Shalom Boguslavsky, Rewriting Life Before Oslo [ssba]

Shalom Boguslavsky, Rewriting Life Before Oslo

Image: Hagiler 66 years in 60 seconds

The Israeli Right has taken on the re-writing history. And they are successful. In November 2015, I published a post about my personal impressions of the twentieth anniversary of Rabin’s murder entitled Forgetting and Forgiving Rabin’s Murder, capturing my surprise when I encountered last year’s non-political-nonpartisan Rabin commemoration. How Rabin the peacemaker turned into Rabin the IDF chief of staff and “Leftists like former President Peres, who attended the rally, were not allowed to speak, but representatives of religious Zionism – were.” 

Last week, when former President Shimon Peres collapsed on the twenty-third anniversary of the Oslo accord, I was surprised to see the myth-making around the Oslo Accord. These are stories of the good-old-days before radical anti-Zionist leftists (i.e. Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin) inspired by Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History decided to destroy it all and pursue a fantastic vision of a new Middle East.

Shalom Boguslavsky’s text translated by Ayala Emmett confronts this newly written history of the pre-Oslo times. Between the lines you can learn about the strange beliefs Boguslavsky is fighting. We need to know this if we are to help Israelis fight it. 

Maya Haber


Shalom Boguslavsky, Rewriting Life Before Oslo

From my perspective the Oslo Accord was an enormous leap, which from the outset, in retrospect and for various reasons rather than land successfully on the other side –fell flat on its face.

I want, however, to talk about the pre-Oslo phase, because twenty years after there are people reconstructing the history of that time as an imagined utopia – no borders, Arabs working for Jewish employers and the rare terrorist attacks.  Occasionally the first Intifada sneaks into this idyllic story.  But when it does it is accompanied by a newly invented interpretation: it was not Palestinians in the Territories who rebelled demanding independence after 20 years of military occupation. It was the fault of “The Leftists who had released thousands of terrorist prisoners” in the Jibril Accord.  Where have all the thousands of terrorists come from in that utopian period that ended when Oslo destroyed it? Nu, do we really have to explain how an Arab become a Terrorist? It’s the force of nature.

Or is it perhaps because in the good old days, Palestinians were imprisoned en masse not only for “terrorism,” which indeed existed, but for things like owning “banned books,” at home. On Palestinian history, for example.

It was a time when soldiers were instructed to order people on the street to climb electric poles to remove “PLO flags.” On one such occasion a man lost both his hands and the State Attorney, the settlements’ hero, Plea Albeck argued that the man should not be compensated because there was no harm done. He could still make Falafel with prosthetic hands.

At that time Israeli soldiers were stationed at every street corner in the centers of Palestinian cities.  During my army service I sat for coffee with some older reserve soldiers who shared nostalgic memories about “the good old days.”

One of them recounted how he and a friend were bored one day and decided to stand in the middle of market place and whenever a Palestinian with a wristwatch walked by one of them would hold the Palestinian’s hand and the other would smash the watch with a club.

Another told how he caught children who threw stones and brought them to his unit. The other soldiers “of course started beating them.” He went to fill out forms and when he came back he found two dead bodies.

These were not testimonials of Breaking the Silences. The soldiers were not beating for the Sin committed. They just offered entertaining anecdotes sipping coffee.

According to the newly constructed history, however, pre-Oslo time was great. The Arabs started the Intifada not because we had been in a violent conflict for decades. Neither because in the conflict’s latest phase they suffered a restrictive military rule in which a Palestinian could not operate a Shawarma kiosk without the permission of a Jewish officer.  No, the problem was Leftists who woke up with peace fantasies.

What else is new. You would have heard similar stories from slave owners in the US South, French landowners in Vietnam and British Gentlemen in India.

My personal views of the Oslo Accord, its promoters and fundamentals are mostly negative. Maybe I’ll write about it in the future. But let’s not get confused here. Oslo did not damage an acceptable situation. It was an attempt to fix a terribly broken condition.

When you encounter those who repaint a not-so-far history in nostalgic, warm and soft filters with flashes of Instagram—ask them to restore it. Let’s see what they’ll say then.

I can promise that it’s not going to happen. They will tell you how they are dying to restore it; but the Leftist and the High Court of Justice, the European Union and all the oldies-do-good just won’t let them.

The truth is that those rewriters of pre-Oslo life don’t really want to change things. Oslo never brought much but a few Palestinian enclaves surrounded by walls and check points, and public distrust that the conflict would ever be resolved.  And those who re-write history just love life post Oslo.

Original text: Shalom Boguslavsky in Drop the Scissors and Let’s talk about it (Taniakh Et haMisparaim v’bo Nedaber Al Ze), September 14, 2016

Translation: Ayala Emmett

Introduction: Maya Haber

Yossi Dahan, Dimona Twist: The Feminist Pillar of Fire [ssba]

Yossi Dahan, Dimona Twist: The Feminist Pillar of Fire

Let’s begin at the end—Go see Michal Aviad’s new film Dimona Twist. This marvelous movie is also about my mother, about women who lived in Casablanca and other modern French colonial cities that resembled Paris far more than Dimona.

Women who migrated with their families and dreamt of a Jewish harmonious Garden of Eden. They found themselves deceitfully and deliberately pushed off trucks in God forsaken far away places like Dimona, Beit Shemesh and Bat Yam, to fulfill a national dream of conquering the desert and settling the land; an aspiration that others dreamt up for them. The Women could not comprehend the display of superiority by the locals and were furious at the arrogance of “the first Israel toward the second Israel,” which was, as one of the women says, unjustified.

A woman who sat next to me at the screening of the film, said to her friend, “Such amazing women, and what a negative image we have had here.”

There are, and we can recount many and varied stories about the immigration of Mizrahim and about development town and about Dimona. Michal Aviad film highlights a voice, their voice without the intrusion of the male voice; seven women, six Mizrahi and one Ashkenazi recount their early lives in their childhood countries, their migration, their youth and their life now.

The lives and thoughts of strong, wise and funny women, who have struggled against sheer state negligence, like that of a six months old baby brother of one of the women, who died of dehydration travelling from Haifa to Dimona. The women have faced ethnic discrimination from the Ashkenazi Absorption institutions placing of Mizrahi children in trade schools while Ashkenazi children were placed in schools geared to higher education. They faced job discrimination and children sent routinely and alone to radiation centers on the suspicion of ringworm of the scalp. Yet a number of the women have also suffered and fought violent of fathers and husbands who smothered their lives.

ãéîåðä èååéñèThe word feminism does not appear in the film; yet it exposes the reality of Mizrahi feminists in Israel long before the term came into use. Independent women who free themselves from a social, familial and marital confinement; women who as factory workers fought courageously and successfully during the day against the owners “Kitan Dimona,” and at night danced the twist.

The women’s voices are heard against a rich and rare collection of old pictures and archival films that took years to assemble. Blending archival material and women’s voices speaking directly to the camera creates a compelling world of minimalism and restrain that refuses the trap of clichés; it avoids the usual ethnic talk and the emotional manipulation of the women’s painful experiences. One could not have made a more empathetic film.

The film succeeds in the difficult task of avoiding boredom, a rare experience for anyone who has watched yellowing photos and archival films. Dimona Twist is truly a unique esthetic experience. An alternative feminist pillar of fire.

Prof. Yossi Dahan is an associate professor of law at the Academic Center of Law and Business in Ramat Gan, Israel, where he is also the director of the human rights program. Dahan has published three books: The Discourse and Practice of Social Justice in Israel (Jerusalem: The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, 2012), Theories of Social Justice (Hotsaa Laor, 2007), and The Invention of Nationalism, co-edited with H. Wasserman (Tel Aviv, Open University Press: 2006) (all in Hebrew), and over thirty articles on political philosophy, distributive justice, human rights, welfare and education policy, labor law and democracy. Dahan is the founding chairman of Adva Center, a center of policy analysis and advocacy from a social equity perspective, and is the founding editor (together with Itzak Saporta) of Haoketz, a critical social, political and cultural blog, where he has written more than 600 posts.​

Translation: Ayala Emmett

You can find the original blogpost in HaOketz

More on the film.

Kfir Cohen, The Failures of the Liberal View of Democracy [ssba]

Kfir Cohen, The Failures of the Liberal View of Democracy

In “Zeev Sternhell’s Fetishist Democracy” published in Haoketz (August 13, 2016) Kfir Cohen argues that liberals fail when they discuss the Right’s assault on democracy.

Israel was never a liberal state

Tribalism and hostility to liberal democracy, which we tend to identify with the Right, the religious and often with Mizrahim, were inherent to Zionism and to certain entities that call themselves Left. Since its birth, Zionism has always been tribal, irrational and particularistic. Since 1933 and later in the state, Zionism was a one-party movement. Mapai’s unchallenged rule over the economic, military, education, academic and the legal spheres – was not unlike authoritarian states in Europe.

If Israel has never been a liberal, what’s the new threat on Israel’s democracy?

Liberals view democracy through its formal institutions: separation of powers, freedom of the press, autonomy of the judicial, legal equality for all citizens, free elections, etc. Thus, a threat to democracy is a threat to its institutions. What is new today is a threat to Israel’s democratic institutions, for example, limiting freedom of speech, narrowing steps of the Supreme Court, etc.
Cohen notes that there are reasons for concern about the Right’s attack on democracy, but sorely missing is an understanding of the endemic obstacles of indirect power embedded in democratic structures. The Liberals’ failure becomes clear when we realize that they believe the democracy and equality exist when the institutions are unthreatened.

For example, when the Knesset passes a law that allows residents to prevent citizens (i.e. Arabs) to build a house in a certain community due to “the candidate’s incompatibility to the social fabric of the community.” Here is a violation of formal equality that has compromised democracy. Formal equality means that any citizen has a right to buy a house anywhere. We’ll call it “freedom of ownership.” Now let’s take another example and ask how can we understand this freedom, when certain citizens are prohibited to live in Tel-Aviv because housing is too expensive. The formal law guarantees them the right to “freedom of real estate,” in reality they cannot exercise this right. There is no direct power to prevent them from living anywhere they choose, there is however an indirect power that is doing precisely that.”

We are so used to thinking that this inequality (which concerns millions of people) is natural, that we don’t realize that it violates the principle of democracy and freedom. You may argue that we should rephrase freedom of ownership as: a citizen has the right to live where he wishes as long as s/he can afford it.” OK. This means: “a citizen has the right to live where he wishes so long as s/he is rich.” How is this sentence different from: “a citizen the right to live where he wants as long as s/he is a Jew”? Why does the first sentence make perfect sense, while the other makes us think of fascism and the end of the world?

Cohen offers other examples, “in democracy, all citizens have the right to equal access to education. In reality, however, 50% of Israeli youth 17 years of age do not graduate high school. In democracy, higher education is open to all, yet effectively, if I am not mistaken only a quarter, or third of citizens have a B.A. In democracy, citizens are entitled to equal pay for equal work, in reality men earn more than women for the same work. We can go on piling examples but the underlying principle is clear… the liberals however notices failings of democracy only when formal institutions are attacked.

Let’s rephrase the liberal logical failure: In practice, the majority of citizens do not enjoy the democratic equality. But the liberal notices it only when it harms formal institutions. As long as the Knesset does not pass racist or anti-democratic laws, democratic institutions can continue discriminating against citizens.

For liberals, democracy does not have to exist in the entire political space, but only in those spaces that embody it allegorically (Knesset, the court, journalism).

Translated by Ayala Emmett and Maya Haber

Without Trial and No Evidence [ssba]

Without Trial and No Evidence

Israelis, human rights organizations, and the United Nations call to end the practice of administrative detention. This practice has recently taken on a face and a name of a Palestinian journalist, Mohammed al-Qiq from the village of Dura. Al-Qiq, who was arrested and held without charges, demanded a trial to end his detention. When his request was denied al-Qiq went on a hunger strike that today Thursday, February 17 is on its 84th day.

His hunger strike has revealed the cruelty of the process in which detainees are powerless to seek legal justice and exposed in full public view the horror of their use of hunger as a last resort. Al-Qiq has used the only means he has to fight his detention, knowing full well the consequences, the gruesome physical impairment to his hearing, his heart, his speech and the ensuing excruciating suffering. Photographs and sounds of pain and agony of the 33-year-old father of two, who is hospitalized in Afula, have now been on public display. Al-Qiq’s use of his starving body sends a most powerful message about the body politics of the occupation. Read More »

Crossing the Bridge with Dr. King [ssba]

Crossing the Bridge with Dr. King

Last Sunday we crossed the Ford Street Bridge, three Jewish women in a car with a GPS looking for Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. We were on our way to join a prayer service to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. King. Our visit would be the second part of a get-together that had begun on Friday at Temple B’rith Kodesh, welcoming the Reverend Rickey Harvey and members of Mt. Olivet Church. Magnificent music had infused our Sabbath service as our two choirs joined. We sang, bodies swaying and hands clapping in the presence of oneness of Jews and African Americans praying without borders and with boundless joy. The service defied histories of divisions, refused acrimonies and produced a “we the people.”

“We,” the collective voice I use, represents the spirit of the joint prayer and those who were there on Friday would recognize that the category was beautifully crafted by Reverend Harvey in his eloquent message of the making of community. The pastor’s sermon outlined a distinct we/us people who remembered that joy comes with social obligations, that joy wraps itself around and inside the ethics of equality. Read More »

Women Launch the Exodus and Confront Book Banning in Jerusalem [ssba]

Women Launch the Exodus and Confront Book Banning in Jerusalem

The first day of 2016 featured women in politics. It happened in synagogues last Shabbat on January 1, as we read the opening chapters of the Book of Exodus in which six women make history and emerge as political catalysts. All are remarkably brave; all are women who make bold moves in the political/ethnic/religious arena of their time. Framed in contemporary political lexicon, the women speak truth to power, brand civil disobedience, and defy book banning and closing of the mind in Jerusalem. My reading of Torah within the current politics of book banning and fear-mongering in Jerusalem is informed by the idea that in a Jewish universe, word and world are in frequent dialogue. Read More »

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