Israeli Dissidents: Notes from a Slippery Slope, edited by Rechavia Berman
At the conclusion of an article describing her harrowing experience at an anti-occupation demonstration in the West Bank, Israeli journalist Lisa Goldman returns to her comfortable lifestyle in Tel Aviv.
After Goldman tells her friends about the Israeli army's violence -- tear gas, random arrests, the usual stuff -- they ask her why she keeps going to these demonstrations.
Goldman pauses for a moment before responding. "I guess I go to bear witness," she says.
"Bearing witness" seems to be the theme of Israeli Dissidents: Notes from a Slippery Slope, a compilation of 34 blog posts by ten leftist Israeli authors in which Goldman's article appears. The purpose of this endeavor, editor Rechavia Berman writes in the forward, is for "ardent supporters of Israel around the world [to] realize that in the name of unquestioning support, they are backing a policy that can only end in disaster."
That policy, of course, is the 45-year-old military occupation, and what Berman calls Israel's "slippery slope" towards fascism. The bloggers "bear witness" to the occupation’s atrocities in the West Bank -- though naturally there is very little about Gaza -- unapologetically skewering their own country's policies with moral clarity and discomfiting honesty.
In the age of the Internet and self-publishing, Berman's book -- comprised entirely of free and available content from the Web -- seems unnecessary. Though readers unfamiliar with the conflict will find some of the articles shocking, the point of the book is not to offer new content.
Rather, Berman aims to "present a document over the past years, of the gradual, accelerating process in which Israel’s political system is drifting even farther away from core principles and guaranteed rights inherent in the democratic concept." The so-called "only democracy in the Middle East" is fast becoming anything but, and the writers in Berman’s book are sounding the alarm bells.
With this mission in mind, many Palestinian readers, and those already familiar with the situation in the West Bank or Gaza, will yawn at some of the chapters. After all, anyone who has inhaled tear gas at a demonstration in Nabi Saleh, or witnessed a home demolition in the Jordan Valley has no need for personal Israeli narratives of the situation.
But the book still offers plenty for more keyed-in readers. While some of the selections have the snark and pithiness that one might expect from the blog format, many of the articles are well-researched, magazine-length pieces of hard-hitting journalism -- usually providing far more detail than the mainstream media.
Idan Landau's article on the troubling relationship between the US military industrial complex and aid to Israel is a must-read for anyone interested in the international dynamics that fund the violence here. Landau's articles on Israeli policies in East Jerusalem's Silwan and the Jordan Valley are illuminating and incisive condemnations of the occupation's bureaucracy that will surely leave its apologists speechless.
For those more curious about internal Jewish debates, there are two articles by Noam Rotem offering chilling and detailed historical comparisons between Nazi Germany and current Israeli policies. Shalom Bogulavsky’s post reimagining the Jewish minority in Odessa as anything other than helpless victims is also instructive in proposing new Jewish narratives.
Some of the posts leave Israel's occupation almost completely aside, focusing instead on Israeli domestic politics. Hila Benyovitz Hoffman's satires of the treatment of women in increasingly theocratic Israel, and Yossi Gurvitz's article on the rise of the religious-nationalist "Jewish Brotherhood" describe a breakdown of democracy within Israel itself. The "slippery slope" away from democratic ideals is occurring within Israeli Jewish society as well.
But Israel's occupation is never too far away -- and as the book shifts between women’s rights in Jerusalem and water rights in the Jordan Valley, it becomes clear that the forms of oppression one finds within Israel are connected to the much more obvious and legal oppression on the other side of the Green Line. The Israeli Right has taken over the entirety of this land, steadily establishing its rule not only in settlements throughout the West Bank but within Israel as well.
The Right’s ideology hovers over Israel like a dark cloud. A storm is coming, and the bloggers in Berman's compilation have read the weather report. It's time for Israel's supporters to take cover.Israeli Dissidents: Notes from a Slippery Slope is available as an e-book on Amazon.