Harvard, £18.95 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

Israel has Moved, By Diana Pinto

A reflection on Israel focuses on the country rather than just the conflict.

In 2012, Paris-based intellectual historian and policy analyst Diana Pinto attended a conference in Israel. Like many visitors, particularly from Europe, she came away with the urge to write about the experience. Pinto's strength as a writer is her penetrating understanding of what lies beneath the surface of the clichés. We have arrived at the point where most Europeans are not very interested in Israel; Palestine is what engages them. As Pinto explains, Israel is no longer preoccupied by Europe. Her surprising revelation is that it isn't even the US to which Israeli eyes are turned but China and India.

For centuries, Jews have been uprooted from space and instead have inhabited the dimension of time. Zionism restored an appreciation of place, but this has not exactly taken. Israel is not part of its own neighbourhood, the Middle East, but "thinks of itself as living in its own cyberspace at the very heart of a globalized world with increasingly Asian connotations," she writes. "It lives inside its own utopia, in the literal sense of non-place." Pinto describes a recognisable Israeli mindset which owes nothing to the discourse of post-colonial narratives but rather a unique viewpoint, developed out of centuries of statelessness.

As Pinto argues, no country or people can live in cyberspace; the territorial is the reality from which there is no escape. The weakness of Israel lies in its lack of any habits of spatial history; it has no accreted methods of interacting with neighbours, or other states. It is unable, she says, to "change grammatical syntax"; Israel sees itself as always acted on rather than acting. Even the huge number of hi-tech start-ups, its intellectual capital, have no desire to become large companies with big staffs. Once created, they are sold off to the new global technologies.

Pinto realises that such a state can't continue. It is founded on hubris; the most successful Israelis live inside an expanding bubble which insulates them from the territorial land-grabs enacted by citizens with whom they have little or no collection, the settlers. The Palestinians beyond the Green Line of 1967 are invisible, and so are those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel.

Pinto cannot solve the puzzle of the country's future. Like a land on top of the magic faraway tree in Enid Blyton's story, it seems to rotate in space, constantly in motion, but to where? She examines all the available options, and the only one that seems prophesiable is Israel at the airport: the flights of its more privileged citizens (those with EU passports, the Russians, the hi-tech gurus) as the situation becomes finally untenable, leaving behind a rump of ordinary joes.

I wish this book had been a lengthy article in a magazine like Foreign Policy, for Pinto's ability to think entirely trumps her capacity to describe and engage. She indulges in the same set-pieces as every other visitor – the Old City of Jerusalem, a restaurant in the German Colony. The last chapter consists, embarrassingly, of a lengthy tour of the duty-free shops at Ben Gurion airport. Pinto does not get any further than Jerusalem and, briefly, Tel Aviv. The dormitory towns of Bat Yam, the desert development towns of poor Israelis, mostly North African, the wealthy suburbs of Caesarea – with their villas owned by gangsters as well as the bourgeoisie – are not present. Nor are Acre and Haifa and the Arab towns of the Galilee.

Still, Pinto has written about the country rather than being drawn, as so many intellectuals are, to the seamline, the conflict. Knowing that the occupation is wrong, that Zionism was a category error, absolves them of the duty of giving Israel and Israelis any real thought. In China and India the opposite is the case; they're fascinated by how the place works, what exactly is the secret of its ability to live outside geography. Pinto is the writer to turn to, though her own head is as bashed against the wall of futility as everybody else's.

Linda Grant's books include 'The People on the Street: a writer's view of Israel' (Virago)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary charm: Clive Owen and Keira Knightley in 2004’s ‘King Arthur’
FilmGuy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle the legend
Arts and Entertainment
Corporate affair: The sitcom has become a satire of corporate culture in general

TV review

Broadcasting House was preparing for a visit from Prince Charles spoiler alert
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: There are some impressive performances by Claire Skinner and Lorraine Ashbourne in Inside No. 9, Nana's Party spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Glastonbury's pyramid stage

Glastonbury Michael Eavis reveals final headline act 'most likely' British pair

Arts and Entertainment
Ewan McGregor looks set to play Lumiere in the Beauty and the Beast live action remake

Film Ewan McGregor joins star-studded Beauty and the Beast cast as Lumiere

Arts and Entertainment
Charlie feels the lack of food on The Island with Bear Grylls

TV

The Island with Bear Grylls under fire after male contestants kill and eat rare crocodile
Arts and Entertainment
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver and Elizabeth Olsen as Scarlet Witch, in a scene from Avengers: Age Of Ultron
filmReview: A great cast with truly spectacular special effects - but is Ultron a worthy adversaries for our superheroes? spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Ince performing in 2006
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Beth (played by Jo Joyner) in BBC1's Ordinary Lies
tvReview: There’s bound to be a second series, but it needs to be braver spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry, the presenters of The Great Comic Relief Bake Off 2015

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Harold Ramis' original Groundhog Day film, released in 1993

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury

music

Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas

film

Arts and Entertainment

music

Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7

film

Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary

TV

Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige

TV

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence