David Shulman is the Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an activist in Ta’ayush, Arab-Jewish Partnership. His latest book is More than Real: A History of the Imagination in South India. (October 2012)
From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia by Pankaj Mishra
The Crisis of Zionism by Peter Beinart
What Is a Palestinian State Worth? by Sari Nusseibeh
Occupation of the Territories: Israeli Soldier Testimonies 2000–2010 by Breaking the Silence
Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India by William Dalrymple
The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Doniger
Wall, Josef Koudelka’s new book of eloquent black-and-white photographs, taken over four years in repeated trips to Israel and Palestine, reveals a Biblical landscape ravaged by greed and by the desperate illusion that safety, at least some tentative and temporary form of safety, can be found in a big fence.
On March 16, I joined some twenty-five children who had gathered with Palestinian peace activists in a house in Hebron city to learn about Martin Luther King and nonviolent resistance.
Kudiyattam performances are never short. In their natural form, they range from twelve hours to over one hundred and fifty hours. This summer I spent all of August in central Kerala with my Sanskrit and Malayalam students, witnessing one of the great compositions of this tradition, the so-called Anguliyankam, or Drama of the Ring, which went on for some 130 hours spread over twenty-nine nights.
In 1949, shortly after Israel’s War of Independence, the Hebrew writer S. Yizhar published a story that became an instant classic. “Khirbet Khizeh” is a fictionalized account of the destruction of a Palestinian village and the expulsion of all its inhabitants by Israeli soldiers in the course of the war. The narrator, a soldier in the unit that carries out the order, is sickened by what is being done to the innocent villagers. Sixty-three years have passed since Yizhar wrote “Khirbet Khizeh.” I wish I could say that what he described was an ugly exception and that such actions don’t happen any more. This week I find myself in Susya, in the South Hebron hills, whose inhabitants, if the Israeli Civil Administration gets its way, will be, quite literally, cast into the desert.
There are tragic internal concomitants to the dramatic political failure at the top in Israel. That failure and the moral pathology that motivates it are more and more seeping down into the Israeli grass roots; or maybe they have been festering there for years, fed by the occupation and its cruelties. Ehud Barak used to say that when a truly moderate Palestinian leadership would arise, the demand to make peace would well up from below in Israel and force the government to act in this direction. Evidently, he was wrong. Consider what happened on the second day of Rosh Hashana, Friday, September 30, in the settlement known as Anatot, just north of Jerusalem.
On the West Bank, the Palestinian September has come and gone in an eerie quiet. Abu Mazen returned from the UN to a hero’s welcome in Ramallah, and there were low-key celebrations in other cities as well; but the mass demonstrations that many predicted, and that the Israelis feared, have not materialized. The Palestinian security forces were given strict orders to keep demonstrators away from potential places of friction such as roadblocks, checkpoints, and of course Israeli settlements. Expecting the worst, the Israeli army invested considerable resources in crowd-control technology, including the infamous “Skunk” spray, which disperses an unbearable malodorous mist; but so far they haven’t needed these methods. In the meantime, has anything changed on the ground?
On one side, we have a violent, mystically charged racism with its vision of brute domination of one people by another, and of an endgame of perpetual disenfranchisement and dispossession. On the other side, we have the prospect of a free Palestine, with its capital in East Jerusalem, the end of the Occupation, and the realistic hope of an agreement based on compromise and mutuality.
Richard Goldstone’s much-discussed retraction of key findings in his committee’s report on the 2009 Gaza war has produced in Israel a predictable burst of self-congratulation.
To read the accounts gathered in Occupation of the Territories: Israeli Soldiers’ Testimonies 2000-2010 is to see the profound moral corruption of the occupation in all its starkness.
Can we make any sense of Israel’s policy toward Gaza? I think we can—a rather sinister sense—but only if we look beyond the mass of sometimes conflicting details that have emerged since the attack on the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” on May 31.
The fact that Gaza is still under siege has hardly infiltrated Israeli awareness. The first anniversary of Israel’s military intervention in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, has of course been noted in the Israeli press. The predominant tone, even in Haaretz, supposedly the voice of the liberal left, is almost smug. The rain of Qassam missiles on Israeli cities and villages has more or less halted; in recent months housing prices in Sderot, which is less than a mile from Gaza, have soared, and demand for plots of land in the moshavim close to the Gaza border far outstrips supply. So for Israelis the campaign was clearly a success, despite the 1,400 Palestinian dead, the 3,540 houses destroyed in Gaza, the devastation of the civilian infrastructure there, and the international outcry about possible Israeli war crimes.
Questions of human rights abuses in Israel and the charges of war crimes put forward by the UN’s Goldstone report have produced little more than the usual disingenuous accusations of anti-Semitism. Even Moshe Halbertal, an unusually cogent Israeli participant-observer, takes the Goldstone commission to task in The New Republic for trying to link the Gaza campaign to the wider setting of the occupation and Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. “Why,” he asks, “should a committee with a mandate to inquire into the operation in Gaza deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at large?”