Promoting anti-Israel Scholarship: Daniel Monterescu a Case in Point

08.12.22

Editorial Note

The Israeli Social Science List recently published a Call for Papers for a conference titled “Conceptualizing Specters of Ruination, Resilience and Regeneration.” 

The Call for Papers explains who is behind it. “The workshop is a conclusion to the research project “Cities lost and found: The social life of ruins”, funded by Gerda Henkel Foundation.” It will take place at the Central European University (Vienna) on May 19-20, 2023.

The workshop is “Framing urban ruination as a multi-dimensional process.” This workshop “seeks to address the politics and social life of loss in cities today. Remnants of slum clearing, memories of past massacres, colonial settlements, as well as gentrified spaces of renewal and heritage districts for touristic consumption are but some of the specters that haunt contemporary cityscapes. Derived from the general antinomy of creation and destruction… this workshop will facilitate critical discussions on modernity’s urge to build and destroy.” 

Prof. Daniel Monterescu of Urban Anthropology at the Central European University Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology in Vienna has published this call. He was awarded €375,000 by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, in 2019, for three-years research into the links between destruction and renewal. The project is entitled “Cities Lost and Found: The Social Life of Ruins in Israel/Palestine, 1882 to the Present.” It traces the urban histories of ruination and recovery in Israel and Palestine. “Torn by a century of conflict and war, our cities are haunted by the ghosts of the past. A relational history of urban loss is therefore a fruitful approach to make visible how ruins of previous urban lives come back to haunt the living in uncanny ways on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.”  

Monterescu focuses on Jaffa and Hebron, where he finds “forced displacement, physical return, and yearnings for future reunion with the imagined homeland.” He says, “In the current political deadlock in the Middle East I believe it is essential to look at history from the perspective of ruination and absence as a way to bridge rival histories and acknowledge colonial realities.” For him, “Shared memories of loss can create common ground for future recovery.” 

In an interview on “Lost Cities,” Monterescu said that the project “primarily examines developments in Jaffa and Hebron, as two places of longing for Palestinians and Israelis. Both cities have distinct and separate histories as well as significantly different status today. Before the founding of the state of Israel, Jaffa was a major cosmopolitan city, also known as the Bride of the Sea and the Bride of Palestine. It experienced the mass exodus of its Palestinian population who were forced to flee during the 1948 war. Jaffa was then relegated to the slums of Tel Aviv, which has, however, experienced a dramatic gentrification process since the 1990s. In the aftermath of the 1948 war, Jaffa was annexed to Tel Aviv and placed within Israel’s recognized international borders thus making its remaining Palestinian resident Israeli citizens.”

On the other hand, for Monterescu, Hebron “is in the occupied West Bank and has become a focal point for Israel’s contemporary colonization campaign. Since 1997, Hebron has been divided to two asymmetrical loci: H1 which is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and H2 which is under direct control of Israel’s military. While the differences between Jaffa and Hebron are significant, both are entwined in the same political and cultural process of loss and recovery. Since the early 1920s both experienced moments of collective violence between Jews and Arabs who cohabited these places, and as the violence spiraled all over Palestine, both cities were impacted, some might say irrevocably, by the dynamic of violence and destruction. We understand the scientific importance of the project as one which problematize the banalization of the representation of memory and loss through which the stories of Jaffa and Hebron have been told.” 

In Hebron, he explains, “Jews were expelled in 1929 after a horrific massacre, a painful memory for Israelis, but also one where we can learn how brutal is Israel’s contemporary military occupation. H2 is a small part of the city where 30,000 Palestinians and 800 Jewish settlers reside. Since 1996, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (RHC) has been fighting the destruction of the city, which resembles a ghost town at its heart. Hebron displays two opposing forces: on the one hand, Israel moves to cement the area as a place which is lost for Palestinians (restriction of movement, prevention of reconstruction) while manipulating the Jewish historical tragedy to claim legitimacy for controlling H2. On the other hand, Palestinians are clinging to their lived place by rehabilitating the ruined urban space. The process of colonization is very intimate, and it takes place house by house, street by street. It is a double process of ruiniation of Palestinian cities, where settlers return to occupy houses formerly inhabited by Jews.”

For those unfamiliar with the language of critical theory, here is a little synopsis. The theory is part of a paradigm change that took over the social sciences, known more broadly as the neo-Marxist, critical, or postmodern theory. Essentially an amalgam of various schools of thought, it shared a critical element. It rejected positivism – a belief in the neutrality of social science and an empirical-based research methodology – on the grounds that it represented the view of the “hegemonic, capitalist classes.” The new methodology called for a more subjective view of reality and a predisposition for political activism to push for social justice. The research was constructed as a means for proving the inequality created by the capitalist and imperialist system.

Conveniently for academic activists, the neo-Marxist, critical paradigm tends to decontextualize history. There is no need to mention the actual history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no need to mention the 1947 UN Resolution that divided Palestine into a Jewish and Palestinian area. There is no need to mention that the Palestinians rejected the Resolution and, with the help of Arab states, started a war that they had the bad luck of losing.   

Montersescu is a poster boy for the new paradigm. One should note that the wording of the call for paper; it mentions that “this workshop facilitates “critical discussions.” In a manifesto-style article, Monterescu explained that the Central European University, funded by George Soros, relocated to Vienna after being forced out of Hungary. In his view, it radicalized the faculty that is now “taking a leading role in the formation of a new academic elite which speaks “truth to power.”  

As for this “new academic elite,” it is amply supported by a network of progressive funds, such as the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Rosa LuxemburgMinerva Stiftungand Van Leer Foundation, not to mention the George Soros foundations, which, as reported, their projects indicate a strong anti-Israel bias. Katharina Konarek discussed the involvement of the German Foundations in “The Role of German Political Foundations in Israel and the Palestinian Territory,” published by the Palestine-Israel Journal. 

Monterescu’s Ph.D. was awarded by the University of Chicago in 2005. His supervisor was Prof. John Comaroff, an anti-Israel activist who later signed a call to boycott Israel. On his Ph.D. committee was Rashid Khalidi, another anti-Israel activist and a supporter of the boycott of Israel. 

Last year, Tel Aviv University Minerva Center for Human Rights invited Monterescu to discuss his “critical” views of Jaffa. As can be expected from a “critical” scholar, he failed to mention the skyrocketed crime rate in Jaffa that was diminished by modernization. 

Monterescu is aware of being described as a self-hating Jew, as his article in Haaretz indicates. 

It is more than a coincidence that the current academic view of Israel is very bleak. Phrases like “an apartheid state” a “Nazi-like violent oppressor of the Palestinians” dominate the analysis and feed into the mainstream discourse. Locked into an epistemic bubble of their own making, these “new academic elites” became totally detached from the new international reality in which Israel has collaborated with moderate Arab countries against the growing menace of Iran.  

As for the latter, IAM has a suggestion for Daniel Montersescu and the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Why not study the “lost cities” of Iran, which were degraded by the ruthless and corrupt clerical regime that kills its citizens fighting for civil freedoms? Maybe Monterescu can advise how “to find” them. 

References

———- Forwarded message ———
From: ariel handel
Date: Thu, Dec 1, 2022 at 5:17 PM
‪Subject: [SocSci-IL] קול קורא לכנס: CONCEPTUALIZING SPECTERS OF RUINATION, RESILIENCE AND REGENERATION‬
To: Social Sciences List <socsci-il@listserver.cc.huji.ac.il>

CONCEPTUALIZING SPECTERS OF RUINATION, RESILIENCE AND REGENERATION

CALL FOR PAPERS

Framing urban ruination as a multi-dimensional process, this workshop seeks to address the

politics and social life of loss in cities today. Remnants of slum clearing, memories of past

massacres, colonial settlements, as well as gentrified spaces of renewal and heritage districts for

touristic consumption are but some of the spectres that haunt contemporary cityscapes. Derived

from the general antinomy of creation and destruction, these city-forms shed light on what we

term “modalities of ruination”: ranging from apocalyptic dystopias to nostalgic utopias of return

and redemption. Envisioning cities as both repositories of memory and material networks of

social action, our workshop explores the contentious relations between revival and loss.

We invite participants with a range of comparative, interdisciplinary and innovative perspectives

to rethink how ruination and recovery operate as images, events and structures. By bringing

together scientists and practitioners, documentarists and artists, this workshop will facilitate

critical discussions on modernity’s urge to build and destroy.

We welcome papers and creative interventions that engage with the following non-exhaustive

themes:

1. When do cities, sites and traditions become ‘lost’, and how can visual and narrative

forms represent the temporality and spatiality of urban ruination and recovery?

2. How do artistic interventions affect and represent the temporality and spatiality of

urban loss?

3. How are past urban ruins made invisible or conversely commodified into presence, and

how should we engage them as emblems of transgression, trauma and revival?

4. Does the representation of loss call for a special kind of ethics in documenting

techniques, and what should an ethic of recovery look like?

5. Can representations, narratives, materialities and memories of loss create a common

ground for future recovery?

6. What kind of recovery mechanisms could possibly address the intangible loss of urban

traditions, structures and social tissues?

The workshop is a conclusion to the research project “Cities lost and found: The social life of

ruins”, funded by Gerda Henkel Foundation. It will take place at the Central European University

(Vienna) on May 19-20, 2023.

Travel and accommodation expenses are available for eligible candidates.

Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a short bio (100 words) to

citieslostandfound@gmail.com by January 15, 2023.

===========================================

====================================================

https://lisa.gerda-henkel-stiftung.de/monterescu?language=en


Judith Wonke
 | 05/17/2022 | Interviews

“A relational history of urban loss”

Interview with Daniel Monterescu on “Lost Cities” in Palestine and Israel

How is the destruction of cities objectified, both by the state and by communities of Jewish settlers? Using the example of the coastal metropolis of Jaffa and the regional hub in the West Bank, it is amongst others this question that Prof. Dr. Daniel Monterescu focuses on in his research project, which is funded within the special program Lost Cities of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Within the scope of the new interview series, we asked Professor Monterescu about the project itself but also its scientific and societal relevance: Why is it scientifically worthwhile to deal with the topic? Where do the researchers see areas of relevance for the society?

“Problematise the banalisation of the representation of memory and loss”

L.I.S.A.: Dear Professor Monterescu you are working on a research project, which is funded within the special program Lost Cities of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Could you briefly explain the scope of your project? Why is it scientifically worthwhile to deal with the topic?

Prof. Monterescu: Our project “Cities Lost and Found: The Social Life of Ruins in Israel / Palestine, 1882 to the Present” looks at the concept of loss, trauma and recovery by focusing on the convoluted and conflicted story of two urban hubs in Palestine and Israel. The research group comprises of a team of anthropologists, sociologists and geographers with the aim to uncover the ambivalent heritage of lost cities and the material traces of bygone communities that reincarnate local memories as they lend themselves to contemporary projects of mythification, commodification and gentrification. The project, which is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation as part of the “Lost Cities” programme, primarily examines developments in Jaffa and Hebron, as two places of longing for Palestinians and Israelis.

Both cities have distinct and separate histories as well as significantly different status today. Before the founding of the state of Israel, Jaffa was a major cosmopolitan city, also known as the Bride of the Sea and the Bride of Palestine. It expereiced the mass exodus of its Palestinian population who were forced to flee during the 1948 war. Jaffa was then relegated to the slums of Tel Aviv, which has, however, experienced a dramatic gentrification process since the 1990s. In the aftermath of the 1948 war, Jaffa was annexed to Tel Aviv and placed within Israel’s recognised international borders thus making its remaining Palestinian residents Israeli citizens. Hebron on the other hand, is in the occupied West Bank and has become a focal point for Israel’s contemporary colonisation campaign. Since 1997, Hebron has been divided to two asymmetrical loci: H1 which is under the jursidiciton of the Palestinian Authority and H2 which is under direct control of Israel’s military. While the differences between Jaffa and Hebron are significant, both are entwined in the same political and cultural process of loss and recovery. Since the early 1920s both experienced moments of collective violence between Jews and Arabs who cohabited these places, and as the violence spiraled all over Palestine, both cities were impacted, some might say irrevocably, by the dynamic of violence and destruction.

We understand the scientific importance of the project as one which problematise the banalisation of the representation of memory and loss through which the stories of Jaffa and Hebron have been told. We criticize the convention that situates dynamics of loss and ruination within a narrative of modern progress to rethink what loss means in the present continuous, whereby people continue to cling to the very places deemed as obsolete. We conceptualize how memory of loss (of one’s city and home) is mobilized as a tangible, active tool against forces seeking to solidify the act of destruction. By doing so, our project seeks to rethink how communities which are basically traumatized by ongoing, almost cyclical, process of violence, articulate their sense of loss and their hopes for recovery and for future reconciliation.

“Destruction and reconstruction can be well researched as a lieu de mémoir”

L.I.S.A.: In your project, you look at lost cities and their influence on local memories as well as objectification. Can you briefly explain an example of this?

Prof. Monterescu: One example we discuss is the Slope Park project (Midron Yaffo Park) in Jaffa which was opened for the public in 2010. It is an open space recreation area providing a bucolic scenery of green lawns, palm trees and the Mediterranean sea. It has been a popular meeting place for Tel Aviv Israelis and West Bank Palestinians who are allowed to travel here on certain public holidays. For these Palestinians it is the only opportunity to spend free time on the beach. A popular and happy place, but at the same time a bitter and sad one. The park was created on a landfill where garbage and debris were dumped. Much of the old city and other neighborhoods such as Manshiyya was destroyed in the 1950s and 1960s because these spaces, which had been abandoned by the Palestinians, were perceived as a slum and the process of decay was not stopped.

The tragedy is that Palestinians who come here today to enjoy a fresh breeze are walking on the rubble of their ancestral homes. In this place, destruction and reconstruction can be well researched as a lieu de mémoir. Through the park we can see how Jaffa tells a story of loss and forced migration, but also a story of contrived coexistence. For the Israelis it is a story of destruction and reconstruction, for the Palestinians a story of the lost Golden Age. In our work we think of the park as a historical warning against the commodification and taken for grantedness of the political present. In this case, we see how ruins are touristified and we show that they are always contested in arts, social mobilizatoin and memory. In short, how Jaffa is a an example of commodification of a history of ruins.

In the case of Hebron, Jews were expelled in 1929 after a horrific massacre, a painful memory for Israelis, but also one where we can learn how brutal is Israel’s contemporary military occupation. H2 is a small part of the city where 30,000 Palestinians and 800 Jewish settlers reside. Since 1996, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (RHC) has been fighting the destruction of the city, which resembles a ghost town at its heart. Hebron displays two opposing forces: on the one hand, Israel moves to cement the area as a place which is lost for Palestinians (restriction of movement, prevention of reconstruction) while manipulating the Jewish historical tragedy to claim legitimacy for controlling H2. On the other hand Palestinians are clinging to their lived place by rehabilitating the ruined urban space. The process of colonization is very intimate, and it takes place house by house, street by street. It is a double process of ruiniation of Palestinian cities, where settlers return to occupy houses formerly inhabited by Jews.

==========================================================

https://www.ceu.edu/article/2019-12-13/daniel-monterescu-awarded-three-year-research-grant-gerda-henkel-foundation

Daniel Monterescu Awarded Three-Year Research Grant by the Gerda Henkel Foundation

December 13, 2019

Daniel Monterescu has been awarded 375,000 euros by the Gerda Henkel Foundation for his research into the links between destruction and renewal. The project, titled Cities Lost and Found: The Social Life of Ruins in Israel/Palestine, 1882 to the Present, traces the urban histories of ruination and recovery in Israel and Palestine. 

Monterescu’s research frames ruins as multi-dimensional public, social, and cultural problems. For the new project, a team of sociologists and geographers will aim to uncover the ambivalent heritage of lost cities and the material traces of bygone communities that reincarnate local memories as they lend themselves to contemporary projects of mythification, commodification and gentrification.

“Torn by a century of conflict and war, our cities are haunted by the ghosts of the past. A relational history of urban loss is therefore a fruitful approach to make visible how ruins of previous urban lives come back to haunt the living in uncanny ways on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides” Monterescu notes.

In cities like Jaffa and Hebron, for Monterescu, a figure of loss resonates with “forced displacement, physical return, and yearnings for future reunion with the imagined homeland in ways that are abstract and concrete, symbolic and spatial”. 

According to him, it is crucial that we are able to come to terms both with the cities now lost forever in the region, and the potential urban worlds that may yet be created, for future generations. “In the current political deadlock in the Middle East I believe it is essential to look at history from the perspective of ruination and absence as a way to bridge rival histories and acknowledge colonial realities. Shared memories of loss can create common ground for future recovery.”

Daniel Monterescu’s three-year research was among the two projects funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s “Lost Cities” programme.

Danel Monterescu is Associate Professor of Urban Anthropology at CEU’s Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. The project follows up on previous research by Monterescu into urban Israel/Palestine, resulting in Jaffa Shared and Shattered, published by Indiana University Press in 2015 and Twilight Nationalism, published by Stanford University Press in 2018. 

Link: 

Daniel Monterescu at CEU

Lost Cities at The Gerda Henkel Foundation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s