Drawing National Boundaries for Israel the Influence of Myths and Emotions

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RUBBER BULLETS: Power and Conscience in Modern Israel

By Yaron Ezrahi

Farrar, Straus & Giroux 308 pp., $25 In "Rubber Bullets: Power and Conscience in Modern Israel," Yaron Ezrahi, an Israeli academic and peace activist, combines remarkable imagination and insight with a graceful, evocative style. His superb book offers perhaps the wisest exploration thus far of the deep emotional factors underlying the continual dispute within Israel over national boundaries. Should they be those of l967 or those of the Bible? Secular moderation or uninhibited Old Testament imperialism? Cautious restraint or grandiose speculations? Throughout, Ezrahi functions brilliantly as a literary investigator, deconstructing the language, the vocabulary, the very discourse of this great debate. Ezrahi's title refers to the rubber-coated bullets with which the Israeli security forces responded to the Intifada, the Palestinian uprising that began in l988. Was this a war, in which an all-out military response, i.e., shooting, was appropriate? If so, its ultimate objective would be the grandiose territorial aspirations of an Arab-hating zealotry. But if it was perceived as something less than war, then anti-riot measures, such as rubber bullets, were applicable. As we know, rubber bullets carried the day, not least because unrestrained shooting against Arab civilians was anathema to ordinary Israeli soldiers. While it stretches a point for Ezrahi to perceive in this simple military device evidence of a changing Israeli consciousness, it provides the basis for a remarkable assessment of the very soul of modern Israel. …