our woman goes on to higher education and is exposed to the wider world. Somewhere along the way she is exposed to a different point of view about the Israel-Palestine conflict: She meets Palestinians and is surprised to find that they are human, she reads a book by the likes of Edward Said or Avi Shlaim or is otherwise exposed to an alternative source of information with ‘subversive content.’ That blows the cover off of her former solid Hasbara world. The cognitive dissonance within her cries for resolution and she commits to finding the truth for her self. From there the descent into pro-Palestinian activism is inevitable leading even to espousing the right of Palestinians to speak for themselves and  to following their lead in such campaigns as BDS. Punishment for such a sin is not long in coming in the form of exclusion from the tribal fold and the loss of former friendships.

It is worth repeating that the above is a composite character that lacks an exact fit to any of the 25 contributors. In fact it differs distinctly in several details from the editor herself, evidence, if such is needed, of the uniqueness and individuality of free spirits and revolutionaries. Yet the contributors sharing in this celebration of humanitarian activism seem not to break out of the narrow mold of their pre-enlightenment Zionist condition: They seem to share an unconscious tethering to Israel as the focus of their activism with little attention to other worthy indigenous causes even when the similarities to the Palestinian condition scream for attention. Tossed on many shores by the tsunami of the actualization of the Zionist colonial project, the indigenous Palestinians are acutely aware of the commonality of their cause. Many strive to join forces in their struggle to other disinherited indigenous groups. Thus, despite the presumed focus of the volume on Israel and Palestine, and Hazel Kahan’s casual mention (p. 231) of Australia’s Aborigine policies, I find it strange that none of the American, Canadian or Australian contributors addresses the issues of Native Americans and the Aboriginals in conjunction with the dispossession of the Palestinians. Peter Slezak (p 82) reflects on the subject of the “unreflexive, self-celebratory group affiliation” of the Jewish people at large and brings up the debate about Hanna Arendt’s exceptional deviation from such standard narrow focus. And Lesley Levy wonders (p. 87) “why I am spending so much time and energy on this issue when there are so many other desperate causes in the world.” She seems to conclude that the answer is to be found in her “yearning to cry out: ‘Not in my Name!’” Still, the narrow focus of attention of the entire group on Israel-Palestine to the disregard of the many valid associations one can make to other disinherited natives leaves a gaping hole in their mantle of humanitarian concern and bars them all from true sainthood.
Zochrot, the Israeli leftist peace movement, is currently organizing a unique event in a nearby pine forest and recreational park known to most Israelis as South Africa Forest located halfway between Nazareth and Tiberius. The plan is for a group of Jewish former JNF activists to meet in person with a group of Palestinians. What is unique about the JNF former supporters is that they are South African and that they had formerly contributed to planting and maintaining the forest and park named proudly after their country. The Palestinians are internal refugees from the destroyed village of Lubya on whose remains the forest stands and whose existence and heritage the forest is meant to hide. The repentant former contributors to the crime of ‘communicide’ will offer an apology to the refugees of Lubya for desecrating their village with the JNF camouflage and ask for forgiveness. This is an example of the required Truth-and-Reconciliation style process required for laying the foundation for a single secular and democratic state in Israel-Palestine. “Beyond Tribal Loyalties” is a preliminary step towards such a process.