Among Men: Zionism as Homo-Nationalism

27 במאי 2012

Introduction, or, The Zionist Voyeur

In her biography of the Labour Zionist leader Meir Ya’ari, the historian Aviva Halamish quotes the following passage from Ya’ari’s diary, depicting a night-swim with a male friend in the Kineret:

In the shade of an Acacia grove emanating scent and moon shadows.  We were tired and heavy like lead […] a revolt started to stir in me. “Hey man, you are 23. It’s Saturday. Freedom beckons you.” I sprang up. I pulled my friend, with the gentile’s face, by his shirt. He awoke immediately. Quickly we undressed. “Brother, let’s fish the moon in the water.” […] revolt and romantic fantasies were gushing in him too…we understood each other. We jumped into the water, rending their smooth surface and we frolicked until we were out of breath. He walked in front of me. Silver streams ran down his naked copper arms. They moved in a menacing rhythm and filled me with fear and desire. He went deeper and deeper, up to his shoulders, up to his neck, up to his head – to fish the moon out of the water. In moments like this you can betroth death.  Suddenly we heard some workers singing loudly. They approached us on their boat. We snapped back into “reality” and ran to the beach.


 Halamish uses the passage to describe Ya’ari’s psychological state just before meeting A.D. Gordon and joining a kvutza where he could channel the angst and idealism so plainly apparent in his writing. She does not, however, comment on the homo-erotic facets of the text. Ya’ari is very explicit about the “fear and desire” that his friend, with his “face like a gentile’s” and “naked copper arms” incites in him. We may never know if Ya’ari would have acted on his desire since he and his friend were interrupted by the arrival of “workers” and that pregnant moment was cut short.[2]

My point here is not to out Ya’ari. His “true” sexual orientation is of no concern to me. I would like to argue, however, that the scene described by Ya’ari is paramount to our understanding of Zionism’s gender politics. It is a primal scene, echoed and repeated in the writing of Zionist (male) ideologues.[3] In this scene – which is always narrated from the point of view of an “old”, physically weak Jewish intellectual – the narrator encounters, surveys and sometimes gropes a young, beautiful and muscular “new Jew”. In the eyes of these ideologues, the “new Jew” is ever an Other – he is always the object and never the subject of desire, leaving him a present but elusive ideal.

The thesis of the present paper is that this encounter between the effete, neurotic Jewish male intellectual and the wholesome, broad-shouldered Jewish male worker/farmer/soldier is the main fantasy underlining the Zionist project. Zionism is a gendered answer to the dual threat of European anti-Semitism/assimilation and more specifically to the masculine anxieties of assimilated European Jewish men. The emasculation of European Jewish men by the surrounding Christian societies is well documented in scholarly literature; the Jewish man was considered by anti-Semites to be feminine, physically weak, submissive, passive and generally “queer”.[4] He wasn’t, to put it bluntly, man enough. As Sander Gilman and others have shown, major Zionists thinkers internalized those pernicious stereotypes.[5] Thus, if Zionism was aimed at the “regeneration” of the Jewish body politic, that body was specifically a male one.

I would like call a nationalist project that is concerned with the rehabilitation of the male body and psyche “homo-nationalism” because that strand of thought is produced by men and for men. The term was coined by the queer theorist Jasbir Puar and used to describe members of the LGTB community who hitch their ideological wagon to the liberal nation-state, while being used by the state as an excuse to imperialize homophobic, “terrorist” third world countries.[6] I would like, however, to use the term differently: I understand homo-nationalism as a continuation of homo-sociality, that is, a socio-political formation that is primarily concerned with the anxieties of- and interaction between men. Contrary to Puar, I am not interested in the sexual orientation of the members of the nation. In fact, one of the aims of this paper is to show that rather than being a sublimation of sexual desire, non-sexual desires – in this case the desire for a healthy, virile, body politic – inform and shape sexual ones.

For that reason I do not treat Ya’ari’s description of his friend as an indication of homosexuality. The term homosexuality itself presupposes an innate, primal desire that is unhindered and unaffected by external circumstances.[7] I would suggest that Ya’ari desires his unnamed friend because the latter represents a national ideal that Ya’ari himself could never embody. This does not foreclose on the option of genuine homo-erotic feelings – just on the exclusivity of a homo-erotic reading.

Whatever Ya’ari’s feelings toward his object of desire were, his need to identify with the goy-like, muscular and hetero-normative Other turns into a desire for the Other. I would suggest that identification turns into desire because the Zionist voyeur cannot see in himself the corporeal perfection he sees embodied in the Other. Thus identification, which hints at similarity, gives way to desire, which hints at some modicum of otherness.[8] But since Zionists desire normalcy – read, hetero-normativity – the homo-nationalistic desire must be disavowed by the desirer and redirected into other venues. And so, that sexually charged moment between Ya’ari and his goy-ish friend, who “goes deeper and deeper, up to his shoulders, up to his neck, up to his head”, a moment in which “you could betroth death” turns into coitus interruptus when a group of “workers” – standing in for the Zionist collective – bring the two men back into “reality”: rather than realizing the homosexual option, Ya’ari would channel this desire into agricultural work and political activity.

The following is divided into two parts. First I will look at the scholarship of Daniel Boyarin and Todd Presner, who tried to historicize the invention of the modern (Zionist) Jewish man by locating his origin in fin-de-siècle German culture. Secondly, I will survey works by literary scholar Michael Gluzman and film scholar Raz Yosef, who studied the ways in which Israeli art has endeavored to prop up the masculine ideal of the muscular Jew, while at the same time demonstrating the necessary sacrifice needed to maintain it.  

Part One: The Rise of Homo-Nationalism

The historian George Mosse sees the ascendance of the European middle class and of European nationalism as inexorably linked.[9] From the French revolution onward, nationalist struggles were imbued with a moral tinge: patriotism, piety and perseverance were considered both nationalistic and bourgeois values.[10] The French revolution was also, according to Mosse, the moment when “the ideal of manliness came into its own”.[11] The new nexus of nationality/class/gender became prominent as the Jews of western and central Europe went through the process of emancipation, which allowed them to assimilate, to a limited extent, into gentile society. One could argue that modern anti-Semitism, configured as it was in scientific and racial language, was an attempt to differentiate between the assimilated Jew, who donned all the trappings of a bourgeois Frenchman or German, from genuine (read: Christian) Frenchmen and Germans. Assimilation, in other words, was understood by anti-Semites as dissimulation.

Although Christian fascination with the allegedly feminine Jewish body dates at least to the Middle Ages, the nineteenth century saw the medical pathologization of the Jewish body.[12] As the nation was seen more and more as an actual living body, the Jews’ stereotypically abnormal bodies marked them as national outsiders.

Jewish men bore the brunt of this new bio-political anti-Semitism. In the Yiddish culture which developed in Eastern Europe, the masculine ideal was of the scholar who devoted himself to his studies and was supported by his wife. This ideal, of course, negated most gentile masculine values: physicality, strength, independence, material success and sexual domination.[13] Since the scholarly Jewish man seemed to embody the very “countertype” to the ideal gentile man, he became the main target of a bio-political anti-Semitism which understood each individual body as a component and a representation of the national body. The Jewish man could not be a part of the body politic because he could not embody the national-masculine ideal.

This is the starting point of Daniel Boyarin’s project in Unheroic Conduct. The Yiddish yehsiva bokhur, claims Boyarin, was indeed gentle, effete and decidedly un-hetero-normative. But within Yiddish culture these characteristics were not considered faulty – on the contrary, they were desirable.[14]

Although Boyarin does not attack assimilation head on,[15] the fact that he locates the marginalization of the gentle Jewish man in the works of Freud and Herzl, two assimilated Viennese Jews, should alert us to the fact that Boyarin is trying to re-negotiate the term of Jewish assimilation. Both Freud and Herzl, he argues, internalized anti-Semitic stereotypes and gentile sensibilities.[16] Boyarin looks at the vicissitudes of Freud’s Oedipal theory in relation to Freud’s own homo-erotic attraction to Wilhelm Fliess and to his Jewishness.[17] Freud’s disavowal of his feelings towards Fliess came at a time when the modern category of the “homosexual” was gaining traction.[18] This category poised homosexuals as feminine men, and thus as metaphorically equivalent to Jews; conversely, it meant that Jews were queer even before the term acquired its modern meaning.[19] “The Oedipus complex” as Boyarin puts it eloquently, “is Freud’s family romance of escape from Jewish queerdom into gentile phallic heterosexuality”.[20] I believe that Freud’s insistence on the heterosexualization of the oedipal complex[21] validates my claim that non-sexual desires – in this case, Freud’s desire to be a manly gentile – can and have determined sexual desires. In Freud’s case this influence is quite literal as his writings have shaped the modern theory of sexuality to an unparalleled extent.

Zionism – at least its German strand – is for Boyarin “the most profound sort of assimilation” and a project whose aim was to “transform Jewish men into the type of male that [the Zionists] admired, namely, the ideal “Aryan” male”.[22] Herzlian Zionism, then, is an attempt at “an honorable conversion of Jews to Christianity, understood as it always was for Herzl as not a religion, but as Kultur itself, as civilization”.[23] The only way to convert to German-ness without inciting the same rancid bio-political anti-Semitism that was already apparent in Herzl’s Vienna, was to conduct the experiment outside of Europe.[24] The Land of Israel then becomes a heterotopia and a heterochrony, representing at the same time the biblical period and “a Camelot in the desert or rather, a Vienna on the Mediterranean”.[25]

The Jewish state, according to Boyarin, was supposed to be a re-education camp where “manly, honorable, dueling…Zionists” would transform the groveling, scheming Mauschels of Eastern Europe into true men.[26] The choice of the Land of Israel as the site of the Zionist Champ de Mars, then, had to do with more than religious longing: it served as a site of a “colonialist performances of male gendering…Herzlian Zionism imagined itself as colonialism because such a representation was pivotal to the entire project of becoming ‘white men’”.[27] The Zionist colonial project, according to Boyarin, is itself an example of colonial mimicry.[28] To build on Boyarin’s argument, Zionism, up until 1948, was a simulacrum of colonialism: a carbon copy without an origin (a metropolis) that needed to hitch itself to changing surrogate empires. 1948 was the beginning of an imperialization process which came to fruition in 1967: the creation of a genuine Israeli empire, with a “white” metropolis and “black” peripheries. If we take Boyarin’s analysis seriously, then the so-called occupation cannot be thought of as a conjectural historical accident; it is the fulfillment of Herzlian Zionism’s primal fantasy – to become a race of conquering, manly gentile-Jews. The constant belligerence demonstrated by Israel and its inability to let go of the settlements in the West Bank are creating time and again situations where Zionists have to affirm and re-affirm their colonial manhood.

Let us turn now to Todd Presner’s book Muscular Judaism. Presner locates the invention of the muscular Jew trope at the end of the nineteenth century, as part of a whole set of “regenerative” politics.[29] He stresses that muscular Judaism was at the same time a response to the deeply nationalistic and racist discourse prevalent in turn-of-the-century Germany, and an incorporation of its major themes.[30] Presner goes as far as claiming that “the birth of the muscular, healthy, and masculine Jewish body had some of the same cultural, social and intellectual origins as the Fascist body”.[31]

The term muscular Judaism was coined by Max Nordau during the second Zionist congress (1898). According to Presner, Nordau aimed at “the cultivation of certain corporeal and moral ideals such as discipline, agility, and strength, which would help form a regenerated race of healthy, physically fit, nationally minded, and militarily strong Jews”.[32] The need to regenerate the Jewish people stemmed from Nordau’s perception of the Ostjuden as “weak…powerless…Luftmenschen” and from the demographic decline of the rapidly assimilating Western Jewry.[33] As I have suggested in the introduction, when Nordau spoke of weak Jews he was referring to weak Jewish men, and indeed “women [were] conspicuously absent in the vast majority of discursive practices and representations of the muscle Jew”.[34]

Nordau made a name for himself as the author of entartung (1892), a book in which he attacks degenerated art – characterized by “overweening vanity and self-conceit” – and advances instead “an unflagging investment in the lucidity of science and the rationality of the Enlightenment”.[35] But degeneration is more than an intellectual state; Nordau connects cultural degeneration with “race-based, physical deformities”.[36] He, in fact, talks about the “end of race”, a play on the term fin-de-siècle.[37] It is clear, then, that for Nordau regeneration must include a prominent physical component. In fact, mental regeneration cannot come about without a physical one, and vice versa.

Nordau thus demanded from the Jews of his time soldierly discipline and Spartan devotion in their attempt to regenerate the Jewish people.[38] One important venue of regeneration was physical exercise. “In the cramped quarters of the Jewish ghetto” argued Nordau, “Jews forgot how to move their limbs freely; in dark houses, their eyes blinked nervously…their formerly strident voices turned in to mere whispers”.[39] Muscles are thus not just an indication of regeneration, but also a metaphor for regeneration, since muscles can atrophy and be re-built again.[40] One could say that in looking at biblical warriors for inspiration, Zionists were trying to recreate a Jewish “muscle-memory”.[41]

The Jewish gymnastics associations which spread throughout Central Europe at the turn of the century were seen as a national – if not always Zionist – endeavor.[42] This attempt at regulating the Jewish body, claims Presner, should be understood as a part of a bigger Jewish bio-political project that aimed at charting “the birth and death rates of the Jewish people, their life expectancies, their patterns of diet and habituation, their marriage regulations, their susceptibility to illness, their contraceptive practices and other statistical indicators of the population’s vitality”.[43] The health of the individual Jewish body, then, becomes both a component and an indicator of the general Jewish Volkskorper’s state. Not surprisingly, it was around that time that Alfred Nossig founded the Association for Jewish Statistics, which published its own journal, edited by Arthur Ruppin.[44]  Even before the establishment of a substantial Zionist apparatus in Palestine – marked by the arrival of the same Ruppin in 1907 – all those Zionist organs – sport associations, bureaus and journals – were geared towards state formation. In Presner’s words, “bio power functions…according to the ways in which regulative discourses on sexuality consolidate the will to a state.”[45] To conclude, Presner shows that German Zionism had developed as a bio-political project aimed at the regeneration of the Jewish body politic through Jewish body politics, and which created a “will to a state” by imbricating statism, statistics and (male) stateliness.

Part Two: The Pink Platter

Up to this point we have been concerned with the invention of the muscular Jew by Jewish intellectuals. Let us now look at the way Israeli writers and artists have questioned the myth of the self-assured, straight muscular Jew. Reading the scholarship of Michael Gluzman and Raz Yosef, we will see that Israeli writers, who were supposed to both embody and represent the new Jew, took apart the possibility of being an uncomplicated, cardboard cutup of a muscular Jew.

In his book, The Zionist Body, Literary scholar Michael Gluzman looks at a wide array of works by Jewish and Israeli novelists which deal with body- and masculine politics. Diaspora writers, like Bialik and Mendele Mocher Sforim, express a complex relation to the Jewish body, mocking it and denouncing Jewish male femininity and passivity while at the same time re-affirming their loyalty and admiration of Yiddish culture.[46] Y.H. Brenner, the enfant terrible of the pre-state literary circle criticized heavily the Zionist attempt to regenerate the Jewish man by having his protagonists immigrate to Palestine only to discover that their exilic anxiety and impotence travelled with them to the Promised Land.[47]

But Bialik’s, Abramovich’s and Brenner’s protagonists were all Eastern European men, already infected from birth with Jewish powerlessness. It is when Gluzman looks at Israeli novels that the impossibility of ever inhabiting the Zionist male ideal becomes clear.

He Walked through the Fields (1947) by Moshe Shamir is widely considered a seminal novel of the 1948 generation and its protagonist, Uri, the quintessential Israeli masculine fighter.[48] Uri, a kibbutznik and palmach officer, is supposedly a picture-perfect embodiment of the Zionist ideal, up to and including his “beautiful death”: jumping on a grenade to save his soldiers.[49] Gluzman, however, reads Uri’s death as a suicide, resulting from Uri’s Schreber-esque inability to assume the cultural position expected of him by his father.[50]

Uri’s breakdown is articulated in gendered and sexual terms. Shamir uses Mika, Uri’s older, non-sabra lover for two purposes: first, to serve as a countertype to Uri – she is female, feminine and non-native.[51] But more importantly, her descriptions of Uri’s body allow Shamir and his male readers to enjoy Uri’s physicality while eschewing the homo-erotic label.[52] When we compare Uri’s portrait to earlier scenes where Ya’ari and Herzl enjoy openly the presence of a beautiful male body, we can see that Israeli culture has fully embraced the invention of modern sexual definitions, and has become “normal” – that is hetero-normative and homophobic. For the 1948 generation – if not even earlier – homo-nationalistic desire must be circumvented through the female gaze, thus allowing for homo-eroticism in the guise of heterosexual desire.

Alas, Uri – despite his desirability – cannot assume the societal position prepared for him by the kibbutz (which here encapsulates and epitomizes Israeli society). Uri lives in the shadow of his father, an almost mythical figure in the kibbutz, and serves for Mika as a second-best replacement for his father, with whom she was in love.[53] The sexual encounter between Uri and Mika is written from Uri’s perspective, and instead of being registered as a moment of masculine conquest it is plagued with anxieties about inadequacy.[54] Uri, who cannot seem to measure up to his father, starts expressing masochist feelings, involving a strong wish to “be a victim” and “to be sacrificed”. His masochism and, one might argue, the generational masochism implied in the Altermanian “silver platter” ethos, results from the inability of the sabra sons to embody the masculine fantasies of the founding fathers.[55] Uri’s death, then, is a wish-fulfillment borne out of the impossibility of ever fully answering the clarion call of the Zionist super-ego.

Earlier I have suggested that given Zionism’s masculine fantasies, Israeli society should be read as a nation-wide boot camp. Yehoshua Kenaz’s novel Infiltration (1986), based on his own experience as a soldier in the 1950s, treats an IDF boot camp as a microcosm of Israeli society. The conscripts in the novel are infirm or disabled and thus already at the margins of Israeli masculinity. Nevertheless, their bodies are expropriated by the army, to the extent that one NCO yells at a private for damaging IDF property, that is, for cutting himself while shaving.[56] Turning those invalid youths into soldiers is explicitly described in gendered terms. Being a good soldier is synonymous with being – or rather becoming – “a man”.[57] Conversely, any conscript who cannot measure up to soldierly standards is branded “a female”. Gluzman describes Infiltration as an “encyclopedia of bodies”, most of them deformed in some way.[58] Immigrants, whether European or Arab, are portrayed in the novel as androgynous – the camp’s doctor, herself a camp survivor, is “neither a woman nor a man”.[59] Ben-Chemo, the laughable Arab-Jewish private performs a gender-bending belly dance that conflates femininity and Arabness.[60] Even the kibbutznik Alon, who seems to embody the Ashkenazi beauty ideal, has a heart murmur which prevents him from following in his father’s footsteps as an elite fighter. The novel ends with Alon’s suicide, and the similarities between him and Uri in He Walked through the Fields are obvious.[61]

The characters in Infiltration, all irrevocably marked as damaged by the IDF, engage in several forms of resistance; perhaps the most poetic of them is practiced by the protagonist himself, who narrates the novel in the first person. His form of resistance works, as Gluzman beautifully puts it: “contrary to the norms of personal narration, [as] we learn almost nothing about the protagonist. He makes his body disappear from the narrative and becomes an eye, a camera. By hiding his body, he tries to avoid the camp’s bio-politics, or at least watch it from a distance.”[62] The body is understood by Kenaz as a Kafkaesque surface on which the state inscribes its ideology. The only way to resist the statist inscription is to fashion the body into a separation wall by developing a “thick skin”.[63] The infiltration Kenaz writes about, then, is not that of the soldier into enemy lines, but of the state into one’s heart of hearts.

Film scholar Raz Yosef has written extensively about Israeli masculinity, and specifically about military masculinity. He understands Zionist masculinity as inherently masochistic: from the readiness for physical suffering expressed by the pioneers to the willingness of soldiers to lose life and limb for the nation, Zionist masculinity is deeply implicated in the pain and the destruction of the male body. Moreover, masochism allows new Jews to come to terms with the homo-eroticism inherent in Zionist culture without actually expressing it: the masochist gets off on the deprivation of pleasure and the disavowal of desire. The lack of any kind of sexual fulfillment then becomes a kind of pleasure in itself.[64]

Let us take for example the highly successful Israel movie Yossi and Jagger (2002). The movie depicts the love affair between two male IDF officers serving in Lebanon. Although Yossi and Jagger consummate their love physically, Yossi, who is Jagger’s superior, refuses to come out as gay despite his lover’s imploring.[65] At the end of film Jagger dies in combat. Yossi, visiting Jagger’s mourning mother cannot bring himself to tell her the truth about their relationship. Like Uri from He Walked through the Fields and Alon from Infiltration, the defected sabra must die in order to foreclose the option of queer Israeliness. Although Yossi comes out physically unscathed from his military service, he is still unable to come out as a gay man, confining himself to the closet, that is, to an emotional grave.[66] Tellingly, even a highly critical novel like Infiltration and a seemingly emancipatory film like Yossi and Jagger (which was produced and directed by Israel’s foremost gay power-couple, Eytan Fox and Gal Uchovsky), still succumb to the need to destroy the queer male body.

I would like to call this artistic trope “the pink platter”, after Alterman’s famous poem “The Silver Platter”. Alterman’s poem celebrates the heroic sacrifice of two Zionist fighters: a young woman and a young man.[67] I would like to argue that in order for this heterosexual sacrifice to take place, another sacrifice must be made: the disavowal of the possibility of a viable, happy queer existence, a disavowal symbolized in the continuous killing off of queer protagonists. I purposefully use the term queer rather than gay because I don’t believe that Zionism is inherently homophobic. Rather, Zionism is concerned with eradicating any kind of behavior that might brand Jews as non-normative. Thus, I believe, the toleration of gay culture in middle class Israeli culture is a mean of differentiating “white” Israeliness from the primitive Arabs (Jewish or otherwise) who surround it. In other words, it is exactly because gay-friendliness is perceived as normative in Western metropolises that the Israeli middle class embraces it. And so, while gay youths serve openly in the IDF, conscientious objectors, who are still viewed as queer and dangerous, serve sentences in military prisons for their refusal to enlist in the army. In Eytan Fox’s newest film, Yossi’s Story (2012), Yossi, the surviving protagonist of Yossi and Jagger, finally begins a relationship with a handsome paratrooper after years of self-denial. In contemporary middle class Ashkenazi Israel, being gay is alright as long as you are a veteran sleeping with other soldiers, that is, as long as your sexual choices are located well within the respectable ethnic boundaries of the nation.

Conclusion, Or, From Homo-Nationalism To Bi-Nationalism

In the present paper I have tried to offer a genealogy of Zionism’s relationship to masculinity. Using Boyarin’s and Presner’s work, I have suggested that due to the specific ways in which European anti-Semitism attacked Yiddish culture the care for the Jewish male body became Zionism’s most important cultural project. In the second part of the paper I have looked at the price Zionists and other Israelis have paid for Zionism’s constant need to banish the queer from the brave new Hebrew society.

I have also suggested that the alleged Israeli gay-friendliness is confided to certain sectors of Israeli culture which are concerned with keeping up with Western respectability. In other words, mainstream Israeli gay-friendliness is intimately tied up with Islamophobia. A true emancipatory project would be moving from homo-nationalism, a nationalism that is concerned with sameness and normativity, to bi-nationalism. Rather than a specific political program, I would like to use this awkward pun as an indicator that sexuality, gender and national politics are inexorably linked together. If homo-nationalism is indeed content with sacrificing its best and brightest on an altar of an impossible ideal, it should be replaced with a national contract that is willing to include the sexually, politically and culturally queer. One of the characters in Infiltration tells his comrade, a formerly religious soldier – “your body is still Jewish; it doesn’t know yet that it is Israeli”.[68] Maybe it is time that we claim our Jewish bodies – deformed, queer and imperfect as they are – back.  

[1] Aviva Halamish, Meir Yaari, A Collective Biography, The first Fifty Years: 1987-1947 (Tel-Aviv: Am Oved, 2007), p. 55. [Hebrew]

[2] Raz Yosef reads the same passage from Ya’ari in his "The Military Body: Male Masochism and Homoerotic Relations in Israeli Cinema", Theory and Criticism 18 (Spring 2001), pp. 14-15 [Hebrew]. Yosef understands Ya’ari’s desire as a masochistic homoerotic desire, while I, as will become clear, understands it as an offshoot of a more general, national desire.

[3] The Zionist Body by Michael Gluzman (Tel Aviv: Ha-Kibbutz Ha-Meuchad, 2007) [Hebrew], recounts many such scenes: for example, Herzl groping a bunch of Jewish porters in Jerusalem (p. 21); The writer Yaakov Ya’ari Polskin describing the muscular blacksmith “Sander Hadad” (p. 24); Moshe Smilanski writing about “Huja Nezer”, a beautiful Russian pioneer (p. 26); Friedrich Lowenberg, Altneuland’s protagonist, meeting David Litvak, once a Viennese beggar and now a pillar of the Zionist state (p. 56); Aharon, the teenager at the center of The Book of Intimate Grammar, trying to see his best friend, Gideon, naked (p. 251); Moshe Shamir observing Uri, his protagonist in He Walked Through the Fields, through the desiring eyes of Mika, his lover (p. 195); and finally, a strikingly similar scene in Yehoshua Kenaz’s After the Holidays (p. 221). See also Boaz Neuman’s discussion of the pioneers’ auto-erotic fashioning of their own bodies in Land and Desire in Early Zionism (Tel-Aviv: Am Oved, 2009) pp. 157-176 [Hebrew].

[4] Daniel Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), pp. 10-11, 210, 222; Gluzman, The Zionist Body, pp. 13-14.

[5] Sander Gilman, Jewish Self-Hatred, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 291-296; Gilman, The Jew’s Body, (New York: Routledge), p. 40; Gluzman, The Zionist Body, p. 19; Todd Presner, Muscular Judaism, (New York: Routledge, 2007), p. 34.

[6] Jasbir Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times, (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007), p. 2.

[7] See the introduction to David Halperin’s One Hundred Years of Homosexuality (New York: Routledge, 1990).

[8] In that sense, the desire that self-fashioned “old Jews” felt for new ones is “hetero-sexual” regardless of their actual gender.

[9] George Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality, (New York: Howard Fertig, 1985), pp. 4-5.

[10] Ibid., pp. 6-7.

[11] Ibid., p. 7.

[12] On medieval perceptions of the Jewish body, see: David Katz, “Shylock's gender: Jewish male menstruation in early modern England” Review of English Studies 50 (1999), pp. 440-462; Irvin Resnick, “Medieval Roots of the Myth of Jewish Male Menses”, Harvard Theological Review 93 (2000), pp. 241-263.

[13] Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, p. 229.

[14] Ibid., pp. 51-64.

[15] And since he acknowledges the homophobic tendencies of rabbinical culture and the debt of LGTB rights movement to both Enlightenment and Liberalism, how could he attack a Jewish appropriation of those traditions?

[16] Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, pp. 222, 277.

[17] Ibid., p. 212.

[18] Ibid., p. 208.

[19] Ibid., p. 210-212.

[20] Ibid., p. 213.

[21] That is, lusting after Mother and wishing to kill Father. See Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, p. 219.

[22] Ibid., p. 276-277.

[23] Ibid., p. 294.

[24] Ibid., pp. 279, 295. See also: Todd Presner, Muscular Judaism, (New York: Routledge, 2007) p. 10.

[25] Ibid., pp. 295, 302-303. On the concepts of heterotopia and heterochrony, see Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”, Diacritics 16 (Spring 1986), 22-27. One might suggest that in the light of Zionism’s desperate attempt to un-queer Judaism, the formulation of the Land of Israel as a hetero-topia acquires a second, gendered meaning.

[26] Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, p. 296. One could also formulate Israel as a boot camp, where boys turn into men. Indeed, to a large extent Israel is one big boot camp.

[27] Ibid., p. 302.

[28] Ibid., p. 303.

[29] Ibid., p. xxiii.

[30] Ibid., p. 4.

[31] Ibid., p. 17.

[32] Ibid., p. 2.

[33] Ibid. Nordau was born Simon Sudfeld in Hungary, and re-invented (one might say “regenerated”) himself as the German intellectual Nordau.

[34] But not, as Presner stresses, from the actual praxis of “body culture”: Muscular Judaism, p. 12.

[35] Ibid., pp. 38-39.

[36] Ibid., p. 39.

[37] Ibid., p. 48.

[38] Ibid., pp. 55-56.

[39] Ibid., p. 58.

[40] Ibid., p. p. 59.

[41] Ibid., p. 61.

[42] Ibid., p. 107.

[43] Ibid., p. 108.

[44] Ibid., p. 109.

[45] Ibid., p. 111.

[46] Gluzman, The Zionist Body, chapter 2 and 3.

[47] Ibid., chapter 4.

[48] Ibid., p. 185.

[49] Ibid., p. 186.

[50] For an analysis of Schreber’s breakdown see: Sigmund Freud, The Schreber Case, (New York: Penguin Classics Psychology, 2003). In the movie version, Uri is played by Assi Dayan, Moshe Dayan’s son.

[51] Gluzman, p. 196.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid., p. 200.

[54] Ibid., pp. 200-202.

[55] Ibid., pp. 204-205.

[56] Ibid., p. 222.

[57] Ibid., p. 227.

[58] Ibid., p. 229.

[59] Ibid., p. 231.

[60] Ibid., p. 232.

[61] Ibid., p. 233.

[62] Ibid., p. 234. My translation.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Yosef, "The Military Body”, p. 14-18.

[65] Raz Yosef, "The National Closet: Gay Israel in Yossi and Jagger," GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 11: 2 (2005), p. 283.

[68] Gluzman, The Zionist Body, p. 209.

Architecture as Art: Projects and Projections

13 במרץ 2012

 Whitewashing Tel-Aviv

The architect Sharon Rotbard begins narrating the story of Tel-Aviv in medias res, in July 2003, when UNESCO recommended that Tel-Aviv’s “White City” – a small area in the centre of the city built mostly during the 1930s – would be included in the organization’s list of world heritage sites.[1] The decision was the most pronounced effect of a discourse that began taking shape in the early 1980s with an exhibition called “White City”, which told a story of an artistic migration from the Bauhaus school in Dessau/Berlin to Palestine, in the wake of Hitler’s rise to power. The Jewish students of the school, forced to leave Nazi Germany, came to Tel-Aviv, then a sleepy petit bourgeois town, and transformed it by building the “White City”, a collection of modernist, chalk-white houses.[2] In the following years, this story will be retold many a time in newspapers, advertisements and municipal campaigns.[3]

But as Rotbard shows, the story is little more than an invented tradition.[4] The Art historian Michael Levine, who curated the “White City” exhibition, later recanted his own simplified version, asserting that the “White City” was an agglomeration of many influences beside Bauhaus: Le Corbusier, Erich Mendelsohn, and the “International Style”.[5] Furthermore, Levine acknowledged that the Bauhaus teachers themselves resisted any attempt to define a Bauhaus “style”.[6] Rotbard deconstructs the urban legend even further: some of the Jewish students who had studied in the Bauhaus school became prominent architects in Mandatory Palestine, but not in Tel-Aviv: loyal to the school’s socialist orientation, they worked mostly in the rural cooperated settlements, the Kibbutzim.[7]

Why, then, did the “White City” become synonymous with Bauhaus? The linkage between Tel-Aviv and Bauhaus had some precedents in the architectural discourse of the 1960s and 1950s, but the connection coagulated during the 1980s. In 1977, for the first time in the history of Israel (and of the Zionist settlement in Palestine), a right-wing party, the Likud, came to power. The Labour-oriented, Ashkenazi (i.e., European) elite was shaken to its core; one former minister quipped, after hearing of the election’s results, that rather than the government, “the people should be replaced”.  The Likud party had come to represent the Other (Jewish) Israelis: the oriental, the religious, the poor; it had come to represent black Israel. The “re-discovery” of the “White City”, Rotbard contends, was the old elite’s reaction to the Likud’s ascension.[8] The return to Bauhaus was a return to Europe, to an occidental, pristine, uncomplicated, modernity.[9] Now that the barbarians were at the gates of the polis, Ostjuden who immigrated from Galicia and Russia began feeling homesick for a Germany that was never their homeland.[10]

The story of the “White City”, then, is not a story of urban preservation but of reconstruction. What is being reconstructed here is the city’s image that is being projected onto those white houses, and that image is continually reconstructed in response to social and political changes.

 The Sandblasted City

 the future homeowners of Achuzat Bayit, 1909.

The whitewashing of Tel-Aviv goes back even further than the 1930s. The myth of Tel-Aviv is a myth of an immaculate conception, of a city that sprang, like an Aphrodite scrubbed fresh, from the sandy dunes north of Jaffa.[11] That myth is supposedly buttressed by an iconic photograph (fig. 2), taken on the eleventh of April 1909, when the lots of Achuzat Bayit, the neighborhood that would later become Tel-Aviv, were allocated to its future residents.[12]  The photo shows a crowd of people, the soon-to-be homeowners, surrounded by sand and hills; Jaffa and the Jaffans are nowhere to be seen. This photo tells Tel-Avivians everything they need to know about their city: that it was not, like settlements elsewhere in Israel/Palestine, built on stolen land; that the land it was built on was barren and uncared for; that they built it themselves, without the help of local workers, a bunch of “students and lawyers mixing the cement”, as one Tel-Avivian artist put it.[13] The photo presents a community that is at once autochthonic, born of the sand – and hence not colonial – and, on the other hand, an epitome of the Zionist desire to breathe life into the desolate, empty land.[14]Herein lies an oxymoron that pits autochthonism against modernization: in order to justify the reclamation of the land the settlers have to picture it as desolate. Alas, its desolation marks the land as particularly Arab, for it only became arid as a result of years of Arab neglect. But since the land is markedly Arab and the settler is markedly other than Arab – Jewish, European, Modern – the settler cannot be autochthonic. Thus, a vicious cycle is set in motion, where the disavowal and acknowledgement of Arab presence alternate and disrupt each other: the land is empty, but it is empty because it is neglected by its inhabitants; conversely, the land is neglected by its indigenous inhabitants, and so must be emptied of them.

The truth behind the birth of Tel-Aviv is much more mundane; hardly an Aphrodite, Tel-Aviv grew out of Jaffa more like Athena out of Zeus’s forehead. The Historian Maoz Azaryahu, who wrote a book about the myths of Tel-Aviv, reminds us that Achuzat Bayit was planned as a suburb of Jaffa, to be populated by affluent Jews who wanted to get away from noisy, dirty and increasingly inhospitable Jaffa;[15] it was not even the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside Jaffa – Neve Tzedek was established in 1887 and was followed by Neve Shalom, Mahane Yosef and others.[16] Why, then, was Achuzat Bayit/Tel-Aviv, rather than its older sisters, declared as the “first Hebrew city”? According to Rotbard, it was that famous photo that made the establishment of Achuzat Bayit such a pivotal moment; the photo encapsulated in an iconic fashion the myth of the city born out of the empty dunes.[17] The Historian Mark LeVine offers more grounded reasons. The founding fathers of Achuzat Bayit, he asserts, wanted to create a space where Zionists could nurture and practice their nationalistic values without unwarranted interference; they wanted to keep Jewish capital in Jewish hands and they wanted to build a settlement that would “bolster Jewish national prestige“.[18] From its inception, Achuzat Bayit was specifically imagined as modern, clean and Jewish.[19]

The plot of land that would become Achuzat Bayit was known as ‘Karem al-Jabali’ (the orchard of the Jabali family); the name itself suggests that the land was not empty or unused.[20] The construction of the new neighborhood was halted temporarily when local Bedouins claimed they were cultivating the vines in the plot.[21] Those locals were evicted – and perhaps paid off – but nomadic shepherds who used the land for grazing kept harassing the new residents.[22]

The insistence that Achuzat Bayit was built using Jewish labour is not supported by contemporary accounts: the homeowners found the Jewish builders to be too expensive and resorted to using Arab labourers who demanded less money and were more experienced.[23] In 1910 the neighborhood’s name was changed to Tel-Aviv (translated literally as Spring Hill); the name, as Azaryahu remarks, was previously used as the title to the Hebrew translation of Theodore Herzl’s utopian novel Altneuland.[24] The new name, the Jewish neighbors thought, reflected better the feat of erecting“magnificent buildings on the wilderness of sand.”[25]

 Jaffa’s disavowal by the Zionists was so entrenched, that it is almost completely absent for thedrawings of Nahum Gutman, the quintessential Tel-Avivian artist (figs. 3 and 4). Rotbard shows that if Gutman was aiming for verisimilitude, the Jaffan neighborhoods of Manshiyya and Kerem Hateymanim[26] should have been positioned between Tel-Aviv and the sea.[27] Jaffa only appears as a dark silhouette in the upper left corner of figure 4.

 The Painting on the Wall

Gutman’s drawing were not the only instance of Zionist art wishfully erasing Arab presence. In2000, almost a century after the establishment of Tel-Aviv, a wall was erected to the south of the Jerusalemite neighborhood of Gilo. Since the beginning of the second Intifada, Palestinian snipers from the adjacent Beit Jala neighborhood had been shooting at the denizens of Gilo, injuring some of them critically. The Israeli Ministry of Security had erected a wall to protect the Giloites, who in turn found it to be an eyesore and took to defacing it.[28] The municipality then commissioned artists to decorate the wall with an “artistic replica of the disappearing view”.[29] The Artistic community in Israel, strongly self-identified as leftist, had refused to collaborate with the municipal authorities.[30] Finally, a group of Russian immigrants, too poor and marginal to afford the moral high ground, was commissioned.[31] The immigrant artists had compunctions, but they also felt that the painted wall might raise the spirits of the residents of Gilo.[32] The painting on the wall, seen in figure 5, is of the very same landscape that the wall hides, sans the Palestinian neighborhood. “The wall”, writes W.T.J. Mitchell “is precisely an erection of a blind spot in the landscape, but a blind spot […] that conceals itself with a veil of illusory transparency […]”.[33] That the actual Palestinian neighborhood is visible from the Israeli side, as figure 5 clearly shows, should alert as to the fact that the wall is not a blind spot, as Mitchell contends, but rather a third eye, a chakra of seeing beyond the real: what is projected onto the wall is a fantasy of disappearance, of an ethnic cleansing that cannot be executed due to realpolitik and must exist, for now, only in the realm of art.[34]

The Palestinian neighborhood Beit Jala is not, however, completely absent from the painting on Gilo’s wall. As Mitchell notes, the painting does show distant mosques. The mosques, Mitchell writes, are a reminder, “a comforting acknowledgment of what and who will have vanished, a kind of melancholy recognition of disappearance that is the central aesthetic emotion of the romantic picturesque”.[35] The mosques, in other words, are a remnant, a mnemonic device of a victory yet to be achieved, a victory that, because Israel is a self-proclaimed western democracy, can only be desired and enjoyed like a dirty little secret, sublimated through art.

 Vertical Domination

The sublimation of violence through art delivers us back to Jaffa, where a remnant of a victory already achieved was turned into a museum.[36] In April 1948, during the civil war between the Palestinians and the Jews, a Jewish right-wing militia, the Irgun, conquered the Jaffan neighborhood of Manshiyya. This northernmost Palestinian neighborhood burrowed itself into the body Tel-Aviv – or, rather, Tel-Aviv wrapped itself around Manshiyya as it expanded west- and southward.

During the Civil war phase of the 1948 war (November 1947-May 1948), Palestinian and Zionist militias clashed in the interstitial no-man’s-land between Manshiyya and Tel-Aviv. The Tel-Avivians did not care for Manshiyya; “a thorn in the flesh of Tel-Aviv” they called it, a “cancerous tumor”.[37] Then, a few weeks before the establishment of the state of Israel, Menachem Begin, the Irgun leader, realizing that soon all Jewish militias will be incorporated into one Jewish army, decided that he needed a military achievement in order to consolidate political power.[38]  Manshiyya was chosen as the site of the attack. The battle itself is fascinating: the Irgun fighters, vastly outnumbered and underequipped, used explosives to burrow into buildings, avoiding the streets that were controlled by Arab fighters.[39] The Irgun fighters also erected makeshift barricades, made out of sandbags – sand being, apparently, the quintessential Zionist material – that allowed them to cross streets unharmed; the result of that improvised construction was a modular, serpentine system of barricades-cum-thoroughfares that could be adjusted on the spot in response to changes in the battle.[40] Finally, rather than shoot at the Arab defenders, the Irgun fighters used explosives to topple down building on their fortified outposts.[41] Manshiyya was conquered, and a few days later Jaffa surrendered to the Zionist forces.[42] The result of the tactics employed by the Irgun was what Stephen Graham and others have termed Urbicide – the killing of a city.[43]

But, miraculously, Manshiyya did not flatline just yet; after the war, with the Arab inhabitants gone, Jewish immigrants desperate enough to live amidst the debris and squalor squatted in the ruined buildings. It took the Tel-Avivian municipality over a decade to evict them and raze the neighborhood. [44] The detritus that was once Manshiyya was pushed by bulldozers into the sea, creating an artificial coastline, and on that new land a park was built; in 1978, forty some years after Nahum Gutman had wished it away in his paintings, Manshiyya was gone.[45]

In the park built on the ruins of Manshiyya, called “The Conquerors’ Park”, stands a peculiar building (fig. 8). Its lower half is made out of what was left of an Arab house, built in stone and adorned with ornamental arches. The upper half is an ultra-modernist rectangle, made out of aluminum and glass.[46] The building houses a museum dedicated to the conquest of Manshiyya. The power-relations between the modern(ist) conqueror and the oriental conquered are all too clear: the Zionist part hunches over, dominates the Palestinian part. The metaphor is so obtrusive, so raw, that rather than exemplifying architecture-as-art, the building verges on becoming architectural pornography.

For Rotbard, the Irgun museum, a building that houses memory, is an artifact of willful forgetting, of erasure.[47] I would like to suggest, however, that like the Peqoud’s Ishmael, the sole survivor nestled in his own coffin, this Arab ruin could be coaxed to testify to its own destruction. The need of the conqueror to display his conquest curtails the possibility of a complete erasure. The very difference needed to signify the distinction between the victor and the vanquished – the difference between stone arches and cubicle glass, in our case – makes sure of that. One man, said Hannah Arendt, always survives to tell the story; I would like to argue that buildings are able to do the same.

[1] Sharon Rotbard, ‘Ir levanah, ‘Ir shchorah [White City, Black City], (Tel-Aviv: Babel, 2005) [Hebrew]. Hereinafter abbreviated as Rotbard, White City, Black City.

[2] Ibid., p. 18.

[3] Ibid., pp. 28-33.

[4] Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger (ed.), The Invention of Tradition, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992).

[5] Rotbard, White City, Black City, p. 36.

[6] Ibid., p. 40.

[7] Ibid., p. 48.

[8] Ibid., P. 54. That the agriculture-oriented elite was concentrated in metropolitan, Bourgeois, Tel-Aviv is one of the many paradoxes comprising the city’s tale.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., pp. 55-56. Ashkenaz, the word that would come to represent all Jews of European descent (who were mostly concentrated in Eastern Europe) was the medieval Jewish name of Western Germany.

[11] Ibid., p. 78.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., pp. 73, 85.

[14] Ibid.

[15]Maoz Azaryahu, Tel-Aviv ha’ir ha’amitit, mitographia historit [Tel-Aviv – The Real City, A Historical Mythography], (Sde Boker: Ben-Gurion University Press, 2005), p. 29 [Hebrew]. Hereinafter abbreviated as: Azaryahu, The Real City. Mark LeVine reports that Jewish construction in Jaffa was sometimes met with Palestinian violence. See: Overthrowing Geography, Jaffa, Tel Aviv, and the Struggle for Palestine, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p. 48.

[16] Rotbard, White City, Black City, pp. 83-84; LeVine, Overthrowing Geography, p. 60.

[17] Rotbard, White City, Black City, p. 84.

[18] LeVine, Overthrowing Geography, p. 61.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid., p. 64.

[21] Ibid., p. 69.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid., p. 71-72.

[24] Azaryahu, The Real City, p. 33. Theodore Herzl was the progenitor of “political Zionism” and in his novel Altneuland he set a blueprint for the Jewish state. The Hebrew translator, Nahum Sokolov, was a prominent Zionist leader and a journalist. His translation is, however, rather convoluted: “Tel”, or hill in Hebrew, has a specifically ancient connotation; “Aviv”, or spring, is supposed to convey regeneration; hence, an “old-new” land.

[25] Levine, Overthrowing Geography, p. 72.

[26] Manshiyya was a Muslim neighborhood; Kerem Hateymanim (in Hebrew: the Yemenites’ Orchard) was a mixed neighborhood, populated by oriental Jews, Gypsies, Egyptians and Afghans. See: Rotbard, White City, Black City, p. 84.

[27] Ibid., p. 130-136.

[28] W.J.T. Mitchell, “Christo’s Gates and Gilo’s Wall” in Critical Inquiry, Vol.32, No. 4 (2006), p. 588.

[29] Ibid.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., pp. 589-590.

[33] Ibid., p. 590.

[34] The wall was taken down in 2010. The same residents that demanded its erection in 2000 campaigned to have it pulled down a decade later; the snipers stopped shooting and the wall did not agree with the middle-class facade that the locals were trying to cultivate. They had, however, only good things to say about the painting on the wall. See: Ma’ariv (online edition), 13.8.2010,  Omri Meniv, “Hasart homat hamagen be-Gilo: hatoshavim megivim be-regashot me’oravim [The Wall in Gilo is being Taken Down: The Residents Respond with Mixed Feelings]”, accessed 27.12.2011.

[35] Mitchell, “Christo’s Gates and Gilo’s Wall”, p. 590.

[36] On the “museumification” of indigenous architecture see: Paul Rabinow, French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1989), pp. 299-301; Yair Paz, “Shimur ha-moreshet ha-adrichalit ba-schoonot ha-netushot le’achar milchemet ha-atzma’ut [preserving the architectural heritage in the abandoned neighborhoods after the War of Independence], in Cathedra, Vol. 88 (1998), pp. 95-134 [Hebrew]; Nurit Alfasi and Roy Fabian, “Preserving Urban Heritage: From Old Jaffa to Modern Tel-Aviv”, in Israel Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (2009), pp. 137-156.

[37] Menachem Begin, Ha-mered [The Revolt], (Jerusalem: Achiasaf Press, 1965), p. 433 [Hebrew]. Begin would later become the leader of the Likud and in 1977 the prime minister of Israel. See above, p. 5.

[38] Yaakov Peleg, “Ha-ma’aracha ‘al Yaffo ve-‘al svivoteyha [The Battle of Jaffa and its Environs]”, in Alon Kadish (ed.), Milchemet ha-atzma’ut diyun mechudash [The War of Independence, a New Debate], (Tel-Aviv: Ministry of Security Press, 2005), pp. 397-398 [Hebrew].

[39] Ibid., p. 410.

[40] Haim Lazar, Kibush Yaffo [The Conquest of Jaffa], (Tel-Aviv: Shelach Press, 1951), p. 171 [Hebrew].

[41] Rotbard, White City, Black City, p. 183.

[42] Ibid., p. 186.

[43] See: David Campbell, Stephen Graham and Daniel Bertrand Monk, “Introduction to Urbicide: The Killing of Cities?”, in Theory & Event, Vol. 10, No. 2 (2007), accessed online in HTML format, 27/12/2011.

[44] Tel-Aviv incorporated Jaffa in 1950.

[45] Rotbard, White City, Black City, p. 231.

[46] Ibid., p. 235.

[47] Ibid., p. 239-240.

Architecture, Space and Colonialism in Israel/Palestine, 1909-2011

13 במרץ 2012


The present paper is concerned with architecture as a venue of colonial power. We will examine scholarly literature which explicates how architecture facilitates or disrupts colonial rule by expanding or limiting one’s possible actions. Thematically and chronologically, we will concentrate on the Zionist colonization of Palestine, which we will divided into two distinct phases: in the first phase, taking place between the 1880s and 1948, the Zionist colonial campaign was conducted by a network of non-statist organizations purchasing land from local landowners; from 1917 it was carried on under the auspices of the British Empire, which was given a mandate to manage Palestine by the League of Nations. Thus, Palestine was both imperialized and colonized: it was incorporated into the British Empire, but the settlers colonizing it were not Britons but East European Jews. The Colonization of Palestine culminated with the 1948 war which erupted after the British withdrew from the country, and which ended with a sweeping Zionist victory. The State of Israel was established, covering most of Mandatory Palestine’s territory, including regions allocated by the UN to a Palestinian state that never came to be. During the war, some 700,000 Palestinian refugees fled or were driven out of the country, most of them settling in the Jordan-controlled West Bank and the Egypt-controlled Gaza Strip.

The second phase begins with the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip during the 1967 war, and has yet to have ended. This time around the Zionist colonization of the West Bank and the Gaza strip was a state-driven affair: to this date the State of Israel has settled about 500,000 people in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.[1] The land on which more than 200 settlements were built was expropriated from its Palestinian inhabitants.[2] More land was expropriated to accommodate a complex skein of roads and military zones used to protect the settlers from Palestinian violence.[3]

The present paper is divided into two parts which tackle the the two phases described above. The first part begins, chronologically, in 1909 with the establishment of Tel-Aviv, the “First Hebrew City”. It is concerned with the way the architecture of Tel-Aviv was used to construct a mythical narrative about the Zionist reclamation and modernisation of Palestine. Discussing the work of Sharon Rotbard, Mark LeVine and other scholars who have studied the history of Tel-Aviv and the adjacent mixed city of Jaffa, I will show that the erasure of the Palestinians and of Palestinian architecture was an integral part of that narrative.

The second part deals with the Israeli military rule in the Occupied Territories (OT) since 1967. Using both James Scott’s insight about legibility as a governmental technique and Franz Kafka’s insight about randomness and uncertainty as a governmental technique, I will discuss recent works that analyse Israeli actions in the OT as aimed at increasing the state’s ability to see its subjects, and the subjects’ inability to see and comprehend the state. We will examine the way Israel uses destruction to “legibilize” the Palestinian urban space, and how the checkpoints which carve up the OT are used to disorient and incapacitate the Palestinians.

[1] See: B’Tselem, “Settlements and Land”,

[2] See: B’Tselem, “Land expropriation”,

[3] Ibid.

היכן בעולם נמצא אחמד אבו-לבן?

17 בספטמבר 2011

בארכיון צה"ל, בתיק 1860/1950-76, מסתתר סיפור קפקאי על היעלמותו של אחמד אבו-לבן, סוחר יפואי מאנשי המופתי, שהיה חלק מועדת החירום שחתמה על הסכם הכניעה של יפו ב-13 למאי 1948.

אבו-לבן, כמו עוד חברי ועדת החירום הושם במעצר בית אחרי כניעת העיר. ב-16 לאוגוסט הוא הובא בפני שופט באשמת החזקת נשק באופן בלתי חוקי והועבר לבית הסוהר המרכזי של יפו. ב-30 לאוגוסט שוחרר הנאשם ואמר לעורך-דינו, יצחק בן-ימיני כי "לא האשימוהו כליל ואינו יודע פשר מאסרו". אחר-כך, ב-12 לספטמבר נעצר שוב אבו-לבן. למחרת היום נסע בן-ימיני אל בית-הסוהר ביפו וביקש לראות את מרשו. מפקד בית הסוהר הודיע לפרקליט כי העצור נמצא בחלק הצבאי של בית הסוהר. ניגש הפרקליט לסגן המפקח של בית הסוהר הצבאי, הקצין פרויס, ודרש להתראות עם אבו-לבן. אמר הקצין לעו"ד כי דרושה לכך פקודה מיוחדת ולבקשת בן-ימיני התקשר למשרד המושל הצבאי של יפו על מנת להשיג אישור. הקצין פרויס שוחח עם אלכסנדר בן-זאב, סגנו של המושל הצבאי, אך השיחה התנתקה לפני שהושגו הסכמות כל שהן. הלך הפרקליט למשרדי המושל הצבאי ושם קיבל מידי בן-זאב פקודה בכתב המתירה לו להיפגש עם העצור. כשחזר לכלא מצא שם את הקצין פרויס יחד עם מפקדו, הקצין פפרקורן (בשלב הזה, מסתבר, הופכת הפרשה למחזה לויני). קרא פפרקורן את הפקודה, "בא במבוכה", ואז התעקש כי אבו-לבן כלל "אינו נמצא 'אצלו' בבית-הסוהר". כששאל בן-ימיני את הקצינים מה קרה לאבו-לבן במהלך הזמן שהיה הפרקליט אצל המושל הצבאי לא ידעו אלה מה לענות לו. עורך-הדין ביקש מן הקצין פפרקורן שייתן לו אישור בכתב כי העצור לא נמצא ברשותו. פפרקורן הלך להתייעץ וכשחזר, הודיע כי הוא "אינו מקבל פקודות מהמושל הצבאי" וכי "הנעצר אינו נמצא בבית הסוהר". עם זאת, הוא סירב לאשר את דבריו בכתב. בן-ימיני התעקש שלפחות יאשר בעל-פה שאבו-לבן אינו נמצא ברשותו והקצין הסכים תוך שהוא מדגיש כי "[העצור] אינו נמצא בבית הסוהר בשעה אחת אחר הצהריים באותו היום".

אחרי חילופי הדברים הבלתי מועילים הללו החל בן-ימיני לשלוח מכתבים לרשויות שונות בניסיון לגלות מה עלה בגורלו של אבו-לבן. ב-19 לספטמבר קיבל מכתב תשובה מבכור שטרית, שר המיעוטים, ובו מצוין כי אבו-לבן נמצא ב"מקום בטוח, באחד המחנות הצבאיים"; השר לא יכול היה או לא רצה למסור באיזו אשמה עצור אבו-לבן. לבסוף, באוקטובר 1948 הגיש בן-ימיני בקשה להביאס קורפוס לבית המשפט העליון. כאן נפסק נתיב המסמכים הקשור לפרשה. לא ברור מן המסמכים מה עלה בגורלו של אב-לבן והאם פרקליטו הצליח למצוא אותו בארץ רחבת הידיים המשתרעת בן הים והירדן.

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גטו ע'גמי, 1948

17 בספטמבר 2011

באוגוסט 1948 רוכזו ערביי יפו הנותרים, כמה אלפים בודדים, בשכונת ע'גמי. סביב השכונה הוקמה גדר, ובתיה הפנויים של יפו עברו לידי האפוטרופוס לנכסי נפקדים, שהעניק אותם לפליטים ועולים יהודים.

"גיטו בגדר-תיל, גיטו מנותק מגישה אל הים. הכזה יהיה הקו המדיני שלנו?" שאל מ. ארם את שר המיעוטים בכור-שלום שטרית. שאל, ולא ידע מה הוא שואל.

זכות השיבה, 1949

30 ביולי 2011

9 במרץ 1949

הנדון: העברת ערבים ממקום למקום

בתור צעד ראשון לפתרון שאלת הפליטים בשטח מדינת ישראל, יש להקל על כל הרוצים לחזור לחיפה, עכו, [מילה לא ברורה] ולכפרים שאינם נטושים, באם אין נגדם כל אשמה מיוחדת.

נא להמציא לי רשימה שמית עם הפרטים דלהלן:

(1) שם ומשפחה;

(2) שם האב;

(3) הגיל;

(4) מצב משפחתי;

(5) מקום המגורים.

                                                                                                             א. אבנר, אלוף

מפקד הממשל הצבאי בשטחים המוחזקים.

הכצעקתה, 1961

14 ביולי 2011



מר מרדכי נמיר

ראש עיריית תל-אביב

ראש עירייה נכבד,

מכתב תלונה רגיל של אזרחית לראש העיר ולא עוד אלא של אזרחית של עיר אחרת. יורשה לי להתחיל מכתב זה שלא כמקובל.

שבחים, הלל, קלס, רומם ופאר ליופי הגן האצמעות [כך] שבנית בימי כהונתך כראש העיר. הצמחים הנפלאים בשלל מיניהם וצבעיהם, המדרגות הרחבות, הספסלים הרבים בכל מקום, והאנדרטה הנפלאה, הנהדרה והמופלאה לטייסים אשר מכל זווית הסתכלות מעניינת היא ומקסימה – עושים גן זה ליפה ולמרהיב שבגני ישראל. הייתי ברבים מהם.

אולם אליה וקוץ בה.
כאשה צעירה ואולי גם די יפה, אני מרשה לעצמי לפנות אליך ולהביא לתשומת ליבך דבר מוזר מאד. גן זה מיועד לגברים מכל הגילים, כי עבורנו יש בך סכנה או לפחות אי נעימות רבה בישיבה בגן. הייתי בגן מספר פעמים בשעות היום השונות ולא לבדי וחשתי עצמי לא בטוב ואף נפחדת מקצת. מיד עם התיישבי הופתי [כך] בפרחחי העיר ובמובחרים שבהם. מובן ומיותר לציין כי ליד הים לא יכולתי כלל וכלל לשבת ונאלצתי לחפש מחסה בקרב אבות ואמהות שטיילו עם ילדיהם הקטנים.

וחבל חבל, כי דווקא בגן כזה, רוצה אדם להתבודד, לחשוב או להחליט על דברים שבעיר הבטון, הברזל וריח הדיזל והבנזין קשה לחשוב עליהם. בוטחת אני בך ובחבר עוזריך כי תמצאו פתרון משביע רצון לבעיה זו.

בתודה וסליחה על כי הטרחתיך בבעיה כה פעוטה בהתחשב עם קבוץ גלויות ופתחו [כך] הארץ, אולם חיינו רובם ככולם מורכבים הרי מרצף אחד של דברים פעוטים.

בתודה, הערכה וכבוד רב,

א.ב.ק [השם המלא שמור במערכת]

סגרגציה ואחרות: כיצד הפך השמאל לתרנגול כפרות

20 במאי 2011

הציונות היא אידיאולוגיה סגרגטיבית. הציונות נולדה כתשובה לאמנציפציה מחד, ולאנטישמיות החדשה, בעלת הגוונים הלאומיים-ביולוגיים, מאידך. אין זה מפתיע, אם כן, שהציונות הפנימה הן את הלאומיות הפסבדו-ביולוגית והן את הקסנופוביה העזה של מזרח ומרכז אירופה.

הציונים הביאו את המטען האידיאולוגי הזה איתם למרחב המזרח-תיכוני. ההתנגדות האלימה של הערבים המקומיים לשאיפות הפוליטיות של הציונים, ובמקרים רבים אף לעצם נוכחותם, בוודאי לא סייעה לקירוב הלבבות.

כך קרה שתולדות הציונות הארץ-ישראלית הן סיפורה של ההפרדה בין יהודים וערבים. בתקופת המנדט הייתה זו הפרדה כלכלית ותרבותית מעיקרה. כאשר נוסדה מדינת ישראל הפכה הסגרגציה לטוטאלית (רוצה לומר, היא פלשה לכל תחומי החיים). זאת משום שמטרתה העיקרית של מדינת ישראל היא לשמר רוב של אזרחים יהודיים. אם קיימת דמוקרטיה בישראל, היא קיימת רק כל עוד ישנו רוב אלקטוראלי לאתנוס היהודי. אמנם הקשר בין עלייתו של השיח הדמוגרפי ובין התפוררות הדמוקרטיה בעשור האחרון אינו סיבתי, אך הוא אינו מקרי: תחת הרושם שאבד הרוב יהודי בין הים והירדן אין שוב סיבה לשמור על הפאסון הדמוקרטי.

בתקופה שבין 1967 ל-1987 נדמה היה שהסגרגציה נחלשת קמעה. ערביי השטחים הפכו לנדבך מרכזי של הכלכלה הישראלית ולחלק בלתי נפרד מן הנוף הישראלי; הסגרגציה לא בוטלה, אבל היא הוקלה בתחומים מסוימים (וכל עוד העליונות היהודית נשמרה). דא עקא, עם התקדמות תהליך השלום ופריצת האינתיפאדה השנייה, החליטה מדינת ישראל להעלים את הפלסטינים. היא פיתחה מנגנונים משוכללים ויקרים להחריד על מנת למנוע מערביי השטחים לנכוח באופן פיזי בגבולות הקו הירוק, או בתוך המובלעות היהודיות מעברו האחר. אמנם את ערביי ישראל אין ישראל יכולה להעלים מבחינה פיזית, אולם היא עושה ככל שביכולתה להעלימם מבחינה משפטית, כלכלית ותרבותית.

הסגרגציה היא סיפור הצלחה גדול כל-כך, עד שהישראלים נותרו ללא אחר משמעותי. האזרחים הפלסטינים חיים בפריפריה, והלא-אזרחים חיים מעבר להרי החושך. לתפקיד האחר המכונן, אם כן, גולש באופן מטונימי השמאל הישראלי. כמובן, אינני טוען שמדיניות הסגרגציה היא הסיבה היחידה לתהליך הדה-לגיטימציה של השמאל. אולם אני מאמין שתיאוריית הסגרגציה שאני פורש בפניכם, קוראים יקרים, היא רחבה וכללית מספיק על מנת להכיל בתוכה הסברים אחרים.

בקצרה, אני טוען כי ההזרה של הפלסטינים, שעתה נתפסים בעיני היהודים כחיות אדם הראויות לתלייה, הפכה אותם לאחרים אחרים-מדי, בלתי אנושיים עד כדי כך שלא ניתן עוד להתייחס אליהם כאל אויב שווה-ערך. הפלסטינים רעים, על פי ישראל 2011, כפי שעקרב או כלב מוכה-כלבת הוא רע מטבעו. לכן נזקקים הישראלים הפטריוטים לאחר אינטימי יותר, אנושי יותר.

המיינסטרים הישראלי זקוק לאחר שאפשר עדיין לנהל איתו יחסים מורכבים של הזדהות ודחייה. אחרי הכול ובניגוד לערבים, סמולנים נראים כמונו, מדברים כמונו ולפעמים חולקים את טעמנו במוזיקה ובסרטים. כמו קומוניסטים באמריקה או יהודים מתבוללים בויימאר, הסמולן מזכיר לנו את עצמנו, מלבד אותה עודפות נוראית, מפלצתית, חבויה, שהופכת אותו לשיקוץ ואותנו לסובייקטים טובים. דווקא כאשר אנחנו מסוגלים להזדהות עם האחר, לראות את עצמנו בו, אישושו של ההבדל בינינו מענג יותר, חריף יותר.

תדמיתה הבין-לאומית של ישראל נמצאת בשפל חסר תקדים. היא ממלאת היטב את הנעליים הגדולות של דרום-אפריקה בתור "המדינה הקולוניאלית האחרונה". הישראלים, כמובן, אינם מסוגלים להעלות בדעתם כיצד התגלגלה מדינתם לנישה כה כפוית טובה ובתגובה הם עושים מה שכל אספסוף שמכבד את עצמו עושה: ציד מכשפות. כמו בריה"מ הסטליניסטית או ארה"ב המקרתיסטית, ישראל 2011 היא חברה במצב רוח קטסטרופלי-אפוקליפטי. אלו הן חברות פרנואידיות שמתחילות, באקט נואש של טיהור-עצמי, לאכל את עצמן, בתקווה שאם הן רק יוכלו להיפטר מן האלמנט הסורר הזה שבהן, מן הגוש הסרטני, הן יחלימו באופן פלאי. אבל מרגע שטעמת טעמו של טיהור, קשה מאד להפסיק.

מה הניתוח הזה אומר לגבי עתידו של השמאל הישראלי? ובכן, אני מניח שדווקא הלאומיות הביולוגיסטית של היהודים תמנע, באורח פרדוקסאלי, מהקמת מחנות ריכוז לסמולנים. אבל מלבד זאת, וכל עוד מעמדה הבינלאומי של ישראל ימשיך להתדרדר ותחושת המצור תלך ותגבר, הישראלים ימצאו דרכים להיפטר מהסמולנים. אם הפלסטינים ברחו למחנות פליטים, הסמולנים יברחו לאוניברסיטאות בחוף המזרחי ומשרדי היי-טק בחוף המערבי. אבל כמו הפלסטינים, סמולן שיחזור לכאן עד עשר שנים עלול לגלות שנוף מולדתו נמחק, והוא אינו מכיר עוד את האנשים ואינו מבין השפה שבה הם מדברים. אם ישראל מעלימה בהצלחה מיליוני פלסטינים, מדוע שלא תצליח להעלים כמה עשרות אלפי סמולנים? ואז, אחרי שנפטר מהסמולנים, אפשר יהיה להתחיל לטפל באנשים כמו שמואל הספרי ואלדד יניב, שפעם חשבנו ממש כמונו, ואז הם התחילו עם כל מיני שטויות כמו "שלטון החוק" ו"זכויות אדם". עכשיו כשאני חושב על זה, מי באמת מימן להם את הקמפיין?

Katzetnik's Testimony: A Re-Interpretation

2 במאי 2011

"The hall was devoid of blood, of fear, of pleading.

                The hall was filled with words."

Haim Gouri[1]


The trial of Adolf Eichmann is considered by many to be a watershed in Israel's relationship to the memory of the Holocaust.[2] The trial, which had pronounced political and educational overtones,[3] provided some dramatic and heart-wrenching moments; perhaps the most iconic among them was Katzetnik's[4] collapse on the witness stand.[5] While a myriad of works have been written about the trial itself, Katzetnik's testimony has received little scholarly attention. The most elaborate and authoritative is Shoshana Felman's interpretation, which appears in her book The Juridical Unconscious.[6] Felman sees Katzetnik's testimony in par with her thesis about the "crisis of witness", that is, the increasing inability of language to convey appropriately the horrors of the twentieth century (with the Holocaust being their epitome). For Felman, the witness's collapse acts out the Holocaust trauma in ways that the legal discourse could never have. While accepting Felman's distinction between the legal discourse and what might be termed Katzetnik's "artistic"[7] discourse, I am reluctant to fault his collapse entirely on the resurgence of his Auschwitz memories. As Katzetnik devoted his life to the re-telling of Auschwitz, one should doubt that even in the face of Eichamnn, Katzetnik's faculties would fail him so miserably. Without downplaying the force of Katzetnik's Auschwitz trauma, I would like to suggest that it was the specific settings of his testimony that facilitated his breakdown. I would like to use Jean-François Lyotard's concept of differend[8], which deals with a scenario where a subject is unable to state his claim because the discourse within which he speaks lacks the linguistic means necessary to formulate his plea, to show how the differences, both stylistic and ethical, between Katzetnik's testimony and the legal discourse, becoming more and more incommensurable with every utterance, had finally brought about the collapse of Katzetnik's language and body.

By re-contextualizing Katzetnik's collapse into the specific historical settings of the trial, I hope to show that far from subscribing to the thesis about the "inability to speak of the Holocaust", Katzetnik did everything within his rhetorical power to re-present the Auschwitz dead in the courtroom; it was the indeed the differend between Katzetnik and the representatives of the Law that rendered him mute – not the memory of Auschwitz. By juxtaposing Katzetnik's testimony with the famous first lines of Gideon Hausner's[9] opening address, I will show who the witness and the prosecutor had both formulated radically different and incompatible approaches to the memory of the Holocaust dead, and how, subsequent to his collapse, Katzetnik's testimony was incorporated into Hausner's own grand legal narrative, turning it, ironically, into the epitome of the "unspeakability of Auschwitz".




Being Witness

"…We have to tell, tell, tell, without end or boundary, about all that happened there."


Unlike many testimonies in the Eichmann trial, which bore little legal relevance to the charges against Eichmann, Katzetnik's testimony was supposed to prove that Eichmann had actually been to Auschwitz.[11] It is perhaps ironic that in a trial designed to encompass the full scale of the genocide, it was Katzetnik, a man feverishly dedicated to this very same goal, who was asked to corroborate some specific, localized, event. But the misunderstandings between Katzetnik and the court did not end there.  As Katzetnik takes to the stand, Judge Landau refers to him as a literary writer, asking him about his pen name. But the witness replies:

"It was not a pen name. I do not regard myself as a writer and a composer of literary material. This is a chronicle of the planet of Auschwitz."[12]

And yet, his testimony will soon prove to be replete with literary techniques: metaphors and images ("…the planet called Auschwitz…this crucifixion of a nation…this plant of the ashes…"), analogies and repetition (…they had no parents nor did they have children…they were not born there and they did not give birth…they did not live – nor did they die…") and an almost lyrical rhythm ("For they left me, they always left me, they were parted from me, and this oath always appeared in the look of their eyes").

Katzetnik's self-designation as a chronicler, not a literary writer, stands in contradiction to the figurative, poetic, abundance of his testimony.  The hypnotic rhythm in which he speaks has a theatrical streak to it, turning his testimony into a performance, a performance of being-witness.[13]

How does Katzetnik understand being a witness? The witness is an apostle ("I believe…that I have to continue to bear this name so long as the world has not been aroused after this crucifixion of a nation…"[emphasis added]) and a hagiographer. He is a living remnant –"if I, a fall-out of that planet, am able to be here at this time…" – who owes his survival to dead he left behind –" I believe with perfect faith that this is due to the oath I sworn to them there."

And yet, despite being a survivor, a singular fall-out, the witness does not bear a name of his own. His name is Katzetnik, which is the generic designation of all prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. Katzetnik, who chose to voluntarily bear this name after the war, constitutes himself as a subject only in his capacity to serve as a proxy to the Katzetnik category in its entirety, to the undifferentiated mass of prisoners who had no names, no parents and no children.[14]

Thus, the witness serves as a medium. He is not the author of his own speech, but a terminal through which the Auschwitz dead re-present themselves in the here and now. Being-witness, according to Katzetnik, is to turn against one's own subjectivity, exchanging the cogito with a legion of murdered Jews. At the beginning of Katzetnik's testimony, there is a clear demarcation between the Auschwitz dead and himself:

"I was there for about two years…the inhabitants of this planet had no names, they had no parents nor did they have children. There they did not dress in the way we dress here; they were not born there and they did not give birth; they breathed according to different laws of nature; they did not live – nor did they die – according to the laws of this world. Their name was the number 'Kazetnik'."[15]

But this clear demarcation rapidly dissolves as Katzetnik nears his breakdown. Toward the end of his testimony, the "I" of the witness cannot be separated from "them":

"If I am able to stand before you today and relate the events within that planet, if I, a fall-out of that planet, am able to be here at this time, then I believe with perfect faith that this is due to the oath I sworn to them there. They gave me this strength. This oath was the armour with which I acquired the supernatural power, so that I should be able, after time – the time of Auschwitz – the two years when I was a Musselman, to overcome it. For they left me, they always left me, they were parted from me, and this oath always appeared in the look of their eyes."[16]

In the meanwhile, both attorney-general Hausner and the Judges try to reroute Katzetnik back into the legal discourse; unlike the witness they are laconic and polite:

"Perhaps you will allow me, Mr. Dinur, to put a number of questions to you, if you will agree?"[17]

But by now the witness is no longer Mr. Dinur; he is now Katzetnik, a voice for the dead. And when Katzetnik speaks of – and for – the Auschwitz dead instead of speaking about Eichmann, he loses his place within the legal discourse. The prosecutor and the judges do not know what to make of Katzetnik's testimony; they try to lull him back, reintroduce him into the legal order:

"Presiding Judge: Mr. Dinur, kindly listen to what the Attorney General has to say."[18]

Katzetnik's testimony seems to go unheard by the representatives of the law. They need facts, dates, names – not a poetic, almost prophetic, conjuration. At this point, I would like to argue, Katzetnik is in a state of differend. Lyotard defines the differend thusly:

“I would like to call a differend the case where the plaintiff is divested of the means to argue and becomes for that reason a victim.”[19]

Obviously, Katzetnik is a witness, not a plaintiff, but I would like to argue that by insisting on an ethical-poetic register which becomes more and more inconsistent with the legal discourse, Katzetnik is indeed divested of the means to convey his raison d'être. Immanently torn between historiography and poetics, between "I" and "them", Katzetnik's testimony literally falls apart. The last moments of the testimony are transcribed in a dry, detached manner:

"Presiding Judge: Mr. Dinur, kindly listen to what the Attorney General has to say.

[Witness Dinur rises from his place, descends from the witness stand, and collapses on the platform. The witness fainted.]"[20]

At this critical moment Katzetnik performs the state of differend; his stepping down from the witness stand is also his resignation from the position of being a witness. Divested of the means to state his claim, unable to be a medium for the dead, he goes into a complete shutdown. If Katzetnik believed that he had survived Auschwitz only because he had sworn an oath to the dead, it is only logical that once he is unable to fulfill his commitment, he performs the death that he has evaded for so long.

As a result, the legal discourse is suspended momentarily, while the prosecutor and the judges try to understand what had just happened:

"Presiding Judge: I think we shall have to adjourn the session. I do not think that we can continue.

Attorney General: I did not anticipate this."[21]

The crowd buzzes with astonishment and anxiety; the writer's wife rushes over to him and an ambulance is been called. This extra-legal commotion cannot find its way in to the session's protocol; between the witness's collapse and the next time the presiding judge speaks, the only entry in the protocol is an equivocal statement, encased in parentheses:

"[After some time]"[22]

Consider this discursive act of boxing in. the unruly extra-legal can be incorporated into the protocol only within the confines of parentheses; it was, of course, the witness's stepping out of the box that caused all the brouhaha to begin with. It seems that, in the context of the Eichmann trial, the law can address the extra-legal only when it is framed within the parameters, syntactic or otherwise, of the law itself. It is interesting to note, apropos, that the defendant himself, the Nazi monster captured in South America, was put by the Israeli Authorities in a large, transparent, glass box.

Indeed, Katzetnik's disruption did cause the presiding judge to adjourn the session. But the trial went on without Katzetnik's input, resulting in Eichmann's conviction and execution. Katzetnik failed testimony was interpreted in the spirit of the trial: the failure to testify was in itself a testimony to the unspeakable, un-representable, horror of the Holocaust. But this interpretation is an a-historical one, paradoxically, precisely because it gives Katzetnik's past such overriding precedence over the specific context of his testimony. Up until now we have analyzed Katzentik's register; by analyzing the ethics embedded in his short and pregnant testimony and comparing it to Attorney-General Hausner's opening address, I will show that Katzetnik's radical testimonial ethics were completely incongruent with the over-all narrative constructed by Hausner. Thus, I will re-contextualize Katzetnik's testimony into the specific ideological settings of the trial. In the context of the trial as a political project, Katzetnik's botched Testimony constitutes, perhaps unwittingly, an alternative to way the prosecution had interpreted, and had used, the memory of the dead. Alas, the witness's collapse, caused exactly by the differend between him and the representatives of the law, allowed his testimony to be interpreted by, and incorporated into, Hausner's ethics, thus neutralizing its radical potential.

Two Ways to Speak for the Dead

If Katzetnik's relation to the dead is one of self-effacement, Hausner tells their story in a way that aggrandizes the Zionist ethos. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the famous opening line of his opening address:

"When I stand before you here, Judges of Israel, to lead the Prosecution of Adolf Eichmann, I am not standing alone. With me are six million accusers. But they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger towards him who sits in the dock and cry: "I accuse." For their ashes are piled up on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka, and are strewn in the forests of Poland. Their graves are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe. Their blood cries out, but their voice is not heard. Therefore I will be their spokesman and in their name I will unfold the awesome indictment."[23]

While Hausner's words echo Katzetnik's in their poetic abundance, the differences between them abound: firstly, Katzetnik recalls his fellow inmates alive, albeit moments before their death, while the "six million accusers" are brought up post-mortem; Katzetnik's dead have fiery, demanding eyes, while for Hausner the dead are a demographic figure, the tentative citizens of the nascent State of Israel.

Secondly, Katzetnik is clearly dependant on his dead. They saved his life and he is but their delegate in the present. Hausner's relation to the dead, on the other hand, is more paternalistic. If Katzetnik's dead have shown tremendous powers, allowing Katzetnik to survive the unsurvivable, Hausner's dead are practically paralyzed and mute: "they cannot rise to their feet and point an accusing finger…and cry: 'I accuse'”.

Thirdly, while Katzetnik's testimony is riddled with optical relations:

"For they left me…and this oath always appeared in the look of their eyes…I see them, they are staring at me, I see them, I saw them standing in the queue…"[24]

Hausner's address is full with auditory allusions:

"But they cannot…cry: 'I accuse'…Their blood cries out, but their voice is not heard. Therefore I will be their spokesman…"[25]

While Katzetnik and the prisoners of Auschwitz look at each other and acknowledge each other, the attorney-general cannot hear the demographic figure's voice; and so, he has to speak for the six million victims. Or, more precisely, Hausner speaks of, and for, their death. It is their dying, the fact that "their ashes are piled up on the hills of Auschwitz and the fields of Treblinka, and are strewn in the forests of Poland[,] [That] their graves are scattered throughout the length and breadth of Europe…" that renders them mute. When Hausner mentions here Poland and Europe as the Jews' burial ground, he does not speak solely of biological death. Europe marks also a political death: only in Israel, the only sovereign Jewish entity in the world, can the Holocaust victims' voices become audible again, through the power of the state to apprehend Eichmann and to put him on trial.[26]

Much like Katzetnik's fellow prisoners, Hausner's six million are present here and now in the court room; they: "stand with him as accusers". But their presence is spectral and impotent; they are present, so to speak, in their absence. Hausner, on the other hand, is an active, powerful agent. Consider how the paragraph, while beginning with a sort of co-operation between Hausner and the dead, goes on to elaborate on the dead's incompetence, leaving Hausner the sole custodian over the meaning of six million deaths.

In Katzetnik's rhetoric, on the other hand, there is an almost psychotic inability to separate the witness from the witnessed, the survivor from the dead. The intense optic relationship between Katzetnik and his fellow inmates, this awful, fateful, staring-contest is the locus where an oath is sworn, where those who died built a supernatural armor for Katzetnik to survive in, and in return he takes upon himself to re-present them in his chronicles and in his testimony. In Katzetnik's supernatural tale of survival there is a complete reversal of the power-relations established in Hausner's opening address: in Hausner's account it is only the existence of a Jewish state, complete with a secret service to locate Eichmann and abduct him, and a judiciary branch to prosecute and convict him, which empowers the dead:

“I am proud of the fact that the day has come when a man of Israel can speak the language of justice to a captured evildoer. Here in this state, we do not speak to him with pleading and importunity…[h]ere law and justice prevail. In this period of the return of the exiles of Judea and Jerusalem, justice is being done here."[27]

In Katzetnik's account, on the other hand, it is the dead themselves who are the all-powerful agents, without which Katzetnik would not have survived. And their power is not the military prowess and bravery of the partisans in the woods, or of the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto, whose heroism Hausner was ever happy to mention. No, the power of the dead, bequeathed to Katzetnik, is the power of storytelling itself, because if Katzetnik is "able to stand [here] today and relate the events within that planet [Auschwitz]… [It] is due to the oath [he] sworn to them there. They gave [him] this strength".[28]

Finally, while Hausner's interpretation of the Holocaust fits neatly in, and validates, the Zionist narrative, Katzetnik does not seem to assign any specific political meaning to his fellow inmates' death. He wants to tell their story, of course, but his testimony lacks – or never reaches – a moral. Katzetnik's dead do not talk, they do not cry – they only stare. It seems that while Haunser's re-presentation of the dead is a teleological one, working towards a conviction and a conclusion, Katzetnik's re-presentation is a purely ontological one, where language is not a moralistic vehicle, but a stage on which the dead can re-appear, for a brief spell, in the present.

I would like to argue, in accordance with the analysis above, that Katzetnik's way of speaking for the dead was unacceptable, perhaps unheard of, in the context of the Eichmann trial. The trial has afforded the Israelis, as a society, the beginning of a long, interminable process of coming to terms with the event called the Holocaust. But this reckoning could be accomplished only after the Nazi devil was captured by "our brave boys" and put in a glass box, like an exotic animal from South America, for everyone to come and see. To put it more plainly, it was exactly the capture and prosecution of Eichmann, this daring display of cunning and sovereignty, which allowed the Israeli society, the self-proclaimed opposite of the passive Diaspora, to face the decimation of that very same Diaspora. In that context, Katzetnik's out-worldly reversal of the power-relations between the living and the dead could not be – and indeed was not – acknowledged.


The Eichmann Trial might not have been a show trial, but it was certainly a display of statist power. Indeed, the inclusion of the Holocaust narrative, and of the survivors as its living proof, into the dominantly Sabra culture of the day could only be accomplished by establishing a clear demarcation between the stateless and powerless victims and their redeemer and avenger, the Jewish state. In that context, Katzetnik's tale of the supernatural powers of the Auschwitz dead seems like the raving of a deeply traumatized man. And yet, in David Grossman's groundbreaking novel See Under: Love[29], which was publish in Hebrew in 1985, there appears a fictional writer, Anschel Wasserman, who is, for some reason, unable to die at the hands of the camp commander, and who overcomes him exactly through the sheer power of storytelling. While the interesting comparison between the historical writer Katzetnik and the fictional writer Wasserman is beyond the scope of this work, it could be argued that Katzetnik's insistence that the most powerless, the Jewish homo sacer, possess an altogether different kind of power did not pass  completely unheeded. Katzetnik's ethics, radical as they are, do constitute a foreshadowing of the new and unorthodox ways in which Grossman and others have chosen to tell the story of the Holocaust in the decades to come, out from under the shadow of the Eichmann trial.

[1] Haim Gouri, Facing the Glass Booth, (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2004), p. 2 (Italics in the original).

[2] See: Hanna Yablonka, The State of Israel Vs. Adolf Eichmann, (New York: Schocken Books, 2004), pp. 218-222; Idith Zertal, Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005)

[3] Ibid., pp. 236-249.

[4] Katzetnik was the nom de plume of Yehiel Dinur (1909-2001), a Polish-Israeli writer and a survivor of Auschwitz. His books, House of Dolls, Salamandra and Piepel provided a detailed and unsparing description of Auschwitz, and were part of Israeli High-school curriculum for many years.    

[5] Tom Segev, The Seventh Million, (Jerusalem: Keter Publishing, 1991) p.1 [Hebrew].

[6] Shoshana Felman, The Juridical Unconscious: Trials and Traumas in the Twentieth Century, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2002).

[7] Felman, The Juridical Unconscious, p.152.

[8] Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend: Phrases in Dispute, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988).

[9] Gideon Hausner was the Attorney-General at the time of Eichmann's capture, and was appointed by the Justice Minister to head the prosecution team.

[10] Quoted in: Yechiel Szeintuch, "The Myth of the Salamander in the Work of Ka-Tzetnik", in Partial Answers, vol. 3, no. 1, (January 2005),

[11] Shoshana Felman, The Juridical Unconscious, p. 135.

[12] The Trial of Adolf Eichmann: Record of Proceedings in the District Court of Jerusalem, vol. 3, session 68 (June 7, 1961), (Jerusalem, 1963), p. 1237 [hereinafter abbreviated as Proceedings]. Katzetnik's testimony can also be accessed online here:

[13] While not in the least suggesting that Katzetnik's performance was a pre-meditated one, it is worth noting that the Eichmann trial was not devoid of theatrics: it was held in a theatre, and was taped and filmed for wide audiences.5.

[14] See popkin

[15] Proceedings, p. 1237.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Jean-François Lyotard, The Differend, p. 9.

[20] Proceedings, p. 1237.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Proceedings, Vol. 1, Session 6 (April 17, 1961), (Jerusalem, 1962), p. 62. Hausner's address can also be accessed online here:

[24] Ibid., p. 1237.

[25] Ibid., p. 62.

[26] Thus Hausner addresses the "judges of Israel"; and while "Israel" is the name of the Jewish people as well as of the Jewish state, in this paragraph, juxtaposed near Treblinka and Auschwitz, those loci of annihilation, the place of Israel as a safe, sovereign haven is accentuated.

[27] Gideon Hausner, Justice in Jerusalem, (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), p. 398.

[28] Proceedings, p. 1237.

[29] David Grossman, See Under: Love, (London: J. Cape: 1990).

יפו העתיקה: פרק אחרון ובו יפו העתיקה הופכת לסרט של מנחם גולן ולגן-שעשועים

6 באפריל 2011

כיבוש יפו לא הסתיים בקרב על מנשייה. הבריטים, לאור הבריחה המבוהלת של ערביי יפו, החלו לחשוש מפני חזרת מקרה חיפה הערבית שם, שבוע לפני ההתקפה על יפו, התרוקנה העיר מתושביה הפלסטינים כמעט לחלוטין.[1] העניין הגיע עד שר החוץ בווין שראה בבריחה הפלסטינית ההמונית מכה אנושה ליוקרתה של בריטניה וליחסיה עם העולם הערבי; הוא הורה לראש המטה הקיסרי מונטגומרי למנוע את כיבוש יפו בידי האצ"ל.[2] הבריטים, באמצע תהליך ההתפנות, הזרימו תגבורות לתוך פלשתינה/א"י על מנת לטפל בבעיית יפו.[3] ב-28 לאפריל הציבו הבריטים אולטימאטום ליישוב, אבל האצ"ל סירב להתפנות.[4] ב-29 נכנסו כוחות בריטיים למנשייה וניהלו קרב עז נגד האצ"ל; בשלב מסוים פוצצו לוחמי האצ"ל בניינים ממולכדים על המשוריינים הבריטים, כפי שייעשו לוחמים פלסטינים בג'נין חמישים וארבע שנים אחר-כך. פאגלין, כותב רוטברד, הפך את העיר עצמה לבריקאדה.[5] כדי להבהיר באופן מוחלט את התביעה הציונית לריבונות על יפו, הורה פאגלין לפוצץ את בניין משטרת מנשייה.[6] אבל בראשון למאי נכנס לתוקפו הסכם הפסקת אש; האצ"ל עזב את מנשייה ובמקומו נכנסו אנשי ה"הגנה".[7]

כאמור, בזמן הקרב בין האצ"ל לבריטים כבשו כוחות ה"הגנה" את רצועת היישובים שמקיפה את יפו. תושבי סלמה ויאזור ברחו.[8] כיבוש הכפרים ושכונת מנשייה ערער לחלוטין את ביטחונם של הפלסטינים שנותרו עדיין ביפו. חיילי צבא ההצלה שהיו אמור לסייע בהגנת העיר היו עסוקים בשוד ובאונס.[9] כיבוש יפו בידי כוחות היישוב התחדש רק ב-14 למאי; גם חיילי ה"הגנה" לא בחלו בשוד ובביזה.[10] בשלב הזה נותרו ביפו פחות מ-4,000 פלסטינים.

רוטברד קורא למה שעשו כוחות היישוב ליפו "רצח-עיר". אבל עיקר ההרס לא התרחש בזמן המלחמה. החל מ-1949 החלו להרוס באופן שיטתי את יפו העתיקה, מסיבות בטיחותיות.[11] כך נולד "השטח הגדול".

זה וודאי לא מפתיע ש"השטח הגדול", ממש כמו יפו העתיקה לפניו, נתפס כ"חור שחור", אתר של פריעת-חוק וקסם אוריינטלי. אבל הפעם, אחרי שיפו נכבשה והוחרבה, היה זה "חור שחור" מאולף ומבוית. את המורדים הפלסטינים החליפו עבריינים מזרחיים וערבים-ישראלים ואת האלימות הקשה של ההתקוממות החליפה אלימות "רכה" של פשע וזנות. מאידך, יפו הייתה כל מה שתל-אביב התאוותה להיות, האיד השחור של האגו הלבן: מאורת פיראטים מלאה סמים, אלכוהול וחן לוונטיני.[12] השטח הגדול סיפק קורט של אקזוטיקה טרום-מודרנית או פארא-מודרנית לקיום התל-אביבי המסויד והבורגני. הבוהמה התל-אביבית נמשכה לעיר בחבלי קסם. זמרים התרפקו עליה, משוררים שוררו אותה, סופרים הפכו אותה למיתוס.[13]

אבל כבר בתחילת שנות השישים הוחלט לחסל את הבעיה הקרויה "השטח הגדול". החלו מפנים את תושבי יפו העתיקה לשיכונים חדשים. ב-1961 הוקמה "החברה לפיתוח יפו העתיקה". מטרתה הייתה:

"לבנות ולשקם את אזור תל יפו (שכונה גם 'השטח הגדול'), מתחם שהיווה חממה לפשע, זנות וסמים […] במקביל להקמת החברה אושרה למתחם יפו העתיקה תב"ע 606, שהגדירה אותו כשמורה ארכיטקטונית, והתפישה שהנחתה אותה היתה שיקום ושיחזור המבנים בעיר העתיקה תוך שמירה על אופיים והשתלבות בנוף, וזאת מתוך כוונה למשוך אוכלוסייה חדשה ולהפוך את המתחם למרכז תיירות, בילוי ואמנות. עוד נקבע בתוכנית כי הזכאים להתגורר במתחם הם אמנים בלבד."[14]

ה"שטח" הגדול הפך ל"גן הפסגה", אטרקציה תיירותית רומנטית. כפי שמציין רוטברד, אדריכלי הפרויקט ניקו את יפו העתיקה מסממנים ערביים כמעט לחלוטין. הגן מכיל מונומנטים נוצריים, הלניים ויהודיים כמו המצודה וכנסיית סנט פטרוס, סלע אנדרומדה, "התותח של נפוליון" ופסל של דניאל כפרי המתאר את הבטחת ארץ-ישראל לשלושת האבות. מלבד שרידי החומה שבנו העות'מנים יש מעט מאד עדויות פיזיות להיסטוריה הפלסטינית של יפו העתיקה.[15] מעט הסמטאות שנותרו על תילן זכו לשמות אקזוטיים מגלגל המזלות והן מאכלסות שורה של גלריות, תיאטראות ומסעדות.

זהו סופה של יפו העתיקה, נכון לכתיבת שורות אלו. "גן הפסגה" הוא מעין אנדרטה של העדר ללאומיות הפלסטינית, ולמה שהיה עשוי להיות רגע השחרור שלה, אי אז ב-1936. ההתעלמות הכמעט-הפגנתית של מתכנני "גן הפסגה" מן ההיסטוריה הערבית של יפו העתיקה היא עדות ניצחת לסכנה שעדיין מגולמת בהיסטוריה הזו. מבצע "עוגן" התמודד עם יפו העתיקה על ידי השמתה; "גן הפסגה", מאידך, הוא מעשה הדחקה ארכיטקטוני. רוטברד כותב שיפו היא עדיין עיר כבושה, מנוקדת בסיסים צבאיים.[16] בהתחשב בכך שמדובר בבסיסים של גלי צה"ל והפרקליטות הצבאית, לא היחידות הקרביות ביותר של צה"ל, נדמה שהטיעון של רוטברד חריף מדי. אבל הפריסה של בסיסי צה"ל בעיר, בצירוף "גן הפסגה" ומוזיאון האצ"ל בגן צ'רלס קלור (על הריסות מנשייה), מתפקדת כרשת של כוח ריבוני, בדומה למונומנטים של אוסמן בפאריז; הם חלק מהפסאדה של יפו כשכיית-חמדה. האלמנטים הללו טומנים בחובם כפילות שנושאת רמז מעודן של אלימות: המוזיאון הוא מבנה מודרני שמורכב על חורבות בית ערבי, מעין הצהרה אנכית של שליטה; תחנת הרדיו שקובעת את סדר היום המוזיקלי של ישראל היא גם יחידה צבאית; והגן המעוצב הוא גם בית הקברות של המרד הערבי. זוהי ג'נטריפיקציה, אבל זו ג'נטירפיקציה שמרמזת, כמעט בקריצת-עין, כי כל תהליך בניה יכול, ברצונו של הריבון, להפוך למסע הרס.

[1] מוריס, 1948, עמ' 172-173.

[2] שם, עמ' 173.

[3] שם, שם.

[4] שם, שם.

[5] רוטברד, עיר לבנה, עיר שחורה, עמ' 186.

[6] שם, שם.

[7] מוריס, 1948, עמ' 174-175.

[8] שם, עמ' 175.

[9] שם, עמ' 176.

[10] שם, עמ' 177.

[11] רוטברד, עיר לבנה, עיר שחורה, עמ' 208.

[12] שם, עמ' 212.

[13] שם, שם.

[14] מצוטט אצל רוטברד, עמ' 219.

[15] שם, עמ' 220-223.

[16] שם, עמ' 194.