No, the Israeli Government Isn’t Banning Books from High Schools

Two weeks ago, the left-leaning Israeli media and professoriate raised a hue and cry over an alleged government decision to “ban” from schools the novel Borderlife, whose plot revolves around a romance between an Israeli and a Palestinian. As Liel Leibovitz points out, nothing like a “ban” was issued; the only decision was not to include the book on a list of works required for all students taking the nation-wide matriculation exam: a list that already includes multiple novels about love between Jews and Gentiles (both Arab and European). The real root of the controversy, writes Leibovitz, is the left’s desire to impose its views:

In declining to canonize [Borderlife], the Ministry of Education made a call to favor works that explore not the nation’s failings—aside from the interfaith love story, Borderlife is rich with descriptions of IDF soldiers behaving cruelly toward bedraggled Palestinian innocents—but its glories. And that, to some in Israel, is hard to take.

To those guardians of good taste and right thinking—comprising, if you’re inclined to stereotype, authors and academics and op-ed writers and entertainers and the other usual suspects one finds everywhere among the tender and progressive elites—a book is only worth its salt if, [as they might put it], it problematizes power relations and undermines the hegemony of the privileged classes. [Thus] so many Israeli novels—many of which have pride of place on the Ministry of Education’s list—are shivering, introspective mea culpas about all sorts of wrongdoings, real and perceived. But try to argue that the Jewish state should teach, say, Jewish values, and you’re likely to be labeled a benighted brute.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Censorship, Education, Israel & Zionism, Israeli left, Israeli literature, Israeli society


Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood