November 2006

If one thing offers a terrifying glimpse of where the experiment in human despair that is Gaza under Israeli siege is leading, it is the news that a Palestinian woman in her sixties — a grandmother — chose last week to strap on a suicide belt and explode herself next to a group of Israeli soldiers invading her refugee camp. Despite the “Man bites dog” news value of the story, most of the Israeli media played down the incident. Not surprisingly: it is difficult to portray Fatma al-Najar as a crazed fanatic bent only the destruction of Israel.

Prime suspects

24 November 2006

Commentators and columnists seem agreed: Pierre Gemayel’s assassination must have been the handiwork of Syria. President Bush thinks so too. Case, apparently, closed. I do not claim to know who killed Gemayel. Maybe Syria was behind the shooting. Maybe, in Lebanon’s notoriously intrigue-ridden political system, someone with a grudge against Gemayel pulled the trigger. Or maybe, Israel once again flexed the muscles of its long arm in Lebanon. It seems, however, as if the last possibility cannot be entertained in polite society. So let me offer a few impolite thoughts. As anyone who watches TV crime series will know, when there is insufficient physical evidence in a murder investigation for a conviction, detectives examine the motives of the parties who stood to benefit from the crime.

Along the fault line

20 November 2006

A new breed of Israeli academics classify Israel as an ‘ethnocracy’ rather than a liberal democracy, arguing that the institutionalised discrimination against Israeli Arabs, the ‘Judaising’ of public space, the enduring interference of the Jewish Diaspora and Zionist organisations like the JNF in Israel’s affairs, as well as the lack of defined borders and the influence of the extra-territorial settlers who live in the occupied territories, disqualify Israel from being a democracy.

David Grossman’s widely publicized speech at the annual memorial rally for Yitzhak Rabin earlier this month has prompted some fine deconstruction of his “words of peace” from critics. Grossman, one of Israel’s foremost writers and a figurehead for its main peace movement, Peace Now, personifies the caring, tortured face of Zionism that so many of the country’s apologists – in Israel and abroad, trenchant and wavering alike – desperately want to believe survives, despite the evidence of the Qanas, Beit Hanouns and other massacres committed by the Israeli army against Arab civilians. Grossman makes it possible to believe, for a moment, that the Ariel Sharons and Ehud Olmerts are not the real upholders of Zionism’s legacy, merely a temporary deviation from its true path.