The Significance of Miscegenation: Israel Bans Arab-Jewish Romance Novel Because We Can't Have Both Sides Loving Each Other Now Can We?
Last year's shocking display of love in Israel. Photo by AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS
The Education Ministry of Israel - you know, the People of the Book - has banned an award-winning young adult novel of love between an Israeli translator and a Palestinian artist because it "threatens the separate identity” of Jews. Explaining their disqualification of Dorit Rabinyan’s “Gader Haya” (published in Hebrew as “Hedgerow,” but "Borderlife” in English), officials cited the need to maintain "the identity and the heritage of students in every sector,” worrying that "young people of adolescent age don’t have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the national-ethnic identity of the people and the significance of miscegenation.” Ministry officials, including one who's boasted he's "killed lots of Arabs in my life and (has) no problem with it,” argued that young readers don't have "the full tools to weigh the decisions" of inter-racial love - Translation: "They're not quite sure yet who to hate" - and that "many parents... would strongly object to having their children study the novel" - Translation: "They're racist, too, so let's go with it." The book was recommended for advanced curricula by the literature head of secular state schools and a committee of academics, and had been requested by multiple teachers.
The book ban comes amidst an appalling rightward pitch in Israel, which has seen a rise in the longtime curse of anti-miscegenation politics, exacerbated in recent years by extremist settler groups like Lehava; the marriage last year between a Palestinian man and Israeli woman sparked nasty protests, with the groom having to hire a phalanx of bodyguards to walk down the aisle. But while the book's rejection was applauded by settlers, it was condemned by many others. Shlomo Herzig, the ministry’s head of literature studies, tried in vain to appeal the unprecedented decision. "The acute problem of Israeli society today is the terrible ignorance and racism that is spreading in it, and not concern over intermarriage," he said. "The most horrible sin that comes to mind in teaching literature is eliminating all or some work which we don’t favor...In such a situation, there is no reason to teach literature at all." Asked opposition leader Isaac Herzog, "Tell me, are the People of the Book afraid of books?" Another critic carefully suggested "the complex formulations" against the book gave off "a stench of an aloof worldview that borders on racism." More savagely, another dubbed the ban, "When Nuremberg came to Israel." Silver Lining Dept: The uproar has caused a huge spike in sales of the book, with more printings planned.