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A different Medievalist on Gaza, from Israel

10 January, 2009

A different Medievalist on Gaza, from Israel

I haven’t written about what’s going on in Gaza because it depresses me and pisses me off far too much, and honestly, I just didn’t want to go there and end up writing something that ended up being taken in ways I didn’t mean.

A few days ago, Caroline Walker Bynum sent the following two items to the Mediev-l listserv. The first is a blog post by Gadi Algazi, an Israeli scholar of Arab descent (the post is translated from Hebrew). The second is a fund-raising statement for Tarabut–Hit’chabrut, an Arab-Jewish social movement.

I’m posting both here, not because I’m trying to push things on you, and not even because I particularly agree, although honestly, I can’t find much to disagree with. I’m posting mostly because we hear little about what is going on besides the conflict — in fact, as I write this, NPR is broadcasting an interview with a policy expert who is using a sledgehammer to get the point across that Hamas has support from Iran, and we all know what that means (and if we didn’t, the commenter is making sure that we know that Iran is entirely evil) — and I’ve seen LJ comments that indicate people do want to know more. So here they are.

Update: A reader has contacted me offline to point out that this could be considered soliciting political donations. I’m not. I’m passing on information. But just in case it violates Blogspot’s policy, I’m going to leave the contact details and remove the donation information. You are smart enough to find it again if you want to.

(If anyone can remind me how to do cuts, I’d appreciate it

The blog post

Free the hostages from the hands of the politicians of death

Gadi Algazi

The following text was published in Hebrew on was of Israel’s most popular blogs, ‘The Sting’ ( on 29.12.2008; the author is a long-time peace and social activist, member of the Israeli Arab-Jewish left movement Hit’chabrut-Tarabut ( and one of the Tel Aviv organizers of the campaign against the bloodshed.

And here we go again to another round of killing, without pomp and fanfare, but with a herd of proud corpse counters (“the balance is still positive, there’re more dead on their side,” the commentators assure us). Israeli TV tells us not to watch the horrific images on Al-Jazeera. You should not look at the outcome, the wounded, the parents and the children; Jews must not share the Arabs’ feelings, you should not think of the suffering, or the future. The ‘final blow’ will bring the next counter blow.

From Kadima to Labor, from Olmert to Barak, they recommend not to think of the past either, of that which was wrought by the previous bombings in the Second Lebanon War (July 2006, Prime Minister: Ehud Olmert, Public Relations: The Labor Party), in “Operation Accountability” in 1993 (Chief of Staff: Ehud Barak), and in Operation “Grapes of Wrath” in 1996 (Foreign Minister: Ehud Barak). All were “proper responses,” achieved through blood and flames, “Once and for all,” which have lead, time and again, to the next round.

The conflagration was predictable. The months of ceasefire, the Tahdi’a, did not lift the siege from Gaza, did not prevent the deprivation of pencils, food, and books from children, fuel and electricity from families. Those who have tormented the residents of the Gaza Strip so that their suffering would “put pressure on their leadership” – have engaged in state terrorism against civilians. Months of Israeli terrorism have only spread despair in Gaza and emboldened those who promise deliverance through the force of weapons, and have strengthened the sense, that the only way out of life in terror is counter-terror, exacerbating the suffering of the Israeli residents of Sderot, and adding the residents of Ashkelon, Netivot, and their environs to the circle of those directly threatened.

Even now, when the call for revenge is heard everywhere, it must be said: the airplanes that bomb Gaza do not guarantee peace and quiet in Sderot, Netivot, and Ashkelon. Those bombs that spread terror and death all across the Gaza Strip while school children headed to the streets after their early classes—these will not bring quiet. On the contrary: the poor and the oppressed of this land, the residents of hungry Gaza and the Israeli periphery, who, against their will, have been turned into a “safety belt” for the occupation—all of them, Arabs and Jews, are being held hostage by unscrupulous politicians, who will not spare their lives. They exploit civilian misery to justify the misery and death they bring on others. At the end of this round of killings “indirect” talks will be held, and cynical politicians will reach “understandings.” Neither agreements, nor solutions—only temporary understandings that will enable the arms race towards the next round. Vague understandings will allow those whose hands are on the trigger to lead to another conflagration at any given moment. As long as we remain hostages to such security managers we will not be able to live in peace, and we will not be able to expect a different life, free of constant threats.

The two people of this country are hostages of the politicians of death. But they are not all being held hostage on the same terms. The lives of Arabs are considered very cheap in comparison to the lives of Jews, but there are cheap Jewish lives too. Not by accident, the poor of both peoples, the disenfranchised, the ones who are “cheaper” from the perspective of the rulers, are the ones usually sent to serve as hostages and cannon fodder. For the politicians’ war is the cynical war of the merchants of death and the elites, the well-protected privileged, while the people, both peoples, do the fighting for them.

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Anti-war protests in Israel:;;
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Please feel free to circulate the text further. Contact Hit’chabrut – Tarabut in Tel Aviv:


What is Tarabut? Tarabut is a joint Arab-Jewish social movement seeking to address the most burning issue – the division in Israeli oppositional politics between struggles against the occupation and struggles against inequality and for social justice within Israel itself.
Its members come from very different backgrounds: long-time activists against the occupa-tion, activists involved in projects against unequal access to education, Arab activists involved in campaigns for empowerment and equal rights for the Arab minority within Israel, experienced activists against the exploitation and discrimination of oriental Jews and the delegitima¬tion of Arab culture, young refuseniks, feminists involved in local campaigns for women’s empowerment, students involved in campaigns to defend public higher education against creeping privatization, etc.

All of us have felt that activism requires a broader vision and grounding in concrete analysis of the links between different forms of inequality – for example, between the expansion of the settlements in the West Bank and rampant privatization within Israel, which has drawn tens of thousands from among the poor into the colonial process in the West Bank and to enjoy government subsidies in urban settlements. Tarabut seeks to build a non-dogmatic context for thinking from practice, for trying to forge alliances and strategies that bring together isolated struggles. Hence the name (‘come together’’ ‘associate’ in Hebrew and Arabic): Ad-hoc coalitions can hardly withstand the enormous pressures and daily racism in Israeli society. We seek to bring together people, not organizations, to think together without dogmatic certainties, and to work for social change.

Tarabut was formed in October 2006, in the aftermath of the campaign against the War in Lebanon of the summer. Until its formal founding meeting, in January 2008, some 250 people have joined. It has been active in several campaigns: against house demotions of Arab residents in Wadi Ara, in the student’s strike in Israeli universities (Spring 2007), against the eviction of poor inhabitants of Tel Aviv’s popular neighborhoods in the interests of real-estate developers – and that of the Arab residents of Jaffa, which faced a combined campaign of gentrification with nationalist discrimination; in labor struggles over the recognition of local unions in unorganized branches, and so on. At the same time, it has sought to bring new ideas and analysis to public discussion: Tarabut has warned that the Annapolis summit did not spell peace for Israelis and Palestinians but an attempt to consolidate American hegemony and an exacerbation of divisions among Palestinians and imposing Israeli demands on the Palestinian leaders. It has urged the Israeli left to support the demand of the Arab minority for full equality – including recognition of its collective rights, and to realize that the democratization of Israeli society demanded by the representative of the Arab minority is in the interest of all under¬privileged groups in Israel.

I am thinking about it a lot, and may post something, because I have to teach the second part of World Civ this semester, and I’m reconstructing the course to make sure that I spend plenty of time on 19th C imperialism and colonialism, and on post-colonialism. I may not get past the 1970s, but this time I will get there. To me, it means teaching relatively current events, but if one of the points of a university education is to understand the world around us, and I can show them the kinds of things that give direct background to what’s going on in their world, AND it’s in the scope of one of my service courses, why not?

4 Comments leave one →
  1. 11 January, 2009 1:25 am

    Your students were not born in the 70s. No one has taught them any more recent history. Take the pledge: go all the way.

  2. 11 January, 2009 5:00 am

    Hee! You know, I had kind of a wiggins when I realised that most of them were born in 1990. 1990. The sad thing is that I’m really cutting a lot of the Ren/Ref stuff I’d like to talk about. But I teach a course in that, so I they want to know more, they can take another course, I suppose.In the meantime … The Battle of Algiers, here we come!

  3. 16 January, 2009 6:27 pm

    Yesterday I combined Amichai and Darwish in Contemporary World Lit and didn’t realize how much is unclear about the world to most of my students. sigh.

  4. 16 November, 2009 12:28 pm

    A good post on "A different Medievalist on Gaza, from Israel".If you are looking for non profit fund raising tap into an established, successful, and proven Fundraising Program that works @ http://debtfreeliving.supportnonprofits.comThanks,GladwinFund raising that really works

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