Volume XIII, Fall 2006, Number 3
The Other Israel, Voices of Refusal and Dissent
Foreword by Tom Segev and Introduction by Anthony Lewis. Edited by Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin. New Press: 2002. 224 pages, $22.95, hardcover.Edward Corrigan
Immigration and refugee lawyer in London, Ontario, Canada.
The Other Israel, Voices of Refusal and Dissent presents the views of 28 leading Israeli activists and writers. This anthology also includes an introduction by Anthony Lewis, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and a former columnist for The New York Times. Mr. Lewis is currently the James Madison Visiting Professor at Columbia University. The editors are Roane Carey of The Nation and Jonathan Shainin of the New Press.
The book is divided into five parts: (1) The Setting; (2) Dissent; (3) Refusal; (4) The Escalation: Dispatches from the War of Occupation; and (5) The Resolution? The foreword is by the prominent Israeli writer Tom Segev, author of The Seventh Million and One Palestine Complete and a columnist for the Israeli daily Ha’aretz. The title refers to those Israelis opposed to the policies of the Israeli government toward the Palestinians. It was published in 2002, when the second Palestinian intifada was at its height. It is still very relevant today as the struggle between the Zionists and the Palestinians grinds on. Many in North America are not aware of these dissident voices.
Segev’s foreword recounts a story about Gabriel Stern, a journalist in Israel who supported coexistence between Jews and Palestinians. According to Segev, “Similar voices often figured in Israeli public discourse and were also prominent in the Hebrew press. The central point that readers of this collection should recognize is that its contributors are bolstered by a long tradition: Voices of dissent and Jewish humanism have accompanied the Zionist movement since its inception? (p. viii).
Segev discusses Ahad Ha”Am, who published an article in 1891 entitled, “The Truth from the Land of Israel.” He included the observation that Jewish settlers “treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, trespass unjustly on their territories, beat them shamelessly for no sufficient reason, and boast at having done so? (p. ix). He attributed this behavior to a psychological cause: “They were slaves in their land of exile, and suddenly they find they have unlimited freedom, wild freedom . . . .This sudden change has produced in their hearts an inclination toward repressive despotism, as always occurs when “the slave becomes king?(p. ix). According to Segev,
After the establishment of the state, there was no longer any point in arguing over the foundations of the Zionist outlook. The dissent was now focused mainly on the wrongs Israel was inflicting on its Arab citizens, which included further deportations and a series of restrictions on civil liberties, such as the military rule imposed on Israeli Arabs during the 1950s by the Ben-Gurion government (p. ix).
Bringing us up to the present, Segev comments on the second Palestinian intifada, which erupted in September 2000. “The terror attacks against densely populated Israeli targets caused many Israelis to revert to a tribal, isolated, emotional and nationalistic mood? (p. xiii). This reversion created difficulties for the writers in this volume and, according to Segev, limits their influence. He quotes an Arab saying, “The dogs bark and the convoy marches on?:
Why, then do we bark? . . . .Life in a society that is not being conducted in a manner that seems right to us, acts of wrongdoing, and sometimes even real war crimes perpetrated in our name arouse in us the need to at least leave behind a testimony that we were against it. In our vanity, we naturally believe that future generations will read our work, and it is important to us that they know: We were the good guys on this side of the border (p. xiii).
The first essay in the anthology is “The Six-Day War’s Seventh Day,” by Michael Ben-Yair, a former attorney general of Israel. Ben-Yair describes Israel’s rule over the Occupied Territories:
The Six-day War was forced upon us; however, the war’s seventh day, which began on June 12, 1967, and has continued to this day, is the product of our choice. We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities. Passionately desiring to keep the occupied territories, we develop two judicial systems: one progressive, liberal in Israel and the other cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. That oppressive regime exists to this day (p. 13).
There is much debate on whether the war was “forced upon” Israel. Many Israeli leaders and scholars indicate that the Six-day War was a war of choice and that Israel chose to attack Egypt, seize the Golan Heights and occupy the West Bank, Gaza and Sinai, and encourage thousands of Arabs to flee. A CIA report also confirms that it was Israel that fired first (see “CIA Analysis of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War,” by David S. Robarge, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 49, No. I, 2005).
Ben-Yair says that there is a “black flag? hanging over Israel’s actions, a term used by Judge Binyamin Halevy in the 1958 trial of members of the Israeli Border Police who shot and killed nearly 50 Israeli Arab civilians from Kafr Kassem who were unaware that their village had been placed under curfew at the start of the 1956 Sinai War. Judge Halevy wrote, “The hallmark of manifest illegality is that it must wave like a black flag over the given order? (p. 14). Ben-Yair builds upon this image and states,
Israel’s security cannot be based only on the sword; it must rather be based on our principles of moral justice and on peace with our neighbors, those living next door and those living a little farther away. An occupation regime undermines those principles of moral justice and prevents the attainment of peace. Thus, that regime endangers Israel’s existence (pp. 14-15).
Tanya Reinhart in “The Second Half of 1948? critically analyses the two competing Israeli establishment strategies to deal with the Palestinian issue. The first is the Allon Plan, which consisted of annexation of 35-40 percent of the occupied territories; Reinhart describes it as “apartheid? (p. 18). The alternative policy