I missed David Shulman’s blogpost in the New York Review of Books last week on the expulsions in Susya, a Palestinian village surrounded by illegal settlements in the Hebron Hills. Shulman’s reporting focuses on a large Israeli protest of the action, but it seems most significant for the commitment the NYRB is making to Shulman, a writer of real confidence who is not afraid to interrogate Jewish identity construction. When will the New Yorker get to this? I believe Shulman is echoing David Remnick’s fears about the occupation; Remnick should be running this stuff.
Two excerpts below. The second is a nice bit of reporting on the Palestinian resistance. But the first passage is from where Shulman begins, reading Israeli writer S. Yizhar’s 1949 story about the destruction of a Palestinian village during the Nakba, and Yizhar’s agony about what he had participated in.
The story embodies the conscience of Israel at the moment of the state’s formation. It also gives voice to a much older Jewish tradition of moral protest and the struggle for social justice. When I was growing up in the Midwest in the 1950s and 1960s, I mistakenly thought that this tradition was at the core of what it meant to be Jewish.
Sixty-three years have passed since Yizhar wrote “Khirbet Khizeh.” I wish I could say that what he described was an ugly exception and that such actions don’t happen any more. It is not, and they do. This week I find myself in Susya, in the South Hebron hills, near the southern corner of the West Bank. Like their counterparts in many other Palestinian villages, Susya‘s approximately 300 inhabitants are impoverished, badly scarred, terrified, and defenseless. The week before last the officers of the Civil Administration, that is, the Israeli occupation authority, turned up with new demolition orders in their hands; these orders apply to nearly all the standing structures in the village—mostly tents, ramshackle huts, sheep-pens, latrines, and the wind-and-sun-powered turbine that Israeli activists put up some three years back to generate electricity on this stony, thirsty hilltop in the desert..
As in other Palestinian villages I’ve seen in this mode of non-violent protest, at Susya the women had a leading part, fearlessly engaging the soldiers, taunting them, dancing and singing before them, insouciant. Alongside these women was a troupe of five brightly costumed clowns, no less daring and inventive. Imagine a soldier, laden down with helmet and cartridges and grenades and boots and all the other foolish bits of metal and plastic, pouring sweat in the midday sun. What, exactly, is this soldier to do when a clown with a bright red nose, cackling and giggling, sticks a peacock’s feather down the muzzle of his sub-machine gun and then proceeds to tickle his nose?