Telling the Naqbah in Hebrew: The public debate in Israel

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The year 1948 marks the beginning of al-ghurba (exile or diaspora) and al-nakba (disaster or calamity), words intensely resonant in the Palestinian lexicon. After this decisive date, one can affix "pre-" or "post-" as markers of an apocalyptic moment. In this cultural and political orbit, a new spatial world took shape. Violently crafted and maintained borders that locked Palestinians in and kept them out became features of quotidian life. In 1948, through a combination of expulsion and flight, around 750,000 Palestinians became refugees in neighboring Arab countries. About 100,000 Palestinians remained in their homeland. The core issue, however, is not conditions of departure but denial of an internationally recognized right of return, as elaborated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.
Despite the tragic reality of the continuing Israeli-Arab conflict and deep-rooted beliefs that the chasm between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is unbridgeable, this book affirms the bonds between the two communities. Rachel Feldhay Brenner demonstrates that the literatures of both ethnic groups defy the ideologies that have obstructed dialogue between the two peoples. Brenner argues that literary critics have ignored the variety and the dissent in the novels of both Arab and Jewish writers in Israel, giving them interpretations that embrace the politics of exclusion and conform with Zionist ideology. Brenner offers insightful new readings that compare fiction by Jewish writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and others with fiction written in Hebrew by such Arab-Israeli writers as Atallah Mansour, Emile Habiby, and Anton Shammas. This parallel analysis highlights the moral and psychological dilemmas faced by both the Jewish victors and the Arab vanquished, and Brenner suggests that the hope for release from the historical trauma lies-on both sides-in reaching an understanding with and of the adversary. Drawing upon the theories of Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Emanuel Levinas, and others, Inextricably Bonded is an innovative and illuminating examination of literary dissent from dominant ideology. © 2003 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.
Conference Paper
As the ranks of first-generation Palestinian refugees continues to thin and hope of return appears remote, the symbolic value placed on 1948, as the key date in Palestinian history, continues to rise. This article critically reconsiders the role a politics of memory plays in the production of national belonging in Shateela camp, Lebanon. It argues that institutionalized commemorative practices, and academic studies that look back with a compulsive nostalgia to 1948, and an idealized past, as the national core, make it harder for subsequent generations of refugees to articulate a sense of identity and belonging in terms of present realities in the diaspora. In addition it explores what forms of everyday suffering and experience in the camp are being elided by this model of political practice in which calling for recognition and rights is often confused with the imperative of not forgetting.
Symbolic places that celebrate history and invest locations with mythical meaning provide a sense of identity in place and time; they fuse history and geography in terms of myth and memory. The retrieval and evocation of ancient history in terms of symbolic places seems to be especially significant in periods of national revival, when the invention and reinvention of tradition feature prominently in the framework of nation-building. This study examines an important aspect of the formation of the mythical geography of Zionist restoration: the retrieval and evocation of ancient Jewish history in terms of Modi'in, Massada, Beitar and Yavneh. These four places have figured prominently in the shaping of the symbolic matrix of Zionist revival. The article examines the emergence of these symbolic locations and elaborates on the cultural and political meanings assigned to them in different periods and political contexts. It further elucidates their association with particular sectors of Zionist society, and their affiliation with ideological perspectives, and focuses on particular symbolic places that have emerged in the course of Zionist restoration and the conflation of a Jewish past and a Zionist present. At the same time, this is a case study of the politics of symbolic places and their role in the shaping of the mythical geography of national revival.