Prof. Hannan Hever
Hebrew U, Literature
Shortly before the First Intifida in 1987, Hannan Hever (HUJ) and his colleague Adi Ophir (now at TAU) founded The Twenty First Year, a group of academics dedicated to forcing Israel out of the territories through a boycott-cum- civil resistance movement. The Twenty First Year borrowed many of its ideas from Matzpen, then a fringe radical anti-Zionist organization that questioned the legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise and its progeny, the State of Israel.
While faculty members have the right to engage in political activity, Hever has devoted his entire academic career to proving the illegitimacy of Israeli behavior. As IAM reported, Hever is one of the pioneers of "nazification of Israel" which, according to the EU Monitoring Commission (EUMC) held comparisons between Israeli treatment of Palestinians and that fate suffered by Jews during the Holocaust, to be anti-Zionism, that is a new form of new anti-Semitism. The EUMC also included the use of double standards in the definition. Not only did Hever and some of his activist scholars practice double standards but have conducted conferences, workshops and literary events to create an elaborate imagery of "Nakba as Holocaust".
Hever's exchange with David Grossman is telling in this context. Grossman denounces the treatment of the Palestinian prisoner who was dumped by the road by Israeli security services to die, arguably something that should not have happened. Hever finds Grossman's protestations not adequate because, in his opinion, a return to the 1967 borders is not enough. Quite clearly, Hever thinks that the only way to regain legitimacy is to undo the consequences of the 1948 war, as his comments on Smilansky suggest. In other words, to create a bi-national state, something that Hever and his radical academic friends, including his close collaborator, Yehouda Shenahv (TAU) have advocated.
It is this goal of bringing about binationalism that explains why Hever and like-minded faculty have used their academic writings to create the Nakba-as-Holocaust imagery. As the original manifesto of The Twenty First Year explains, exposing the illegitimacy of the occupation dating from 1948 would move Israelis to give up on a national state.
Reaffirming the Legality of the Occupation
By Hannan Hever
Original article translated by Ofer Neiman
David Grossman’s article in Haaretz is gut-wrenching, and one can hardly find peace of mind after reading it. Grossman has proven his public courage and his moral sensitivity yet again, by not hesitating to cry out the cry of the Israeli occupation’s victims. Grossman has shoved the facts about the intolerable crimes which are being committed in our name and on our behalf straight in our face.
The bitter fate of Omar Abu-Jariban, who had been injured in a traffic accident and imprisoned, and later dumped, still wounded, on the side of a road by Israeli policemen, cries to the heaven. Grossman has redeemed this tale, one of many, from apathy and oblivion and placed it in front of us, on the front page of Haaretz.
Grossman has written about a flagrantly illegal act, and he also states that the authorities have taken action on this matter, albeit slowly. However, Grossman does not draw the conclusion which should follow from his own argument: While blaming the Israeli public’s callous approach towards the occupation, as the culprit in the specific case of the crime allegedly committed by those who dumped Abu-Jariban, he fails to project the status of illegality onto the state of affairs which has made the act possible: he does not draw the necessary conclusion regarding the illegality of the occupation in its entirety.
It is obvious, and Grossman states this explicitly, that his article draws inspiration from Yizhar Smilansky’s famous story ‘The Prisoner’, which depicts the deliberations of an Israeli soldier during the war of independence in 1948. The protagonist hesitates as to whether he should release an Arab prisoner of war. Grossman’s language in his article is the very language of Smilansky’s story, the language of emotional turmoil, deliberations and profound statements.
However, Grossman’s story differs from Yizhar’s with respect to one key aspect: Yizhar raises the question of personal responsibility in the context of a situation which is clearly legal, since his story deals with a prisoner of war. The prisoner may not have been taken captive for compelling military reasons, but the act [of taking him captive] is legal according to the military laws which apply during a state of warfare. Therefore, unlike Grossman, who cries out against the violation of the law and demands that it be upheld – the moral demand which Yizhar makes from his protagonist is translated into the demand that the latter break the law. Indeed, Yizhar’s protagonist shirks his responsibility, but this responsibility, which he is expected to accept, transcends universal moral jurisdiction, and turns towards the domain of the legal act, which Yizhar’s story challenges and defies.
Unlike Yizhar, Grossman narrows the question of responsibility down to the issue of protest against violation of the law, which results from moral opacity and psychological repression. However, in doing so, Grossman reaffirms the legality of the occupation. Therefore, he also fails to connect his generalization from the horrendous incident, regarding Israeli moral insensitivity, to the illegality of the occupation in its entirety and to the fact that it is a war crime from its very foundations.
Grossman also accepts the occupation’s terminology at face value, by referring to Abu-Jariban as a “Shabah” (the Hebrew term for illegal alien) – thereby reaffirming the legality of the occupation. This is probably the reason why Grossman reduces his demand, that the Israeli collective assume responsibility, to the moral opacity brought about by the occupation, without addressing the illegality which has rendered it possible: “But then I think about a people which has dumped a whole other nation on the side of the road and has backed the process to the hilt over 45 years, all the while having not a bad life at all, thank you. I think about a people which has been engaging in a brilliant genius-like denial of its own responsibility for the situation. I think of a people, which has managed to ignore the warping and distorting of its own society and the madness that the process has had on its own national values. Why should such a people get all excited over a single such Omar?”
One can conclude from Grossman’s article, probably contrary to his intent, that in theory things could have been different. In theory the occupation could have been sustained with the upholding of the law – that is, in an enlightened and democratic manner, without dumping an entire people by the side of the road. Furthermore, one can also conclude that if and when we annul the corrupting occupation we will be able to continue the enlightened existence of the small and just State of Israel of the pre-1967 era. But in this respect too, the article differs from Yizhar’s story, whose author did not hesitate to challenge the legality of the 1948 war as well.
It is true that eventually Yizhar’s answers evaded the issue of responsibility towards the law. Yizhar, as a member of Knesset, also voted against the annulment of the military rule imposed on Israel’s Palestinian citizens until 1966. But the questions he had raised reach far beyond those raised by Grossman, whose moral protest, important and profound as it is, regarding the horrific acts which stem from violations of the law, ends up reaffirming the legality of the flagrantly illegal: the illegality of the occupation in its entirety.