A New Voice for Israel: Fighting for the Survival of the Jewish Nation

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When the Palmach was started in , it sometimes fought alongside British troops. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish Holocaust survivors were barred from entering Palestine due to immigration limits imposed by the British, Lehavy explained. On June 16 and 17th, , Lehavy took part in the Night of the Bridges, a Palmach initiative that succeeded in blowing up ten of the eleven bridges connecting Israel to the outside world. I was a scout.

While his platoon succeeded in demolishing its target, one of the other Palmach platoons was not so lucky: At one of the eleven bridges targeted, the bridge guard fired at Palmach fighters, hitting their explosives. At that point, Israel was a small nation of roughly , people, said Lehavy.

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Four thousand died defending their country in that war. That mission ended for Lehavy when a bullet wounded him. Though he recovered and went back to active duty, his next injury—a concussion, which he got after his vehicle ran over a mine in —took him permanently out of combat duty. He was transferred to military investigations until his service ended in After returning to service again briefly during the Sinai campaign, Lehavy left Israel to study and eventually work in the United States. Cohen, a sabra who now lives in Egg Harbor Township, grew up on a Kibbutz in Israel and entered the Israeli Air Force in , serving two and a half years during an era of relative peace before going into the reserves.

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In , Cohen was traveling in Denmark when he found out that Israel was about to go to war. Like other reservists including Lehavy , he tried to make his way back to Israel to fight but was too late.

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The second contribution of social biographies to making sense of history and contemporary reality is in displacing, or at least limiting, the influence of easily available and elite points of view with a wider range of perspectives. One of the benefits of investigating the counternarratives of the marginalized voices of history is that they cast doubt on historical assertions that purport to be self-evident and therefore beyond dispute. Not surprisingly, many social movements have used storytelling to raise consciousness in people they wished to recruit.

Slave narratives were an important tool of the abolitionist movement, "an instrument of liberation, when neither law nor society offered the same" Blight The feminist movement encouraged women to tell their life stories to one another and the public to highlight their subjugation and their marginalization by mainstream historiography. Even more explicitly, coming-out stories served as fundamental catalysts in the rise of the gay rights movement.

In all these cases, stories told as memories of empowerment revealed personal and group autonomy Davies and Gannon The personal narratives told under such circumstances are usually forgotten or massively rewritten stories-forgotten because they do not agree with officially condoned political or academic truths and rewritten to fit into acceptable histories. They fill in the silences, elisions, and falsifications of public narratives and thus, side-by-side with real battles, produce a "battle of stories.

Admittedly, a potential downside of such battles is to assume that all stories are equally valid and therefore matter equally. But before we dismiss embattled stories, let us remember that what is considered a deviant or marginal version at one time or place might not be so at another. As long as there is a range of narratives written or recounted by storytellers, professional and amateur, to chose from, other storytellers-including historians-have to be more honest and careful.

Marginality takes on an added meaning in this conflict since many if not most individual Palestinian life stories appear only in the peripheral vision of the majority of Israelis, and vice versa. In one of his letters from a Fascist prison to his wife, who all but stopped corresponding with him, Antonio Gramsci famously wrote, "Misfortune commonly has two effects: In so doing they lose the imagination that is necessary to think creatively, transcend oppression, and prevent continued violence.

Among the many casualties of conflict is the sense of empathy for victims of the other side, and consequently, reading an anthology such as this offers an opportunity to experience a greater understanding of, and through it, empathy for, the other side. However, we remain acutely aware of Emmanuel Levinas's argument that empathy-literally being "in suffering" with someone else-can easily become a form of egoism, based on the problematic assumption that we can truly know or experience what someone else has undergone Levinas The fact that Levinas, the philosopher of recognition par excellence, was famously unable fully to recognize Palestinian identity, rights, or suffering further clarifies the difficulty-and thus the necessity-of such a process see Caro Empathy consists of sensitivity to others' vulnerability and need as well as, we believe, to the integrity of their biographies and to their sense of justice.

Looking at history from below also highlights the human cost associated with disruptive historical and social changes and "the ability of people to survive even under the most appalling conditions" Burke In this volume, the appalling loss of almost all of Yoshka Spronz's family members and his survival in Auschwitz are coupled with his desire to find a measure of closure by serving as a witness in the trial of one of the perpetrators, preserving the past by writing a memoir, and equally important, beginning life anew through the creation of a new family and emigration to Israel see chapter For their part, Palestinians are united by bearing the multiple burdens of displacement and suffering the profound insecurity of stateless refugees.

The vulnerabilities of their shared situation, as so many of the chapters attest, led Palestinians from very different circumstances and through innumerable channels to become politicized. Their actions run the gamut from resistance, through petitions and search for legal recourse by the villagers of Aylut see chapter 1 , to armed resistance by Hajj Mohammad Abdul Rahim in the Arab revolt of see chapter 8 and Majed al-Masri in the two intifadas see chapter People not only survive but are also transformed by the conditions they endure-sometimes toward greater empathy, other times toward justifying appalling acts.

Yitzhak Rabin's assassination by Yigael Amir, who hailed from Israel's ethnic periphery and at once sought to be accepted by the religious settler movement and to bring the Oslo peace process to an end, is one such example see chapter It is not our intention to romanticize or beautify such lives, Jewish or Palestinian; rather, we wish to show their richness and changeability, highlighting the issue of agency and spurring our imaginations to consider not solely lives and experiences we have heretofore ignored but solutions that presently have not penetrated our still-narrow consciousnesses.

This openness is particularly important now, when, strangely, the bilateral aspect of the conflict is being challenged. New schools of thought on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seek to replace the view that is produced and reproduced by the interaction of the two sides with the notion that all the "historical responsibility" rests with one side. According to these approaches, Israelis and Palestinians are not responding to one another's behavior but acting out their unchanging "essence," and consequently, in place of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there is only an "Israeli conflict" or a "Palestinian conflict.

In this volume, reporting on the Jewish victims of bomb attacks in Tel Aviv and elsewhere, the Russian-Jewish journalist Alexandra contends that Palestinians are insatiable in their territorial demands see chapter So far we have examined the contributions of life stories to making sense of history; now we turn our telescope to the contribution of social biographies to the methods and metatheories deployed by other academic disciplines in analyzing their subject matter.

Put differently, biographical narratives open the door to a renewed focus on human agency through an ant's-eye perspective, which also allows the rethinking of the methods used in the study of societies and their history. The third contribution of social biographies is to suggest that the customary emphasis of social sciences on explaining individuals' behavior by their membership in groups is inflated and misplaced. In social science methodology, people appear primarily as representatives of the social categories from which they hail. The same holds even when the social sciences, among them most self-consciously survey research, sample individuals' opinions.

The validity of their methodological individualism is predicated on the representative sampling of the population according to the membership of the individuals in broad social categories, and consequently, the findings of surveys are reported as correlations between clusters of variables such as class, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, and political affiliation with educational level, status, income, and so on.

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Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. It will have to change — and seems stuck. It would mean asking why European and North American Jews were disproportionately represented in the ranks of communist and socialist parties and why Jews remain the most left-leaning sector of American society today. Even with this volume's inevitably limited scope, its individual and collective biographies make at least four contributions to the study of Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms: The rest of the book focuses on Ben-Ami's analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and what is needed to assure Israel's peaceful future and survival as a Jewish democratic state. History and Theory, Vol.

Variation between individuals within groups, according to this approach, is negligible, since when samples are large enough, individual differences cancel out. Methods that focus on intragroup and intergroup processes, such as prejudice, have an even stronger tendency to analyze individual conduct in terms of group behavior.

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Ironically, while most social science theories teach us that identities are neither fixed nor one-dimensional, actual research methods violate both of these premises. One of the findings we anticipated in gathering the life stories included in this anthology but whose pervasiveness still surprised us is the extent to which no one turned out to be typical. No one was a "good" or "average" representative of his or her social group or category.

Groups, it seems, are much more diverse than sociologists imagine them to be. In fact, one of the most effective ways to operationalize agency is to understand it as the extent to which individuals become who they are by differing from their putative group. For example, Ruth Shapira see chapter 16 gave up a comfortable and secure middle-class existence in the United States to pursue her aspirations toward an Israeli nationalist revival.

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A particularly cogent example of individual-group mismatch is S. Yizhar, the unofficial spokesperson of the first sabra native generation, winner of the Israel Prize for literature, and a member of the Knesset, who focused some of his most potent stories on the internal struggle between the self-serving military exploits of his generation and universal norms of conduct see chapter 5. Abu Ahmad broke away from political activism in the post-Oslo years to found a community center that offers new hope to the children of the Beit Jibrin refugee camp see chapter 25 , while Jonathan Pollak, inspired by anarchist ideas, regularly confronts Israeli soldiers in defense of Palestinian land even as he is viewed as a traitor by fellow Israeli Jews see chapter Groups, for their part, spend a great deal of time, and have specialized functionaries for, homogenizing their members.

The effectiveness of these efforts, as in the case of Palestinians and Israelis who are heavily mobilized to their nationalist causes, is telling. But even within these groups, one will be wise to listen to many voices and when confronted with unanimity, to question its depth. The heterogeneity found in individual histories within groups and the variation in people's behavior over time also point to the potential for greater freedom in future choices.

Even when social scientists champion greater emphasis on individuals, as several well-known ones did in the middle of the twentieth century, they do not necessarily advocate the study of individual life histories. Wright Mills in the now iconic The Sociological Imagination , and Herbert Marcuse in One Dimensional Man are united in taking the social sciences and humanities-and in Marcuse's case, even modern industrial society itself-to task for accepting and promoting conformity as natural. In their view, by accommodating the individualistic premises of the reigning American liberalism and formally democratic Western institutions, social science lost the potential to understand people's motivations and actions and could no longer enable individuals to comprehend the circumstances of their existence.

Mills suggested that to unsnare themselves from the trap of incomprehension, people need to learn the terrible but magnificent lessons of the "sociological imagination," which casts light on the circumstances of their unfreedom. Calling upon such imagination, individuals can understand the impersonal world-historical and socioeconomic forces that control their lives, putting them in a better position to "cope with their personal troubles in such ways as to control the structural transformations that usually lie behind them" Mills But while Mills sought "to define the meaning of the social sciences for the cultural tasks of our time" Mills On the contrary, he sought to better explain the social causes of "personal troubles.

In one of the best-known contemporary analyses, "Can the Subaltern Speak? Like Mills, Wrong, and Marcuse, Spivak uses a method that falls within a fairly broad-based "social structure and personality" approach Shanahan and Macmillan Work with personal narratives requires epistemological and methodological assumptions that differ from those of the social sciences and consequently produce "a different type of knowledge.

What we glean from individual life stories above all are their truth claims. These are different from other, let alone scientific, truth claims Maynes et al. Fourth, since the social biographies gathered in this volume are conventionally told as stories, they require us to consider the insights of literature for making sense of history.

Whereas social scientists rarely report their findings in story form, narratives, as literary analysts such as Hayden White point out , follow a plot, fall into particular genres, are told from a particular point of view, are held together and endowed with a moralizing significance, and address and interact with particular audiences. These requirements shape both life stories and lives and simultaneously empower and constrain their tellers or writers. To paraphrase Marx, individuals tell their life stories, but not in the way they wish.

Enduring patterns of inequality in class, status, gender, and ethnic or race hierarchies constrain people's lives.

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These constraints frame and explain which biographic scripts are likely to be told and retold and thus endure. In addition, historical forces-in particular, radical or cataclysmic transformations-produce "critical moments," or "crossroads," which alter the social and personal resources on which people may draw to frame their biographies Bagnoli and Ketokivi In many Palestinian social biographies, serves as the marker which changed everything, especially for refugees like Matar 'Abdelrahim see chapter 10 -as has immigration to Israel from Hungary by Yoshka Spronz see chapter 11 , from Morocco by Prosper Cohen see chapter 13 , and from Iraq by Rachel see chapter While all social divides make their appearance in the life histories collected in this volume, the most self-conscious are the countervailing Israeli Jews' and Palestinians' nationalisms.

One of the key questions in inquiring about nationalist narratives and their authority is just how wide a range of narratives they accept-in this case, for example, how much room they leave for the description of interaction between Jews and Palestinians.

It is immediately noticeable that the range of narratives of interaction drops precipitously as we move from the Ottoman period to the Mandate to postindependence Israel: Whereas the merchant Haim Amzalak, from Ottoman Jaffa, had economic ties with Palestinian landowners see chapter 2 and the musician Wasif Jawhariyyeh cultivated social bonds with individuals of varied backgrounds, including Jews, in Ottoman Jerusalem see chapter 3 , Mais, an Israeli-Palestinian and our contemporary, is likely to meet Jews either under duress, such as in checkpoints, or in deliberately created peace camp encounters see chapter Events are linked in life histories not merely sequentially but as an ongoing narrative which "has as its latent or manifest purpose the desire to moralize the events of which it treats" White This is even more true of nationalist narratives aimed at a public audience.

The genre of public narratives holds sway over the category of private ones among Israelis and Palestinians. Public narratives constrain private ones, but by providing a focus they contribute to making a life history appear whole or complete. In other words, the cultural and literary narratives which embed their subjects in broad nationalist narratives tie together in a meaningful and sympathetic way the subjects' disparate historical experiences. Nationalist frameworks have a clear teleological terminus for both Jews and Palestinians, but they appear to play a more significant role in Palestinian stories.

Abdul Rahim's life, including his leadership of the Arab Revolt, as told in chapter 8, is a prime example of the uses of nationalist hagiography in establishing the tale of the unbroken continuity of Palestinian nationalist struggle. Jewish Israelis take the State of Israel for granted as a central component of their identities and therefore are more likely to highlight their individual choices than are Palestinians, who rely on their nationalist narrative to produce and reproduce their interconnectedness in the absence of shared institutions.

For example, in Rachel's life story, the agencies of the Israeli state provide resources for the assimilation of its Jewish citizens so they can realize the status aspirations deferred by their immigration-in her case, from Iraq see chapter Matar 'Abdelrahim, in contrast, as a refugee in Syria had to seek out and help construct a Palestinian community, which was able to provide moral support first for his and his family's survival and then for resistance to Israel see chapter Palestinian foregrounding of a collective past and present is not altogether different from Jewish narratives of their Diasporic age.

Until the modern era almost no Jewish autobiographies were produced, and those that were written less told a life story than "construct[ed] the boundaries of [an] imaginary homeland" to locate themselves in history Bar-Levav, Nationalist tales of Palestinian sumud steadfastness emerged to meet a similar need. Among the Jewish life stories in this collection there is a remarkable portion that are riven by internal doubts.

Of course, immigration is a particularly taxing identity reformation, but the self-questioning found in, for example, the stories of S.

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Yizhar see chapter 5 , Ruth Shapiro see chapter 16 , and Jonathan Pollak see chapter 24 is striking in its intensity and diversity. As newcomers, as trespassers, as colonizers they struggled with the legitimacy of their presence in Palestine. In addition, as the side that repeatedly had the upper hand in the conflict, Israeli Jews are much freer to construct genres of biographies describing conflict between their private and the Israeli public narratives. Among these is the famed "shooting and crying narrative," in which professed beliefs in humanism and actual behavior toward Palestinians clash.

The search for legitimacy, however, is absent among more recent immigrants, like Alexandra from the former USSR see chapter 17 , and orthodox Jews such as Yigael Amir see chapter 22 and David Ariel, a young settler from the militant Yitzhar settlement see chapter 18 , and it appeared in the thinking of Hillel Kook only after his return to Israel from a long sojourn in the United States see chapter 9.

By replacing nationalism, religious certainties close the gap between private and public narratives and reduce the space available for this self-conflictual genre. It is sometimes argued that whereas European autobiographies are rich in interior dialogue and self-analysis, their non-Western counterparts by and large lack these elements. The "individualization" thesis of Anthony Giddens and Ulrich Beck emphasizes the prevalence of choice, commitment, and negotiations in modern Western societies at the expense of emphasis on stable institutions, customs, and norms.

This thesis, certainly exaggerated for most people even in late-modern Western societies, represents one end of the continuum of choice and fate. European individualism, however, as Dipesh Chakrabarty points out, is one of the historical accomplishments that lie behind the public domain of citizenship. Where the latter is absent, the former will also be lacking, and in particular, there will be a dearth of "autobiographies in the confessional mode. Without national independence, there remains less room for subjectivities and genres of personal narratives, and authors pay more attention to nationalism as the force majeure of their life.

As Palestinians are dispossessed of a nation-state, all their social biographies in this volume revolve in important ways around the axes of nationalism and national reconstruction. Social biographies offer a particularly fruitful avenue for producing new knowledge about the historical and contemporary dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a way that reflects their deep complexity and implicate nature. If the historical, anthropological, and sociological approaches are effectively triangulated, they may facilitate a more vivid presence for common or marginal and critical-in impact if not intent-individual and collective voices within the larger narratives of politics and identity in the Israeli-Palestinian context.

The common denominator in these interactions is the historical dimension, or perhaps better, imagination, which when brought to sociological or anthropological analyses enables a more robust portrait of societies and the groups they comprise than can be achieved by the ethnographic gaze or sociological survey alone see Comaroff and Comaroff for a seminal discussion of this trend, and MacFarlane for an example of the previously dominant trend of the more traditional use of history primarily to produce raw data for anthropological analysis.

To borrow a phrase from Nietzsche, like other actors in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, historians "bear visibly the traces of those sufferings which To write a better history of Israel and Palestine based on this understanding is to write a "history of the present. And if history is problematic in this manner, so equally are the other disciplines which it informs and engages. The seminal French philosopher Michel Foucault well understood how easily history, and through it almost every analytical methodology, falls prey to ideological and political agendas.

He believed that to overcome such tendencies, history at least must "uncover the past to rupture the present into a future that will leave the very function of history behind it" Foucault He sought to establish a more critical relationship between the past and the present, which was the sine qua non for imagining scenarios for the future that transcended the uncritical and teleological narratives offered by states and competing nationalist ideologies alike.

We believe that a significant portion of the biographical narratives in this volume contribute to this endeavor, most importantly by complexifying the various discourses of modernity which are defined by the kind of exclusivist and hierarchical imaginations-grounded in ideologies, whether capitalism, colonialism, or nationalism-that make understanding how the present situation has been produced and might be transformed, and the empathy such knowledge can enable, impossible to achieve LeVine In order to transform, marginalized voices must attain a significant degree of presence-discursively, politically, and equally important, physically-within the systems of politics and power that have invested heavily in excluding them.

Benedict Anderson famously discussed the importance of "imagined communities" in the formation and spread of national identities Anderson , but if identities broader than those of face-to-face interaction have always been a product of the imagination, their political valence and power have always been tied to the ability of individuals to come together collectively in the same spaces.

One trend within political science to address this dynamic is the concept of a politics of presence. Traditionally in the political and social science literature, the debate over presence has focused on the continued marginalization of minority or other subaltern groups within otherwise democratic societies; specifically, whether members of the dominant political group-white people or men, for example-can successfully represent the interests of African Americans or women, or whether regardless of how sympathetic the dominant group's stance is, members of marginalized groups need to be literally present in the halls of power to ensure their political needs and desires are at least considered Phillips But the contributions here point out that a very different politics of presence must be applied to nondemocratic societies or those riven by long-term ethnic or religious conflict.

In such situations the struggle for presence is not just about guaranteeing formal rights and political participation but equally about entering into the larger imagination that undergirds them, without which political power will always remain out of reach. When these forms of presence are denied, groups often make their presence felt through various forms of violence, both within and between the two societies. This, however, merely serves to exacerbate the modalities of exclusion that govern their relations in most regards.

Our contributions, by moving beyond-but by no means attempting merely to dethrone-collective narratives and the explanatory power of group affiliation that social scientists and historians commonly emphasize, help to highlight the interpretive, and possibly political, price we pay for being too single-minded in our customary pursuits.

They point to the power of social biographies to bring into the heart of history a greater consideration of human agency, as volatile as it is at times and as determined at others, and open the door to recognizing a wider variety of behaviors than social sciences and history customarily do, thus encouraging us to be more imaginative in reporting the past and conceiving of the future. The stories that follow help to humanize, renew agency, and reimagine the basic premises of Israeli and Palestinian identity, history, politics, and, through them, conflict.

In short, they allow for the presence of each people within the other's narratives in a manner that, while no doubt unsettling to partisans of the still dominant, narrow, and mutually exclusive forms of the two identities, is crucial to forging a shared narrative and politics in the future. Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Bagnoli, Anne, and Kaisa Ketokivi. Contemporary Lives between Fate and Choice. Jewish Ethical Wills as Egodocuments. Verloren Publishers, , pp.

Power and Resistance in the Modern Metropolis. University of California Press, Burke, Edmund, III, ed. Struggle and Survival in the Modern Middle East. Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference. Princeton University Press, Comaroff, John, and Jean Comaroff. Ethnography and the Historical Imagination. Davies, Bronwyn, and Susanne Gannon.

Investigating the Production of Subjectivity. Open University Press, An Interdisciplinary Anthology, 2nd ed. Fay, Mary Ann, ed. The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception. History and Theory, Vol. February , pp. Translated by Alan Sheridan. The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration.

Haney, Lynne, and Ruth Horowitz. Culture, Politics and the Black Working Class. The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. On Thinking of the Other.