In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Fantasising IsraelYonatan Mendel

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.

At this very moment, long queues are probably forming outside Tel Aviv’s latest culinary thing: the yoghurterias. Even in the middle of the night you have to wait in line to get a cold and refreshing ice-cream yoghurt from the busy shop on Rothschild Boulevard. Springing up like mushrooms after the rain, the ice-cream parlours have allowed the ‘white city’ of Tel Aviv to experience the white revolution of the yoghurt. It is sweet and sour, made of natural ingredients, both healthy and tasty, with only 1.6 per cent fat, and topped with pieces of fresh fruit freshly cut up. Mangoes and pineapples, kiwis, strawberries, pomegranates, dates, melons and watermelons, red, yellow and green, are generously placed on top of the thick white yoghurt. A small cup of the local delicacy costs 18 shekels (about £3), a medium-size cup is 21 shekels, and a huge cup is 27 shekels. This is the best gastronomic response to the humidity that prevails in Israel’s ‘first Hebrew city’.

The State of Tel Aviv, as other Israelis call it, is a lively, eventful and happy city. It is the centre of Israeli business activity, a relatively liberal, young, educated, secular and rich metropolis, with a long Mediterranean beach to escape to in the summer. It has a wide and diverse range of restaurants, cafés and pubs, more and more of them as demand grows. The city serves everything, from lobsters to falafel, from Weihenstephan to the local brew, Goldstar. According to the Economist, Tel Aviv is ranked 32nd in the list of the world’s most costly cities; it is the most expensive city in the Middle East. It is the home of Israeli opera, the philharmonic orchestra, the national theatre, and Israel’s largest university. Every year it hosts the biggest gay pride parade in the Middle East, as well as some of the world’s most prominent musicians and artists. Depeche Mode just came back from Tel Aviv; Madonna is on her way. However, it seems that it is exactly these positive, ‘normal’ and likeable characteristics of Tel Aviv that make it a paradigm of the moral and political blindness of Israeli society. Tel Aviv is not only one hour away from a European time zone, it is also one hour’s drive from the Gaza Strip.

This year the city is celebrating its 100th anniversary. However, it didn’t just ‘emerge from the sand’ in 1909, as the Zionist myth tells us. Al-Sumayil, Salame, Sheikh Munis, Abu Kabir, Al-Manshiyeh: these are the names of some of the villages that made room for it and the names are still used today – Tel Avivians still talk about the Abu Kabir neighbourhood, they still meet on Salame Street. Tel Aviv University Faculty Club used to be the house of the sheikh of Sheikh Munis. It’s an amazing feat, a tribute to the Israeli imagination, to be able to pronounce the Arab names without making the connection to the original Arab population, to think of Tel Aviv as the ‘first Hebrew city’, and refuse to acknowledge its indigenous non-Hebrew inhabitants. This is a city where people speak French and English, but where hardly anyone speaks Arabic, one of the two official languages of Israel. There is no ‘liberal’ rhetoric when Tel Avivians need to rent their house to an Arab student or become the neighbours of an Arab family. Tel Aviv, the most ‘liberal’ and ‘tolerant’ city in Israel, as its residents like to imagine it, is not only 100 years old, but almost 100 per cent Arab-free.

Then there is Jaffa. Located just a few miles south of Tel Aviv, it was probably the most prosperous and cosmopolitan of all Palestinian cities, with a port, an industry (Jaffa oranges), an international school system and a lively cultural life. In 1949, after Jaffa had been almost completely emptied of its Palestinian inhabitants (only 3600 were left out of a population of 70,000), the Israeli government decided to unite the two cities in one metropolis, to be called ‘Tel Aviv-Jaffa’. In doing this, Ben-Gurion not only created a new Tel Aviv that was ‘part of’ biblical Jaffa, he erased the Palestinian city. As the years passed, it became known that the city of Tel Aviv, which is called ‘Tel Aviv-Jaffa’ only in official publications, had a beautiful and romantic southern ‘district’ called Jaffa. Tourist signs on the streets describe its history – in Hebrew, English, French, German and Spanish, but not in Arabic.

I was brought up in a small Jerusalemite quarter called Givat Oranim, which borders the neighbourhood of Old Katamon. In school we weren’t told about the history of Katamon, but we were taken a few times to St Simon’s Park. Beyond the park’s cypress and pine trees there was a small memorial to the Israeli soldiers who died in the 1948 Katamon battle: a battle, we dimly learned, between Haganah fighters and Arab rioters. On the way back we used to see the old Arab houses, now repopulated by Jewish families, but this didn’t trouble us, since the whole neighbourhood was Jewish and, as far as we were concerned, Arabs, let alone Palestinians, had nothing to do with the place.

Besides the licence to fantasise that we received from our teachers – to speak about the Katamon Arab rioters and never the Katamon Arab people – I now believe that the whole landscape of the neighbourhood was recruited to encourage our imagination. The street names, for example, all have to do with the 1948 war. The Street of the Convoys, the Water Distributors, the Women’s Corps, the Guard Corps, the Conquerors of Katamon: these were the meeting points of my childhood. The place had no past prior to 1948, and the people who had lived there had no names. Nobody thought to tell the new kids on the block the story of the people of Katamon, and none of them had any reason to ask.

It was 20 years before I finally toured Katamon, with two foreign friends, using a very old guidebook. Since there is no indication of what used to be there we consulted the pictures in our guidebook as we walked around the old Arab houses. It didn’t take long to find the former Iraqi Embassy, the Greek Consulate, the Czechoslovakian Embassy, the Lebanese Embassy and the Syrian Consulate, all of them now regular residential houses, showing no trace of their past. I also found the house of Khalil al-Sakakini, perhaps the most important Palestinian intellectual of his time, about whom I learned nothing in school. A sign next to the door reveals that it is now a day-care centre run by the Women’s International Zionist Organisation (Canada).

Katamon, I discovered, was once a wealthy, mostly Christian Palestinian neighbourhood with two hotels in its centre: the Semiramis and the Park Lane. I had never heard of them, or heard that in January 1948 Haganah gunmen planted a bomb at the Semiramis, killing 26 people, including the Spanish vice-consul. This was one of the main factors which caused the flight of the Palestinian residents. Today, in the place where the Semiramis used to be, there’s a new house. It is a normal house. Absence can help Jerusalemites fantasise, sometimes even more than presence.

An average Jewish Israeli can live an entire life without personally knowing, let alone befriending, a single Palestinian citizen of the same country. In kindergarten, primary school, middle school and high school, the two education systems are entirely separate: Jewish Israelis study with Jewish Israelis, Palestinian citizens of Israel study with Palestinian citizens of Israel. As teenagers we learned about the great projects of Aliya (Jewish immigration to Israel) and Kibbutz Galuyot (the ‘ingathering of the Diasporas’). We learned about the establishment of the state, and I particularly liked the lesson dedicated to Israel as a ‘society of immigrants’. The Palestinians, I never realised then, had not immigrated to Israel from anywhere. But this didn’t stop us from dreaming. For some Israeli sociologists, the army is the country’s ‘melting pot’, but Palestinian citizens by and large are not inside the pot. They don’t want to fight their Palestinian brothers and sisters, and Israel doesn’t trust most of them to do so. So the ‘melting pot’ is made up of Jews only. One can argue that this encourages us to dream about a Jewish land for a Jewish people. It also helps us to forget that the Palestinians are part of Israeli society and citizens of the same state.

Tel Aviv University showed the power of its imagination when, in May 2008, the student council decided to hold the fun and enjoyable annual Day of the Student on the exact day that Palestinians commemorate the Naqba. The excuse given by the student council was that ‘we were not told of the problematic timing of the celebrations.’ This is arguably even more dangerous than saying that it was done on purpose: it makes it plain that for the Jews in the country, even the educated and ‘liberal’ citizens of Tel Aviv, the Palestinian people are invisible. The bill that would make it illegal for Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel to commemorate the Naqba was initially approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation in May this year. I don’t know if the bill will become law, but the Naqba undoubtedly took place; it is not a day of celebration for many people. A recognition of the Naqba, taking responsibility for the fate of the 700,000 Palestinians who escaped or were expelled in 1947-48, a willingness to try and compensate these refugees, now numbering several million: these gestures, even if symbolic, even if too late, would mean the beginning of the end of Israeli denial. But soon, the bill suggests, anyone who dares to express their feelings on this day will be imprisoned, in the ‘only democracy in the Middle East’.

The claim to be the ‘only democracy’, as well as to have ‘the most moral army in the world’: these phrases are great examples of the Israeli fantasising project. Another term that belongs in the twilight-zone, and helps Jewish society to maintain a liberal veneer over a very un-liberal attitude, is ‘coexistence’ (Du-Kiyum). It is applied to those cultural or sporting occasions when Israelis and Palestinian citizens of Israel actually meet. In other words, it is used when two very different forms of existence come together. Strikingly, when a school contains the children of Jewish Israelis and new Jewish immigrants from countries as diverse as Russia and Argentina, the term ‘coexistence’ is never used. The common existence of a Tel Avivian Jew and an Argentinian Jew is apparently obvious. However, when the Tel Avivian student meets a Palestinian colleague from across-the-street Jaffa, it comes under the heading of coexistence. This ‘liberal’ terminology acts like a sleeping pill for a society that wishes to dream about being liberal and democratic. Maybe it is time for someone to wake it up.

Good morning Israel! It is very late, and you have overslept. One can’t call a country peaceful when it has an extreme right-wing government and Ariel Sharon’s party in opposition. One can’t – not logically – describe any criticism of Zionism as anti-semitism and at the same time concede that 75 per cent of Israeli Jews wouldn’t want to live in the same building as an Arab. One can’t teach high-school students about the dangers of racism and discrimination, and the next day lecture them about the Israeli government project to Judaise the Galilee. One can’t describe ending the military occupation and handing the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to its rightful legal inhabitants as a ‘painful Israeli compromise’.

‘A villa in the jungle’ is how Ehud Barak described Israel’s position in the Middle East. It’s a fantasy that the whole of Israel takes part in. In the heart of Tel Aviv one can find the Ha-Kirya complex, the headquarters of the Israel Defence Forces. The fact that Tel Avivians can calmly walk past this building without making a connection between their army and the occupied Palestinian territories, between their independence and the continued Palestinian suffering, is alarming. Israeli decadence isn’t measured in crime rates or corruption, but in their opposite: in having a prospering society and democratic elections while directly abrogating the Palestinians’ most basic human, national and political rights.

The way of fantasising another Israel – peaceful and moral, Jewish and democratic, not perfect but not harmful – has brought into being a virtual reality in which historical and contemporary events are blurred by wishful, deceitful and blinkered thinking. In order to recruit Israeli Jewish society to this mission, no induction orders were needed. Everything has come together – Israel’s political and religious institutions, its media, its ‘friends’ around the world, its borders, its terminology, its collective memory, its imagination and also its ice-cream parlours – to enable Israel to reach the stage where it has completely lost any connection with reality.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


Vol. 31 No. 13 · 9 July 2009

Yonatan Mendel’s use of the transliteration naqba of the Arabic word meaning ‘calamity’ is a solecism (LRB, 25 June). Arabic (like Hebrew) has two k-like consonants. One of these sounds like an English ‘k’ and is transcribed as such. The other is guttural and is normally transcribed as ‘q’. If you consult a good Arabic dictionary you will find that words derived from the root n-q-b are associated with drilling and tunnelling, whereas those derived from n-k-b are associated with mishaps and calamity.

Moshé Machover
London School of Economics

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.