The Other Side of Israel
My Journey Across the Jewish/Arab Divide

Nathan, Susan
Publisher:  Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, New York, USA
Year Published:  2005
Pages:  310pp   Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX6127

Explores the unequal treatment of Palestinians living in Israel as "citizens", but as second-class citizens in a theocratic state that discriminates against Arabs in many ways.

This is an exploration of the realities of Palestinians (Arab Israelis) living in Israel today. Susan Nathan is a British Jew who emigrated to Israel from England in 1999. In 2003 she moved to Tamra, a Palestinian town of about 25,000 in northern Israel. She describes her experiences on a personal level and also discusses how Israel as a state treats the Palestinian population politically and socially.

In 1948, the year of Israeli independence and what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba or catastrophe, 750,000 Palestinians fled Palestine/Israel to become refugees. The 150,000 left behind Nathan refers to as "internal refugees". These Palestinians had their land confiscated if they were absent from their homes for more than day. Ein Hod, the present artist colony in Israel, for example, was once a Palestinian settlement called Ayn Hawd. There are many examples of such displacement. Many Palestinians had to move and re-build from scratch. Much of their land was confiscated; and their olive, lemon and carob trees were destroyed by the Jewish National Fund, which replaced them with pine forests. Nathan labels this event, this dispossession in 1948, as the root of the Middle East conflict, which needs to be acknowledged and repaired before any real progress will be made.

Nathan gives many examples of the discrimination against Palestinians within Israel. For example, the state spends four times as much on the education of a secular Jewish child as on a Palestinian child, and about twelve times as much on a religious Jewish child. Ninety-three per cent of the land is designated as state land, restricted to settlement, cultivation and development by Jews only; less than seven per cent is private land. Nathan likens this to an apartheid state similar to South Africa. She quotes from Uri Davis to define apartheid: "a system where the parliament, the judicial system and the law enforcement bodies impose racist and xenophobic choices on the population".

Nathan explores the role of activists and the "left" in Israel. She is critical of their focus on ending the occupation (of the land seized in the 1967 war) and not focusing enough on the inherent discrimination within the state of Israel. She argues that indeed Israel is a theocracy and not a democracy as it claims to be. She does highlight some Jewish activists who she feels are honestly trying to come to terms with this reality, with their role as colonialists, and who are advocating for change.

She concludes that all Jews, especially within Israel, must come to an understanding of their colonial existence, the dispossession and discrimination of Palestinians Israelis and start to make the changes necessary to attain a true democracy for all its citizens.

[abstract by Miriam Garfinkle]

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