From Publishers Weekly
When she was 16, Nathan, a British Jew living in South Africa, had sex with her aunt's black servant. "Sex between a black man and a white woman in apartheid South Africa," Nathan writes, "was not just a physical act, it was an act of powerful political dissent." Decades later, Nathan would again make a striking political statement with a simple physical gesture: she moved from her home in Tel Aviv and settled in a small Arab town in northern Israel, quietly but clearly renouncing the Zionist philosophy that had facilitated her citizenship in Israel through the Right of Return. Nathan matter-of-factly describes the impossibility of getting furniture delivered or an airline reservation made with an address that doesn't appear in any of the state's databases, although 25,000 Muslims live there. These quotidian details nicely illustrate her critique of Israel as a state that "enforces a system of land apartheid between... two populations," just as South Africa had. It is a shocking comparison, but Nathan goes further, drawing a parallel between the Holocaust and Israel's practices toward its own Arab citizens. Yet, even when throwing down a gauntlet, Nathan's writing is poised, emotionally candid and ultimately empathic to the plight of both groups. The Arabs' displacement mirrors the Jews' wandering, Nathan observes, and before the two groups can coexist peacefully, each must recognize itself in the other. (Sept.)
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Almost invisible in the international media, the Arab citizens of Israel have found very few advocates among Israel's Jewish majority. By leaving Tel Aviv and moving into an Arab village, Nathan began the personal transformation that made her one of that small number. Living among Arab Israelis has engendered in Nathan a keen awareness of their fortitude and courage in coping with the adversity imposed by Israeli policies and practices. In Israel's schools and its legislative chamber, on its farms and its job sites, Nathan sees Jewish Israelis denying Arab Israelis equitable treatment, relegating them to second-class citizenship. And, unfortunately, the unmistakable parallels with South African apartheid fail to register even in the minds of Israel's progressive Jews, who insist that Israel's Arabs must surrender their traditional culture before they qualify for equal rights. Such moral myopia, Nathan warns, imperils not only Arab Israelis who lose hope in fighting against it but also Jewish Israelis who risk losing their national heritage by succumbing to it. Nathan's concluding appeal for a truly equitable and inclusive Israel will stir sharp controversy by forcing hard questions. Bryce Christensen
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