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Mira Sucharov

Borders and Belonging: A Memoir (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020)

Former Winnipegger Mira Sucharov Writes Memoir Examining Her Political Journey regarding Israel

by Rhonda Spivak, May 7, 2021

Mira Sucharov's Borders and Belonging: A Memoir details her ongoing struggle to define her complicated  relationship with the State of Israel, and since she is a very fine writer, the book held my attention from beginning to end. (I read the entire book it in two sittings).


Sucharov is a political science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, and she shares her  thought process extensively on the subject of  "Israel-Palestine."  Her book is designed to give not only an intellectual experience, but an emotional one as well.


A significant part of the book is devoted to her childhood, where she discusses in a very personal way her parents' divorce when she was only five and her many years at Camp Massad  (Winnipeggers familiar with Camp Massad will no doubt appreciate the richness and precision of her memories in this regard).  Sucharov also writes in an honest and revealing  way about her phobias and later on her panic attacks, and skin cancer ( She tells the story of how she was reading a newspaper article about skin moles and then takes a closer look at a mole on her arm, which after a biopsy, she learns is cancerous).


While  all these above formative experiences are absorbing, I found myself especially drawn to that part of the book which deals with Sucharov's internal struggles in her relationship with Israel. The book is replete with many compelling experiences  Sucharov, who speaks Hebrew fluently, had in Israel, while she lived for three years, both on a kibbutz and while she was in graduate school. Sucharov had such affection for Israel that at an earlier point in her life she even thought of moving there, and she is such a lover of the Hebrew language that she speaks to her children in Hebrew only.


There was a time when Sucharov was committed to the two state solution, and her focus was on  "helping push for Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, making way for  Palestinian sovereignty. "  She considered that the two state solution was the only solution and that there would not be a return of Palestinian refugees to Israel. But Sucharov's views have shifted to the left and she now wonders "whether  a more radically just solution--perhaps one that allows for [Palestinian] refugee return and a robust bicultural state-might be called for."  She is suggesting a one state solution, where  Jews would not be a majority. (For the  record, I personally would never advocate for a "one state" over  "a two state" solution, but leaving my own views aside,  I don't think Israel will ever agree to commit national suicide and accept a one state solution or  a bi-national state with the Palestinians.  Thus I do not see a one state solution ever coming about peacefully. Sucharov, of course, is entitled to her opinions, which she has re-evaluated over time, and she is certainly not the the first very left wing Jewish academic to contemplate a one state solution).


There is an interesting chapter of the book about the  kibbutz  Sucharov goes to in the Negev, and the fields of the kibbutz which the kibbutzniks call “Fallujah.” Sucharov points out that Fallujah is an Arabic word and that in 1948 there had been a Palestinian village named Fallujah. She explores what happened there and concludes that the Palestinians from there were expelled. But she wonders why the kibbutzniks still call the fields “Fallujah”, given so much of Israeli culture has involved  Hebraicizing names of people and places.


Another engrossing chapter of the book  deals with her love affair with an Arab man Jabir who she meets in Montreal and is her boyfriend prior to her leaving for Israel for a year. Jabir breaks off  the relationship with her, by saying "What what would happen  if someone in my family found a letter from you bearing an Israeli postage stamp?”Sucharov is caught off guard by this as she has thought that they could have sustained a relationship. Many years later she tries to befriend him on Facebook but he does not answer her.


Sucharov used to belong to a group that  fought academic boycotts of Israel, but a friend of hers Matt explains how BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) is the only thing that can end the occupation and Sucharov, who wrestles with this issue, moves more to the left in regard to BDS. Sucharov determines that she will no longer be part of an organization that opposes BDS, and she won't join an organization that actively promotes BDS. She sums up her views on BDS as follows, "And while I do not currently personally embrace BDS, I'm now much more ambivalent about the ethics of academic boycotts, rather than opposing them outright. I no longer feel comfortable actively standing in the way of those advocating for BDS . As a non-violent struggle, it's a legitimate means, I suppose for the Palestine solidarity movement to draw attention to the fundamental human rights issues and patterns of  oppression that define what others prefer to call 'the conflict.' "


I see Sucharov's move further to the left as  part of a larger trend  in academia over the last number of years that questions the very foundations of the State of Israel. 


In an interview with the Alberta Jewish News,  Sucharov stressed that her  book is not a political treatise. ‘It’s my particular political journey, and from that readers can reflect on their own politics. That’s the gift of the memoir genre – it enables readers to relate even if they don’t agree.”



“Borders and Belonging: A Memoir”
By Mira Sucharov
Published by Palgrave Macmillan, September 2020


Below is Sucharov's Bio:
Mira Sucharov is Professor of Political Science and University Chair of Teaching Innovation at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She is the author or editor of five books — most recently, Borders and Belonging: A Memoir (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020); Public Influence: A Guide to Op-Ed Writing and Social Media Engagement (University of Toronto Press, 2019); and Social Justice and Israel/Palestine: Foundational and Contemporary Debates (co-edited with Aaron Hahn Tapper, University of Toronto Press, 2019). Her many op-eds have appeared in Haaretz, The Forward, The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The Huffington Post, Canadian Jewish News, Jewish Independent and The Daily Beast. She is a five-time teaching award winner and is the 2019 winner of her Faculty’s Excellence in Public Commentary Award. She is the founding co-chair of the Jewish Politics Division at the Association of Jewish Studies, is co-editor of AJS Perspectives, and currently sits on the New Israel Fund of Canada Advisory Council.




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