IIN in Shimon Tzabar's own words Shimon Tzabar's Political Legacy
IIN Today Spend the night with a mosquito Israel Imperial News March 68
Israel Imperial News Oct 68 ISRAC May 69 ISRAC March 70

If you think you are too small to make any difference,
spend the night with a mosquito (Dalai Lama Xlll)
Steve Balogh

For nearly two decades in the eyes of the 'free' world the new state of Israel enjoyed an immaculate, exemplary international reputation of democratic openness, military invincibility, shrewd international relations, matchless intelligence, etc etc. Not even the Suez fiasco of 1956 dented it significantly. Then, suddenly in 1967, they found themselves in strategic control of a swathe of middle-eastern territory which, in the cold war context of the time would be impossible to defend from a Russian-orchestrated attempt to dislodge them. However, hubris prevailed over that carefully nurtured record of civil enlightenment and military pragmatism, and it took defeat in the Yom Kippur war before the Sinai Peninsular was returned to Egypt, and there the process of seceding the gains of the Six Days War has stalled.

As soon as it became apparent there was to be no withdrawal, a vociferous call for urgent reconsideration was heard, both In Israel, and abroad, but swiftly marginalized, amid the triumphalism and hero-worship the war leaders encouraged in answer to all democratic challenges. Shimon Tzabar was the instigator of a campaign to rethink the military occupation which fell on deaf ears. He left Israel and initiated a satirical magazine - the Israel Imperial News - published in London.

The reason the Israel Imperial News was so instantly reviled and hysterically denounced was that it only took the pinprick of political satire to puncture puffed up Israelite 'infallibility'.. After four decades of occupation, there is still a noisy Israeli caucus enforcing their view that we got away with murder so far, we should get on and complete the job, only not in so many words.

This situation was foreseen by the original contributors to Israel Imperial News. It doesn't seem so funny now it has become the reality, as it did then, however macabre as a joke. But in those days it was a novelty to put Israel into the same sentence as war-crime, when any implied criticism of Israeli political and military excesses were met with shrill denunciations of anti-semitism. It was also long before suicide and bomber had been conjoined to mean death, not just for perpetrator and victims, but also for those in the path of the inevitable reprisals. The articles in Israel Imperial News, therefore, appear strangely naive about the brutality they predict - or perhaps it is we who are strangely innured to the brutalities, and have admitted them as part of 'normality'.

It was definitely outrageous thus to be accusing the Israeli intelligentia of complicity in genocidal war crimes, but Shimon had evolved a style which engages and deploys paradox with such complete mastery that he is able to turn back the outrage that he provokes onto the targets of his satire. A high art indeed!

It was definitely outrageous thus to be accusing the Israeli intelligentia of complicity in genocidal war crimes, but Shimon had evolved a style which engages and deploys paradox with such complete mastery that many of his best contributions turn back the outrage that he provokes against the targets of his satire. A high art indeed!

Themes and symbols recur throughout his work, but look carefully and you will see they have changed meanings and make a completely fresh impact! His welcome advice to younger artists was never didactic but ran along the same approach he took toward younger, naive comrades in the struggle. They found his seasoned judgment of the political and practical aspects of our predicament invaluable. It is understatement to say he lent inspiration to our campaigns - it was freely offered and, on occasions - hilariously - led us to explore and understand situations we could never have encountered otherwise.

As another aspect of his prescient faculty, he let us make the errors that youth and enthusiasm were bound to engender: Shimon knew how to recover from such excesses - been there himself - but refrained from spelling it out to us. He thus drew his authority, not by asserting leadership, but by making sense of idiotic situations and provoking understanding of their consequences.

In his autobiography he claims that Hamas was nurtured into existence with Israeli resources in order to pose an islamist rival to the PLO with roots in the occupied territories. This is something he would have made much more of if he had been alive these last few months.

We must pursue the example he set. In Holland they have a special word for the senior anarchists and revolutionary warriors - they are called Kabouters, and I am fiercely proud to have known - and loved - such a one.