Category Archives: Publishing

The Nakba in the New Yorker

by Marilyn Kleinberg Neimark

Refugees from Lydda, 1948

The publication of Avi Shavit’s “Lydda, 1948: A city, a massacre and the Middle East Today” in The New Yorker, October 21, 2013, is a welcome chink in the wall of silence around the Nakba, the forced dispossession and expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinians from their homes and land before, during, and after the creation of the Jewish state. That’s a very good thing, regardless of what one thinks of Shavit’s conclusions.

For decades, the subject was declared off-limits, even for a former Israeli prime minister who wanted to talk about brutalities he’d witnessed himself. As David Shipler reported in the New York Times in 1979, in “Israel Bars Rabin From Relating ’48 Eviction of Arabs,” a “censorship board composed of five Cabinet members prohibited former Prime Minister Rabin from including in his memoirs a first-person account of the expulsion of 50,000 Palestinian civilians from their homes” in Ramle and Lydda (Lod) during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. (Rabin attributed the expulsion orders to David Ben Gurion.)

But thanks to the research  in the late 1980s of the New Historians ( Benny Morris’sThe Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem1947-1949; Simha Flapan’s The Birth of Israel; Ilan Pappé’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, among others) and, more recently, the work of  Zochrot, the events of 1947-1949 have been discussed and angrily disputed within Israel, despite the efforts of a variety of right-wing organizations to prevent such discourse and of Israeli legislationto penalize commemoration of the Nakba (American Jews on the other hand have been more successful in stifling discussion, at least until now.)

In vivid, excruciating, undeniable, documented detail, Shavit’s New Yorker article describesboth the massacre of hundreds and the expulsion of 35,000 residents of Lydda.  And with astonishing bluntness, Shavit states:

“Lydda is the black box of Zionism. The truth is that Zionism could not bear the Arab city of Lydda. From the very beginning, there was a substantial contradiction between Zionism and Lydda. If Zionism was to exist, Lydda could not exist.  If Lydda was to exist, Zionism could not exist. In retrospect it’s all too clear.”

But then, like Benny Morris before him, Shavit concludes with the sentiment — if not the slogan — so often expressed by defenders of Zionism: eyn breira: There’s no choice.

“Do I wash my hands of Zionism? Do I turn my back on the Jewish national movement that carried out the destruction of Lydda? No. Like the brigade commander, I am faced with something too immense to deal with.  Like the military governor, I see a reality I cannot contain. When one opens the black box, one understands that, whereas the massacre at the mosque could have been triggered by a misunderstanding brought about by a tragic chain of accidental events, the conquest of Lydda and the expulsion of Lydda’s population were no accident. Those events were a crucial phase of the Zionist revolution, and they laid the foundation for the Jewish state. Lydda is an integral and essential part of the story. And, when I try to be honest about it, I see that the choice is stark: either reject Zionism because of Lydda or accept Zionsim along with Lydda.
Put that way, it’s no wonder Shavit concludes despairing of the future:
“But, looking straight ahead at Lydda, I wonder if peace is possible.  Our side is clear: we had to come into the Lydda Valley and we had to take the Lydda Valley.  There is no other home for us, and there was no other way.  But the Arab’s side, the Palestinian side, is equally clear; they cannot forget Lydda and they cannot forgive us for Lydda.  You can argue that it is not the occupation of 1967 that is at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but the tragedy of 1948, It’s  not only the settlements that are an obstacle to peace but the Palestinians’ yearning to return, one way or another, to Lydda and to dozens of other towns and villages that vanished during one cataclysmic year.  But the Jewish State cannot let them return. Israel has a right to live, and if Israel is to live it cannot resolve the Lydda issue. What is needed to make peace now between the two peoples of this land may prove more than humans can summon.”
It’s a startling admission that strangely points to where hope, if there is to be any, will be found: in Israeli recognition of the Nakba and the demand that Israelis either embrace a history as ethnic cleansers or work toward a future in which Israel becomes a democracy of all its people. There is a choice there.


Zionist Organization of America board member leads class action lawsuit against Jimmy Carter for Apartheid book

This is an extraordinary and clunky attack on free speech by a group of Americans and Israelis who simply didn’t like former President Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid.

Tablet’s Marc Tracy reports that on Monday, a group represented by attorney David Schoen ( a board member of the Zionist Organization of America who boasts defending members of the Israel mafia ) announced it was filing a class action lawsuit against Carter and his publisher Simon & Shuster. They claim the book, marketed as nonfiction, contains“demonstrable falsehoods, omissions, and knowing misrepresentations designed to promote Carter’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda.”

The publisher responded to Tablet:

“This lawsuit is a frivolous and transparent attempt by the plaintiffs, despite their protestations to the contrary, to punish the author, a Nobel Peace prize-winner and world-renowned statesmen, and his publisher, for writing and publishing a book with which the plaintiffs simply disagree. It is a chilling attack on free speech that we intend to defend vigorously.”

The plaintiffs, Stephen Unterberg, Susan Eckman, Ryan Shuman, Danica Bernard and Steven Tabak, and apparently a cast of thousands who were traumatized by the book,  are demanding “damages” for everyone who ever bought the book. Seriously. You can read the lawsuit yourself below–

Carter Complaint- Lawsuit Against Jimmy Carter

-cecilie surasky

Subscribe to Jewish Peace News. Defense of German Critic, Halper in Australia, Seven Jewish Children–A Play for Gaza

The wonderful Jewish Peace News has a a bunch of stories worth checking out. Better yet, consider subscribing to this important news source.

Jewish Peace Activists Defend German Critic of Israel

More than 370 Jewish peace activists from around the world signed a statement defending German politician Hermann Dierkes against charges of anti-Semitism.

Dierkes, a left-wing politician with a distinguished record of fighting for social justice, called for a boycott of Israeli goods as a means of putting pressure on the Israeli government to end its oppression of Palestinians. For this he has been subjected to vicious denunciations for anti-Semitism.

Jeff Halper: An unhelpful discourse on Israel / Middle East News Service

JPN picked this up from Antony Lowenstein. It is Jeff Halper’s unpublished op-ed on getting censored during a trip to Australia. As JPN’s Racheli Gai writes:

“The following article was written by Israeli/American peace activist Jeff Halper for the Australian Jewish News. The paper refused to run the piece, despite spending weeks attacking Halper and his supporters in its pages.
The type of dynamics Halper describes in the essay, where organized Australian Jewry comes to the “rescue” of an idealized Israel – an “Israel” which has nothing to do with Israel as a real country, doesn’t seem unique to Australia. It’s certainly the case in the US, and I suspect in other countries as well, that the Jewish diaspora latches on to an imaginary Israel for its own needs, even while Israel puts Jewish diaspora to its own
unholy uses.”

Seven Jewish Children–A Play for Gaza

As JPN’s Rebecca Vilkomerson wrote, “Caryl Churchill, a renowned British playwright and feminist, wrote a short play called: Seven Jewish Children–A Play for Gaza. It premiered in London in February and in New York on March 16th, in an event marking the anniversary of Rachel Corrie’s death. It was produced at the New York Theatre Workshop, which was the center of a controversy three years ago when it backed off from its decision to produce the play “My Name is Rachel Corrie.”

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South African cartoonist Zapiro

Hat tip to TY.
South African satirical cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro (aka “Zapiro”)
says on this recent CNN interview that “It’s been harder being a Jewish South African who sees himself as contesting the mainstream Jewish view on Israel and on political Zionism, than it ever was being a white South African being involved in the struggle [against Apartheid]. That’s how hard it is. It’s actually harder.” (The relevant part starts at 5 minutes out of the 7 minute interview.)

For more on Zapiro controversy:

Blind loyalty to Israel

March 18, 2008 Edition 1

The highly personalised nature of the attacks on Zapiro by Mike Berger and David Jacobson (March 14)[Muzzlewatch note: March 14 not not available online] reflects their profound political and ideological partisanship. Such blind loyalty to Israel does not, in fact, help the cause of Israelis or Jews. Instead, it reproduces intolerance and blind spots.

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Newspaper targeted, Foxman says Zionism is racism

The editors and publishers of The Berkeley Daily Planet, Berkeley, California’s daily paper,  took the unusual step of writing their first joint statement to address pressure on advertisers. They write about a lot of issues- it being Berkeley and all- but…

The most controversial topic is by far the Israel-Palestine conflict. The vast majority of our submissions on the topic include some criticism of Israel. This leads some, like Mr. Sinkinson—who has been pressuring our advertisers to withdraw their support—to accuse the paper of anti-Semitism. This is an all-too-common technique by Israel’s more conservative partisans to stifle debate on the topic and to marginalize those who express even the mildest criticism of Israel.

Here’s the interesting thing, in a city purported to have one of the highest Jewish populations per capita on the West Coast, or maybe anywhere in the US:

The fact is that we receive almost no submissions that make a positive, proactive case for Israel. The only letters we receive from Israel supporters are in reaction to critics—letters that accuse those critics of bias and anti-Semitism. And we have printed many of these accusations over the years.

Meanwhile, intrepid reporter and analyst Phil Weiss sat through a lengthy panel on “Why Zionism has Become a Dirty Word” to bring us all this priceless quote from the Anti-Defemation League’s spokesmodel-from-another-era Abe Foxman:

“Can you be anti-Zionist and not be an anti-Semite? Almost never. Unless you can prove to me you’re against nationalism. If you’re one of those unique individuals in this world that’s opposed to American nationalism, French nationalism, Palestinian nationalism, then you can be opposed to Jewish nationalism. Is it racist? You bet it is. Every nationalism is racist. It sets its laws of citizenship, it sets its own capital… It sets its songs, it sets its values. It is, if you will, exclusive, and you can even call it racist. But if the only nationalism in the world that is racist is Jewish nationalism, then you’re an anti-Semite.. I don’t want to make any apologies for it. ”

Wow Abe. If this is how you defend Zionism….

Israeli human rights advocate Halper too hot to handle for Jewish paper

Antony Loewenstein gets to the heart of the matter- the Sydney-based Jewish newspaper, Australian Jewish News (AJN), just refused to run an ad promoting a talk by Israeli Committee Against House Demolition’s Jeff Halper, but happily runs ads supporting extremist settlers, because nobody complains:

I contacted the AJN’s National Editor, Ashley Browne, to shed more light on the decision to block the ad. He said that the paper was not obliged to run the ads and refused ads all the time.

When pushed, he acknowledged that he supported the publisher, Polaris Media’s Robert Magid – who recently claimed in the paper that the late English playwright Harold Pinter was a “political extremist” for daring to criticise Israel – to cut ads that would “offend significant members of the community, especially subscribers”. I asked him how an ad that simply listed a handful of events would be “offensive”, but he gave no further information.

Magid told the Herald that he rejected the ad because he didn’t “like the crowd who are bringing him out.” He went on: “I am familiar with them. They use their Judaism to bash other Jews and issues associated with the Jewish community.”

I queried Browne why the paper seemed happy to run irregular ads from the fundamentalist, West Bank settler movement. “Nobody has ever complained about those ads,” he replied. Clearly the message of the colonial project in the West Bank – a recent EU report found yet more evidence of illegal development around East Jerusalem – is less “offensive” than a mild-mannered Jewish peace activist.

Last year, as we reported, Sacramento, California’s Jewish newspaper similarly refused to run a calendar item about Dr. Alice Rothchild’s book tour. The backlash forced them to print an explanation on page one of the next edition.

The moral fiber of any community is built by addressing, head-on, the challenging questions raised by these human rights leaders– it is not built be refusing to even entertain the questions.

Taboo-breaking books look at Israeli occupation and the Holocaust

A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices on Israel, Zionism and Jewish Identity is a must-read new book featuring thought-provoking essays on a range of topics.

In “The ‘Arab Nazi’ and the ‘Nazi Jew’”, British sociologist Anne Karpf has written a nuanced exploration and condemnation of the ways in which the terms “The Holocaust” and “Nazis” have been nearly emptied of meaning through their political exploitation in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Glenn Greewald has written about the freewheeling use of these images on Fox News to condemn liberals.) While Karpf documents the myriad ways in which Jewish and Israeli leaders have invoked this imagery to characterize Arabs and Palestinians, Karpf also looks at how Arab and Muslim leaders have characterized Israelis as Nazis and Palestinians as Jews, wondering how this comports with a policy Holocaust denial.

While Karpf largely considers the issue of name-calling and explosive imagery, we should also ask if there is a place for a thoughtful historical, political and even personal consideration of the relationship between the dehumanization practiced by the National Socialists, and that which is practiced by the Israeli military? In this country, self appointed thought police like the Anti-Defamation League would say no.

Hajo Meyer, a Dutch physicist from Germany who survived 10 months in Auschwitz in 1944, has answered this question with a resounding YES in his absolutely captivating memoir: The End of Judaism. An Ethical Tradition Betrayed. With tremendous love for the Jewish tradition he knew as a child, Meyer’s morally challenging and well documented book is not the kind that makes hyperbolic charges of equivalency between the gas chambers and Israel’s occupation that we have come to expect from the fringes. Far from it.

Rather, he poignantly describes the many years, prior to the mass murder of some 6 million Jews and 5 million others, of his own family’s experiences of dehumanization and humiliation at the hands of other Germans. He is fearless about making the connection to the callousness he sees displayed by many Israeli soldiers in the territories:

We are all too familiar with photographs of Germans in their immaculate uniforms making fun of destitute and frightened Jews. Jews in Germany could count on such humiliation at the hands of the authorities and their fellow citizens. The intimidation and harassment at Israeli checkpoints is not much different from what I experienced in my youth. I will never forget what I went through in this regard, even though it is no longer particularly painful. What I do find painful, however, is the knowledge that the Jews, who are my own people, are involved in similar humiliation of Palestinians.

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Politics and Prose owner reverses position, reinvites Edward Said’s nephew

We may never know the true back story behind the beloved Politics and Prose DC-based bookstore owner Carla Cohen’s decision to invite Palestinian-American professor Dr. Sari Makdisi, then disinvite him because of his political positions, and then invite him again.

To be fair, there may be no back story, which makes Carla Cohen’s ultimate decision to admit she made a mistake and embrace him all the more laudable. But it is apparently a fact that the independent bookstore already had to endure hate mail from some members of Cohen’s (and our) Jewish community for, well, acting like an independent bookstore and welcoming a free exchange of ideas on Israel-Palestine.

It is almost certain that she will get many more because of her reversal on Makdisi. Do make sure to let her know she did the right thing. Email:

Grace Said, the late Edward Said’s sister, and aunt of UCLA English professor Dr. Makdisi, had this to say to Cohen:

It is with sadness that I write to inform you that I have decided to
cancel my membership at Politics and Prose, effective immediately. I
have always been a supporter of independent bookstores. Politics and
Prose, in particular, seemed to be the place for me. Visiting your
store was always pleasant; the atmosphere, choice of books, the
friendliness and knowledge of the staff, and the coffee shop have
always made it a plus for me, and I am sure, for many others.

However, I was quite appalled to hear that you chose not to follow
through with your invitation to Dr. Saree Makdisi, whose book,
Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation describes the effect of
the Israeli occupation on the lives of ordinary Palestinians. It is
precisely this kind of book that needs to be promoted in the US, where
the mainstream media and political pundits have deliberately avoided
any discussion of the hardships endured by the Palestinians under

I know Makdisi’s writing from the LA Times where he is a frequent contributor, writing hard-hitting and incisive commentary about the conflict, and most recently, the idea that a two-state solution is no longer possible. It’s the kind of analysis one typically doesn’t find in US papers, but which is increasingly finding a home in corporate-owned publications, making Cohen’s cold feet all the more surprising.

Cohen responded to Grace Said’s note by explaining:

I have been very active — and my husband even more so — in trying to
have the U.S. intervene with Israel to end the occupation of the West
Bank. I was recently in Israel and saw and heard about the
heartbreaking effects of Israel’s policies vis-à-vis travel,
employment, and so on. I came back very discouraged about Israel’s
political ability to break through the impasse. The way to end the
occupation lies with the U.S. I want to make the case with American
Jews and with American politicians to press Israel to end the

I guarantee that nobody will listen to me if I am seen as promoting a
book whose only way out of the present situation is a one-state
solution. One state means the end of Israel as a democratic and Jewish
state. I do not believe that should happen. I am placing all of my
energies on promoting within the American Jewish community a practical
solution that involves respecting the legitimate needs of Israelis and
Palestinians and treating with empathy those on both sides.

It’s hard to fathom how offering a space for independent political thought would threaten the possibility of Middle East peace. In fact, the topic of Makdisi’s book is life under occupation, not, the one-state solution. But his most recent op-ed in the LA Times is worth reading because he puts forth a view increasingly held by many people (and rejected by many as well, including Norman Finkelstein) that the one-state solution is the only option left. Because of the actions of people who want to see Israel destroyed? No, but rather, due to Israel’s own actions. He argues that the ceaseless project of appropriating Palestinian land and building Jewish-only houses on it has made a contiguous Palestinian state simply impossible. Is this an analysis that would isolate Politics and Prose from the liberal, anti-occupation Jewish community? It’s sad to think it could.

After probably more than a few letters like Said’s, a Politics and Prose friend told us late yesterday: “Carla Cohen reinvited the author back to Politics and Prose, and admitted that she was wrong. She does want to make sure that there is open dialogue/debate at the bookstore. She reaffirmed that she wants the bookstore to continue to be a place where people hear diverse opinions and people make their own decisions.”

From Ha’aretz editor, about rumors

This letter is circulating [read prior Muzzlewatch posts for more information]:

From: Haaretz Daily Newspaper <>
Dear Dr Raymond Leicht and Ronit Beck,
Thank you for your letter. I’ve received five similar letters today. Some of the writers noted with concern that an aggressive campaign is being conducted against the paper based on false information. It may be the case that the disinformation is being spread out by extreme right-wing circles or perhaps it is based on a simple misunderstanding.
The substantive point is that, as part of the printed media crisis, five reporters and editors are leaving the paper in consequence of the elimination of the ‘B’ section of the paper. For the record, at least two of these hold opposite views to Meron Rapoport who is mentioned in your letter. He is indeed a talented writer, but he has been working for us for only three years, since he was sacked by Yediot Acharonot. Newspapers are trying to survive and they have two choices – increase their circulation or cut down on editorial costs. The New York Times has recently sacked 7 per cent of its reporting staff (presumably some of these would have been identified as being on the Left). Closer to home, Ma’ariv has announced that it would be cutting down its stuff by 10 per cent in the course of this year. I hope that our path will take the opposite direction, that we will succeed in convincing more people to join our readers circle. Obviously, cancellation of subscriptions will have the opposite affect and force us into further cutbacks.
This course of action is indeed painful, but it is rather limited compared to developments in similar newspapers around the globe. But, there is no connection between the cutbacks and Amira Hass’s sabbatical leave. That leave was agreed upon well before I took over as Editor, and she is expected to return to the paper, if that is her wish. This is not her first leave of absence nor is it a new practice; Tom Segev had returned from an even longer break less than a year ago,
In fact, if a change had taken place in the past month – since I took over the role – it has been in precisely the opposite direction to what you describe in your letter. Purely by chance, it was in this period that Haaretz received exclusive information upon which we were able to base some stories that were prominently published. These included the exclusion of Norman Finkelstein (Yossi Melman), the new attempts by the Justice Minister to influence the High Court (Shahar Ilan, Jonathan Lis), the Elad NGO takeover operations in East Jerusalem (Akiva Eldar) and of course the Talansky-Messer affair (Gidi Weitz).
As for the move of Gideon Levy’s column from the “Week End” to the magazine section, this had happened four years ago, as result of lack of chemistry between Gideon and the then Musaf editor, Rogel Alpher. It was me who initiated the column during my stint as Musaf editor in 1994. I was also the one who came with its name, the “Twilight Zone”. I see it as a vital part of the paper.
It is saddening to note that such an aggressive disinformation campaign is being conducted against Haaretz. But as a fighting newspaper we are used to encounter organised mudslinging campaigns. We hope to survive this current campaign as well.
I thank you for your interest in Haaretz and hope this letter has alleyed your fears.
Yours Sincerely
Dov Alfon
Editor Haaretz

Letter from Ha’aretz reporter Amira Hass

Amira Hass writes today:

Dear friends,

The rumors and and some inaccuracies concerning my work at
Haaretz, and the general interest and manifested alarm -
indeed require my comments. You two have asked me directly about
those rumors. So here is my answer:

1. I am on an upaid sabbatical (since March 2008). It was my
request to have this leave of absence. I needed it badly, after
almost 15 years of covering the Israeli occupation from within (and
for a great part of this time – working up to 15 – 18 hours per
day). For long periods the work was done in the stressful
circumstances of military invasions, bombings and shellings,
standing in front of tanks or edgy armed soldiers, curfews, strict
closures, PA mainfested malcontent with any critical reporting etc.
No less stressful has been life in the orwelian theater of a
“peace process” – trying – usually in vain – to make the
readers and my compatriots aware of the deception and the
explosiveness of the situation.

2. In November 2007 i was told by Haaretz that my contract and
terms of employment should be changed as i had been writing too
little over the past year.

3. In November i was too tired and dispirited to be able to
explain all that was obviously needed to be explained, and to
negotiate the terms of a new contract, and therefore we agreed to
postpone everything. . According to my agreement with Haaretz, i may
write free lance during my year leave of absence. As i have been
away most of the time, it hasn’t happened yet (except for two
op-eds). Also, according to the agreement, by the end of the
sabbatical i’ll return to work for a half year – within the same
terms. It is then that it will be decided how to proceed.

4. Alll this took place BEFORE haaretz nominated a new editor
in chief.

5. As for the dismissal of other colleagues (several editors, not
only reporters): It is of course sad to know that people
who have worked for years, and dedicated time, thoughts, energy
and professionalism – have to start looking for a new place.
I do find it extremely deplorable that Miron Rapoport will not be
writing for Haaretz. He is a very prolific reporter, who excells
at investigations, who writes well and for whom journalism is
clearly about “monitoring power” and
challenging authorities.

Since i placed myself in Gaza, at the beginning of the 90′s, i have
learned that in our society (where there is democracy for Jews) -
the right for freedom of thought, expression and information is
fairly guaranteed. But there is no OBLIGATION to excercise these

This year i intend to complete the writing of a book on Israel’s
policy of closure (“the robbery of time and space” – as i term

thank you for your concern -