Indecision as Strategy
- BuyThe Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War by Avi Raz
Yale, 288 pp, £25.00, July 2012, ISBN 978 0 300 17194 5
During the first 19 years of Israel’s statehood, its leaders gave little thought to the Palestinian question. Two-thirds of the Palestinians were driven out in 1948; those who remained were placed under a draconian military government and didn’t cause much trouble. Then came the Six Day War of 1967. In a pre-emptive strike launched on 5 June, Israel inflicted a devastating defeat on Nasser and his Arab allies, and vastly expanded the territory under its control, capturing the Gaza Strip and the Sinai from Egypt, the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, and the Golan Heights from Syria. These were lands Israel’s leaders had long coveted: only the Sinai has since been fully restored to Arab sovereignty. But when the guns fell silent on 10 June, the Jewish state found itself responsible for 1.4 million Arabs it didn’t want. Most were Palestinians, hundreds of thousands of them refugees who had been displaced during the 1948 war. As Levi Eshkol, who was prime minister at the time, put it: ‘We won the war and received a nice dowry of territory, but along with a bride whom we don’t like.’ Israel had to decide what to do with the bride, and what to do with the dowry. The Middle East still lives in the shadow of the decisions Israel made – and those it didn’t – in the first few years of the now 45-year-old occupation.
[*] The 1967 Arab-Israeli War: Origins and Consequences, edited by William Roger Louis and Avi Shlaim (Cambridge, 325 pp., £18.99, February, 978 0 521 17479 4).
Vol. 34 No. 20 · 25 October 2012
From Raja Shehadeh
Adam Shatz repeats an error that Avi Raz makes in his book The Bride and the Dowry regarding the murder of my father, Aziz Shehadeh (LRB, 11 October). ‘Shehadeh was finally murdered,’ Shatz writes, ‘by a Palestinian extremist who seems to have doubled as a collaborator.’ It is true that the murderer was a collaborator, but he had no link to any Palestinian political organisation. As I record in the updated edition of my memoir, Strangers in the House, after many years of Israeli cover-up we discovered that the murderer was acting on behalf of his family: my father, a lawyer, had taken a case to have them evicted from the property of the Anglican church near Hebron, where they had been squatting. The murderer believed that the country he served as a collaborator would condone his actions. He was right. Not only did Israel cover up the murder, it issued the lie that the murder was carried out by the Palestine Liberation Organisation because of my father’s political moderation, in particular his desire for a peaceful settlement with Israel through the creation of a Palestinian state.
Vol. 34 No. 21 · 8 November 2012
From Avi Raz
Raja Shehadeh complains that Adam Shatz ‘repeats an error’ that he says I made in The Bride and the Dowry regarding the murder of his father, Aziz Shehadeh (Letters, 25 October). But there is no error in my book. I give a short biography of Aziz Shehadeh that ends with his murder and the words: ‘A radical Palestinian guerrilla group claimed responsibility for the crime.’ That is the case: on 3 December 1985, the day after the murder took place, Reuters reported from Damascus that the Fatah Revolutionary Council, led by Abu Nidal, had issued a statement taking responsibility for the killing. It may well be that Aziz Shehadeh was killed over a legal wrangle, and that the Abu Nidal group took responsibility for a crime it didn’t commit. But the facts are that no one was convicted of the murder, and that Israel had nothing to do with the statement of the Abu Nidal group.