Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948

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The cultural legacy of the Al-Aksa Intifada may not be worth very much to Palestinians and Israelis. With the only images of the conflict being slingshot-bearing children facing down tanks, or the tangled metal remains of commuter buses blown apart by suicide bombers, it would be hard to imagine that such a war would produce anything other than heartbreak and fear.

Tanya Reinhart

Reviewed by Joel Schalit

Thursday, June 12 2003, 04:15 PM


The cultural legacy of the Al-Aksa Intifada may not be worth very much to Palestinians and Israelis. With the only images of the conflict being slingshot-bearing children facing down tanks, or the tangled metal remains of commuter buses blown apart by suicide bombers, it would be hard to imagine that such a war would produce anything other than heartbreak and fear. Yet, curiously enough, for a nation that his historically been described as having more violinists and surgeons than plumbers and electricians, it is not entirely unthinkable that it would end up helping redefine contemporary contrarian chique: that of the Israeli dissident intellectual.

Taking its cue from the courageous reporting and biting opinion editorial writing of Ha'aretz newspaper writers such as Amira Hass and Aluf Benn, read in translation on Ha'aretz' own English-language website and through the pages of periodicals such as Le Monde Diplomatique and Salon, progressive Israeli journalists have helped redefine what it means to be an intellectual refusenik during the War on Terrorism. Why such writers have come to embody such an identity is not difficult to understand given the remarkable lack of criticism of the war in American periodicals and television reporting. Reflecting the incredibly polarized nature of Israeli political discourse, Israeli political writing has always been extremely opinionated, if not outspoken.

What is remarkable is that it took so long for European and American publishers to pick up on this fact. Yet, after two and a half years of war, we have begun to witness what will inevitably be a deluge of translations of leftist Israeli literature by progressive American publishers. Beginning with recent publication of Roane Carey and Jonathan Shainin's collection The Other Israel and most recently, Tanya Reinhart's Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948, English-speaking audiences are finally getting the opportunity to hear the voices of the Israeli left, and, as alluded to in Carey and Shainin's book, learn that Israel is not so ideologically closed that it lacks its own inside critics. For those persons in the Diaspora interested in a truly effective solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict, taking left-wing Israeli intellectuals seriously is of the utmost importance, because like any ideological formation, Israeli society radically resists any attempt at over-simplification.

A professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University, Reinhart is not an unknown entity in Israel. Writing a bi-weekly column for Israel's largest daily, Yediot Ahronot, Reinhart has maintained a consistently critical position towards the so-called 'peace process' since the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. Her first book-length treatment of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Israel/Palestine is more than just a milestone in her own career as a public intellectual. Its also an incredibly moving piece of concise and highly moralistic historiography, the first such popular history of the second Intifada to be written during the current conflict. Intensely researched, beautifully argued, and thoroughly depressing in it's conclusions, Israel/Palestine is destined to be continuously updated in much the same way as Howard Zinn's groundbreaking A People's History of the United States. For an excellent introduction to a growing body of progressive literature, there's no better place to start.

Israel/Palestine is available from Seven Stories Press 

Copyright © 2003 by Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.
 

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