ISRAELI PACIFIST: The Life of Joseph Abileah by Anthony G. Bing

ISRAELI PACIFIST: The Life of Joseph Abileah

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An elegant, if uneven, tribute to Joseph Abileah, conscientious objector for over 50 years, by another pacifist who has also worked in the Middle East. Even as a youth in British Palestine, Abileah toiled for better relations between Arab and Jew, mostly through personal contact. Given to hiking trips through the countryside, he was profoundly impressed by the hospitality he received from total strangers. From these early experiences he postulated that it is fear that generates enmity; remove fear and you create peace. He refused to serve in the Israeli Defense Force during the War of Independence, and worked actively against the creation of the State of Israel, feeling that it is the nation-state that is the cause of war. His solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a confederation of Jordan, the West Bank, and Israel. He has always felt that because of the small size and limited resources of the area, it should never have been divided--that the Jordan river is an artery rather than a boundary. At one time, after being graciously welcomed in Amman, he thought King Abdullah to be the logical ruler of his proposed confederation. Later, he came to believe in a government similar to Switzerland's. Like many men of passionate convictions, he sacrificed family happiness--both sons became estranged and served willingly in the Israeli army while his wife was for many years unpersuaded of his beliefs-and also financial security to pursue his ideals. Bing (Peace and Global Studies/Earlham College) writes of this noble life with grace and sympathy, but mars his case by quoting too liberally from his subject. Thus we learn from Abileah's papers that it was supposedly Britain and the US who stirred up conflict between the Arabs and Jews so that they could sell arms to both sides; and that Israel is a ""thrall"" to the US, much to its own detriment. A flawed, then, but fascinating picture of a gentle man with an iron will--a man who can be extraordinarily naive.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1990
Publisher: Syracuse Univ. Press