Book Review: Fallible Memory

(New Republic) Benny Morris - In Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between the Arabs and Israelis, 1956-1978, Kai Bird writes of Israel as a "society marked by trauma and paranoia." What really caught my eye was the word "paranoia." Israel is the sovereign state of the Jewish people. During the previous two thousand years, on and off, the Jews, in their lands of exile, were discriminated against, persecuted, and murdered by their pagan, Christian, and Muslim hosts; and less than seventy years ago, some six million were murdered by the Germans and their French, Dutch, Belgian, Norwegian, Italian, Polish, Ukrainian, and other helpers. Since its inception, Israel itself has been subjected to a series of wars and unremitting terrorist assault by Arabs and their allies; and today it is under existential threat from a nuclearizing Iran, whose president almost daily announces the Jewish state's imminent demise, and its regional sidekicks, Hizbullah and Hamas (and, perhaps, Syria). Right now Israel watches anxiously as Egypt is destabilized and cast into political uncertainty. So are Jewish Israelis really "paranoid"? Or do they have very real enemies of whom they are, quite understandably, fearful? Practically nothing that Bird tells his readers about the Arab-Zionist conflict conforms with the facts of history. Take the Palestinian revolt of 1936-1939. "Initially," says Bird, "their protests were entirely nonviolent. They demanded free elections, based on majority rule." This is nonsense. From the first, from the gang-style execution of two Jewish drivers on the Anabta-Tulkarm road on April 15, 1936, which marked the start of the revolt, and the subsequent chain of deadly attacks in Jaffa, there were daily shootings and minings directed against the Jewish settlers and the British rulers of the land.

2011-02-11 00:00:00

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