A War of Words: Political Violence and Public Debate in Israel

A War of Words: Political Violence and Public Debate in Israel

A War of Words: Political Violence and Public Debate in Israel

A War of Words: Political Violence and Public Debate in Israel

Excerpt

Gerald Cromer has produced a fascinating, important and unusual book; one that will influence how those who study politics and those interested in violence will do their work. The editors of the series are delighted to have the volume and it comes at a particularly appropriate time.

Violence has influenced Jewish history and traditions enormously; perhaps no nation has experienced as many traumatic experiences over so long a period of time. Most often, others have attacked Jews; but Jews have assaulted other Jews, and of course, other peoples as well. In all three cases, the Jewish community has been seriously affected and its sense of identity reshaped.

Cromer examines how the participants in a political system understand violence, and how different recollections of the causes and consequences of crucial historical experiences compel them to cope with the present and prepare for the future. Israel is a particularly fruitful and engrossing context for studies of this kind, and that may help explain why the first study of this sort originates there.

Cromer's analysis is limited to a brief but particularly memorable period from 1977 to 1984. Egypt and Israel made peace; a peace that for very different reasons provoked different parties: the PLO, some Arab states and some Israeli religious elements. The Israelis invaded Lebanon ostensibly to destroy the PLO, which was then in the process of assembling a considerable military force of perhaps 25,000. The PLO was not destroyed, but it fled Lebanon greatly diminished; and eventually the Israelis were compelled to leave too as Israel became seared by what Americans would call a 'Vietnam Paradigm' or trauma.

All issues were complicated by the fact that for the first time a new party governed Israel - the Likud, led by Menachem Begin. The Likud

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