Why Rebels Must Be Middle Class

By Baram, Daphna | New Statesman (1996), September 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

Why Rebels Must Be Middle Class


Baram, Daphna, New Statesman (1996)


How could a 28-year-old secretary, a devoted Likud voter with no record of political activism, find herself being interrogated for a month at the headquarters of Israel's security services? And how could she get herself sentenced to four months of "administrative detention" without trial, a punishment usually reserved for Palestinian activists? That is what happened to Tali Fahima this month, and her story tells us a great deal about Israel today.

Fahima began wondering about the roots of Israeli-Palestinian violence during the past year. She decided to meet Zakariya Zubeidi, leader of the Jenin refugee camp. She spent a couple of weeks in the camp, hanging out with him and other militants, helping with educational projects and fundraising for children.

After her arrest, the Israeli media described her as a new version of Mata Hari. Even the liberal Haaretz said that she was Zubeidi's lover, although there was no evidence. The security services leaked apparently groundless accusations against her: she had assisted in terrorist attacks, attempted to smuggle a bomb into Israel, and so on.

It is not unheard of for Israelis to visit Zubeidi, who has survived at least five Israel Defence Forces attempts on his life. I personally know of five lefty activists who have enjoyed his hospitality during the past month. None was arrested or interrogated. So why was Fahima?

The answer is that her profile does not fit the bill. The Israeli security services know what a lefty activist should be like: a student or academic from a middle-class background, preferably of Ashkenazi (European Jewish) descent, who is a member of one of the tiny leftist groups. …

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