South African text; Zionist palimpsest: Israeli critics read Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country

Nitzan Tal*, Louise Bethlehem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The contemporary mobilization of the apartheid-Israel analogy on the part of activists and academics alike obscures the fact that it has a long history of use on the part of Hebrew-speaking writers and intellectuals. Some of the earliest comparative references to apartheid arose from the Hebrew translation and stage adaptation of Alan Paton’s celebrated 1948 novel Cry, the Beloved Country. Departing from the performative focus of Eitan Bar-Yosef who uses blackface in the stage adaptation to reflect on Jewish whiteness in the nascent state of Israel, we analyse critical intellectual responses to the prose translation on the part of figures who were very differently positioned in relation to the hegemonic Zionist ideology of the period. Analysis of the commentary by the socialist Rivka Gurfein, the liberal Ezriel Carlebach, and the revisionist Yohannan Pogrebinsky, allows us to position apartheid as a heuristic device through which to chart debates internal to Israeli politics in the early years of the Zionist state. These help to expose the constitutive ambivalence of Israel as a “colonial post-colony” in Joseph Massad’s reckoning, thus touching on the very self-definition of the Jewish state.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)450-471
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Modern Jewish Studies
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Alan Paton
  • Apartheid
  • Holocaust memory
  • Israel
  • Palestine
  • Zionism


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