This is the first of several issues we have planned which will examine the Middle East in the wake of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon last June. This issue explores the existing political divisions inside Israel itself. Kenneth Brown investigates the complexities underlying Israel’s own “war between the Jews,” and dispels some of the more superficial characterizations of that country’s intersecting ethnic and political cleavages. Brown takes issue with the widespread notion that the most chauvinist and repressive features of Israeli politics can neatly be ascribed to the electoral weight of Jews of Arab and North African backgrounds. His article correctly emphasizes the responsibility of the country’s political establishment, including Labor and Likud, for the prevailing ideology and policies of implacable hostility toward the Palestinians. This same establishment perpetuated the social and economic discrimination that has led many Oriental Jews to differentiate themselves from Israel’s Palestinian subjects through the most violent and uncompromising postures.
Zachary Lockman approaches another dimension of Israel’s political crisis in his sympathetic but critical discussion of Jacobo Timerman’s eloquent dissent from the war against the Palestinians. Lockman points to the overwhelming continuities in Zionism’s confrontation with the Palestinians, a history spanning many generations which Timerman ignores altogether. Lockman argues that the continuities of Zionist ideology and practice are precisely what make so important today’s sharp divisions within Israel over which forces represent the “real” Zionism. The Likud no doubt has the better of the argument, but effective opposition to the expansionist and aggressive policies of the present government requires a strategic unity of all those committed to Palestinian rights and self-determination. This front must necessarily include those many Jews in Israel and elsewhere who define themselves as Zionists: inhabitants and defenders of an existing state and society which cannot be eliminated but which must share with the Palestinians the right to self-determination within the land of historic Palestine. The formation of such a united front cannot await a prior reevaluation and rejection of Zionism.
This is precisely the point that Daniel Amit makes in his account of the accomplishments in Israel of the Committee Against the War. Amit has been active in the development of this movement over the last several years, and the Committee has become one of the most critical organizational components in the numerical and political growth of the Israeli peace forces over this period. Amit stresses the possibility and necessity of a joint Palestinian-Israeli struggle. In his estimation, the success of this strategy so far is partly a question of “crossing the hurdle of Zionism.” Its success in the future, Amit contends, will depend on the readiness of Israelis and Palestinians to engage massively in acts of militant civil disobedience, lt seems to us that this same kind of mobilization must be developed in this country, where Israeli government policies are underwritten and financed.
The enemies of the Palestinians, it is clear, do not rule only in Jerusalem and Washington. The murder of ‘Isam Sartawi, the PLO official most prominent in facilitating high-level contacts between Palestinians and Israelis, is the latest criminal assault by Arab state forces on the Palestinian struggle. The correctness of Sartawi’s insistence on PLO recognition of Israel is not at issue. The PLO itself, and the Palestinian communities it represents, is responsible for and capable of endorsing or rejecting such a step. Sartawi’s assassination is no rejection, but rather an effort to intimidate and to split the Palestinian movement. The renegade Abu Nidal group which claimed credit for the murder, and the PFLP-General Command which endorsed the killing as an expression of “the people’s will,” represent only themselves and their Syrian paymasters. The struggle for Palestinian self-determination will not be daunted by these thugs and hirelings who, with all their “revolutionary” posturing, might as well be working for Menachem Begin.
Our next issue will focus on the Occupied Territories, with interviews and firsthand reports of the situation there at this critical phase. That issue will also include a review of the Kahan Commission report by Richard Falk, and a discussion of the role of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in the Beirut massacres. In the following months, we will continue our evaluation of the aftermath of the Lebanon war with issues devoted to the Palestinian movement and the Arab states.
We are pleased to announce that two MERIP editors, Judith Tucker and Joel Beinin, have joined the faculties of history at Georgetown University and Stanford University, respectively. We congratulate them on their appointments and look forward to working with them closely in these new positions.
Regular readers of this journal have observed that in many recent issues we have included annotated lists of further readings. These lists are intended to be suggestive rather than definitive or inclusive, and we certainly welcome comments and suggestions from readers for future entries. We will continue this feature whenever appropriate, with an eye to publishing a more comprehensive reading guide on the Middle East in the not-too-distant future.