The Wrong Audience: The Politics of Breaking the Silence’s Book Project
NGO Monitor has released the following statement regarding the publication of Kingdom of Olives and Ash, a book edited by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman and prepared in conjunction with the Israeli NGO “Breaking the Silence”:
More than a literary work, this book is a political project, and it is essential to understand the political dimensions. The publication, like most of Breaking the Silence’s activities, addresses the wrong audience of non-Israelis and non-Palestinians.
As an advocacy group whose agenda is to end the post-1967 stalemate and occupation at all costs, without addressing the fundamental issues of Palestinian rejectionism and incitement, Breaking the Silence has been unable to convince many Israelis of the wisdom and practicality of its perspective. Instead, it has turned to less-informed international audiences, in an attempt to pressure Israel externally. Its ability to do so, as a small NGO, is disproportionately amplified by the millions of shekels it receives from European governments, church groups, and other actors.
Art by definition only provides a partial picture. Writers specializing in fiction, with varying degrees of knowledge of the history and context, and limited, if any, expertise, are necessarily restricted in their ability to capture the reality. Excerpts that have already been made publicly available, like Breaking the Silence campaigns, strip away complexities to artificially present attackers and victims as equals.
These shortcomings are understandable given the process by which the book was written, based on brief experiences in Israel and the West Bank, carefully curated by a political advocacy NGO.
Resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot happen without the Israeli and Palestinian publics. Funding for Breaking the Silence by European governments and foundations, which is used to circumvent and undermine these core constituencies, and polemical publications such as this will not advance the ostensible objectives.