Israel

In today's episode, Ilana Snyder – President of the New Israel Fund Australia – places the recent turmoil in Israel and Palestine in the context of the all-too-familiar cycle of tension, violence, and ceasefire that has beset the region for decades. What might it take for there to be an enduring peace? Snyder examines this question, while also identifying what sets the most recent violence apart from previous eruptions: an increase in ‘intercommunal violence’ that ‘has pitted Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel against one another on streets where they have lived side by side for decades’.

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The Middle-East conflict is perhaps the most intractable in the world. Israelis and Palestinians have been fighting for nearly a century over the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. The world has witnessed a never-ending cycle of tension and conflict, including a number of full-scale wars, with immense suffering on both sides. 

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In Israel’s recent election, Benjamin Netanyahu desperately defended his position as Israel’s prime minister, but perhaps also as a free man, because he may soon face trial for corruption charges. As Israelis learn more about his lavish life style, many yearn for the days of David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973), whom they recall as an ascetic statesman of vision and integrity. Netanyahu is seen as the opposite of Ben-Gurion.

So mused Israeli historian and journalist Tom Segev, author of this important biography of Israel’s first prime minister, in Haaretz newspaper. But, he added, Netanyahu has in many ways followed in Ben-Gurion’s footsteps, especially in his view that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians can at best be managed, not solved.

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In 1901 the cultural Zionist Israel Zangwill, borrowing a phrase from Lord Shaftesbury, declared, ‘Palestine is a country without a people, the Jews are a people without a country.’ That cliché has continued to influence the impasse in the Middle East for almost a century ...

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While there have been many histories of Israel written over the decades, Arthur Hertzberg’s The Zionist Idea, published in 1959, remains a classic guide to the intellectual underpinnings of Zionism. It is now joined almost sixty years later by Michael Brenner’s excellent book, In Search of Israel: The history of an idea ...

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All The Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan, translated by Jessica Cohen

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In December 2015, Israel’s Ministry of Education banned Dorit Rabinyan’s prize-winning novel All the Rivers from the high school curriculum on the grounds that the story of a romance between an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man ‘threatens separate identity and promotes intermarriage’. Far-right Education Minister Naftali Bennett backed the decision ...

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On the final page of his biography of Yitzhak Rabin (1922–95), Itamar Rabinovich tells us that he contemplated an alternative subtitle for his book, ‘The image of his native landscape’. Because this particular life was so closely tied to a political project, it is similarly tempting to read Rabin’s biography as a story of the State of Israel, and to respond ...

Two Jews, three opinions. Jews nod their heads in agreement when they hear those words, just as they chuckle knowingly at the story of the two Jews stranded on a desert island ...

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Reports about the Mossad often have the unfortunate trait of reading like a John le Carré novel. We hear of spies assuming false identities and injecting poison into the ears of Israel’s enemies, or of a Mossad director beginning his weekly meetings with the question, ‘Who are we going to assassinate today?’ Unfortunately, most of these stories are true. As well as enhancing the agency’s notoriety, the Mossad’s outlandish methods serve to distract from their less exciting but more consequential activities. They also obscure the more worrying truth about intelligence agencies: they are run by ordinary people, and ordinary people make mistakes.

A number of such mistakes are evident in the story of Ben Zygier, the Australian–Israeli man who recently died in an Israeli jail under mysterious circumstances. Zygier grew up in Melbourne, found Zionism, and moved to Israel to work for the Mossad. A few years into his career, however, he was arrested on unknown charges and secretly held in isolation in an Israeli prison, where he committed suicide on 15 December 2010.

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Palestine Betrayed by Efraim Karsh & Gaza edited by Raimond Gaita

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October 2010, no. 325

It is a great pity that Efraim Karsh could not have read Raimond Gaita’s new collection of essays before completing his own. The essays might have prompted him to reflect that the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is not nearly as straightforward as he would have us believe.

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