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    Middle East
     May 2, '14


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BOOK REVIEW
Shaking the pillars of Israel's history
The Idea of Israel - A History of Power and Knowledge by Ilan Pappe Reviewed by Jim Miles

It was and is part of the "construction of a selective narrative that adapted the history of the holocaust to Israel's strategies and ideological demands", vis a vis the brave Jew versus the passive Jew, nationalizing the rebellion as "part of the history of modern genocide", the survivors not fitting the mould of the tough Jew, most of whom wished to migrate to the UK or the US rather than Israel. Finally, it universalizes genocide to accept all genocides.

Another topic of concern to the post Zionists is the presence of the Arab Jews. As above most immigrants wanted to immigrate to



the UK or the US, not to Israel. They did not see themselves as residents nor did they want to colonize the country, they retained their patriotism for their home country, and were used as cheap labor and support for the "demographic problem". This reflected that "life as a Jew in Arab and Islamic societies was a life of integration and co-existence". To this day they "continue to pose some sort of challenge and alternative to the idea of Israel as presented by the establishment and as understood by the vast majority of Jews within the state".

The media is given two chapters separated mainly as the written word and the spoken word. Due to self imposed restrictions, "security considerations" with a consensual approach, the press "did not deviate from the Zionist consensus". They were liberal but not unpatriotic, and did not pry into pre-1967 Israel nor the 1948 Nakba.

While there were particular efforts at revealing the true nature of Israeli society, Pappe's conclusion is that there was "no political impact" overall. Within a few movies there was a "tension between conformity and criticism", that showed the reality of a nation "that was unstable and insecure, since state and society had failed to reconcile with the people whom they expelled, whose land they took, and whose culture they destroyed".

Neo Zionism
One of the interesting aspects of neo Zionism is that it did not deny the "facts" as uncovered through the IDF archives and government documents, but incorporated them into a new paradigm. A "highly nationalistic, racist, and dogmatic version of Zionist values overrule all others in the society, and any attempt to challenge that interpretation of the idea of Israel is considered unpatriotic and in fact treasonous."

Post-Zionism was considered a "corrupting method and theory", which was "gradually silenced and crushed", allowing the traditional Zionists to "reassert their historiographical interpretation". The main transition points, as indicated earlier, were the Second Intifada, the lack of success at Camp David, and the events of 9/11 and the al-Aqsa mosque.

The paradigm is one of both national and religious unity. It covers the ideation within politics, religion, and education, the latter being especially significant for its militarization role in society (IDF prep in schools). Education also plays the role of creating a racist, insular, ethnocentric perspective, a generalized "fear of the Other." Apartheid becomes legalized, its argument relating to the always present Zionist concern about demographics. The Palestinians become invisible, culturally and geographically.

Pappe revisits the 1948 Nakba where the neo-Zionists accept the "facts" interpreting them within a new paradigm. Themes of equal combatants (as per 1948) and victimhood (Holocaust, 1967 war) combine with a "divine promise" for "existential survival". Justification is provided for ethnic cleansing while the "moral defence of the war approaches messianic proportions." The war is described in terms of a "just war", "redemption," "purity of arms," an "eternal justification," and is fully unapologetic for all the newly recognized actions that in humanitarian terms are war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Currently, the media war has been successful within Israel, the academics have retreated into the comfort of their nationalistic/religious paradigm of neo-Zionism. Outside Israel is the recognition that the "facts" are a bit disturbing, and cannot be countered with argument. The response then is a PR campaign to sell Israel as a "heaven on earth ... beauty, fun, and technological achievement". Its success has been highly moderated by the awareness of current Israeli actions, the violence of its assault on Gaza and Lebanon and the nature of its apartheid system of containment/imprisonment of Palestinians.

The Idea of Israel is a complex work, and might be a difficult read without some other historical reference concerning the "facts". Ilan Pappe's other main works, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2007) and A History of Modern Palestine - One Land, Two Peoples (2006) provide that history.

Given the nature of the topic, a reading of Israel's history from the Israeli perspective would serve equally as well, as it will provide their perspective that can then be compared and contrasted to Pappe's post Zionist critique, and the ideas presented in this well thought out work.

The Idea of Israel-A History of Power and Knowledge by Ilan Pappe. Verso/New Left Books, London, 2014. ISBN-10: 1844678563. Price: $19.60. Hardcover: 288 pages.

Jim Miles is a Canadian journalist.

(Copyright 2014 Jim Miles)

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