Gila Svirsky

 Have you yet read Susan Nathan’s “The Other Side of Israel?”  I must confess that I was a bit disappointed in the short presentation by Gila Svirsky yesterday.  The experience was no doubt influenced by the snubbing (whether real or just perceived I cannot say) of my Palestinian friend who tried repeatedly to ask a question afterwards (during the Q&A that followed).  They were able to connect and converse one-on-one later, but his anger and frustration was palpable when he wrote me later in the day.  Here is part of how I responded:

 I wish I could say I understood, but as  privileged white American, I have not developed that sixth-sense (to the degree that Palestinians, Blacks, etc. have) about when I am being dismissed or avoided.  Ironic, n’est pas, that it should occur in those particular settings?  What was your impression of the speaker?  I suppose she suffered from the constraints of time (as all do who try to explain the Middle East to newcomers), but I was unimpressed overall.  There was too much glossing over six decades of Israel’s history of “defending” herself, and too much insinuation that both sides were on a level playing field, with equivalent grievances and identical responsibilities to eschew violence.  You’d hardly know the kill ratio was 200 Arabs for every Jew to hear her talk…

You really must read “The Other Side of Israel” by Susan Nathan (2005).  Nothing new for you, but she does not have kind words for the majority of the peace movements in Israel.  I was surprised that the speaker today had never heard of the book.  I was equally surprised that she had no advice for how to deal the “left behind” rabble who view Israel through the lens of biblical prophecy.  Like most seculars, she is either unaware of how pervasive that dimension of Israel’s support is, or she chooses to ignore it.

Do not get me wrong.  I think Ms. Svirsky is a brave woman and an admirable figure, but she left the impression that she would really rather not have Arabs for neighbors (i.e., Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc.) if it were a matter of her choosing.  It was as if the bully and the bullied bore an equal responsibility to kiss and make up.  All in all, I came away with the impression that her efforts, against all the money and religious fanaticism and military industry that are arrayed against any impulse to regard Palestinians as equals, were likely to be about as effective as spitting on one of those custom-made behemoth Caterpillar bulldozers that raze Palestinian homes and lives with impunity…

And I really was hoping for a sense that things were changing for the better.

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