Between Jew and Arab: The Lost Voice of Simon Rawidowicz

David N. Myers
  • Review
By – December 6, 2011
In the mid-1950’s, Bran­deis pro­fes­sor Simon Raw­id­ow­icz wrote a chap­ter called Between Jew and Arab” for his mag­num opus, Babel and Jerusalem. It was left out of the pub­lished work, how­ev­er, per­haps because its author took an extreme­ly unpop­u­lar posi­tion: he called for full rights of return for the Arabs who had left Israel in 1948. This book final­ly brings that chap­ter to light, with a 134– page intro­duc­tion by UCLA his­to­ri­an David Myers that places it in the con­text of Israeli his­to­ry and Rawidowicz’s career. 

Myers, a metic­u­lous schol­ar and a lucid writer, makes a valiant effort to cast Raw­id­ow­icz as a brave prophet­ic voice, a fore­run­ner of today’s con­cerns with the human rights of Pales­tin­ian refugees. But much more influ­en­tial fig­ures than Raw­id­ow­icz made sim­i­lar argu­ments in Israel’s ear­ly years. And for Raw­id­ow­icz, who had lit­tle sym­pa­thy for Ara­bic cul­ture and civ­i­liza­tion, the Arabs were less impor­tant as human beings than as char­ac­ters in a Jew­ish drama. 

Raw­id­ow­icz, a life-long cham­pi­on of Dias­po­ra Judaism, was deeply appre­hen­sive of the moral taint of wield­ing state pow­er. In that sense he antic­i­pat­ed the con­tem­po­rary notion of the puri­ty of pow­er­less­ness, which Amos Oz has called eth­i­cal kitsch.” Myers, while sym­pa­thet­ic to Rawidowicz’s views about Pales­tin­ian refugees, allows us to see his sub­ject as an intel­lec­tu­al eccen­tric who was ulti­mate­ly mar­gin­al to the dis­course of his time. Appen­dices, bib­li­og­ra­phy, notes. 

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