The Diplomacy of Spectacle: Abie Nathan and the Limits of Israeli Peace Activism, 1966-1993

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JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
DateAccepted/In press - 22 Mar 2021
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This article examines the efforts of Israeli aviator, restaurateur and peace activist Abie Nathan to promote peace in the Middle East between the 1960s and 1990s. Among other initiatives, Nathan flew illegally from Israel to Egypt to start diplomatic negotiations in 1966 and established the offshore radio station ‘Voice of Peace’ (1973-93) which broadcasted in English from international waters in the Eastern Mediterranean. His globe-trotting peace activism and humanitarian efforts turned him into an international figure of fascination in Israeli and abroad. Departing from treatments that dismiss Nathan’s political relevance, this article uses the concept of ‘nation branding’ to argue that Nathan’s choices as an activist both defined and defied the limits of Israeli peace activism: on the one hand, Nathan’s activism of spectacle helped Israelis feel better about themselves, and imagine themselves as a peace-pursuing people, without actually mobilizing them to action. On the other hand, Nathan repeatedly pushed his compatriots to recognize the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people, putting him at odds with Israeli authorities.

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