Tag Archives: Reviews

My review of Shlomo Sand’s new book, “The Invention of the Land of Israel”

A fascinating read. Here is my opinion on it.

In 1897, the same year as the first Zionist congress, Israel Belkind (“the first practical Zionist”) drew a map: “ ‘The Jordan splits the Land of Israel in two different sections,’ asserted Belkind, whose assessment was subsequently adopted by most [Zionist] settlers of the period” (216).

For the future first prime minister of Israel David Ben Gurion, these borders “were too expansive and untenable, while the borders of the Talmudic commandment were too narrow.” In 1918 he gave his own take: “In the north — the Litani River, between Tyre and Sidon [in Lebanon] … In the east — the Syrian Desert. The eastern border of the Land of Israel should not be precisely demarcated … the Land’s eastern borders will be diverted eastwards, and the area of the Land of Israel will expand” (217).

Not for nothing were the borders of the new state unmentioned in its declaration of independence (233).

UPDATE: Someone has translated my review into French.

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Politics of Palestine’s everyday captured in stunning debut film

My new review of a this little gem of a film:

The film’s title comes from a poem by the late Mahmoud Darwish, “Mural”:

Two meters of this land are enough for now.
A meter and seventy-five centimeters are enough for me.
The rest is for a chaos of brilliant flowers to slowly soak up my body.

Darwish wrote here about what would happen to his body after his death. The final scene takes place at his grave, where two of the dancers have absconded, bored with all the waiting.

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My review of “5 Broken Cameras”

My review here:

Anyone visiting the demonstrations against Israel’s wall in the West Bank village of Bilin over the last six years will have likely seen Emad Burnat and his camera, filming everything — anytime he was not in prison or in the hospital, at least.

Five Broken Cameras is the product of years’ worth of Burnat’s footage from these demonstrations. Co-directed by Israeli filmmaker Guy Davidi, the film takes the viewer through five years of the life of the village as the popular resistance against the wall begins.

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My review of an interesting film on Palestine for beginners

And you can watch the entire film for free here, or on Sami’s website too. Extract from my review:

The boldly titled feature-length documentary How We Can Solve The Palestinian Israeli Problem (which can be viewed online) is the work of Sami Moukaddem, a multi-talented Lebanese psychologist and musician living in Ireland.

Early on, Moukaddem speaks to the camera and says he has no experience as a filmmaker, and that he just wanted to make a film to explain the basic issues: “I simply got tired of western mainstream media presenting the Palestinian-Israeli issue as being complex,” he says. He then narrates from a first-person perspective throughout.

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My review of Tony Lerman’s book

A great read and most interesting (and incidentally nice to see Pluto put out an affordable hardback edition). This positive review by me for EI will likely be grist to his enemies’ mill, but Tony doesn’t seem too worried about that any more. An extract:

What happens when a mainstream public figure within the Jewish community develops doubts about Israel and Zionism? Can the head of an important Jewish think tank who has come to reject his Zionist convictions sustain his position as a critical insider?

These questions are addressed in The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist, a new memoir by Antony Lerman.

Born to moderate orthodox parents in Golders Green (3), London, Lerman joined the Habonim labor Zionist youth movement in his teens. Along with its youth centers, Habonim owned a remote East Sussex farm known as the hachshara (“training”) where it prepared members for life in the kibbutzim, Israel’s collective agricultural colonies (31).

He eventually went on to become leader of the movement in the UK. Although after 1967 Habonim activists still saw themselves “as guardians of moderate and liberal socialist Zionism … the vast majority of us slipped so easily into a way of thinking that legitimized the occupation” of the West Bank, Gaza and the Syrian Golan Heights (34-5).

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My review of “The Palestine-Israel Conflict: A Basic Introduction”

Here’s my review for EI. The found the book to be something of a let down:

At the root of such problems is Harms’ fundamental approach, which he spells out in the preface: “I have sought to present the history of the conflict in a balanced and actual light” (xv). The aim of imposing the prism of “balance” on the fundamentally imbalanced situation of a settler movement’s ongoing colonization of an occupied land is doomed to failure. This lies at the heart of much of what is wrong with the book.

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Book review: how Israeli school textbooks teach kids to hate

I have reviewed Nurit Peled-Elhanan’s import study of Israeli school textbooks for EI. It’s been going viral online, especially on Twitter (sometimes I’m not quite sure why certain articles take off more than others). I previously blogged a video of her being interviewed too. Here’s an extract of my review:

In an important new book, Palestine in Israeli School Books, Israeli language and education professor Nurit Peled-Elhanan buries the second part of Livni’s myth once and for all.

Peled-Elhanan examines 17 Israeli school textbooks on history, geography and civic studies. Her conclusions are an indictment of the Israeli system of indoctrination and its cultivation of anti-Arab racism from an early age: “The books studied here harness the past to the benefit of the … Israeli policy of expansion, whether they were published during leftist or right-wing [education] ministries” (224).

Update: this article was pretty popular, probably my most popular book review. It has been translated into Flemish Dutch (I can’t vouch for the translation and know nothing about the website). I think it was translated into French as well, but I can’t find the link now.

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