Yitzhak Laor

Yitzhak Laor lives in Tel Aviv. He is the editor of Mita’am.

Orchestrated Panic: the Never-Ending War

Yitzhak Laor, 1 November 2007

The 1967 war changed the lives of Israelis and made Palestinian lives hell. Shortly after it, Israel’s Labour prime minister, Levi Eshkol, a relative moderate, approved the colonisation of the West Bank. The Labour Party never really opposed the process, though for years it seemed to have its doubts. That way of carrying on – appearing indecisive, sounding hesitant, while acting...

As soon as the facts of the Bint Jbeil ambush, which ended with relatively high Israeli casualties (eight soldiers died there), became public, the press and television in Israel began marginalising any opinion that was critical of the war. The media also fell back on the kitsch to which Israelis grow accustomed from childhood: the most menacing army in the region is described here as if it is David against an Arab Goliath. Yet the Jewish Goliath has sent Lebanon back 20 years, and Israelis themselves even further: we now appear to be a lynch-mob culture, glued to our televisions, incited by a premier whose ‘leadership’ is being launched and legitimised with rivers of fire and destruction on both sides of the border.

In 1950 the Israeli parliament passed the Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law, the first constitutional expression of Israel’s belief that it must act as the heir of the Jews murdered in Europe. This status won international recognition only gradually, thanks by and large to West Germany’s decision not only to pay compensation to the victims of Nazism but also to pay...

In Hebron: The Soldiers’ Stories

Yitzhak Laor, 22 July 2004

“The former soldiers who took part in the exhibition – it closed at the beginning of the month – are working on what they call journalistic research, though it looks as if they are collecting evidence for some sort of imaginary trial. The exception incriminates an individual soldier; if you can show that it is the rule you incriminate the true criminals of the war, the heads of the IDF and the government. These ex-soldiers are gathering photos, confessions, testimonies for further exhibitions. What they are telling us is common knowledge beyond the hill, acrss the checkpoints, in every shattered Palestinian kindergarten. They are doing it because they still believe in some sort of Israeli justice.”

Before Rafah: Israeli militarism

Yitzhak Laor, 3 June 2004

“José Saramago, visiting Israel in March 2002, before the invasion in which Israel reoccupied the territories, said that Israel had two problems. The first, he said, is that the settlements need the army. Everyone agreed. The second is that the army needs the settlements. Nobody agreed. Nobody even listened. Yet General Ya’alon knows that without the settlements he would have no excuse for patrolling the Gaza strip. Do Israelis understand the military’s motives? No. Many Israelis, probably the majority, would gladly turn their backs on the settlers. Not on the military, though.”

Silent Partner: Israel’s War

Yitzhak Laor, 8 May 2003

On 4 April, a news item on BBC World, introduced as ‘The Israeli Lesson’, dealt with suicide bombing as a potential problem for the Anglo-American axis in Iraq. We were shown footage from Israeli checkpoints in Palestine, where the lesson had already, allegedly, been learned. Palestinian civilians were shown being kicked by soldiers, although of course they were treated this way...

Hatred played a major role in the election campaign. That part of the Left which called for an end to the Occupation failed: compassion didn’t seem to fit. If there was any compassion to be felt it was for Sharon. The people, the masses, the poor, were called on to defend him from ‘leftist incitement’.

Diary: General Boogey’s War

Yitzhak Laor, 3 October 2002

Another veil will fall over what happens beyond the hills, ten minutes from my relatively safe home, while there, under the non-reported non-event of a curfew, a nation is incarcerated and preparing for the worst.

After Jenin: Israel’s Imago

Yitzhak Laor, 9 May 2002

What has the war between us and the Palestinians been about? About the Israeli attempt to slice what’s left of Palestine into four cantons, by building ‘separation roads’, new settlements and checkpoints. The rest is killing, terror, curfew, house demolitions and propaganda. Palestinian children live in fear and despair, their parents humiliated in front of them. Palestinian...

The best thing about Amos Oz’s novel in verse is almost untranslatable: his Hebrew poetry is too dense for any European language to convey. The musicality and rhythm are impressive, and Oz’s mastery of free indirect speech allows him to effect a continuous movement between his narrator and his characters. Free indirect speech plays a major role in modern Hebrew prose, partly...


The Israel Lobby

23 March 2006

John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt almost acquit the American war machine of what is happening here. ‘The bottom line,’ they write, ‘is that AIPAC, a de facto agent for a foreign government, has a stranglehold on Congress, with the result that US policy towards Israel is not debated there.’ Suppose AIPAC weren’t there: would American policy in the Middle East be different?...


3 June 2004

I guess Ralph Seliger attended the 15 May rally in Tel Aviv (Letters, 24 June). Otherwise he wouldn't invoke Yossi Beilin's speech to counter my claim that the Zionist left does not criticise the IDF. He must have noticed that Beilin did not condemn even General Yom Tov Samya, who on the same stage called for the liquidation of Arafat. Nor could Seliger have missed the brutal attack on the large group...

What the Settlers Know

6 November 2003

The one-state solution returns, riding on the backs of Israelis and Palestinians, who cannot solve their problems. Both Virginia Tilley (LRB, 6 November) and Tony Judt (in the New York Review of Books) acknowledge that it is about time Israelis grew up and accustomed themselves to the notion that the 19th century is over: nationalism is out, and citizenship is not ethnic, nor should it be. The trouble...

On Criticising Israel

21 August 2003

Judith Butler’s point (LRB, 21 August) can be narrowed to a single question addressed to Israeli and Jewish advocates abroad: where is the line that you will not cross in step with the state of Israel? At what point does Israel’s war stop automatically being ‘my war’? Had this question been asked of so-called liberals some ten years ago, they would have had to draw their line...

11 September

4 October 2001

I've been thinking a lot about Marjorie Perloff's gardener. Does Mr Vargas always call Marjorie by her first name, or only when she tells him about those leftists in Europe? Does she always ask his opinion on political matters? Does she ask his opinion in other contexts? If this is the first time she has asked for his political views, then something good did happen in America following 11 September....

Unfaithful to Wagner

11 February 1993

Paul Lawrence Rose (Letters, 25 March) tries to make himself clearer by saying that he wants to confine Wagner’s banning ‘only to Israel’. Then he goes on: ‘I took pains at a meeting of the New York Wagner Society … to emphasise that I was in favour of performing Wagner outside Israel.’ What a pain. Had this not been a symptom of a much vaster political phenomenon,...

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