|Israelis in Non-Israeli Universities|
|[CEU, Budapest] The Education of Dr. Daniel Monterescu Continues|
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Dr. Daniel Monterescu, an Israeli currently teaching at the Central European University, was part of the left wing professorate that routinely excoriated Israel and dreamed of a common future for the Jews and the Palestinians, as he acknowledges in the following article co-authored with Noa Shaindlinger, a BDS activist. Both are leftist Israeli activists hoping that the "Arab Spring" will usher such co-existence.
Monterescu is also ready to acknowledge that the "Arab Spring" is not all that it was cracked up to be. Instead of the longed- for- democracy, there is chaos and worse, Christians and other minorities are being killed and harassed.
But it is the bulk of the article, an anthropological analysis of the joint Jewish-Palestinian protest against housing problems in Jaffa, which is probably most significant. The detailed description of the tensions between Jewish and Palestinian activists, including verbal exchanges and even a physical altercation, raises a question about whether any cooperation between Jews and Palestinians is possible.
Positivist scholars have often criticized their neo-Marxist, critical colleagues for abandoning empirical research to spin scenarios based on reverential quoting of Michel Foucault and other "gods" of the critical pantheon. For those in the radical fraternity who advocate a bi-national state, the article should be assigned home-work.
More Info: Daniel Monterescu (CEU) and Noa Shaindlinger (U of Toronto) Constellations 20(2) 2013
Street struggles and demonstrations have long been part of our history. What is different today is that they are happening simultaneously in so many parts of the world: the uprisings in the Arab world, Occupy Wall Street spreading to more and more U.S. cities, the daily neighborhood protests in China’s major cities, Latin America’s piqueteros . . . The city is a space where the powerless can make history . . . Becoming present, visible, to each other can alter the character of powerlessness. Saskia Sassen The Global Street1 They say, a man shall dip his bread in his sweat, Until the day he descends to his grave, But when his sweat is copious and his fruit is meager, Then the seed of rebellion sprouts in his heart. Albert Sofer “Lift your eyes and look at me”2 “Tahrir is Here”: Mimetic Diffusion and the Summer Revolt One of the striking features of the “Arab Uprisings” is their cascading effect on social movements worldwide. The rapid diffusion and mimetic circulation of their core revolutionary principles to markedly different political contexts throughout the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas pose a conceptual challenge for the social sciences. Another distinguishing feature of the Arab revolts is the central role cities play in both enabling mobilization and repressing protests. While some revolts have worked their way from the periphery to the center (notably in Libya and Syria), in most cases their success hinged upon the urban copresence of others to turn the local revolts into a transformative historical event.3 Thus size, density, permanence, and heterogeneity–the four classical sociological characteristics of the city identified by Wirth4 –have been strategically mobilized by the masses in Tunis, Cairo, Madrid, and Tel-Aviv to reclaim political space and redefine citizenship. The magnitude of the Israeli Social Justice Protests of summer 2011 came as a surprise to observers and participants alike.5 For a period of three months, hundreds of thousands took to the streets in a rallying cry to redefine national priorities thus turning in the process Israel’s major metropolises into “rebel cities”–festive spaces of struggle and collective effervescence.6 Heralded as the largest popular protest in Israeli history (equivalent to the “400,000 protest” staged in the wake of the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres),7 the 2011 movement was yet another instance of what Saskia Sassen recently called “the global street”– a social space that problematizes the relationship between powerlessness and empowerment. “Powerlessness,” Sassen writes, “is not simply an absolute condition that can be flattened into the absence of power. Many of the protest movements we have seen in North Africa and the Middle East are a case in point: these protesters may not have gained power, they are still powerless, but they are making a history and a politics.”8 In a similar fashion, the official video trailer on the website of the Israeli protest movement streams pictures of revolt from Cairo, Madrid, and Tel Aviv featuring a narrator wearing a Guy Fawkes vendetta mask and reciting in Hebrew: “They have banks, they have the military, they have the police, they have the apartments, but we have the streets and we take them.” Framed as a collective awakening of an otherwise relatively quiescent public, the reflexive realization of the coming of a historical moment became a mobilizing call for action, which swept the Israeli public: “We are the people we’ve been waiting for. We’ll return the state to its citizens.”9 With the hindsight of one year, this article interrogates the emergence of a political subjectivity and its embedded urbanity as part of the making of the new public sphere. Rather than taking the Israeli folk ideology exalting the “great summer of the new Israeli hope”10 at face value we probe the limits of mobilization, which manifested a radicalizing process without revolutionary results.11 The discrepancy between its multiple grammars of revolt, we argue, resulted in a modality of action we term “situational radicalism,” which reproduced an ambiguous yet profoundly Zionist notion of the sovereign people posed as a revolutionary subject. Analyzed as an “empty signifier”12 the collective subject invoked throughout the protest was predicated on the exclusion of political alterities thus eventually undermining its own radical potential. Fraught with tensions and internal conflicts, the rise and subsequent dissolution of an Arab-Jewish movement for “social justice” in the ethnically mixed city of Jaffa pits the ideal of translocal connectivity between Arab and non-Arab societies against the fragile ambivalence at the core of the movement. Due to the virtual absence of scholarly sociological and anthropological analyses of the “Israeli Spring” in English this article proposes a preliminary conceptualization of the summer revolt, and thus draws mainly on contemporary media publications and on the ethnographic observations of the authors.13 Notwithstanding the politics of numbers, the truly remarkable feature of these events was not merely the emergence of a collective agency but the fact that for the first time in Israeli history, bottom-up mass mobilization grounded itself explicitly in and of the region. Meditated by the Spanish 15-M movement, symbolic networks of solidarity and models of contention sprang from the Arab World all the way to the yuppie epicenter of TelAviv. Banners exclaiming, “Egypt is Here,” “Tahrir Corner of Rothschild,” “Walk Like an Egyptian” and above all the mantric chant “the People Demand Social Justice” (mimicking the Egyptian slogan “the People Want the Fall of the Regime”) seemed to celebrate this unprecedented connectivity as the birth of a new historical generation (see Figures 1 through 3). The spectacle of regional solidarity performed on the streets and in the liberal media, was generally met with more apprehension of the anticipated “Arab Winter” in most conservative media and decision-making circles.14 A few radical Palestinian, Mizrahi, and leftist voices, however, saw the Arab revolts as a historical opportunity to “strive for a dialog with the Arab world” by framing local struggles for Palestinian liberation and for housing rights as a joint regional revolt against colonial oppression and capitalist domination. In a statement titled “Ruh Jadida: A New Spirit for 2011,” young Jewish descendants of the Arab and Muslim world living in Israel wrote an open letter to their peers in the Middle East and North Africa, expressing their solidarity with “the major role that the men and women of our generation are playing so courageously in the demonstrations for freedom and change across the Arab world.”15 Uri Shani, a signatory to the letter who dubs himself Abumidian and chose to live in a tent during the protest, concluded: “I don’t talk about the ‘Arab Spring’ from the outside. I speak about the ‘Arab Spring’ from within, as an integral part of it [ . . . ] The news portal Bokra.net stated: ‘The Arab revolution begat the Arab-Jew.’”16 With similar interests in mind, a coalition of 20 left-wing political parties and NGOs, on both sides of the Green C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 3 Figure 1. “Depart (Irhal in Arabic): Egypt is Here (Hebrew)” (Oren Ziv/Activestills) Line, from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine to the Israeli Communist Party, issued an unusual joint declaration in September 2011, praising the participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the Israeli protest movement, and calling for a “joint popular struggle of Israelis and Palestinians” against the occupation.17 Notwithstanding these parties and NGOs efforts at expressing solidarity, such initiatives remained on the margins of the Israeli public discourse over and above the consensus of the mainstream movement for social justice. They were equally ignored or disavowed by most international protest movements. Thus missives sent from the Spanish Indignados in support of the Israeli protest soon turned into a direct critique of its course of action and eventually refused to acknowledge its legitimacy until the continued injustice “in the form of military occupation and segregation” is addressed.18 Posted on the J14 Facebook page and displayed throughout the protest tent cities, the Spanish response exposes the ambiguity of the Israeli “Housing Protests,” which according to some critics was responsible for its ultimate shortcomings. “On Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard,” writes one critic, “the middle class demonstrators are attempting to wage an Arab Spring without any Arabs.”19 Based on a longstanding hegemonic Zionist paradigm, another observer remarks, “their claims do not derive their legitimacy from universal democratic or social rights but rather from the contract supposedly signed between the JewishZionist citizen and his state.”20 Circumventing “political issues” such as the occupation of Palestinian Territories the protest also neglected to address the grievances of the Palestinian and Mizrahi citizens and remained a predominantly Jewish phenomenon, hence sometimes dubbed “Jew14” and “the middle class protest.” Drawing on an ethnography of the summer protest in Jaffa, the following analyzes the attempt to create a feasible alliance between the Figure 2. The Tahrir Tent: “Rothschild Corner of Tahrir” (Daniel Monterescu) Jaffa Arabs, the Jewish neighborhoods of South Tel-Aviv and the protest movement nationwide. While it ultimately failed to reconcile the multiple grammars of revolt, the Jaffa protest nevertheless exemplifies a rare experiment in radical democracy. Situational Radicalism and the Politics of Small Things in Tel-Aviv–Jaffa The 2011 uprisings in cities throughout the Middle East and North Africa heralded the birth of a new political subject and the rise of a new historical generation.21 Notwithstanding the emergence of a revolutionary collective imaginary, predicated on principles of freedom, accountability, and distributive justice, these events threw into relief the foundational question of the coherence and unity of this fledging political subjectivity. In the face of ethnic diversity, class inequalities, and urban fragmentation, the notion of the nation invoked in each of these countries calls for collective negotiation between rival factions often with dire consequences. In Cairo, slogans such as “Christians + Muslims = One Hand” have mobilized a cohesive C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 5 Figure 3. “A cage from Egypt for 120 persons [Israel’s Parliament Members]: Details with the People” (Daniel Monterescu) view of the sovereign people (al-sha'b) presented as a moral community (watan) composed of a solidary Muslim majority and a Christian minority. Tragically, however, the aftermath of the regime change in Egypt soon gave way to ethnic violence directed against the very Christian brethren who demonstrated and prayed together with the Muslims in Maidan al-Tahrir. The collective rage (ghadab) heretofore directed exclusively against the corrupt authoritarian regime has violently targeted the Coptic minority perceived as disruptive of a unified image of the Muslim nation (ummah). Similarly in Syria, Muslim protesters were recorded chanting “The Christians to Beirut, the Alawis to the coffin.” Read predominantly as a process of democratization,22 the Arab revolts also bring to the fore the dangerous liaisons between ethnic pluralism and political violence notably in cities marked by a history of ethnic mix. From their inception in Tunisia in December 2010, political violence soon spread across the Middle East to other Arab states including also non-Arab countries such as Israel and Iran. In some of these countries the mass mobilization brought about a regime change (Egypt, Libya, and Yemen) or timid reforms (Jordan and Morocco), while in others it was violently repressed (Bahrain). The regional unrest has not been limited to countries of the Arab World or even to the Middle East per se. Across the Mediterranean Sea, European cities (notably in Spain and Greece) saw hundreds of thousands of protesters responding to the democratic agenda of the Arab Spring as well as to local grievances, such as austerity measures, national financial crises, and the European sovereign debt crisis. Indeed, protests considered to be inspired by the Arab Spring have been taking place across the globe with varying degrees of success and prominence (most recently in Chile and the US). While the cascading global impact of the Arab Spring is yet to be determined it is clear to most observers that it is an epoch-changing event that merits further attention and analysis.23 In Tunis and Egypt, the uprisings were a classical case of what Marshall Sahlins termed “the structure of amplification,”24 with the deaths of Mohamed Bouazizi and Khaled Said serving as the catalyst for a sequence of events that later brought about the overthrowing of the regimes. In these cases, the tragic local event was soon iconized as “martyrdom” (istishhad) assuming in a matter of weeks the abstract form of a national cause with which millions of citizens could identify.25 The transformation of micro-historical occurrences to a macro-historical event had an explicit revolutionary intent, which points to structural parallels between the Egyptian uprising and other revolutions (for instance the attack on Abu Za’bal prison in Cairo or on Abu Salim prison in Tripoli in comparison with the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789).26 In Israel, the eventful mobilization was far less dramatic and rather reform-driven, as seen in the symbolic modification of the Egyptian slogan calling for the fall of the regime to the vague call for social justice.27 Chronologically it can be seen as a direct response to the Spanish protests rather than to the Arab revolts. Moreover, like its Spanish forerunner, the Israeli protest was articulated first and foremost as a rebellion against the neoliberal model of development28 and thus favored what was termed in local discourse “social” problems (cost of living and class-inequalities) over “political” issues (the Occupation and the PalestinianIsraeli conflict) and over “cultural” identity politics (the Mizrahi and Arab struggles for recognition). Tellingly, the major endogenous precedent to the Israeli mass mobilization was the successful “Cottage Cheese Protest” in June, 2011. Beginning as a protest group on Facebook, it targeted the rising food prices and launched a effective consumer boycott, which brought the prices down by about 12.5%. Subsequently, it is rather the “politics of small things”29 that continued to mark the upcoming events. On July 14, Daphni Leef, a 25-year-old filmmaker, found herself unable to pay her rent and erected a tent on Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel-Aviv’s most expensive streets, a major tourist attraction, and a UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site. The next day hundreds responded to Leef’s call for action on her Facebook page and some 50 tents were pitched on the boulevard gathering a crowd of 1,500. After granting an initial permit to demonstrate, the police attempted to revoke the permit and dismantle the tents. “In an instant the protest became a struggle,” one of founding members recalls the moment the denial of freedom of speech amplified the protest. A week later a growing constituency already numbering tens of thousands participated in the movement’s first rally (July 23), and by the end of July the wave of protest has swept the whole country. With home bases in ninety tent camps across the country, the main demonstrations took place in the muggy weather of August and early September (“The March of the Million”) bringing altogether an unprecedented number of a million protesters from Israel’s center and periphery. The three months of intense mobilization were marked by a sense of euphoria and communitas shared by the multitude of dwellers in the tent camps and squats that sprouted in most cities. “We called it our ex-territory, a place which is outside space and time, outside our normal behavior in the city and the state,” wrote one activist “We called the outside Babylon but we lived in the real world, a world with enough time to talk, a place where ideological enemies can reach an agreement, a place where the law awaits outside for a moment, a place C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 7 where rules are remade. We felt we’re creating a new society. Soon enough it was strange – even scary – to venture out to Babylon.”30 The combination of a spectacle of cross-sector solidarity and a liminal suspension of social order (“a sense that the world is coming to an end” in the words of Stav Shafir, a leading member of the movement), left an enduring mark in the Israeli collective memory. Adopting the naming strategy of the “Revolution of 25 January” in Egypt and the “May 15 Movement” in Spain, J14 (July 14) became the Israeli protest’s trademark (http://j14.org.il/
) complete with a yellow sigil of a tent and a peculiar sign language. The framing in temporal terms of J14’s genesis was particularly felicitous, pointing back to the French Revolution, and hinting at the radical potential of the movement. Given this cross-reference, it came as no surprise that one artist (Ariel Kleiner) responded by posting a full-size guillotine in the middle of the boulevard to the general amusement of the gathering crowds and to the dismay of the conservative media. Some commentators went as far as comparing the artistic display to the political incitement that preceded PM Rabin’s assassination. Tellingly, Muzi Wertheim, head of Coca-Cola Israel, ex-Mossad agent, and owner of Keshet, Israel’s most successful TV network, was recorded saying “when I saw the Rothschild guillotine, my neck started to hurt.”31 In a similar vein, Tel-Aviv Mayor Huldai was driven away from the Rothschild encampment and responded by blaming the revolutionary radicals in charge: “I have supported the protest and I still support it. But it won’t work this way. I believe in the values the protest talks about but people say ‘we shall demolish the old world’ and they want to wage a revolution not a protest.”32 The hopes for and concerns about the imminent revolution soon proved to be equally unfounded. The guillotine was removed with the apologies of the movement’s leaders and most of the youth in Israel’s tent cities were preoccupied with public debates on the prospects of participatory democracy, commonly thrilled by the sense of communitas and creative agency. In August, the ambitious demands of the movement’s leadership concerning Israel’s budgetary and fiscal policies were answered by the right-wing government with an adhoc committee endowed with limited budget and virtually no executive power led by Prof. Trajtenberg, a PM-appointed economist who served as the chairman of the Higher Education Planning and Budget Committee. By the summer’s end the official dismantling of the symbol of the protest movement, the tent encampment on Tel Aviv Rothschild Boulevard on October 3, had led to the gradual dissolution of the movement, which eventually posed no real threat to the political stability of the government. While it clearly made a profound impact on collective consciousness, the summer tent protest instantiated a putatively fluid form of situational radicalism – an autotelic political theater, which could not transcend its horizontal definition of the situation. The popular attempt to redefine radical politics, which, as Raymond Williams notes, “offer a way of avoiding dogmatic and factional associations while reasserting the need for vigorous and fundamental change”33 was met with significant obstacles on Israel’s street. Dependent upon a spontaneous collective mobilization, which remained trapped in its charismatic and preinstitutional stage, it failed to bring about concrete changes beyond the impressive fact of its own existence. Bereft of political experience and prone to internal division, some of the leaders of the protest for social justice persisted in the aftermath of summer 2011 as icons of a momentary upheaval, subdued by the traditional hegemonic tactics of demobilization– cooptation, accommodation, and intimidation (the threat of an external enemy).34 Against the background of the Palestinian attempt to seek a UN-endorsed declaration of statehood, the escalating violence around the Gaza strip, and above all the publicized negotiation to free the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, the government was diligently undermining the claims for social security by means of the politics of national security. By the time of Gilad Shalit’s release on October 18, the public was already out of the streets and back to its normal routine, consuming the dramatic TV reports about the security situation and the prospects of an Iranian nuclear attack. At the end of the day, the ambitious goals of the movement were traded for an appeasing national symbol. Rescaling the Struggle and the Limits of Jewish-Arab Cooperation The aforementioned internal conflicts and identity politics that were endemic to the Arab uprisings–between Muslims and Copts, Alawis and Sunnis, secularists and Islamists–were all but absent from the Israeli scene albeit in a different constellation. During the summer protest, two of the main schisms in Israeli society–that between Jewish and Arab-Palestinian citizens and between the Ashkenazi elites and the Mizrahi underclass–resurfaced in the form of a discourse about the uneven development of center and periphery. While the mainstream leadership was largely imagining itself to wage a color-blind all-inclusive movement, Russian, Ethiopian, Arab, and Mizrahi activists felt systematically excluded and organized accordingly under the umbrella “Forum Periphery,” “Hamaabara–the Transit Camp” and many other likeminded frameworks. Indeed soon after the meteoric success of the movement in July, voices were heard from the periphery that the Rothschild leadership misrepresents the popular movement, voices that went as far as blaming the non-elected leadership of corruption, favoritism, and non-transparency. In a letter dated August 15th addressed to Prof. Trajtenberg, signatories different encampments claimed that “the Rothschild team lost its legitimacy in the eyes of many of the tent encampments’ dwellers.”35 The Rothschild “team” was thus accused of serving sectarian interests and an elitist political faction. Regardless of the truth-value of these accusations, the rhetoric trope opposing the Mizrahi periphery and the proletarian “neighborhoods” to the bourgeois “state of Tel-Aviv,” points to a serious blind spot that inflicted the protest movement–its inability to stand for the working classes and to the marginalized groups. Speaking from the Hatikva tent camp in South Tel-Aviv to which they returned after a disappointing attempt to join the Rothschild leadership, Dana and Itzik Amsalem rearticulate the power relations between north and south:36 They speak of affordable housing while we demand public housing. When we saw we have no say there [in Rothschild] we decided to come back to where we came from and fight for our rights. Despite being second and third generation to hardship (metzuka) we had no appropriate representation. We had none of the financial support that Rotshchild has [ . . . ] Actually we were supposed to be the spearhead of the protest even before the cottage cheese protest and suddenly we saw on TV that the protest preceded us. We were surprised but happy that someone else feels like we do. Two days later we arrived to Rothschild with our own tent. We were among the first 20 tents, but already from the outset we felt outsiders. The leadership was dissociated from us. We felt different . . . A similar sense of alienation characterized the Palestinian citizens of Israel who belatedly joined the protest and in relatively low numbers. Reviewing the Arabic media on the topic sociologist Nabil Khatab divides Palestinian participation into three groups: “Between the demand for social justice and the demand for national justice persists a sense of confusion, which caused a split between three groups: part of the Arab public refrained from playing any role in the protest; another part chose to wage a separate struggle; and a third part chose to join the struggle of the Jews. The latter two yielded opposition to each other and even C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 9 opposition to the opposition. This might have been the reason that the Arab voice had not been heard until three weeks later.”37 A patently urban phenomenon, Arab participation in the protest movement was mostly visible in the cities of Haifa and Jaffa, in addition to other minor tent encampments in smaller towns such as Upper Nazareth and Carmiel. While historically both Haifa and Jaffa are ethnically mixed cities with a significant Palestinian minority–10% and 30% respectively– they display important differences.38 Haifa functions as the center of the northern periphery (in Galilee) whereas Jaffa serves as the periphery of the metropolitan center (Tel-Aviv). In addition to its organic Arab population, for several decades now Haifa’s location and liberal image have attracted a dynamic group of middle class Palestinians (Christians and Muslims alike) who left their rural hometowns and chose to live in mixed neighborhoods. The active involvement of educated Palestinians in Haifa’s urban culture and politics made them a visible component of the local movement that some observers have crowned as a joint “Jewish-Arab protest.”39 After the first demonstration, which included only one Arab speaker from the then-only existing encampment (Merkaz ha-Carmel), subsequent rallies took place near mixed neighborhoods and featured a proportionate representation of Arab speakers (including Palestinian intellectuals and political figures and delegates from the Wadi Nisnas and Hadar encampments40 ). “Each rally was bigger than the previous one,” writes Shai, “and the more Arab demonstrators teamed up so were the messages against the high rent coupled by messages against house demolition and discrimination.”41 Reflecting a long-term local tradition of joint binational political action, Haifa represented a relatively successful case of urban solidarity and converging political interests. In diametric opposition to “Red Haifa,” Jaffa is home to an impoverished Palestinian community of 25,000 residents who are facing daily a concerted plan to gentrify the city and cleanse it of whatever constitutes a disturbance to a bourgeois space of consumption.42 An ethnically “mixed town” located minutes away from Tel-Aviv’s metropolitan center, yet marked as sui generis cultural and political alterity, Jaffa has long been perceived as TelAviv’s back yard. Struggling since 1948 to sustain viable collective existence, the Palestinian community makes up a third of Jaffa’s population and about 4% of Tel-Aviv’s metropolitan population. For the city and the state, Arab Jaffa presents a political “problem” resulting in recurrent strategies of containment, surveillance, and control. For this reason, Arab community members often describe themselves as a “double minority” excluded at both national and municipal levels. Bereft of their historical political leadership and with no stable middle class to speak of, they struggle for political recognition and housing rights against the invisible hand of the market and the visible intervention of the planning authorities that promote the Judaization of the city. After decades of urban disinvestment, the Jaffa housing crisis reached its peak in the 1990s and became a symbol of Palestinian presence in the city. As Palestinians were faced with creeping gentrification and neoliberal policies that resulted in the commodification of lived space, a deep sense of unrest triggered the first signs of community mobilization. In 1995, within what came to be known as the “Housing Intifada” (Intifadat al-Sakan), 30 Palestinian families squatted in empty houses formally “owned” by the state, administered by the Amidar governmental housing company and designated for future private development. A state-sponsored plan for affordable housing put an end to the Housing Intifada and heralded the start of negotiations between Palestinian community leaders and municipal authorities. The aftermath of the October 2000 Events and Al-Aqsa Intifada marked a shift from a liberal discourse of “coexistence” to an assertive claim for political entitlement and “collective existence” (wujud). The housing problem thus encapsulates a claim over the historicity Figure 4. First day of the Jaffa Encampment (July 30, 2011, Yudit Ilany) of the city as well as a dire need for practical housing solutions for low-income families. Against this background, the recent emergence of gated communities and housing projects designated for religious-nationalist settlers signal new modes of urban exclusion that reshape previous forms of spatial distinction.43 Reviving previous traumas of displacement, gentrification reshuffles communal and spatial boundaries, further destabilizing the Palestinians’ sense of belonging. In 2007, the threat of “urban removal” disguised as “urban renewal” reached a new level when the Israel Land Administration issued 497 eviction orders to Palestinian families charged with illegal construction. As these families all live in the ‘Ajami neighborhood, a hot spot of Jewish gentrification, it was interpreted as another attempt to “transfer” the Arab population out of Jaffa. Beyond producing a deep sense of alienation, ethno-gentrification and Palestinian resistance to it push new social actors to the fore. Instead of the liberal plea for “equality,” a new discourse of urban rights calls to institute a radical redefinition of citizenship tailored for the “indigenous national minority,” which seeks to combat neoliberal urban restructuring. Increasingly visible NGOs and local protest groups like the Popular Committee for Housing and Land in Jaffa, the Jaffa Youth Movement, and the Association for the Jaffa Arabs (al-Rabita) have recently begun to do precisely that. Today the struggle over the Palestinian “right to the city” continues in courts, in the media, and through grassroots activism, which came to fruition with the advent of the protest in the summer of 2011 and culminated with the efforts to create an alliance between Arab Jaffa and Tel-Aviv’s marginalized Jewish neighborhoods (notably Hatikva). Claiming a right to the city, as Harvey recently notes, “is to claim some kind of shaping power over the process of urbanization, over the ways in which our cities are made and remade and to do so in a fundamental and radical way.”44 Flags of Contention in the Jaffa Encampment: An Ethnography of Ambivalence45 The Jaffa protest encampment was erected in the last few days of July (Figure 4). It initially consisted of one larger tent that became home to a local Palestinian family evicted from C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 11 its house, a makeshift kitchen, and an array of smaller run-of-the-mill camping tents that remained empty most nights. Since it was the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the encampment was almost completely deserted during the day but came to life in the later hours of the evening, when local Palestinian activists, most of them under the age of 35, showed up after the breaking of the daily fast and the Iftar meal. Joining them were a sizeable group of young Jewish residents of Jaffa (several of them politically active through other organizations like Tarabut and Anarchists against the Wall46 ), as well as Jewish and Palestinian residents from different walks of life. Finally, there were also activists who arrived from elsewhere, many from nearby Tel Aviv, and who were vocal about their discontent from the apolitical approach at the main Rothschild tent city. The general atmosphere at the Jaffa encampment was often fraught with tensions. Curiously enough, several Jewish activists, whether from Jaffa or elsewhere, appeared to be more militant in tone and tenor than the majority of Palestinians who were acutely aware of the sensitive nature of Jewish-Arab alliances and thus often opted for a more pragmatic strategy. Thus, for instance, Udi Aloni, a Jewish radical activist, exclaimed that this is a liberation struggle rather than just a movement for ‘social justice,’ as the Rothchild mainstream leaders insisted to depict it. Aloni was joined by young and equally vocal Palestinian activists who asserted that since Jaffa is a Palestinian city (under Israeli occupation) and since the purpose of this encampment is to reclaim their right to it, there should be a Palestinian flag present on the grounds to reflect that. These more militant voices were resisted by a group of older Palestinian activists and residents, as well as Mizrahi-Jewish activists who envisioned a joint struggle that would bring together those sectors within Israeli society that have been suppressed and marginalized by the state and municipality. In an unprecedented move, activists from the working class Hatikva neighborhood in south eastern Tel Aviv visited their Jaffa counterparts, held a solidarity and strategizing meeting, and discussed joining forces for the upcoming mass rally and marching together under one banner; Palestinians (and leftist Jews) from Jaffa and Mizrahi Jews (and mostly Likud voters) from Hatikva. As that historic meeting was rehashed, several of the younger and more radical activists wondered out loud whether the planned rally on Saturday could lead to a shared struggle. One speaker exclaimed: “Should we even march shoulder to shoulder with reservists who serve in the West Bank?” Sami Abu Shehadeh, a local strongman and a municipal councilman representing the Jaffa Palestinians attempted to appease her: “we should join despite our reservations and even if our gains will be limited; maybe we will be able to save a few homes from demolition and provide relief to a few families.” The younger activists seemed a little skeptical, but agreed to abide by the decision of the majority. These tensions between the desire to form a political alliance with Hatikva (and other working class Mizrahi Jewish activists and locals) and the need to reassert Palestinianness and thus reclaim the city manifested later that night, as the assembly proceeded to discuss the issue of flags. The younger and more militant activists, together with Udi Aloni, insisted on hoisting the Palestinian flag, to remind Israeli-Jews about the presence of Palestinians among them (who now make up roughly 20% of the population within Israel proper) and as a response to the abundance of Israeli flags and other nationalist markers during these mass demonstrations. Aloni specifically reminded everyone that these flags reflect a form of unity between the Palestinians who happen to be citizens and those in the West Bank who are completely absent from the social justice discourse disseminated by the main leadership of the movement. Others, however, argued that bringing Palestinian flags would be a mistake and create a rift between the Jaffa group and the rest of the protesters. “We will end up Figure 5. A joint protest of Jaffa and Hatikva activists: “Jaffa, Hatikva – the same revolution” (Haim Schwarczenberg August 6, 2011) pariahs, like the settlers,” warned someone. The municipal councilman concluded: “we are not trying to solve the problems of Palestinians in general, but voice our own issues regarding housing rights here, in our city. The most important thing to remember is that we are trying to stop ongoing processes of displacement and demolitions within our own community.” By rescaling the struggle to the specific demands for affordable housing of the local community, he strengthened the Jewish-Arab coalition while deferring the contentious cause of Palestinian solidarity. These unresolved tensions indeed came to a head during the Saturday rally (August 6). Based on agreements reached during a previous meeting with delegates from other tent sites, a joint contingent that included Jaffa, Hatikva, and Levinsky encampments47 marched side by side carrying banners in both Hebrew and Arabic calling for the revitalization of public housing as well as “Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies,” “Bibi ruh min hon” (Bibi go away), and mainly “Jaffa, Hatikva, same revolution Figure 5.” All of a sudden, a group of young Palestinian activists, and especially muhajabat (veiled) young women, kuffiyet wrapped around their heads in lieu of the more traditional hijab, insisted on flying a sole Palestinian flag and chant “al-sha'b yurid tahrir Filastin” (the people want the liberation of Palestine), which contradicted previous understandings with the Hatikva delegates. Activists from Hatikva and older Palestinians were incensed and an ugly altercation ensued. This intergenerational confrontation ended with the temporary capitulation of the younger activists. However, when a few radical Jewish activists started chanting about the liberation of Palestine (“from the river to the sea – social justice”), no one scolded. The issue, however, was addressed in the next Jaffa encampment meeting. Hani Zubeida, a Mizrahi Jewish activist from Hatikva remained optimistic that despite the violations of the agreement, there is still space for cooperation and proposed another meeting between delegates from the two sites. Local activists of the older generation used a much more accusatory and angrier tone. They pointed the finger at “outside Jews” who “incited young C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 13 impressionable women” to create divisions within our community. Udi Aloni understood the speakers alluded to him and apologized but also argued that he did not “incite” anyone and that he urged those who wished to wave the Palestinian flag to move ahead in the march away from the block in order to avoid further confrontations. The young muhajaba activist, Yasmeen, was incensed. She vocalized her rage and argued she was not “seduced” by a Jew into waving her flag, and insisted on her own agency and continued to loudly argue with others, even after the meeting was adjourned. Sami Abu Shehadeh tried to calm everyone down and reminded the assembly that this particular encampment is concerned first and foremost with the problem of housing in this community. He added that “we are not ashamed of the Palestinian flag, but we alone will decide when to wave it, as there is a time and a place for everything,” suggesting the mass rally was the wrong place for a demonstration of nationalist affiliation. Another speaker claimed she does not identify as a Palestinian but as an Arab and therefore does not identify with the kind of identity the flag seems to represent. Others made explicit threats towards future renegades; people were invited to express dissent during meetings but refrained from violating agreements with other groups. One activist revealed to Noa that, earlier, someone hung the Palestinian flag at the very front of the encampment right on Yefet Street and that presumably others took it down and replaced it with photographs of house demolitions. At the same time her interlocutor reported this incident, fights broke out all over the encampment–among younger activists (Yasmeen and ‘Abed), between Jewish and older Palestinian activists; and while all this commotion is taking place, visitors of the main Rothschild boulevard encampment stood by and watch the scene with growing discomfort and unease. They were invited for a live performance of System ‘Ali, a local hip hop band performing in Arabic, Russian, and Hebrew, but wondered whether they should stay, given the awkward moment of discord they found the site in. Eventually, the event went on as planned and at least temporarily, everyone’s attention seemed to be shifted to the music and spectacle. Discord continued to set the tone for the next meeting. When Noa arrived to the encampment, she noticed separate circles of people sitting around and speaking in a hushed voice. She joined one such circle of Jewish activists. They seemed angry and informed her that a much smaller group of activists, most of whom Palestinians, met earlier in the offices of al-Rabita (the Association for the Jaffa Arabs) and formed a committee of people to oversee and manage the encampment. When the separate circles finally merged into the general assembly, several participants confronted Sami, who apparently had organized the Rabita meeting, and accused him of an undemocratic conduct. At first, he even refused to name those who are part of the newly formed committee and did so eventually under tremendous pressure. Supporters of the committee explained that right now, the encampment is dysfunctional and things are in disarray and there was an urgent need to assign tasks to people and begin to organize better for the upcoming “March of the Million.” Some participants refused to let “outsiders” vote to take part in outreach, suggesting that those who physically look “out of place” (i.e. Ashkenazi Jews) should not be part of the outreach efforts. Amidst the scene of utter chaos, Itay Engel, a well-known journalist who had been invited to the tent arrived to the scene. He was supposed to screen two of his documentaries for us tonight–one was on the Egyptian revolution, and the other about Ajami. He seemed genuinely embarrassed. The awkwardness of the moment was enhanced when a few participants confronted others about the issue of programming: “I am not here to watch a film. We should continue our discussions instead.” Eventually the screening began and gradually people calmed down and seemed to enjoy themselves. At the same meeting, Daniel encountered a veteran Mizrahi activist he used to work with in the 1980s in the Jaffa and South Tel-Aviv youth movement. Active as she was for three decades in social affairs, her optimism regarding the future of Jewish-Arab coalition was remarkable considering the rampant atmosphere of dissent. A few days later, Noa arrived earlier than her usual hour. She sat down with a few older Jewish women activists and listened to them recall the history of housing activism in Jaffa. Then, a few meters away, the committee began its meeting. Yudit Ilani, one of the central Jewish activists and a resident of Jaffa, told Noa that as an “outsider,” she should not intervene or even attend that meeting, since “outsiders” are not familiar with the specific problems that plague the community and that committee members should not waste their time explaining these issues to those who do not even have the right to vote on them. In her field notes, Noa recorded this awkward situation: “I look around. Banners that spell ‘Yafo Le-Yafoim’ (Jaffa for Jaffans) lay around all over the place, which makes me ponder my own position, as a middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish woman from Tel Aviv, and the roles still open for me here. Fully aware of these tensions, when one (Jewish) activist invites me to join her as part of a Jaffa tent encampment delegation to a national assembly of ‘peripheral’ encampments, I decline, and explain that I do not feel comfortable representing Jaffans and their issues as an ‘outsider.’” Linked to questions of inclusion and tensions between the Jaffa encampment vis-' -vis the a so-called ‘leadership’ in Rothschild Avenue constantly resurfaced. When the Israeli army bombarded the Gaza strip on August 18th , those leaders decided to cancel a rally in central Tel Aviv and hold a silent gathering on the beach instead. Many Jewish and Palestinian activists in Jaffa felt that the right response to the escalation of state violence against Palestinians would be a protest in solidarity with Gazans, as several Jaffan families had relatives there. Yet only a few of those activists attended the silent rally, holding banners condemning the Israeli onslaught and, later, chanting. They were chastised by many of the Tel Avivans who also tried to silence them. Then the following week, beginning on August 27th , the Jaffa encampment was planning to hold a large demonstration in Jaffa. There was talk about busing in people from the ‘triangle’ and other Arab cities and towns. There was also talk about having the other “periphery encampments,” such as: Hatikva, Levinsky, and Beer Sheva, take centre stage. Throughout the initial planning stages, the Rothschild ‘leadership’ had not announced plans to hold a rally in central Tel Aviv and therefore, delegates from Jaffa proposed in the weekly encampments assembly that instead of holding on in Tel Aviv, everyone will attend a mass demonstration in Jaffa and that messages will be coordinated so everyone feels included. However, as volunteers were hard at work on the plans for a historical rally in Jaffa, the Rothschild ‘leaders’ suddenly announced a rally Saturday night headed by Noam Shalit, father of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. This move was taken with shock and a sense of insult among the Jaffan activists. “They don’t even acknowledge our existence,” some said. Adding injury to insult, Qalanswa and Taybeh (two of the main Arab ‘triangle’ towns) announced their own rally, which ruled out their participation in our event. Fighting ensued during the evening discussion whether there is even a point holding a separate event, but the general feeling was that Palestinian Jaffans are reluctant to participate in the Tel Aviv rally and its overt Zionist tone and tenor. Local activists Abu Ashraf and Natalie even suggested cancelling the local rally and instead channeling their energy into something more productive than carry banners in a rally that “we don’t identify with,” something like community work that would stress the joint Arab-Jewish venture of our endeavor. Tali, one of the Jewish activists, sitting right outside of their earshot, mumbled, “even though the Jews here are minor rather than equal partners, but that’s ok.” The Jaffa encampment proceeded to hold its own march and rally in Jaffa that attracted local activists, both Palestinians and Jews, as well as several anti-Zionist Jews, who chanted C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 15 anti-occupation slogans in Hebrew and Arabic, as well as called for the renewal of public housing projects. The march was widely advertised (on facebook and via traditional media) but eventually drew a small crowd of hundreds instead of the thousands the organizers had hoped for. Under the banner in Arabic and Hebrew “Jaffa: the periphery at the center – housing first” the march was well attended by several national Palestinian political figures, who marched in closed ranks behind the banner and seemed eager to co-opt an event that was struggling to represent an image of bottom-up mobilization. Proceeding from the Bloomfield soccer stadium to the symbolic Gan Ha-Shnayim (Garden of the Two) also known in local parlance as the Garden of the Gazans, the site of the Jaffa encampment, the march ended in a series of speeches and music shows that reflected the unsettled attempt to reconcile opposite messages and to create a unified collective definition of the situation. The first performer was Yair Dalal, a Jewish ethno-Oriental musician of Iraqi descent who lives in the gentrified self-proclaimed “Artists’ Colony” in Old Jaffa. Dalal was selected because in the liberal imagination he represents world music fused in Jewish-Arab Andalusia-like cultural repertoire. Tellingly, he chose to sing in Arabic and Hebrew the lyrical song “Zaman al-Salam” (Time of Peace), which struck some Palestinian and Jewish radical activists we spoke with as “an inappropriate song of coexistence”–an image that befitted Dalal’s new-age white jalabiya (Arab gown). As if reflecting their discontent, the following performance featured a Palestinian Oud player who concluded his show with Mawtini (my homeland), the national Palestinian anthem. Some younger members of the crowd signaled the V sign, clearly to the dismay of the Jewish participants from Hatikva and south Tel Aviv. Following the Oud player, two hip hop singers from System ‘Ali asked to go on stage and sang in a faceless expression an improvised piece, with the pessimistic refrain “Ihna ‘arab–kul ishi indarab” (we’re Arabs–it’s all fucked up). After the organizers’ speech, which reiterated the goals of the protest, the last speaker was Wafa, a female member of the only Palestinian family who actually slept in the tent camp after they were evicted from their home. Speaking in Arabic, Wafa pleaded for the protesters to unite and leave their disagreements aside. Pointing to the internal divisions among the Palestinian factions in Jaffa, she concluded her speech with a call to the Islamic Council and its rival Rabita (the largely secular association) to come together and coordinate their actions for the common good of the community. In a conversation with Daniel after the demonstration, Wafa expressed her belief that the camp will not be dismantled despite the City’s official intentions. Wafa’s family remained on site until their final eviction in late January 2012. In the following encampment meeting, there were conflicting responses to Saturday’s rally. Some spoke in congratulatory tones of the rally as empowering, moving, and liberating in a manner that is rarely seen in disillusioned Jaffa. Others still voiced their utter frustration, disappointment, and even “heart break” (as one Jewish activist put it) at their outreach failure –even though several activists invested their “heart and soul” lay in convincing the other “periphery” encampments to join with them. To their dismay, only a few individuals showed up (one of those was Dana Amsalem from Hatikva, who also addressed the rally but refrained from attending the meeting). Others complained about what they identified as the passivity and lack of solidarity on the part of local Jaffans, as most remained in their homes and avoided the rally altogether. Moreover, these activists also bitterly complained about the lack of cooperation with other Palestinian organizations even though they were explicitly invited in. One Jewish Jaffan woman complained about what she perceived as “nationalist” chants and banners during the rally and the prevalence of the Palestinian flag and other nationalist and anticolonial markers. She argued the rally was less about public housing and more “political” because of “all the symbols” (kuffiyeh) and certain kinds of chants (“al-sha’b yurid isqat al-Sahyuniyah,” the people want the fall of Zionism) she could not identify with and felt excluded from. These complaints brought on an entire discussion about responsibility for the messages conveyed during rallies: who decides on chants, t-shirts, flags, and other markers and what should be avoided. Sami Abu Shehadeh and his cousin ‘Abed vehemently argued that as long as they are the organizers, we should stick to our plans, but added that we cannot control every single individual who attends the rally, but that, in any case, people were asked to refrain from carrying flags including red ones. Another man, Palestinian this time, voiced his disappointment at what he called the “politicization” of the rally since he believed the protest should focus on public housing rather than anti-colonialism. Others responded that it is the responsibility of the municipality and the state for the ongoing house demolitions in the city and that calls for the ouster of the government and mayor were more than appropriate during these events. The attention turned to the upcoming “March of the Million” scheduled for September rd 3 . Some of the participants were concerned about the overt presence of the Israeli flags and other markers in the rally and wondered whether our place is even there. Yossi, an older local Jewish activist, suggested “we should get over that.” Sephi and others involved in social activism in South Tel Aviv voiced their distrust of the main Rothschild leadership and their dictates. Sami tried to reassure everyone that there is a new leadership that is more attuned to the needs and demands of the ‘periphery.’ The temporary resolution was to wait for the ‘periphery forum’48 to decide whether they would like everyone, including Jaffa, to march together as a block, even though several attendees questioned the forum itself and wondered about their position regarding Gilad Shalit, nationalist flags, and the issue of “solidarity with the south” in light of the attack on Gaza. Sami tried to assure everyone that the ‘periphery forum’ does not care about any of that and is focused on public housing. Eventually the resolution was to participate in the march as a block and the organizers began to brainstorm for creative ideas that would get some media attention. The decision was to create a large ‘golden calf’ statue that symbolizes the greed of politicians and their capitalist allies that comes at the expense of the impoverished masses, especially those in the socio-economic peripheries. We therefore assembled the night before the rally and prepare the golden calf as well as what we intended to be a “flying tent” to symbolize the wretched state of the homeless. Zmira, Haim, and Fatmeh decided, on the fly, to drive the golden calf to the site of the wedding of the daughter of one of Israel’s billionaires, Nuhi Dankner where they met another spontaneous mini-demonstration that immediately surrounded them and simulated the biblical story of the Israelites worshipping of the calf. While this improptu operation was considered a success, and received wide media coverage, back at the encampment things looked glum. Fewer people than usual turned up for the meeting, Hanaa 'Amoury, one of the main activists, seemed reluctant and withdrawn, even defeated. “Would you like to prepare flyers? No? Fine. Don’t put my phone number on them, please.” Gil, another activist, was quite bitter and wondered aloud where were all the activists who called for more intense activity at the encampment. People were upset because those who were chosen as delegates were not even present to report back. There was a general sense of discontent, exasperation, and fatigue even as we sat to think about appropriate slogans for the rally. Eventually, though, everyone seemed enthusiastic when the time came to march. The protestors made the golden calf the center piece of their march for the media; there was a sense of elation as we marched, sang, and chanted, they even jumped up and down and caught the attention of the many photojournalists and TV news stations there to cover the rally (Figure 6). Even passers-by wished to have a photo-op with the calf, and Zmira, who C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 17 Figure 6. The Golden Calf as the Jaffa centerpiece during “The March of the Million” (Haim Schwarczenberg, September 3, 2011) came up with the idea in the first place, was walking around like a proud mother. She would not stop talking about the success of the calf even at the next day’s meeting. Overall, the Jaffa envoy to the historical rally in Tel-Aviv was indeed a moderate success, yet one which could not transcend the troubled oedipal relationship between the two cities.49 One full bus carrying about 50 Jewish and Arab activists represented the modest mobilizing force of the local movement, which was all but unequivocal about joining what was perceived to be an all-Israeli demonstration of solidarity at Kikar Ha-medina (the State Square), the icon of the upper socio-economic echelon. Notwithstanding the success of the Golden Calf, collectively recognized as the centerpiece of the group, the contingent itself remained at the very fringes of the assembly. After a brief but dramatic entrance with slogans such as “Jaffans united against house eviction,” “no to gentrification,” and “Jaffans demand social justice” (Figure 7) the group left during the speech part, abandoning the crowded square and making its way back to Jaffa. Participants later testified that they could not hear much of the speeches and that most could not really relate to any of it and felt alienated by the Israeli flags right by the main stage.50 Featuring no Arab speaker, “The March of the Million,” like the protest movement as a whole, consistently stressed an all-Jewish spectacle of solidarity, leaving the Palestinian voice on the very fringes it occupied during the rally.51 In the wake of “The March of the Million,” which marked the climax of the summer revolt (as well as the end of the summer vacation), the Rothschild leadership decided to continue waging the protest by other means. A few days later, most of the encampments were evacuated with the active involvement of the local municipalities. The Jaffa tent camp was no exception. With the gradual dispersal of the activist core, internal discord arose, which in one case prompted one resident to burn the tent of another. Along with an aggressive evacuation policy, the city paid homeless tent dwellers enough for a few months rent (10,000 NIS). Altogether, these policies made for a relatively uneventful dismantling process. The process lasted until early February 2012, when the last tent was evacuated. Figure 7. Palestinian and Jewish demonstrators: “Jaffans united against house evacuation” and “Jaffans demand social justice” (Activestills.org) Trapped between a class-based welfare agenda and a Palestinian nationalist frame of action, the Jaffa encampment remained ambivalent vis-' -vis its role in the Israeli protest for a social justice. Visual evidence of this ambivalence remained on site until the dismantlement of the tent camp was complete. One of these placards featured Handhala, the iconic Palestinian cartoon figure whose back is turned to the world in a gesture of defiant innocence (Figure 8). Reading “I await a house!! And so is he,” with an arrow pointing to Handhala, the sign conveys the converging grievances of both the Palestinian community in Jaffa and the general Palestinian cause in the Occupied Territories and the Diaspora. An additional placard, oft waved during the protests, was found among the debris of the deserted camp, indexing the subversive union of national collective rights and social housing rights that failed once again to materialize: “The Right of Return to Old Jaffa.” Conclusions: Sushi Eaters and Shisha Smokers; Or, the “People” as an Empty Signifier Two weeks after the outbreak of the protest, David Amar, a member of the ruling Likud party, urged the PM not to give in to public pressure: “There is no protest Bibi, you’re being lied to. Everyone in Rothschild smokes shisha and eats sushi. There’s no available trolleys at the airport.”52 To the fuming reaction of the protest leaders, Amar’s statement encapsulated the attempt of the ruling class to dismiss the popular demands for social justice as a mere maneuver of the “delusional left” and to defuse its revolutionary claims. Regardless of the truth-value of this accusation it effectively labeled the Jewish, Ashkenazi, middle-class constituency at the center of action in Tel-Aviv as decadent members of the leisure class. This shortcoming notwithstanding, the protest did initially convince some of the most radical voices in Israel about the sincerity of its intentions. On August 13, 2011, Asma AgbariehZahalka, a Palestinian activist at the workers party, the Organization for Democratic Action C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger 19 Figure 8. The nationalist figure of Handala on a placard outside the Jaffa camp. The sign reads in Arabic: “I await a house!! And so does he” (Photo: Daniel Monterescu September 9, 2011) (aka Da’am), published her vote of confidence in the leftist magazine Challenge for Peace and Justice:53 This was the first time that I, born and bred in Jaffa, felt that the human wave washing over Tel Aviv was also carrying me, was also attentive to my aspirations, that the shouts were mine too, regardless of race, religion or gender – even if only for a day. Coming from Agbarieh-Zahalka, a total political figure who came a long way from Islamism to a binational workers movement, this statement could not be underestimated. Calling on others “to come out of the Arab closet,” she concluded, “It’s time to wake up and find an ally in the Israeli protest movement, which reflects similar movements in the Arab world, in Spain and in Greece.” A year later, the duplicity behind the recurrent declarations of the movement’s leaders to speak for “everyone” was acutely brought home to her. As part of the attempt to rekindle the protest a rally took place in Tel-Aviv on June 2, 2012 under the banner “2011 – Protest; 2012 – Revolution.” Agbarieh-Zahalka received permission to allow a Palestinian agricultural worker to address the Social Justice movement. At the last moment, however, the organizers decided not to let her speak for technical reasons. Infuriated, Agbarieh-Zahalka said, “There was a historical opportunity here that an Arab woman would go on stage and speak in the name of Arabs, and speak to the Arabs and not just to the Arabs in Israel but in the whole Arab world to take Israel out of its isolation. And this country and these protesters are refusing to step out of their hypocrisy and out of their racism. And if they don’t treat the Arabs as equal, and treat the workers as equal there will never ever be social justice.”54 How can we make sense of the gap between the movement’s inclusionary presentation of self and its actual exclusionary practices? Sociologist Sylvaine Bulle points out that “as with other global movements (the 99%, the Indignados, OWS), it can be difficult to distinguish between reformist and radical grammars of dissent.”55 The main difference, however, between the Israeli protest and the other global movements is the persistent hegemony of an ethno-national gravitation force, which traps any critical discourse in the orbit of the social contract ostensibly signed between the Jewish state and its (Jewish) citizens. In this state of affairs, the exclusion of dissenting voices, like the Palestinian agriculture worker’s, seems but natural. By now it has become clear that the notion of the “people” invoked throughout the protest functioned as an “empty signifier.”56 It constituted the discursive center but only at the price of emptying its content could it produce an apparently universal discursive formation. In Laclau’s terms the concept of the people was “present as that which is absent [ . . . ] it becomes the signifier of this absence.”57 Entertaining simultaneously republican, ethnonational, social-democratic, and liberal notions of peoplehood, the politics around the protest thus articulated “a struggle to fill the emptiness with a given content – to suture the rift of the discursive centre and to create a universal hegemony.”58 In the process, the outside is antagonistically mobilized to affirm the legitimacy of the center: “the outside is not merely posing a threat to the inside, but is actually required for the definition of the inside. The inside is marked by a constitutive lack that the outside helps to fill.”59 During the summer protest, the exclusion of a truly radical agenda was thus not a mere condition of possibility but a condition of necessity for the ostensible universal import of the movement. Cleansed of political alterities such as Palestinian, Mizrahi, and proletarian, whose access to the visible center was virtually blocked, the movement could present itself to itself, to its audience, and to the ruling class as both pragmatic and populist, representational and revolutionary at one and the same time. The display of unity in protest however was semiotically and politically unstable, inviting moments of radical intervention (like the Guillotine) only to disavow them as moments of transgression, inappropriate for a “responsible” leadership. This fluctuating process, which we term situational radicalism, was the outcome of an indecisive play of boundaries, of presence and absence, inside and outside. The double meaning of the concept of situational radicalism reflects the modus operandi of the summer protests first as a performance of radicalism divorced from a revolutionary constitution; and secondly, as a protest held hostage by the ‘situation’ (ha-matzav) – a phenomenological emic term Israelis use to collapse the temporality and spatiality of the politics of permanent conflict onto the lived present. In aftermath of the 2011 events, organizers and observes alike pondered about the future of the movement considering the ongoing support by 80% of the Israeli public of resuming the protests.60 One observer recently remarked:61 Would the social protest turn violent? Would the summer of 2012 bring violent clashes, mass arrests, and indiscriminate shooting of pepper gas as we saw in Greece and in other European counties? One thing is clear: the niceness of summer 2011 would not repeat 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd. C Situational Radicalism: Daniel Monterescu and Noa Shaindlinger itself. “500 thousand people took to the streets, sang and shouted but achieved nothing”, protest activists and ordinary frustrated citizens angrily say. The obvious conclusion is the following: now it’s time to stop playing by the rules and turn the tables [ . . . ] The important thing is that in this round the protest would turn from a protest to an explicit resistance. A civil revolt – nonviolent but not nice either. It will undoubtedly lose most of the 80% who now wish for its return – but it may achieve more significant results. 21 A recurrent slogan for the renewal of the protest was “Maybe Next Summer” indexing both the fantasy of togetherness expressed in a popular song with the same title62 and the concrete attempt to plan the next stage of the protest (e.g., the conference “Maybe Next Summer: Change in Movement” was held in May in Jaffa). However for the movement to shift from a mere protest to a revolutionary resistance, as the organizers profess, a radical redefinition of Israeli peoplehood is required. While this is unlikely to happen, there are already unprecedented signs of a new political awareness, which seeks to break through years of an established Israeli policy of divide and rule. In a speech given at the Sapir conference in January, 2012, entitled “What is social justice and what makes a nation,” Viki Vaanunu, a struggling single mother and a public housing activist, gives room for hope:63 The establishment wants me to believe that my people are the Jewish nation, but if there are Jews who exploit me and others like me, and who do not allow us to live a normative life, then this definition is not satisfactory. My people are all those who are oppressed like me: Jews, Arabs, refugees. All those who are exploited by the establishment [ . . . ] The first stone has yet to be thrown in our struggle, but if the state continues to ignore us, continues to silence us with the police, our struggle will escalate. We are ready to fight for our future and the future or our children”. Postscript: The Next Summer In late June of 2012 thousands of protesters in Tel-Aviv took to streets in rage, smashing bank windows and blocking the highways. The violent arrest of Daphni Leef, the symbolic leader of the social justice movement, during her attempt to kick-start the movement at the spot where it began in July 2011, has once again ignited the spirit of revolt in Israel’s “white city.” Facing police violence, the appearance of hooded protesters with banners such as “the answer to privatization? – revolution!” and “soldier, cop – refuse the order”–a first for this city, marked an escalation that seemed to satisfy the expectations of the previous summer. The intensifying activities on the urban scale brought about the resignation of the deputy mayor and the artists’ boycott of Tel-Aviv’s signature summer happening, “White Night,” in favor of alternative cultural initiatives based in the southern neighborhoods and provocatively labeled “Black Night.” Tellingly however, this seeming radicalization addressed chiefly police violence and the right to freedom of expression, instead of prompting any substantive redefinition of the protest movement’s agenda. Going to the barricades against state violence under the slogan “It’s no mistake, it’s a policy,” Israeli protesters remained persistently oblivious to the link between police aggression in Israel and the Occupied Territories.64 Exactly a year after the launch of the social protest, on the night of July 14, 2012 during a march in the central streets of Tel Aviv, Moshe Silman, a Haifa-based activist, poured fuel over his body and set himself alight. In a letter he distributed prior to his self-immolation, Silman explained that he was protesting “all the injustice” done to him and others in his situation by the state, naming and shaming those he perceived as responsible for his misery, from Prime Minister Netanyahu to staff of the Haifa branch of the National Insurance Institute.65 The following night, a rally was organized in Tel Aviv in solidarity with Silman, who was at the time hospitalized in critical condition. Hundreds gathered in front of the governmental office complex, located near a major intersection, reciting Silman’s letter. The raging crowd of demonstrators then marched along busy urban routes, intermittently blocking traffic and asking stranded motorists to join the impromptu public display of anger and solidarity. Repeatedly chanting “we are all Moshe Silman,” protesters stopped in front of the local branch of the National Insurance Institute but riot police officers prevented them from approaching the glass doors and windows. Despite this performance of spontaneous rage, tension dissipated after the crowd of protesters moved on, where they proceeded to block the busy Ayalon highway. Another march was called after Silman died the following Friday. On Saturday night (July 21), a thousand of the core public housing and social justice activists marched again along the same route, once again blocking the highway for a short time. In contradistinction with the Tunisian case of Bouazizi’s martyrdom, although Silman’s performative self-immolation ostensibly radicalized public discourse about the root causes of economic hardships shared by many, and even though personal stories of injustice and institutional neglect circulated widely all over Facebook, the protest movement had shrunk considerably and ceased to mobilize the masses of urban underclasses. As we write these lines, the country is preparing for another round of general elections. Several of the leading J14 figures have already announced their intention to run as candidates for Israel’s larger political parties, while the self-proclaimed radical wing of the movement has formed an independent movement that may compete for seats in the Knesset. Finally, throughout the tumultuous events of the summer, the Palestinian community of Jaffa was largely absent from these (diminishing) spectacles of public outrage, receding once again to deal with the harsh realities of forced evictions and house demolitions.
[See original article for notes]
Noa Shaindlinger is a PhD student at the University of Toronto, a human rights activist, and a citizen journalist. Daniel Monterescu is an urban anthropologist at the Central European University in Budapest. He is author (with Haim Hazan) of Twilight Nationalism: Tales of Traitorous Identities – a study of autobiographical narratives of Palestinians and Jews in Jaffa (Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, 2011) and Gentrifying the Bride of Palestine: Forced Coexistence in Jaffa (Indiana University Press: forthcoming).
C 2013 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.