The Other Side of Israel: My Journey Across the Jewish/Arab Divide Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Sep 6 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
When she was 16, Nathan, a British Jew living in South Africa, had sex with her aunt's black servant. "Sex between a black man and a white woman in apartheid South Africa," Nathan writes, "was not just a physical act, it was an act of powerful political dissent." Decades later, Nathan would again make a striking political statement with a simple physical gesture: she moved from her home in Tel Aviv and settled in a small Arab town in northern Israel, quietly but clearly renouncing the Zionist philosophy that had facilitated her citizenship in Israel through the Right of Return. Nathan matter-of-factly describes the impossibility of getting furniture delivered or an airline reservation made with an address that doesn't appear in any of the state's databases, although 25,000 Muslims live there. These quotidian details nicely illustrate her critique of Israel as a state that "enforces a system of land apartheid between... two populations," just as South Africa had. It is a shocking comparison, but Nathan goes further, drawing a parallel between the Holocaust and Israel's practices toward its own Arab citizens. Yet, even when throwing down a gauntlet, Nathan's writing is poised, emotionally candid and ultimately empathic to the plight of both groups. The Arabs' displacement mirrors the Jews' wandering, Nathan observes, and before the two groups can coexist peacefully, each must recognize itself in the other. (Sept.)
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Almost invisible in the international media, the Arab citizens of Israel have found very few advocates among Israel's Jewish majority. By leaving Tel Aviv and moving into an Arab village, Nathan began the personal transformation that made her one of that small number. Living among Arab Israelis has engendered in Nathan a keen awareness of their fortitude and courage in coping with the adversity imposed by Israeli policies and practices. In Israel's schools and its legislative chamber, on its farms and its job sites, Nathan sees Jewish Israelis denying Arab Israelis equitable treatment, relegating them to second-class citizenship. And, unfortunately, the unmistakable parallels with South African apartheid fail to register even in the minds of Israel's progressive Jews, who insist that Israel's Arabs must surrender their traditional culture before they qualify for equal rights. Such moral myopia, Nathan warns, imperils not only Arab Israelis who lose hope in fighting against it but also Jewish Israelis who risk losing their national heritage by succumbing to it. Nathan's concluding appeal for a truly equitable and inclusive Israel will stir sharp controversy by forcing hard questions. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The author grew up with the story of how Israel was a land without people for a people without land, but after becoming a citizen of Israel through the Law of Return, she has seen how the Zionist movement created their own facts and stories about the creation of Israel. The author decides to move into an Arab village in Northern Israel. The Arab- Israelis believe that she could be a spy and the Jewish-Israelis believe that she has become the enemy.
The most enlightened part of this book is how the author describes the left side of politics within Israel. The lack of freedom of interaction between Jewish-Israelis and Arab-Israelis, even within organizations that were created to foster open interactions, where the Arab-Israelis do not feel that they can truly let their experiences be known because the Jewish-Israelis will not stay and listen and the ever present threat of reprisals. While there are many political movements and human rights groups within Israel, the majority stop just shy of actually doing anything that would make a difference in the treatment and/or status of non-Jewish Israelis.
This book should be read by anyone who wants to understand the inner workings of Israel. This book is about the forgotten Palestinians, the ones who stayed during the wars in 1948 and in 1967.
In response to the reviewer who gave this book one star, I think you're completely missing the point of what she's trying to say about suicide bombers. Ethics aside, people don't blow themselves up unless it's the best option they've got. If the Palestinians were happy with the way they were treated inside Israel, then I doubt suicide bombing would be a problem at all. What Nathan is saying is that non-arabs look at suicide bombings as the act of crazies, without understanding what drives someone to do such a thing. The Jews in Israel have put the palenstinians on a subordinate level, and so they can easily shrug such violence off as the normal actions of the palestinians. But what would it take for you to strap a bomb to your chest and blow yourself up? How bad would your life have to be for that to be the best option? Palenstinians see suicide bombings as the great equalizer, in the same way that minorities in the Inner-cities in the US choose guns and gangs. Because the Palestinians are constantly being screwed by the system, they feel helpless, and they become irrational. Just notice how suicide bombings get the attention and strike fear in the hearts of Jews. That's what they want, to deliver unto the Jews the same pain that they've been feeling at the hands of the Jews for too long.
The answer isn't to call them crazy, or to accept suicide bombings as normal. The answer is to find out why they feel suicide bombing is an effective solution to their problem, and then fix that problem so there is no need for it. That's what Nathan is trying to say, to look at the bigger picture, because it's all relative. Her last sentences speak to exactly that; we're all the same people, and we all have a sense of rationality, and nobody wants to die. Let's find a way to live in Peace, and then the "crazy" suicide bombers will be out of the job. This isn't a case of one race against another, it's a case of subordinates wanting equality, and the dominants not wanting to give up their power.
A must read for anyone who still has any doubt that Palestinians suffer for no reason other than the fact that the racist Zionist regime believes that Palestinians are sub-human and should be pressured through force and inhumane treatment out of their home land.
Whilst there may be many who might disagree with her, Ms Nathan's grasp of the Israeli socio-political nettle is honest, courageous,hard-hitting and thought-provoking. A person cannot read this book without being unmoved by the tragedy of the Palestinian-Israeli divide whether Jewish, Muslim,Christian or any faith.
The fact that Ms Nathan is a voice from within the divide is highly significant. From her birthplace in Britain, to the sunny shores of South Africa and to the beautiful hills of Galilee, The "Other Side of Israel" is undoubtedly a seminal work of personal conscience.
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