Monday, October 15, 2012

Avi Raz's "The Bride and the Dowry"

Avi Raz is associate member of the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, and research fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford, specializing in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Formerly a journalist at a leading Israeli daily, where his assignments abroad included bureau chief in New York and Moscow, he now lives in Oxford, UK.

Raz applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Bride and the Dowry: Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June 1967 War, and reported the following:
The title of my book – The Bride and the Dowry – draws on a metaphor coined by Levi Eshkol, the prime minister of Israel in 1967, immediately after Israel’s stunning triumph in the Six Day War. In the metaphor, Israel’s territorial conquests were a “dowry” and the Arab population a “bride.” “The trouble is that the dowry is followed by a bride whom we don’t want,” the prime minister repeatedly lamented. Eshkol’s simile adequately encapsulated the Israeli ambition in the wake of its military victory over Egypt, Syria, and Jordan: relying on newly declassified official records from Israeli, American, British and United Nations archives, as well as privately-obtained papers, my book shows that Eshkol, reputedly a moderate, and his National Unity Government, effectively translated the metaphor into a policy whose aim was to appropriate the dowry and divorce the bride.

Page 99 – in the third chapter, “In Search of Docile Leadership,” which covers the first three months of the occupation – relates to both “the dowry” and “the bride.” The four hundred and twenty-one words on page 99 are devoted to the deportation of a Muslim leader who inspired peaceful civil disobedience against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian-inhabited West Bank; the annexation by Israel of Arab Jerusalem; and Israel’s ban on political organization in the West Bank despite, or because of, the West Bankers’ desire for a peaceful settlement with Israel.

These three measures – the annexation, the ban on political organization, and the deportation – heralded the postwar policy of Israel in the months and years to come. Its main features included faits accomplis in the occupied territories; refusal to consider the Palestinians as partners to peace negotiations; and iron-fisted treatment of independent-minded leaders desiring to rid themselves of the military occupation.

Indeed, the annexation of the Old City of Jerusalem together with an area twelve times the size of Jordanian Jerusalem was immediately followed by the establishment of illegal Jewish settlements in Syria’s Golan Heights, Jordan’s West Bank, and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. In the West Bank, some twenty villages and towns were destroyed, completely or partially, and West Bankers were “encouraged” to flee eastward, across the River Jordan. Later, tens of thousands of the war refugees were denied return to their homes. On the Golan, the Israeli army razed to the ground all but four Syrian villages in order to prevent repatriation of their inhabitants who had fled during the war. Sheikh ‘Abd al-Hamid al-Sa’ih, the president of the Islamic Court of Appeal in Arab Jerusalem, whose deportation is discussed on page 99, was just the first of a very long list of Palestinian leaders who suffered the same fate throughout the forty-five year-long occupation that still continues.

What most characterized Israeli policy in the aftermath of the June 1967 War was its duplicitous nature. In essence, both the West Bank leadership and King Hussein of Jordan communicated to Israel their wish to reach a peaceful settlement. The United States, Israel’s main supporter and Jordan’s ally, pressured Israel to negotiate a settlement with Hussein. But Israel, preferring land over peace, resorted to a double game whose aim was to mislead Washington into thinking that the government was weighing its peace options – the “Palestinian option” versus the “Jordanian option.” Page 99 of The Bride and the Dowry fits within the wider context of Israel’s foreign policy of deception.
Learn more about The Bride and the Dowry at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue