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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Maybe the Palestinians in East Jerusalem love being swamped by hordes of young liberal Israelis banging drums in their front yard. But we simply can’t know because the Israelis in the film are too are busy explaining their feelings.
Bacha’s earlier film Budrus was also problematic in similar ways, but at least you could learn about Palestinian stories and struggles, and at least it succeeded as a film in itself, even if it did overly pander to American liberal sensibilities. My Neighborhood has all the negative aspects of Budrus, magnified but with few of the redeeming features.
The best chapter in the book is the one dedicated to giving Benny Morris a good kicking. Morris gained fame as one of the “new historians” who dived into the Israeli archives and reassessed old Zionist myths about the establishment of Israel. Morris’ exposure of the deliberate and calculated nature of Israel’s mass expulsion of Palestinians in 1948 remains significant.
If Knowing Too Much had come out in 2008 (as originally intended), the central argument may have been more controversial, but as Finkelstein notes it has by now almost passed into conventional wisdom (299). A more interesting question, though, is why this shift in liberal opinion has happened, and here Finkelstein is most unconvincing.
Tom Hurndall, the British photography student and ISM activist was murdered by an Israeli sniper in 2003. His family and friends got together to put out a book of his photography and writing. Here is my review of it for Electronic Intifada:
The photography here is accompanied by entries from Hurndall’s diary, emails he sent back home and articles he wrote in a student magazine. There are photos from Iraq and Jordan, but half of the book is dedicated to his Gaza work. This high-quality glossy book has been lovingly curated and put together, and judging from the acknowledgments page, his family, friends and supporters even stumped up the money. The design of the book is beautiful, even though the subject matter is often brutal and stark. It is an almost-macabre artifact.
My latest book review, published by The Electronic Intifada last night:
Leila Khaled was only a small child when her family fled Haifa before the Zionist ethnic cleansing operations could reach them. Her father briefly joined the Palestinian resistance before the family ended up refugees in Lebanon, like thousands of other Palestinians (14). There she and others in her family joined the Arab National Movement founded by George Habash, from which the PFLP emerged in 1967.
Eventually, she persuaded the Marxist-Leninist group to train her as a guerrilla fighter in Jordan. Irving describes Khaled’s time camping in the hinterlands north of Amman, learning how to use grenades and to shoot: “I was so happy that for the first three days and night I could not sleep,” Khaled said (29).
There is no shortage of books in English about the Palestinian political party and Islamic resistance movement Hamas. This latest effort is by Italian journalist Paola Caridi, who has lived in the Middle East since 2001.