In August 2009, Ben Ze’ev wrote an article entitled “The National Trap,” which promoted the work of the late Palestinian terrorist Ghassan Kanafani and the Nakba narrative in general.In June 2009, Ben Ze’ev spoke as part of a conference at York University entitled “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace,” which examined different solutions for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including a two-state solution, having a single bi-national state, as well as federal and con-federal approaches.However, the speakers list was full of anti-Israel activists such as Ali Abunimah, Jeff Halper, Omar Barghouti, George Bisharat, Nadim Rouhama, Leila Farsakh, etc.And in November 2008, Ben Ze’ev spoke at a Sabeel Conference, which focused on remembering the Nakba.
This paper explores the ways in which students in Israel perceive and represent the country's boundaries. It considers both the ways in which the country's outline is sketched as well as the students' reflections on the meaning of these borders. My initial assumption was that within a context of national conflict, boundaries will loom as central in people's mental perceptions. However, the results point to the very opposite; a majority of the maps collected were characterized by a variety of shapes, only vaguely resembling a scientific map, be it of historic Palestine or contemporary Israel-Palestine. This paper will suggest possible explanations to this geographical ignorance and touch on its implications.
The study is based on 400 questionnaires, in which students' were asked to draw a map of "the country" (al-bilad, ha-aretz) and a map of the Middle East. These questionnaires were collected in Israel among Palestinian-Arabs (in Arabic) and Jewish students (in Hebrew) between 2008 and 2010, in high-schools, colleges and universities. In some of the cases, the questionnaire was followed by focus groups and interviews. All in all 400 maps were collected, and 30 interviews and 7 focus groups were conducted.
The initial results point to the convergence of different reasons that explain the ignorance. One evident reason is the ongoing controversy over these borders but even more so, the division between accessible and non-accessible areas within the country, as experienced in daily life. The second reason has to do with the decline of the geographical discipline, which once was prominent; it seems that national-geographical education is no longer salient either in formal or in informal settings. Finally, the postmodernist geographical logic (as described by Foucault, Jameson, Soja) – fragmentary, de-centered, and elusive – resonates in the study's results.