The Big Schlep — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Haim Watzman

illustration by Avi Katz
A shamus knows he’s getting old when people ask him stupid questions. And this shamus has been getting a lot of stupid questions lately — things people ought to know without needing to have an over-the-hill private eye like me to tell them. I realized that early one Friday morning in the damp room in Old Katamon that I call my office. The rain was so heavy that even the Hasidim with the plastic bags over their homburgs didn’t dare go out. And that’s unusual for a tough neighborhood like Katamon, where everyone — and I mean everyone — is holier than thou.

I had my feet on my desk, Rabbi Menachem Meiri’s Beit HaBechira open on my lap, a half-filled highball glass in my hand, and a nearly empty bottle of really bad schnapps on the floor. The wind blew the door open and I caught sight of the shingle I’d put up when I was a young dick with an attitude. “Ahrele Andorra—Kushiyot,” it read. Hard questions. That’s what I do, hard questions. Although I’m at an age when nothing that ought to be hard is really hard anymore.

But I guess the all-seeing private investigator up in heaven saw I was getting depressed and, even worse, that if something didn’t happen I’d have to go out in the deluge to get my bottle filled. Providence works in mysterious ways. He didn’t send me something hard. He sent something soft–real soft.

Because after the door opened the next gust of wind blew in this dame. Actually, I couldn’t tell it was a dame at first because she was so wet and bundled up in sweaters, coats and scarves that she looked more like a blowfish after a haircut. But as she started peeling off layers, she revealed a figure that would have inspired Maimonides to compose a 14th article of faith.

Read moreThe Big Schlep — “Necessary Stories” column from The Jerusalem Report

Votes Are Not Enough–Hillel Cohen’s “Good Arabs”

Haim Watzman

All too often, Israel’s supporters kill their cause with clichés. One of the most common and problematic of these clichés is the claim that Israel’s Arab citizens have always enjoyed full and equal rights because—and here’s the clincher—they vote for and sit in Israel’s parliament, the Knesset.

As Hillel Cohen shows in Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs, 1948-1967, my translation of which is to be published shortly, suffrage and representation do not in and of themselves guarantee a minority the rights that a democracy is supposed to grant to all its citizens.

In Good Arabs, Cohen continues the study he began in his previous book, Army of Shadows (see my earlier post Good Arabs, Bad Arabs) about the complex relationship between the Zionist movement and the local Arabs in Palestine. As in that earlier work, Cohen eschews the slogans long shouted by Palestinians and Israelis, rightists and leftists. He shows how both Israeli officials and leaders of those Palestinian Arabs who became inhabitants and citizens of the Jewish state adopted a variety of strategies in reaction to real and perceived threats and opportunities.

Read moreVotes Are Not Enough–Hillel Cohen’s “Good Arabs”