Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 2009, pages 41-42
Southern California Chronicle
Scholar David Wesley Reveals Israel’s State Practices and Zionist Images in Ph.D. Text
By Pat and Samir Twair
DAVID WESLEY and his wife, Elana, were born in the U.S. and immigrated in 1955 to Israel, where he worked in agriculture and kibbutz management. Over the years, the idealistic Wesley became aware of Palestinian land expropriation and expulsion while getting to know the Arab fruit pickers who once owned the land they worked on.
At age 45, Wesley returned to college. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics in 1981 and eventually, in 2002, received a Ph.D. from Tel Aviv University. His doctoral research entailed a decade of research into how Arab towns in northern Galilee interact with their Jewish neighbors and government officials.
Under the title “State Practices and Zionist Images: Shaping Economic Development in Arab Towns in Israel,” his dissertation has been published in paperback (and is available from the AET Book Club), and Wesley and his wife have appeared in 25 U.S. cities this spring to discuss his project. They live in a mixed Arab and Jewish neighborhood in Jaffa, where they translate academic Hebrew texts into English.
In an April 20 talk sponsored by UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies, Wesley called upon Israel to shift from its conventional mind set and look for models more advantageous to Arab citizens in allowing them to become equal partners with Jews in development projects.
Wesley discussed two images of Zionist discourse: Arab territorial threat and Arab traditionalism.
In the first example, he explained, Zionists feared the expansion of Arab towns due to population growth. In the upper Galilee, Israel expropriated Arab land to establish Jewish centers that would drive a wedge between Arab communities.
Using tradition as an excuse, Zionists said Arab residents of Nazareth should rely on tourism, whereas the new Jewish communities needed more government funds to develop high tech industrial parks. Upper (Jewish) Nazareth was listed as Priority A and was charged 31 percent of the going rate for its industrial park land, while the Arabs of Kufur Kannah were obliged to pay 51 percent of the free market price for their land.
By the close of the 1990s, Wesley said, there were 14 large Jewish industrial parks covering 1,200 acres, while the Arabs had 14 industrial parks on 277 acres.
Despite the inequities, Wesley is optimistic. The Palestinians do not accept land expropriation and second class citizenship passively, he noted. They go to the court, and avail themselves of associations like Sikkuy which call for the advancement of civic equality in Israel.