Israel Faces the Uprising

A Preliminary Assessment

by Azmi Bishara
published in MER157

The Palestinian uprising has stripped away Israel’s externally oriented masks (propaganda) and its internally oriented masks (defense mechanisms), as political rationality has steadily retreated before the state’s frantic response. Israel’s confrontation with the colonial reality of the occupied territories has led to political polarization which is not contained within existing party boundaries. It has penetrated all the parties and raised real questions which Israeli society must deal with. As the uprising continues, the cleavage in Israeli society becomes deeper over two basic issues: negotiations with the PLO and recognition of the Palestinian right to self-determination, including the establishment of a state.

"Suddenly I can't hold my head up."

by Joel Beinin
published in MER157

Dan Almagor personifies Israeli popular culture of the post-1948 period. He is the master lyricist of the modern Hebrew song, with over 600 compositions and 300 translations to his credit. His songs have been performed on many official and semi-official occasions, and he has composed for the Israel Defense Forces troupe and regularly placed his versatile talents at the service of the state and the Zionist movement. Dozens of Almagor’s plays and satirical and musical revues have been performed in Israeli theaters and cabarets, and even on Broadway. His musical about Hasidic life, Ish Hasid Haya, broke all Israeli records for a dramatic performance and was seen by a third of the country.

From the Editors

by The Editors
published in MER157

For well over a year now, the Israeli state has confronted the Palestinian uprising with what Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin calls “the iron fist.” The army’s goal is to restore order, Deputy Chief-of-Staff Ehud Barak said recently, “so that the Israeli government can pursue political initiatives from a position of strength on its own schedule.” In the first month of Year Two, the army’s schedule included, by its own count, 2790 “violent incidents” -- an average of precisely 90 each day. At least 26 Palestinians were killed, many with the “non-lethal” plastic and rubber bullets that Israeli troops now routinely employ.

Palestinian Expression Inside a Cultural Ghetto

by Kamal Boullata
published in MER159

During the summer of 1986,1 spent a month in the West Bank, keen to learn for myself about the effects of Israeli restrictions on Palestinian forms of expression, particularly in the visual arts and local crafts. A quick look at different cultural products indicated that traditional aesthetic values have for some time been rapidly eroding. Alternative aesthetic values were more often than not crudely colored by the reactive rhetoric intrinsic to the cultural ghetto created by the occupation. I set out to explore for myself the process that brings into being products which stir a sense of pride among Palestinians living under occupation, and to understand the components that endow these cultural products with their uniquely Palestinian character.

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Points of Stress

Israel and the Intifada

by James Paul
published in MER154

Eight months into the intifada, Israel’s occupation appears as unyielding as the rocky hills of Palestine. Bolstered by arms and funds from the United States and supported by a rightward-leaning public, the Israeli political establishment stands utterly intransigent, opposed to any political compromise with the Palestinians. Chances of a settlement appear extremely remote.

Such intransigence fits a historical pattern. This is always the first reaction of an occupying regime to the outbreak of insurrection: The only problem, they are sure, is that they have not used enough force.

The Significance of Stones

Notes from the Seventh Month

by Joe Stork
published in MER154

Visitors to the West Bank and Gaza get a very immediate, sensory grasp of the significance of stones. In the West Bank, the main cities and towns and many larger villages lie along the ridge of hills and plateaus running north to south and forming a sort of geological spine between the Mediterranean coastal plains and the Jordan rift valley. It is a land made of equal measure of stone and soil. The inhabitants and their ancestors have used the stone to hold the soil to the hillsides in order to provide rooting ground for their olive and fruit trees. The hill country of the West Bank is a subtly sculptured landscape of terraces that testify to uncounted generations of unobtrusive settlement, rows of rough stones piled patiently and mended every several seasons.


published in MER161

Intifada Chic We’re not really sure what this tells us about the present state of the Israeli Jewish psyche, almost two years into the intifada, but here are some of the designer T-shirts being sold these days in Jerusalem:

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Enduring Intifada Injuries

by Rania Atalla
published in MER161

The nightmare started when 24-year-old Ahlam, from the village of Ya’bud in the Israeli-occupied territories, joined a march to commemorate the martyrdom of a fellow villager.

“The situation was so tense that the Israeli army could not enter the village,” she recalled from her hospital bed in Amman. “A helicopter started throwing tear gas onto the 8,000 or so peaceful demonstrators.”

One of the canisters landed close to Ahlam. She attempted to kick it away, but within a minute she lost consciousness from tear gas inhalation.

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Prison Text, Resistance Culture

by Barbara Harlow
published in MER164

The Israeli prison apparatus is a critical and contested site in the manifold struggle to control communication and information in the Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation. During the two decades of occupation before the intifada, prisons in Israel and the Occupied Territories housed an average of 4,000 Palestinian political detainees at any one time. Since the start of the uprising this number has increased dramatically, with over 40,000 arrests. This put great pressure on the prison facilities and necessitated the opening of new prison camps such as Ansar III (Ketsi’ot) in the Negev desert, and detention centers like Dhahriyya, just outside of Hebron.

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Eyeless in Judea

Israel's Strategy of Collaborators and Forgeries

by Salim Tamari
published in MER164

One of the major problems confronting the Israeli security forces during the Palestinian uprising was the disintegration, by June 1988, of Israel’s system of penetration and control over the clandestine national movement. First, the apparatus of the military government received a considerable blow with the wholesale resignation of the local police force and tax collectors during the first months of the intifada; second, in March and April 1988, the popular upheaval compelled many collaborators to recant publicly and surrender their weapons. These developments contributed to the paralysis of two major Israeli instruments of control over the Palestinians: the institutional and the coercive.