Questions about collective identity have occupied Israeli society from its inception. This process is already evident in the rejection of the traditional Jewish identity, as represented by “Diaspora Jewry”, by the very first groups of immigrants that came to Palestine since the 1880s. This rejection of the old identity was followed by the invention and adoption of a new Hebrew identity, which was expressed in the adoption of diverse everyday practices in all spheres of life and in the creation of new self images.
The great waves of immigrants, which arrived in the state of Israel from the 1950s on to the present, have produced a very different, highly heterogeneous socio-cultural texture compared with the pre-1948 situation. The cultural, ideological and religious backgrounds of these new populations were vastly different from those that had developed in Palestine for several generations. The political strength of the old elite and the hegemonic power it exercised in the control of the new state institutions ensured that the identity models provided to the wide masses were those tightly linked to the dominant ideology. Supported by the old elite, this ideology sought to create a strong and distinct national identity that integrated two main components: a collectivistic ethos and the aspiration to be part of the modern, secular world. The aftermath of the 1967 war is viewed by many researchers as the beginning of a process of disintegration of the dominant identity models supported by the old elite. There are numerous studies supporting the argument that those identity models finally lost their hegemonic position and crumbled during the 1980s.
The decline of the dominant ideology made way for a new struggle between the different groups comprising the puzzle that is Israeli society. Each group fought both to define itself as a social fact, and to dictate its preferred type of identity to the rest of Israeli society. The struggle around the definition of Israeli identity takes place in multiple fields at the same time, and principally in the political, economic and cultural spheres.
The present work deals with the struggle around the definition of Israeli identity as it is reflected in the contemporary everyday Israeli discourse, by focusing on two common expressions used in contemporary Israeli discourse:
“The Ugly Israeli” and “The beautiful Israeli”
Anyone familiar with contemporary Israeli discourse knows that these expressions signify two opposing models of “Israeliness”. The first represents a negative and rejected model of being an Israeli, while the second represents an admired and esteemed model of Israeliness for those who use it. Two basic premises underlie this work. First, it is assumed that the two terms, “The Ugly Israeli” and “The Beautiful Israeli”, should be seen as embedded in the discourse that the Israeli society is having with itself about itself.
The second premise is that the use of the two terms reflects an important measure of power exercised by certain elements in Israeli society against others, and this power is expressed in the “authority” to label themselves and others as “Beautiful” or “Ugly Israelis”, thus engaging in an effective struggle over identity definition.
The purpose of the present research is to examine the different meanings associated with the two terms in various contexts, to find out which groups within Israeli society are identified with each term (either by other groups or by themselves), and to determine whether there is any form of interaction between the different groups involved in the discourse about “The Ugly Israeli” and “The Beautiful Israeli”. If such interaction does exist, this research aims to explore its main patterns.
The first chapter reviews three theoretical approaches which could help us to better understand the social effectiveness of the use of these linguistic expressions: the Social Representations theory, the Social Identity theory, and various theories dealing with the relationship between language and identity. The aim of this review is not an in-depth discussion of the theories presented, but to consider the relevant tools, which these theories have developed in order to understand and explain the processes studied in the present work.
Social Representation theory was first developed in the disciplinary framework of social psychology, principally by the French researcher Serge Moscovici. According to Moscovici, social representations are those kinds of knowledge, beliefs, ideas and feelings that are created by processes of dialogue, negotiation and everyday practices. These social representations are a product of modern society, characterized by an incessant flow of new information and knowledge. The sense of uncertainty and helplessness brought on by man’s inability to process the overabundance of information is the main reason for the creation of social representations, as they simplify the new types of knowledge and classify them into familiar categories.
The last phase of this simplification process is the “insertion” of the new knowledge, belief or thought into a metaphor or icon, so that the mere mention of that metaphor or icon invokes the entire range of meanings associated with it.
The terms “The Ugly Israeli” and “The beautiful Israeli” may be understood as social representations, which developed in a negotiating process within Israeli society; the mention of any of these terms in everyday discourse is enough to instantly invoke a wide range of meanings.
Social Identity theory has also been first developed in the discipline of social psychology, by Henry Tajfel, among others, and is part of the European tradition of social psychology, which is akin to sociology and anthropology in terms of issues and methodologies. The main assertion of the Social Identity approach is that our social identity is shaped through a process in which the different groups of a specific society meet, compete, compare and negotiate the value that should be assigned to their symbolic capital as a group. An individual’s social identity is crucial to the shaping of its self-identity, since most of the time we function as members of various groups.
The second assumption of this theory is that every individual, as member of a group, aspires to acquire a positive social identity. Such an identity is the outcome of a comparison between one’s own group and the other groups. The items that serve as common parameters for the comparison are the result of the power relationship between the groups and their collective history as members of a social, politic or and economic network.
The main significance of the Social Identity theory for the present study lies in the analytical tools it developed, which offer us a better understanding of both the struggle within Israeli society between different groups around the representations of the “Ugly Israeli” and the “Beautiful Israeli”, and the identity component of that struggle.
The third theoretical framework reviews the work of several scholars who have examined the relationship between language and social identity, with special focus on the works of two theoreticians: Howard Giles and Pierre Bourdieu. The theoretical framework developed by Giles focuses on language as an expression of social identity, applying the principles of Social Identity theory to language usage. In other words, Giles examines the ways in which language marks and defines the group’s border lines. Unlike Giles, Bourdieu focuses on the aggressive aspect of language use. From Bourdieu’s point of view, the social, historical and political relations embedded in the language reflect the struggles occurring in every society. A combination between the view of language as a group marker (Giles) and the view of language as the result of the historical relationships in a society, in which the aggressive aspects of its use are emphasized (Bourdieu), may be the most appropriate approach to analyze and understand the social effectiveness of the two expressions examined in this work (“The Ugly Israeli” and “The Beautiful Israeli”).
The second chapter reviews existing research on the social structure of Israel, and discusses the diverse problems in various research approaches. The reviewed works reflect two main approaches to the research of Israeli social structure: the ethno-political approach, and the cultural approach. For many years, the ethno-political approach has been predominant among scholars of Israeli society, who used it to describe Israeli society and its evolution. The cultural approach is relatively new, and has been adopted by scholar’s from diverse disciplines, such as Cultural Studies, Anthropology, Sociology of Culture and History.
The ethno-political approach visualizes the political and ideological arena as a central site for the analysis of Israeli society, being both the source that produces the processes that shape Israeli identity, and their reflection. The ethno-political approach divides the description of the Israeli social structure into two main periods: the years 1948-1967, and the present period (1967-2002). The first period is described as a phase in which Israeli society was extremely influenced by the statehood ideology, adopted first by the already settled elite that formed during the British Mandate period and also served as its main agent of diffusion.
The main purpose of the statehood ideology was to create a solid and homogeneous national identity that would encompass the entire Jewish population, which grew more and more diversified after 1948. The realization of the tasks imposed by the statehood ideology was assigned to various state institutions, such as the Ministry of Education, the Army and the National Workers’ Federation, which worked among the new immigrant populations in order to transform them into citizens capable of participating in what the veteran elite perceived as a modern society.
The Six Days War is usually regarded as a breaking point in the Israeli state’s history, which exposed latent processes in which many ethnic, religious and national groups in the patchwork of Israeli society began to reject the main assumptions of the dominant ideology and its agents in the government. The crystallization of this process is visualized through the formation of five major divisions, or cultural factions: the national-religious, the Israeli- Palestinian, the oriental, the secular-Ashkenazi, and the newer immigrants. Those fissures, in the ethno-political researchers’ opinion, reflect the desire of each group to impose its particular views and values upon the other groups. According to the ethno-political approach, the most important site of struggle between the different groups is the political arena.
The cultural approach has become more prominent in recent years through the works published by researchers such as Itamar Even-Zohar (1980, 1988), Oz Almog (1997), Virginia Dominguez, Zohar Shavit (1993), Tamar Catriel (1997), Rakefet Sela-Sheffy (2002), Luis Roniger and Michael Fiege (1992), and Motty Regev (2003), among others.
Unlike the ethno-political approach, the cultural approach explores new and different arenas that are no less important than the political arena for the formation of Israeli collective identity, such as everyday discourse, common practices and routines of shaping self identity, life style models and the production and consumption of “popular” culture.
From the particular point of view of the present work, the cultural approach is more useful than the ethno-political approach, both because of the areas explored by its scholars, and the research methods it offers, which seem more appropriate for the analysis of the data collected here. Most of the work done based on the cultural approach is focused on two periods: The Yishuv (1882-1948), and the present period (1985-2002).
The works that deal with the Yishuv period focus on the processes, which caused the development of collective identity among the Jewish population in Palestine, and on the models, which inspired the construction of the new identity.
Most of the works about this period highlight two important processes that deeply influenced the formation of the new Jewish identity.
1. The first is the rejection of the cultural repertoire identified by the mainstream Zionist movement as belonging to the Diasporas Jewry.
2. Second, they emphasize the efforts made by the pioneers to create or adopt and assimilate a wide range of items taken from cultural repertoires perceived by the pioneers as superior to those of Diaspora Jewry.
The Zionist movement expected the adoption and creation of new cultural items to help crystallize a new national identity.
The researches that focus on the current period differ from works on the Yishuv period both in the topics chosen for investigation and in the types of the research methods employed. The new topics focus on the practices embedded in everyday discourse and the analysis of developments in established cultural practices. Examples for this type of work are the studies by Tamar Katriel described in her book Talking Straight: ‘Dugri’ Speech in Israeli Sabra Culture. The work methods proposed by the new generation of Israeli society researchers include classical anthropological observation, semiotic analysis of everyday discourse in the media and in public spaces, and socio-semiotic analysis of cultural production and consumption.
“Ugly Israeli” and “Beautiful Israeli”
The third chapter, titled “The Ugly Israeli and The Beautiful Israeli as Social Representations”, deals with the discourse about “The Ugly Israeli” and “The beautiful Israeli” in the printed media, and is based on the analysis of articles which appeared in Israeli newspapers and include one or both of these expressions-representations. The analysis of the articles’ contents is intended to describe the principal features of the representations and the framework of values that they support when used.
The questions asked in order to determine the nature of these representations were:
1. What is the source of the expressions?
2. How does the printed media participate in the discourse about Israeli identity through these representations?
3. What are the main characteristics attributed to “The Ugly Israeli” and “The Beautiful Israeli”?
4. And which groups within the Israeli society identify themselves or are identified with these representations.
The collected data included 119 articles published in the Israeli newspapers between the years 1969-2002. Most of the collected articles were published in the prominent Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth. All the issues of Yedioth Aharonoth since its first appearance in 1939 were reviewed, but the expression “The Ugly Israeli” only emerged in the printed press in the year 1969. In spite of the fact that we are unable to establish where these expressions first appeared , it is more than reasonable to assume that the source of the Hebrew expression is the American expression “The Ugly American”, which was introduced to the American culture in the early 1960s. The source of the American expression is the title of a bestseller.
An analysis of the articles suggests that the expressions “The Ugly Israeli” and “The Beautiful Israeli” are found in two main contexts. One deals with the behavior of “The Israeli” toward his physical and social environment. The other refers to the function of these expressions as tools that define political and ideological identity. In other words, the two expressions are used by the two opponents in the Israeli political arena, the left and the right, in their struggle for supremacy.
A vast majority of the articles that deal with the behavior of Israelis in public spaces describe the conduct and characteristics of “The Ugly Israeli”. Some of the characteristics of “The beautiful Israeli” are implicit in the description of his opponent, “The Ugly Israeli”. The main characteristics of “The Ugly Israeli” as suggested by the articles are lack of good manners and refinement, disrespect for the law, lack of moral integrity, materialism, violent behavior and lack of altruism (“Never be a Sucker”).
In contrast, the “Beautiful Israeli” is described in this context as a law abiding, nature preserving social activist, committed to society and country. “The Beautiful Israeli” is also described as polite and possessing physical beauty. The articles referring to the behavior of “The Israelis” in public spaces may be understood as the joint effort by the establishment and the media to encourage and promote a certain model of behavior while rejecting another.
Articles that used these expressions in the second context (defining political identity) suggest that the two expressions are recruited as weapons in the struggle between ideological opponents in the Israeli political arena. In this struggle between the left and the right, each side tries to appropriate a positive identity definition for the group it represents (“The beautiful Israeli”) while attaching a negative identity definition to its rival. The analysis of the collected data clearly shows that journalists aligned with the left were the first to successfully create a linkage between “The Ugly Israeli” and the right-wingers. Most of the articles in this context portray an image of “The Ugly Israeli” as rightwing, bellicose and an immoral settler in the occupied territories. “The beautiful Israeli” is described by journalists aligned with the left as a brave fighter in the Israeli army, and a supporter of the peace movement and initiatives at the same time.
Journalists who support the right camp seem to have made the strategic choice of using the expression “The Beautiful Israeli” ironically, in order to devalue the original meaning of the representation, infusing it instead with a new meaning that favors their side while being extremely harmful to the group that used it first. Rightwing journalists have defined “The Beautiful Israeli” as hallucinating, a hypocrite and egotist, willing to betray his people and his country.
The Ugly Israeli
The fourth chapter, titled “‘The Ugly Israeli’ Discourse as Struggle over the Definition of Identity between Groups in Israeli Society”, is in certain respects a continuation of the theme discussed in the previous chapter. However, it attempts to discover how the discourse about “The Ugly Israeli” takes place in the context of everyday life. To explore this question, I chose to analyze 704 responses received on the Israeli Internet site Ynet to a series of articles published about “The Ugly Israeli”. In those responses, the readers not only expressed their opinions about “The Ugly Israeli”, but also interacted with other readers exchanging opinions about the articles and particularly about “The Ugly Israeli”. The analysis of the readers’ responses and their interaction suggests the existence of three different opinion groups regarding the “Ugly Israeli” phenomenon. I have named the first of these groups “The Beautiful Israeli”; the second group “The Despondent“, and the third, “Supporters of The Ugly Israeli”.
“The Beautiful Israeli” group appears to be the most militant group in the struggle against the “Ugly Israeli” phenomenon. Members of this group strongly condemn it and express their willingness to take immediate action in order to bring about a change in the “Ugly Israelis”’ behavior. Despite members of the group’s declarations about their willingness to act and assume immediate responsibility, the majority of the responses of the “Beautiful Israeli” group hold state institutions, such as the Ministry of Education or the Police responsible, demanding pedagogic action to be taken. Members of the “Beautiful Israeli” group define themselves as a wide open group, ready to accept as many citizens as possible regardless of ethnic origin. They regard the European countries and “Europeans” as a role model. It seems safe to assume that they share a similar social-educational and occupational background, such as skilled professionals with middle-upper incomes.
The second group, which here named “The Despondent”, has also seriously condemned the “Ugly Israeli” behavior pattern, but unlike the first group, its members are of the opinion that nothing can be done to modify it. This pessimistic view applies not only to Israelis’ conduct, but also to the fate of the Israeli state and of Israeli society. It is safe to assume that this group shares the background characteristics of the first group, except for the fact that the “Despondent” visualize “The Ugly Israeli” as having a distinct ethnic component (Oriental Jews).
The third group, named “Supporters of the Ugly Israeli”, adopted one or all of the three following strategies:
(a) An ostentatious and defiant support of the “Ugly Israeli” behavior patterns;
(b) Indirect support of such patterns, and
(c) Total denial of the existence of an “Ugly Israeli”.
The different responses by this group suggest that more than an “Ugly Israeli” support group, they represent an opposition group to the “Beautiful Israeli” group, which they perceive as arrogant and condescending “Ashkenazi’s” and “Snooty Leftists”. In opposition, “Supporters of the Ugly Israeli” define themselves as “patriots” and “rightist”, and declare being proud of their oriental ethnic heritage. Even though this group defines itself as being “oriental”, it seems that the use of ethnic terminology is designed to suggest a cultural and class conflict, rather than an ethnic one.
An examination of the content of the interaction and negotiations held between the different groups’ members reveals that there is an intensive contact between the “rivaling” groups, despite, and perhaps because of, the acute tensions between them. Surprisingly perhaps, the groups are constantly in contact.
This may suggest that the discourse of “The Beautiful Israeli” vs. “The Ugly Israeli” serves both the struggle fought between different groups within the Israeli society for the definition of their separate identities, and the struggle for the definition of the identity of Israeli society as a whole. The three groups identified as participants in this struggle reflect a description and a cultural mapping that is different from the generally accepted views of Israeli society. The groups described here define themselves and are defined by the others through social representations that create distinctions and a differentiation between attitudes and behavior patterns which do not necessarily fit into the division categories so prevalent in the study of Israeli society. In this context, the scarcity of political arguments and attitudes in the struggle over Israeli identity definition among the debate groups examined in this work is particularly prominent.
The Word “Ugly”
In this chapter, tried to discover the meaning behind this discourse, and how it mirrors discursive processes concerning American identity definition. The main aim of the discussion is to have a broader vision of social identity formation processes, through the comparison of American and Israeli discourses. The differences yielded by this comparison between these two social representations highlight the paradigms relevant to each culture regarding its collective identity.
The source of the expression “The Ugly American” is the title of a book by Lederer and Burdick (1958), where it was used to express an anti-establishment political position, adopted at the time by left-leaning intellectual circles within American society. In recent years, this expression has been prevalent in the descriptions of rude behavior patterns by Americans abroad. The original use of the expression is still present, but less than in the past. The chapter attempts to examine the “The Ugly American” discourse by analyzing the responses in two discussion forums about “The Ugly American”, found on Rick Steve’s web site. Rick Steve is the host and producer of an American TV show that deals with tourism across Europe and encourages viewers to take the road less traveled and stay away from traditional and crowded routes and ‘highlights’.
An analysis of the responses collected in this forum suggests certain points that underline and sharpen the differences between American and Israeli culture in their respective discourse of collective identity. First, in the American forum, contrarily to the Israeli one, many respondents confessed that they have committed “ugly” acts. This led to two possible hypotheses:
(a) “Ugliness” is perceived by the “American” as a transient condition which disappears if the ugly behavior is stopped, and
(b) Introspection, self-control and self-criticism are important values in the American culture.
Many responses included a number of detailed recommendations about the specific steps that should be taken to avoid “ugly” actions. This fact may point to some ceremonial interpersonal patterns such as “the confession”, “accepting counsel”, and “giving a second chance”, which seem to be widely accepted in the shaping of self-perception in American culture. Second, the American forum responses suggest that many of them regard self-instruction and assuming personal responsibility as the central factors that could prevent the “Ugly American” phenomenon. Contrary to the “Ugly Israeli” discourse, the “Ugly American” forum participants did not assign any role to government institutions in the struggle against the phenomenon. Third and last, content analysis of the “Ugly American” forum indicates that the respondents view “Canadians” as a role model because of their good manners, education, and principally, “European” culture. Another important point raised by the responses is that the opposite of the expression “The Ugly American” in the American forum is “The Non-Ugly American” (rather than the “Beautiful”, as in the Israeli case). A probable explanation to this point may be that in contrast to the Israeli discourse, in the American discourse good behavior is taken for granted , and does not deserve any special mention or credit.
In the present work I attempted to show one particular way in which the struggle over Israeli identity definition evolves through the social representations of “The Ugly Israeli” and “The Beautiful Israeli”. As I tried to demonstrate, the use of these representations in popular discourse reveals central models of identity, which are composed from attitudes and behavior patterns common in Israeli culture. Both representations cannot stand-alone; rather, they are constantly being created through negotiation processes between the groups and their agents who take part in this discourse. In these negotiations, each group tries to impose its preferred definition of Israeli identity on the other groups.
The aim of the present work has not been to dispute other works dealing with the ethnic, national and class divisions that constitute Israeli society, but to propose an additional angle from which to examine the processes of dialog and negotiation formation occurring around the collective identity definition in Israeli culture. Such processes, as presented in this work, portray a society characterized less by its ideological objectives than by behavior models, attitudes and consumption patterns that shape its collective identity.
A summery from “Right to exist”
The July 2004 issue of Contemporary Sociology featured a review essay on Baruch
Kimmerling’s (2003) book Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians. The essay emphasized that Israel cannot remain both Jewish and democratic if it continues to
occupy the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and that Israel’s far right is an obstacle to a two state solution to the conflict. I endorse these claims, but I am troubled by other aspects of Kimmerling’s book that are uncritically reflected in the essay.
1. First, immerling provides a one-sided analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that places all or most of the blame on Israel and little if any on the Palestinian side. Israel’s far right is an obstacle to peace, but it is hardly the only one.
2. Second, I question Kimmerling’s identification of Sharon with Israel’s far right for reasons outlined below.
3. Third, and most important, Kimmerling’s book goes far beyond criticism of current Israeli policies or Sharon’s government. He demonizes Israel as a “Herrenvolk republic” like “South Africa under Apartheid” and a “semi-fascist regime.”
Moreover, Kimmerling rejects the entire Zionist enterprise as racist, colonialist, and thoroughly illegitimate. The book’s subtitle is therefore misleading since Kimmerling argues that “the politicide of the Palestinian people” began long before Sharon’s election. He views Israel’s 1948 war for independence as a campaign of ethnic cleansing, and he argues that politicide is partly a consequence of “the very nature and roots of the Zionist movement.” One suspects, as Shalom Lappin recently argued, that many of Israel’s opponents are motivated by a similarly fundamental “hostility to the very idea of a Jewish state” that has deep historical roots. They deny to the Jewish people a basic right to political sovereignty that they freely accord to other nations.
Fortunately, in Right to Exist, Yaacov Lozowick addresses many of these problems.
Lozowick is a historian, the director of archives at Yad Vashem, and a longtime leftist and peace activist. Combining normative argument with historical and sociological analysis, his book aims to assess Zionism from a moral perspective. “Since the story of
Zionism is intertwined with the history of its wars,” Lozowick writes, “an attempt to evaluate Zionism must be anchored in assumptions about the morality of war” (p. 27).
Drawing on Michael Walzer’s work, Lozowick embraces the “just war” school of thought, which distinguishes between “jus ad bellum, or justice in going to war, and jus in bello, or justice in waging war.” Jus ad bellum concerns whether one is justified in going to war in the first place. Just war theory generally condemns wars of aggression, but considers self-defense and efforts to halt aggression as permissible or even obligatory.
Jus in bello requires that one “attempt to wage war according to a moral code.” From these premises, Lozowick develops the following thesis: “What I found in my review of
Israel’s wars were that Zionism has mostly tried to be moral. Sometimes it made mistakes, from which it generally learned. While being continuously at war, it was surprisingly, though not fully, successful at all sorts of other projects, such as the building of a reasonably healthy society out of widely diverse communities” Lozowick reveals that Israel has usually, though not always, met the standards of jus ad bellum, using military force in response to Arab invasion, provocation, or violence. The major exception, he argues, was Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, a war that was neither justified nor fought justly. He concludes that the invasion was a war of choice, an exercise in regime change, not a war of self-defense as in 1948, 1967, or 1973.
Consequently, the 1982 war generated widespread public opposition in Israel. Lozowick also finds failures to meet the standards of jus in bello. For example, the author condemns the terrorism of Irgun Z’vai Le’umi in the 1930s, the Deir Yassin massacre that Irgun and Lech’i perpetrated in the 1948 war, and massacres committed by Israeli troops in 1948
and the 1950s. However, Lozowick emphasizes that these war crimes were rare aberrations rather than “the centerpiece of Israel’s policy”; they were condemned by Zionist leaders, and often triggered a process of political and moral learning. For example, the Israeli army incorporated the 1953 Kibiya massacre into the training of Israeli soldiers, using it to instruct them about the importance of protecting civilians even in “the heat of battle” (pp. 122–23).
Furthermore, Lozowick shows that the worst criticisms of Israel that its creation entailed ethnic cleansing and the creation of a massive refugee problem; are simply unfounded or exaggerated. Bolstering his argument by relying on the work of historian Benny Morris; one of Israel’s revisionist “New Historians” who set out to “critically reexamine the Zionist myths in order to uncover their falsity” (p. 50). Lozowick refutes Kimmerling’s allegation that Israel was engaged in a premeditated campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1948. Lozowick also contrasts the fate of the 700,000 Palestinian refugees generated by the 1948 war to that of the 800,000 Jewish refugees displaced from Muslim countries. While Arab countries perpetuated the plight of the former for political reasons, Israel welcomed and integrated the latter.
Applying the same moral standards to Zionism’s Arab adversaries, Lozowick finds
greater and more frequent failures to meet the standards of jus ad bellum and jus in bello.
A key theme of his book is the persistent and violent opposition among Arabs to the very idea of a Jewish state, stretching back to World War I. Turning Kimmerling’s thesis on
its head, he argues that Jews were very nearly the victims rather than the perpetrators of
politicide and ethnic cleansing in 1948 and 1967: “The only way the Palestinians could
have prevented the founding of the state of Israel was by killing its civilians, destroying
their homes and communities, and somehow deporting hundreds of thousands of Jews”
Likewise, during the build-up to the Six Day War in 1967, “there were solemn discussions in the Western media of evacuating the Israeli populace should their country be destroyed. That was the extent of the human solidarity and historical responsibility the international community could drum up for the Jews.” The “specter of a second destruction” thus haunted Israel’s Holocaust survivors “with a horrifying sense of déjà vu” (pp. 127–28). Furthermore, Lozowick shows that the murder of Jewish civilians (Zionist and non-Zionist) has been a persistent feature of Arab rejectionism, as evidenced by the pogroms perpetrated by Arab mobs in the 1920s and 1930s, Arab war crimes in
1948, the activities of Palestinian fedayeen in the 1950s and the PLO from 1964 onward,
and suicide bombings today. The major exceptions to this dismal pattern were the 1956 and 1973 wars; because they were fought in largely uninhabited areas, they left “little
room for war crimes on either side” (pp. 125, 151–52).
One of Lozowick’s most important contributions is to refute the pernicious claim that
Zionism is a form of European colonialism. First, this claim rests on the assumption that
Jews are a foreign presence in the Middle East. It therefore ignores the historical ties of
the Jewish people to the land of Israel and forgets that Jews were long regarded as an
alien presence in Europe. Furthermore, the perception of Jews as a European presence in the Middle East ignores “the history of Jews from Muslim countries” (p. 101). Most Israeli Jews are Sephardic, largely descended from the Jewish refugees displaced from Arab countries after 1948 rather than Jewish communities in Europe. In addition, many Palestinians may be no more indigenous to Palestine than Jews.
Demographic evidence suggests that Arabs as well as Jews were immigrating to Palestine during the British Mandate, contributing to the doubling of Palestine’s Arab population between 1900 and 1947 (pp. 78–79). Second, the claim that Zionism is a form of European colonialism misconstrues the relationship between the Zionist movement and Europe’s Great Powers. Most of the Jews who came to Palestine from Europe “came from Eastern Europe and had nothing in common with either the goals or the methods of the imperial colonists of Western Europe” (pp. 110, 184).
Moreover, Europe did not create Israel for the Jews: “Zionism predated the European presence in Palestine and took advantage of it, but its very staying power and longevity belie the claim that it was part of an imperial European plan to divide the Arab world” (pp. 58–59). This is evident in regard to both the British Mandate and the United Nations partition plan. “Whether British policy was pro-Zionist, anti-Zionist, or indifferent and at various points it was all of these it was never actively Zionist. At best, the British created convenient circumstances for the Zionists to operate in.
In any case, there was very little they were doing during the years of the British Mandate that the Palestinians couldn’t also have done, and if by its end the Jews were better poised to take control of their destiny, this was not the doing of the British, but the result of Zionist determination” (pp. 58–59). Likewise, if the U.N.’s 1947 partition plan “was Western civilization’s gesture of repentance for the Holocaust, it was quite stingy and not clearly viable; more than anything else, it simply acquiesced in what the Zionists had already created on their own in some sixty years of intense effort” (p. 88).
Another important contribution of Lozowick’s book is to refute the charge that Israel is a racist society based on ethnic cleansing or apartheid. First, Israel is an incredibly diverse, multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial democracy. It includes Jews with a wide range of backgrounds from all over the world; Arab citizens, who constitute roughly one-fifth of Israel’s population; and a growing number of citizens and permanent residents who are neither Jewish nor Arab.
This last group includes relatives of Jewish immigrants who are not themselves Jewish
and foreign workers who are raising families in Israel (p. 202). Second, there is no Jim
Crow or apartheid laws in Israel. Israel’s non-Jewish citizens enjoy full legal equality with Jews, including political rights: “Israel is a democracy, and everyone is equal before the law. .|.|. Israel’s Arabs vote and can be elected and are the only Arabs in the Middle
East who participate in fully democratic elections” (p. 204).
Lozowick acknowledges that despite their legal equality, Arab Israelis are disproportionately concentrated at the lower rungs of the country’s economic ladder, and he explores the reasons for this and possible remedies. However, if this kind of economic inequality is tantamount to apartheid, then Israel is far from alone. In nearly all developed societies, one finds ethnic or racial disparities in employment and income. Third, the situation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories differs from that of Arab Israelis because they are not Israeli citizens and therefore do not enjoy Israeli citizenship rights. Lozowick acknowledges that the occupation generated an “ever growing tension between being a democracy inside the 1967 lines and a non-democratic ruler beyond them” (p. 161), but he rightly insists that a military occupation is not the same thing as a legally codified system of racial segregation.
Finally, Lozowick provides an incisive analysis of the breakdown of the Oslo peace
process and the eruption of the Al-Aqsa intifada. As the memoirs of Dennis Ross, Bill
Clinton, and Shlomo Ben-Ami make clear, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak “effectively offered an end to the occupation” at Camp David in 2000, “with Israel to evacuate whatever territory she still held in Gaza and at least 90 percent of the West Bank.” As part of this deal, Barak offered to dismantle most of the settlements and “agreed to discuss swapping land in return for the concentrations of settlers he wished not to remove.” Barak offered “the Palestinians contiguous territories not ‘Bantustans.’” In addition, he offered to divide Jerusalem and allow a limited number of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to Israel proper.
In short, Barak offered “almost everything Israel could afford to offer if she was to remain a Jewish state” (pp. 7, 214–215, 229). Why, then, did the Palestinians reject the offer, fail to make a counter-offer, and launch the Al-Aqsa intifada? Of course, terrorist groups like Hamas, which enjoyed substantial popular support, were dedicated to Israel’s destruction and opposed a two-state solution from the very beginning (pp. 176–79). In addition, Arabic media reports and the Palestinian Authority’s treatment of the refugee camps it controlled between 1993 and 2000 strongly suggest that it set goals exceeding what Israel could accept: a final settlement based on the 1947 partition plan, control over Jerusalem, and an unlimited right of return for Palestinian refugees to Israel proper (pp. 230–35).
The last was perhaps the biggest deal breaker, as it would have obligated Israel, a nation of six million people, to absorb some four million people of Palestinian descent currently spread throughout Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the occupied territories: “even after a sovereign Palestinian state has been created. This position essentially envisions a reversal of the Arab defeat of 1948 or, to be more precise, a replay of that aggression through negotiated. Ultimately, it bespeaks a continuing Palestinian rejection of Zionism while
paying lip service to Israel’s existence” (p. 235). An unlimited right of return is thus politicide by other means. When Palestinian leaders failed to extract these concessions in negotiations, they sought to pressure Israelis through violence.
Sharon’s election in 2001 and his reelection in 2003 did not signal creeping fascism,
as Kimmerling suggests, but rather the emergence of what Yossi Klein Halevi calls “a new centrist majority.” This centrist majority rejects the occupation as untenable because it will “ultimately destroy Israel as a democratic state with a Jewish majority.” At the same time, the violent Palestinian rejection of Barak’s offer convinced it that “the root cause of the conflict isn’t the Israeli occupation, but the Arab refusal to accept the legitimacy of Israel in any borders.” This new centrism is reflected in Israel’s 2003 election: Both the left and the far right lost seats, while the two “dramatic winners” were the centrist and staunchly secularist Shinui party and Sharon’s Likud party (p. 276).
Sharon, too, has moved toward the center. He “repeatedly announced that the final stage of negotiations would be a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel, although he demanded that the violence end as a precondition” (p. 301). He is now pushing for a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and at least some of the West Bank, an idea borrowed from the Israeli left even though his plan divided his own party and generated vitriolic opposition, death threats, and threats of civil war from Israel’s far right. While Sharon has used military pressure to effectively reduce terror attacks and make life in Israel more bearable, Lozowick argues that Israel has generally tried to minimize civilian casualties and thereby meet the standards of jus in bello (pp. 252–62).
This new centrism, Lozowick concludes, “is the almost consensual position of democratic Israel after two and half years of brutal violence aimed at her citizens. Anyone who wishes to achieve peace in the Middle East must take it into account” (p. 276). Scholars, policymakers, and activists would be wise to heed his words.
Different Social Groups in Israel
(A brief Description)
Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition :
Al-Awda (The Return) is a broad-based, nonpartisan, global, and democratic association of thousands of grassroots activists and organizational representatives concerned for the
Palestinian refugees and the rights of Palestinian refugees including the Right of Return.
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Adalah (Justice) is an independent human rights organization registered in Israel. It is a nonprofit, nongovernmental, and nonpartisan legal center. Adalah works to protect human rights in general and the rights of the Israeli Arab minority in particular, including land rights; civil and political rights; cultural, social, and economic rights; religious rights; women’s rights; and prisoners’ rights.
Al Mubadara, Palestinian National Initiative
Al Mubadara seeks to realize Palestinian national rights and a durable, just peace through the establishment of national leadership, the immediate implementation of democratic elections at all levels of the political system, and reform of political, administrative, and other institutional structures in order to meet the needs of the Palestinian people. Al Mubadara is a strong advocate of nonviolence.
The Alternative Information Center
The Alternative Information Center is a Palestinian-Israeli organization that disseminates information, research, and political analysis on Palestinian and Israeli societies as well as
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while promoting cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis based on the values of social justice, solidarity, and community involvement.
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights .
BADIL (Alternative) seeks to provide a resource pool of alternative, critical, and progressive information and analysis on the question of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons. BADIL was established to support the development of a popular refugee lobby for the Right of Return through professional research and partnership-based community initiatives.
BADIL’s approach to the question of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons is based on international law, relevant UN resolutions, and the participation of refugees themselves.
Bat Shalom is a feminist, grassroots organization of Jewish and Palestinian Israeli women working together for a genuine peace grounded in a just resolution of the Israel-Palestine
conflict, respect for human rights, and an equal voice for women within Israeli society. Bat Shalom was founded simultaneously with the Jerusalem Center for Women (JCW), a Palestinian women’s center, located in East Jerusalem. Bat Shalom and the JCW carry out joint programs through a coordinating body known as the Jerusalem Link. Together they work for the advancement of women and human rights in the region, as well as toward resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories www.btselem.org
B’Tselem (In the Image of), endeavors to document and educate the Israeli public and policymakers about human rights violations in the Occupied Territories, combat the phenomenon of denial prevalent among the Israeli public, and help create a human rights culture in Israel. B’Tselem acts primarily to change Israeli policy in the Occupied Territories and to ensure that the Israeli government protects the human rights of residents in the Occupied Territories and
complies with its obligations under international law.
Gush Shalom (The Peace Bloc) is an extra-parliamentary organization, independent of any party or other political grouping. Gush Shalom seeks to influence Israeli public opinion and lead it toward peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people. Its guiding principles include ending the occupation, accepting the right of the Palestinian people to establish an independent and sovereign state, reinstating the Green Line as the border between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine, establishing Jerusalem as the capital of the two states, recognizing in principle the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees, and striving for overall peace between Israel and all Arab countries and the creation of a regional union.
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) is a nonviolent, direct-action group that opposes and resists Israeli demolition of Palestinian houses in the Occupied Territories. ICAHD also works on issues related to land expropriation, settlement expansion, bypass road construction, policies of “closure” and “separation,” the wholesale uprooting of fruit and olive trees, and other challenges. ICAHD is comprised of members of many Israeli peace and human rights organizations. ICAHD’s work in the Occupied Territories is closely coordinated with local Palestinian organizations.
Jerusalem Center for Women
The Jerusalem Center for Women (JCW) is a Palestinian nongovernmental women’s center located in East Jerusalem. JCW provides women with training in democracy, human rights advocacy, and life skills in order to advance women’s status and role in the decision-making process, as well as to protect human rights and democratic principles, build a just peace, and develop new strategies to promote the status of women. JCW was founded simultaneously with the Israeli women’s center Bat Shalom located in West Jerusalem. JCW and Bat Shalom carry out joint programs through a coordinating body known as the Jerusalem Link. Together they work for the advancement of women and human rights in the region, as well as toward resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People
The Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between People (PCR) is a Palestinian community service center with a global vision. PCR seeks peace through dialogues aimed at developing mutual understanding, activating participants to work for human rights and justice, educating and training for peace and reconciliation, and working to increase the public role in building a just and lasting peace in the region.
Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group
The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group (PHRMG) was founded by a group of well-established Palestinians, including Legislative Council members, newspaper editors, journalists, a union leader, veteran human rights activists, and religious leaders. The PHRMG documents human rights violations committed against Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem, regardless of who is responsible, including the Palestinian National Authority. The PHRMG appeals to Palestinian public opinion and to international opinion to bring about positive change in the human rights situation.
MIFTAH, The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy
MIFTAH is a nongovernmental, nonpartisan, Jerusalem based institution dedicated to fostering democracy and good governance within Palestinian society through promoting public accountability, transparency, the free flow of information and ideas, and the challenging of stereotyping at home and abroad. Established in December 1998, MIFTAH seeks to provide a Palestinian platform for global dialogue and cooperation guided by the principles of democracy, human rights, gender equity, and participatory governance.
Peace Now, the largest extra-parliamentary movement in Israel and the country’s oldest peace movement, was founded during the Israeli-Egyptian peace talks. The principles of the movement are the right of Israel to live within secure borders and the right of Israel’s neighbors to the same, including the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Peace Now has supported any and all steps promising to promote resolution of the conflict, in addition to pressing all parties in power in Israel to initiate steps to end the occupation and negotiate for peace. Peace Now monitors and protests the building of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Rabbis for Human Rights
Rabbis for Human Rights is the rabbinic voice of conscience in Israel, giving voice to the Jewish tradition of human rights and promoting justice and freedom while campaigning against discrimination and inhumane conduct. Rabbis for Human Rights includes Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, and Reconstructionist rabbis and students. Rabbis for Human Rights was founded, in response to serious abuses of human rights by the Israeli military authorities in the suppression of the Intifada. In addition to dealing with violations of human rights of West Bank Palestinians and Israeli Arabs, Rabbis for Human Rights concerns itself with foreign workers, the Israeli health care system, the status of women, Ethiopian Jews, and an Israeli bill of rights.
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center
Sabeel (The Way or Spring of Water) is an ecumenical, grassroots liberation movement among Palestinian Christians that seeks to make the gospel contextually relevant. Sabeel strives to develop a spirituality based on justice, peace, nonviolence, liberation, and reconciliation for the different national and faith communities. Sabeel also w orks to promote a more accurate international awareness regarding the identity, presence, and witness of Palestinian Christians.
Ta’ayush (Life in Common) is a grassroots movement of Arabs and Jews working to break down the walls of racism and segregation by constructing a true Arab-Jewish partnership. Ta’ayush works for equality, justice, and peace through concrete acts of solidarity to end the occupation of the Palestinian territories and to achieve full civil equality for all Israeli citizens.
Yesh-Gvul (There Is a Limit!) is an Israeli peace group campaigning against the occupation by backing soldiers who refuse duties of a repressive or aggressive nature. Yesh-Gvul counsels soldiers wrestling with the painful choice between serving policies they find abhorrent or defying military discipline. Those who elect to refuse receive moral and material backing, ranging from financial support for families of jailed refuseniks to vigils at the military prisons where they are held.
7. Yaacov Lozowick, Right to Exist: a Moral Defense of Israel`s Wars, Doubleday 2003
8. Neil Lochery, Why Blame Israel: The facts behind the Headlines, Icon Books, Ltd. 2004
9. Arthur Hertzberg, The zionist Idea: a historical analysis and reader, atheneum, 1959