A Moral Witness

By Avishai Margalit
New York Review of Books, 54(19), December 6, 2007

Edited by Andy Ross

David Shulman's book Dark Hope is a record of his intense involvement with a volunteer organization composed of Israeli Palestinians and Israeli Jews founded in October 2000. Shulman: "Israel, like any society, has violent, sociopathic elements. What is unusual about the last four decades in Israel is that many destructive individuals have found a haven, complete with ideological legitimation, within the settlement enterprise."

Forty years since the Israeli victory of 1967 brought the West Bank under occupation, Shulman immigrated to Israel and was trained as a medic. At the Hebrew University of Jerusalem he acquired a good mastery of Arabic. In 1987 he received a MacArthur Fellowship. By temperament and calling, Shulman is a scholar, not a politician. His purpose is to expose the evil done by a regime that tries to cover up its immoral deeds.

In the 1970s, Israel declared part of the Yata region a "closed military area." In 1980, next to the closed area, Israel established four settlements, which now have about two thousand settlers. Between 1996 and 2001, these settlers erected four additional armed encampments. The army expelled the Palestinian cave dwellers by force from the closed area, destroying their wells, blocking their caves, and confiscating their meager property of blankets and food.

Shulman: "What we are fighting in the South Hebron Hills is pure, rarefied, unadulterated, unreasoning, uncontainable human evil. Nothing but malice drives this campaign to uproot the few thousand cave dwellers with their babies and lambs. They have hurt nobody. They were never a security threat."

The settlers in the South Hebron Hills are almost all religious people. The established leaders in most of the older settlements often belong to the Gush Emunim or reflect its mentality: religious, intensely nationalistic, idealistic. Among the second generation is a lethal combination of attitudes: a conviction that they have the right to dominate Palestinians and a sense that they are themselves victims.

Shulman shows that a wild generation was born in the territories, a generation whose members are far bolder than their parents, far more ready to defy the law, and far more capable of utter lawlessness with regard to Palestinians. It is a generation saturated with intense hostility toward the Arabs, and ferociously tribalistic.

Shulman gives an acute sense of the gap between the peace process and the relentless and dreadful reality on the ground.

Israel and Zionism

By Tim Rutten
Los Angeles Times, April 23, 2008

Edited by Andy Ross

Tony Judt is one of our foremost historians of Europe, an elegant writer and subtle thinker whose last book was a Pulitzer finalist. His latest work, Reappraisals, collects 24 of his essays. The best of them deal with 20th century European intellectual figures, such as Koestler, Camus, Levi, and Kolakowski, and historical phenomena. A handful engage his more recent preoccupation with contemporary US domestic and foreign policies, and there his arguments are more problematic.

Judt was born in England, the son of Jewish refugees. He was educated at Cambridge and in Paris. Two concerns run through these essays. One is the role of ideas and responsibility of intellectuals. The other is that he thinks we shall "look back upon the half generation separating the fall of Communism in 1989-91 from the catastrophic American occupation of Iraq as the years the locust ate".

As a student in England, Judt was an ardent supporter of Labor Zionism, spent time on a kibbutz and volunteered as a translator and driver for the Israel Defense Forces during the 1967 war. Judt argues that "Israel's future is bleak," the country "an object of universal mistrust and resentment" through its own doing and because of its infantilizing relationship with the United States.

In 2003, Judt advocated abolition of the Jewish state: "Today, non-Israeli Jews feel themselves once again exposed to criticism and vulnerable to attack for things they didn't do. But this time it is a Jewish state, not a Christian one, which is holding them hostage for its own actions. ... Israel today is bad for the Jews."