Thursday, October 23, 2008
Last night I heard a talk given by Susan Nathan, author of The Other Side of Israel. Nathan is an Israeli Jew who, upon growing increasingly concerned about the treatment of Israeli citizens of Arab descent, moved from Tel Aviv to a small Palestinian-Israeli village called Tamra in 2003. (I say "village" but it's got 30,000 people crammed into a tiny allocation of land.) There she lives, as an Arab citizen of Israel lives; it's not an easy life. I won't try to paraphrase her talk, because I think her book should speak for itself. I will say, however, that conditions are appalling. You can read about it on Amazon, here:
Nathan was an ardent Zionist originally from Britain, who lived for a time in apartheid South Africa before moving to Israel. (In South Africa she was a member of the ANC, Mandela's party, and served jail time for her activism.) She's not someone who had an ax to grind or who set out to prove something about the country, which, I believe, makes her ultimate disillusionment with it that much more powerful. She was a true believer, until she got there and experienced what was happening.
Last night's talk was, predictably, interrupted by a loud, angry outburst, as an elderly couple stormed out in the middle of the lecture, hollering about "one-sided bias" and "hate speech." I guess hate speech, in this case, is defined as questioning the policies of the Israeli government towards its own minorities. But given that Nathan has lived in Israel for years, while the people who noisily interrupted the presentation last night were residents of a quite comfortable Hawaiian island, I think I will accept Nathan's observations over theirs.
She did have some good news, hinting that social pressure is building within Israel itself, from both Jewish groups and Palestinian ones, to try to redress what she calls the "second-class citizenship" of the Arabs. We'll see what happens.
IN ENTIRELY UNRELATED NEWS, today is my nephew and godson Paul's birthday. Happy birthday, Paul!