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Yonatan Mendel

Yonatan Mendel teaches in the Middle East Department at Ben-Gurion University.

Bibi has done it again

Yonatan Mendel, 7 May 2020

Benjamin​ Netanyahu’s trial for corruption was supposed to begin on 17 March. He had been charged on three separate counts: the first indictment, for fraud and breach of trust, has to do with the alleged receipt of ‘gifts’ – cigars, champagne – with a total value of $200,000 from the Hollywood mogul Arnon Milchan and the Australian billionaire James Packer. The...

Diary: A Palestinian Day Out

Yonatan Mendel, 15 August 2019

It happens​ twice a year. The beach between Tel Aviv and Jaffa fills with Palestinians from the West Bank. For many children this is the only time they get to visit the seaside, even though their homes in the Occupied Territories may be no more than twenty or thirty kilometres away. There are draconian restrictions on the movement of Palestinians living in the West Bank (the residents of...

Short Cuts: Uri Avnery

Yonatan Mendel, 13 September 2018

Uri​ (pronounced Oori, not Yuri) is a modern Hebrew name. Not a Jewish name, and definitely not diasporic, but Hebrew-Israeli: it is part of the Hebrew culture that emerged in historical Palestine at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. The protagonist of He Walked through the Fields, a classic novel in Zionist thought, written in 1947 by Moshe Shamir and later a play and...

Activestills shoots back

Yonatan Mendel, 2 February 2017

The​ Israeli government says there is no occupation; the documentary group Activestills shoots back with images of Palestinians living under constant military threat. The Israeli army says Palestinians who protest against soldiers are terrorists; Activestills shoots back with photographs of Palestinian civilians standing in silent resistance. Israeli media refuse to name Palestinians killed...

The Arab-Israeli Conflict

Yonatan Mendel, 5 October 2016

Ten​ minutes into Elia Suleiman’s film The Time That Remains, the Palestinian city of Nazareth officially surrenders to Israeli military forces on 16 July 1948. In the town hall, the Israeli commander reads out the bill of surrender to the gathered Arab-Palestinian notables. It’s in Hebrew and they don’t understand a word. The commander tells the mayor to sign the...

Diary: The Israeli Elections

Yonatan Mendel, 19 March 2015

Every time Israel makes it into the news for the mass killing of Palestinians in Gaza, or of Turkish civilians in international waters, I propose a piece to the LRB. The response is usually that I’m too late, or someone better qualified is already writing about it. This never happens with Israeli elections. So every few years I sit down to write a piece for the LRB on a topic that seems less and less attractive for both the reader and the writer. What else can be said about a country whose electoral options run from bad to worse?

Diary: Israel’s Election

Yonatan Mendel, 21 February 2013

Since the night of the Israeli election on 22 January I have been avoiding Israeli news. It wasn’t exactly something I decided to do: perhaps it was just my immune system protecting me from the flood of commentators and the endless repetition of words like ‘hope’, ‘change’, ‘future’ and ‘the new politics’. I escaped straightaway to the...

Israel’s ‘Public Diplomacy’

Yonatan Mendel, 11 March 2010

As a result of mounting anti-semitism in Europe and the generally poor showing of Israeli hasbara there, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education are sending a delegation of 11th-grade students on a hasbara mission to Europe.

Letter to headteachers

Hasbara is the noun form of the Hebrew verb ‘to explain’, in the sense of advocating a position....

Tel Aviv’s Centenary

Yonatan Mendel, 25 June 2009

At this very moment, long queues are probably forming outside Tel Aviv’s latest culinary thing: the yoghurterias. Even in the middle of the night you have to wait in line to get a cold and refreshing ice-cream yoghurt from the busy shop on Rothschild Boulevard. Springing up like mushrooms after the rain, the ice-cream parlours have allowed the ‘white city’ of Tel Aviv to...

A year ago I applied for the job of Occupied Territories correspondent at Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper. I speak Arabic and have taught in Palestinian schools and taken part in many joint Jewish-Palestinian projects. At my interview the boss asked how I could possibly be objective. I had spent too much time with Palestinians; I was bound to be biased in their favour. I didn’t get the job. My next interview was with Walla, Israel’s most popular website. This time I did get the job and I became Walla’s Middle East correspondent. I soon understood what Tamar Liebes, the director of the Smart Institute of Communication at the Hebrew University, meant when she said: ‘Journalists and publishers see themselves as actors within the Zionist movement, not as critical outsiders.’

Designing the Occupation

Yonatan Mendel, 2 August 2007

Being the son of an Israeli civil engineer I never believed I would one day write something about architecture. My father would come back home with many boring black and white sketches, and I realised as a child that I would not become an engineer. He tried to teach me the differences between engineering, architecture, design, contracting and surveying, but he was not sure I understood them,...

Diary: at the Herzliya Conference

Yonatan Mendel, 22 February 2007

I was still at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv when my mobile rang. Rottem, the head of the news department, asked me how I was doing. ‘They opened up my belly last night,’ I grumbled, ‘took my appendix out, closed me up with staple pins and left.’ It hurt. ‘Well, you sound like you’re all right now,’ he said rather bluntly. ‘I’m sure you can...

From The Blog
12 April 2019

The Israeli elections turned on the ‘ideological’ question of whether Binyamin Netanyahu should be prime minister or not. Other, less crucial topics – including the occupation of the West Bank, which has entered its second jubilee; the siege of Gaza, which has entered its 13th year; the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the status of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights; the complete lack of negotiation with the PLO; the growing inequality in Israeli society; the deteriorating health system; the housing crisis and more – were all left largely undiscussed.

From The Blog
10 May 2017

Binyamin Netanyahu’s relation with, control of and attitude to the media is a central component of his career and ongoing success. Through his years as a furniture salesman, ambassador to the UN and prime minister, Netanyahu has mastered the art of public relations. To stay in power, he has realised that he needs, on the one hand, to have as much control as possible over the media, over what they cover and what they don’t cover; while on the other hand, he needs Israelis to believe that the media are biased against him.

From The Blog
15 May 2015

Yesterday, on the 67th anniversary of the establishment of Israel (Palestinians commemorate the Nakba today), Binyamin Netanyahu was sworn in as prime minister. It’s taken him a while to put together a governing coalition of 61 seats, against 59 in the opposition. It’s worth watching the first minute of Netanyahu’s speech to the Knesset. You don’t have to understand Hebrew. ‘Tonight with God’s help,’ he begins, ‘we will create a government in Israel.’ He pauses for a second. ‘We will defend Israeli security.’ Another pause. ‘And we will strive for peace.’ At the word ‘peace’ (‘shalom’) many members of the Knesset couldn’t contain themselves.

From The Blog
25 July 2014

‘We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children,’ Golda Meir said in 1969, ‘but we cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.’ Forty-five years on, in the third week of the Israeli attack on Gaza, with more than 800 Palestinians killed, about a quarter of them children, Israel’s government, its media and Israeli society have turned Meir’s idea of Israel being ‘forced’ to do unacceptable things into a vast and dangerous superstition. It refuses to take responsibility for the killing, just as it refused to take responsibility for the military occupation and the blockade: these, it tells itself, are what it has been forced into. Killing in Gaza in 2014, killing in 2012, and in 2008. But Israel has convinced itself, despite the rising numbers of dead, that it isn't killing anyone in Gaza. Hamas are the people doing the killing; they are responsible for the siege, the destruction, the underdevelopment, the poverty, the absence of peace talks, the postponement of a ceasefire and the use of UNRWA schools for military purposes.

From The Blog
21 February 2011

Hosni Mubarak was the Israeli government’s favourite dictator, so it was hard for them, and for the mass media, to say goodbye to him. Coverage of the uprisings elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East has been fairly supportive of the protesters, but Egypt was a special case. As Gabi Ashkenazi, the recently retired head of the army, put it, ‘stability is preferable to democracy.’ The refrain throughout has been: 'Israel is anxiously following events.’ But on 26 January, the Israeli establishment was hopeful that its neighbours would fail in their struggle for democracy. The daily Ma'ariv, under the headline 'Trusting Mubarak', said: 'Israeli officials are optimistic: Egypt will overcome’ – ‘Egypt’ here and elsewhere meaning the despotic administration, not the people.

From The Blog
22 June 2010

We met Seish a few days ago, when we stopped at his pub on our way from big-game spotting in the Pilanesberg National Park – where we saw elephants, giraffes and the USA squad’s tour bus – to Australia v. Germany. After making sure none of us were Australian, he gave us a lecture on the long-running sporting rivalry between South Africa and Australia (in everything from rugby and cricket to swimming and running). He then brought out a T-shirt with the slogan: ‘I support any team that plays against Australia.’

From The Blog
17 June 2010

Durban advertises itself as 'the warmest place to be for the 2010 Fifa World Cup'. It's been a sunny 20 degrees here, while the temperatures in Bloemfontein, for example, have plummeted at night to minus five. The esplanade is crowded with tourists, as well as groups of Zulu dancers dressed in 'traditional' clothes (no shirts, lots of chest muscles, wooden shields and spears) and local artists making sand sculptures of crocodiles eating people (with the inscription: 'please donate money and help save the poor man'). The bars are full of foreign men and local women. Thousands of tourists have descended on the city – most of them European, most of them men – and the European-African (mis)match is evident. Every evening we have been approached by groups of young women: 'I am from Zimbabwe, I do not care about football, but I came for a month vacation during the World Cup.' Everywhere you look, large sweaty white men are buying drinks for attractive black women.

From The Blog
13 June 2010

People have said there hasn't been much demand for tickets in South Africa, but no one seems to have told Patrick. For the last two months he has been sleeping outside the Maponya Mall in Soweto. He wakes at 4 o'clock in the morning, to stand alone in front of the Mall's doors. By the time they open at 9 o'clock a long queue has formed for the Fifa ticket centre, but Patrick is always first in line. He can only afford Category 4 tickets, which cost R140 (about £12). We asked him about tickets for the England-USA game. 'England tickets are like gold,' he said. Even in Category 1 (which cost £110)? Even in Category 1. 'I will try to find tickets for you, but there is no chance it will be successful.'

From The Blog
10 June 2010

On the way into Soweto there are dozens of signs that say: 'Welcome World'. Since our first evening in the pub in Pimville, Zone 5, drinking the local Castle beer and eating pap, surrounded by the flags of Algeria, Ivory Coast, Slovenia and Paraguay, we definitely have felt welcome. Our hands were shaken over and over again. 'We hope you are happy here... Is everything all right?... We love you... Thank you for coming... Pleased to meet you... We are glad you are visiting us.' 'We', by the way, are Matt, my former university English teacher who still finds my English mistakes 'to be very disturbing', Simon, a BBC journalist who does not have any corrupt friends to supply us with England-USA tickets, and Ben, an Englishman who has been living in Holland for the last eight years and does a passable imitation of Afrikaans.

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