Hold It All

Month: June, 2006

Deploying the Holocaust

Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, by Idith Zertal. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.  Cambridge Middle East Studies 21. 208 pages. Biographies to p. 216. Glossary to p. 222.  Bibliography to p. 230. Index to p. 236. $30.00 cloth.  Published in Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 35, no. 3 (139), Spring 2006. p. 123.

In late summer of 2005 on the order of Ariel Sharon’s government, several thousand Israeli settlers departed the Gaza Strip. In protest, some settlers donned Star of David patches, which Jews had been forced to wear under Nazi domination. Settlers, among them Holocaust survivors and their children, contended that withdrawal would lead to another Holocaust.

Such an assertion of persecution and victimization in terms of the Holocaust has a long history, according to Israeli writer, Idith Zertal, in her recently translated book from Hebrew, Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood. Zertal’s work explores the growing reliance upon Holocaust discourse in Israel, as she candidly states, “Politicians, journalists, and historians let themselves speak out in the name of the Holocaust dead. They/we all use Holocaust images for their/our purposes. Some of these images are threatening, others are trivial, all are distorting” (197). Read the rest of this entry »


On Shirin Ebadi, Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope (With Azadeh Moaven)

But a personal story is more powerful than any dry summary of why a given law should be changed. To attract people’s attention, to solicit their sympathies and convince them that these laws were not simply unfair but actively pathological, I had to tell stories. Iranian culture, for all its preoccupation with shame and honor, with all its resulting patriarchal codes, retains an acute sensitivity to injustice. The revolution against the shah, after all, had premised itself on the ethos of fighting zolm, or oppression; it was a revolution conducted in the name of the mustazjin, the dispossessed. People had to see how the dispossessed had now become the dispossessors.


Shirin Ebadi, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, is an inspiration of staying in the struggle for the long haul. Unlike 4-5 million other Iranians, she stayed put in the Islamic republic and worked from within to offer humane resistance to the religious fundamentalism that would cost her own career as a judge.  She is both a strong feminist, using her lawyer skills to advocate for women in a system that sees them as merely half the value of men, and she is also a faithful Muslim, although one different than those Khomeini wanted to hold up as a role model for women.  She is also a dissident, who was willing to take strong stands, oppose the Republic’s interpretations (not defame it), did jail time, was on a death list, raised her daughters, did the proverbial twice as much work as the man, and stayed put.  The authorities weren’t going to drive her away. Read the rest of this entry »