Two Views of the Israel-Palestine Conflict

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We open this month’s Boryanabooks selection with two views of the seemingly endless clash between Israel, its Arab neighbors, and the Palestinians under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza. From Mohammad Arafat, a writer and resident of Gaza, we have an anguished account of his experiences during the Israeli invasion of 2009, of homes bulldozed and a neighbor’s daughter killed by an Israeli air strike. Leslie Evans offers a longer piece, criticizing much of the Western Left for placing all of the blame in this bitter ethnic conflict on the Israeli Jews. He traces Left animosity to Jewish national identity to the beginnings of the socialist movement in Europe and calls for support to the two-state solution to resolve the impasse.


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The View From Gaza


Israel began to build its country in the Palestinian lands and began to control the Palestinian people at the beginning of 1948. It forced them to escape from their homes to other countries or cities. Many of those immigrants went to the neighboring countries like Syria, Lebanon and Jordan and the others went to Gaza and the West Bank. This occupation made many massacres in those lands, like Deir Yassin, where everyone was killed. The Israelis took about 70 percent of Palestine.

In 1994 the Israeli armies put Gaza and the West Bank under Palestinian authority. In spite of that, the occupation did not stop massacres inside Gaza and the West Bank. There were numerous invasions during the 2000 Intifada, but the most dangerous and terrible time was the 2008/2009 war on Gaza and its people. Read more

The Left and the Jews

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Leslie Evans

From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel. Robert S. Wistrich. University of Nebraska Press, 2012. 625 pp.

Mr Deasy to Stephen Dedalus: “Ireland, they say, has the honour of
being the only country which never persecuted the Jews.
Do you know that? No. And do you know why?”

“Why, sir?” Stephen asked, beginning to smile.

“Because she never let them in,” Mr Deasy said solemnly.
A coughball of laughter leaped from his throat
dragging after it a rattling chain of phlegm.

-James Joyce, Ulysses

I first had to think much of anything about Israel, the Arab states on its borders, and the subset of Arabs who were beginning to be called Palestinians in June 1967 during the Six Day War. I was living in New York at the time, a member and staff writer for the Socialist Workers Party, the largest of the American Trotskyist groups, revolutionary Marxists who revered Lenin as well as Leon Trotsky. On June 5 war erupted between Israel and Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, three of the four countries on its borders, all vastly larger. Fighting on three fronts, the Israeli Jews in a few days defeated the massive Arab armies thrown against them.

The SWP leadership declared the party firmly on the Arab side, not shrinking from unreservedly endorsing the declared Arab war aims of destroying the Jewish state altogether. There were twenty-two Arab states and a single Jewish one. Forty-six years later the population of the Arab states stands at 350 million; Israel’s is 8 million, of whom only 6 million are Jews. Read more

Susan McRae’s Photos Of Lionel Rolfe’s Book Reading & Signing

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Wolfgang Puck in the 1970s

By Bob Vickrey


As I entered the dimly lit restaurant on Melrose Boulevard, my eyes had not fully adjusted from the mid-morning Southern California sunlight and I could barely make out the images of the shadows inside Ma Maison.


I spotted a large imposing figure in a darkened corner booth with curtains that almost surrounded his table. The man appeared to be the only diner in the restaurant. His massive size had required the width of two benches placed together to accommodate his enormous girth. As my eyes began to adjust to the darkness, I realized the man with the well-trimmed full-gray beard was none other than film legend, Orson Welles. Read more

The California Road Scholar Talks About Mining

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Mural in the Martinez, California post office. "The Road to El Dorado, painted by Edith Hamlin and Maynard Dixon in 1939.


By Phyl Van Ammers

The quicksilver, gold and coalmines in this state helped create its cities and transformed its legal, political, economic and environmental landscape.

A petroglyph at Hickison Recreation Center in Nevada on Highway 50 shows stick figures that have enormous heads.  They look like sticks with light bulbs on top. Behind them in one collection of stick figures a line represents mountain by inverted VVVVVV, an ideogram rather like saw teeth. “Sierra” in Spanish means both mountain range and saw.  “Nevada” means snowfall, descent of snow, a heavy fall of snow, or white as snow.

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By Bob Vickrey


When his literary agent once asked best-selling writer Pat Conroy why there was not more sex included in his novels, he responded quickly, “Because my grandmother is still alive.”

When he tells that story at writing seminars and on the banquet circuit, there is always an eruption of laughter and applause in the room. Everyone in attendance fully understands the precarious minefield a writer navigates when it comes to family matters.

He has traditionally offered a serious challenge to young writers, however, as he encourages them to “be bold” and tell their stories courageously without worrying about who is in the audience. Read more

Honey Searches The Eyes Of Writers

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By Honey van Blossom

(Honey is a Belgian Marxist former strip-tease artiste.)

Yesterday I reread the last of the Henning Mankell mystery series about a Swedish police detective Kurt Wallender.  Wallender is the same age as his creator: sixty-five now, sixty when he wrote the last book.  Wallender is often too fat and doesn’t exercise enough.  Mankell is often fat.

This is the third time I read the last Wallender.  I picked open the seams of Mankell’s book this time instead of reading for pleasure.  Threaded through the novel are Wallender’s attempts to disguise Mankell.  Underlying the extensive research into Russian/Swedish and Russian/American espionage is Mankell’s fear of death.  The character anticipates living to the age of 75 before he descends into the blackness of Alzheimer’s.  He looks forward to taking half a sleeping pill to get through consciousness of death. Read more