Re-arabizing the de-arabized: The mista ‘aravim unit of the palmach

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Abstract

It was a hot summer day in Palestine in August 1942. Shim-on Somekh, a Baghdad-born Jew who had immigrated to the country a decade earlier, was teaching Arabic in Kibbutz Mishmar ha--Emek. During one of the classes, the director of the educational institution stepped in and told him that someone was waiting for him outside. Somekh probably assumed that this had something to do with security. As a fluent Arabic speaker, the Haganah intelligence services contacted him frequently and used his knowledge of Arabic for security-oriented missions. But this time, the person waiting outside and the offer he made to Somekh were exceptional. This was Yigal Allon, one of the founders of the Palmach and its commander between 1945 and 1948.1 Allon explained to Somekh that he represented ‘a special Haganah unit which works in cooperation with the British army.’ He asked Somekh to leave his teaching position and join the unit. ‘The Jewish Yishuv needs you more than your students,’ he explained to Somekh, and recruited him to the mista-aravim unit of the Palmach.2.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDebating Orientalism
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages94-116
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781137341112
ISBN (Print)9780230303522
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2013

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