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Ben-Gurion University
[Ben Gurion U] Oren Yiftachel's course, 2008-9: ISRAEL/PALESTINE: THE POLITICS OF LAND AND IDENTITY (Colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid)


Oren Yiftachel, Department of Geography and Environmental Development, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel, 84105. Tel: 9728-6472011; Fax: 972-8-6272821; Email: yiftach@bgu.ac.il

yiftach@bgumail.bgu.ac.il,  http://www.geog.bgu.ac.il/members/yiftachel/yiftachel.html







Prof. Oren Yiftachel



The course offers a systematic analysis of the changing ethnic identities and politics in Israel/Palestine. It explores with the students -- through lectures, readings and debates -- the mobilization of Jewish and Palestinian ethno-nationalism, as well as the making of 'ethno-classes' within each nation. Within this context, the course focuses on immigration, development, colonization and globalization as key processes shaping power relations, collective identities and ethnic politics in the contested homeland.


ישראל/פלסטין: פוליטיקה של זהות וקרקע


פרופ' אורן יפתחאל


הקורס מציע ניתוח שיטתי של התמורות בפוליטיקה של קרקע וזהות בישראל/פלסטין. בעזרת הרצאות, קריאה מודרכת ודיונים, הוא מתחקה אחרי הבניית הזהויות האתנו-לאומיות, וגיבושן של זהויות אתנו-מעמדיות בקרב שתי האומות. בתוך הקשר זה, הקורס מתמקד בתהליכים מעצבים כגון הגירה, קולוניזציה ועולמיזציה, דרכם מובנים יחסי הכוח, הזהויות הקולקטיביות והפוליטיקה האתנית במולדת המוסכסכת.









Prof. Oren Yiftachel



The course seeks to systematically study the political geography of ethnic relations in Israel-Palestine. It view struggles over land, power and resources in Israel/Palestine as closely related to structural processes, such as colonialism, nationalism, immigration, capitalism and globalization, and as set within the regional Middle Eastern context .


The course will focus on the emergence and mobilization of Jewish and Palestinian ethnic groups, through the study of key political, economic, geographical and discursive changes. 


Teaching in the course will adopt a multi-disciplinary approach, drawing on knowledge from political science, geography, planning, Middle East Studies and other social sciences. Special emphasis will be given to the Israeli, Middle-Eastern and policy contexts of group politics, including questions such as immigration, refugees, settlement, colonialism, land, borders, economic development, and housing. 


The course will combine lectures, debates and the reading of key texts on the subject. Students will be required to prepare a term paper, based on the course content, in a topic to be approved by the lecturer.



Course Subjects (subject to modification):


1.                 The making of Israel/Palestine – an overview



2.                 Settler societies, colonialism and post-colonialism

3.                 Nationalism, ethnocracy, homeland and diaspora

4.                 Immigrant societies, assimilation and multi-culturalism

5.                 Globalization: capital, religion and culture



6.                 Zionism and Palestinian nationalism

7.                 Western and Eastern Jews

9.                 Religiosity and ethnicity

10.            Recent immigrants: ex-Soviets and Ethiopians

11.            Post-Nakbah Palestinian society(ies)

12.            The Palestinians in Israel

13.            Future scenarios


Term Papers -- Suggested Subjects/Questions


The following questions are deliberately phrased quite broadly; students could choose case studies, specific periods or more specific topics within the broad question/issue. Students could also define their own topics, subject to the lecturer's approval.



1.             The fluctuation of identity: ethnicity, gender, class and place

2.             Ethnic/religious political identities in the age of globalization – relic of a diminishing past?

3.             Settler and indigenous nations – an inevitable conflict?

4.             Colonialism and ethnic cleansing

5.             Nationalism, ethnocracy and theocracy

6.             Melting-pot: control or equality?

7.             Multiculturalism and consociationalism: cures or illusions?

8.             The politics of diaspora and homeland conflicts



9.             Ashkenazi and Mizrahi Jews: success of the melting-pot?

10.        Secular and Orthodox Jews in Israel: two nations?

11.        Russian immigrants in Israel: have the lessons of the 1950s been learnt?

12.        The Palestinian-Arab minority in Israel: Israelis or Palestinians?

13.        Israel's policies towards minorities: towards stability or conflict?

14.        Palestinian nationalism: a reaction to Zionism?

15.        Palestinian minorities –integration or fragmentation?

16.        Religious mobilization and the politics of Israel/Palestine

17.        The 'peace process' – fledgling Palestinian independence?

18.        The al-Aqsa intifada and ethnic relations

19.        Walls, barriers and flows in Israel/Palestine

20.        Political elites in Israel/Palestine: trapped in a gridlock?

21.        Israel/Palestine and apartheid

22.        Any other topic to be suggested by the student





Articles are accessible on Highlearn. Instructions will be given each week about specific required readings


Part One: Conceptual

Comaroff, J. 2007. The politics of Conviction: Faith and the Passion for Truth." Society and Culture (forthcoming

Comaroff, J. and J. Comaroff (2000). "Naturing the Nation: Aliencs, Apocalypse and the Postcolonial State." Hagar: Interntional Social Science Review 1(1): 7-40.

Connor, W. (1993). “Beyond Reason: the Nature of the Ethnonational Bond.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 16(2): 373-388.

Connor, W. (1994) 'A Nation is a Nation', In Hutchinson, J. and Smith, A. (eds) Nationalism, Chp 7. OUP.

Glazer, N. (1993). “Is Assimilation Dead?” Annals of the American Association for Political and Social Sciences 69: 94-112. 

Hall, S. (2000) 'The Multi-Cultural Question', in Hesse, B. (ed) Un/settling Multiculturalisms, Chp 10 (208-9-241)       

Horowitz, D. 'The Logic of Secession', in , In Hutchinson, J. and Smith, A. (eds) Nationalism, Chp 42: OUP.

LeVine, M. (2005). "Globalization in the MENA and Europe: Culture, economy and the public sphere in a transnational context." Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 25(2): 145-170.

Mbembe, A. (2001). On the Postcolony: Studies in the History of Society and Culuture. Berkeley, UCP.

McLaren, P. (2006), Whilte Terror and Oppostional Agency: towards critical multiculturalism', in Goldberg, D. (ed) Multiculturalism: a Critical Reader,  London, Blackwell, 45-74.

Taylor, C. (1992). The Politic of Recognition. Multiculturalism: Examining the Politics of Recognition. A. Gutman. Princeton, Princeton University Press: 25-73.

Yiftachel, O. (2000). The Homeland and Nationalism. Encyclopedia of Nationalism; Vol. 1 (Opening Essays). New York, Academic Press. 359-383.

Yiftachel, O. and A. Ghanem (2004). "Understanding Ethnocratic Regimes: the Politics of Seizing Contested Territory." Political Geography 22(4): 538-568.

Yuval-Davis, N. and Stasilius (1995) 'Introduction' in Unsettling Settler Societies, London: Sage.


Part Two: Immigrants and the Making of Israeli Society

Kimmerling, B. (2001). The Invention  and Decline of Israeliness: State, Society and the Military. Los Angeles, UCP (Chapter 5 on Immigration from the ex-Soviet Union).

Lewin-Esptein, N. and M. Semyonov (2000). "Migration, Ethnicity and Inequality: Homeownership in Israel." Social Problems 47(3): 245-444.

Shain, Y. (2002). "Jewish Kinship at Crossroads: Lessons for Homelands and Diaspora." Political Science Quarterly 117:(2 (Summer 2002)): 279-309.

Shain, Y. (2002). "The Role of Diasporas in Conflict Perpetuation or Resolution." SAIS Review 22(2): 115-143.

Shohat, E. (1997). “The Narrative of the Nation and the Discourse of Modernization: the Case of the Mizrahim.” Critique Spring: 3-18.

Weiss, Y. (2004), The Golem and Its Creator, or How the Jewish Nation-State Became Multiethnic, in Levy, D. and Weiss, Y. Challenging Ethnic Citizenship, SUNY (Chp 5).


Part Three: The Politics of Religion

Cohen, A. and B. Susser (2000). Israel and the Politics of Jewish Identity: the Secular-Religious Impasse. Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.

          Don-Yehiya, E. (1997). The Politics of Accommodation: Settling Conflicts of State and Religion in Israel. Jerusalem, Floresheimer Institute for Policy Studies.

Friedman, M. (2001) Israel as a Theological Dilemma, in Troen, I (ed) Israel – the First Decade

Shilhav, Y. (1993). The Emergence of Ultra Orthodox Neighborhoods in Israeli Urban Centers. Local Communities and the Israeli Polity: Conflict of Values and Interests. E. Ben Zadok. Albany, State University of New York Press: 157-187.


Part Four: Arab-Jewish Relations

Kook, R. (1996). Between Uniqueness and Exclusion: the Politics of Identity in Israel. Israel in Comparative Perspective. M. Barnett. Albany, SUNY Press: 199-226.

Smooha, S. (1997). “Ethnic Democracy: Israel as an Archetype.” Israel Studies 2(2): 198-241.

Yiftachel, O. (2004). Control, Resistance and Informality: Jews and Bedouin-Arabs in the Beer-Sheva Region,. Urban Informality in the Era of Globalization:. N. Al-Sayyad and A. Roy. Boulder, Lexington Books: 118-136.


Part Five: Palestinian Society(ies)

Ghanem, A. (2001). The Palestinian Regime: a 'Patial Democracy'. London, Sussex University Press.

Hanafi, S. (2003). "Rethinking the Palestinian Exile as Diaspora." Hagar -- International Social Science Review 4(2): 157-182.

Hilal, J., Ed. (2007). Where now for Palestine? The Demise of the Two States Solution. London, Zed Books

Klein, M. (2007). "Hamas in Power." Middle East Journal 61(3): 442-459.

Sayigh, R. (2006). Back to the Centre:Post-Oslo Revival of the Refugee Issue. The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel. J. Beinin and R. Stein. Stanford, Stanford University Press: 130-145.


Part Five: Israel/Palestine: Overviews

Migdal, J. (1996). Society-Formation and the Case of Israel. Israel in Comparative Perspective. M. Barnett. Albany, SUNY Press: 173-198.  

Shafir, G. and Y. Peled (2002) Being an Israeli: The Dynamics of Multiple Citizenship (Chapter 1), Cambridge: CUP; or (1998). “Citizenship and Stratification in an Ethnic Democracy.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 21(3): 408-427.     

Yiftachel, O. (1999). “'Ethnocracy': the Politics of Judaizing Israel/Palestine.” Constellations 6(3): 364-390.

Shafir, G. (1996). Zionism and Colonialism: a Comparative Approach. Israel in Comparative Perspective. M. Barnett. Albany, SUNY Press: 227-244.

Said, E. (1994). The Politics of Dispossession: the Struggle for Palestinian Self-Determination. London, Catto and Windus.   

Yiftachel, O. (2002) ‘Territory as the Kernel of Nationalism’, Geopolitics Vol. 7, No. 3, special issue on “When/Where the Nation?” pp. 215-248         



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