TAU’s Anat Matar, Smadar Ben Natan, Aeyal Gross Support the Six Palestinian NGOs Designated as Terrorist


Editorial Note

Last year, the Iranian newspaper Ettelaat published a series of articles by Ilan Pappe, translated to Persian, including “What is Post-Zionism?” The article discusses how Arabs in Western universities espoused anti-Israel theories, and Israeli academics adopted them. For example, the well-known Jewish MIT’s linguist Noam Chomsky promoted Edward Said’s anti-Zionist themes. Chomsky’s student, late Professor Tanya Reinhart, a linguist from Tel Aviv University, attracted like-minded colleagues, Rachel Giora, Mira Ariel, Anat Biletzki and Anat Matar.  Soon after, the post-Zionist trend spread to other Israeli universities. For the Iranian regime, such anti-Zionist academics have been a gift as they echoed the fervent anti-Zionism of Ayatollah Khomeini, who called to destroy Israel. 

To recall, Dr. Matar is a Philosophy lecturer who spent much of her time on political activism.  While tenured, she had a meager publication record, not qualifying for further promotion.  She remade herself into a Human Rights expert, co-published a book on the alleged mistreatment of Palestinian prisoners, Threat: Palestinian Political Prisoners in Israel, without having academic qualifications. Although Matar has not fulfilled her obligation to research and publish in her field, a standard requirement in all universities, the TAU administration did not challenge her.  She later co-established Academia for Equality, a group of radical academics that promote the cause of Palestinians accused of terrorism. 

Matar and her colleagues from Academia for Equality have lately taken up the defense of NGOs that raise money for terror groups. 

Last month, Juana Ruiz Sánchez-Rishmawi, a Spanish citizen married to a Palestinian, was sentenced at the Israeli military court for 13 months in jail in a plea bargain after admitting to raising funds for an NGO that funneled some money to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a secular Palestinian Marxist–Leninist revolutionary organization founded in 1967. PFLP was designated a terrorist entity by several Western countries: in 1997 by the U.S. and in 2003 by Canada. Sánchez-Rishmawi worked for the Health Work Committees. Israel declared the organization illegal in early 2020 after a worker had helped finance an attack against Israelis.

Also last month, after lengthy investigations and soon after the Rishmawi case went to court, Israeli Minister of Defense, Benny Gantz, announced  that six Palestinian NGOs had ties to the PFLP: Bisan Center for Research and Development; Union of Agricultural Work Committees; Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association; Al-Haq Law in the Service of Man; Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees; Defense for Children-International.

Defense Minister Ganz said: “The State of Israel and the defense establishment respect human rights, and respect the activities of human rights organizations that have an important role in a democratic society. Whitewashing terrorism under the guise of human rights activities is a double sin – it fuels terrorism and harms organizations that do important work. We will continue to act against terrorism wherever and in whatever form it wears.”

Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior project director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, noted that already in May, the Shin Bet security agency presented the international community with hard evidence of NGOs collaborating with the PFLP. While some countries took note and cut off their aid, other countries ignored it.

In 2019, when the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs published the dossier Terrorists in Suits on “The Ties Between NGOs promoting BDS and Terrorist Organizations,” it listed Addameer, Defense for Children and Al Haq as having ties to the terrorist FPLP.

But Matar and her colleagues strongly oppose the view of the Israeli government. She and Prof. Aeyal Gross from the Law Faculty recently organized a conference at Tel Aviv University to discuss the issue with their comrades.  Matar also participated in a webinar by Scientists for Palestine, where she described Israel as a terrorist state. Smadar Ben Natan, a TAU lawyer working for the Palestinians, has also spoken.

In the webinar, Matar said her group promotes justice and democracy in Palestine and beyond and will continue to support the NGOs. “We’ve been shouting this in demonstrations all along that Israel is a terrorist state.” During the 65 years of the occupation, she said, there was a continuous atmosphere of ongoing settler violence. She said the settlers are violent, and then the army protects them. Nothing happens at the higher level, the Knesset or Ministry of Defense total silence and protection of everything the violent settlers do. Also, there are 500 detainees taken in the middle of the night. Israel is terrorizing the whole Palestinian population, she said. Matar urged people to support BDS.  

Ben Natan, who works at the Law Faculty at TAU, talked in support of the accused human rights groups. That Israeli academics and human rights activists initiated solidarity visits organized by B’tselem; one hundred academics signed a petition on Haaretz; Tel Aviv University organized a panel challenging this declaration. She said, “we have worked with these Palestinian organizations for 15 years… and no one can convince us that these organizations are terrorists… We stand by these organizations.” She blamed Israeli far right-wing organizations such as NGO Monitor that took credit for providing information to the security forces; and Im Tirzu issued official complaints against groups that collaborate with the six Palestinian human rights groups.

According to Gross, the Zionist underground organizations pre-1948 should also be included in the definition of terrorism. Israel and Israelis, such as the settlers, are engaged in terrorism against the Palestinians and should be included in the definition of terrorism.

Tel Aviv University, a state-funded institution, should not have tolerated these political-activists-pseudo-scientists that embark on pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel careers and abuse their positions at the university. 


Israel sentences Spanish woman for aiding banned group

By JOSEF FEDERMANNovember 17, 2021

Juana Ruiz Sánchez, right, a Spanish citizen accused of raising money for a banned Palestinian militant group, is brought to a courtroom for sentencing, at the Israeli Ofer military base near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021. Ruiz, who lives in the West Bank, was sentenced to 13 months in jail in a plea bargain in which she admitted raising funds for a nonprofit group that funnelled some of the money to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. (AP Photo/Mahmoud Illean)

JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli military court on Wednesday handed down a reduced sentence to a Spanish woman who admitted in a plea bargain to raising funds for a West Bank charity that were diverted to a banned militant group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

Juana Ruiz Sánchez was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 shekels, or roughly $16,000. With credit for time already served, she could be released in the coming weeks.

Israel has tried to seize on the conviction as proof that it was justified in branding six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist groups last month — all due to alleged connections to the PFLP.

But Ruiz’s employer, the Health Work Committees, was not among those six groups. And in the plea bargain, she said she was unaware of the alleged fund-raising scheme and she was not implicated in any militant activities by the PFLP.

Her lawyer, Avigdor Feldman, said the plea bargain “clarified very clearly” that Ruiz was not involved in passing money to the PFLP and had no idea that the alleged transfers had taken place. He also accused Israeli officials of slandering his client and said he would demand that they take back statements implying she was a PFLP agent.

“The whole case is a political case. They tried to use it to justify the outlawing of the human rights organizations,” he told The Associated Press after the hearing at the Ofer military court in the occupied West Bank.

The PFLP is a secular, leftist political movement with an armed wing that has carried out deadly attacks against Israelis. Israel, the U.S. and European Union consider it to be a terrorist group.

Ruiz was a longtime worker for Health Work Committees, a Palestinian nonprofit group that provides medical services in the occupied West Bank.

Prosecutors say she raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the group from foreign donors, an unspecified amount of which was then diverted to the PFLP. One accusation was that she she raised $4,000 for what she thought was medical equipment that was then steered to the PFLP. Few details on any other alleged misuse of funds were available.

Ruiz was quoted in the documents as saying she was unaware of any wrongdoing and “simply erred.”

But prosecutors noted she continued her work for the Health Work Committees even after learning a co-worker had helped finance an attack and after Israel declared the organization illegal in early 2020. In the end, she was convicted of “performing a service for an outlawed organization” and illegal money transfers into the West Bank.

Feldman said his client, who is in her 60s and has been imprisoned since her arrest in April, agreed to the watered-down charges to help close the case and get out of jail. He said he plans to appear before a parole board to seek a sentence reduction that could get her released in about two weeks.

Her daughter, Maria Rishmawi, said the family was eager to put the episode behind them. “We can’t wait to have her home,” she said.

Israeli officials, referring to Ruiz by her married name of Juana Rishmawi, have trumpeted the conviction as a victory in their war against the PFLP. Israel says the group raises funds from unwitting Western donors under the guise of humanitarian work.

Last month, Israel designated six Palestinian civil society organizations as terrorist groups, saying they were tied to the PFLP. It so far has not yet taken further action against the groups. But Wednesday’s plea bargain could serve as a template for future moves.

The six groups, some of which have close ties to rights groups in Israel and abroad, deny the allegations. They say the terror designation is aimed at muzzling critics of Israel’s half-century military occupation of territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

A confidential Israeli dossier detailing alleged links between the groups and the PFLP contains little concrete evidence and relies almost entirely on the interrogations of two former workers at the Health Works Committees.

Feldman, Ruiz’s lawyer, said Israel appears to be going after groups that have been working to press war crimes charges against Israel via the International Criminal Court in the Hague. The ICC has launched a preliminary investigation into Israeli practices in both the occupied West Bank and Gaza.

“This is part of an overall effort to outlaw any organization in the West Bank that is actually cooperating with international law in the Hague,” he said.

The Spanish government, which provided consular assistance to Ruiz during the trial, has said it has controls to prevent aid money from reaching militant groups. The foreign ministry declined comment on Wednesday’s sentencing.


AP video journalist Ami Bentov contributed reporting.



Israel stands by Palestinian NGOs’ terror designation despite international criticism

The United States and Europe apparently believe that Israel is criminalizing Palestinian civil society and undermining the Palestinian “struggle for freedom.”

By  Israel Kasnett , JNS and ILH Staff  Published on  11-03-2021 08:30 Last modified: 11-04-2021 11:32

The international criticism against Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s decision last week to designate six Palestinian groups affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine as terrorist organizations continued this week, with the United States and European Union demanding evidence and accusing Israel of “criminalizing Palestinian civil society” and undermining the Palestinian “struggle for freedom.” 01

Israel has now sent an envoy to Washington to meet with administration officials on the matter. Joshua Zarka, deputy director-general of strategy at the Foreign Ministry, told Army Radio that the envoy would “give them all the details and present them all with the intelligence.”

Ministry spokesperson Lior Hayat told JNS Tuesday, “We are sharing information with countries and organizations that prove beyond all doubt the different connections of those NGOs to the PFLP terror organization.”

The PFLP has been designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States, Japan, Canada, Australia and the European Union.

The Defense Ministry designated the following six NGOs as terrorist organizations: Defense for Children International-Palestine (DCI-P), Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Al-Haq, Addameer, Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees (UPWC) and Bisan, sparking rebukes from the PA and human rights groups that argued the NGOs in questions were operating solely in the civilian sphere.

“These organizations present themselves as acting for humanitarian purposes; however, they serve as a cover for the PFLP’s propaganda and financing,” Gantz said in a statement. “These organizations received large sums of money from European countries and international organizations, using various methods of forgery and deceit,” it continued, adding that the funds are used to support PFLP activities.

Israel has for years either suspected or known about these NGOs’ links to the PFLP but stopped short of labeling them as terrorist groups. This latest move indicates a change in that approach.

These organizations have been described by Nour Odeh, a former spokesperson within the Palestinian Authority government offices, as the “crème de la crème of the human rights community.”

Based on its response to Israel’s announcement, the international community appeared to agree with Odeh’s assessment and her belief that by designating these NGOs as terror organizations, Israel is criminalizing Palestinian civil society and undermining the Palestinian struggle for freedom.

According to Yochanan Tzoreff, a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, “some of the six NGOs have gained a good reputation in international human-rights forums, earned professional recognition and many awards … and enjoyed the assistance and funding of many governmental and non-governmental entities.”

The question then is whether this is a trust issue. Do the United States and the European Union not believe Israel’s assessment; are they truly incredulous of the accusations that these six NGOs are connected to the PFLP? The evidence supposedly is precise, with these organizations having already been exposed as having prior connections to the PFLP.

Or is it a political issue? Are America and Europe simply downplaying the accusations by Jerusalem because they want to be able to continue funding these organizations, which serve a larger political purpose in keeping the dream for a Palestinian state alive?

Furthermore, the fuzzy series of events that have taken place since Gantz’s announcement begs the question of why Israel needs to explain anything at this point if it did indeed inform the United States of its decision in the first place.

At a press briefing last week, a few days after Gantz’s announcement, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price denied that they had received advance information on the matter.

“It is to the best of our knowledge accurate that we did not receive a specific heads-up about any forthcoming designations,” he said.

Adding to the confusion, Zarka said he personally updated U.S. officials on Israel’s intention to outlaw the groups and believed that perhaps Washington simply wanted a more thorough explanation of the decision.

‘What will we have achieved?’

Tzoreff told JNS he believes that while there may be enough evidence to place these organizations on the list of terror supporters or collaborators, “this is not the issue.”

According to him, Israel needs to consider the ramifications of such a decision and should also consider the strategic aspect, which in this case involves multiple NGOs, the European Union and the United States.

Tzoreff expressed worry that Israel may come under so much pressure that it will be forced to reverse its decision “and then what will we have achieved?” he asked.

He suggested that instead of outlawing the NGOs, Israel needs to sometimes learn to live with contradictions in order to avoid these types of international blowups.

The question, he posed, is “how do we do it in a smart way and not in a way that complicates the situation?”

“The Israeli security establishment is known for professionalism and caution in its long deliberations before taking steps such as the closure of Palestinian bodies and institutions,” he wrote for INSS. “It is possible to arrest people on a terrorist charge, but closing an association or public body on a similar charge requires further thought and the inclusion of additional levels of government.”

In contrast to Tzoreff’s opinion that Israel should have perhaps taken a different route, Yossi Kuperwasser, a senior project director at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told JNS designating these organizations “was the right thing to do” since they serve as fronts for the PFLP.

“Many of their operatives are PFLP members,” he emphasized.

If Israel is justified in its designation of these NGOs as aiding and abetting terrorism, the question must also be asked as to why Europe and America aren’t vetting these organizations? Or if they have been, then why are they pouring millions of dollars of taxpayer money into them?

Kuperwasser said the Shin Bet security agency presented the international community with hard evidence in May of NGO collaboration with the PFLP, and while some countries did take note of the information and cut their aid, others ignored it.

He added that “those Europeans who insist on supporting these organizations don’t do due diligence.”

Reprinted with permission from JNS.org.

MIDDLE EAST European Rights Group: Palestinian Civil Society Workers’ Phones Hacked November 08, 2021 1:32 PM Ken Bredemeier

A European human rights group alleged Monday that Israeli-made Pegasus spyware was used to hack the phones of staff members of six Palestinian civil society groups that Israel’s defense ministry has designated as terrorist organizations.

Dublin-based Front Line Defenders said its allegation was confirmed independently by researchers for Amnesty International and the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab.

Front Line Defenders stopped short of blaming the Israeli government for installation of the spyware on the phones of the Palestinian human rights workers. But it condemned Israel’s designation of their organizations as linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, a Marxist group labeled as a terrorist organization by many Western nations, including the United States.

Last month, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz designated six Palestinian civil society territory groups in the occupied West Bank territories as “terrorist organizations.” The groups are Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children – Palestine, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, Bisan Center for Research and Development, and the Union of Palestinian Women Committees.

Israel declined Monday to comment on the allegation that Pegasus was used against the groups’ staff members but pushed back against international criticism of the terrorism designation against the organizations, saying it had an “excellent file” of evidence linking the groups to the PFLP.

Front Line Defenders said use of the Pegasus spyware made by NSO Group turns cell phones into pocket-spying devices, giving attackers “complete access to a phone’s messages, emails, media, microphone, camera, passwords, voice calls on messaging apps, location data, calls and contacts.”

The U.S. Commerce Department sanctioned the NSO Group last week, putting in on a blacklist that prohibits the company from receiving American technologies. It acted after U.S. officials determined that the NSO Group’s phone-hacking tools had been used by foreign governments to “maliciously target” government officials, journalists and activists around the world.

Asked about the new allegations, NSO Group said, “As we stated in the past, NSO Group does not operate the products itself … and we are not privy to the details of individuals monitored.” The company said it only sells to law enforcement and intelligence agencies and that it takes steps to curb abuse.

Front Line Defenders said it examined 75 iPhones and found six of them contaminated with the spyware, including phones used by Ghassan Halaika, a field researcher and human rights defender working for Al-Haq; Ubai Al-Aboudi, an American who is executive director of the Bisan Center for Research and Development; and French national Salah Hammouri, a lawyer and field researcher at the Jerusalem-based Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association.

Three other Palestinians whose phones were hacked declined to be identified.

Front Line Defenders said that use of the Pegasus spyware “means that, in addition to the targeting of Palestinians, including dual nationals, non-Palestinians (including foreign nationals and diplomats) with whom these victims were in contact, including Israeli citizens, could have also been subject to this surveillance, which, in the case of its citizens, would amount to a breach of Israeli law.”

In a statement, Front Line Defenders said it “strongly condemns the decision and allegations of terrorism brought against these Palestinian human rights organizations in response to their peaceful human rights work. Human rights defenders are not terrorists.”

Some material in this report was supplied by Agence France-Presse and Reuters.


Scientists for Palestine was live.

6 November at 19:0

On Friday October 22nd, in a troubling decision Israel’s Ministry of Defense designated six prominent Palestinian human rights organizations as “terrorist organizations”. This move has sent shockwaves across Palestinian civil society and raised alarms throughout the international community.The decision was made based on “secret evidence” that is essentially impossible to verify. Opposition to the extremely alarming decision has been remarkable, including among Israeli civil society and academics.Among the organizations included in this designation, is the Bisan Center for Research and Development, one of Scientists for Palestine main partners in Palestine. The Bisan center has many international partners and an exemplary reputation among scholars and educators. The other five organizations are Addameer, Al-Haq, Defense for Children International-Palestine, The Union of Agricultural Work Committees and The Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees.Join us for an exceptional and salient webinar where we will be given the chance to hear directly from Ubai Aboudi from the Bisan Center and Sahar Francis from Addameer. As directors of some of these organizations, they will discuss the consequences of this decision. We will also host Anat Matar, Israeli professor and long term activist for Palestinian rights, who will discuss the response of Israeli academia.We believe that as member of the international scientific and academic community, we must respond firmly to this unprecedented attack to academic freedom. Join us in this opportunity to learn first hand, how best to connect, and no longer remain silent!



Ettelaat Newspaper

Tehran Mirdamad BoulvardEttelaat International
  News Date: Tuesday 10 July 1399- 8 Dhi Al-Qaeda 1441-30 June 2020- No. 27592
What is post-Zionism? Ilan Pape – Translated by Mohsen Karbasforoshan – Part 6  

News Date: Tuesday 10 July 1399- 8 Dhi Al-Qaeda 1441-30 June 2020- No. 27592
What is post-Zionism? Ilan Pape – Translated by Mohsen Karbasforoshan – Part 6

The more the researcher university takes a position, the better the result will be. If clear and important positions are not taken, the research may be interpreted to the detriment of certain groups. The best way to understand and understand the nature of stance is to compare the result with the work of researchers we do not know. Criticism has allowed scholars in Israel to apply the Zionist interpretation of the idea of Israel as a text that can both destroy and enhance the lives and happiness of the people. The summary of this approach was that the power of Zionism – whether as a national movement in the eyes of some, or as an immigrant colonial movement in the eyes of others – is a powerful narrator. As a result of this approach, human emotions, actions, and cognition can be examined and criticized as a literary text, in which anyone can identify conspiracies, heroism, and crimes.

From the critic’s point of view, Zionism is a powerful story of an idea. In this story, each person’s position determines his or her destiny in real life in the Jewish state. If you are a Palestinian, then in this story you are considered a villain; But if you are a Mizrahi or Eastern Jew, you are a primitive relative. Comparing these definitions and examples, as seen in everything from research to cinema, was the first step in applying and implementing the methodology of cognition. The second step was an attempt to link practical political activities and strategies announced and imposed from above. This work was accompanied by ideas in the general culture and in the high culture of the society. Thus, if you were marginalized or hostile, it was a reflection of the way the centers of power treated you, both in worldly matters and in matters of originality. This meant that the power of interpretation could discover any aspect or aspect of life, whether in heterogeneous areas such as commercials on the radio, or in the characters of comics and television series, children’s literature and textbooks, or in newspapers, newspapers and magazines. Lectures by politicians and the like.

In addition, it is possible to see whether something has been omitted from the texts by looking at what is written or in visual form. As Edward Said has shown, the attitude of Jane Austen and her contemporaries to the issue of colonialism clearly indicates the lack of mention of colonies in books. Similarly, the absence of Arabs, Palestinians, Jewish Jews, and women has been seen in the works of Zionist scholars, as well as in films, museums, books, national celebrations, and signs and symbols. What was criticized in the 1990s was not based on fantasy. In fact, what was seen was criticized in such a way that the feeling was created that the process of investigation and investigation had gone beyond the realm of legitimate research. Overall, the review, analysis, and critique of documents was a kind of effective rescue operation against silent, absent, or unheard voices in texts written by rulers and usurpers. In doing so, oral history was accepted as a legitimate scientific method and source. In this way, even people who, due to illiteracy or lack of facilities due to the destruction of their land, could not keep a written record of the events, could now narrate their experiences and observations through the works and books of these researchers.

However, the academic researcher has more tasks ahead of him. Taking a stand, the social action that entered Israel in the 1990s, is a task that the researcher must bear. Taking a stand means that you have to put yourself in a position that is not in the national Zionist narrative, but against it. When you defend national claims to a collective and common past, identity, and future, you enter the realm of political activity around multicultural identity and order. The most vivid example of this came in the 1970s in the United States. In those years, only a few American universities were involved in what became known as the Cultural Wars (or Campus Wars). Hot debates over identity and equality and alliance and related political activities were identified as legitimate criteria for evaluating issues such as university admission, promotion, curriculum development, and the quality of work or academic textbooks.

In Israel, academics tried to follow suit. They wanted to represent the Palestinians, masseurs and feminists in this way, to announce their presence in the national tradition of the country and even to open a place for them in the cultural standards of the country. They firmly believed that representing these groups within Israeli academia would not only expose them to abuse in the past and present, but also ensure that they would be saved from suffering in the future. The first goal, that is, to show the trials and tribulations imposed on marginalized, oppressed, repressed, and repressed groups, was achieved on a large scale. Not achieved. The only group in Israel today that is better off than it was in the 1990s are women. The Palestinians, the Eastern Jews, and especially the Palestinian and Mazrahi women, formed a small, factional section of tens of thousands of Israeli university staff. Of these, one percent are Palestinians, nine percent are Jewish surgeons, and one percent are women surgeons.
Many Israeli academics are becoming anti-Zionist activists in pursuit of the truth. For many, however, political activity goes beyond writing articles and books; Because it may cost them dearly. Noam Chomsky has fluent prose. He has demonstrated the dominance of American universities in the face of the dominant ideologies in his work. In Israel, Ms. Tanya Reinhart, following Chomsky, wrote a book of fluent prose. In this book, he demonstrates the obedience of Israeli universities to their employers and political leaders. In addition, Chomsky’s dual involvement, who is both an expert linguist and a conscientious commentator on world affairs, has set an example for Reinhart and some of his colleagues, such as Rachel Giora and Mira Ariel in the linguistics department at Tel Aviv University. They joined members of the university’s philosophy department, such as Anat Biletzki and Anat Matar, professional moral philosophers, and questioned and denounced Israeli academics’ indifference to human issues. They even denounced the academics’ cooperation with the Israeli government in the occupation and discrimination against the Palestinians as ugly. “As academics, we must never forget our political duty,” Biletzki wrote. We have a duty to eradicate evil, ugliness and evil in all its forms. The occupation of Palestine is a manifestation of this evil. As academics, we must always sympathize with Palestinian professors and students who are in a state of repression. As academics, we must always criticize the satisfaction of others in Israel with the issue of occupation. “We, as academics, must always shout for the occupation to be condemned and blamed.”

However, Biletzki did not support the idea of boycotting Israeli universities; But at the same time, her colleague at the University of Tel Aviv, Anat Matar, in the Department of Philosophy, while calling for more academics to work against the occupation, also endorsed a call by Palestinian civil society for cultural sanctions. The flag of scientific freedom has been raised, it is the oppressor, not the oppressed, who is among those who raise this flag. What is this scientific freedom that calls for so much of the scientific community? Who cares about the quality and manner of scientific freedom in the Occupied Territories? Members of the Israeli academic community, on the other hand, are steadfastly defending their right to pursue what the Israeli regime expects of them, and are appointing former army commanders to academic positions. “Tel Aviv University boasts that 55 percent of its research funding comes from the Department of Defense, and says that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (APRAD) in the U.S. Department of Defense only funds 9 percent more for similar research!”


Ettelaat Newspaper

Tehran Mirdamad BoulvardEttelaat International

صفحات پي دي اف روزنامه اطلاعات فردا، ساعت 11 هرشب آپلود ميشود
تاريخ خبر: سه شنبه 10 تير 1399- 8 ذی القعده 1441ـ 30 ژوین 2020ـ شماره 27592

پساصهيونيسم چيست؟ايلان پاپه – ترجمه محسن كرباسفروشان – بخش ششم

دانشگاه محقق هر چه بيشتر موضع‌گيري كند، به همان ميزان هم حاصل کار بهتر خواهد بود. اگر مواضعي روشن و مهم اتخاذ نشود، ممكن است تحقيق به زيان گروه‌هاي خاصي تعبير و تمام شود. بهترين راه براي مغتنم دانستن و درک طبيعت موضع‌گيري اين است که نتيجه حاصله از آن را در قياس با حاصل کار محققاني قرار دهيم که آنها را نمي‌شناسيم. نقد به پژوهشگران در اسرائيل امكان داد تا تفسير صهيونيستي از ايده اسرائيل را به مثابه متني که مي‌تواند زندگي و خوشبختي مردمان را هم تخريب کند و هم ارتقا دهد، مورد عمل قرار دهند. چکيده اين رويکرد اين بود که قدرت صهيونيسم ـ چه به عنوان جنبش ملي در چشم برخي، و چه به عنوان جنبش استعماري مهاجر از نظر ديگران ـ يک راوي قدرتمند است. در نتيجه اين رويکرد، احساسات، عملکرد و شناخت انساني مي‌تواند به عنوان يک متن ادبي، که در آن، هر کسي مي‌تواند توطئه‌ها، قهرماني‌ها و تبهکاري‌ها را بازشناسي کند، مورد بررسي و نقد قرار گيرد.

از ديد نقّاد، صهيونيسم داستان قدرتمند يک انديشه است. در اين داستان، جايگاه هر فرد سرنوشت او را در زندگي واقعي در كشور يهود تعيين مي‌کند. اگر شما فلسطيني هستيد، در اين صورت در اين داستان تبهکاري رذل به حساب مي‌آييد؛ اما اگر يهودي مزراحي يا شرقي باشيد، يک خويشاوند بدوي محسوب مي‌شويد. مقايسه اين تعاريف و مصاديق، آن‌گونه که در همه چيز ـ از تحقيق و پژوهش گرفته تا سينماـ ديده مي‌شد، نخستين گام در کاربرد و پياده‌سازي روش شناخت بود. دومين گام، کوششي بود که براي ربط دادن فعاليت‌هاي سياسي عملي و راهبردهاي اعلام و تحميل شده از بالا، به انجام مي‌رسيد. اين كار، با پنداشت‌هايي در فرهنگ عمومي و در فرهنگ بالاي جامعه، همراه بود. بدين ‌قرار اگر شما جزو به حاشيه رانده‌شدگان يا دشمنان بوديد، اين امر انعکاسي از روش و رفتار مراکز قدرت با شما، هم در مسائل دنيوي و هم در موضوعات مرتبط با اصالت وجود بود. اين امر بدين معنا بود که قدرت تفسير مي‌توانست هر وجه يا جنبه از زندگي را کشف کند، چه در محدوده‌هايي نامتجانس همچون آگهي‌هاي بازرگاني در راديو، يا در شخصيت‌هاي طنزها و سريال‌هاي تلويزيوني، ادبيات کودکان و كتاب‌هاي درسي، و چه در روزنامه‌هاي سياسي دولتي، سخنراني‌هاي سياستمداران و نظاير آنها.

علاوه بر اين، مي‌توان با مراجعه به آنچه به صورت نوشته يا در فرم بصري موجود است، دريافت که آيا از متون چيزي کاسته شده است يا خير. همان‌گونه که ادوارد سعيد نشان داده است، طرز برخورد جين آستين و معاصرانش به مسأله استعمار، از فقدان ذکر کُلُني‌ها در کتاب‌ها به‌روشني حکايت مي‌کند. به همين ترتيب غيبت اعراب، فلسطيني‌ها، يهوديان مزراحي و زنان در کارهاي پژوهشگران صهيونيست و نيز در فيلم‌ها، موزه‌ها، کتاب‌ها، جشنهاي ملي و علائم و نشانه‌ها، ديده شده است. آنچه در سالهاي 1990 نقد شد، بر خيالات و موهومات تکيه نداشت. در حقيقت آنچه ديده مي‌شد، نقد شد، به‌گونه‌اي که اين احساس به‌وجود آمد که روند تحقيق و بررسي فراتر از حوزه تحقيق مشروع پيش رفته است. در مجموع بررسي، تحليل و نقد اسناد و مدارک يک نوع عمليات نجات مؤثر نسبت به صداهاي خاموش و غايب يا شنيده نشده در متون نوشته شده به دست حاکمان و غاصبان بود. با اين كار، تاريخ شفاهي به عنوان شيوه و منبع علمي مشروع، پذيرفته شد. به اين ترتيب حتي مردماني که به واسطه بي‌سوادي يا فقدان امکانات ناشي از تخريب و انهدام سرزمين‌شان، نتوانسته بودند شاهد مکتوبي از رخداد‌ها باقي گذارند، اکنون مي‌توانستند تجربيات و مشاهدات خود را از طريق کارها و کتاب‌هاي اين پژوهشگران روايت کنند.

با اين حال، پژوهشگر دانشگاهي، وظيفه‌اي بيش از اين، پيش رو دارد. اتخاذ موضع، کنش اجتماعي‌اي که در سالهاي 1990 وارد اسرائيل شد، وظيفه‌اي است که پژوهشگر بايد بار آن را بر دوش کشد. موضع‌گيري به اين معناست که شما مجبوريد خود را در موضعي قرار دهيد که در روايت صهيونيستي ملي جاي نگيريد، بلکه عليه آن باشيد. وقتي شما از ادعاهاي ملي نسبت به يک گذشته، هويت و آينده جمعي و مشترک دفاع مي‌کنيد، در اين صورت وارد عرصه فعاليت‌هاي سياسي پيرامون هويت و نظم و نسق چند‌فرهنگي مي‌شويد. پر جنب و جوش‌ترين نمونه دانشگاهي در اين مورد، در سالهاي 1970 در آمريكا بروز كرد. در آن سالها، فقط چند دانشگاهي آمريكايي در رخدادي درگير شدند که به جنگهاي فرهنگي (يا جنگهاي پرديس‌هاي دانشگاهي) شهرت يافت. مباحثه‌هاي داغ پيرامون هويت و يکساني و اتحاد و فعاليت‌هاي سياسي مرتبط با آن به عنوان ضوابط و معيارهاي مشروع براي ارزيابي موضوعاتي چون پذيرش در دانشگاه‌، ترفيع، تدوين برنامه تحصيلي، و کيفيت کار يا کتاب دانشگاهي تعيين شدند.

در اسرائيل، دانشگاهيان کوشيدند از اين وضعيت پيروي کنند. آنها مي‌خواستند فلسطينيان، مزراحي‌ها و فمينيست‌ها را در اين راه نمايندگي کنند، حضورشان را در روايت ملي کشور اعلام و حتي جايي براي آنان در معيار‌هاي فرهنگي کشور باز كنند. آنها عقيده‌اي محکم داشتند که با نمايندگي کردن اين گروه‌ها درون محيط‌هاي دانشگاهي اسرائيل، نه‌تنها بدرفتاري با آنها در گذشته و حال آشکار مي‌شود، بلکه نجات آنان از شر اين مصائب در آينده نيز تضمين خواهد شد. نخستين هدف، يعني نشان دادن محاکمات و عذاب‌هاي تحميل شده بر گروه‌هاي به حاشيه رانده شده، مظلوم، سرکوفته و واپس رانده شده، در سطحي وسيع به دست آمد، دومين خواست و آرزو، يعني رهايي اين گروه‌ها از شرارت‌ها و زشتي‌ها در آينده، اصلا حاصل نشد. تنها گروهي که در اسرائيل امروزي وضعيتي بهتر از سالهاي 1990 دارد، زنان هستند. فلسطينيان، يهوديان شرقي و به‌ويژه زنان فلسطيني و مزراحي، بخش کوچک و فراکسيوني شامل ده‌هزار نفر از کارمندان دانشگاه‌هاي اسرائيل تأسيس کردند. در اين تعداد، يک درصد فلسطيني، نُه درصد يهودي مزراحي و يک درصد زنان مزراحي حضور دارند.‏

بسياري از دانشگاهيان اسرائيل در راه دستيابي به حقيقت، فعال ضد صهيونيست مي‌شوند. با اين حال، براي بسياري از آنان، فعاليت سياسي فراتر از نوشتن مقاله و کتاب نمي‌رود؛ چراكه ممكن است بهاي آن کار برايشان سنگين باشد. نوآم چامسکي نثري روان‌ و روشن دارد. او سلطه‌پذيري دانشگاه‌هاي آمريكايي را در رويارويي با ايدئولوژي‌هاي برتر و مسلط در آثار خود نشان داده است. در اسرائيل، خانم تانيا رينهارت به تبعيت از چامسکي، کتابي با نثري روان‌ و روشن نوشته است. او در اين کتاب فرمانبرداري دانشگاه‌هاي اسرائيل را از کارفرمايان و رؤساي سياسي خود به نمايش گذاشته است. علاوه بر اين، مشغوليت مضاعف چامسکي، که هم زبان‌شناسي خبره است و هم مفسري باوجدان در مسائل جهاني است، از او سرمشقي ساخته است براي رينهارت و برخي همکارانش، نظير راشل جيورا و ميرا آريل در بخش زبان‌شناسي دانشگاه تل‌آويو. ‎‏اين اشخاص به نفراتي از بخش فلسفه دانشگاه، مثل آنات بيلتسکي و آنات متار، که فيلسوفان اخلاقي حرفه‌اي بودند، پيوستند و بي‌عاطفگي دانشگاهيان اسرائيلي را نسبت به مسائل انساني، زير سؤال بردند و محکوم كردند. آنها حتي همکاري اين دانشگاهيان را با دولت‌هاي اسرائيلي در زمينه اشغال و تبعيض عليه فلسطينيان، زشت و ننگين برشمردند و محکوم کردند. بيلتسکي نوشت: «ما به عنوان دانشگاهي، نبايد هرگز وظيفه سياسي خود را فراموش کنيم. ما موظفيم بدي، زشتي و شرّ را در همه اشکالش ريشه‌کن کنيم. اشغال فلسطين مظهر اين شرّ است. ما بايست به عنوان دانشگاهي، همواره با استادان و دانشجويان فلسطيني که در شرايط بد سرکوبي به سر مي‌برند، احساس همدردي کنيم. ما بايد به عنوان دانشگاهي، همواره رضايتمندي ديگران را در اسرائيل، نسبت به مسأله اشغال مورد انتقاد قرار دهيم. ما بايد به عنوان دانشگاهي، همواره محکوميت و قابل سرزنش بودن اشغال را فرياد کنيم.»

با وجود اين، بيلتسکي از ايده تحريم دانشگاه‌هاي اسرائيل حمايت نکرد؛ اما در همان حال، همکارش در دانشگاه تل‌آويو، آنات متار در بخش فلسفه، ضمن اينکه همچون او خواستار فعاليت هر چه بيشتر دانشگاهيان عليه اشغال بود، فراخوان جامعه مدني فلسطيني را هم که مبني بر تحريم فرهنگي بود، تأييد کرد و نوشت: «وقتي پرچم آزادي علمي برافراشته است، اين ستمگر است و نه ستمديده که در جمع كساني قرار دارد که اين پرچم را برافراشته مي‌دارد. اين آزادي علمي چيست که اين همه جامعه علمي را به خود مي‌خواند؟ کي به کيفيت و چگونگي آزادي علمي در سرزمين‌هاي‌ اشغالي اهميت داده شده است؟ از سوي ديگر، اعضاي جامعه دانشگاهي اسرائيل از حق خود براي تحقيق آنچه رژيم اسرائيل از آنان انتظار دارد، با ثبات کامل پاسداري مي‌کنند و فرماندهان سابق ارتش را به منصب‌هاي دانشگاهي منصوب مي‌کنند. دانشگاه تل‌آويو به اينکه 55درصد بودجه تحقيقاتي‌اش را وزارت دفاع تأمين مي‌كند، به خود مي‌بالد و مي‌گويد آژانس پروژه‌هاي تحقيقاتي پيشرفته دفاعي (‏APRAD‏) در بخش دفاعي ايالات متحده فقط 9درصد بيشتر از اين مبلغ براي تحقيقات مشابه تأمين بودجه مي‌کند!»


Critical, neo-Marxist Scholarship Enables Falsification and Poseur: Smadar Lavie as a Case in Point


Editorial Note

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) recently published an article, “Confession and Mirage: Professor Mas`uda and the Ashkenazim-for-Palestine in Israel’s Academe.” It was written by Professor Emerita Smadar Lavie from UC Berkeley who argued that “Ashkenazi upper-class Israeli faculty make Palestine advocacy their international career.”   This is a bold admission that rings true.  As IAM has repeatedly demonstrated, activist academics have used Palestinian advocacy to build flourishing international careers.  

Lavie’s mother was of Yemeni origin, and her father was a Jew from Latvia who escaped the Holocaust and settled in Palestine. By her account, Lavie had a good childhood in Israel. She became a youth journalist in the Maariv for Youth Journal, where she met many of the Israeli elite, including Prime Minister Golda Meir.  She was well-integrated and suffered no ethnic discrimination or prejudice.  

While at Hebrew University, Lavie focused on the South Sinai Bedouin Tribe of Mzeina and was interviewed twice on the radio station Galei Tzahal.

She had won a Fulbright scholarship to the University of California at Berkeley.  Known as a Mecca of anti-Israeli scholarship, it was one of the first to propagate the idea that Israel was a colonial society created by Ashkenazi Jews who subjugated the native Palestinian population.  It took Lavie little time to catch on to the colonial tune, as her co-written article demonstrated:  

“The Zionist leadership had to invent an Israeli national tradition on account of the immigrant Eastern European Jews’ rapid transformation from a disenfranchised, persecuted ethnoreligious minority to a colonial settler minority among a Palestinian majority, itself colonized by the British. In the Zionists’ aspiration to become the independent majority in Palestine, they had to rupture the European textual continuity of their victimized diasporic Jewish past and create a new fictionalized continuity of bold Jewish experience qua text in the biblical promised land… And colonialism, even when practiced by a persecuted minority, wreaks terror upon not only the colonized peoples but the colonizers themselves. To justify their methods of terror, the colonizers have to invent the colonized as a dangerously bizarre beast… Primitivizing the Bedouin served two purposes for the Zionists and was accomplished with contradictory discursive strategies. The Bedouin were savage because they were Arab, and therefore colonizing them was morally just.”  

During this time, she “converted” herself from being an Israeli to an “Arab Jew.”  In a 1989 interview, she stated:  “As an Arab Jew, I noticed that none of the Israeli leaders ever bothered to find out if I was interested in the image that the Ashkenazis had created of me as part of that exotic and semi-civilized in their society.”  

With her new identity as a Mizrahi victim established, she was on her way to engaging in serious political activism.  In 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, she signed a petition calling to Boycott Israeli Academic Institutions.

She joined the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow in 2004, recalling, “from Mizrahi and Palestinian positionalities, Rafi Shubeli and I led the first-ever academic conference to contextualize Ashkenazi Jews in whiteness studies. On the conference day, we had unexpected guests—dozens of retired Ashkenazim who came to remind us that without the education they bestowed upon us, we could not have put on such a conference.”

Also, in 2004, Lavie worked on a project with like-minded activists, submitting a grievance against all Israeli research universities. The grievance complained that there was a nearly complete absence of tenured Mizrahi and Palestinian faculty, mainly women, from their anthropology departments. The grievance urged the ombudsman to investigate—and undo—”the intellectual community property violations committed by Israeli academic faculty who profit from the Mizrahi and Palestinian cultures from which they build their careers. It also requested that the state comptroller investigate why Israeli anthropologists performed their studies without adhering to a research ethics code. To this day, we’re still waiting for an answer.”  Following the grievance, Lavie joined forces with the Palestinian NGO Mossawa and founded the Mizrahi-Palestinian Coalition against Apartheid in Israeli Anthropology (CAAIA) to conduct an “international campaign against the denial of cultural rights for Mizrahim and Palestinians.”

When visiting Israel, she grieved, “The immediacy of Israel-Palestine and the normalization of the occupation constrict my body like the barbed wire of the apartheid wall that cuts deeply into the flesh.” 

With so much time spent on political activism, she had little time for scholarly work.  She wrote, “Unfortunately, my economic hardship and the daily demands of activism took time away from academic research… my professional CV marred by a large gap in scholarly publications.”   

Somewhere along the way, her radicalization as “an Arab Jew” feminist had deepened.  After participating in peace forums for years, she attacked her camp comrades. She wrote that the “peace-industry” of the Israeli-Ashkenazi feminists is “turning magic into science in order to be funded, published, and promoted… With the post-Oslo economics, Mizrahi and Palestinian women trudge around the poverty line and thus often resort to charities.” In late 2002, “the whole dialogue industry rolled about 9 million dollars of US and EU tax deductible donations a year… Almost all peace and coexistence funding comes from abroad. In my work I’ve always argued that the Left is part of Israel’s hegemony. No wonder, thus, that ‘Mizrahi feminist critique is always abhorred by hegemonic discourse’.

Lavie continued, “Without an oncle d’Amerique, the racinated Mizrahi feminist is not allowed to enter either the peace-club or any sites of the tight-knit Israeli cultural and/or economic elites… The Israeli feminist peace camp practices elaborate theatrics – petitions in major newspapers, whether The New York Times or Haaretz, well- televised demonstrations, marches, and teach-ins, cyberspace e-group discussions, or sisterhood weekends with upper class Palestinians in wonderland retreats. These are almost 100 per cent Ashkenazi… there is a paradoxical incongruence between the oracular of the wealthyly-married and the lived experience of everybody else. The feminists’ peace discourse is thus consumed by those who can pay the hard cash necessary to enter the cosmopolitan Ashkenazi intellectual sphere… ‘good Jews’ as performers, audience and constituencies both at home and in the Western abroad. Such Israeli ambiguous peace and co-existence practices are forms of… colonialist witchcraft.” 

Lavie gained further notoriety in a petition calling for the boycott of Israel at the American Anthropological Association business meeting on November 20, 2015. 

She also attracted the attention of radical feminist Judith Butler who professed to be fascinated by Lavie’s “revelations”.  She wrote her a letter saying, “I think you are showing me that the Mizrahim, and Mizrahi women especially, lead lives that do not ‘count’ in the Israeli public and cultural world. What a profound irony for the leading Ashkenazim to find out that by insisting on their racist demand that Jews always maintain majority rule in Israel that they will be, in effect, relying on the majority of Jews from Arab descent. They will then act as if that majority is Ashkenazi, but they will be exploiting the population’s numbers that the Sephardim and Mizrahim secure for them. And also, within the peace camp, it seems incredible that there can be this strong criticism of the occupation, of the treatment of Palestinians under colonial rule, but that somehow no recognition is made that citizenship within Israel is, by definition, racist, and that not all Jews have the cultural and political rights of citizenship. These matters are linked, and in a social movement that put peace and social justice together, they would have to be thought in their systematic relation to one another… I apologize for the fact that my eyes were not fully open before. In solidarity, Judith.”

Had Butler investigated Lavie’s life trajectory, she would have uncovered the truth.  Lavie is a Mizrahi poseur; she grew up in privileged circumstances as part of the Israeli elite and made a switch to a pro-Palestinian “Mizrahi” to promote her career.



Copyright American Association of University Professors, 2021
Confession and Mirage: Professor Mas`uda and the Ashkenazim-for-Palestine in Israel’s Academe*

Smadar Lavie

This autoethnography unveils its thesis as the biographic narrative unfolds. Ashkenazi upper-class Israeli faculty make Palestine advocacy their international career. When threatened, North American–Western European white colleagues, employing the dualism Israel-Palestine, obtain for these Ashkenazi upper-class Israeli faculty cushy Western positions. Mizrahi anti-Zionist intellectuals and activists are not the secular Ashkenazim with whom Western academics are familiar. Shunned from professorships due to the whiteness of Israel’s academe, their activism is in dialogue with the traditional Judaism of right-wing Mizrahi communities. Ashkenazi anti-Zionists have minimal constituencies in Israel and converse in English with Palestine scholars and activists outside Israel. Their impact on Israel’s Mizrahim (roughly half of Israel’s citizen body) is negligeable. Mizrahi exiles, however, converse in Hebrew with their constituencies.
The front-page story published in Haaretz Weekly Magazine got me on a strange Shavuot 2020 holiday eve, sheltering in place in San Francisco with my son and his partner (Littman 2020). It told the story of Israeli leftist professors in exile, mostly Ashkenazim, who left their university appointments for cushy academic positions in Britain and the United States. It triggered my own longings for the homeland. Rippled images of
 For Carol Bruch.
AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom 2
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the anemone fields on the Gaza border. The mulberry tree in my granny’s Jerusalem backyard. Fig season. I yearn for the relative quietude of Tel Aviv at Shabbat eve’s dusk and ache for the cacophony of El Nora `Alila melodies, the prayer that climbed to the skies from the synagogues of my granny’s ‘hood at the end of Yom Kippur.
I am an academic political exile, but my story—personal and professional—is radically different from the one told by Haaretz. Mas`uda (Arabic for “joy”), from the title to this essay, is a common Middle Eastern woman’s name. It is also the colloquial Hebrew slang for the Mizrahi Big Mama from the barrio, often far from Tel Aviv: heavyset, loud, and uneducated. Professor Mas`uda’s destiny lies outside academe. Her college application would be tossed aside for the name alone. Israel’s fifty percent citizen majority is the Mizrahim, or Jews with origins in the Arab and Muslim World and the margins of Ottoman Europe. The other two segments of Israel’s citizenry are the twenty percent Palestinians with Israeli citizenship, and the remaining thirty percent Ashkenazim, or European Jews of Yiddish-speaking origins. Ashkenazim control the division of power and privilege in the state.
Haaretz regularly publishes items about the anticolonial struggle of Palestinians, brazenly reports Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians, and is well read by the Palestinian intelligentsia and in Palestine solidarity circuits in North America and Europe. What Haaretz won’t publish are pieces exposing the racism of Ashkenazi pro-Palestine intellectuals toward Mizrahim. The textual benevolence of these anti-Zionist Ashkenazi intellectuals provides absolution for their daily racist practices toward Mizrahi plumbers, cleaners, nannies—toward all Mizrahim. Thus, my framing complicates the Palestine-Israel binary characterizing much of the critical anticolonial and anti-Zionist dialogue. It highlights the Israeli Ashkenazi intelligentsia’s own in-home, intra-Jewish racism. Israel’s Mizrahi majority is racialized into a disenfranchised minority. Nonacademic Israelis—most of whom are Mizrahim—use the term “Ashkenazi Academic Junta,” or “the Academic Junta” to indicate their estrangement from the impenetrable networks of the Israeli academic elite (Blachman 2005; Zarini 2004). 1
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A Halfie Kid
Since childhood, I’ve known I’m a guest—an occupier—on this land, a fact that doesn’t detract from my love for it. Unlike many of my comrades in the Mizrahi struggle, I’m a halfie. I grew up in Holon, a Tel Aviv satellite city, in the Labor A neighborhood, a bastion of the Ashkenazi middle class. My Yemeni mother said, “You can’t trust the Arabs. I know them from before the state’s foundation,” but my Litvak father, a Dachau survivor, was highly critical of the Zionist operation (Lavie 2018a). My Jerusalemite Yemeni granny divided history into “before the state burst out” and “after the state burst out.” When I was in third grade, my father told me about the Nakba. “Don’t talk about it or the kids at school will beat you up,” he advised. In sixth grade, he told me about the Haganah commandos expelling the Palestinians from Lubya—the village neighboring his kibbutz, Beit Keshet. “The State of Israel is a historical mistake and a ‘no choice’ fact on the ground. One can always fix mistakes.” This is how, as a child, I was introduced to the One State vision.
My mother worried I would get brown brown. “You have enough problems as a smart gal. Go practice your piano, forget politics, and sign up for Weight Watchers.” My dark skin, wide hips, loud voice, and ever-increasing consciousness of state injustices enforced on Mizrahim made it impossible to enjoy my father’s Ashkenazi privilege. “Shaynele Schwartzele” (Yiddish for “beautiful little black girl”), cooed the neighbors growing up.
During elementary school, I was “a young journalist” for a children’s weekly magazine. At the end of sixth grade, right after the June 1967 war, while everyone was ecstatic about the victory of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), I published an essay condemning the destruction of the Mughrabi quarter and the expulsion from the Western Wall Plaza of Palestinian locals whose ancestors had been there for centuries.2 In 1971, as a youth reporter for another weekly, I interviewed Yitzhak Halutzi and Vicki Shiran—the founder of the 1990s Mizrahi feminist movement—on their Black Panther theater.3 I also interviewed my peers from Kafr Qasim, asking whether their parents’ memories of the Israel Border Police massacre would facilitate our coexistence.4 Despite our political
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differences, Maariv senior journalist and Stern Gang alum Geula Cohen mentored me in journalistic writing.5 Later on, Geula’s son, Tzachi Hanegbi, who would become Israel’s justice minister, whipped me with a bicycle chain during the Hebrew University students’ protests against the dispossession of the Bedouin from their lands.6 “You got what you deserve!” Geula laughed.
Givat Ram, the Hebrew University
After adventurous military service as an IDF hiking guide and a year of fieldwork among the South Sinai Bedouin, I arrived at the Hebrew University’s Givat Ram campus. Appeasing my mother, I registered and was admitted to the very selective medical school.
But I wanted anthropology. The admission committee rebuked me, “Whaat?! A Yemeni studying anthropology?! Why not a stable profession like medicine?”
I owe much of my anthropologist identity to my mentors, Emanuel Marx and Don Handelman, even though we were so divided on politics. Emanuel oversaw my field research, and Don was and still is one of my theoretical lightning rods. On Don’s balcony, discussions on “the historical mistake” and discrimination against Mizrahim always ended in a screaming match followed by heavy silence. Years later, during a visit from Berkeley, Don said, “So . . . now Baruch [Kimmerling] is saying the same [on “the historical mistake”], so you were probably right” (Kimmerling 2004).7
I spent most of my BA years doing anthropological fieldwork in the Sinai. In my student circle, I was the only Mizrahi activist in the Palestinian-Israeli non-Zionist student movement (see Greenberg 2019). At the end of my sophomore year, Don told me, “You are so talented, original, and hardworking, but you don’t stand a chance here. Go to America. They have excellent anthropology departments, and you can get a full scholarship.” Later on, I passed my knowledge of “how to get admitted to US PhD programs on a full scholarship” to generations of Mizrahim and Palestinians who couldn’t realize their full potential due to the choke chain of Israel’s social sciences and humanities.
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In September 1979, I landed in Berkeley straight from the Sinai, my untamed curls woven, Bedouin girly style, into four braids. Officially, I had not received a BA. In the final course, I received a “fail.” My father and Don filed an appeal with the dean. The external committee the dean convened to evaluate my final paper gave me a 96/100. My BA arrived together with my Berkeley MA. In the spring of 1980, way before the birth of queer theory, I wrote my MA paper on Papua New Guinea initiation rites as drag performances. One teacher, a junior faculty member, gave me an A+, but the senior professor failed me. He told me his parents were best pals with Golda Meir. “You don’t belong in the program!” he announced. “You can’t be more than a typist!” Due to the dispute, all the cultural anthropology professors read the paper and decided that I indeed deserved an A+.
My second-year scholarship was dependent on a teaching assistantship. The anthropology department thought it best used on a Hebrew language course. Word likely got around about my activism to the professors administering the Hebrew teaching assistantships, and they too probably didn’t want me on campus. But they did appoint the Ashkenazi elite Israeli students, who participated in activism critical of Israel, as TAs for Hebrew language courses. Was it because I joined the campus’s Arab Student Union, where Israel was still “the Zionist entity”? Or because during lunch breaks, I argued with the Hillel House campaigners?8 When Middle Eastern studies are at stake—specifically the Palestine-Israel conflict—there is no academic freedom in the United States (see Deeb and Winegar 2016).9
And yet, at Berkeley, I could live up to my agency. It was acceptable to discuss Zionism within the framework of the colonialist-settler project and analyze it through the optics of critical race theory. We were a tight cohort spread between Santa Cruz, Stanford, and Berkeley—the first generation of PhD candidates to contextually analyze comparative colonial discourse and challenge the traditional format of academic writing.
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In 1981, together with a group of Palestinians, Arabs, Arab Americans, Ashkenazi Israelis, and American Jews (Ashkenazi by default), I cofounded the Committee for Academic Freedom in the Israeli-Occupied Territories (CAFIOT). The only two Mizrahim in CAFIOT were myself and a sociology PhD candidate, a former member of Matzpen, a revolutionary socialist, anti-Zionist Israeli group.10 A devout Marxist, he argued that identity politics interfered with class struggle, and thus he ignored the Mizrahi struggle. Despite this, he could not land an academic position in Israel.
In the summer of 1982, just before the Lebanon War, I teamed up with a Palestinian PhD candidate to teach Berkeley’s first-ever student-initiated course on modern Palestine’s history. We also discussed the complicated relationship between Mizrahim and the Palestinian struggle. Hillel conducted a smear campaign to cancel the course. Assisted by the student-of-color unions, we achieved a majority vote in the general assembly. Shortly thereafter, my Palestinian colleague and I were summoned to the president’s office. The two professors who had prevented me from TAing in the Hebrew language courses were already waiting for us inside. “Why teach about Palestine? It ceased to exist in 1948,” said the historian among them. “But you teach about the Ottoman Empire,” I replied. “It ceased to exist way before 1948.” The president, who presented himself as a Jew, approved the course. It was a hit. Its students subsequently organized mass demonstrations on campus after the Sabra and Shatila Massacre.11 Hillel deployed its requisite pair of Yemeni Israeli students as its “diversity assets,” who frequently showed up to interrupt our campus events. But even this didn’t help them secure tenure-track positions at Israeli universities.
I received my PhD in 1989 with four articles published in refereed journals, several articles in press, and a book contract with the University of California Press. Together with me, a CAFIOT member from another department marched down the aisle to receive her doctorate. Two years prior to graduation, she returned to Israel and immediately landed a tenure-track position at the Hebrew University. All she did was submit the proposed chapter titles for her doctoral thesis. For the first time, I understood that as long as you are an elite Ashkenazi, criticizing Israel is
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profitable. Moreover, the university uses you as a trophy to prove its academic freedom.
I wanted to go home. In the final year of my doctoral studies, Emanuel and Don suggested I apply for the Hebrew University’s Alon Scholarship—a postdoc for outstanding young scholars returning to Israel. My application was rejected. The scholarship was granted to another Jerusalemite elite Ashkenazi who lived in Berkeley. Her doctorate was from a study-by-correspondence university with no accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges under the US Department of Education.
I landed a tenure-track position at the University of California, Davis, and commuted from Berkeley. Many of my generation doing critical anthropology about the Israel-Palestine conflict could not secure academic appointments and went to law school or pursued an MBA. Others were stuck in remote universities. US elite universities are fearful of being labeled “anti-Semitic” by the pro-Israel lobby and its Jewish donors (see Deeb and Winegar 2016). “Fortunately, your ethnography is about the theater of Egyptian Bedouin,” remarked my US colleagues. Only after September 11 did the generations of young PhDs in critical anthropology of the Middle East land positions at elite US universities. Still, in today’s star-studded anthropology department at Berkeley, not one faculty member specializes in Israel-Palestine. “Israeli studies” have been exiled from the humanities to Berkeley’s law school.
My career flowered. I obtained generous research grants, invitations to conferences, publications in prestigious periodicals, quotations, and prizes. These led to an accelerated tenured associate professorship after a year of postdoc and three years as faculty. I enjoyed a loving support system of students and colleagues protecting me from the campus’s powerful Zionist lobby. Nevertheless, I wanted to go home. I applied to every job opening in Israeli sociology and anthropology departments. I wanted to be part of the Mizrahi consciousness revolution that started in Israel in the early 1990s, to teach Mizrahi and Palestinian Israeli students. But I was always rejected. Those who rejected me still asked that I pull strings for their abstracts to get admitted to conferences or departmental colloquia.
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In 1990, I shifted my research center from Egypt to Israel, studying the disjuncture between Ashkenazified Mizrahi and Palestinian hybrid poets and authors who write in Hebrew but whose mother tongue is Arabic (see Lavie 1992). My American colleagues started to shift their focus inward to study their own cultures rather than those of faraway places. I, too, wanted to shift from “fieldwork” to “homework” (Lavie and Swedenburg 1996). I understood that research and publication of critical scholarship on Israel-Palestine was a career risk. In 1990, I was a US-based scholar. I knew that studying intra-Jewish racism in the homeland of the Jews could alarm the highly influential pro-Israel lobby. Nevertheless, I thought my tenure-track position would provide safe harbor for “Hebrew as Step-Mother Tongue,” my next project.
In 1993, when visiting Israel, anthropology and sociology departments invited me to lecture. At the Hebrew University, I spoke about the intersection of race(ism) and gender in the lives of Mizrahi women poets. As the lecture went on, faculty left the seminar room one by one, slamming the door each time. From then on, I was boycotted by the Israeli academic establishment. They argued that “racialization,” “racism,” “border crossing,” “silencing,” “hybridity,” or “intersection-ality” were not suitable for analysis of Israeli identities, and that feminism of color lacked a scientific foundation (see Hess 1994). Even so, these same concepts sometimes made their way into Israeli academic and public discourse. My work was appropriated without credit.
Southside Tel Aviv
My Berkeley Camelot ended abruptly in 1999, on the eve of my becoming a full professor. Even with my academic success and activism, my son and I lived the nightmare of domestic violence. In February 1999, we fled to Israel. During the abduction trial, the Israeli courts confiscated our Israeli and US passports, and in 2001, the Israeli Supreme Court (verdict 4445/96) cleared me of any and all allegations brought by my ex-husband in the United States, Israel, and The Hague. After the verdict, my son and I received our US passports but not our Israeli ones. So, we were stuck in Israel until receiving our Israeli passports in October 2005. Israeli citizens
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having multiple citizenships must enter or depart from Israel using their Israeli passports.
These were the years of the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords. Haim Beresheeth, an old friend and a Mazpenist returning from Britain, invited me to the Sapir College in Sderot—a small, largely Mizrahi desert town about five kilometers from the Israeli border with Gaza. Haim hired me as a tenure-track professor to establish a cultural studies department in the communication school he founded, but the college withdrew its promise to allocate tenure lines for other faculty. I couldn’t understand how I, alone, was expected to establish a department, run it, and teach all of its courses. The college aspired to attract “quality students,” that is, affluent Ashkenazim, rather than Mizrahim from the local disenfranchised communities, and relied on inexpensive adjuncts. So I resigned. The October 2000 Palestinian uprisings, Al-Aqsa Intifada,12 and the college’s unfulfilled promises shipped Haim back to Britain and sent me to Israel’s welfare lines. Under abusive employment terms, Beit Berl Teachers College hired me as a part-time adjunct.
In 2001, Haaretz published an article on Ashkenazi women professors who complained about discrimination in academia (Caspi 2001). In response, I wrote “In Search of the Mizrahi Woman Professor” (Lavie 2002a). Haaretz rejected it due to “lack of interest and space.” Yet after I sent it to email lists of Israeli academics, it went viral. It caught the attention of Billie Moscona-Lerman, a senior journalist at Israel’s largest daily, Yediot Aharonot.
Billie’s front-page story, “For You, a Mizrahi Woman Is Just a Maid,” got me on prime-time TV, where I was introduced as the “Mizrahi unemployed professor from Berkeley” (Moscona-Lerman 2002). The leftie Ashkenazi producers cast me as “the angry Mizrahi feminist.” Though it was the habitual TV screaming match, I put on my polite American smile and waited quietly until the ruckus died down.
“The Ashkenazim, in their Mt. Scopus bunker-like campus, have the memory of an elephant, and you must stay sane!” ordered the great mother and soul sister Vicki Shiran. “Come join Ahoti [Israel’s Mizrahi feminist movement]!13 We need you! You have your Berkeley activism and great English. Connect us with similar organizations globally!” One
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of the joint projects Vicki, Yifat Hillel, and I worked on was writing weekly to all academic conferences’ organizers who published ads in Haaretz. We asked why no Mizrahi women were in their list of speakers. We sent follow-ups but never received an answer.
During my Israeli years, I fought against the treatment of children as property. In cases of divorce, children are often shuffled from one parent to another, or even worse, taken from their parents’ homes and forced to attend boarding schools. I assisted dozens of mothers, mostly Mizrahi, to face Israel’s aggressive family courts, welfare authorities, and psychological and psychiatric establishments. In 2002, my essay “A Pedophile Father Is Better than an Alienating Mother” was published on an influential Israeli legal website and submitted to Israel’s Supreme Court as an expert opinion (Lavie 2002b). From then on, the powerful deadbeat dad lobby has denigrated my reputation and threatened me in all possible ways.
In 2004, I cofounded the Coalition of Women for Mothers and Children with Esther Herzog and Hanna Beit Halachmi. It was the widest coalition in Israel’s feminist history, including Islamist feminists and Orthodox Jewish settlers from the Occupied Territories. University feminists opposed my activism, labeling me “an extremist,” but appropriated my ideas for their English-language academic publications. “It’s not because of your politics or ethnic origins,” chimed an Ashkenazi professor who identifies with Mizrahi feminism. “You’re too old to fit in with the academic faculty.” I was forty-seven.
In the spring of 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, Vicki phoned me.14 “Are you out of your mind? Why did you sign the petition for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions by those British loonies?! How did your name creep into Haaretz’s Hebrew edition? (Levy-Barzilai 2002). I got a phone call that they’ll cut off your NSB allowance!15 What are you going to live on?”
The majority of Ahoti activists were left of Israel’s political center. But our constituencies were right of center and conceived the discussion of justice for Palestine as the territory of the smolavan, the white-leftie-minnies. In Mizrahi lingo, smolavan is a term for Ashkenazi lefties who enjoy white privilege. Conjoining smol (“left” in Hebrew, but also evoking
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the English small) and lavan (“white”), smolavan signifies this miniscule privileged group loathed by Israel’s Mizrahi majority.
Ashkenazi feminists from affluent Jerusalem or Tel Aviv focused on “ending the occupation.” Guided by Vicki, Ahoti’s strategy was to avoid the Palestine conflict. We focused instead on employment security, housing rights, and nutrition stability. In right-wing, working-class communities, the liberation of Palestine wasn’t the major concern—getting food on the table was.
Vicki ordered me to write to the organizers of the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions petition explaining that my inclusion was a mistake. She would then pass on this letter to the entities determined to cut me off the welfare roster. Even though seven other Israeli professors signed the boycott call, no one threatened their academic positions. They were all Ashkenazim, after all.
I also joined the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow.16 In 2004, from Mizrahi and Palestinian positionalities, Rafi Shubeli and I led the first-ever academic conference to contextualize Ashkenazi Jews in whiteness studies. On the conference day, we had unexpected guests—dozens of retired Ashkenazim who came to remind us that without the education they bestowed upon us, we could not have put on such a conference.
Also in 2004, along with Rafi Shubeli, Reuven Abergel, and Shira Ohayon, I researched and initiated a grievance submitted by Ahoti against all Israeli research universities. This was due to the near complete absence of Mizrahi and Palestinian tenured faculty, mainly women, from their anthropology departments. The grievance urged the ombudsman to investigate—and undo—the intellectual community property violations committed by Israeli academic faculty who profit from the Mizrahi and Palestinian cultures from which they build their careers. It also requested that the state comptroller investigate why Israeli anthropologists performed their studies without adhering to a research ethics code. To this day, we’re still waiting for an answer (Lavie 2005).
Following the grievance, Rafi and I joined forces with the Mossawa Palestinian nongovernmental organization (NGO) and founded the Mizrahi-Palestinian Coalition against Apartheid in Israeli Anthropology (CAAIA). CAAIA conducted an international campaign against the denial
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of cultural rights for Mizrahim and Palestinians, and joined forces with similar NGOs and scholar activists throughout the world.
Unfortunately, my economic hardship and the daily demands of activism took time away from academic research. In addition, in Israel, I was blacklisted. With my Israeli passport confiscated, I could not travel abroad to network. I was stuck, my professional CV marred by a large gap in scholarly publications.
Berkeley, Again
In 2005, on the eve of Yom Kippur, my son and I finally got our Israeli passports after the family court recognized that I am my son’s mother. Right away, we took our first trip abroad to Dahab, in South Sinai, Egypt, to visit my adoptive Bedouin family. Despite our legal freedom, we were stopped from crossing into Egypt because the family court had “overlooked” recording its verdict with Israel’s National Police. “They hold their grudges forever and will always seek revenge,” was one of Vicki’s mantras.
On August 20, 2007, we left Israel. On July 31, while en route to Dahab to say goodbye to my adoptive family, my son and I were stopped at the Taba border. The border police informed me that I had to pay $16,000 bail to leave Israel—supposedly for the child support debt I owed my ex-husband while he was in California. Due to the Israeli courts’ refusal to grant me custody, he was still the legal parent of our son even though I was the sole provider. Again, my magnanimous colleagues helped and paid the bail so that I could leave on time and not lose my job opportunity.
Once back in the United States, I embarked on a series of essays for a book about the web of relationships between the rightward move of the Mizrahi public, the racial formations of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and Mizrahi feminism. I queried how the logjam at the intersection of Mizrahi identity politics prevents social movements, such as Ahoti or the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, from achieving the long-term success that might improve the material lives of Mizrahim in central Israel’s low-income neighborhoods and forlorn periphery. I wanted to understand how the Mizrahi love for the homeland results in populism led by an Ashkenazi elite advocating white supremacy. My book Wrapped in the Flag of Israel:
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Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture won awards and gifted me with a lecture tour of the United States and Europe (Lavie 2018b). But the pain that my publications are not translated into Hebrew and available in Israel won’t go away.
With the return of my academic success came the pro-Israel lobby. Assisted by improved Internet technology, various online platforms spread fake news about my colleagues and me. These scare campaigns are run by Israeli hasbara (official propaganda) against the critics of Israel on US campuses.
The smolavan professors who leave Israel for cushy positions in the United States and Britain focus their research on the dualism of the conflict: Israel against Palestine and vice versa. They enjoy the support of both the pro-Palestine academic community, whose members praise their bravery, and the liberal academic community, who points to them as exemplars of the academic freedom to criticize Israel. Diaspora Ashkenazim never ponder whether these white-leftie-minnies have any constituencies in Israeli communities, as opposed to Mizrahi intellectuals who were exiled out of Israel’s academe yet continue to be woven into the fabric of their communities. And as for Israeli Mizrahi scholars abroad, it is better to adore them as colorful diversity jewels in departments of Jewish and Israeli studies, financed by the pro-Israel Jewish lobby, rather than house them in their disciplinary departments (see Traubmann 2006). Through a handful of Israeli-Mizrahi scholars who research Mizrahism as if it were not embedded in the Israel-Palestine conflict, departments of Jewish and Israeli studies become a counterpoint to departments of ethnic studies.
In the summer of 2012, my son graduated from college. I returned to Israel to gather the belongings we left in storage before our exit in 2007. Every sweltering day, when I was sorting out objects and memories, I wanted to cry. I knew this was the end. I would live here and there, between time zones and continents. No home. Today, I binge everything possible in Hebrew and am overjoyed as Mizrahi discourse expands its reach into Israel’s public sphere. But alas, this is not reflected in university tenure lines. My fear of the Israeli public’s populist rightward move keeps escalating due to the relentless hijacking of Judaism into the structure of
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Israeli citizenship (Lavie 2018b). Whether here or there, I continue to keep in touch with friends and assist Mizrahi students navigate the academic obstacle course.
Despite my longing, visiting Israel is emotionally taxing. When there, I grieve over my exilic loss. The immediacy of Israel-Palestine and the normalization of the occupation constrict my body like the barbed wire of the apartheid wall that cuts deeply into the flesh. When my friends warn me, “Israel today is not the same. Shut up about politics around commonfolk on public transport or they’ll beat you up,” my heart breaks.
I learned how to daven in the major key, Reform style, but it feels jarring. When I started writing this piece on Shavuot Eve, I envisioned a short response to the Haaretz article, and here, I give a confession. These are pandemic times. My son, his Asian American partner, and I are locked down in San Francisco. It felt so odd for us to participate in my shul’s Zoom for a midnight study of social justice issues in relation to the Torah.17 We changed into white shirts, shut off our laptops and iPhones, lit the candles, blessed and ate takeaway bourekas and cheesecake. We sang holiday tunes. After the meal, we went down memory lane to our lives on welfare when we were stranded in Israel. Our memories, translated into English, feel as if we’d lived in a mirage. They cut less into the soul than in Hebrew, our mother tongue.
Smadar Lavie is professor emerita of anthropology at UC Davis. She authored The Poetics of Military Occupation (1990), which received the honorable mention of the Victor Turner Award, and Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture (2014/2018), which received the honorable mention of the Association of Middle East Women’s Studies. The book was finalist in the Clifford Geertz Competition of the Society for the Anthropology of Religion. Lavie won the American Studies Association’s 2009 Gloria Anzaldúa Prize and the “Heart at East” Honor Plaque for lifetime service to Mizrahi communities in Israel-Palestine.
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1 The only available statistics on the Mizrahi-Ashkenazi-Palestinian women faculty in Israel can be found in Zarini’s MA thesis (2011). She counted 1,032 women professors out of the five thousand or so associate and full professors in Israeli universities and community colleges, and in government services, such as hospitals or agricultural research facilities. Mizrahi women number thirty-seven out of these 1,032. Of these thirty-seven, almost all are married to wealthy and well-placed Ashkenazim. Only six of these thirty-seven were in the non-applied humanities and social sciences. Zarini reports that all thirty-seven self-identified as Zionists. Even more marked is the present state of Israel’s Palestinian academics. In 2011, of Israel’s five thousand total professors, a mere sixty-nine were Palestinian. There was only one woman among them, in the Tel Aviv University School of Education. Since then, as far as I know, only two other Palestinian-Israeli professors have received tenured professorships at Israeli universities.
2 The Mugrabi Quarter was a nearly 800-year-old neighborhood located in Jerusalem’s Walled City.
3 Born in Cairo, Dr. Vicki Shiran was a pathbreaking founder of many Mizrahi social movements and is considered the mother of Mizrahi feminism.
4 The Kafr Qasim massacre took place on October 29, 1956, when Israeli Border Police executed forty-nine Palestinians with Israeli citizenship as they returned from work to their village, Kafr Qasim. They were unaware a curfew had been decreed earlier in the day.
5 Geula Cohen was a Stern Gang leader and a senior Maariv journalist. Between 1974 and 1999, she was a Knesset member from the Tehiya party. The Stern Gang, also known as Lehi, was an extreme right-wing Zionist paramilitary organization that sought to evict British authorities from Palestine by force.
6As of August 2020, Hanegbi was minister of settlement affairs.
7 Baruch Kimmerling was a Hebrew University sociologist, the first from inside Israeli academe to question Israel’s creation.
8 Hillel House is the largest Zionist organization present on North American and Western European college campuses. It creates a framework for campus Jewish life while disseminating pro-Israel propaganda disguised as student activism.
9 Lara Deeb and Jessica Winegar (2016) provide an excellent analysis of the obstacles US scholars encounter when teaching critically about the Middle East.
10 Matzpen (Hebrew for “compass”) was active between the 1960s and 1980s.
11 The Sabra and Shatila Massacre was the murder of 3,500 Palestinian refugees by Christian Phalange militiamen and was masterminded by Ariel Sharon, then Israel’s defense minister.
12 The October 2000 Palestinian uprisings broke out within the 1948 borders of Palestine or the State of Israel in solidarity with West Bank and Gaza mass demonstrations in response to Ariel Sharon’s uninvited pilgrimage to the Temple Mount
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or Al-Aqsa Mosque. During this insurrection, the Israeli police executed twelve Palestinian youth demonstrators in the Galilee. Al-Aqsa Intifada was a 2000–2005 insurrection of West Bank and Gaza Palestinians.
13 Ahoti is Israel’s feminist of color movement. It no longer has a website, so see their Facebook page.
14 Operation Defensive Shield was a 2002 large-scale IDF response directed mainly against Palestinian civilians of the West Bank during the second Intifada.
15 Israel’s National Security Bureau (NSB) is similar to the US Social Security Administration.
16 The Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow is an antiracist, social justice NGO.
17 Tikkun Leil Shavuot is the practice of going to the synagogue for Maariv after a Shavuot holiday meal and studying the Torah into the night.
Blachman, Israel. 2005. Mizrahim in the Faculty of Israeli Research Universities. Master’s thesis, Tel Aviv University, Israel [Hebrew].
Caspi, Arie. 2001.”Cherchez la Femme.” Haaretz, December 19. https://www.haaretz.com/1.5450012.
Deeb, Lara, and Jessica Winegar. 2016. Anthropology’s Politics: Disciplining the Middle East. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Greenberg, Lev. 2019. “Once It Was Successful: The Story of an Arab-Jewish Partnership at the Hebrew University” [in Hebrew]. Siha Mekomit, December 12.
Hess, Yizhar. 1994. “Sell-Out Mizrahi and Highbrow Ashkenazi” [in Hebrew]. Shishi—Musaf, no. 7 (January 21): 13–15.
Kimmerling, Baruch. 2004. Immigrants, Settlers, Natives: Israel between Plurality of Cultures and Cultural Wars [in Hebrew]. Tel Aviv: Am Oved.
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Lavie, Smadar. 1992. “Blow-Ups in the Borderzones: Third World Israeli Authors’ Gropings for Home.” New Formations 18: 84–106.
Lavie, Smadar. 2002a. “In Search of the Mizrahi Woman Professor” [in Hebrew]. Tel Aviv Weekly Magazine, January 18.
Lavie, Smadar. 2002b. “A Pedophile Father Is Preferable to an Alienating Mother: Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Israel’s Supreme Court” [in Hebrew]. Psak Din, October.
Lavie, Smadar. 2005. “Israeli Anthropology and American Anthropology.” Anthropology Newsletter, January 8, 8.
Lavie, Smadar. 2018a. “Acceptance Speech for My Father’s Posthumous Degree Ceremony.” Facebook, April 13. https://www.facebook.com/smadar.lavie.1/posts/10216082926168718.
Lavie, Smadar. 2018b. Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
Lavie, Smadar and Ted Swedenburg, eds. 1996. Displacement, Diaspora and Geographies of Identity. Durham: Duke University Press.
Levy-Barzilai, Vered. 2002. “Boycott Us!” [in Hebrew]. Haaretz, April 24. https://www.haaretz.co.il/misc/1.789453.
Littman, Shany. 2020. “After Losing Hope for Change, Top Left-Wing Activists and Scholars Leave Israel Behind.” Haaretz, May 25. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium.MAGAZINE-losing-hope-for-change-top-left-wing-activists-and-scholars-leave-israel-behind-1.8864499.
Moscona-Lerman, Billie. 2002. “For You, a Mizrahi Woman Is Just a Maid” [in Hebrew]. Maariv Weekly Magazine, February 1.
AAUP Journal of Academic Freedom 18
Volume Twelve
Traubmann, Tamara. 2006. “A Different Way to Fight Academic Boycotts” [in Hebrew]. Haaretz, May 23. https://www.haaretz.com/1.4907511.
Zarini, Iris. 2011. Mizrahi Women Professors in Israel’s Academe. Master’s thesis, Ben Gurion University, Israel [Hebrew].



Anthropology and American Anthropology: Our “Special Relations” / Prof. Smadar Lavie

The following article by the brilliant Mizrahi activist author of one of the most insightful books of anthropology The Poetics of Military Occupation is a detailed argument which definitively shows the racism that exists at the very heart of the Israeli academic system.


In March three registered NGOs, Ahoti (Sistah, Hebrew), Israel’s feminists-of-color movement; the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow; and Mossawa, the Advocacy Centerfor the Palestinian-Arab Citizens of Israel, filed an official complaint to Israel’s State Comptroller against anthropology departments in all Israeli universities.

These NGOs advocate Mizrahi (Arab-Jews of Asian and North African origins) and Palestinian-Israeli human rights. The complaint was researched and co-authored by Yif`at Hillel, Nurit Hajjaj, Vardit Damri-Madar, Rafi Shubeli, Smadar Lavie and by the late Vicki Shiran, founder of Israel’s feminist-of-color movement.

In these NGOs’ complaint, clarification is sought on the almost complete absence of tenured Mizrahi faculty, and the total absence of Palestinian-Israeli faculty in anthropology departments in Israeli universities. Such absences are in complete violation of any principal of equal opportunities employment. Mizrahim and Palestinian citizens of Israel consist of about 70% of Israel’s citizenry.

The complaint also noted the total absence of Mizrahi and Palestinian-Israeli women in both junior and senior faculty positions in Israeli universities’ anthropology departments, violations of our Mizrahi and Palestinian-Israeli intellectual and cultural property rights, and the complete absence of an ethics code for the practice of anthropology in Israel.

The complaint argued that Israeli Ashkenazi (European Jewish) anthropologists have made social and financial gains through the appropriation of Mizrahi and Palestinian cultures. Sixty-seven percent of Israeli anthropologists study Mizrahim and/or Palestinians. Ashkenazim consist of about 30% of Israel’s citizenry and over 90% of Israel’s university faculty body.

The complaint juxtaposes the data about Israeli academic apartheid practices with data about the present gendered-ethnic FTE distribution in major US anthropology departments. It also reviews the careers and influential publications of Mizrahi and Palestinian anthropologists who, after being rejected by Israeli academia due to alleged “collegial incompatibility,” have made names for themselves in Western European and US universities.

International and Israeli Responses 

The Ahoti-Rainbow-Mossawa coalitional team emailed and faxed English translations of the complaint to the AAA, the Royal Anthropological Institute of Britain, the European Association of Social Anthropologists, and the Canadian Society for Anthropology and Sociology. The Society for Cultural Anthropology and the American Ethnological Society, sections of the AAA, discussed the complaint this spring, along with the AAA executive board, as it continues to generate ongoing discussion on the AAA Middle East Section’s listserv.

The Israeli State Comptroller has yet to substantially address the concerns raised in the coalition’s complaint, although he acknowledged its receipt.  Currently the Israeli Anthropological Association is developing an ethics code in response to the complaint.

We find this ironic given the benevolent colonialism of the so-called progressive edition of Israeli anthropology. Even those Israeli anthropologists who pose as radical – and as part of this pose have even expressed their support in our activism – actually preserve the master Ashkenazi-Zionist narrative of anti-Arab apartheid when deciding about their choice of departmental colleagues, whether in FTE allocations, merits and promotions. In some instances when the coalition has tried to address alleged issues of Ashkenazi ethnographic beneficence or institutional racism it has been silenced through threat of lawsuit, on the one hand, and hegemonized cajoling, on the other. Yet the silence ought not be interpreted as evidence that that such acts of racism do not exist.

US Anthropology’s Role

In May, UC Berkeley anthropologist Lawrence Cohen visited Israel as the keynote speaker of the Israeli Anthropological Association and the Israeli Queer Studies Group. Members of the coalition met with him on May 9 to discuss the reasons for the American-focused campaign, and to request further assistance. Cohen was generous with his time and ideas, and also suggested that we organize or consult with Native American activists. Nevertheless, he expressed the fear that by siding with equal opportunity anti-racist struggles outside the US, the AAA might appoint itself a cop of the world, so to speak, Bush- administration style. Considering the so-called “special relations” between Israel’s and the US’s white neo-conservative elites, however, such a fear is difficult for us to grasp.

From the onset of the Mizrahi and Palestinian-Israeli anti-racist struggle, Israeli anthropology has been applied as an arm of governmentality to better suppress it and to design pacifying policies of cooptation. This was done through in-situ cross-cultural application of the works of Victor Turner or Talcott Parsons on our transit camps, neighborhoods and villages. Paradoxically, however, Israeli anthropologists cynically quote US anthropology from the 1960s on, focusing on the liberation struggles of women, minorities, immigrants, queers, and other subjects under post-colonialism. The coalition finds this an empty gesture of interpolation in order to sail through the anonymous review procedures of scholarly periodicals and grants.

A largely decontextualized version of US anthropology has dictated appointments, promotions, research grants and publications politicking of Israeli anthropology at least for the last two decades. For example, many endowed visitors invited to speak at annual meetings, seminars and to guest teach in Israeli anthropology departments are Ashkenazi Jews who are on the faculty of US Ivy League and elite universities. Non-Ivy-League and elite anthropologists are not considered worthwhile of invitation. Perhaps because about 85% of diaspora Jewry is Ashkenazi, these US anthropologists overlook the apartheid practices of Israel’s academe.

After such visits to Israeli anthropology academics, US anthropologists are then requested to reciprocate with weighty career evaluation letters that decide the fate of Israeli anthropologists’ merits and promotions, invitations for sabbaticals, and assistance in getting Israeli articles admitted to prestigious periodicals and edited US-based university press collections.

Israeli anthropologists get promoted in Israeli universities on the basis of English-language publications mainly in US periodicals. Academic English is not accessible to the majority of Israelis. The coalition worries that given the monochromatic, elitist and insular composition of Israeli anthropology faculty, these scholars’ English-language publications, written in the absence of any human subjects procedures, thereby provide a slanted view of Israeli society, and concurrently hurt the scientific reputation of academic US periodicals.

Through the public media, Israelis often learn about US intellectual interventions in sites of grave injustice outside the US, where the principals of human rights are at stake.  The .Ahoti-Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow-Mossawa coalition to end Israeli anthropology’s apartheid merits AAA intervention and support.

From The Anthropology Newsletter, January 2005


New Texts Out Now: Smadar Lavie, Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture

By : Smadar Lavie  

Smadar Lavie, Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2014.

Jadaliyya (J): What made you write this book?

Smadar Lavie (SL): In February 1999 I was a star academic, on the eve of becoming a full tenured professor at University of California, Davis. I had to pack two suitcases, the family dog, and my son’s cello, and flee with him from Berkeley to save our lives. We were both victims of domestic violence that I kept secret from my colleagues. The California courts had proven unable to help us. So I fled to Israel-Palestine, where my family resides. Upon arrival, our Israeli and US passports were confiscated.

In 2001, I was cleared of any wrongdoing revolving around taking my son away to Israel. My US passport was returned to me. The Israeli state took advantage of the situation, however, to gag me—an outspoken scholar and activist against the state. Israelis with dual citizenship are required to use their Israeli passports to enter and exit the country. When I was cleared, I should have received both of my passports. Instead, the authorities kept my Israeli passport and issued a stop-exit order against me. The revolving door between Israel’s regime and its academe hoped to halt my research—the first of its kind in English to empirically document Israel’s lived, everyday Ashkenazi (“European Jewish” in Hebrew) racism against the Mizrahim (“Easterners” in Hebrew), Jews with origins in the Muslim and Arab World or the European margins of the Ottoman Empire. Mizrahim constitute the majority of Israel’s citizens, at fifty percent. The other two groups of Israeli citizens are Palestinians, at twenty percent, and Ashkenazim, or Jews of Yiddish speaking origins, at thirty percent. The Ashkenazi minority holds the power and privilege in the state.

For six and a half additional years, my passport remained confiscated, trapping me within the state, and barring me from gainful employment by my politics and skin color. I became a single mother dependent on welfare. To stay sane, I joined the effort to build Ahoti (“Sistah,” Hebrew), Israel’s Mizrahi feminist movement. I led many successful initiatives to expose and try to remedy the state’s structural apartheid between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim.

My latest book, Wrapped in the Flag of Israel seeks to expose and explore the predicaments and conundrums facing Mizrahim in Israel and how intra-Jewish racism relates to the Palestine-Israel and Arab-Israeli conflicts.

Statistics officially kept by the Israeli state largely downplay the demographic disparity between Israel’s Mizrahi majority and Ashkenazi minority. Until the last couple of years, Israel’s intra-Jewish apartheid and its impact on Palestine and the Arab World have been rarely discussed in major print and electronic Hebrew media, let alone in the international media.

Diaspora Jews are Israel’s broadest support base in all areas. Most are Ashkenazim themselves, and relate to Israel’s Ashkenazi minority. Many have also been at the forefront of civil rights movements in the United States, anti-colonialist movements in Latin America, and anti-apartheid movements in South Africa. How would these progressive diaspora Jews react to the fact that European Jews in Israel design ideologies and enact practices that can be perceived as colonialist and against civil-rights for Jews inside the Homeland of the Jews?  

During my years in Israel as a welfare mother and Mizrahi feminist leader, I noticed the propensity for Mizrahi social protests to fail. A breaking event such as violence in Gaza, military conflicts with Lebanon’s Hezbollah, or a soon-to-happen Israeli bombardment of Iran’s nuclear facilities would blanket news outlets just as a protest started to gain momentum. This effectively crushes the movement, as Mizrahim would abandon their causes and unite with the Ashkenazim as the last line of Jewish defense against the threatening goyim (“non-Jews,” or “enemies,” in colloquial Hebrew).

I observed that one of the most efficient tools to squelch Mizrahi protest is to get its leaders entangled in a lethal web of bureaucracy. If they dare to complain, they will be silenced by the argument that national unity has to be maintained due to an acute threat to the Jewish state’s survival. Wrapped in the Flag of Israel analyzes this bureaucratic web as it was used against the 2003 single mothers march on Jerusalem led by Vicky Knafo. Then it further illuminates the relationships that tie Mizrahi protest movements, state bureaucracy, and the Arab-Israeli conflict together.

J: What particular topics, issues, and literatures does the book address?

SL: Wrapped in the Flag of Israel focuses on a specific segment of Israel’s Mizrahi population—single mothers on welfare—as a case study. Social work practice, policy, and research focus on circumstances surrounding single mothers’ reliance on welfare, policies that keep them marginal to the workforce and actions that may break mothers away from the poverty cycle. Rarely is bureaucracy itself examined as a ritual inflictor of pain on welfare mothers. Moreover, rarely is there anthropological discussion of the relationship between an ethno-religious state and the sanctity of its military conflicts, on the one hand, and family welfare policies, on the other.

To my knowledge, there are no ethnographies on single, welfare mothers in the Middle East. Yet throughout the Global South, single mothers and their children are one of the populations at highest risk when the nation-state sacrifices human dignity to global neoliberal restructuring. My book discusses state bureaucracy through the intersectionality model employed by feminists of color and critical race theories. In so doing, it exposes some of the problems of this model when it encounters a divine, authoritarian state formation and Arab family dynamics.

In addition, most studies of bureaucracy hold that bureaucracy follows rational logic. Wrapped in the Flag of Israel follows in the footsteps of Don Handelman, who challenges Max Weber’s model of rational, secular bureaucracy and argues instead that bureaucracy is ritualistic. My book builds off Handelman by analyzing bureaucracy as a divine cosmological order whose rituals are constructed around the classifications of race, gender, and religion—the categories that form citizenship in the State of Israel. Among Israeli Jews, race and class almost completely overlap. I therefore do not discuss class as a separate category.

This book also challenges anthropology’s tendency to study subjects the ethnographer is personally comfortable or familiar with. In urban settings, the groups anthropologists prefer to study are often progressive and left leaning. As a result, there are far fewer studies that employ ethnographic compassion or have a deep, experiential understanding of right-wing ultra-nationalist groups. In Israel, this ethnographic “comfort zone” has served to trivialize the victimhood of Mizrahim.

Wrapped in the Flag of Israel attempts to engage foundational theories such as Durkheim’s concepts of organic and mechanic solidarities in order to re-analyze the concept of agency. Alongside critiquing current theories of identity politics and agency, this book hearkens back to anthropology’s theories of classification—one of the discipline’s historical pillars.

At the same time as I address these academic fields analytically, the book also means to address the heavy personal and professional price activists pay—often their own lives—as they fight for justice, dignity, and freedom for communities robbed of their languages, histories, homes, and gainful employment. These activists do not leave obvious traces after they depart from the tangible world. As a scholar-activist, I have the education and opportunity to leave some written traces of failed Mizrahi struggles for social justice in the State of Israel. Perhaps in the future, scholars, policymakers, and activists of the Global South will be able to use my research and writing to break out of the cycle I outline in the book: Mizrahi social protests leading to Israeli-Palestinian bloodletting that, in turn, contributes to the protest’s failure. Without Israel’s Mizrahi majority, there will not be any chance to achieve a just resolution of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

J: How does this book connect to and/or depart from your previous research?

SL: Between 1975 and 1990 I conducted intensive fieldwork among the Mzeina Bedouin of the South Sinai. My first book, The Poetics of Military Occupation: Mzeina Allegories Under Israeli and Egyptian Rule (1990), described and analyzed a handful of charismatic characters who performed the paradoxes and absurdities of Sinai Bedouin life under Israeli rule by means of ritualistic story-telling. It focused on transnational identity politics and agency in both anthropology and cultural studies.

In 1990, when my son was one year old, I shifted my center of research from Egypt to Israel-Palestine. I continued my relationships with the Mzeina Bedouin. These had gone beyond research. The Mzeina became family with whom I still keep close today. The change in my research focus seemed like an exciting switch at the time. My American colleagues were starting to shift their focus inward, to study their own cultures rather than those of faraway places. I, too, wanted to shift from “fieldwork” to “homework.” My research among the Mzeina had addressed the cultural conflicts and conjunctions in modernist colonial systems, and it was set in a context where postcolonial nation-states clashed with indigenous cultures in a transnational setting.

My new project, “Hebrew as Step-Mother Tongue: The Lives and Works of Arabic Speaking Jewish and Palestinian Authors and the Rupture of Israel’s Eurocentrism,” was to explore similar problems yet in a complex, urban, postmodern setting. I studied the lives and words of authors, both Mizrahi and Palestinian, who crossed borders by writing Hebrew literature and poetry even though their native tongue is Arabic. My project was to focus on their life histories, including family, kinship, and their problematic sense of belonging in the Ashkenazi intellectual milieu. These authors tried to avoid what Stuart Hall termed “the burden of representation” of their own communities of origin by avoiding writing about Ashkenazi Zionism’s negative effects. The Mizrahi-Palestinian borderlands provided a setting where articulating and living through the cultural concept of nation was itself under racialized scrutiny from experiential, political, and literary perspectives.

My shift was also practical. I was a young mother in Berkeley. I was without any communal or familial support. Many of my female colleagues had forsaken children in favor of achieving tenure. They had little sympathy for the balancing act I was struggling to maintain. They did not even know about the turmoil at home that I kept private. If I were doing research in Israel, I could at least get communal and emotional support, as well as childcare, from my family and friends.

I understood that research and publication of critical scholarship on Israel-Palestine was a career risk. In 1990, I was a US-based scholar. The pro-Israel lobby was and still is highly influential in North American universities. I knew that studying intra-Jewish racism in the Homeland of the Jews could alarm the lobby. In those days, I could not count on any allies in the burgeoning field of Palestine Studies. The field was not yet nuanced enough to consider any conflict other than the simple Israel vs. Palestine divide. Nevertheless, I thought my tenure-track position would provide safe harbor for “Hebrew as Step-Mother Tongue.” At any rate, my tenure was to be decided on my research on the Sinai Bedouin of Egypt. There was no pro-Egypt lobby meddling with academic freedom. Funded by scholarly grants, I had conducted my first segment of ethnographic research in Israel between 1990 and 1994. The theoretical framework of “Hebrew as a Step Mother Tongue” served as the basis for my collaboration with Ted Swedenburg on Displacement, Diaspora, and Geographies of Identity (1996). Other fragments of “Hebrew as a Step Mother Tongue”—both published and unpublished—also survive today as uncited parts of articles by Mizrahi Studies scholars.

Soon after I arrived in Israel in 1999, I embarked on another segment of my research, lasting until 2007. This time, I was funded mostly by Israel’s National Security Bureau’s (NSB) income augmentation checks and the pittance I received as an adjunct professor at the Beit Berl Teachers College. Between 1999-2007, I did not travel to “the field” from the comfort of a university position. I thus did not have the pleasure of returning to the university after a couple of years of fieldwork. I was stranded in Israel for eight and a half years. My new book provides statistics on the ethnic-racial-gendered distribution of tenured faculty in Israeli universities. Less than one percent of tenured women professors are Mizrahi, mostly in the applied sciences. None of them has questioned the oxymoron of a democratic ethno-religious, Jewish state in mandatory Palestine. I thus was forced to take hourly low-wage, part-time jobs and rely on welfare income augmentations to survive and support my son.

While at the University of California, I focused on the Arab-Israeli borderzone and the hybridity and tactical essentialism at the intersectional crux of Mizrahi identity politics. Ted Swedenburg and I argued that agency sparks up at the borderzones where identity and place grate up against each other and are forced into constantly shifting configurations of partial overlap.

Wrapped in the Flag of Israel diverges away from my old work by going against these two key concepts: identity politics and the agency immanent in its enactment. Likewise, it defies the feminist injunction against binary logic as it analyzes the intersection of gender-race-class with religion as a space of primordial divinity.

Integral to my discussion of Mizrahi single mothers is their distinct lack of personal and communal agency when dealing with the state bureaucracies they depend upon to survive. Much of North American and Western European social anthropology and feminist theory tend to insist that agency is intrinsic—that all oppressed people have it no matter what their situation. By delving into how Israeli citizenship is made into a transcendental essence, I argue that the sanctity of the state on its bureaucratic apparatus short circuits agency and its capacities to resist oppression.

[Single mother at an appointment with an employment bureau placement clerk. His office is stocked with wines and spirits, as well
as a parody of prayer above the clerk`s head in the same font as the Torah scroll: “All are governed by the creator of the universe.
Thus, woe to you if you waste anyone`s time.” Photo by Meir Azulay, Beer Sheba, 2003. Image provided by the author.]

And why is the agency immanent in identity politics impossible to enact? Well, when I, welfare mom, stood in front of the bureaucrat, I couldn’t state that I existed at the intersection of my identities as former UC professor, single mother, repatriated citizen from hip Berkeley, Mizrahi identified with an Ashkenazi father, anti-Zionist, and semi-observant Jew. A Mizrahi welfare mama was all I was allowed to be.

J: Who do you hope will read this book and what impact would you like it to have?

SL: This book is both very accessible and narratively innovative in its write-up of ethnography, weaving multiple genres that cohere into a cohesive whole—subaltern theory and autoethnography, translations of handwritten descriptions and dialogues, printouts of official documents and emails, newspaper clippings, classic quotes from feminist of color theory, poetry, and even Kabalic-style curses. It presents secular government bureaus as sites of sacred, religious pilgrimage, because receiving aid relies not on civil rights, but on serendipity. Moreover, the psychic and somatic effects of single mothers’ bureaucratic encounters—whether standing in line or in their own homes—amounts to torture inflicted upon them by the state.

So my hope is that Wrapped in the Flag of Israel will appeal to many different audiences, including university faculty and students, welfare policy makers, NGO leadership and membership, and a general readership interested in Israel-Palestine. The number of policy-makers, diplomats, foundations, community organizations, and activists devoted to solving the Israel-Palestine conflict keeps growing steadily. Much of the research they base their activities on revolves around the same binary thinking that has dominated the Israel-Palestine conflict since the 1948 beginnings of the state: Israel vs. Palestine; Israel vs. The Arab World; and Jews vs. Arabs (mainly Muslims). Some of these practitioners and policy-makers are starting to suspect that the traditional binary thinking on the Israel/Middle East conflict cannot yield any lasting, positive results.

Longitudinal, participatory studies about Mizrahim, written from a position that is not (post)Zionist, are quite rare. Most critical Mizrahi studies come out of history, literature, or cinema studies. In addition, there are currently few, if any, English-language studies on how bureaucratic entanglements in the Global South—or anywhere, for that matter—promote the deterioration of physical and mental health over time. Thanks to the ever-widening adoption of neo-liberal economic practices, the disenfranchised populations I write about in the book—single mothers—are exploding in number. In coming years, policy makers in governments all over the world will have to take actions to deal with this expanding demographic.

J: What other projects are you working on now?

SL: Wrapped in the Flag of Israel started as a chapter in a book of essays, Crossing Borders, Staying Put: Mizrahi Feminism, Palestine, and the Racial Formations of the Israeli State. The essays all focus on the relationships that exist in the Arab-Israeli borderlands between Mizrahi and Ashkenazi feminists, and between Israel’s Mizrahi majority and the state’s Ashkenazi-dominated regime. Crossing Borders describes and analyzes the ways that the intersections of religion, gender, race, and class interplay with the logjam of the Middle East Peace Process. This interplay serves as the building blocks for the lived experience of Mizrahi women’s everyday lives.

The paradoxical fusion of anti-racist activism and communal right-wing politics on the Israel-Palestine conflict delineates the contours of Mizrahi feminism. This quandary thus transcends the constructivist, coalitional identity politics typical of US-European Feminisms of Color or Third World feminisms. To function in the political, cultural, and racial Arab-Israeli borderlands with efficacy, Mizrahi feminists often deploy foundational strategies that both improve the welfare of their disenfranchised Israeli constituencies, but also alienate them from the feminist fabric of the Arab World or the Global South.

It was in the midst of working on the essays that the timeliness of the Wrapped in the Flag of Israel chapter came to light. Now that Wrapped in the Flag has become its own independent work, I look forward to returning to Crossing Borders and finishing the project.

J: How does the book’s specific focus on Mizrahi single mothers allow you to talk about what you call “bureaucratic torture” in Israel?

SL: Wrapped in the Flag of Israel examines state welfare bureaucracy as a system of torture for its single Mizrahi mother clients. It might seem strange to equate bureaucratic entanglements with torture, but according to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, the first definition of torture is “anguish of body or mind” or “something that causes agony or pain.” In Israel, bureaucracy is one of the state’s gross crimes, even though it might not fit the narrow legal definition of “torture.” Some crimes are unspeakable. Yet anthropologists appreciate the said and often overlook the unsaid. They record discourse and transform it into text. It is difficult for bureaucracy’s clients to notice and articulate the cumulative pain the bureaucrats inflict upon them. Oftentimes, even though the pain is palpable, it is non-representational, and therefore it rarely becomes a discourse readily available for ethnographic description and analysis.

People in all parts of the world, in all classes, have run-ins with bureaucracy. Those with means can either ignore or sidestep bureaucracy’s ill effects. But for disenfranchised populations, who often do not have the ability to voice their concerns to those who would listen, bureaucracy’s lethal webs cannot be easily brushed aside.

The focus on Mizrahi single mothers on welfare is a case study that demonstrates how Israeli bureaucracy operates in all arenas. At bureaus, single mothers on welfare often have to wait in long lines with no promise of a resolution to their problems. Many times, they reach a bureaucrat, only to be sent away to another bureau. Other times, they are offered precious income assurance checks only in exchange for sexual favors. This existence—bouncing from bureau to bureau and back—forces single mothers to live in a constant state of torturous anxiety that is almost impossible to escape.

Israeli bureaucracy is organic to the state’s non-negotiable religious character. I thus identify bureaucracy’s twin “divinities” that operate simultaneously as two claws in a pincer. I term the first “The Divinity of the Jewish State.” This divinity emanates from its very definition—the promised land, the homeland of the Jewish people. No longer imaginary, it is a sovereign state with an army to guard its territorial claims. Jews religiously conceive of themselves as “the chosen people,” and their religiously conceived “chosen land” is Eretz Israel, or historic Palestine. I term the second “The Divinity of Chance.” This divinity is defined by the goals that the faithful have when they go on pilgrimage. A welfare mother petitioning a bureaucrat is like a pilgrim beseeching the jawbone of a saint. Mother and pilgrim are bound by the strict script of religious ritual, on the one hand, and by the serendipity of good luck and divine intervention, on the other.

Yet both mother and bureaucrat conceive themselves as integral parts of the miraculous ingathering of the Jewish diaspora in the promised land. This is the land of divine bureaucracy governed by etsba` Elokim, or “the finger of G-d” in Hebrew. Citizenship is a guaranteed miracle, so long as one can prove five generations back of Jewish mothers. The other guaranteed miracle for Israeli Jews is an IDF draft notice to report for duty at age eighteen.

Excerpt from Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture

From Chapter Six: The Price of National Security

Knafoland—The End

The Knafo struggle ended the day after the conversation with Ilana about the Israeli regime’s ethnic cleansing of Mizrahi single mothers. On the evening of 19 August 2003, a Palestinian suicide bomber dressed as an Orthodox Jew carried an explosive device aboard Bus #2 from the Western Wall into Jewish Jerusalem. The device detonated just past Peace Rd. #1 at the American Colony Hotel crossroad—the old 1967 border between Palestinian Jerusalem and Mizrahi Jerusalem. Three hundred meters (around one thousand feet) away from my granny’s house. Twenty-three people died. Over 130 were injured. Most of the casualties were ultra-orthodox Jews. One Filipina domestic worker also died.

This ended the hudna between Israel and Hamas.

Before the bombing, the national and international media whiled away the uneventful days of the hudna in their own encampment near Knafoland. When their beepers, cell phones, and two-way radios buzzed with news of the bombing, they all leapt up in unison. In a press corps’ caravan, they sped across town to cover the carnage at the border. Afterwards, they went to the American Colony Hotel Bar to get drunk. So did I, with my converted food coupons to purchase a drink I would nurse for hours and my California English to gather information. Forever the anthropologist, forever collecting data.

Without media coverage, the sotzialits took advantage. They offered mothers minimal incentives to leave, and reminded them that if their children were not in school come 1 September, they’d be reported as delinquents to the Youth and Family Courts. The judges could then order the removal of the children from their homes to be forcibly placed into boarding schools (Hertzog 1996, 2004b).

The plight of the single mothers was completely off the public agenda in favor of the Palestine-Israel conflict. Most mothers left the encampment within a few days of the bombing. Only Vicky and a few die-hards stayed until 23 September 2003, when Vicky herself departed.

For Jewish New Year 2004, Vicky Knafo, strapped for cash, posed nude for an Israeli porn website. For this photo-op, she had written on her breasts: “The State Milks Single Mothers.” Later, she sued the owners of the site because they didn’t pay her what they promised.

On the eve of Jewish New Year 2005, Vicky’s son committed suicide. Right after Jewish New Year 2006, Vicky joined the Meretz Party, the predominantly Ashkenazi, left-leaning, land-for-peace party, and started giving speeches about peace. Shortly thereafter, she completely disappeared from the public sphere.

From 2006 until January 2009, Bibi Netanyahu, head of Likud, led the Knesset’s parliamentary opposition. Between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, the IDF conducted Operation “Cast Lead.” Its name was borrowed from a lyric about the miracle of Hanukkah written by Haim Nachman Bialik, Israel’s national poet. “My teacher gave me a dreidel cast from solid lead,” Bialik wrote, to the tune of an Ashkenazi folk song. In Arabic, Operation “Cast Lead” is referred to as “The Gaza Carnage.” The operation involved a massive three-week bombing and invasion of the densely populated Gaza Strip. This was prime scheduling, as the United States would be deep in President George W. Bush’s lame duck period after the November 2008 elections and before the January 2009 inauguration of Barack H. Obama.

On 20 February 2009, after parliamentary elections, President Shimon Peres followed procedure and appointed Bibi prime minister to form a new government—on the Mizrahi vote, yet again.

This is Exactly What We Did

On 21 February 2005, I attended a convening of Israel’s Women’s Parliament. The day’s topic was “Minimum Wage: A Woman’s Perspective.” One of the speakers was Dr. Linda `Efroni, a brilliant Iraqi economist and labor attorney. She is a prominent consultant for Israel’s major labor unions on issues concerning income and work conditions and a member of the Israeli Council of Higher Education. At the time, she also had a weekly opinion column in Globes: Israel Business News. Yet she has only been an adjunct at Tel Aviv University. In the discussion after the speeches, she told the following story:

Around 2001, I was invited by the Israeli College of National Security, where military officers are groomed to become generals, to give a lecture at Haifa University. Haifa University regularly hosts events of the college. The audience was made up of students in the special program, but also senior members of the SHABAK—Israel’s secret police—military intelligence, the Israeli police force, and other senior officials in the national security apparatus. There were about forty people in all sitting around a large conference table.

This was around the time of the social unrest following the collapse of the Argentinian economy. They wanted to know if similar unrest was possible in Israel because of socio-economic gaps, and how these gaps could be minimized. I offered my analysis: we have problems with security and with borders. These transcend socio-economic protests. It would take nothing less than a miracle for any social protest to succeed.

If social unrest appeared in the news, I would not be surprised to hear about Hezbollah Katyusha rockets falling on Kiryat Shmona the next day. This would immediately shift public discourse back to security. I could not rule out that the Katyushas on Kiryat Shmona were a response to the IDF Air Force provocation of their fighter jets crossing the border deep into Lebanon. I told them that I didn’t have the knowledge, but my intuition as an analyst told me that.

Everyone was quiet. Everyone was quiet. No one said a thing. And then we broke for a buffet lunch.

At the buffet, a corpulent man approached me. He said, “Shalom, my name is [NAME REDACTED]. I used to be the media advisor for the Minister of Defense. And this is exactly what we did.”

On 9 October 2010, I called Dr. `Efroni from Minneapolis to verify the quote. She said:

Yes, this is exactly what I said. And this is what he said. He didn’t say that it was off the record. As for Vicky and the end of the hudna, I was in a meeting with Bibi in Jerusalem. She wanted me to join her. The man was very stressed. He sweated a lot. Very stressed. In hindsight, even in the Finance Ministry, they didn’t believe it was going to be so easy. Hok HaHesderim nullifies out the legislature. Israel is not a democracy. In the 2003 amendment, they saved five billion NIS.

They transferred the money to the upper echelons in the form of a tax refund. They could have done other things with this money. They were so surprised at how easy the transfer was. I think it is not impossible that they let the suicide bomber slip through.  
[Excerpted from Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture, by Smadar Lavie, by permission of the author. © 2014 Berghahn Books. For more information, or to purchase this book, click here.]


שושנה גמליאלית-לביא

בשירותה הצבאי הכירה גמליאלית את קצין התרבות זלמן לוינסון (לביא). היא נישאה לו, והם קבעו את מגוריהם בתל אביב ואח”כ בחולון. 

לאחר נישואיה, לבקשת בעלה, פרשה גמליאלית מבמת הזמר והתיאטרון, והקדישה את זמנה למשפחתה ולפעילויות מוסיקליות אחרות. הופעתה האחרונה הנזכרת בעיתונות, התקיימה בדצמבר 1953(1), והיא בת 25 שנה בלבד. לזוג נולדו שני ילדים – סמדר ויואב(2)

קריירת הזימרה שלה הייתה קצרה יחסית; הפרישה המוקדמת משידורי הרדיו, מהבמה ומהתודעה הציבורית גרמו לא אחת לבלבול בינה לבין הזמרת אסתר גמליאלית, שגם היא, בהיותה צעירה, פרשה מהופעות לאחר נישואיה. לשתיהן היה הרבה מן המשותף: בנוסף לקולן הערב ושם המשפחה, שתיהן הופיעו בתיאטרון “המטאטא”, שתיהן שרו שירי ילדים שהלחין נחום נרדי, ואת שתיהן הוא ליווה בנגינתו בתקליטים. בכתבה ב”מעריב” אודות סמדר לביא, בתה של שושנה גמליאלית, ציין העיתון בטעות, שהיא  בתה של ה”זמיר התימני” אסתר גמליאלית(3). אכן, קול זמיר היה לשושנה גמליאלית, אבל, היא הייתה “גמליאלית אחרת”.

שושנה גמליאלית עסקה בהוראת מוסיקה וזמרה, בתחילה בתל אביב ואח”כ בבית ספר “ביאליק” בחולון. אחדים מתלמידי אותו בית ספר התפרסמו כאמנים ידועי שם; ביניהם, הכנרים שמואל אשכנזי, שלמה מינץ ונגן הכינור, הוויולה והמנצח פנחס צוקרמן(4). בביתה, פתחה גמליאלית סטודיו פרטי למוסיקה, בו לימדה אחר הצהריים נגינה בחלילית ובפסנתר, וכן זמרה. באותן שנים היא גם הדריכה מקהלות, והופיעה איתן כסולנית.אחרי מות בעלה ביוני 1981, עברה גמליאלית לגור בנתניה, שם התגוררה עד פטירתה ב-2011, והיא בת 83 שנים. במודעת אבל על מותה, תיארו אותה בני משפחתה כ”זמרת ומורה שהנחילה אהבת השירה והנגינה למאות רבות של תלמידים”.  


1. על המשמר, 25 בדצמבר 1953, עמ’ 7. 2. סמדר לביא, פרופסור לאנתרופולוגיה ופעילה חברתית; יואב לביא, נהרג בן 25, בהתהפכות אוטובוס, שהחליק בכביש רטוב. מעריב, 2 באוקטובר, 1986 עמוד שער.3. מעריב, 2 באוקטובר 1986, עמ’ 5.     4. שלושתם למדו נגינת כינור אצל אילונה פהר, תושבת חולון, כנרת ידועה ופדגוגית, שרבים מתלמידיה התפרסמו בארץ ובעולם.

https://www.nli.org.il/he/newspapers/mar/1986/10/02/01/article/35/?e=——-he-20–1–img-txIN%7ctxTI————–1⁨⁨מעריב⁩⁩, 2 אוקטובר 1986
  סמדר קיבלה אישור להשאר בארה”ב אך היא חוזרת ארצה
כדי להשתתף בלווית אחיה יואב שנהרג אתמול בתאונת דרכים
מאת דן דגוני, סופר “מעריב” בניו־יורק סמדר לביא, האנתרופולוגית הישראלית שחגגה בתחילת השבוע החלטה הפוטרת אותה מהצורך לשוב לישראל והמתירה לה להישאר בארה”ב עמ בעלה השחור, חוזרת היום ארצה בעקבות תעלול אכזרי של הגורל: אחיה של סמדר, יואב לביא, נהרג אתמול בתאונת דרכים ליד קריית גת. סמדר לביא, בתה של אסתר גמליאלי‭”, ‬הזמיר מתימן”, 31, ‬נחלה ביום ו’ ניצחון על הביורוקרטיה האמריקנית וקיבלה היתר להישאר בארה”ב יחד עם בעלה האמריקני, אע”פ שחתמה על התחייבות לשוב לישראל בתום לימודיה בארה”ב. לביא הגיעה לארה”ב ב־ 1979 ולמדה באוניברסיטת קליפורניה בברקלי לאחר שקיבלה מענק מקרן פולברייט. אחד מהתנאים לקבלת המענק הוא שהמקבל ישוב לארצו בתום לימודיו. ב־1983 נישאה לביא לפורסט ראוז, אזרח אמריקני שחור. סוכנות האינפורמציה האמריקנית, המפעילה את קרן פולברייט, דרשה מלביא לחזור לישראל, כפי שהתחייבה. סמדר, הלומדת אנתרופולוגיה, סרבה בגלל שני נימוקים: החיים בארץ יגרמו לה ולבעלה סבל, מפני שהבעל השחור יסבול מייחס עויין בארץ. יתר על כן, בעלה, המשלים לימודי דוקטורט בפיזיקה, לא יוכל לעסוק בישראל במקצועו. בני הזוג פתחו במערכה ציבורית, שחבקה את וושינגטון וירושלים יחד. סמדר הצליחה להביא מכתב רשמי משגרירות ישראל בוושינגטון האומר שלישראל אין התנגדות להישארותה של סמדר בארה”ב. אחת ההתפתחויות שאולי סייעו לסמדר להשיג את האישור המבוקש היתה התערבותם של עזר וייצמן ומזכיר הממשלה יוסי ביילין למענה. שלשום, בשיחה ל”מעריב‭, “‬אמרה סמדר: ניצחנו, אנחנו נשארים בקליפורניה‭.”אתמול אמרה: אני חוזרת מהר הביתה להלוויתו של אחי היחיד.


מעריב לנוער בגליון השבוע 32 עמודים היש תרבות נוער בישראל? מחקר כתבי נוער *** ראיון מיוחד עם ניסים אלוני מאת כ”נ איציק לץ ***
צייד הפרפרים – כ”נ סמדר לביא ***‬ הצד הרביעי שיל יהונתן גפן – מאת כ”נ ליאורה גיין 

מעריב⁩⁩, 1 אוגוסט 1971

ערב־ראיונות לנוער \ המראיינים: כתבי הנוער סמדר לביא, יצחק לץ ואוריאל בן־עמי \ המרואיינים: ‭* \‬ אפרים קישון * שייקה אופיר ‭* \ \‬ אורי דן \ ישעיהו פורת \  אהוד מנור * שמחה הולצברג: ‭”)‬אבי הפצועים)”‬ וכן תוכנית אמנותית


מפנקס הכנסת מאת יצחק שוד גולדה נפגשת עם נוער אתמול אירח יו״ר הכנסת, ראובן ברקת, מאות חברי פרלמנטים לנוער, יהודים ערבים ודרוזים. שלוש שעות “הפגיזו” את גולדה מאיר ואהרון ידלין בשאלות בוערות של מדיניות, חברה וחינוך לימינו של יו״ר הכנסת ישב מתחרהו הצעיר, אבי בן־שיטרית, מאשדוד, שניהל את הרב־שיח ביד חזקה ובפטיש נטוי. שואלת סמדר לביא : האם ערוכה ישראל למקרה שיפרוץ השלום, או שמה תפרוץ כאן מלחמת אזרחים ? האם אין סכנה כי תתפתח הרגשת עליונות ישראלית על פני שכנינו הערבים ? משיבה גולדה מאיר : אדרבה, יתנו לנו שכנינו שלום אמת ונראה כיצד נצליח לקיים חברה, תוך ויכוח דימוקראטי. הפער, החברתי עדתי מהווה חומר־נפץ מסוכן. אילו היה הדבר תלוי בה, היתה ראש־הממשלה דואגת להטבות למעוטי־הכנסה, ואילו היתר ימתינו. היו ימים “בטלניים ותמימים”, כאשר אדם השתכר לפי גודל משפחתו ולא לפי תפקידו. באותם ימים קיבל מזכיר ההסתדרות משכורת נמוכה מזו של פקיד מודיעין. אך היום קובעת ועדת התיאום של הארגונים האקדמאיים, שהפער קטן לאחרונה ב־l 7 אחוזים. גם הנוער יכול לעשות להקטנת הפער, אם יטול על עצמו את התפקיד לעזור לתלמידים חדשים בלימודיהם ולמצוא דרך ללב העולה החדש, כדי שיהיה לו עם מי להתיעץ. ללא התנדבות בני־נוער לא תוכל אף ממשלה להתגבר על הפער בכוחה בלבד. אשר ליחסינו עם השכנים, אילו עשו מדינות ערב שלום עם ישראל, היינו חיים איתם בהערכה וכבוד. יכולנו להגיש להם סיוע טכני כשם שאנו עושים באפריקה, לא כאנשים עליונים, אלא כאדם אל אדם. בישראל עובדים ערבים רבים בעבודות בלתי־מקצועיות. גולדה לא היתה רוצה שתיווצר כאן חברה, שבה לא יהיו עובדי־בניין, סנדלרים וחייטים יהודיים.



דבר⁩⁩, 27 יולי 1979
גלי צה”ל‭16. 05‬ . פגשתי נוודים אצילים – סיפורה של סמדר לביא בת ה ־‭,24‬ סטודנטית בחוג לסוציולוגיה, ואנתרופולוניה חברתית באוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים ‬ששהתה במשך ארבע שנים בחברת הבדואים של שבט “אמזנה” בדהב, החחקתה אחר אורח חייהם של הבדואים בדרום סיני. ‬הדימוי של הבדואי — הנווד האציל — ההולך במדבר מ”שום מקום” ל-“שום מקום” הוא רק אחד מהדימויים המופרכים בתוכנית זאת. עורך ומראיין אריאל כהן.  


דבר⁩⁩, 25 אוגוסט 1981
גלי צה”ל ‭23:05‬ פגשתי נוודים אצילים — סיפורה של סמדר לביא, סטודנטית בחוג לסוציולוגיה ואנתרופולוגיה באונ’ העברית, ששהתה במשך 4 שנים בחברתם של הבדואים משבט “אמזניה” בדהב, התחקתה אחר אורח חייהם ולמדה את דרכי אירגונם החברתי שבטי. עורך ומראיין: אריאל נתן.


חדשות⁩⁩, 12 אוקטובר 1989
המילוי המתובל, הסמוי, של הבורקס
יהודה ג’אד נאמן
כמעט כל האנתרופולוגים בארץ הם אשכנזים, בעוד שהקהילות אותן חקרו הן של יהודים שעלו ארצה מארצות העולם השלישי. מעירה על כך האנתרופולוגית סמדר לביא: “כיהודייה ערבית, שמתי לב שאיש מבין המנהיגים הישראלים מעולם לא טרח לברר אם אני מעוניינת בדימוי שיצרו עלי האשכנזים כאותו חלק אקזוטי ומתורבת למחצה ־בחברה שלהם;”


הנה פרופסור מגולגל בתוך נייר עיתון
סיפורים על מובטלים המתפרנסים בקושי יש למכביר. סיפור על פרופסורית בעלת שם עולמי המתקרבת לחרפת רעב הוא קצת יותר נדיר. ynet מביא לכם את סיפורה של סמדר לביא, מהמומחים החשובים בעולם בתחום האנתרופולוגיה, הנאלצת לגדל ילד בן 12 עם הכנסה של 2,700 שקל בחודש ובלי משרה קבועה. את עבודת המחקר הבאה שלה היא לא יכולה לפרסם, כי המחשב מקולקל ואין מי שיממן את תיקונו
דקל שחרור עדכון אחרון:  27.01.02 , 11:07
“אני ובני בן ה-12 חיים מהבטחת הכנסה של 2,700 שקל ומעזרה בשכר דירה של חלמיש”. הציטוט הזה לא לקוח מעוד סיפור של משפחה במצוקה מעיירת פיתוח. הדוברת הפעם היא סמדר לביא, ליתר דיוק פרופסור סמדר לביא, בת 47, מומחית עולמית באנתרופולוגיה.אף שמאחוריה שלושה ספרים שזכו לתפוצה בעולם, מחקרים שראו אור באוניברסיטאות המובילות במערב וקריירה אקדמית חובקת עולם, מגדלת לביא בתל אביב בדוחק רב את בנה הקטן.עד לא מזמן הרצתה כמחליפה, תמורת סכום פעוט, במכללת בית ברל. הסטודנטיות שלה ל”חינוך ושיוויון הזדמנויות” לא ידעו על מצבה הכלכלי הקשה. “היו לי סטודנטיות נפלאות”, אומרת לביא, “לא רציתי לערב שמחה בשמחה. זה לא היה המקום”. עתה, משתם הסמסטר ופרופסור לביא מסיימת את תקופת ההחלפה בבית ברל, לא ברור לה מהיכן תוציא את לחמה ואת לחמו של בנה הקטן.”אנו חיים בדוחק רב”, סיפרה השבוע. “גם אם הייתי רוצה להתקדם מקצועית, אני לא יכולה לעשות זאת כאן, כי המחקרים שלי תקועים עמוק בתוך מחשב. המחשב מקולקל ואין לי כסף לתקנו”.בעיריית תל אביב מכירים את המקרה של לביא ואומרים, כי ללא שירותי הרווחה העירוניים היו מגיעים לביא ובנה לחרפת רעב. “זה פשוט לא ייאמן, שמישהי עם קורות חיים מפוארים כאלה, מגיעה למצב של אין עבודה”, אמרה השבוע בתסכול עובדת רווחה, המנסה להתמודד עם סיפורי המובטלים הרבים הנוחתים על שולחנה.
מברקלי ללשכת הסעד
“המדהים הוא”, מוסיפה העובדת, “שמדובר בפרופסור שוויתרה על המשרה שלה באוניברסיטה הציבורית הטובה בעולם – אוניברסיטת קליפורניה, כדי לשקם את בנה בארץ”.לא בכדי מדברים בשירותי הרווחה של עיריית תל אביב על לביא כידועה, ונדהמים גם שם מסירובה של האקדמיה הישראלית לשכור את ההון התרבותי שלה. גם טענות, אם יהיו, של ראשי האוניברסיטאות, על כך שלביא אינה מתאימה לאקדמיה, בטלות בשישים אל מול הקריירה שלה, שמעט ממנה יכול כל גולש לגלות באתרי אינטרנט ידועים. עיון באתרים של כמה מהאוניברסיטאות המובילות מעלה כי הדוקטורט של לביא, שנעשה באוניברסיטת ברקלי בארה”ב, הוא רק ציון דרך בקריירה שלה. שימוש קצרצר במנוע החיפוש google מביא עשרות פרסומים של מאמרים אקדמיים פרי עטה במגזינים אקדמיים נחשבים. באתר היוקרתי של אוניברסיטת קליפורניה, למשל, תוכלו לקנות את ספרה הנחשב The Poetics of Military Occupation ב-22 דולר, ולקבלו עם שליח עד הבית. הספר מפרט מחקר ומסע אנתרופולוגי מרגש לעולמם של הבדואים. ספר זה, אגב, נחשב לאחד מנכסי הצאן-ברזל של האנתרופולוגיה העולמית.
מה שווה תואר בישראל
לביא מוערכת בעולם, אך לא באקדמיה הישראלית. כאן מעדיפים, כנראה, שהפרופסור תישאר מובטלת. סיפורה ממחיש עד כמה התואר הראשון, השני או השלישי, מכובדים ככל שיהיו, גם אם נרכשו בעמל רב (ולא בסמטה אפלה של אוניברסיטה מפוקפקת תמורת חופן דולרים), הם חסרי משמעות בישראל 2002. הניגוד החמור בין מעמדה העולמי, לבין תנאי החיים של לביא ובנה, עומדים להקיש על דלת האקדמיה הישראלית, וניתן להעריך, שבתוך ימים יתפרס סיפורה על פני עמודים רבים במוספי העיתונים ובראיונות טלוויזיוניים, לפחות עד שהסיפור האנושי הבא יכה בנו. אפשר למשל, לשאול את ראשי המוסדות להשכלה גבוהה בישראל, הממומנים בידי המדינה, מדוע טרקו את הדלת בפני פרופ’ לביא, והביאו אותה ואת בנה לספו של הביטוח הלאומי, ולנזקקות לשירותי הרווחה של עיריית תל אביב.ואם יש למי מהגולשים הצעה לפתרון, הוא מוזמן לפנות למערכת ynet באמצעות התגובות לכתבה.

Ending the Oded Goldreich Israel Prize Saga


Editorial Note

In June 2021, Yoav Galant, the then Israel’s Minister of Education, rejected the recommendation of the Israel Prize Committee to award Professor Oded Goldreich from the Weizmann Institute the Israel Prize for 2021 in the field of Mathematics and Computer Science.  Earlier this year, Goldreich had signed a petition that urged the European Union to withdraw funding from Ariel University in Horizon 2020. 

Goldreich sued, and, in August 2021, the Israeli High Court decided to cancel Galant’s decision. The High Court also tasked the current Minister of Education, Yifat Shasha-Biton, to review the Prize committee recommendation. 

On Thursday, Shasha-Biton rejected the Prize committee recommendation. She stated: “Prof. Goldreich’s signature on a petition calling for a boycott of an Israeli academic institution is an exceptional case that justifies the decision not to award the candidate the prize, despite his outstanding and impressive professional achievements in his field of research.”  She added, “As a Minister of Education and Chairman of the Council for Higher Education, I cannot award the Israel Prize for academic achievements, impressive as they may be, to those who call for a boycott of an Israeli academic institution.”  

She insisted, “In practice, Prof. Goldreich, as a first-class academic, who grew up in the academy in Israel and enjoyed its sponsorship and resources, tried to prevent academic and economic ties from a public institution – Ariel University – only because of its geographical location. This justifies depriving him of receiving the prestigious award,” the Minister wrote in her decision.  

She emphasized “that the purpose of the Israel Prize is to encourage Israeli creativity, excellence and research…  Denying the Prize to anyone who seeks to infringe on freedom of opinion, negates the purpose and objectives of the Israel Prize, and opposes the possibilities of creations and innovations. Awarding the Prize to someone who wishes to harm Israeli creativity and research will go against the purpose of the Prize. Such an absurdity cannot be accepted.” 

Goldreich’s lawyer Adv. Michael Sfard attacked the Minister’s decision, calling it “an unfortunate decision that inflicts a death blow on the prestige of the Israel Prize and continues the trend of incriminating leftist’s positions. A decision marred by improper political considerations and conveys that a prize that should be given for professional achievement is, in fact, also a reward for avoiding criticism of government policy. Prof. Goldreich does not need the honor, he has received international awards and badges for his work, it is the State of Israel that loses from the Minister’s decision.” 

The president of the National Academy of Sciences and its former presidents expressed regret and protest at the Education Minister’s decision: “The President of the Academy and its former presidents view with great concern the involvement of political considerations in decisions regarding the awarding of the Israel Prize to scientists, and express their strong protest against it. Political statements and actions, as in the present case, which are permissible according to the principle of freedom of expression, are irrelevant to the awarding of the prize. Under these circumstances, the current decision damages the status of the prize and that of Israeli science as a whole, as well as Israel’s scientific standing worldwide.” 

It must be added that Goldreich called for the boycott of Ariel University before. In 2010 Goldreich published and circulated an opinion piece by Dr. Anat Matar, discussing a boycott as a tool, which he edited and emphasized some key points, saying: “The only academic institution in the area that I would really like to harm is Ariel College,” emphasizing that “The boycott is the political instrument of the civil community… it is not a step that justifies itself and is detached from its possibilities of success. It is a tool. As such, it is subject to circumstances… Opposition to normalization is one of the main reasons for supporting the boycott policy in general, and those directed at the cultural and academic community of Israel in particular.” 

Both the presidents of the National Academy of Science and Sfard, insisted that it was Goldreich’s politics and ideology that had led to the decision to cancel his award. But this is not true.  Goldreich broke the Boycott Law that the Knesset enacted in 2011, extending to boycotting the settlements.  Calling for the boycott of Ariel University is illegal according to the Boycott Law.

Those who complain about the Minister’s decision need to be reminded that Goldreich broke the law and as a result he is not awarded the Israel Prize.

Education minister denies Israel Prize to professor who supports university boycott

Professor Oded Goldreich’s attorney, Michael Sfard, pronounced the result “a wretched decision that continues the trend of criminalizing left-wing positions.”

(November 18, 2021 / JNS) Israel’s Minister of Education Yifat Shaha-Biton announced on Thursday that an Israeli professor who signed a petition calling for a boycott of Ariel University Center of Samaria will not receive the Israel Prize.

In doing so, Shasha-Biton upheld a decision by her predecessor, former Education Minister Yoav Galant.

Walla reported that in August, Israel’s Supreme Court judges overturned Galant’s decision to deny the award to Oded Goldreich, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Faculty of Mathematics and Computer Science, instructing that the matter be returned to the aegis of the current education minister.

In a statement, Shasha-Biton said that Goldreich’s signature on a “petition that calls for the boycott of an Israeli academic institution forms an unusual case that justifies the choice not to grant the prize, despite his prominent, professional and impressive achievements in his area of research.”

She added that “as education minister and the chairperson of the Council for Higher Education, I cannot grant the Israel Prize for academic achievements, as impressive as they are, to someone who calls for a boycott of an Israeli academic institution.”

Shasha-Biton said Goldreich attempted to deny academic and economic links to a public institution “only due to its geographic location,” adding that this formed an unusual external circumstance justifying the decision to withhold the prestigious award.

She affirmed that the goal of the prize is to “encourage Israeli creativity, excellence and research.”

Goldreich’s attorney, Michael Sfard, pronounced the result “a wretched decision that lands a death blow on the prestige of the Israel Prize and continues the trend of criminalizing left-wing positions.”

He added that it “is dipped up to its neck in invalid political considerations and broadcasts [the message] that a prize that should be given for professional achievements is in actuality a prize for withholding criticism of government policy.”


An Open Letter from the President and Former Presidents of the Academy Regarding the Minister of Education’s Decision Not to Award the Israel Prize to Professor Oded Goldreich

The President of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities and its former presidents express their protest and deep sorrow over the final decision of the Minister of Education, Dr. Yifat Shasha-Biton, not to award the Israel Prize in Mathematics and Computer Science to Professor Oded Goldreich, due to his political views and actions. The sole criterion for awarding the Israel Prize in the scientific fields is excellence in research. It is thanks to this that the prize retains the position of the highest honor that the State of Israel bestows upon its scientists. The Prize Committee repeatedly found Professor Goldreich worthy of receiving the Israel Prize, for his accomplishments and excellence in research. The President of the Academy and its former presidents view with great concern the involvement of political considerations in decisions regarding the awarding of the Israel Prize to scientists, and express their strong protest against it. Political statements and actions, as in the present case, which are permissible according to the principle of freedom of expression, are irrelevant to the awarding of the prize. Under these circumstances, the current decision damages the status of the prize and that of Israeli science as a whole, as well as Israel’s scientific standing worldwide. The Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities was established by law (1960/5721). Under this law, the Academy is required to advise the Government of Israel on subjects related to research and scientific planning that are of national importance, and is entrusted with the advancement of scientific excellence in Israel.Professor David Harel, President (elected 2021)Professor Nili Cohen, President Emerita (2015-2021)Professor Ruth Arnon, President Emerita (2010–2015)Professor Menahem Yaari, President Emeritus (2004–2010)Professor Jacob Ziv, President Emeritus (1995–2004)Professor Joshua Jortner, President Emeritus (1986–1995)


שאשא ביטון החליטה לא להעניק את פרס ישראל לפרופסור גולדרייך
לאחר שבג”ץ ביטל את החלטת שר החינוך הקודם גלנט שלא להעניק לגולדרייך את הפרס בשל חתימה על עצומה הקוראת להחרים את אוניברסיטת אריאל, הודיעה שרת החינוך כי ההחלטה עומדת על כנה. “אינני יכולה להעניק את פרס ישראל למי שקורא לחרם על מוסד אקדמי בישראל”
סוניה גורודיסקי וטל שלו יום חמישי 18 בנובמבר 2021

שרת החינוך יפעת שאשא ביטון הודיעה היום (חמישי) כי החליטה שלא להעניק את פרס ישראל בתחום המתמטיקה וחקר מדעי המחשב לפרופסור עודד גולדרייך. בכך, הותירה שאשא ביטון על כנה את החלטתו של שר החינוך הקודם, יואב גלנט.
באוגוסט ביטלו שופטי בג”ץ את החלטת גלנט למנוע מגולדרייך את הפרס בעקבות חתימתו על עצומה הקוראת להחרים את אוניברסיטת אריאל. השופטים הורו להחזיר את ההחלטה לשרה הנוכחית שאשא ביטון.
“חתימתו של פרופ’ גולדרייך על העצומה הקוראת להחרים מוסד אקדמי ישראלי מהווה מקרה חריג המצדיק את הבחירה שלא להעניק למועמד את הפרס, על אף הישגיו המקצועיים הבולטים והמרשימים בתחום מחקרו”, כתבה השרה שאשא ביטון. “כשרת החינוך ויו”ר המל”ג, אינני יכולה להעניק את פרס ישראל על הישגים אקדמיים, מרשימים ככל שיהיו, למי שקורא לחרם על מוסד אקדמי ישראלי”.
“הלכה למעשה, פרופ’ גולדרייך כאקדמאי מן השורה הראשונה, שצמח באקדמיה בישראל ונהנהמחסותה וממשאביה, ניסה למנוע קשרים אקדמיים וכלכליים, ממוסד ציבורי – אוניברסיטת אריאל – רק מחמת מיקומו הגיאוגרפי. קריאה זו לחרם על מוסד אקדמי ישראלי עולה לשיטתי כדי נסיבה ‘חיצונית’ חריגה המצדיקה לשלול ממנו את קבלת הפרס היוקרתי”, כתבה השרה בהחלטתה.
לדבריה, “בהקשר זה חשוב להדגיש, כי מטרתו של פרס ישראל לעודד יצירה ישראלית, מצוינות ומחקר. קריאה לחרם על מוסדות אקדמיים בישראל, חותרת תחת מטרה זו, שכן היא מבקשת לגדוע אתהיצירה, המגוון וחופש הדעות. חרם אקדמי מבקש לקבע עמדות מסוימות, ולשלול אחרות. שלילת הפרס ממי שמבקש לפגוע בחופש הדעות, מגנה למעשה על תכליותיו ומטרותיו של פרס ישראל,מגנה על האפשרות ליצור ולחדש. הענקת פרס ישראל למי שמבקש לחבל ולפגוע בעידוד היצירה והמחקר הישראלי, תחתור תחת התכליות שבהענקת הפרס. אבסורד כזה לא ניתן לקבל”.
עורך דינו של גולדרייך, מיכאל ספרד, תקף את החלטת השרה וכינה אותה “החלטה אומללה שמנחיתה מכת מוות על יוקרתו של פרס ישראל וממשיכה את המגמה של הפללת עמדות שמאל. ההחלטה טובלת עד צוואר בשיקולים פוליטיים פסולים ומשדרת שפרס שאמור להינתן בגין הישגים מקצועיים הוא למעשה גם פרס על הימנעות מביקורת של מדיניות הממשלה. פרופ’ גולדרייך לא צריך את הכבוד, הוא קיבל פרסים ואותות בינלאומיים על עבודתו, זו מדינת ישראל שמפסידה מהחלטת השרה”.
שר החינוך לשעבר, יואב גלנט, שבזמן כהונתו החליט שלא להעניק לגולדרייך את הפרס: ‏”אני מברך על כך ששרת החינוך הנכנסת אימצה את החלטתי שלא להעניק את פרס ישראל לפרופ’ גולדרייך. ‏כפי שקבעתי בהחלטתי, אין לאפשר מצב בו אדם פועל בידו האחת להחרים את מדינת ישראל ומוסדותיה האקדמיים, ובידו השנייה מבקש לקבל את פרס ישראל”.
בקואליציה החלו להישמע דברי ביקורת על החלטת השרה. ח”כ מיכל רוזין (מרצ) כתבה בחשבון הטוויטר שלה: “‏פרס ישראל ניתן על מצוינות אקדמית, לא על עמדות פוליטיות. ממשלה יקרה שלי – איפה השינוי?” בהמשך הוסיפה כי “שרת החינוך שגתה בהחלטתה לא להעניק את פרס ישראל לפרופ’ גולדרייך, זו החלטה שגויה מהותית ומשפטית. המשך רדיפת אנשים בשל דיעותיהם, זו לא ממשלת שינוי”.
גם חברה למפלגה, ח”כ מוסי רז, תקף את שרת החינוך: “שוחחתי עם פרופסור גולדרייך והבעתי בפניו שאט נפש מהחלטת שרת החינוך. ממשלת השינוי ממשיכה בדרכה של ממשלת הרדיפה והשחיתות. פרופסור גולדרייך הוא מדען בעל שם עולמי ונקבע כראוי לפרס ישראל על ידי ועדה מקצועית. רדיפה פוליטית נגדו בשל תמיכתו בשלום שוללת ממנו את הפרס”.
נשיא האקדמיה הלאומית למדעים ונשיאיה לשעבר הביעו צער ומחו על החלטתה של שרת החינוך: “רואים בדאגה רבה עירוב שיקולים פוליטיים בהחלטות הנוגעות למתן פרס ישראל במדעים ומוחים עליו בתוקף. התבטאויות ופעילויות פוליטיות, כמו במקרה הנוכחי, שהן בגדר המותר על פי עקרון חופש הביטוי אינן רלוונטיות בעניין הענקת הפרס. בנסיבות אלה יש משום פגיעה במעמדו של הפרס ובמדע הישראלי כולו, וכן במעמדה המדעי של ישראל בעולם”.
מנגד, בארגון הימין אם תרצו, שהוביל את המאבק נגד הענקת הפרס לגולדרייך, בירכו. “מצדיעים לשרת החינוך שקיבלה את ההחלטה הנכונה. לאחר מאבק ממושך שלנו יחד עם אלפי ישראלים, מי שיקרא להחרים את ישראל לא יקבל את פרס ישראל. נמשיך לפעול כדי לשמור על שקיפות באקדמיה ולחשוף את המחרימים”.
במרץ החליטה ועדת פרס ישראל להעניק לגולדרייך את הפרס, על פועלו בנושא סיבוכיות חישובית. לאחר שגלנט גילה שגולדרייך חתום על פנייה לפרלמנט הגרמני לבטל את ההכרה בתנועת ה-BDS כתנועה אנטישמית, לצד חתימה על עצומה הקוראת להחרים את אוניברסיטת אריאל, הוא פנה לוועדת הפרס בבקשה לבחון מחדש את הענקתו.

בעקבות זאת, הוועדה עתרה לבג”ץ, ובהחלטת ביניים אישר בית המשפט לשר לבדוק תוך 30 ימים האם עמדותיו של פרופ’ גולדרייך מנוגדות לחוק למניעת פגיעה במדינה באמצעות חרם ולכן מצדיקות שלא לאשר את המלצת הוועדה.
בחודש יולי הודיעה השרה שאשא-ביטון כי לא תהפוך את החלטת קודמה בתפקיד. לאחר הודעה זו כתב היועץ המשפטי לממשלה בחוות דעתו לבג”ץ כי ההחלטה לשלול את הפרס לא עומדת במבחן משפטי.


[   ]anat-bds.doc2010-05-26 12:5654K 

על ההקשר של החרם האקדמי על ישראל

[מתוך תשובת ענת מטר לדיונים ברשת אוניברסיטאית על עניין החרם האקדמי על ישראל.]

[עריכה (ובפרט הדגשות) על ידי עודד גולדרייך]

בשנת 2005 יצאה קריאה מטעם החברה האזרחית הפלסטינית לחרם, משיכת השקעות וסנקציות על מדינת ישראל ומוסדותיה. על הקריאה הזו חתומים גופים רבים, איגודי עובדים, ארגונים חוץ-ממשלתיים ומפלגות, המבקשים לקדם מאבק לא מזוין בכיבוש המתמשך ובמדיניות האפרטהייד של ישראל. המהלך הזה הוא חלק ממכלול, אשר צד אחר שלו הוא, למשל, ההפגנות השבועיות נגד גדר ההפרדה וגזל האדמות. מי שהצטרפו למאבק הזה דוחים, מצד אחד, את שיתוף הפעולה המתמשך של הרשות הפלסטינית עם הפארסה המכונה “תהליך השלום”, ומצד שני את דרך ההתנגדות המזוינת.

הקריאה לחרם שואבת את השראתה מן המאבק באפרטהייד בדרום-אפריקה. מובן שהנסיבות ההיסטוריות אינן זהות, וגם צורות המאבק השונות אינן זהות, אבל ישנם קווי דמיון בצורת המשטר והתנהגותו, וכן ביחס הקהילה הבינלאומית (אני מתכוונת בראש וראשונה לתמיכה המסיבית של ארה”ב ואנגליה, בצד שאט-הנפש של קהילות בינלאומיות, איגודים מקצועיים וכו’). לא אעמיק כאן בניתוח ההשוואות; אציין רק כי אישים רבים, שנודעו במאבקם בדרום-אפריקה של האפרטהייד, מוצאים קווי דמיון כאלה ותומכים במהלכי ההחרמות נגד ישראל בשל כך.

החרם הוא המכשיר הפוליטי של הקהילה האזרחית – הפלסטינית, הבינלאומית, וגם הקהילה הישראלית הזעירה המבקשת להפגין סולידריות עם המאבק הזה, כמיטב יכולתה. הוא איננו תכלית לעצמה וגם לא צעד “מוסרי” גרידא; דהיינו, אין הוא צעד המצדיק את עצמו ומנותק מאפשרויות ההצלחה שלו. הוא כלי. ככזה, הוא כפוף לנסיבות, ואם יתברר, למשל, שהוא מזיק יותר משהוא מועיל – גם בטווח הארוך הנראה לעין – יהיה נכון לסלקו. כרגע, ניתוח המצב מצביע – בעיני תומכי החרם, כמובן – על היותו אחד הכלים הבודדים שעשויים להוליך את ישראל לשינוי מדיניותה הנפשעת (אולי ישירות, ואולי דרך שינוי מדיניותן של מדינות אירופה, ואפילו ארה”ב – מה שקשה להאמין – ביחס אליה). יתר על כן, נראה שדרכים אחרות חסומות לגמרי. התמיכה האמריקאית המסיבית, שטיפת-המוח הלאומנית, תמיכתה הכמעט-טוטלית של האוכלוסייה היהודית בישראל במהלכי ממשלותיה (93% תמכו במבצע “עופרת יצוקה”, למשל), וכן, גם שיתוף פעולה, שלא לומר התגייסות, של האליטה הכלכלית, התקשורתית והאקדמית – כל אלה מצביעים על כך שללא לחץ חיצוני לא יחול שיפור. אין פירושו של דבר שיש לוותר על דרכים אחרות של מאבק לא מזוין. נהפוך הוא. עבודה בתוך הקהילה הישראלית-יהודית נחוצה, ובמקביל, כמובן, נחוצה גם עבודה פנימית בתוך הקהילה הכבושה.

האינטרס הגדול של ממשלות ישראל הוא שמירת מראית-עין של נורמליות. ישראל מבקשת להציג את עצמה כלפי העולם המערבי כחלק אינטגרלי ממנו, כמדינה דמוקרטית, פתוחה, מתקדמת, ליברלית. ככל שמדיניותה הופכת לאלימה יותר, ככל שאופייה מתרחק יותר מן הדימוי הזה, כך מתגברים מאמציה לשמר את הדימוי. הקמפיין של “מיתוג מחודש של ישראל” – אותו ביקר עמיתנו קרלו שטרנגר ב”הארץ” לפני ימים אחדים – הוא חוד החנית של המאמץ הזה. לקהילה התרבותית והאקדמית מייחדים אנשי הקמפיין, במשרדי החוץ וההסברה, תפקיד חשוב. הן אמורות להציג את פניה היפות של ישראל ובכך לטשטש את שאין לראות.

ההתנגדות לנורמליזציה היא אחת מהסיבות העיקריות לתמיכה במדיניות ההחרמות בכלל, וכאלה המופנות כלפי הקהילה התרבותית והאקדמית של ישראל בפרט. כך, למשל, מתארגנות מחאות נגד אירועי תרבות ישראליים הממומנים על ידי משרד החוץ ומכוונים ל”מיתוג המחודש” – כפי שקרה בפסטיבל טורונטו לקולנוע בשנה שעברה; אמנים מתבקשים על-ידי תומכי החרם שלא להופיע בישראל, מרצים מתבקשים שלא להשתתף בכנסים בארץ, וכדומה.

אולם תפקידה של האקדמיה אינו מסתכם בהיותה ה”פנים הנאורות” שיש להציג בפני העולם כמסכה. העולם האקדמי מחובר בטבורו לממסד המדינתי ומשרת אותו, באינספור פרויקטים צבאיים, מדיניים והסברתיים. במקביל, ביקורת על מדיניות הכיבוש והאפרטהייד של ישראל כמעט ואיננה מושמעת בו – למרות ניסיונות גורמים שונים לצייר את התמונה אחרת. כל אלה הובילו את מנסחי הקמפיין הפלסטיני להכללה, באפיון החרם, גם של קריאה למשיכת השקעות במוסדות האקדמיים ולהימנעות ממימון פרויקטים אקדמיים – בפרט, כמובן, פרויקטים המשרתים ישירות את הממשלה. הרעיון הכולל הוא, שוב, הרצון להקשות על ישראל להתמיד בכיבוש, הן על-ידי הפיכת הכיבוש ל”לא משתלם” והן על-ידי חשיפת המקום אליו הידרדרה החברה הישראלית בפני חבריה עצמה, בדרך של הצבת מראה. לכן, אין לדבר על חרם על האקדמיה באופן מופשט ומנותק מן ההיבטים האחרים של המאבק הלא-מזוין לסיום הכיבוש.

עד כאן הצגה בסיסית של הרקע ההכרחי לדיון.  אני מבקשת להתייחס עתה, בקיצור ככל שאוכל, לכמה עניינים שעלו בהתכתבויות שונות.

שאלת החרם האינדיווידואלי מול זה המוסדי

כאמור, החל משנת 2005 נתנה החברה האזרחית הפלסטינית צורה ממוסדת לחרם. בצד הפנייה לקהילה הבינלאומית להחרמה, משיכת השקעות וסנקציות כלפי ישראל, ישנו גם פירוט של אופני ההחרמה הרצויים, וגם הסברים על אופני החרמה לא רצויים. על פי הפירוט הזה, החרם על האקדמיה הישראלית אינו כולל הימנעות מהזמנת אקדמאים ישראליים להרצאות וכנסים בחו”ל, שיתופם במחקרים, שיפוט ופרסום מאמרים וספרים שלהם, וכדומה. עד כמה שידוע לי, החל מאותה שנה, 2005, לא רבים המקרים בהם בחרו אקדמאים ברחבי העולם בדרכי החרמה כאלה.

שתי שאלות נוספות עלו בהקשר זה. ראשית, האם האקדמאים האירופיים מאמצים את הנוסח המוסדי-בלבד עליו דיברתי. לפי מיטב התרשמותי, הקריאה הפלסטינית יצרה מין “רגולציה” של החרם, ולכן פחתו המקרים שבהם קיבלו ההחרמות צורה אינדיווידואלית מן הסוגים האמורים. מקרים כאלה היו ועוד יהיו בוודאי, אבל לא התמיכה בקריאה הפלסטינית לחרם היא המקדמת אותם, אלא להיפך. בכל מקרה, הקריאה הפלסטינית מצביעה על קיומם של “אזורים אפורים”, ולי, כמו לאחרים – פלסטינים, ישראלים וזרים – יש לעתים הסתייגויות מפעולת חרם כזו או אחרת. אחרי הכל, פועל כל אדם לפי טעמו הפוליטי ומזגו האישי.

שנית, האם תמיכה בחרם מוסדי אינה, למעשה, גם תמיכה בחרם אינדיווידואלי. ובכן, כאן התשובה היא כן ולא. מובן שאקדמאים ייפגעו מכך שעמיתיהם יסרבו להגיע לכאן לכנסים שהם מבקשים לארגן. אבל (אם נסלק יוזמות אישיות מן הסוג האמור לעיל), לא תהיה פגיעה בהזמנת אקדמאים ישראליים לשבתונים והרצאות, בפרסומים וכו’. לעומת זאת ברור שקרנות מחקר תדולדלנה, השקעות באוניברסיטה תצטמצמנה, וכו’. כן, זה מחיר שלדעתי הקהילה האקדמית רבת-הפריבילגיות צריכה לשלם – מן הנימוקים שהבאתי לעיל.

תמיכה במהלך מסוים (כמו תמיכה בחרם) מאפשרת – תמיד – ניצול שלו או פרשנות מוטעית שלו

(למשל שימוש בחרם על-ידי גורמים אנטישמיים, או אחרים, שאינם מונעים מרצון לסיום הכיבוש ומדיניות האפרטהייד בלבד). אפשרות זו קיימת, ולדעתי, כל שאפשר לעשות נגדה הוא הבהרה חד-משמעית של הרציונל של החרם, מטרותיו, מסגרתו, וכו’. מצד שני, לא רק מעשים, אלא גם מחדלים, מפורשים ומנוצלים על ידי גורמים שונים ומשונים, ודי לחכימא ברמיזא.

מדוע דווקא ישראל?

אחת מן השאלות הקשות יותר בה נתקלים תומכי החרם היא השאלה, הסבירה לגמרי, בעניין ייחודה של ישראל. האם פשעיה של ארה”ב קטנים יותר? ואלו של אנגליה? כידוע, חומסקי נמנע מהחרמה משום שהוא טוען שהיא מפלה את ישראל לרעה ביחס לארצו. מן הצד השני, נהג הפיסיקאי, פרופ’ דניאל עמית המנוח, להחרים גם את האקדמיה האמריקאית. אבל אני לא שם. למה? משום שהחרם הוא כלי פוליטי ולא מטרה לעצמה ומשום שיש כמה הבדלים בין ישראל לארה”ב. ציינתי שהחרם איננו מצדיק את עצמו כשלעצמו, במנותק מאפשרויות ההצלחה שלו, מהנסיבות. כדי לקבל הנמקה כזו צריך לאמץ גישה מסוימת ליחסים בין מוסר ומחשבה פוליטית. זו סוגיה פילוסופית חשובה, שלא זה הפורום המתאים לבירורה, אך דנתי בה ובכוונתי לדון בה בהקשרים המתאימים. על כל פנים, כמו במקרה של דרום-אפריקה, מסתמן סיכוי שהחרם על ישראל יישא פירות (ואולי משום כך הוא מבהיל כל כך ישראלים רבים). אין צל של אפשרות אפילו לדמיין חרם על כלכלתה, תרבותה והאקדמיה של ארה”ב, ומובן שאין שום סיכויי הצלחה לחרם כזה.

זה המקום בו שואל אדם את עצמו: האם תמכתי, או הייתי תומך, בחרם על דרום-אפריקה? מי שמשיב בחיוב, צריך לדעתי לשאול את עצמו מדוע לא כאן ועכשיו. [עודד: יתכנו תשובות סבירות לשאלה מדוע לא “כאן ועכשיו”, אבל תשובות סבירות צריכות להיות מנוסחות במונחים יחסיים (ולא מוחלטים) ולהתייחס לנסיבות הפוליטיות של “כאן ועכשיו” – הן מבחינת הצורך להחריף את המאבק במדיניות הישראלית והן מבחינת האפקטיביות הצפויה של צעדים מסוימים.]

שאלה מקבילה, מן הצד השני, נוגעת לפשעיהן של ארצות כמו סין או איראן. מדוע לא להחרים גם אותן? ובכן, ישראל מתיימרת להיות מדינה דמוקרטית יותר מסין או איראן, ולדעתי ליומרה הזו יש מחיר. יתר על כן, ישראל זוכה להטבות מפליגות ממדינות המערב בשל ה”דמוקרטיה” בה היא מתפארת לשווא. קיצוץ בפריבילגיות הללו, לנוכח מדיניותה, נראה לי מעשה ראוי וחשוב.

מדוע אינני מתפטרת?

השאלה הזו מניחה תשובה לשאלה אחרת: האם אני, כלשון העצומה, מבקשת לפגוע בעמיתיי ובתלמידיי, באוניברסיטת תל-אביב וביתר האוניברסיטאות בארץ? תשובתי (הצפויה) היא לא ולא. המוסד האקדמי היחיד בסביבה שהייתי רוצה באמת לפגוע בו הוא מכללת אריאל, ולכך, נדמה לי, שותפים גם אחרים. (אגב: אלה צריכים לשאול את עצמם אם אינם מייחלים לחרם על המרכז האוניברסיטאי באריאל; אם יסרבו להרצות שם ולהשתתף בכנסיו; אם יתמכו בהסבת השקעות ממנו. אם ישיבו בהן על השאלות הללו, ברי שאף הם שמים סייגים לאותו “חופש אקדמי” בו מרבים לנפנף כאן לשווא לאחרונה – ובצדק יעשו כן. אינני מבקשת חלילה לגזור גזירה שווה בין מכללת אריאל לבין האוניברסיטאות הישראליות, אולם את הנקודה הזו חשוב להבהיר.)

איך זה שאני תומכת בחרם ובכל זאת רוצה בטובת האוניברסיטה? ממש כשם שאני רוצה בטובת ישראל ומצדדת בחרם עליה. תביעה להתפטרותי מן האוניברסיטה גוררת גם תביעה להסתלקותי מן הארץ. אין לי צל של ספק שסיום הכיבוש ומדיניות האפרטהייד נחוצים למען עתיד טוב יותר, לכולנו, במקום הזה; וכאמור, אני מאמינה שלחץ בינלאומי, כפי שתיארתי לעיל, הוא כלי חשוב לקידום המטרה הזו. כולנו חברים בקהילות שונות, והפגנת סולידריות עם קהילה אחת עשויה להתנגש עם הסולידריות שאנחנו מפגינים כלפי האחרת.  הסולידריות הראשונית שלי עתה היא עם חבריי למאבק הבלתי מזוין נגד הכיבוש. עם זאת, אני רואה את עצמי בשר מבשרה של הקהילה האקדמית בישראל. היא חשובה לי, היא מהווה חלק משמעותי מחיי, תלמידיי חשובים לי מאד וכך גם עבודתי האקדמית. בוודאי שהתנגשות כזו יוצרת מתיחות – אולי אפילו סתירה. מי שמאמין שאפשר לחיות ללא סתירות ומתחים פנימיים, יבושם לו. בלי שום קשר לנושא הנוכחי, אני לא מאמינה באפשרות כזו. רצוי, כמובן, למוסס את המתח, ואת זאת אני עושה יום יום, בתפקודי באוניברסיטה ובשמאל.

לעניין הפגיעה באוניברסיטה יש להוסיף עוד שני היבטים לפחות. הראשון הוא שגם אמצעי השביתה (אף הוא אמצעי פוליטי, לא מנותק מהקשר ולא בר-הכללה באופן פורמלי), שכולנו או לפחות רובינו תומכים בו, עשוי להזיק בטווח הקצר. השביתה הגדולה של הסגל אכן הזיקה לכיסי האוניברסיטה. סטודנטים עזבו לטובת המכללות, בטענה ש”שם לא שובתים”. (למרבה השמחה הם התבדו – ראו את מכללת ספיר.) דרישות שאנחנו מעלים, בצדק רב, לגבי העסקתם של עובדי הקבלן, או המורים-מן-החוץ, אף הן מרעות לכאורה את מצבה הכלכלי של האוניברסיטה – ובכל זאת אנחנו מאמינים שהן מוצדקות, ואף מצדיקות שביתות וסנקציות שונות.

ההיבט השני נוגע למה שאפשר לקרוא לו בהכללה “המיליטריזם של האוניברסיטה”. שיתוף הפעולה הסמוי והגלוי עם הצבא, תוכניות הלימוד המיוחדות, מינוי מרצים שמוצנחים היישר מן הפיקוד הבכיר – כל אלה, שהאוניברסיטה נוטה להתגאות בהם, מזיקים לה, לטעמי, לא פחות מן התמיכה בחרם. הרבה יותר. אינני מתכוונת רק ליחסי-החוץ, לעובדה שהמיליטריזם הזה מקל על תומכי החרם. אני מתכוונת קודם כל לפרצופה של האוניברסיטה עצמה, לסדר היום של מחקריה, למחויבותה האזרחית.

עד כאן. חשבתי לכתוב לכם מסמך קצר המכיל תשובות לשאלות, אך משהתיישבתי לכתוב אותו הבנתי עד כמה ניסיון כזה הוא מופרך. ברור לי לגמרי עד כמה קשה סוגיית החרם (הכולל, וזה על האקדמיה בפרט). אינני מצפה לשכנע איש, אלא לסלק אי הבנות ולהציע לכם לראות את הדברים מפרספקטיבה אחרת. ברור לי גם שלשם ראייה כזו דרושה הסכמה מינימלית בעניינים הפוליטיים. יתר על כן, אני סבורה, וכתבתי על כך בהרחבה בהקשר האקדמי, כי דרוש לה גם שינוי בהוויה, באורח החיים. אבל, כאמור, עד כאן.

[מאי 2010]

Anti-Israel Campaigns on Campus in the Age of Woke Culture


Editorial Note

Some Palestinian and pro-Palestinian faculty and students have recently complained about harassment by their pro-Israel counterparts.    

In an examination of two cases of Palestinian advocacy, one case invited a Palestinian terrorist to speak in a webinar, and the other was ready to trample on principles of free speech which have been traditionally associated with the academy.  The universities have become the center of cancel culture, a tactic used against those who breach the guidelines of self-appointed guardians of woke, that is, politically correct discourse.   

The first case involves Professor Rabab Abdulhadi from San Francisco State University (SFSU).  In 2020 Abdulhadi hosted a Zoom webinar with Leila Khaled, a terrorist affiliate of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a US-designated terrorist organization. In 1969, Khaled was involved in the hijacking of the TWA flight and was arrested by the British authorities.  

Freed in subsequent exchanges, Khaled reinvented herself as a journalist espousing the PFLP ideas.  After Jewish students complained, the Zoom conference was terminated.   Abdulhadi complained that her academic freedom was breached, and a faculty committee of three that reviewed the case agreed with her.  However, SFSU president Lynn Mahoney vetoed the committee’s decision. 

The International Campaign to Defend Professor Rabab Abdulhadi issued a Press Release, stating: “In an outrageous and insulting decision, President Lynn Mahoney of SFSU has disregarded the legitimate reprimand of a faculty panel that recommended redress to Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi… President Mahoney’s decision upholds University’s corporatized acceptance of Big Tech’s increasing control over academic discussion and its complicity with Zionist organizations that stifles all discourse on issues of human rights and dignity for the Palestinian people.”   

The argument provided by the Press Release is worth noting, the “Zionists” have taken over the command of Big Tech to deny the Palestinians “their human rights and dignity.“  

The second case involves two students at Bard College, Ben Mulick and Akiva Hirsch, who, together with 17 other members of the group Students for Justice in Palestine, protested the October 2019 panel, which featured Professor Ruth Wisse, a retired Harvard professor who spoke on “Who Needs Antisemitism?.”  The group interrupted the talk by shouting slogans against Wisse. The incident triggered an investigation by Bard. Mulick and Hirsch were identifiable because they spoke with the media after the incident. Palestine Legal, an advocacy group defending people who support Palestinian rights, came to their defense. Palestine Legal claimed that Wisse had “a history of making bigoted remarks against Palestinians.” In its view, Wisse made “racist and dehumanizing statements about Palestinians” in a 2017 interview discussing “The Arab War Against the Jews.”  However, when listening to Wisse’s 2017 interview, she speaks about Arab politics since the creation of the Arab League, aimed to prevent the establishment of Israel; through the wars against Israel. Wisse also argues that the Arab world is responsible for the suffering of the Palestinians and not Israel.

The Palestine Legal argument is worth noting.  Bard College advertises its unique liberal education philosophy that “truly values education for the sake of self-growth.” To that end, every student’s academic “experience is entirely customizable.”  Arguably, the self-growth of Jewish and pro-Israel students could be enriched by listening to Professor Wisse speaking about anti-Semitism.   Palestine Legal did not see the irony in “canceling” Ruth Wisse, because for them trashing Israel without allowing a response is the normal way of doing business these days. 

Palestine Legal announced that the student protest “fell clearly within the bounds of Bard’s expansive free speech policies.”  In the end, recently, Palestine Legal has successfully exonerated Mulick and Hirsch.

There is a message in these incidents for the Israeli authorities who have struggled for years with the delegitimization of Israel and its crown achievement, BDS.   Legal and political recourse, including the growing acceptance of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, has helped to point out the anti-Semitic themes in some pro-Palestinian advocacy.  However, as IAM has argued for years, the real source of the anti-Israel animus is embedded in the embrace of the critical, neo-Marxist scholarship in the liberal arts.  Books and articles written on the Middle East and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have relentlessly portrayed Israel as a colonial apartheid state, or worse, a brutal regime that uses Nazi-type tactics to subjugate the Palestinians.  No counter narrative is allowed in the woke rules of the discourse.   There is little surprise that this view made its way into the mainstream media and public opinion after decades of indoctrination.

American public figures, alarmed about the woke culture in the academy, have moved to create anti-woke universities, including the newly announced  University of Austin.  Israel cannot wait for such long-term solutions.  Israeli authorities and its overseas allies who fight BDS should create a body of experts to review what is being taught on the campuses. 



The International Campaign to Defend Professor Rabab Abdulhadi

15 October at 00:26
Sign the NSJP petition
https://www.nationalsjp.org/save-ameddonate to support Campaign LaunchGood.com/ProfessorAbdulhadiDefensePRESS RELEASE: October 14, 2021 – FOR IMMEDIATE PUBLICATIONACADEMIC SPEECH AND FREEDOM ON PALESTINE – IMPORTANT RULING AGAINST SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY CONCERNING THE POWER OF BIG TECH OVER ACADEMIAIn a decision with major implications for campuses across the country, on Thursday a panel of three faculty members at San Francisco State University (SFSU) upheld a grievance filed by Dr. Rabab Abduhadi, founding director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program, regarding violations of Professor Abdulhadi’s academic freedom. The grievance seeks redress for the failure of SFSU to protect Dr. Abdulhadi and the AMED program from the arbitrary cancellation by Zoom and other social media outlets of her online open classroom, “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance: A Conversation with Leila Khaled.” The University is bound by contract, law and AAUP policy to protect academic freedom rather than subcontracting the responsibility to private companies. Further, universities must maintain structural independence from the whims and demands of partisan lobbying organizations, including Zionist groups like the Lawfare Project and the Israeli government aligned app, ACT IL, both of which played a prominent role in the manufactured outrage campaign that led Zoom to cancel Drs. Abdulhadi and Tomomi Kinukawa’s open classroom in September 2020. The panel’s finding confirms both the University’s surrender of its responsibility to the overreach of private tech giants into academic affairs and its complicity with Zionist and right wing groups aiming to silence Palestinian voices on campus. In its decision, the faculty panel affirmed that: “San Francisco State University has inflicted harm upon Dr. Abdulhadi (and co-instructor, Dr. Kinukawa) and that her academic freedom was, in fact, violated. We characterize this harm in two ways: 1) that the university did not provide adequate support to Dr. Abdulhadi against the actions of the corporate entity, Zoom, and, more importantly against the outside organization, Lawfare Project.” The SFSU panel’s ruling has tremendous significance beyond its own campus and teaching about Palestine. With the growth of online learning, university teachers and students have become increasingly dependent on corporate media platforms such as Zoom, Google and Facebook. Advocates express alarm at the growing power of these corporate entities to censor the content and timing of classroom speech and activities, especially those deemed by university administrators as controversial. As Dima Khalidi, the director of the advocacy organization Palestine Legal, has written: “[such] attempts at censorship also have consequences not just for movements supporting justice in Palestine, but for racial, Indigenous, gender, immigrant, economic and LGBTQIA+ justice movements challenging government repression and overreach within the United States and globally.”Dr. Abdulhadi has been a luminary among international Palestinian intellectuals, known for her original scholarship on Palestinian women’s movements and her pioneering pedagogy integrating Palestine into a critical, community-focused ethnic studies framework. She has won numerous awards for her scholarly and civic leadership, including the Georgina M. Smith Award for “exceptional leadership” in 2020 from the American Association of University Professors . SFSU has shown its bias against AMED and in favor of Zionist organizations through its open collaboration with groups such as International Hillel and the Academic Engagement Network (AEN). These groups conflate criticism of Israel with anti-semitism and have as their stated mission to suppress support for Palestinian rights on campuses and to exceptionalize the complaints of Jewish students above all others, including Muslims and anti-Zionist Jews. The decision will now be placed on the desk of SFSU President Lynn Mahoney, who will have three weeks to uphold the panel’s findings. If she does not, the grievance will go to arbitration. For further information and interviews, contact:Rabab Abdulhadi* – rabab.abdulhadi@gmail.com; 914-882-3180 (cell) *Please text firstOmar Zahzah – omarmzahzah@gmail.com; 562-896-3313 (cell)Rosalind Petchesky – rpetches@gmail.com; 917-378-5683Harry Soloway – sologant@gmail.com; 914-815 2479 (cell)A copy of the Faculty Panel Decision is attached below.https://drive.google.com/…/1cWJ9rvURNHTZsDWbrDk…/view…_____Please follow the link: To sign a petition in support of our work: https://www.nationalsjp.org/save-amedTo support our legal campaign with a donation: LaunchGood.com/ProfessorAbdulhadiDefense



October 14, 2021
Faculty Hearing Committee Decision on the Statutory Grievance
filed by Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi
Rabab Abdulhadi, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Race and Resistance Studies
Sang Hea Kil, Ph.D.
Department of Justice Studies, San José State University
Tomomi Kinukawa, Ph.D.
Lecturer Faculty
Department of Women and Gender Studies
Saliem Shehadeh, M.A.
Graduate Student, UCLA, and Assistant to Dr. Abdulhadi
James Martel, Ph.D.
Professor of Political Science
President of CFA
Carleen Mandolfo, Ph.D.
Associate Vice President
Faculty Affairs, San Francisco State University
Faculty Hearing Committee members:
Andreana Clay, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Sociology and Sexuality Studies
Sandra Rosen, Ph.D.
Department of Special Education
Dayna Herbert Walker, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Department of Management
Faculty Hearing Committee Decision
The Faculty Hearing Committee is granting the grievance.
Remedy Ordered
• San Francisco State University issues a public apology to Dr. Abdulhadi for not upholding
the academic freedom policy enacted by SFSU;
• SFSU administration issues a public letter of support of faculty with regards to academic
• The university provides a site for rescheduling the event with Leila Khaled on an
alternate platform, without interference.
Statement of the reasons upon which this decision is based:
The Faculty Hearing Committee deliberated on October 5th, 2021 regarding the
statutory grievance filed by Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, Associate Professor in the Department of
Race and Resistance Studies in the College of Ethnic Studies. The grievance involves
consideration of incidents pertaining to violation of Academic Freedom.
To determine if Dr. Abdulhadi was directly wronged by the CSU, the committee
examined the evidence presented at the grievance hearing Dr. Abdulhadi and her legal
representation, Dr. San Hea Kil, as well as evidence presented by SFSU Director of Labor and
Employment, Theresa A. Pollard, and her team. The committee agrees that San Francisco State
University has inflicted harm upon Dr. Abdulhadi (and co-instructor, Dr. Kinukawa) and that her
academic freedom was, in fact, violated. We characterize this harm in two ways: 1) that the
university did not provide adequate support to Dr. Abdulhadi against the actions of the
corporate entity, Zoom, and, more importantly against the outside organization, Lawfare
Project. In fact, the university’s actions were in line with the recommendations of Lawfare,
suggesting that Dr. Abdulhadi may be arrested for moving forward with a class event involving
Leila Khaled, a journalist, that Lawfare Project has named a terrorist. Our conclusion is based on
Provost Jennifer Summit’s September 18, 2020 email to Drs. Abdulhadi and Kinukawa alerting
the faculty members of alleged possible criminal activity, in Provost Summit writes “a violation
of the statute [18 U.S.C. A2339B] might result in a fine or other more severe penalties, such as
imprisonment.” We assert that the in this and other exchanges, the university caused direct
harm in the form of 1) mental health stress, and 2) a relinquishing of the university’s
responsibility to uphold academic freedom. We base this conclusion on SFSU Academic Senate
Policy #F13-267, on Academic Freedom, which was signed by former SFSU President, Leslie
Wong in 2013. The policy states that,
Academic freedom allows the discussion of all relevant matters in the classroom,
explores all avenues of scholarship, research, and creative expression, and
speaks freely on all matters of university governance and public concern, without
restraint, prejudice, or fear of reprisal. Further freedom of expression which is
critical of conventional thought, or challenges established interests is vital to the
It is the responsibility of the entire campus community to maintain, encourage,
promote, and protect academic freedom, and to ensure that it is not
compromised by censorship, fear of reprisal, institutional discipline, or
interference from the public or government. It is the responsibility of the entire
campus community, including the administration and Academic Senate, to
actively sustain and defend academic freedom in the domains of teaching,
research, and service, and in all aspects of shared governance (emphasis added).
Based on this policy and the evidence presented in the hearing on September 30th, 2021, we
conclude that the university did not actively sustain and defend academic freedom in the
domains of teaching for Dr. Abdulhadi and her co-instructor, Dr. Kinukawa. Further, while the
university did try to find an alternative platform for Dr. Abdulhadi’s course, it failed to ensure
that academic freedom was not compromised by censorship and interference from the public.
This constitutes a direct wrong to the grievant.



In an outrageous and insulting decision, President Lynn Mahoney of SFSU has disregarded the
legitimate reprimand of a faculty panel that recommended redress to Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi, founding
director of the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Studies (AMED) program, for the
University’s failure regarding violations of Professor Abdulhadi’s and her colleague Professor
Tomomi Kinukawa’s academic freedom.
President Mahoney’s decision upholds University’s corporatized acceptance of Big Tech’s increasing
control over academic discussion and its complicity with Zionist organizations that stifles all
discourse on issues of human rights and dignity for the Palestinian people.
The President’s decision follows a ruling by the faculty member panel based on a six hour hearing
following the arbitrary cancellation by Zoom and other social media outlets of Drs. Abdulhadi and
Kinukawa’s online open classroom, “Whose Narratives? Gender, Justice and Resistance: A
Conversation with Leila Khaled.” The University is bound by contract, law and AAUP policy to protect
academic freedom rather than subcontracting the responsibility to private companies. Further,
universities must maintain structural independence from the whims and demands of partisan
lobbying organizations, including Zionist groups like the Academic Engagement Network (AEN) and
the Lawfare Project.
In its ruling, now vetoed by President Mahoney, the faculty panel affirmed that: “San Francisco State
University has inflicted harm upon Dr. Abdulhadi (and co-instructor, Dr. Kinukawa) and that her
academic freedom was, in fact, violated. We characterize this harm in two ways: 1) that the
university did not provide adequate support to Dr. Abdulhadi against the actions of the corporate
entity, Zoom, and, more importantly against the outside organization, Lawfare
Project.” Furthermore, the panel ordered the university to provide remedy in the form of a public
apology to Dr. Abdulhadi and to provide “a site for rescheduling the event with Leila Khaled on an
alternate platform, without interference”.
Clearly, with this decision, SFSU is continuing its policy of harassment of Dr. Abdulhadi, intensifying
its efforts to dismantle the AMED program, and confirming its complicity with Zionist organizations
that seek to silence Palestinian voices on campuses across the country as Israel has pursued
against Palestinian human rights organizations. SFSU’s lip service to academic freedom flies in the
face of limiting Palestinian speech in favor of an overriding concern for its corporate bottom line.
As with this week’s criminalization of 6 legitimate Palestinian human rights organizations by the
Israeli government, SFSU chose to follow the Zionist playbook of demonizing all actions in support of
Palestinian liberation and teaching about Palestine as “terrorism” and “anti-Semitic”.
President Mahoney’s decision was written by Ingrid Williams, Vice President of Human
Resources. According to University by-law, the President’s veto will trigger an automatic and
independent arbitration hearing for a final decision on Dr. Abdulhadi’s grievance.


Highlights from our case work

Bard Students Exonerated After Protesting Anti-Palestinian Speaker

September 22, 2021

Issues: False Accusations, Free Speech

On October 10, 2019, Students for Justice in Palestine at Bard College protested a panel featuring Ruth Wisse, a retired Harvard professor with a history of making racist and dehumanizing statements about Palestinians.

The protest, which included the reading of a short statement and holding signs with Wisse’s quotes, was explicitly protected under Bard’s policies regarding free speech and dissent.

Two days after the event, then-editor at the Forward Batya Ungar-Sargon published a piece titled, “I Was Protested At Bard College for Being a Jew.”

In November 2019, Ben and Akiva were notified that they were being charged with violating Bard’s free speech and discrimination policies for protesting the event.

Palestine Legal represented Ben and Akiva during the 4-month investigation.

In a letter to Bard in January 2020, Palestine Legal warned Bard that it could not retaliate against students for complaining about national origin discrimination and that the protest fell clearly within the bounds of Bard’s expansive free speech policies.

The letter also explained that “the evidence overwhelmingly shows that Ben and Akiva protested the October 10 event because they disagreed with the speakers’ viewpoint that Palestinians are undeserving of equal human rights – and not because of any protected status of the panelists.”

Bard cleared Ben and Akiva of any wrongdoing in March 2020.

In a meeting with students announcing the decision, Bard College President Leon Botstein explained that the College was under pressure because a civil rights complaint had been filed with U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil rights.

As of September 2021, the investigation is still under way.

Timeline >>

Documents >>

Media >>

Learn more >>

Van Leer Institute Pushes the Failing Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism Again


Editorial Note

IAM recently published an article at the BESA Center of Bar-Ilan University, “The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism Is Itself Antisemitic.” IAM argued that when reading the Jerusalem Declaration on Anti-Semitism (JDA), its’ authors claim they intend to fight anti-Semitism, but by accepting the targeting of Israel alone for the abuse of human rights, while others abuse human rights far worse than Israel, such as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, applying such double standards can be construed as anti-Semitic.  Moreover, the JDA accepts defining Israel as a settler-colonial state, which it is not, consequently accepting the denial of Jews the right to exist in the national home for the Jewish People while not denying other nations. This can also be construed as anti-Semitic.  

IAM also noted that the Al-Jazeera media outlet and the Palestinian BDS committee both dismissed the JDA. 

The JDA was conceived at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute during 2020. Now, Van Leer Institute issued a call for paper to push the JDA agenda again. Titled “Defining Anti Semitism between History and Politics,” a conference would take place between May 30, 2022, to June 1, 2022, at the premises of Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. 

The call for paper states that the widely endorsed working definition of anti-Semitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which the JDA intends to replace, has “quickly became a site of controversy,” when 122 Arab and Palestinian academics, journalists, and intellectuals, issued a statement opposing the IHRA definition because it “purportedly promotes the suppression of Palestinian rights.”

The Van Leer Institute conference offers a space for scholars from different disciplines to examine the current debate over definitions of anti-Semitism. The conference will also address the different forms of criticism of the State of Israel: “its existence, its constitutional foundations, its identity as a Jewish state, its history, policies, or practices – and anti-Semitism.”  

Some of the questions raised in the call for paper include:

–       “Why is it that Islamophobia, alongside anti-Semitism, has been the main site of similar activity and controversy?”  

–       “How do definitions address or affect possible entanglements between criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism?”

–       “In what ways is the debate over the definition of anti-Semitism related to the Palestine Question?”

IAM already mentioned Van Leer Institute in a February post, discussing The Main Reason for Israel’s Humanities Failure, which attributed the problem to political activism disguised as academics. IAM noted that one of the leading facilitators of political activism dressed in academic garb has been Van Leer Institute. It often hosts discussions for “leftists” who follow neo-Marxist, critical scholarship.   For instance, an event in memory of a famous anarchist described him as “one of the most fascinating and pioneering intellectuals on the renewed left [emphasis added] in the last decade.” 

Van Leer is controversial because it promotes one-sided research which falls well below academic standards.  Indeed, the Van Leer Institute is not registered with the Israeli Council for Higher Education list of institutions. While it is a clear breach of academic standards, for some academics, such as Prof. Shai Lavi, Director of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute, from the Law Faculty at Tel Aviv University, this is acceptable.

Van Leer has a history of providing one-sided and biased information. For example, IAM reported in September that a Van Leer Institute fellow reviewed claims that some Palestinian school textbooks promote anti-Semitism and found no such evidence.  Soon after, a research panel found that these books included anti-Semitic statements.

IAM reported in July that a Van Leer Institute fellow wrote about the killer of Dafna Meir, who was murdered at her doorstep in Otniel, the Orthodox Israeli settlement in the West Bank. He wrote: “Try to imagine that the person who carried out the terrorist attack in Otniel, 16-year-old Murad Adais from Beit Amra in the southern West Bank, had not watched television in the days prior to the attack. What insight could be drawn from that? What would he have seen from the window of his home? Which Israelis would he have met? Soldiers at a roadblock? Settlers going around with weapons whose communities were built on Palestinian land?”   

By any moral standard, such whitewashing of terrorism is outrageous.

Two senior research fellows at Van Leer Institute, Prof. Amos Goldberg and Prof. Bashir Bashir, push the theory that the Holocaust and the Nakba could be equated. This theory appeared in an article, “Between the Holocaust and the Nakba, two histories – and maybe a shared future,” which minimizes the scale of the Holocaust to meet the self-inflicted Palestinian Nakba.

Missing from the Van Leer Institute vocabulary is Palestinian anti-Semitism. Some Palestinian protestors have used Nazi Symbols in violent demonstrations.  The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center recently published a report detailing “Nazism in Palestinian society and the use of Nazi symbols,” showing images and reports of Nazi symbols used by Palestinians.  The report gives a few examples: On August 14, 2021, during a demonstration by Palestinians from the village of Bayta near the outpost of Eviatar in Samaria, rags soaked in kerosene were set on fire, forming a swastika inside an image of the Star of David. On September 25, 2021, a video clip showed a Nazi flag hanging on power lines on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Bayt Umar, near Hebron. A Nazi flag was also flown in Bayt Umar in July 2014. On October 22, 2021, Swastikas were spray-painted on concrete roadblocks. On June 29, 2021, a Palestinian youth attending Islamic Jihad military training in Gaza was interviewed with al-Quds al-Yawm TV station. Referring to Jews, he said: “We asked Hitler why he left some of you alive. He did it to show how wicked you are. We will come for you from under the ground to spread terror in your hearts and above the ground we will mangle your bodies with our rockets. Go run to your shelters, you mice, you sons of Jewish women.”

Van Leer could have also discussed the data provided by another report on global incidents in 2020 of anti-Semitic attacks. Titled “Antisemitism—Annual Report 2020 Situation Assessment, Trends, and Incidents,” this report was submitted to the Government of Israel by the Combating Antisemitism group at the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs in January 2021. It has been looking at incidents in the United States, Western Europe, France, Germany, Eastern Europe, etc.

One cannot expect the Van Leer Institute to denounce these incidents as it would conflict with the “shared future” message it wishes to promote. Clearly, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute will forever push the failing JDA to meet its political agenda.



CALL FOR PAPERS Defining Antisemitism between History and Politics International Workshop Monday, May 30 – Wednesday, June 1, 2022 At the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

Discussion published by Amos Goldberg on Friday, October 29, 2021

Defining antisemitism has become a battleground. Advocates and opponents of contending definitions confront one another in the printed press, online, and in social media. The working definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016 was endorsed widely but quickly became a site of controversy. In recent months this controversy has become more intense. In November 2020, 122 Palestinian and Arab academics, journalists, and intellectuals issued a statement that declared their opposition to antisemitism and to the IHRA’s working definition thereof, which purportedly promotes the suppression of Palestinian rights. In March this year, the IHRA definition confronted a new challenge in the form of two alternative definitions: the Nexus Document, “Understanding Antisemitism at its Nexus with Israel and Zionism,” and the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA).

This conference aims to provide a space for scholars from different disciplines (including political science, law, philosophy, linguistics, and history) to examine the current debate over definitions of antisemitism and to explore what is at stake in this debate. In this conference we wish to address one of the most controversial issues, namely, the relationship between different forms of criticism of the State of Israel – its existence, its constitutional foundations, its identity as a Jewish state, its history, policies, or practices – and antisemitism. The conference will address questions pertaining to definitions of antisemitism from diverse historical, theoretical, methodological, and political points of view. It aims to give historical and theoretical depth to a heated political debate.

At the same time, the issues raised by the debate over the definition of antisemitism ramify widely. By addressing not only the relationship between antisemitism and antizionism but also these broader questions, this conference aims to promote new scholarly perspectives and better understanding of current debates and discontents.

  • How does one account for the relatively recent appearance of public/formal/legal definitions of antisemitism and their turning into a subject of intense contention?
  • How do these different definitions shape and reshape the meaning of antisemitism and how do they affect social and political relations between Jews and various non-Jewish groups?
  • To define or not to define? Are definitions necessary for combating discrimination, prejudice, and hate?  
  • What functions do we expect a definition of antisemitism and its attendant examples to perform? How has the question of definition developed in different national contexts, within intergovernmental bodies and in civil society?
  • What’s in a “definition”? What role do tropes, analogies, and examples play in definitions of antisemitism? 
  • How have definitions of antisemitism emerged and changed over time?
  • As a matter of practice, what has been the role of the IHRA working definition in identifying, recording, and combatting antisemitism?  
  • As a matter of practice, what has been the role of the JDA definition, if any, in providing an alternative to the IHRA definition to be used in social, political, and educational settings to frame the debate on antisemitism?
  • What implications does the striving for a definition have for other racisms, forms of hate speech, racialization, and political hostility? Do we need a portfolio of definitions? Why is it that Islamophobia, alongside antisemitism, has been the main site of similar activity and controversy? 
  • What impact do definitions and, more broadly, the regulation of speech have on the public sphere in liberal societies and on the tension between freedom of speech and its social and legal regulation?
  • How do definitions address or affect possible entanglements between criticism of Israel and antisemitism?
  • In what ways is the debate over the definition of antisemitism related to the Palestine Question?
  • In what ways does this debate over definitions relate to other controversies, such as those over colonialism and postcolonialism? Does this debate express structures of political power and processes of marginalization? Who is eligible to participate in this discussion over definitions and whose voices are heard/not heard in it?

Scholars of all disciplines are invited to submit proposals for lectures to be delivered at the conference. Proposals (500–700 words) and a curriculum vitae should be submitted by email to dafnas@vanleer.org.il by November 15, 2021.

Academic Committee

Prof. Alon Confino, Director, Institute for Holocaust, Genocide, and Memory Studies University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Prof. Manuela Consonni, Director, The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Prof. David Feldman, Director Birkbeck Institute, for the Study of Antisemitism University of London.

Prof. Amos Goldberg, Head of the Avraham Harman Research Institute of Contemporary Jewry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Prof. Shai Lavi, Director of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Prof Amos Morris-Reich, Director, The Stephen Roth Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism, Tel Aviv University.

Dr. Dafna Schreiber, Director, Jewish culture and Jewish thinking, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.




Published: 28/10/2021


  • On August 14, 2021, Palestinians from the village of Bayta held a demonstration near the outpost of Eviatar in Samaria. The outpost was evacuated in July 2021, but as part of the agreement with the Israeli government, the land is still controlled by the IDF, an issue which is currently being examined by the Civilian Authority. During they demonstration they ignited rags soaked in kerosene forming a swastika inside a Magen David.
  • It was a display planed in advance by the Palestinians, who prepared it, brought it to the location of the demonstration and set it on fire, part of the night harassment units’ activities to protest the establishment of the outpost. The Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah support such demonstrations and always deliberately ignored such displays. Videos of the display and the demonstrators, including children, holding torches, were uploaded to the social networks and broadcast by Hamas’ al-Quds TV.
  • On September 25, 2021, Israeli soldiers uploaded a video to the social networks showing a Nazi flag hanging from the power lines on the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Bayt Umar, near Hebron. Several hours later an IDF force arrived and shot the flag down. A Nazi flag was also flown in Bayt Umar in July 2014.
Nazi swastika flag on the outskirts of Bayt Umar (picture by Avraham Weiss for Tazpit News Agency, July 6, 2014).    Nazi swastika flag in Bayt Umar (social networks, September 25, 2021).
Right: Nazi swastika flag in Bayt Umar (social networks, September 25, 2021). Left: Nazi swastika flag on the outskirts of Bayt Umar (picture by Avraham Weiss for Tazpit News Agency, July 6, 2014).
  •  On October 22, 2021, swastikas were painted on a roadblock on the Hawwara road, south of Nablus (Twitter account of Zvi Sukkot, October 22, 2021).

Swastikas spray-painted on a the concrete blocks of the roadblock
(Twitter account of Zvi Sukkot, October 22, 2021).
  • On June 29, 2021, a Palestinian child attending a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) military training camp (the Palestinian version of summer camp) in the Gaza Strip was interviewed for the organization’s al-Quds al-Yawm TV station. To the Jews he said, “We asked Hitler why he left some of you alive. He did it to show how wicked you are. We will come for you from under the ground to spread terror in your hearts and above the ground we will mangle your bodies with our rockets. Go run to your shelters, you mice, you sons of Jewish women.”
Camper at a PIJ training camp (MEMRI, June 29, 2021).     Camper at a PIJ training camp (MEMRI, June 29, 2021).
Camper at a PIJ training camp (MEMRI, June 29, 2021).

Click for Video


  • Such events reflect the Palestinian attitude, including the government’s official attitude, towards Nazism and its link to Jews and Zionism. Generally speaking, it has five aspects:
    • Defaming the JewsIt is possible to understand Hitler and the Nazis, because the [Ashkenazi] Jews [in Europe] were so detestable and loathsome the Europeans tried to get rid of them. Hitler did not kill all the Jews so that people who came after him, such as the Palestinians, could see for themselves that the Jews were inherently evil, understand and perhaps justify the Nazis’ actions. On occasion Mahmoud Abbas uses Nazi themes in his speeches without specifically referring to Nazis.[1] Over the past decade Nazi themes such as the glorification of Hitler have appeared in children’s books published in the PA and on the official Fatah Facebook page. In some instances, as happened recently in the Gaza Strip, the themes are used as a call to the Palestinians to finish what Hitler started. The message is plainly sent to the Palestinian target audience but downplayed and glossed over for foreign consumption.
    • The claim that Israel acts like Nazi GermanyIsrael is accused of treating the Palestinians exactly or almost exactly as the Nazis treated the Jews. Zionism is the new Nazism (and the new apartheid), and the Palestinians are the new victims. The victims of Nazi racism have become Nazi racists themselves. That is the message sent by senior Palestinian figures, the Palestinian media and the many demonstrations, including the one held near the evacuated outpost of Eviatar. Senior Fatah figure Jibril Rajoub, who is a possible replacement for Mahmoud Abbas, repeatedly calls the Jews “the new Nazis.” The message is aimed at people overseas who are unaware of the actual facts, and resonates with the left, including its anti-Semites, around the world. The claims have two objectives, one to delegitimize the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and the other to represent the Palestinians as the new victims of contemporary Nazism in order to enlist international support.
    • The claim that the Zionists were Nazi collaboratorsThe Palestinians accuse the Zionists of collaborating with the Nazis, helping them establish their regime and even kill Jews, in the belief that it would cause the Jews of Europe to emigrate to Israel [sic] to escape the fate awaiting them.[2] That twisted claim was the basis for Mahmoud Abbas’ PhD thesis, “The ties between Nazism and Zionism, 1935-1942,” and his book, The Other Face: the Secret Relation between the Nazis and the Zionist Movement, a reworking of his doctoral dissertation. Its main theme is “Zionism, the beginning and the end.” According to Mahmoud Abbas, the many attempts made by Zionists to utilize and manipulate Nazism to increase the willingness of the Ashkenazi Jews in Europe to emigrate to Israel, i.e., Mandatory Palestine, had little success. The source of the theme was apparently Russian communist propaganda from the 1950s and ’60s.
    • Accusations that Israel cynically exploits the HolocaustIsrael’s objective, according to the Palestinians, is to justify its positions and policies, and enlist international support. The Holocaust was admittedly terrible but Israel exaggerates it, and in any case the Palestinians and Arabs had no part in it. Therefore they should not have to suffer at the hands of the Zionists because the Jews suffered at the hands of the Nazis.
    • The adoption of Nazi symbols to show Palestinian hatred of the JewsThe Palestinians have adopted the swastika and the Nazi salute, and examples of such practices surface from time to time. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem at the time and an ardent opponent of Zionism, collaborated with the Nazis and met with Hitler, a fact rarely mentioned in the Palestinian narrative, but neither criticized nor expressed with remorse.
  • It is difficult to assess how widespread or deeply ingrained such ideas are within Palestinian society or in Palestinian political circles. Even the most limited and mild attempts to challenge them are met with sharp criticism. For example, the vehicle of Professor Muhammad Dajani Daoudi, who visited Auschwitz in 2014, was torched, he received death threats, the university he taught at, the al-Quds University in the PA, shirked all responsibility and he was forced to flee to the United States. No Palestinian politician came to his defense. The five aspects noted above are part and parcel of the policy of indoctrination and incitement to hatred of Zionists implemented by the PA and most of the Palestinian organizations, and all fit the definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).


[1] At the Palestinian National Council meeting on April 30, 2018, Mahmoud Abbas gave a long speech he called a “history lesson,” in which he claimed that the European Jews’ social activities, banking and high-interest money-lending were why they were hated. He used similar themes at a meeting of the PLO’s Central Council on January 14, 2018, claiming the State of Israel was a Western colonial settlement project backed by Christian countries that hated Jews and wanted to get rid of them, and the desire of the colonial powers to spread fear throughout the Arab world. ↑
[2] The Nazis rose to power in the 1930s, the State of Israel was declared in 1948. ↑


CHE list of Institutions.jpg


Antisemitism—Annual Report 2020
Situation Assessment, Trends, and Incidents
Submitted to the Government of Israel in Commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day
January 27, 2021
Antisemitism | Annual Report 2020
Table of Contents
LETTER FROM THE MINISTER OF DIASPORA AFFAIRS ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 5
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 7
MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENTS IN 2020 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 13
ANTISEMITISM ON SOCIAL MEDIA IN 2020: AN ANALYSIS OF THE ACMS …………………………………………………………………………………… 16
ANTISEMITISM 2.0 IN THE AGE OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 17
1. The Global Trends of 2020………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 17 2. An Analysis of Coronavirus-Related Antisemitic Discourse ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 19
3. Insights ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 24
ACMS ANALYSIS — ENGLISH …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 24
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 24
2. Analysis of the Data and Discourse ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 25
3. The United States ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 26
4. The United Kingdom ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 27
5. Insights ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 28
ACMS ANALYSIS — FRENCH …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 28 1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 28 2. Data Interpretation and Main Hypothesis ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 30
3. An Analysis of Coronavirus-Related Antisemitic Discourse ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 33
ACMS ANALYSIS — GERMAN …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 35
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 35
2. Content Analysis …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 37
3. Insights ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 38
ACMS ANALYSIS — ARABIC …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 39
ACMS ANALYSIS — SPANISH…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 43
ACMS ANALYSIS — RUSSIAN …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 46
LACK OF INTERNET REGULATION FUELS HATRED AND VIOLENCE ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 49 ADOPTION OF EU CODE OF CONDUCT AND NEW DIGITAL SERVICE ACT ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 50
SOCIAL MEDIA’S LATEST POLICIES AGAINST HATE SPEECH ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 51
1. The Case of Facebook and Instagram ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 52
2. The Case of Twitter ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 53
3. The Case of YouTube …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 55
AUDIT OF HATE SPEECH REGULATION EFFECTIVENESS AND THE QUESTION OF ALTERNATIVE PLATFORMS …………………………………………………………………. 55 1. Positive Trend, Yet Cautious Optimism …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 55 2. Migration to Alternative Social Media Ecosystem …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 56
ANTISEMITISM BY COUNTRY: 2020 OFFLINE TRENDS AND INCIDENTS ………………………………………………………………………………………… 59
UNITED STATES …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 59
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 59
2. Coronavirus-Related Antisemitism in the US …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 61
3. The White Supremacist Threat ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 61
4. The Black Lives Matter Movement: Jewish Solidarity, Albeit Controversies ……………………………………………………………………………………………….. 62
5. Dissecting Antisemitism in the QAnon Conspiracy Theory ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 64
6. Antifa and Antisemitism ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 65
7. Antisemitism Surrounding Elections ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 66
Antisemitism | Annual Report 2020
8. Efforts at Combating Antisemitism ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 68
9. Main Antisemitic Incidents in 2020 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 69
FRANCE ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 72
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 72
2. Main Sources of the Antisemitic Threat: Radical Islam, Radical Left, and the Far-Right ……………………………………………………………… 73
3. Governmental and Legal Crackdown on Antisemitism & Radicalization ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 76
4. Holocaust Education and Remembrance: A Key Strategy for Countering Antisemitism ……………………………………………………………….. 79
5. Holocaust Trivialization & Competitive Victimhood …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 80
6. Main Antisemitic Incidents in 2020 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 81
GERMANY …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 82
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 82
2. The Extremist Scenes in Germany …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 83
3. Rise in Antisemitism During and Due to Covid-19 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 86
4. Perception of the Holocaust …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 89
5. Influence of Antisemitism on the Jewish Community ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 91
6. Efforts at Combatting Antisemitism ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 92
7. Main Antisemitic Incidents in 2020 ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 93
UNITED KINGDOM ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 95
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 95
2. Labour Party Antisemitism & the EHRC Report ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 95
3. Coronavirus-Related Antisemitism in the UK …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 97
4. BLM and the Twitter Blackout ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 98
5. Efforts at Combating Antisemitism ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 99
6. Main Antisemitic Incidents in 2020 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 100
BELGIUM …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 102
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 102
2. Responses to Antisemitism from Institutions and the Government …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 103 3. The Ban on Ritual Slaughter ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 104
4. Main Antisemitic Incidents in 2020 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 105
AUSTRIA …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 106
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 106
2. The Extremist Scenes in Austria …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 107
3. Efforts at Combatting Antisemitism ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 109 SPAIN ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 112 AUSTRALIA ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 113
FORMER SOVIET UNION ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 115
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 115
2. Coronavirus-Related Antisemitism in the FSU ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 116
3. Breakdown by FSU Countries ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 116 4. The Nagorno-Karabakh Region …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 122 5. Insights ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 122 6. Main Antisemitic Incidents in 2020 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 123
THE MUSLIM WORLD …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 127
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 127
2. Antisemitic Reactions to Normalization with Israel ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 127
3. Antisemitism in Regional Conflicts ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 128
4. Coronavirus-Related Antisemitism in the Muslim World ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 128
5. Emergence of a Separatist-Isolationist Islamic Discourse Following Events in France …………………………………………………………………. 129
6. Iran: Antisemitism as Official Policy ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 130
7. Bahrain Backs IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 131
8. Antisemitic Statements by Hamas and PA Personalities …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 131
Antisemitism | Annual Report 2020
9. Antisemitism in Jordan and Egypt ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 132
10. The Central Role of Islamic Scholars in Middle Eastern Antisemitism ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 132
11. Jewish Communities Past and Present and the Discourse About the Jews ……………………………………………………………………………………………. 133
LATIN AMERICA …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 133
1. General Trends …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 134
2. Main Propagators of Antisemitic Discourse …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 134 3. Insights ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 138
4. Main Antisemitic Incidents in 2020 ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 138
IHRA WORKING DEFINITION OF ANTISEMITISM ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 142
Antisemitism | Annual Report 2020

*Click the link for the full report.

Pro-Palestinian Academics Pressure U of Glasgow to Withdraw Apology on biased anti-Israel Article


Editorial Note

IAM reported in July 2021 that the editors of a University of Glasgow journal, eSharp, apologized for an article by Jane Jackman, a Ph.D. student of Ilan Pappe at the University of Exeter, for not being “rigorous, well-balanced, and supported by evidence,” thus failing to meet standards of scholarship. In particular, the editors wrote, “this article employs some discursive strategies, including a biased selection of sources as well as the misrepresentation of data, which promote an unfounded antisemitic theory regarding the State of Israel and its activity in the United Kingdom.” 

Some 500 well-known academics and public figures have signed a petition addressed to the University of Glasgow, rejecting the apology. They oppose the fact the university issued a statement against “hate speech”, which is an “extraordinary description of a properly reviewed academic article without any racist intent.” As for the university’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of anti-Semitism, the definition has been widely criticized, the petition claims, adding that the University demonstrates how damaging the IHRA definition can be to academic freedom. The “making of false claims is entirely counterproductive.” We, therefore, “call on the university to withdraw both its apology and its statement linking the article to hate speech, and to assert its commitment to free speech and the right to critical commentary in scholarship.” 

The long list of names includes Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA; Brian Eno, Musician; Professor Emeritus Richard Falk, Princeton University, USA; Professor Sari Hanafi, American University of Beirut, Lebanon; Ronnie Kasrils, South African Government Minister (1994-2008) and author, South Africa; Ken Loach, filmmaker; Professor Jacqueline Rose, Birkbeck, University of London; Professor Emerita Hilary Rose, Bradford University; Emeritus Professor Steven Rose, The Open University; Emeritus Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, LSE; Professor Emeritus George Smith, Nobelist, University of Missouri, USA; Dr Derek Summerfield, King’s College London.

These are well-known supporters of the Palestinians. Chomsky, for example, has visited Hizballah’s leader in Lebanon in 2006 to show his strong support. 

The long list of Israeli academics includes those who received academic positions in Western Universities based on their anti-Israel activities. 

A thorough examination of Jackman’s article is in order. The article deals with Qatar-based Al Jazeera’s undercover documentary programs titled “The Lobby.” The documentary is said to shatter “any illusions about Israel’s capacity to influence British democratic processes.” The film exposed Shai Masot, an Israeli Embassy official, suggesting to a senior civil servant to “take down” a British politician Sir Alan Duncan, then Deputy Foreign Minister, and a supporter of the Palestinians. Masot’s interlocutor, Maria Strizzolo, a former ministerial aide in the British Education Department, agreed: “If you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they are trying to hide.”  Embarrassing as it were for Israel, whether related or not, the US Justice Department ordered the Al Jazeera online news in the US, in the coming months, to register as a foreign agent, as “an agent of the Government of Qatar.” Something Jackman fails to mention. 

Jackman’s principal contention is that the Israeli state-sponsored strategy focuses on “controlling public opinion in the UK” and that Israel harnesses the “resources of grassroots Zionist supporters in order to buttress from below the British government.” In particular, Jackman noted, “to combat increasing public antipathy to Israel, specifically in its military interventions in Gaza, known colloquially to IDF soldiers as ‘mowing the lawn’.” She quotes Mouin Rabbani, a Dutch-Palestinian analyst specializing in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Palestinian affairs, based in Amman, who wrote “the Israeli military called ‘mowing the lawn’: weakening Hamas and enhancing Israel’s powers of deterrence.” 

Jackman’s paper is interested in how “the British government appears to favor Israel… In light of growing public unrest over Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza.”

In essence, according to Jackman, “British Zionists, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are being mobilized to wage a proxy war for Israel via the digital realm. It may be clichéd to think of it as the Clausewitzian ‘war by other means’ but that is precisely what it appears to be.” 

The article moves on to discuss the new anti-Semitism, going through the fact that in December 2016, Theresa May, then UK Prime Minister, announced that Britain was to become one of the first countries to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, “prior to relations with Israel turning sour over Resolution 2334.”  According to Jackman, the IHRA definition “sets limits on free speech where Israel is concerned, entrenching its current immunity to international censure. Secondly, debates over the new definition distract attention from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.” 

Jackman then states that “During the years leading up to the new formulation of anti-Semitism, Israel’s international image had already been in steady decline. This was partly due to the failure of the Oslo Peace Process to deliver on its promises, specifically to the Palestinians.” Jackman is wrong again; Israel’s international image is on a steady rise, and the Palestinians themselves caused the failure of the Oslo peace process. She repeats time and again how Israel is unpopular – an assertion without any basis. 

She mentions the Durban 2001 “Zionism as Racism” conference, which “the spectacle tarnished Israel’s image and served to further polarize debate over its policies, now gaining widespread publicity due to the Palestinian uprising.” and the 2002 “Jenin massacre” as two cases that weakened Israel’s international standing. However, Jackman is wrong. The two events harmed the Palestinians: The Durban conference that Iran embraced, the Palestinian greatest ally, severed the Palestinian’s ties with Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. The media reported the unfounded charges of a Massacre in Jenin on Aug. 2, 2002, announcing that “Jenin; U.N. Report Rejects Claims Of a Massacre Of Refugees.” Adding that the Israeli Defense Forces attacked Jenin as part of “a West Bank offensive that began on March 29, after a suicide bomber from the Islamist group Hamas killed 29 people at a Passover seder in the seaside Israeli town of Netanya.”  

Jackman describes how pro-Israel bloggers “exemplify the discursive categories typical of an extreme ideological perspective. These include outright denials of Israel’s human rights violations beginning with the displacement in 1948 of the indigenous Palestinian population (Pappe 2006); the shifting of blame for the conflict through discourses that claim (for Israel) the right to self-defense, and which imply that Palestinian violence is a random expression of Arab anti-Semitism rather than resistance to decades of dispossession, discrimination and humiliation; dehumanization of Palestinians as a people who routinely sacrifice their children in order to kill Jews; a strong antipathy for anyone supporting Palestinian human rights; and frequent resort to ridicule.” 

Jackman goes even further;  “The dissident journalist Chris Hedges highlights this well when he draws on George Orwell (and Adolf Hitler) to observe that states wielding ‘the Big Lie’ – as he claims Israel does to maintain its hold on Palestine.” Using Adolf Hitler to discuss Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is anti-Semitic, for this, possibly, Jackman was accused of using anti-Semitic overtones. 

Jackman complains that Israel has “One law bans married couples from living together where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a resident of the occupied territories.” The truth is, they can live together in the Palestinian Territories.

Jackman’s article is replete with errors, untruths, and bias against Israel.

Clearly, Western universities are being used by Palestinians and pro-Palestinians to recruit anti-Israel propagandists. Such a practice is unacademic. Academics should be recruited for their excellence in research and teaching and nothing else. A thorough examination of such a failed practice would be recommended.




Glasgow University accused of undermining academic freedom in ‘antisemitic’ ruling

A group of distinguished scholars has accused Glasgow University of undermining academic freedom after the institution apologised for the publication of an article it claimed was antisemitic.

By Alison Campsie
Monday, 25th October 2021, 8:49 am

A 500-strong petition against the university’s handling of an academic paper was sent to the office of the university chancellor on Sunday.

Signatories include internationally renowned philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky, Nobel Prize winning chemist George Smith and film director Ken Loach, with supporters coming from 28 different countries.

The petition follows the publication of a peer-reviewed paper in the university’s scholarly journal eSharp in 2017, which examined methods used by Israel to form public opinion and support from the UK Government.

The University of Glasgow has received a 500-strong petition which demands it withdraws an apology for the publication of an article which it judged to be antisemitic. PIC:

Following complaints over the content of the article, the journal issued an apology and said it recognised the paper had caused considerable offence while not meeting standards of scholarship.

It added the article promoted an “unfounded antisemitic theory” – a claim strongly rejected by the scholars who support the petition, who say criticism of Israel and its supporters cannot be conflated with antisemitism.

The petition calls for the apology to be withdrawn, along with an associated university statement that outlined its zero-tolerance to hate speech.

Professor Chomsky, institute professor and professor of linguistics emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: “The capitulation by the University of Glasgow is a serious blow to academic freedom that should not be allowed to stand.”

Glasgow University said last night that freedom of expression, the right to disagree and academic freedom was “at the heart of our mission” and the petition was being considered.

The article, which was written by Jane Jackman, a former postgraduate student at Exeter University, remains on the eSharp website and now includes a preface from the editorial board, including the apology, which was added in May.

A number of complaints followed the apology, including one from Ms Jackman’s supervisor, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, with the petition launched thereafter.

Other signatories include historian Sheila Rowbotham and Ronnie Kasrils, the former South African government minister and key figure in the African National Congress during the apartheid era. Musician Brian Eno and Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC have also signed.

Jonathan Rosenhead, emeritus professor at the London School of Economics and chair of the British Committee for Universities of Palestine, is one of the founders of the petition.

He said: “Academic freedom is very crucial to the whole standing of the academic enterprise.

“For Glasgow, it is not a good look to be the university which crosses a new frontier in undermining research which is complained about by outside forces.

“The article was an examination of the mechanics of how Israel and its allies influence and inform public opinion with the aim of maintaining British Government support.

“It’s an established area of academic research. People write similar articles about China and about Russia, but they are not accused of being anti-China or anti-Russia. But if you write an article like this on Israel, you are antisemitic.”

The making of false claims weakened the struggle against actual racism, the petition added.

A spokesperson for the University of Glasgow, said: “The University of Glasgow is committed to supporting academic freedom and promoting equality and diversity across campus. Freedom of expression, the right to disagree, the protection of all staff and students in their right to hold views and of academic freedom are at the heart of our mission.

“We have received the petition today [Sunday] and are considering it fully. We will respond to the signatories in due course.”



International Academics Accuse Glasgow University of Undermining Scholarship

Five hundred and fifty academics and prominent intellectuals from round the world have called out the University of Glasgow for making a public apology for an article published in its eSharp journal four years ago. The author was not informed that this apology was being made. The article is critical of lobbying and information techniques used by Israel and its supporters.

Four years after the article was published, and after a complaint by a pro-Israel activist and other attacks, a preface was added this summer to the article, accusing it of promoting ‘an antisemitic theory’; and the university issued a statement on their action saying they are against ‘hate speech’. The University went on to justify their statement by reference to the much-criticised IHRA definition of antisemitism (which links criticism of Israel to antisemitism).

The signatories insist that criticism of Israel and its supporters cannot be conflated with antisemitism. The serious consequence of that for academic research, they say, would be that

“other groups, states and corporations can all be the subject of critical academic analysis, but commentary on pro-Israel advocacy must be limited.”

The academics also object to the overturning of the peer review process which had approved the article in 2017. They are especially concerned about the impact on future scholarship, since this university journal is aimed at early career researchers. It is potentially extremely damaging to have research labelled in this way; the university’s action, if not retracted, will act as a deterrent to researchers entering this field.

The criticism by academics is shared by prominent public figures who have added their names to the petition including Ronnie Kasrils the veteran anti-apartheid statesman from South Africa, the film maker Ken Loach, musician Brian Eno, the author Ahdaf Soeuif, a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and international legal experts including John Dugard and Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC.

Issues of academic freedom and free speech on campus have recently attracted national coverage with several high-profile cases. But it is unusual for a case to attract so much international attention from academics across such a wide range of disciplines. The signatories range from Malcolm Levitt in physical chemistry and the mathematician David Epstein, both fellows of the Royal Society, to the acclaimed historian Sheila Rowbotham.

They include two former presidents of the British Sociological Association, John Brewer and also John Eldridge, whose work has been listed as one of the top 100 achievements of Glasgow University. The current president of the International Sociological Association , Sari Hanafi has also signed, along with Gerardo Otero, president of the Latin American Studies Association. There are 20 signatories from major Universities in Israel as well as Palestinian scholars including Salman Abu Sitta, President of the Palestine Land Society. Professor Hagit Borer has signed on behalf of Israel Academics UK along with Jacqueline Rose of Independent Jewish Voices.

The signatories state that they stand absolutely against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination. But they believe that the making of false claims is entirely counterproductive since it spreads confusion and weakens the struggle against actual racism.

They are calling on the University to withdraw both its apology and its comments linking the article to hate speech, and to assert its commitment to the right to critical commentary in scholarship.

Signatory George P Smith, Nobel laureate in Chemistry, has commented as follows:

“I ask my fellow academics: Is campaigning to discredit scholarship we strongly disagree with as ‘hate speech’ an honorable or effective way to rebut it?”

And Noam Chomsky says:

“The capitulation by the University of Glasgow is a serious blow to academic freedom that should not be allowed to stand.”

You can see the petition and signatories here.

Glasgow University must stop undermining scholarship
by deferring to false claims of antisemitism
We wish to publicly express our rejection of the decision by Glasgow University in May 2021 to apologise for an article on pro-Israel advocacy originally published in its eSharp journal in 2017. This followed complaints, amplified in a news report, that its content was antisemitic.
The paper was accepted for publication following the standard process of double-blind peer-review. The article is an academic account of public relations, lobbying, advocacy and information management, which is a well-established area of academic study. However the editorial board of the journal and Glasgow University have since endorsed the view that because the subject is advocacy for Israel, then the article promotes ‘an unfounded antisemitic theory’.
This untenable position implies that other groups, states and corporations can all be the subject of critical academic analysis, but commentary on pro-Israel advocacy must be limited. Others may be described as organising, planning or seeking influence, and even disseminating propaganda or misleading accounts. But it is falsely asserted that description of such behaviour by Israel or its advocates cannot be neutral observation or analysis; a racist meaning and intent is imputed and assumed without evidence.
Academic research must be guided by the validity and reliability of evidence. The evaluation of academic work has to be based on established protocols including crucially peer review. In this case, the original peer review process has been overturned by the university and editorial board. Their apology includes a peremptory comment on ‘bias’ in sources and use of data without any detail at all on what they believe is wrong in the article. The author was not contacted, and only heard of the complaints when approached by a newspaper.
The university has even issued a statement on the affair saying it is against ‘hate speech’, an extraordinary description of a properly reviewed academic article without any racist intent. The statement goes on to claim that its action is consistent with the university’s recent adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism. That definition has been widely criticised, and this action by the University of Glasgow demonstrates how damaging it can be to academic freedom.
We stand absolutely against antisemitism and all forms of discrimination; but the making of false claims is entirely counterproductive since it spreads confusion and weakens the struggle against actual racism.
We call on the university to withdraw both its apology and its statement linking the article to hate speech, and to assert its commitment to free speech and the right to critical commentary in scholarship.


Professor Ahmed Abbes, Director of Research, Paris, France Professor Nahla Abdo, Carleton University, Canada Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University, USA Dr Salman Abu Sitta, Independent researcher, UK Professor Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University, USA Dr Bashir Abu-Manneh, University of Kent Professor Mohammad Abusara, University of Exeter Professor Gilbert Achcar, SOAS, University of London Dr Howard Adelman, Queen’s University, Canada Professor Laurie Adkin, University of Alberta, Canada Professor Khaled Al Hroub, Northwestern University in Qatar, Qatar Professor Najm Al-Din Yousefi, California State University, Chico, USA Dr Dina Al-Kassim, University of British Columbia, Canada Professor Greg Albo, York University, Canada Dr Anne Alexander, University of Cambridge Professor Ece Algan, California State University, San Bernadino, USA Sharib Ali, University of Bern, Switzerland Dr Diana Allan, McGill University, Canada Dr Jamie Allinson, University of Edinburgh Dr Merav Amir, Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Ibrahim Aoudé, University of Hawaii, USA Emeritus Professor Gautamkumar Appa, LSE, Dr Sima Aprahamian, Concordia University, Canada Dr Yigal Arens, University of Southern California, USA Professor Emeritus Talal Asad, City University New York, USA Oreet Ashery, University of Oxford Dr Iain Atack, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Professor Emerita Elsa Auerbach, University of Massachusetts Boston, USA Dr Robert Austin Henry, University of Sydney, Australia Dr Mark Ayyash, Mount Royal University, Canada Professor Sylvat Aziz, Queen’s University, Canada Professor Ariella Azoulay, Brown University, USA Dr Emile Badarin, College of Europe, Natolin, Poland Professor Saleem Badat, University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa David Baker, UCL Insitute of Education, Professor Mona Baker, University of Manchester Dr Viviane Baladi, CNRS, France Professor Jared Ball, Morgan State University, USA Neil Ballantyne, Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, New Zealand Professor Lisa Baraitser, Birkbeck, University of London Professor Leon Barkho, Jönköping University, Sweden Professor Josep Barona-Vilar, University of València, Spain Umesh Bawa, University of the Western Cape, South Africa Dr Hatem Bazian, UC Berkeley, USA Dr Moshe Behar, University of Manchester Professor Avner Ben-Amos, Tel-Aviv University, Israel Dr Yael Ben-Zvi, Ben Gurion University, Israel Professor Jody Berland, York University, Canada Dr Anna Bernard, King’s College London Professor Bernard Bernier, Université de Montréal, Canada Dr Mike Berry, Cardiff University, Professor Emeritus Huw Beynon, Cardiff University Professor Chetan Bhatt, LSE Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC, University College London Dr Greg Bird, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Emeritus Professor George Bisharat, UC Hastings College of Law, USA Dr Susan Blackwell, Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands Professor Patrick Bond, University of Johannesburg, South Africa Professor Hagit Borer, Queen Mary University of London Dr Michiel Bot, Tilburg University, Netherlands Professor Bill Bowring, Birkbeck, University of London Dr Robert Boyce, LSE Professor Emeritus Oliver Boyd-Barrett, Bowling Green State University, USA Dr Lara Braitstein, McGill University, Canada Professor Craig Brandist, University of Sheffield Professor Emeritus Bob Brecher, University of Brighton Professor Eva Brems, Ghent University, Belgium Professor Haim Bresheeth, SOAS, University of London Professor John Brewer FRSE, Queens University Belfast Professor Jean Bricmont, Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium Terry Brotherstone, University of Aberdeen Dr Janet Bujra, University of Bradford Dr Mike Burke, Ryerson University, Canada Professor Erica Burman, University of Manchester Professor Ray Bush, University of Leeds Emeritus Professor David Byrne, University of Durham Dr Alan Campbell, University of Liverpool Marián Carty, Goldsmiths, University of London Professor John Chalcraft, LSE Dr Douglas Chalmers, Caledonian University Sir Iain Chalmers, University of Oxford Dr Sutapa Chattopadhyay, St. Francis Xavier University, Canada Dr Claudia Chaufan, York University, Canada Dr Yves Chilliard, INRAE, France Dr Riley Chisholm, St Francis Xavier University, Canada Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA Dr Tanzil Chowdhury, Queen Mary University of London Professor Ian Christie, Birkbeck, University of London Professor Linda Clarke, University of Westminster Dr Frances Clarke, University of Sydney, Australia Dr Rosemary Collard, Simon Fraser University, Canada Professor Ellen Corin, McGill University, Canada Professor Bert Cornillie, KU Leuven, Belgium Dr Eddie Cottle, University of Witwatersrand, South Africa Professor Deborah Cowen, University of Toronto, Canada Dr John Cowley, City University of London Professor Stef Craps, Ghent University, Belgium Dr Don Crewe, Leeds Beckett University Dr Hannah Cross, University of Westminster Dr Ned Curthoys, University of 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Eoin Devereux, University of Limerick, Ireland Dr Rita Dhamoon, University of Victoria, Canada Dr Bruno Di Biase, Western Sydney University, Australia Professor James Dickins, University of Leeds Professor Bill Dixon, University of Nottingham Dr Gord Doctorow, Nova Southerastern University, USA Emeritus Professor Rudy Doom, Ghent University, Belgium Sean Doyle, UCL Institute of Education Dr Deepa Driver, University of Reading Dr Judit Druks, UCL Paul Duffill, Rikkyo University, Japan Professor Emeritus John Dugard, University of Leiden, Netherlands Professor Jane Duncan, University of Johannesburg, South Africa Professor Emeritus Michael Dunford, University of Sussex Professor Francis Dupuis-Déri, Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada Dr Sam Durrant, University of Leeds Dr Dennis Eady, Cardiff University Professor Rebecca Earle, University of Warwick Dr Nadia Edmond, University of Brighton Professor Michael Edwards, University College London, Professor Emeritus Peter Eglin, Wilfrid 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Darwin College, Cambridge Dr Omar Jabary Salamanca, Free University of Brussels, Belgium Jane Jackman, University of Exeter Professor Richard Jackson, University of Otago, New Zealand Professor Marc Jacquemain, Université de Liège, Belgium Professor Mohamed Jeebhay, University of Cape Town, South Africa Na’eem Jeenah, Afro-Middle East Centre, South Africa Professor David Johnson, The Open University Professor Daniele Joly, University of Warwick Dr Peter Jones, Sheffield Hallam University Dr Evan Jones, University of Sydney, Australia Dr Rula Jurdi, McGill University, Canada Professor Jon Jureidini, University of Adelaide, Australia Professor Ashraf Kagee, Stellenbosch University, South Africa Professor Ahuvia Kahane, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Dr Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, University of Toronto, Canada Dr Katy Kalemkerian, Champlain College, Canada Dr Barak Kalir, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands Professor Ivan Kalmar, University of Toronto, Canada Professor Ilan Kapoor, York University, Canada Professor Karim Karim, Carleton University, Canada Ronnie Kasrils, South African Government Minister (1994-2008) and author, South Africa Professor Daniel Katz, University of Warwick Dr Jalal Kawash, University of Calgary, Canada Dr Paul Kelemen, University of Manchester Dr Abby Kendrick, University of Warwick Professor Seán Kennedy, St Mary’s University, Canada Dr Arang Keshavarzian, New York University, USA Professor Assaf Kfoury, Boston University, USA Professor Muhammad Ali Khalidi, City University of New York, USA Professor Laleh Khalili, Queen Mary University of London Dr Pasha Khan, McGill University, Canada Dr Gholam Khiabany, Goldsmiths, University of London Professor John King, New York University, USA Miyuki Kinjo, Ritsumeikan University, Japan Professor Emeritus Ann Louise Kinmonth, University of Cambridge Dr Gill Kirkup, The Open University Dr Chris Klassen, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Professor Chris Knight, University College London Professor Jair Koiller, Federal University of Juiz de Fora, Brazil Dr Adam Kossoff, University of Wolverhampton Dr Natalie Kouri-Towe, Concordia University, Canada Dr Tor Krever, University of Warwick Professor Deepa Kumar, Rutgers University, USA Dr Arun Kundnani, Independent researcher, USA Richard Kuper, Univ of Hertfordshire Professor Emeritus Ron Kuzar, University of Haifa, Israel Dr David Laibman, City University of New York, USA Emeritus Professor Frank Land, LSE Dr David Landy, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Dr Claudia Lapping, UCL Institute of Education Professor Robert Latham, York University, Canada Dr Alex Latta, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada Professor Michael Lavalette, Liverpool Hope University Dr Nicholas Lawrence, University of Warwick Professor John Leavitt, Université de Montréal, Canada Dr Catherine Leclerc, McGill University, Canada Emeritus Professor Dennis Leech, University of Warwick Dr Ronit Lentin, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Antony Lerman, University of 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Advocating Occupation:
Outsourcing Zionist Propaganda in the UK
Jane Jackman (University of Exeter)
This essay explores the rise of grassroots Zionist advocacy since 2000, when the second Palestinian
intifada (lit: uprising) effectively signalled the failure of the Oslo Peace Process to deliver on its
promise of Palestinian self-determination. In response, rather than working to end its military
occupation of Palestinian territory, Israel set about attempting to reverse the subsequent sharp decline
in its international standing, and revised its global communications strategy. Whilst initially
strengthening ties with the Jewish diaspora, Israel’s longer-term objective was to conscript and
resource a cohort of grassroots Zionist supporters to carry the Israeli narrative into the broader sphere
of society. This paper focuses on Israel’s strategy as it affects the UK, now widely construed by Zionists
as a centre for anti-Semitic activity and therefore a key battleground over discursive hegemony. More
specifically, the paper highlights the efforts of two prominent grassroots advocacy organizations to
recruit and coach volunteers in the art of Israeli hasbara (lit: explaining). Their mission is to counter
the rising tide of pro-Palestinian sympathy in the UK as embodied by Israel’s nemesis, the Boycott
Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign, the grassroots pro-Palestinian movement that gained
momentum from Israel’s series of military incursions into Gaza (2008-2009, 2012, 2014). The paper
argues that by outsourcing Zionist propaganda to grassroots activists, and exploiting their social
networks to circulate biased information, Israel is buttressing from below the British government’s
customary support for Israel, and perpetuating its inertia over Israeli occupation of land allocated
under international law for a future Palestinian state.
Key words: Israel, Palestinian, new anti-Semitism, grassroots advocacy, networks
A half-truth is the worst of all lies
(Solon 550 B.C.)
For Israel’s ambassador to the Court of St. James, Mark Regev, 2017 could hardly have begun
on a more discordant note. Centenary celebrations marking the Balfour Declaration, the 1917
document legitimizing Zionist immigration to Palestine, had been launched just two months
earlier, with the British government endorsing plans for a year of special events. But by the
end of 2016, relations between Britain and Israel were in crisis. On the eve of the Jewish feast
of Hanukah, two days before Christmas, the UN Security Council had adopted a resolution
(2334) condemning Israel’s unabated expansion of Jewish settlements on land that international
law identifies as Palestinian. Without warning, America had withheld its customary veto of UN
censure of Israel, and abstained; Britain, together with the 13 other states on the Council, voted
in favour. Worse still (in diplomatic terms) it was discovered that the British Foreign Office
had played a leading role in scripting the offending resolution (Sanchez 2016).
Then, with the ink scarcely dry on Resolution 2334, and amid Israeli threats of
retaliation, coupled with fear over what might transpire at the Paris Peace Conference in mideSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
January, the Qatari based network, Al Jazeera English broadcast a four-part series of
undercover documentaries entitled The Lobby (Al Jazeera 2017). The series was to shatter any
illusions about Israel’s capacity to influence British democratic processes. Most
controversially, the films exposed an Israeli Embassy official in the act of suggesting to a senior
civil servant the ‘take down’ of British politicians, with Deputy Foreign Minister Sir Alan
Duncan, a known supporter of Palestinian rights, at the top of the list.
The embassy official was Shai Masot, a former intelligence officer for the Israel Defence
Forces (IDF). To Ambassador Regev’s further embarrassment, Masot’s interlocutor, Maria
Strizzolo, a former ministerial aide employed in the Education Department, was filmed
agreeing: ‘If you look hard enough, I’m sure that there is something that they are trying to hide’
(Al Jazeera 2017). The scandal mongering attempts of the pair were hard to deny in the face
of the filmed evidence.
Further footage showed Masot boasting about his recent success in influencing British
government policy over local council boycotts of Israeli goods and services
(Conservative Friends of Israel). Equally damaging, he was seen mobilizing behind-the-scenes
support for Israel through his close involvement with Zionist lobbyists amongst the political
elite, and covertly fostering the spread of pro-Israel advocacy groups at the grassroots level of
British society.
By the time the films aired, both Masot and Strizzolo had resigned. Ambassador Regev
– well known as the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman during Israel’s 51-day military assault
on Gaza in 2014, codenamed Operation Defensive Edge ̶ insisted Masot had acted alone and
that his behaviour did not reflect Israeli policy. He apologized to Sir Alan personally, and
released a photograph of the two shaking hands.
Nevertheless, the documentaries caused outrage on all sides of the Israel-Palestinian
debate in Britain. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded an inquiry on grounds of national
security. Conservative MP Crispin Blunt told the Independent that Masot’s conduct was an
‘interference in another country’s politics of the murkiest and most discreditable kind’ (Merrick
2017). As they and others argued – with good reason – had Russia, Iran or indeed any other
state been caught behaving in a like manner, there would have been a thorough investigation.
On the other hand, the Jewish press tended to minimize the importance of the series,
scorning them as trivial and out-of-touch with the reality of everyday parliamentary lobbying.
Others accused Al Jazeera of importing Middle Eastern anti-Semitism to Britain, or berated
the deceitfulness of undercover reporting and complained to the communications regulator
However, the furore was short-lived. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow made
short shrift of MPs’ demands for an inquiry, telling them it would not be ‘helpful to discuss it
further’ (Middle East Eye 2017). A public petition collected more than 12,000 signatories
demanding an investigation into the embassy’s conduct but it too drew a terse response from
the Foreign Office. Stressing Britain’s strong ties with Israel, the response concluded: ‘We
consider the matter closed’ (UK Government & Parliament 2017).
This paper is less concerned with why the British government appears to favour Israel
in this way ̶ bilateral trading figures of £4 billion are undoubtedly a factor ̶ as it is with how
1 At the time of writing the outcome is still pending.
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this position is maintained. In light of growing public unrest over Israel’s policies towards the
Palestinians in the West Bank and in Gaza, this question is particularly imperative. According
to the UN, Operation Defensive Edge killed more than 2,250 Palestinians, including 1,462
civilians ̶ a third of them children (OCHA 2015). In the UK, as elsewhere in Europe,
protestors took to the streets in an attempt to press the government to intervene. One of these
protests, in central London, attracted 150,000 marchers (Culzac 2014). In Manchester, there
were clashes with police as pro-Palestinian activists demonstrated outside city centre shops
selling Israeli products (Cox 2014). In Birmingham, the Stop the War Coalition organized a
2000-strong march demanding an end to the bloodshed (Cartledge 2014). Meanwhile, the
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a forerunner of BDS, gathered more than 38,000
signatures on an open letter to then prime minister David Cameron, protesting at Israel’s
‘collective punishment of the Palestinian people’ (PSC [Letter] 2014).
Since the role of the media and political elites in promoting support for Israel has
already been explored and documented (Mearsheimer & Walt 2007; Oborne & Jones 2009;
Philo & Berry 2011), these elements of the public debate are not the focus here. Grassroots
advocacy, however, is by its nature diffuse and harder to track, and with the exception of a
report sponsored by Spinwatch (Mills et al 2013) on one of the newest and most sophisticated
organizations, few efforts have been made to map its mechanisms or its effects. While one
short paper is unlikely to go far in redressing the balance, its author hopes to encourage further
research in this field.
The principal contention of this paper is that an Israeli state-sponsored strategy is
focused on controlling public opinion in the UK. Israel’s objective is to harness the resources
of grassroots Zionist supporters in order to buttress from below the British government’s
traditionally staunch support for Israel and to combat increasing public antipathy to Israel,
specifically in its military interventions in Gaza, known colloquially to IDF soldiers as
‘mowing the lawn’ (Rabbani 2014).
For its conceptual framework, the paper draws on the Foucauldian correlation between
knowledge, discourse and power (Foucault 1980). Further, it resonates with the notion that
discourse is a contested site of power, and whoever controls the discourse also controls what
Teun van Dijk (2008) conceptualizes as ‘the public mind’, and in turn is able to exercise a level
of control over people’s actions (Dijk 2008: viii). Dijk claims that such high levels of control
equate to an abuse of power that critical discourse scholars have an obligation to expose.
Before proceeding, it should be noted that since 1948 when the Israeli state was
founded, scholars have fallen roughly into two camps: one engaged in presenting a carefully
managed justification for Israel’s occupation of Palestine, the other (after 1967) drawing on
revisionist scholarship that continues to challenge the Israeli narrative and its resulting social
inequalities. Also, whereas the new anti-Semitism has fomented a great deal of scholarly
debate, not least over the conflation of terms such as pro-Israel and pro-Zionist, there is
insufficient space here to examine the distinctions. Therefore for the purpose of this essay the
terms pro-Israel and pro-Zionist are used interchangeably.
Therefore, in the spirit of critical inquiry, and focusing on pro-Israel advocacy in the
UK, the paper provides a brief insight into recent developments in Zionist advocacy in the UK,
focusing on the activities of one of the newest and most proactive grassroots organizations, We
Believe in Israel (WBII). Then, highlighting the expanding network of Friends of Israel (FoI)
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
groups, it touches on the kinds of discourse supporters typically use to promote Israel to the
UK public. It concludes that the Israeli narrative of events is being robustly outsourced to
grassroots activists for the purpose of circulating Israel’s chosen narratives through the
Foucauldian ‘capillaries’ of the social body, through which discourse – and therefore
knowledge and power – flows (Foucault 1980: p.96). The aim is to discredit and neutralize pro-
Palestinian discourses. In essence this means that British Zionists, both Jewish and non-Jewish,
are being mobilized to wage a proxy war for Israel via the digital realm. It may be clichéd to
think of it as the Clausewitzian ‘war by other means’ but that is precisely what it appears to be.
The New Anti-Semitism
In September 2007, British politician Denis MacShane wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post
in which he warned against a new and virulent form of anti-Semitism; one that he claimed
threatened not only Jews and the state of Israel but also ‘all of humanity’ (MacShane 2007).
This new type of prejudice, MacShane declared, had emerged to become an ‘officially
sanctioned state ideology’, which he said was rife in British institutions, and even more
pernicious than the racist version of anti-Semitism that infected Europe in the nineteenth
century and paved the way for genocide in the twentieth. Moreover, a ‘crusade’ against Israel
had been launched with the avowed intent of eradicating all traces of Jewishness from the
Middle East. Unless confronted and contained this crusade would weaken the core values,
rights and freedoms of the entire world.
As chair of the newly commissioned All-Party Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, MacShane
was reiterating its first findings, published in 2006. Hyperbolic though his language was, he
was not speaking alone or without warrant. Whereas the term new anti-Semitism is hardly new
– a booklet bearing the title was published in 1921 – rising levels of anti-Semitic incidents across
Europe since 2000 were giving the concept of a new manifestation of ‘the longest hatred’
(Wistrich 1994) greater political traction. With Israel’s construal by Zionists as the world’s
‘collective Jew’ (Klug 2003), and the gradual conflation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism
over the first decade of the twenty-first century, virtually any censure of Israeli policy became
open to a racist interpretation; as a result, critics of Israeli policy expose themselves to the
possibility, indeed the probability, of being smeared as anti-Semites. As Butler (2004) observes
in an essay debating the concept of a new anti-Semitism, fear of stigma has the potential to
cause some people to self-silence their views on Israel, whether on policy or conduct,
effectively distorting free and open debate (Butler 2004: p.101-127). Others, who refuse to be
silenced, including many prominent Jews, risk seeing their characters publicly maligned and
their views discredited.
Since the inception of Israel as the Jewish State, successive international governments
and institutions have struggled to establish a workable definition of anti-Semitism. The most
problematic aspect of defining contemporary anti-Semitism is the conflation of anti-Semitism
with anti-Zionism. In 2013, the European agency responsible for protecting fundamental
human rights (FRA) cited this difficulty when it abandoned attempts to formulate its own
working definition. Nevertheless, in December 2016 – prior to relations with Israel turning sour
over Resolution 2334 – UK Prime Minister Theresa May announced that Britain was to become
one of the first countries to adopt a similar formulation as put forward by the International
Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (Walker 2016).
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This matters for three main reasons. Firstly, the new interpretation of anti-Semitism sets
limits on free speech where Israel is concerned, entrenching its current immunity to
international censure. Secondly, debates over the new definition distract attention from Israel’s
treatment of the Palestinians, either as Israeli citizens or under occupation in the West Bank,
or under sanctions in Gaza. And thirdly, there is a real danger of the new definition resulting
in unintended consequences for Jewish communities, not just in Britain but also around the
world. This is because over-zealous use of the charge of anti-Semitism ‘radically dilute[s]’ it
(Butler 2004: p.109-110), making genuine cases of anti-Semitism harder to identify and
challenge. By this logic, and contrary to MacShane’s warnings, prohibition on criticizing Israel
renders Jews more, rather than less, vulnerable to racist abuse.
Pro-Israel Advocacy: A Changing Landscape
During the years leading up to the new formulation of anti-Semitism, Israel’s international
image had already been in steady decline. This was partly due to the failure of the Oslo Peace
Process to deliver on its promises, specifically to the Palestinians. For example, despite Israel
agreeing to withdraw from 90% of the occupied Palestinian territories, by 2000 it had only
withdrawn from 18% (Mills et al 2013: p.24). At the same time, other events were being
broadcast around the globe. These included the onset of a second Palestinian intifada in
September 2000, one that was to last for five years – the first having ended in 1993 with the
signing of the Oslo Accords – and secondly, a highly publicized fiasco involving the Israeli
delegation at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001. The conference ended
in turmoil after the Israeli and their American counterparts staged a walkout in protest of a draft
proposal equating Zionism with racism. Despite the offending motion being rejected, the
spectacle tarnished Israel’s image and served to further polarize debate over its policies, now
gaining widespread publicity due to the Palestinian uprising (Swarns 2001).
Meanwhile, rather than fixing the main cause of its unpopularity – the military
occupation of territory assigned to the Palestinians under international law – Israeli policy
makers blamed ‘viral anti-Semitism’ together with an ineffectual communications strategy
(Schleifer & Snapper 2015). All Israel required, or so they thought, was a radical overhauling
of its hasbara (lit: explanation), and a more proactive approach to communicating with the
international community.
The Institute of Jewish Policy Research (IJPR) had already commissioned a report
recommending how best to serve the interests of the Jewish diaspora in Britain, and how to
communicate Jewish issues to the wider public. Published in March 2000 the report, A
Community of Communities (IJPR 2000), was to become a blueprint for the eventual formation
of an Israeli-sponsored network of advocacy groups aimed at combatting perceived attempts
to delegitimize the Jewish state overseas. The report recommended the development of a coordinated
network of key agencies to lead quickly on issues affecting the Jewish community in
the UK, feeding information into a network of ‘targeted coalitions of Jewish organizations and
agencies in order to formulate a strategic response’ (IJPR 2000). Basically, the idea was to
form a series of interconnected hubs tasked with the coordination and dissemination of facts,
not only to political and media elites but also to smaller, satellite groups and then on through
grassroots volunteer networks to a wider public – in the Foucauldian analogy, to ‘the point
where power reaches into the very grain of individuals’ (Foucault 1980: p.39).
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
It was out of this broader initiative that the ad hoc Cross Community Emergency Coordinating
Group (CCECG) emerged in 2002, instigated by then Israeli Ambassador Dror
Zeigerman in association with a group of leading UK businessmen. One of the group’s first
initiatives was to commission top public relations experts Frank Luntz and Stan Greenberg to
research public attitudes to Israel in the UK (Mills et al 2013). On their advice, the CCECG
began sponsoring trips to Israel for British journalists, the first led by then Chief Rabbi
Jonathan Sacks. Its information centre was referred to as the war room. A rebuttal desk was set
up to combat negative media reports and brief opinion-formers, framing the ties between the
UK Jewish community and Israel as more solid than in reality they were.
Having emerged as a contingency measure, the group was soon able to establish a more
permanent footing as the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM) whose
objective was (and still is) ‘to cultivate a policymaking environment in Britain that is
favourable to Israel’ (Mills et al: p.40).
From Israel’s perspective, any investment in these efforts – both from the Israeli state
and private individuals – was well spent, as subsequent events proved. The infamous Jenin
massacre of 2002 was followed in 2003 by the death of a young American activist, Rachel
Corrie, who was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer as she resisted house demolitions at Rafah, on
the Gaza border. In 2006, Israel’s devastating invasion of Lebanon coincided with the
publication of former American President Jimmy Carter’s book, Peace Not Apartheid, for
which he was ostracized by much of the American political establishment. The publicity
surrounding both events – the tragedy of one, and the furore over the other – attracted public
attention to the Palestinian plight and cast doubt on Israel’s true intentions in the peace process.
Meanwhile, the so-called separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank, justified
on grounds of Palestinian terrorism during the second intifada, was taking shape largely on
Palestinian land, in defiance of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) opinion in 2004 that it
was illegal. Elsewhere, the transnational BDS movement – established in 2005 on the
anniversary of the ICJ opinion – was making advances in further galvanizing British public
opinion (Hitchcock 2016). The task for Zionist strategists was now one of explaining and
justifying Israel’s actions, not just to the political and media elites, but also to the public at
Outsourcing To The Grassroots
In December 2009 the Global Forum for Combatting Anti-Semitism, convened by Israel’s
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called for the fight against BDS to be taken to the grassroots of
Jewish diaspora host countries (Innovative Minds 2010). The Working Group on
Delegitimization, co-chaired by Canadian Professor Gil Troy, listed 12 steps in a five-year plan
to combat BDS. The first step is headed Let’s Reframe to Name and Shame, while the second
is Dig Deep to Undermine. Further steps included engaging bloggers ‘to target BDSers and
delegitimizers, exposing their tactics’, and ‘pursuing a strategy of ridicule and satire –
especially on the internet’ (Innovative Minds 2010). Troy later claimed the document was ‘the
start of a conversation’ and the launch of ‘a grassroots movement against a well-organized but
ultimately failing and marginalized effort’ (Jerusalem Post 11 March 2010).
Then in January 2010, a major theme at the 10th Herzliya Conference, Israel’s main
policy-making forum, was Winning the Battle of the Narrative. The emphasis was on the same
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networking model recommended a decade earlier in the Community of Communities report.
Policy advisors presented papers in Herzliya listing ways to outsource political messages via
NGOs, academic institutions, and advocacy organizations, as well as ways to coach grassroots
activists in the use of digital platforms to ‘get the message out’. For example, one Working
Paper urged advocates to develop ‘an online personality’ to create a ‘positive resonance’ with
western audiences, and to use only language that works culturally and politically with them
(Michlin 2010). Further emphasis was on strengthening diaspora identity with Israel, and
outsourcing its messages to grassroots activists whereby Israel would gain maximum spread of
pro-Israel discourse at minimum cost.
A document issued by the Reut Institute, Building a Political Firewall Against Israel’s
Delegitimization (Reut 2010), set out a detailed strategy of grassroots engagement in the
diaspora to mobilize support from the bottom up, as a supplement to Israel’s top down pressure
on political and business elites (Reut 2010: p.14). It then offered extensive advice on ways to
‘delegitimize the delegitimizing networks’.
Besides formulating a coordinated response to events in Israel, the larger hub
organizations would be tasked with marshaling background information for feeding to the
smaller, satellite groups. These would recruit and train volunteer advocates to disseminate
selective messages, using both traditional methods – street stalls, letters to MPs, complaints to
the media – as well as digital, with an emphasis on social media networking. The idea was to
achieve a united front at the grassroots of British society, based on discourse originating in
Israel itself.
The following year (2011), BICOM launched its satellite organization, We Believe in
Israel (WBII) with the explicit purpose of mobilizing and resourcing an army of loyalists to
challenge detractors, promote Israel and defend its actions. Its purpose according to its website
is to foster a ‘broad-based and inclusive coalition’ and to: ‘create a fair and balanced political
environment for Israel in the UK’, as well as to ‘broaden active support for Israel beyond
existing advocates to include a wide range of Jewish and non-Jewish voices’; and to ‘ensure
support for Israel is heard in debates whether online, in the traditional media or at public events’
(WBII website). By operating largely in the virtual realm as a resource centre and capacitybuilding
network, the WBII brand benefits from the kind of fluidity that is unavailable to the
longer-established organizations representing Jews in Britain like The Board of Deputies, and
the Zionist Federation.
Proving that WBII has become a significant force in building Zionist support, the
organization staged its second major conference in 2015 under the banner, Winning the
Communications Battle for Israel. Opening the event, WBII’s director Luke Akehurst told
more than 1,000 delegates there were more than 7,500 people on the organization’s mailing
list, 45% of them non-Jews, and that the support of 450 councillors had been secured in 200
local authorities across the UK (WBII [Online Video] 2015). He warned, ‘We’re up against a
new scale of anti-Israel activity, and at the edges of that activity we’re seeing a merging
between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, a kind of new anti-Semitism dressed up as anti-
Zionism’. WBII would equip those willing to counter this movement with the knowledge and
skills to become ‘allies in the battle for Israel’s reputation’ (WBII [Online Video] 2015).
Part of the organization’s success is due to Akehurst himself. He runs regular pro-Israel
workshops for trade unions, church groups, schools, and FoI groups – the kind of groups that
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Shai Masot had a covert hand in spreading, and at which a representative of the Israeli Embassy
is normally present. In addition, WBII regularly promotes campaigns and petitions on
Facebook and Twitter. These include calls for the banning of Hezbollah flags on British streets;
an end to British aid ‘being used to educate children to hate’; and for government legislation
against local council boycotts of Israeli goods and services – the policy issue Shai Masot
claimed he influenced (Al Jazeera 2017). Supporters are encouraged to write to their MPs as
issues arise, for which templates are provided. As a result of these efforts, Akehurst was able
to announce in March 2017 that WBII’s list of activists had doubled to 15,000 (WBII
[website]). These now include 650 local councilors from all parties. It was an important
milestone, he said, ‘sealing [WBII’s] reputation as the UK’s fastest growing pro-Israel
campaign’ (WBII [website]).
Singing From The Same Hymn Sheet
Since the emergence of WBII, small local FoI groups have been springing up in an ad hoc
manner across the UK, affiliated to a web of other campaigning groups such as Stand With Us,
Christians United for Israel, and the Israel-Britain Alliance. Two of the most active, the North
West FoI and Sussex FoI were launched in 2014, the former in response to boycotts of Israeli
goods, the latter responding to clashes outside during the protests against Operation Defensive
Edge. In Scotland, 12 groups have emerged in the last two years, together forming the
Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland (COFIS). Others are planned. Their shared
approach is to challenge criticism of Israel both online and in conversation on the streets.
Advice on how best to do this, using the most effective discourses, is readily available on the
WBII website.
Whilst the various FoI groups are free to establish their own constitutions and act
accordingly, their common enemy – according to social media posts – is the BDS movement,
which they claim is a broad anti-Semitic alliance comprised of left and right wing extremists
in coalition with Islamic fundamentalists (APPIA 2006). The groups are open to all regardless
of religious beliefs though some, like the one based in Manchester, attract members from local
Jewish communities, whereas others like the Morecambe Bay FoI are largely Christian in
character. However, they all share the same corporate image and express similar viewpoints,
recycling a high proportion of the same information from the same sources in the form of video
clips, articles and blogposts. These include messages from Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin
Netanyahu, Ambassador Regev, and former Chief Rabbi Sacks, all of whom make claims that
distort the pro-Palestinian narrative, or omit it altogether.
Rabbi Sacks demonstrates this well in his voiceover of an animated clip discrediting
the BDS movement, posted on the COFIS Facebook page and widely circulated elsewhere. He
begins by stating that the BDS campaign is ‘dangerously wrong because beneath its surface is
an attempt to delegitimize Israel, as a prelude to its elimination’ (Sacks [Online Video] 2017).
This is problematic in two key ways: firstly in its assumption that to oppose Israeli policy is
tantamount to seeking Israel’s destruction. Secondly, and equally important, is the normative
value with which he, as an authority figure, imbues his assertion. As Butler (2004) argues in a
different but related case, such utterances carry weight by virtue of the speakers’ status, thereby
influencing how their hearers understand issues and potentially ‘setting a norm for legitimate
interpretation’ (Butler 2004: p.108). Moreover, where charges of anti-Semitism are leveled
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against critics of Israel, authority figures have the power to ‘exercise a chilling effect on
political discourse, stoking the fear that to criticize Israel […] is to expose oneself to the charge
of anti-Semitism’ (Butler 2004: p.102). They affect the conditions of audibility and set limits
on what one is willing to say out loud’ (Butler 2004: p.127). The omission of alternative
narratives and possibilities further serves to foreclose debate (Butler 2004: p.110).
To advance the FoI mission, the Israeli Embassy annually invites representatives of the
newest groups to London for a day’s advocacy training. In November 2016, there were more
than 100 representatives from new groups across the UK, the highest number to date. Besides
Ambassador Regev, speakers included Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Tzipi Hotovely, and
David Collier, a blogger under the banner heading Beyond the Great Divide. Given that his
posts are frequently recycled and applauded on Facebook and Twitter, he is highly regarded
among grassroots Zionist supporters. His writing, however, is peppered with inflammatory
language. For example in January 2017 he referred to UNSC Resolution 2334 as ‘[f]odder for
the anti-Israel lynch mob’ and the UN itself as ‘a rabid Jew-hating forum’ (Collier 2017).
Collier’s self-appointed mission is to attend and report on pro-Palestinian events and
academic conferences. He refers to these as ‘hate-fests’. He told his embassy audience in
November that ‘BDS is an umbrella group under which all Israel haters unite’ to ‘smear
Zionists as bullies and Nazis’. 2 His posts frequently single out prominent supporters of
Palestinian rights such as Ilan Pappe and Ghada Karmi to name-and-shame. Overall, Collier’s
blogposts exemplify the discursive categories typical of an extreme ideological perspective.
These include outright denials of Israel’s human rights violations beginning with the
displacement in 1948 of the indigenous Palestinian population (Pappe 2006); the shifting of
blame for the conflict through discourses that claim (for Israel) the right to self-defense, and
which imply that Palestinian violence is a random expression of Arab anti-Semitism rather than
resistance to decades of dispossession, discrimination and humiliation; dehumanization of
Palestinians as a people who routinely sacrifice their children in order to kill Jews; a strong
antipathy for anyone supporting Palestinian human rights; and frequent resort to ridicule.
When the Al Jazeera documentaries aired, Collier was quick to deride the series,
downplaying the seriousness of Israel’s tampering with British public opinion, and citing
Marcus Dysch, Political Editor at the Jewish Chronicle, who on 12 January attacked the series
as ‘harassment of Jews dressed up as entertainment’ (Collier 2017b). Similarly, Collier
reproduced the remarks of fellow blogger Jonathan Hoffman, whose piece on the Zionist
website Harry’s Place summed the films as ‘voyeurism for anti-Semites’ (Collier 2017b).
It would be easy to dismiss such social media exchanges as inconsequential hot air. But
propaganda thrives on the repetition of catchy slogans such as these, and the constant exchange
and recirculation of misleading information – Collier’s comments reappear across a range of
social media – arguably spreads and entrenches already strongly held Zionist beliefs, inflaming
antagonism towards pro-Palestinian supporters and muting their messages. The possibility of
free and fair debate is severely limited.
The dissident journalist Chris Hedges highlights this well when he draws on George
Orwell (and Adolf Hitler) to observe that states wielding ‘the Big Lie’ – as he claims Israel
does to maintain its hold on Palestine – do so not just at the expense of the truth, but also of
2 Excerpted from notes made by a Morecambe Bay FoI attendee, supplied with permission for research purposes.
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reality (Hedges 2014). Hedges offers a striking example from his own experience of how
language can be made to promulgate the Big Lie. More than once, he writes, whilst reporting
from Khan Younis during the bombing of Gaza, he witnessed Israeli soldiers baiting small
boys, swearing at them through loudspeakers mounted on armored vehicles; then, when the
boys responded by throwing stones at the jeeps, the soldiers opened fire, with devastating
results. ‘Such incidents, in the Israeli lexicon, become children caught in crossfire’ (Hedges
2014 (emphasis in original)). Similarly, the carnage following the bombing by F16 jets of
‘overcrowded hovels in Gaza city’ becomes ‘a surgical strike on a bomb-making factory’; and
the demolition of Palestinian homes to create a buffer zone around Gaza becomes ‘the
demolition of the homes of terrorists’. Meanwhile, he adds, Israel lays claim to being ‘the most
moral army in the world’ that never attacks civilians (Hedges 2014).
Be that as it may, it is by means of language that binary terms are forced on events, thus
disallowing ‘the nuances and contradictions that plague the conscience’, which is why, Hedges
suggests, Israelis and supporters of Israel are able to maintain their cognitive dissonance over
the occupation and its consequences. ‘And when facts no longer matter’, he says, and there is
‘no shared history grounded in truth, when people foolishly believe their own lies, there can be
no useful exchange of information’ (Hedges 2014).
Capitalizing On Celebrity
Finally, in addition to grassroots social media interventions, there are a number of well-known
public figures willing to use their celebrity to repeat selective discourses in order to reinforce
the Israeli narrative. One such celebrity is the British comedienne Maureen Lipman, who won
widespread affection in the 1980s for her portrayal of a Jewish mother in a series of British
Telecom advertisements. In 2014 she publicly tore up her Labour Party membership card in
protest at the then party leader Ed Miliband’s backing of a Commons motion to recognize a
future Palestinian state. In a syndicated newspaper interview she railed colourfully at
supporters of the motion, characterizing them as ‘footling backbenchers in this ludicrous piece
of [anti-Israel] propaganda’ (Press Association 2014). Many followed her example, deserting
Labour in droves (Hodges 2014).
Lipman came to the fore again in February 2017 when the Israel Britain Alliance
scripted an appeal in protest of the annual Israel Apartheid Week events on university campuses
(Lipman [Online Video] 2017). According to Lipman, Apartheid Week ‘creates an atmosphere
of intimidation and prejudice’ that contravenes the 2010 Equality Act under which universities
are legally bound to foster good relations between students regardless of nationality, ethnicity
or religious beliefs. Universities allowing their premises to be used for Apartheid Week events
were failing in their duty of care, specifically to Jewish students.
However, Lipman’s script contains a number of half-truths and red herrings. For
example, within the first 20 seconds of speaking to the camera, she claims that, ‘All people in
Israel have equal rights and 1.6 million Arab Israelis have exactly the same rights as 6.8 million
Jewish Israelis’. This is only half the truth. While Israel’s Declaration of Independence
affirmed social and political equality for all its citizens, in reality there are now more than 50
laws discriminating against Palestinians, ranging from legislation barring their return after
1948, to laws restricting land and planning rights. One law bans married couples from living
together where one spouse is an Israeli citizen and the other a resident of the occupied territories
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(Adalah). Yet Lipman closes her video by demanding (without irony) that ‘universities must
refuse to allow university property to display false and inflammatory propaganda, including
the phrase Israel Apartheid Week’. The video quickly went viral across Zionist social
At the same time, FoI groups were running a letter-writing campaign to UK university
chancellors, urging them to ban the event. One such letter, to the vice-Chancellor of the
University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), was posted on Facebook as an exemplar. Its
writer, Nigel Goodrich on behalf of COFIS, decried ‘this shameful and discredited hate-fest’
and focused, as had Lipman, on the university’s legal duty of care for all students regardless of
race, nationality or ethnicity. Its core demand appears in bold type: ‘To comply with this
important duty, universities must refuse to allow university property to display false and
inflammatory (emphases in original) propaganda that includes the phrase Israel “Apartheid
Week” ’. The writer goes on to argue that to allow the event would make the university
‘complicit in encouraging racist propaganda’ and ‘[t]he hostile, aggressive and untruthful
rhetoric likely to be inflicted upon your students will, in our view, cross the line into hate
incidents, hate crimes or even anti-Semitism’ (Goodrich 2017).
It took UCLAN just 24 hours to consider the warning and ban Apartheid Week on
campus (Doherty 2017). Emboldened by the outcome, campaigners went on to flood other
institutions with similar messages. As a result, a number of other universities, including Exeter
and Central London, outlawed a number of student demonstrations on campus, including the
setting up of mock checkpoints, citing the racist nature of the events and security concerns.
In 1983, the year before his death, Foucault wrote that his life’s work had been ‘to create a
history of the different modes by which […] human beings are made subjects […] of power’
(Dreyfus & Rabinow 1982: p.208-209). His strategy was to seek out the practices and micropractices
that constitute and pervade everyday life and within which knowledge accrues.
Despite Foucault’s flaws – and there are many – perhaps his greatest legacy was to show how
the discourse-knowledge paradigm is intrinsic to what is deemed to be true. Therefore,
discourse constitutes an important weapon in the struggle for power.
The issues raised in this paper concern discursive practices aimed at spreading the state
of Israel’s preferred meta-discourses beyond its own borders as means of gaining hegemony in
the public sphere, and power to influence the political and media elite. Grassroots Zionist
advocacy organizations have been identified as increasingly vital conduits for selective pro-
Israel discourses with the aim of combatting criticism of Israel over the Israeli occupation of
Palestinian territory – which Israel disputes – and justifying its treatment of the Palestinians.
This paper has demonstrated the outworking of Israel’s policy since 2000 to sponsor
and resource the growth of grassroots advocacy in the UK, and to coordinate a hegemonic
discourse across a range of social platforms. It has endeavoured to show how Zionist
organizations in the UK are engaged in a determined strategy to reinforce from below the
British government’s long-standing support for Israel, dating back to the Balfour Declaration
of 1917.
These contentions are based on three key observations: firstly, that the definition of
anti-Semitism has been extended in such a way as to make critics of Israeli policy and
eSharp Issue 25:1 Rise and Fall
behaviour susceptible to spurious charges of anti-Semitic racism and the stigma to which that
charge exposes them.
Secondly, it has been observed that since the start of the Palestinian intifada in 2000,
and particularly following public demonstrations over Israel’s series of military interventions
in Gaza, Israeli efforts to strengthen diaspora ties to the Jewish homeland have intensified. The
discourse of existential threats to Israel, including regular reminders of the Nazi Holocaust,
have further energized efforts to recruit grassroots advocates to discredit pro-Palestinian
activists, particularly those promoting boycotts of Israel.
Thirdly, the disconnection between public outrage and UK policy on Israel has never
been starker. Notwithstanding the street protests of 2014 – and the raft of official reports
condemning Israel’s human rights violations – the British government’s allegiance to Israel
remains staunch. Even the debacle over Resolution 2334 caused no more than a brief pause in
the relationship, and the Al Jazeera exposé scarcely even that.
In conclusion, it should not be forgotten that the Israel-Palestinian conflict involves
complex issues and strongly held beliefs. This paper has merely highlighted one aspect of
Britain’s part in perpetuating what continues to be an intractable and bloody conflict in the
Middle East. As yet, these processes and mechanisms are under-researched but if human rights
mean anything at all – and even Rabbi Sacks admits that ‘human rights are universal or they
are nothing’ (Sacks [Online Video] 2017) – they surely demand scrutiny. Equally, the negative
consequences for free speech in the UK of applying the concept of a new anti-Semitism have
yet to be fully comprehended. To understand these processes more fully, and to expose the
hidden power structures underpinning them – as Foucault urged – there is a need for further
scholarly attention and empirical studies, not least as prerequisite to a more meaningful
international response to ending the conflict. The alternative to such a response is bleak indeed.

*See original article for bibliography.

Horizon Europe Israel Success


Editorial Note

On October 15, the European Commission announced it had negotiated with Israel the Horizon Europe deal. The “objective” now is to “sign the agreement before the end of the year.”  In an op-ed last month, Yair Lapid, Israel’s Foreign Minister, disclosed that “The European Union is about to sign with us another wide-ranging economic/technology pact, Horizon Europe, which will last until 2027.” 

The next Horizon Europe for Research and Innovation is the program for the years 2021-2027. It provides support to top researchers and innovators to ensure a green, healthy and resilient Europe. The program includes three main pillars:   

Pillar 1 – European Research Council (ERC) for economic and social challenges. The Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellowships. The Joint Research Centre (JRC) for science and knowledge.  

Pillar 2 – for collaborative research on technological and industrial capacities on global challenges. Health cluster on the coronavirus pandemic, virology, vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, for public health policy measures. Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society for research and innovation in the cultural and creative sectors in humanities and arts. Civil Security for Society on EU policy priorities relating to security, including cybersecurity, and disaster risk reduction and resilience. Digital Industry and Space cluster on digital, industrial and space technologies. Climate, Energy and Mobility cluster for climate-related domains. Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture And Environment cluster addresses the natural resource base, resilient biodiversity and ecosystem services.   

Pillar 3 – The European Innovation Council (EIC) will receive over €10 billion to support emerging and breakthrough innovations by small and medium-sized enterprises, start-ups, and midcaps, for building regional ecosystems.    

This year marked the 25th anniversary of the EU-Israel collaboration in research & innovation. Since 1996, some 5,000 research contracts have been signed as part of this cooperation. Israel-based projects received a total of €1.36 billion during the previous program Horizon 2020. Israeli programs will be eligible for grants from a global budget of some €95 billion in the upcoming Horizon Europe.   

Israeli institutions of higher learning received the following grants during Horizon 2020, between 2014 to 2020: Weizmann Institute 214,1M; Tel Aviv University 176,8M; The Hebrew University 168,52M; Technion 120,02M; Bar Ilan University 48,96M; Ben Gurion University 44,31M; University of Haifa 16,94M; IDC 7,83M. 

Not all Israeli academics are happy with this achievement.  Prof. Raphael Greenberg, TAU archaeologist who opposes EU funds to the University of Ariel, and who is part of a group of academics critical of Israeli settlement, said in an interview that the “depth of Israeli EU cooperation in things like biomedicine and AI trumps any attempt to hold Israel politically accountable.” Prof. Ofer Aharony, a physicist from the Weizmann Institute who, likewise, opposes Ariel University, said in the interview, “I do not think that the EU could have put more pressure on Israel on settlement issues using the Horizon Europe agreement, there are enough people in the government (less than in the previous government, but still enough) that would prefer to leave the Horizon program than to change Israel’s settlement policy.”  

To recall, in March 2021, some 500 academics signed a letter calling on Brussels to keep Ariel University out of EU research projects. Some of them were interviewed. Amiram Goldblum, professor emeritus of molecular modeling and drug design at the Hebrew University, complained that Ariel University is not recognized by international law. Outi Bat-El Foux, professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University, said, “As a person who was born and raised in Israel, and cares about its future, the existence of the city of Ariel and its academic institution undermine the foundation of Israel and its people.” Ofer Aharony said he is “strongly opposed to Israel’s policy of establishing settlements in the West Bank. I view such settlements as illegal under international law and I am not willing to do anything to assist them.” Aharony added that his opinion was “a minority view in Israel; most Israelis support the settlement at least to some extent, though there is probably also a small majority that would support dismantling some settlements if and when a peace agreement with the Palestinians is signed.” Raphael Greenberg said, “Many of our colleagues in Israel and Europe appear to accept the normalization of the Ariel institution as an Israeli research university. By insisting that the EU stand by its own principles, we wish to protect our institutions and remind our colleagues that legitimacy is hard to attain and easy to lose.”

On July 22, 2021, as IAM reported, the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECC Palestine) published a letter by 160 beneficiaries of EU research funding. The letter urged the European Commission to prohibit the disbursement of European research funds to all Israeli institutions, which the letter identified as “complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.” In particular, the letter urged “to amend Horizon 2020 policy guidelines… to exclude all Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in Israel’s grave violations of international law from Horizon 2020, Horizon Europe, and all EU Research Framework Programs until they abide by international law and human rights and cease their collaboration and systematic complicity in Israel’s regime of military occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.” 

These radical cohorts have never admitted that the Palestinians bear responsibility for their sad state of affairs, as they rejected the best offers to end the conflict and initiated terrorism and bloody Intifadas.  The Islamists who de facto control the Palestinians, and their patron Iran, had made it clear time after time that nothing short of destroying Israel would satisfy them. 

Horizon Europe is hugely important to both Israel and the EU.  Pro-Palestinian academic activists who have struggled endlessly to delegitimize Israel and hamper its scientific achievements have found another target.   It bears repeating that some of them are Israelis whom the taxpayers support. 


The European Commission concludes formal negotiations on Horizon Europe association with Israel
NEWS 15 October 2021 Brussels, Belgium Research and Innovation

On 9 October 2021, the European Commission (EC), represented by the Horizon Europe Chief Negotiator Signe Ratso, concluded the formal negotiations with Israel on its association to Horizon Europe. The process to formalise the agreement has been launched and the objective is to sign the agreement before the end of the year.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the EU-Israel successful collaboration in research & innovation. It dates back to 1996 when Israel first associated to the EU 4th Framework Programme for Research. Since then, and in view of shared concerns and common goals, this cooperation has been consistently evolving generating win-win benefits along the way. In return to giving Israel access to a vast international research network, the European Research Area has benefited from Israel’s high levels of excellence as well as outstanding innovation capacity. Joint research efforts have resulted in many success stories across different thematic priorities for the EU including climate change, public health, safe transportation etc.
Association to Horizon Europe is the closest form of cooperation in research & Innovation with non-EU countries. It is marked by joint projects and mutual access to a wider pool of excellence, innovation and research infrastructures.More informationInternational cooperation with Israel

The European Union (EU) and Israel have a long history of successful scientific and technological cooperation. The Association Agreement, signed in Brussels on 20 November 1995 and having entered into force in June 2000, provides the legal framework for EU-Israel relations. It establishes a regular dialogue on scientific, technological, cultural, audio-visual and social matters. Israel is also part of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) and under the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan, ten sub-committees were established, including one on research, innovation, information society, education and culture.

Israel has been associated to the EU’s research and innovation framework programmes since 1996. The agreement on Israel’s participation in Horizon 2020 was signed on 8 June 2014. 2016 marked the 20th anniversary of the country’s association the framework programmes. The celebrations started in Israel in January 2016 and concluded with a festive conference in January 2017. Israel also has a number of agreements with the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

Horizon 2020 key figures


Commission completes Horizon negotiations with Israel in rare association success

19 Oct 2021 | News

With the UK and Switzerland still not confirmed, research associations have welcomed Israel into the Horizon Europe fold. But some see it as missed opportunity to apply pressure over West Bank settlementBy David Matthews

The EU has wrapped up Horizon Europe negotiations with Israel and hopes to sign it up as an associated country before the end of the year, despite pressure from pro-Palestinian academics and objections in Brussels to the country’s settlement policies.

While the association was expected, the breakthrough comes as uncertainty clouds the status of the UK and Switzerland, two other major potential partners of the research framework.

On 15 October, the Commission announced that it had concluded formal negotiations with Israel and has the “objective” to “sign the agreement before the end of the year”.

While the news has been welcomed by European science organisations some critics of Israel see it as a missed opportunity for Brussels to extract concessions in other areas.  

“It’s crucial that the EU keeps collaborating with its closest neighbours with outstanding R&I capacity,” said Mathilde Reumaux, senior policy officer at Science Europe, which represents national R&D funding agencies. “Accordingly, the formalisation of this association is good news.”

“However, Science Europe regrets that the negotiations with the UK and Switzerland, two of our closest partners, remain deadlocked,” she said.

In the spring, the Commission proposed internally that Israel, along with the UK and Switzerland, be locked out of sensitive Horizon Europe projects in quantum computing and space.  

But after pushback from member states and an internal assessment, the Commission is now thought to favour Israel joining quantum projects, although not space calls.

“We had to do this process, but I’m not surprised that we reached a positive note,” said Tal David, head of the Israel National Quantum Initiative. “We are happy to continue the many years of collaboration…and to compete for funds,” he said.

Although Israeli participation in framework programmes dates back to 1996, there have been periodic calls from academics to limit Israel’s access to EU research schemes, in response to the state’s settlement of the occupied West Bank, or military incursions into the Gaza Strip.

In March this year, more than 500 academics signed a letter calling on Brussels to keep Ariel University – an Israeli institution built in the occupied West Bank – out of EU research projects. Despite stipulations in Horizon 2020, the letter said Ariel appeared to have been listed as a partner in at least one project. Ariel told Science|Business at the time that the involvement was “inconsequential” and amounted to no more than the participation of a researcher in an online event.  

Some academics have gone even further. In July, 160 recipients of EU research funding called for the blanket exclusion of “all Israeli academic institutions that are complicit in Israel’s grave violations of international law”, saying Israeli universities were guilty of what they called Israel’s “structural violence perpetrated against Palestinians”.


Although the terms of the new association agreement are not yet known, they are likely once again to mirror previous preconditions and exclude institutions like Ariel that the EU considers to be on illegally settled land, said Hugh Lovatt, an Israel-Palestine specialist at the Europe Council on Foreign Relations.

During the negotiations for Horizon 2020, these conditions caused a diplomatic row, with the Israeli government initially refusing to sign up to them, although it eventually backed down, he said.

Brussels has continued to “flirt” internally with the prospect of withholding research partnership in order to challenge Israeli settlement activity, he said. “This has however never extended beyond internal non-papers and generally vague diplomatic warnings.”

Academics critical of Israeli settlement are more blunt. Raphael Greenberg, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University who is publicly opposed to Ariel receiving EU funds, said that the “depth of Israeli EU cooperation in things like biomedicine and AI trumps any attempt to hold Israel politically accountable.”

But it is unclear whether Brussels threatening to withhold Horizon Europe association would have achieved anything diplomatically.

“I do not think that the EU could have put more pressure on Israel on settlement issues using the Horizon Europe agreement, there are enough people in the government (less than in the previous government, but still enough) that would prefer to leave the Horizon programme than to change Israel’s settlement policy,” said Ofer Aharony, a theoretical physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, another signatory of the Ariel letter.  

Despite the Commission’s announcement last week, Israeli state research institutions appear to have remained quiet about the end of formal negotiations, forgoing public announcements. Science|Business did not receive a comment from Israel’s mission to the EU.


Israel reaches agreement with EU on R&D funding

The agreement between Israel and the EU for the seven-year Horizon Europe program should be signed before the end of the year.

By ZEV STUB   OCTOBER 18, 2021 16:17

Israel is set to sign an agreement with Horizon Europe, the largest research and innovation program of its kind in the EU, the European Commission said Monday.
The agreement for the seven-year program should be signed before the end of the year. Once it is signed, Israeli programs will be eligible for a wide variety of grants from a project with a global budget of more than €95 billion (NIS 355b.).
Horizon Europe offers the closest form of cooperation in research and innovation with non-EU countries. It is marked by joint projects and mutual access to a wider pool of excellence, innovation and research infrastructure.
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the successful EU-Israel collaboration in research and innovation. This cooperation has been consistently evolving, generating win-win benefits along the way.
In exchange for giving Israel access to a vast international research network, the European Research Area has benefited from Israel’s high level of excellence and its outstanding innovation capacity.
A European Union flag flies outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, December 19, 2019. (credit: REUTERS/YVES HERMAN)
Since 1996, about 5,000 research contracts have been signed as part of the cooperation. Israel-based projects received a total of €1.36b. in funding within the framework of the Horizon 2020 program, which just ended.
Joint research efforts have yielded successes in many fields, including climate change, public health and safe transportation.


First non-EU countries associated to Horizon Europe

Sunday, 26 September 2021

The European Commission announced on Friday that Iceland and Norway are the first countries to have become formally associated to Horizon Europe, enabling entities in those two countries to participate in Europe’s €95.5 billion research and innovation programme, under the same conditions as entities from EU member states.

Horizon Europe is an opportunity for EU member states and associated non-EU countries to continue and deepen cooperation in science, research and innovation, focusing on common priorities: the twin green and digital transition, public health and Europe’s competitiveness in the global landscape.

A spokesperson for the Commission explained that both Iceland and Norway are members of the European Economic Area (EEA) and do not have to sign a separate agreement with the EU but only a technical amendment to the EEA agreement.  Switzerland, another EEA member and dominant contributor to the EU budget, has not yet finalised the negotiations.

Negotiations with more non-EU countries that are associated or have expressed interest to become associated to Horizon Europe are still on-going and further announcements will be made in the coming weeks, the spokesperson said. The majority of the associated countries are candidate and neighbourhood countries.

According to an audit report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) last April, the task of managing the financial contributions to the EU budget from non-EU countries to gain access to EU programmes such as the R&D programme Horizon is beset with risks and based on a diverse system of arrangements.

In fact, Kosovo was the first country in completing the Horizon Europe Association Negotiations but the signature will only take place after the national ratification and after the Commission has completed its internal procedures. This is expected in happen in November and only then the Agreement will enter into force.

The spokesperson added that 11 countries have finalised the negotiations: Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. Remaining countries are Canada, Israel, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Tunisia, Morocco, and Faroe Islands.

The spokesperson declined to reply to a question if political issues were delaying the negotiations with some of these countries. This happened in the past with Israel, a dominant contributor to Horizon with a high success rate (12.8 % in Horizon 2020), because of differences about funding to entities located across the 1967 borders (the Green Line).

A compromise solution was found where Israel accepted EU’s position that such entities are not eligible for EU funding while sticking to its own position about the borders. A source in the Commission told The Brussels Times that the EU and Israel are still in the negotiation phase and that negotiations are progressing well, with a view to closing them with the shortest delay.

The optimism is shared by Israel’s new minister of foreign affairs, Yair Lapid, who last week wrote an op-ed stating that “the EU is about to sign with us another wide-ranging economic technology pact, Horizon Europe.”

In practice a delay in the signature will not have any effect. Applicants can apply for funding in the calls already published or in the pipeline the coming months although no agreement has been signed yet with the associated country concerned, provided that the Horizon Europe association agreement applies at the time of signature of the grant agreement.

M. Apelblat
The Brussels Times


Horizon Europe

Horizon Europe is the 9th European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation for the years 2021-2027.
Horizon Europe will promote excellence and provide support to top researchers and innovators to  ensure a green, healthy and resilient Europe.

The programme is an evolution from Horizon Europe and will include three main pillars:
Pillar 1 – will include the following programs – 

Pillar 2 – will support collaborative research relating to societal challenges and also reinforces technological and industrial capacities through thematic clusters that address the full spectrum of global challenges. The second pillar will include the following clusters: 

  • Health cluster will tackle challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic, the extension of clinical trials, innovative protective measures, virology, vaccines, treatments and diagnostics, and the translation of research findings into public health policy measures.
  • Culture, Creativity and Inclusive Society will support research and innovation in the cultural and creative sectors, cultural heritage, through building cultural heritage collaborative space, as well as in humanities and arts. 
  • Civil Security for Society – ill support the implementation of EU policy priorities relating to security, including cybersecurity, and disaster risk reduction and resilience. In addition, it will build on lessons learnt from the COVID 19 crisis both in terms of preparedness and capacity building for crises.
  • Digital Industry and Space cluster  will strengthen European capacity in central digital, industrial and space technologies, and support a competitive, digitised and circular European industry. 
  • Climate, Energy and Mobility cluster will scale up R&I resources in climate-related domains
  • Food, Bioeconomy, Natural Resources, Agriculture And Environment cluster addresses the interlinked challenges of safeguarding the natural resource base, resilient biodiversity and ecosystem services, restoring and sustaining the health of our planet, sustainable agricultural, forest, marine and fresh water production, promoting alternatives to fossil-based economies, sustainable consumption, closing nutrient cycles, and food and nutrition security.

The European missions is a new instrument that will  be introduced as part of pillar 2. It will focus on ambitious, time-bound and achievable goals to deliver on common European goals.  The five missions that were approved will aim at achieving by 2030, 3 million lives saved from cancer diseases, 100 climate neutral cities, healthy oceans, seas and internal waters, healthy soils and food, and regions resilient to climate changes.

In addition, a number of European Partnerships will encourage wide participation of partners from public and private sectors, covering critical areas such as energy, transport, biodiversity, health, food and circularity.

Pillar 3  – The European Innovation Council (EIC) . The EIC, will receive over €10 billion in budget to provide support for emerging and breakthrough innovations by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), start-ups, and midcaps. It will complement the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) –  building eecosystems by connecting with regional and national innovation actors.

And A Section called ‘Widening participation and Strengthening the European Research Area’.

Horizon Europe will increase its impact by working closely together with other EU programmes and policies, such as InvestEU, Erasmus+, EU Cohesion Policy, Digital Europe, European Structural and Investment Funds, Connecting Europe Facility, and the Recovery and Resilience Facility.

Horizon Europe Strategic Plan 2021-2024 will guide the development of work programmes in the covered period.

For Horizon Europe Novelties click here

For Horizon Europe orientation presentation



Over 500 academics call on EU to keep Israel’s Ariel University out of research projects

25 Mar 2021 | News

Ariel University, located in a settlement on the West Bank, should have no involvement in EU-funded projects researchers say, as the university denies one of its professors received EU fundingBy Éanna Kelly

Over 500 academics from more than 20 European countries and Israel on Wednesday published an open letter condemning any involvement of Israel’s Ariel University in EU-funded research projects.

The university is located in the West Bank, an area Palestinians seek for their future state. The EU and most of the international community views permanent settlements on this land as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The letter notes “with grave concern the ongoing failure of the European Union to ensure that its taxpayer-funded research programmes are not used to legitimise or otherwise sustain the establishment and the activities of Israeli academic institutions in illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).”

According to participation rules for Horizon 2020, the EU’s most recent science programme, Israeli entities may only receive grants from EU programmes if the projects concerned do not take place in settlements occupied by Israel since 1967. The Commission says “all its projects are closely monitored” and undergo a “rigorous ethical evaluation”.

The letter says that Ariel University hosted a dissemination event for the BOUNCE project in June 2020. In addition, a professor from Ariel University is listed as a co-researcher on the project, “raising serious questions as to whether research activities were carried out in the OPT,” the letter says.

Ariel University is also listed as involved in the Horizon 2020 earth observation project GEO-CRADLE, the letter notes.

The academics allege that, “multiple cases demonstrate failures of the Commission to properly instruct against, monitor for, and rectify project management transgressions against these EU positions.”

“The EU must and can do better,” the letter states. “At a time when the EU is finalising Horizon 2020’s successor, the €100 billion Horizon Europe programme, we urge the EU Commission, Parliament and Council to devise, fund and implement the effective monitoring of participating research projects and hold transgressors accountable.”

In response to the letter, Nicole Greenspan, head of international research and public relations at Ariel University said, “The inconsequential issue raised is that of the participation of a single Ariel University professor in an online event. The researcher is not funded by the EU.”

Sampling soil in the Occupied Territories

In January 2020, Green MEP Gina Dowding asked the Commission to account for Ariel University’s participation in GEO-CRADLE.

EU research commissioner Mariya Gabriel responded by saying Horizon 2020 projects are being closely monitored by the Commission services and that this includes a rigorous ethical evaluation.

“In the GEO-CRADLE proposal there was no indication that the Tel Aviv University, one of the partners, intended to take soil samples in occupied territories or cooperate with stakeholders in these areas. Once the violation was detected, the Commission immediately took action, recalling the rules to the coordinator, who instructed Tel Aviv University to stop cooperation with Ariel University and Golan Heights Winery.”

Soil samples collected from the settlements were excluded from the research, Gabriel said, adding, “Costs claimed for these activities and the subsequent rectification were considered not eligible and therefore not covered by EU funding.”

The European Commission has been contacted for additional comment.

‘Political letter’

According to Greenspan, “Ariel University is an institution recognised by the Israeli Council for Higher Education. Its students and researchers hail from all segments of the population with no regard to nationality or religion. The university is actively involved in research to better the entire region including both Israeli and Palestinian communities around it.”

“Ariel University holds the mixing of research with politics to be abhorrent as do all serious researchers. The use of academic titles and affiliations should not be used to legitimise people’s personal political opinions. This letter, despite being undersigned by people from academia, is not an academic letter. It is a purely political one,” Greenspan said.

Since it was established in 2012, Ariel University’s presence in the West Bank has repeatedly stirred controversy, with some Israeli academics and the Palestinians coming out against the institution over the years.

Last year, the Trump administration lifted a decades-old ban that had prohibited US taxpayer funding of Israeli scientific research conducted in settlements in the West Bank territory, drawing Palestinian condemnation. Ariel was chosen as the venue for a ceremony marking a new scientific and technology cooperation accord with the US.

Signatories speak

Science|Business spoke to four Israeli scientists who signed the letter.

Amiram Goldblum, professor emeritus of molecular modeling and drug design at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, complained that Ariel University is not recognised by international law.

Outi Bat-El Foux, professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University said, “As a person who was born and raised in Israel, and cares about its future, the existence of the city of Ariel and its academic institution undermine the foundation of Israel and its people.”

Ofer Aharony, a theoretical physicist at the Weizmann Institute of Science, said he is “strongly opposed to Israel’s policy of establishing settlements in the West Bank. I view such settlements as illegal under international law and I am not willing to do anything to assist them.”

Aharony added that his opinion was “a minority view in Israel; most Israelis support the settlement at least to some extent, though there is probably also a small majority that would support dismantling some settlements if and when a peace agreement with the Palestinians is signed.”

Raphael Greenberg, an archaeologist at Tel Aviv University, said, “Many of our colleagues in Israel and Europe appear to accept the normalisation of the Ariel institution as an Israeli research university. By insisting that the EU stand by its own principles, we wish to protect our institutions and remind our colleagues that legitimacy is hard to attain and easy to lose.”

Israel-Bashing at the CUNY Graduate Center Webinar on the Negev Bedouin


Editorial Note

The Graduate Center at the City University of New York (CUNY) is hosting a webinar titled “The Negev Bedouin: Emptied Lands and Displaced People” on Oct 27, 2021, as part of the virtual series “Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons.” The event is sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Genocide, Holocaust and Crimes Against HumanityThe description of the webinar states that “Israel’s treatment of the Negev Bedouin has been a story of displacement and dispossession.” The webinar “will explore the unique nature of Bedouin resistance, the history of coerced urbanization, and the situation in the unrecognized Bedouin villages.”  

The panelists include Drs. Eli Karetny, Thabet Abu Rass, Yeela Raanan, and Netta Amar-Schiff. 

Dr. Yeela Raanan is a longtime activist, as reported by Electronic Intifada. She has worked as the coordinator for the Negev Coexistence Forum, a Jewish-Arab organization based in the Negev. She later started working with the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Villages in the Negev. She teaches in the Department of Public Administration at Sapir College. 

Dr. Thabet Abu Rass is a Co-Executive Director of the NGO Abraham Initiatives, promoting Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel.  

Attorney Netta Amar-Schiff has been involved with Rabbis for Human Rights, a radical left-wing group in Israel.   

The phenomenon of unrecognized villages in the Negev has been on the public agenda for years. The governments appointed several committees to solve the issue. Some Bedouin families even claimed land through court but failed. To recall, in 2012, the Beersheba District Court rejected lawsuits by the al-Uqbi Bedouin family who argued that they privately owned some 1,000 dunams of land in the Negev, including al-Araqib since Ottoman times. The proceedings went on for several years, discussing in detail the history of the Negev Bedouin and land laws dating back to the mid-19th century.  In court, the Bedouin family claimed that the land belonged to their families since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 through purchase and inheritance. In 1951, they claim, they were evacuated by the IDF, which confiscated it. Since then, the state has not permitted them to return. For the plaintiffs, Ben Gurion University’s Geography Prof. Oren Yiftachel gave expert testimony. Testifying for the state was Prof. Ruth Kark of the Hebrew University, an expert on the historical geography of Palestine and Israel. Central were the questions whether Bedouin could prove land rights despite lacking formal title deeds of the land and whether private ownership of land classified under the Ottoman rule as Mawat (uncultivated wasteland) was possible.  In 1969, the Israel Land Law was passed, which repealed some legal categories of land laws remaining from Ottoman rule. Claimants were expected to produce proof of ownership, but the al-Uqbis, like most Bedouins, had not registered the land on their names. After years of litigation, the court rejected the al-Uqbi claims.  

The lengthy litigation did not settle the issue, to the contrary. Anti-Israel activists working in NGOS have seized upon the Bedouin issue to besmirch the name of Israel. They submitted reports to the United Nations and EU that “systematically take a simplistic approach, are based on unreliable sources, and use inflammatory rhetoric with unsupported claims, accusing Israel of implementing a policy of ‘racial discrimination,’ ‘disinheritance,’ and ‘human rights violations’ against the ‘indigenous’ citizens of the Negev,” as found in a 2013 report by NGO Monitor, a group dedicated to NGO Responsibility. 

NGO Monitor also found that these NGOs were funded mainly by the New Israel Fund (NIF), the European Union, and European governments “providing substantial amounts to this partisan political agenda.” Moreover, “Many NGOs conflate Bedouin issues with the broader Arab-Israeli conflict, without distinguishing between Bedouin and Palestinian issues.”  

Likewise, Dr. Havatzelet Yahel of Ben Gurion University has written about the evolution of the Bedouin international advocacy through various NGOs within the UN human rights bodies. Yahel has demonstrated how, in the last two decades, the discourse on Bedouin issues was co-opted by national and foreign NGOs which possess anti-Israel views, becoming an asset in the efforts to delegitimize Israel. Yahel argues that the Bedouin harsh living conditions and the land conflict with the state of Israel help to portray Israel as an apartheid state. 

Yahel is right. A recent example is the UN Human Rights Council that published item 7 on the agenda, titled “Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.”   Several Palestinian NGOs have submitted a joint written statement on the “Palestinian Dispossession and Displacement.”  The statement claims that since Israel’s inception, it has developed sets of laws, policies, and practices “designated to displace, dominate, and dispossess Palestinians… Israel is loudly insisting on the denial of the Palestinian inalienable right to self-determination and right of return, to maintain its overall settler-colonial and apartheid system over the Palestinian people.”   The statement mentions the Negev, “In the Naqab [Negev], Israel demolished al-Araqib village for the 190th time [in July 2021], under the pretext that it trespasses on State-owned land. Despite the different geographical location and their subjugation to different legal regimes, Palestinians in al-Araqib and Humsa Al-Fawqa endure the same policy of Palestinian dispossession and forced displacement.” 

The Graduate Center at CUNY has become a tool at the hands of these political activists. Worth noting that the Center has already been involved in controversial political activism earlier this year. When Hamas shelled Israel with some 4000 or even 4340 rockets, the CUNY Graduate Center published a letter on May 20, 2021, stating that “We see that Israel commits state violence, and we must not remain silent about it… Palestinians, their history, and the ongoing Israeli state violence against them since the Nakba in 1948 have been marginalized in our fields.” The letter finds it unacceptable that only 12 Israelis have died from the Hamas rockets, while 217 Palestinians were killed in Gaza. “The violence perpetrated by Hamas is a predictable reaction to decades of oppression and subordination of Palestinians.” The letter demanded “Palestinians’ rights equal to those of all Israelis.” The letter ends by calling governments, the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Criminal Court to protect the Palestinians. 

The CUNY Graduate Center is Israel-bashing, and their webinar on the Bedouins is a reflection of this approach. 



Graduate Center – CUNY


The Negev Bedouin: Emptied Lands and Displaced People



Online event


917 403 6640


Dispossessing Native America: Indigeneity, Land, and Reconciliation


SEP 28, 2021 | 6:30 PM
Dystopian Present, Life in Common Past-Futures: Contesting Fantasies of Collapse




Center for the Study of the Genocide, Holocaust and Crimes Against Humanity


917 403 6640 orReserve Now


Israel’s treatment of the Negev Bedouin has been a story of displacement and dispossession. A wide-ranging conversation between Drs. Eli Karetny, Thabet Abu Rass, Yeela Raana, and Netta Amar-Schiff will explore the unique nature of Bedouin resistance, the history of coerced urbanization, and the situation in the unrecognized Bedouin villages.

Part of the Virtual Series: Refugees and Forcibly Displaced Persons

This is an online event. Please register here to participate via Zoom.


May 20, 2021
On the Tenth Day of the Gaza War

As scholars of Jewish Studies, the Holocaust, genocide, and human rights, we study and teach about a wide range of processes and cases of mass atrocities and state violence, and we unequivocally support the right of Israelis and of Palestinians to exist in peace. 

We also have a responsibility to center the voices and perspectives of victims and survivors of state violence.  We see that Israel commits state violence, and we must not remain silent about it. Indeed, we teach students about the dangers of remaining silent and about the importance of speaking up and taking action. This is particularly significant in this case, as Palestinians, their history, and the ongoing Israeli state violence against them since the Nakba in 1948 have been marginalized in our fields. 

We write as 3350 Hamas rockets into Israel have (to date) killed 12 people, including 2 children and the overwhelming Israeli retaliation on Gaza has (to date) killed 217 people, including 63 children, injured 1500, displaced 52,000 people, destroyed international media headquarters in Gaza as well as another 132 buildings, and smashed infrastructure crucial to daily life. Israel has launched at least 1450 airstrikes on Gaza; in just one night 62 Israeli fighter jets dropped 110 bombs on the Strip.  

We deplore the violence on both sides. The violence perpetrated by Hamas is a predictable reaction to decades of oppression and subordination of Palestinians, but this does not justify attacks on civilian populations.

The violence must cease, and better conditions must ensue to secure Palestinians’ rights equal to those of all Israelis.

We therefore call on governments, the United Nations, the European Union, and the International Criminal Court to:

(1) Work to protect Palestinians in Israel, under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, and in Gaza now and in the future. 

(2) End support for Israeli military aggression. 

(3) Hold accountable all those responsible for documented war crimes and human rights violations. 

(4) Protect the freedom of the press by mounting an independent investigation into the Israeli airstrike that targeted and destroyed a Gaza City building housing the AP, broadcaster Al-Jazeera, and other media.

Debórah Dwork, Center Director

Center Advisory Board:

Elissa Bemporad, Ungar Chair in East European Jewish History and the Holocaust, Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Francesca Bregoli, Joseph and Oro Halegua Chair in Greek and Sephardic Jewish Studies, Associate Professor, Department of History, Queens College, and Graduate Center-CUNY

Dagmar Herzog, Distinguished Professor of History, Graduate Center-CUNY

Benjamin Carter Hett, Professor, Department of History, Hunter College and Graduate Center-CUNY

Eli Karetny, Deputy Director, Ralph Bunche Institute 

Steven Remy, Professor, Department of History, Brooklyn College and History Program, Graduate Center-CUNY

Victoria Sanford, Professor of Anthropology, Lehman College; Founding Director, Center for Human Rights & Peace Studies; Doctoral Faculty, Department of Anthropology, Graduate Center-CUNY

John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History, Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, Graduate Center-CUNY

Eric Weitz, Distinguished Professor of History, City College and Graduate Center-CUNY

Elissa Bemporad, Alon Confino, and Derek Penslar, Forward
“A New Declaration Aims to Fight Antisemitism Without Curtailing Free Speech”


Antisemitism is on the rise, with powerful instigators behind it, but the struggle against it is at risk of being derailed by acrimonious divisions among Jews and others over its very meaning. The drive for adoption of a single, fixed definition of antisemitism has devolved into a polemical political debate on Israel and Palestine with crucial free-speech implications.

Today we introduce the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, which was crafted by a group of scholars from the United States, Israel, Europe and the U.K, after more than a year of intense discussion and study. The declaration has been endorsed by 200 eminent scholars with a wide spectrum of political views. All of us agree on the need for a guide to effectively combat antisemitism that protects space for an open debate around all possibilities around the future for Israelis and Palestinians.===================================================


Human Rights Council
Forty-eighth session
13 September–1 October 2021
Agenda item 7
Human rights situation in Palestine and other
occupied Arab territories
Joint written statement* submitted by Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights & Democratic Participation Center “SHAMS”, Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH), non-governmental organizations in special consultative status
The Secretary-General has received the following written statement which is circulated in accordance with Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31.
[22 August 2021]
* Issued as received, in the language(s) of submission only.
United Nations
General Assembly
Distr.: General
24 September 2021
English only
Palestinian Dispossession and Displacement: The Pressing Cases of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan
Since its inception, Israel has developed a set of laws, policies, and practices designated to displace, dominate, and dispossess Palestinians, including through, inter alia, military offensives,1 home demolitions, forced evictions, destruction of livelihoods, creation of a coercive environment, and facilitation of establishing colonial settlements and outposts,2 reinforced by the existence of a discriminatory planning and zoning regime. In so doing, Israel is loudly insisting on the denial of the Palestinian inalienable right to self-determination and right of return, to maintain its overall settler-colonial and apartheid system over the Palestinian people.
While Israel’s array of discriminatory laws, including the Absentee’s Property Law of 1950, the Legal and Administrative Matters Law of 1970, and the laws in force coupled with a set of Israeli military orders in the occupied West Bank,3 differ in titles, their objective is one – the advancement of the Israeli settlement enterprise in the face of Palestinian contiguity.
For example, in the occupied Jordan Valley, the Occupying Power has repeatedly demolished Palestinian properties of Khirbet Humsa al-Fawqa, whose residents are unable to obtain building permits under the pretext that it is located in a declared ‘firing zone’ area.4 In the Naqab, Israel demolished al-Araqib village for the 190th time,5 under the pretext that it trespasses on State-owned land.6 Despite the different geographical location and their subjugation to different legal regimes, Palestinians in al-Araqib and Humsa Al-Fawqa endure the same policy of Palestinian dispossession and forced displacement.
Dispossession and Displacement Through Forced Evictions
In East Jerusalem, eight families residing in Karm Al-Ja’ouni area of Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, and seven families in Batn Al-Hawa neighbourhood in Silwan are facing imminent threat of displacement. Notably, most of these families are refugees previously displaced during the Nakba of 1948. Prompted by settler organisations, Nahalat Shimon International and Ateret Cohanim, the dispossession in Karm Al-Ja’ouni and Batn Al-Hawa respectively was facilitated by Israel’s Legal and Administrative Matters Law, which exclusively allows Jews to pursue claims of ownership to properties allegedly owned by Jews before 1948, while denying Palestinians the same for properties they lost in 1948 Nakba and 1967 Naksa.7
1 For example, 8,200 Palestinians in Gaza remain internally displaced due to the latest May 2021 Israeli military offensive, OCHA, “Response to the escalation in the oPt | Situation Report No. 6 (25 June-1 July 2021)”, 2 July 2021, at: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/response-escalation-opt-situation-report-no-6-25-june-1-july-2021.
2 See Al-Haq’s joint written submission submitted to the 48th Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, titled “The Price of Resisting Settlement Expansion: the Case of Jabal Sbeih,” 22 August 2021.
3 Examples include: the 1858 Ottoman Land Code; Jordanian Law on Planning of Cities, Villages and Buildings 1966; Military Order Concerning Government Property (No. 59), 1967; Military Order Concerning Abandoned Properties (No. 58), 1967.
4 Al-Haq, “Over 550 Organisations call on UN Human Rights Council: “Condemnation is Not Enough – Root Causes Must be Addressed, Israel’s Impunity Must be Brought to an End, Justice Must be Achieved””, 18 March 2021, at: https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/18044.html.
5 Anadolu Agency, “Israel demolishes al-Araqib village for 190th time”, 7 July 2021, at: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/israel-demolishes-al-araqib-village-for-190th-time/2296816.
6 Al-Haq, “Joint Parallel Report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on Israel’s Seventeenth to Nineteenth Periodic Reports”, 10 November 2019, para. 102.
7 Al-Haq, “14 Palestinian and Regional Organisations Send Joint Urgent Appeal to UN Special Procedures on Forced Evictions in East Jerusalem”, 16 March 2021, at: https://www.alhaq.org/advocacy/17999.html.
Ruling in favour of evicting the 15 families,8 the Israeli courts confirm that Jews enjoy “right of return”, but disregards the same right for Palestinians, and exemplify, yet again, the complicity of the judicial echelon in Israel’s systematic denial of Palestinians’ rights of return and property restitution.
As of time of writing, the appealed eviction orders against seven Sheikh jarrah families are pending.9 The Israeli Supreme Court proposed a “compromise” to four families that would allow them to continue living in their houses upon their recognition of settlers’ ownership of the properties in question. Rejecting this “compromise,” which violates the rights of protected persons against appropriation or destruction of private property, and forcible transfer, Palestinian residents continue to endure the lengthy and expensive legal battles.10
Similarly, in 2002, Ateret Cohanim targeted 81 Palestinian families in Batn al-Hawa with eviction lawsuits,11 among which seven families were issued eviction orders.12 The inherently unjust judicial system further infringes on Palestinians’ due process rights. For example, Nitham Abu Rammouz, one of the seven family members, was not informed about the eviction order issued against him and his 12-member family until almost five years after its issuance; he was never summoned to attend court sessions nor did he receive a judicial notice of the eviction order, which was issued in absentia, and by default was not appealed.13
Alarmingly, at least 993 Palestinians, including 432 children, residing in East Jerusalem are at risk of displacement due to ‘eviction cases’ filed against them.14 Over the past four years, around 15 households of 62 Palestinians were evicted from their homes in the Old City, Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.15
Dispossession and Displacement through Home Demolitions
Shortly after occupying East Jerusalem in 1967, Israel had cancelled Jordanian building plans in al-Bustan, designating it as “green area”, where construction is prohibited, to build a touristic park.16 To meet the needs of their natural population increase, Palestinians have been building without permits, which are impossible to obtain, due to Israel’s aggressive planning and zoning policies. Against this backdrop, in 2005, the Jerusalem Municipality delivered a collective demolition order for 88 Palestinian houses of more than 1,500 Palestinians.17
The residents have been successfully filing for extensions to delay the execution of demolition orders. Nevertheless, on 17 March 2021, the court refused to extend 16 demolition cases based on the discriminatory ‘Kaminitz’ law or Amendment 116,18 which reinforces planning and construction laws through increased penalisation of building breaches that intrude on public land in Israel, particularly in the Arab communities,19 while completely
8 OCHA, “Palestinian family evicted from its home in East Jerusalem”, 10 December 2020, at: https://www.ochaopt.org/content/palestinian-family-evicted-its-home-east-jerusalem.
9 The Israeli Supreme Court decided to freeze the eviction order against three Sheikh Jarrah families until the exhaustion of proceeding (Al-Dajani et al. vs Nahalat Shomron International, Supreme Court 2841/21, 15 August 2021).
10 FMEP, “Court Proposes Settler-friendly “Compromise” to Avoid Substantive Ruling on Sheikh Jarrah Dispossession Cases”, 6 August 2021, at: https://fmep.org/blog/resourcetag/sheikh-jarrah/.
11 Al-Haq, “House Demolitions and Forced Evictions in Silwan”, 2020, p.48, at: https://www.alhaq.org/cached _uploads/download/2021/08/17/silwan-webversion-1-page-view-1629184473.pdf.
12 See supra note 8.
13 Al-Haq Affidavit 15A/2021 of 5 January 2021.
14 Data obtained from OCHA and Al-Haq’s documentation.
15 See supra note 8.
16 Al-Haq, “House Demolition and Forced Evictions in Silwan”, 2020, p.33.
17 Al-Haq, “88 Palestinian Houses to be demolished for Israeli Park”, 11 February 2012, at: https://www.alhaq.org/monitoring-documentation/6931.html.
18 NRC, “Case Summary Al Bustan – Silwan, East Jerusalem”, August 2021.
19 Ir-Amim, “Amendment 116 to the Planning and Building Law and the Palestinian Neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem”, July 2019, pp. 6-7.
disregarding the Palestinian housing needs. Among the 16 cases, the butcher shop of Mr. Harbi al-Rajabi was demolished on 29 June 2021, thereby destroying his livelihood.20
On 7 June 2021, Fakhri Abu Diab, a resident of Al-Bustan neighbourhood, received a demolition order, stating: “these orders are issued according to the Kaminitz Law, which means we cannot object to it or request to freeze its enforcement, we are only given the option to self-demolish the structure within 21 days from receipt of order, or for municipality personnel to demolish it and thus incur demolition expenses, which could amount to at least NIS60,000 [approximately USD18,500].”21
Conclusion and Recommendations
Israeli instituted discriminatory laws and policies against Palestinians deprive them of their rights to freedom of movement and residence, adequate housing, and their land and natural resources.22 Forced evictions and home demolitions may amount to the war crimes of forcible transfer, destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity, and the crimes against humanity of deportation or forcible transfer, persecution, and apartheid.23
Accordingly, we call on Member States of the Human Rights Council to:
i. Recognise that Israel’s discriminatory laws of dispossession and displacement are part of an apartheid system applied to the entirety of the Palestinian people;
ii. Call on Israel to cease the application of its domestic laws to annexed East Jerusalem, and consequently, immediately cease legal proceedings and revoke eviction and demolition orders issued against Palestinians facing imminent threat of forcible transfer in Sheikh Jarrah, Batn Al-Hawa, and Al-Bustan neighbourhoods, and ensure the return of those evicted and/or the compensation of those whose properties were demolished where restitution is not possible; and
iii. Pursue international justice and accountability for Israel’s systematic human rights violations against the Palestinian people, including the crime of apartheid, by activating universal jurisdiction mechanisms and supporting a full, thorough, and comprehensive investigation by the International Criminal Court into the Situation in Palestine.
Palestinian NGOs Network Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association DCI – Defense for Children International – Palestine Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center Aldameer Association for Human Rights Ramallah Center for Human Rights Studies – Hurryyat Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights The Independent Commission for Human Rights (Ombudsman Office) Muwatin Institute for Democracy and Human Rights The Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem Community Action Center/Al-Quds University, NGO(s) without consultative status, also share the views expressed in this statement.
20 NRC, “Israeli authorities demolish shop in Silwan, 15 families at imminent risk”, 29 June 2021, at: https://www.nrc.no/news/2021/june/israeli-authorities-demolish-shop-in-silwan-15-families-at-imminent-risk/.
21 Al-Haq Affidavit 332A/2021 of 17 June 2021.
22 Article 1(2), ICESCR and ICCPR.
23 Articles 8(2)(b)(viii), 8(2)(a)(iv), 7(1)(d), 7(1)(h), and 7(1)(j) of the Rome Statute of the ICC.



Court rejects 6 Beduin Negev land lawsuits

Members of the al-Uqbi family argued that they owned land, including at al-Arakib, since Ottoman times.


In a precedent-setting ruling on Sunday, the Beersheba District Court rejected six lawsuits brought by Beduin regarding private ownership of some 1,000 dunam of land in the Negev.
Seventeen Beduin, members of the al-Uqbi family, filed the six land claims. The complex and often bitter legal proceedings went on for over six years, and discussed in detail the history of the Negev Beduin and land laws dating back to the mid-19th century. The Beduin claim the land had belonged to their families since before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, and that it had come into their possession by means of purchase and inheritance over generations.
However, in 1951 they say they were evacuated from the land when the IDF confiscated it, and since then the state has not granted them permission to return, and has said the land belongs to the state and was never privately owned.

Significantly, the land in question – south of the Beduin city of Rahat – includes the hotly contested area known as al-Arakib, the site of an ongoing and bitter conflict between Beduin and the state. Temporary shacks built by the Beduin in al-Arakib were demolished by the state and rebuilt on more than 10 occasions, the last in 2010, and last year the state filed a NIS 1.8 million lawsuit against two Beduin families over the issue.
During the al-Uqbi lawsuit, both the state and the Beduin brought extensive expert testimonies, pitting the country’s most prominent experts in historical and political geography against each other. For the plaintiffs, Ben Gurion University’s Prof. Oren Yiftachel, one of the country’s foremost geographers and social scientists, gave expert testimony. Testifying for the state was Prof. Ruth Kark, a leading expert on the historical geography of Palestine and Israel from the Hebrew University.
At the heart of the case was the debate of whether the Beduin were able to prove that they had private land rights to the disputed plots, despite a lack of formal land-title deeds showing the land had been registered in their name in the Ottoman land registry, the “Tabu.”
Central to this was the question of the land’s legal classification under Ottoman and British rule, and whether it had been a form of state land, known as Mawat (wasteland that could not be cultivated). When the Israel Land Law abolished the old Ottoman land classifications in 1969, it said all land would revert to state lands, unless a claimant could produce proof of private ownership in the form of Ottoman or British legal title.
The British Mandate authorities stipulated that the last date by which Beduin could register land classified as Mawat as privately owned was 1921, however the al-Uqbis – like most Beduin – had not done so.

In court, the al-Uqbis argued that the state’s order to expropriate the land from them in 1951 was made on the erroneous assumption that under Ottoman law the land was classified as Mawat. They said that the land had been cultivated and owned by them, and so classified as Miri land under Ottoman legal terms.
Mawat lands were both uncultivated and not adjacent to settled lands. The Beduin, who argued that the el-Ukbi families had lived in al-Arakib before the State of Israel was established, testified that there had been tents and other structures on the land, and that Beduin residents had cultivated barley and wheat there. Therefore, they argued, the Ottoman authorities cannot possibly have classified it as Mawat.
In an expert opinion filed to the court, Yiftachel said that these “tribal areas” of scattered tent clusters were not at that time registered with the authorities, but were nevertheless considered “settled” and met the definition of a “village” in the 1921 Land Ordinance.
The Beduin also presented aerial photographs from 1945 onwards, which they said showed there had been extensive cultivation covering al-Arakib, meaning that it could not have been classified as Mawat land.
The state’s expert witness, Prof. Ruth Kark, gave the complete opposite view, and said that prior to 1858, there had been no fixed settlements on or near to the disputed land. The first fixed settlement had been Beersheba, she said, which the Ottomans founded in 1900 and which is 11 kilometers from al- Arakib – refuting the Beduin’ claims that the land could not have been Mawat because it was both cultivated and next to a settlement.
They also contended that the Ottoman, and later the British, authorities had granted legal autonomy to the Negev Beduin to organize land ownership according to Beduin law, which is why it was not registered as theirs in the Tabu.
However, the court did not accept this claim, saying that if the Ottoman authorities had wished to exempt a particular population from the law, then they would have done so explicitly.
Rejecting the claims, Judge Sarah Dovrat concluded the the land in question had not been “assigned to the plaintiffs, nor held by them under conditions required by law.”
“Regardless of whether the land was Mawat or Miri, the complainants must still prove their rights to the land by proof of its registration in the Tabu,” the judge said.
Dovrat added that “although the complainants believe they have proof that they held the land for generations, and that four families from the el-Ukbi tribe cultivated and owned the land, such claims require a legitimate legal basis in accordance with the the relevant legislation and according to precedents set out in case law.”
The judge held that the plaintiffs’ documents indicated that they knew they had a duty to register land in the “Tabu” (the land registry) but had not wanted to do so. “The state said that although the complainants are not entitled to compensation, it has been willing to negotiate with them,” the judge added. “It is a shame that these negotiations did not reach any agreement.”
The court also ordered the Beduin complainants to pay legal costs of NIS 50,000. Attorneys Michael Sfard and Carmel Pomerantz, who represented the Beduin complainants, slammed the ruling, which they said went against an international trend of recognizing the rights of indigenous peoples to their historic lands.
“In its ruling, the court affirmed the practice of expulsion that the state carried out against the Negev Beduin, and found that 60 years afterwards there is no point in testing whether that massive expropriation of lands was legal or not,” Sfard said on Monday.
Sfard and Pomerantz added the the court did not “take the opportunity to recognize, even symbolically, the historical injustice perpetrated to the residents of these lands, whose ancestors lived there for centuries.” Yiftachel called the decision “troubling,” and said on Monday that the Beduin were considering whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.
“[The ruling] is troubling first and foremost because it unjustly dispossesses many Bedouins who have simply inherited the land from their ancestors. The court decided that just because they didn’t register their land, they ought to lose it,” Yiftachel said. “It’s a sad irony – Jews who bought land from Bedouins in Northern Negev became recognized owners, while the people who sold them the land are now being dispossessed.”
Yiftachel said that the court had ignored new research he presented, which he said showed the Beduin had “acquired rights within a permanent land system they developed and how previous regimes have respected those rights.”
“Most researchers agree that 2-3 million dunam were cultivated by the Beduin in the early 20th century, which gives them land rights,” he said. “Yet the court claimed that no Beduin settlement and rights existed then. Where did the Beduin farmers live – in mid-air?”
Yiftachel added that recognizing the fact that Beduin did own parts of the Negev for generations was “not only a moral duty of any enlightened state, but also the key for good Arab-Jewish relations on which the Negev will depend for years to come.”
“Whatever the court decision, I am committed to the truth,” he said.
ILA director Benzi Lieberman welcomed the court’s ruling, and said on Monday that the ILA expected the Beduin claimants to respect it and “stop trespassing” on the land.
“The ILA will do all in its power to keep state land from trespassers – and this includes farming – in order to safeguard the land,” Lieberman said, adding that the ILA would file lawsuits against those who trespassed on state land.  

The Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA Center)

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism Is Itself Antisemitic

By Dr. Dana Barnett October 3, 2021

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 2,166, October 3, 2021

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA), presented in March 2021, was created to replace the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which had been adopted by 35 countries by 2020. The writers of the JDA wished to “clarify” the IHRA, which they feel is insufficiently obsequious to the Palestinians. Their real object is to use the fight against antisemitism as another weapon with which to vilify Israel.

The Jerusalem Declaration of Antisemitism (JDA) is the product of a group of international scholars of antisemitism and related fields who have been meeting since June 2020 in a series of online workshops convened by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. Essentially, the new document charges the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism with blurring the “difference between antisemitic speech and legitimate criticism of Israel and Zionism.” As a result, the IHRA definition “delegitimiz[es] the voices of Palestinians and others, including Jews, who hold views that are sharply critical of Israel and Zionism.”

The JDA was purportedly written as a resource for strengthening the fight against antisemitism, because “there is a widely felt need for clarity on the limits of legitimate political speech and action concerning Zionism, Israel, and Palestine.” The JDA is presented as the alternative, a “corrective to overcome the shortcomings of the IHRA definition.”

Nowhere in the IHRA definition are Palestinians mentioned; nor does it mention BDS. There are, however, three clauses that can be construed as applying to the actions of Palestinians and pro-Palestinian activists. These are:

  • the denial of the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination; e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor
  • the application of double standards by requiring of Israel behaviors that are not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
  • the comparison of Israeli policies to those of the Nazis.

Pro-Palestinian activists and anti-Israel groups have long complained about the IHRA definition because, in the grip of their fixation on Israel as fundamentally illegitimate and their flat denial of the Jews’ right to self-determination, they reject the premise that anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

It should be noted that some of the authors of the new document are radical academic activists, including Israelis and non-Israeli Jews. Among them are Richard Falk, Neve Gordon, Anat Matar, David Feldman, Chaim Gans, Snait Gissis, Amos Goldberg, Avishai Margalit, Hagar Kotef, David Shulman, Dmitry Shumsky, Yair Wallach, Moshe Zimmermann, Moshe Zuckermann, Gadi Algazi, Seth Anziska, Bernard Avishai, Peter Beinart, Louise Bethlehem, Daniel Blatman, Daniel Boyarin, Jose Brunner, Naomi Chazan, Alon Confino, Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi, and David Enoch. Some of them have also called for the boycott of Israel. Recruiting Israelis and Jews to deflect accusations of antisemitism is a longstanding practice in anti-Israel and antisemitic circles.

As for its content, the JDA is essentially a wholesale denunciation of the IHRA definition. Some points stand out. The declaration accuses the IHRA definition of malpractice because it considers criticism of Israel antisemitic. However, the IHRA definition clearly states, “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” The JDA suggests that “Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a tool for interpreting it.” It doesn’t explain why an institution that had adopted the IHRA definition should wish to adopt the JDA version, which opposes it.

The JDA makes its political agenda clear by declaring its support for “the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights, as encapsulated in international law.” Similarly, the JDA wishes to “support arrangements that accord full equality to all inhabitants ‘between the river and the sea,’ whether in two states, a binational state, unitary democratic state, federal state, or in whatever form.”

What the JDA fails to mention is that in Palestinian parlance, the “demand for justice and the full grant of their political, national, civil and human rights” is a euphemism for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a Palestinian state on its ruins. Similarly, the Palestinian demand for a “binational state” or a “unitary democratic state” has been used by the PLO since the late 1960s as code for the transformation of Israel into an Arab state in which Jews are reduced to a permanent minority living on the sufferance of the Muslim majority, a status known in Islamic history as Dhimmis. In the words of Edward Said: “[T]he Jews are a minority everywhere. A Jewish minority can survive [in Arab Palestine] the way other minorities in the Arab world survived.”

As for dismantling the “occupation,” this was effectively ended in January 1996 when Israel relinquished control of 95% of the West Bank’s Palestinian population in line with the Oslo Accords (control of Gaza’s Palestinian population had been transferred to the newly established Palestinian Authority (PA) in May 1994).

The key problem with the JDA is the claim that “Criticizing or opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism” is not antisemitic. It betrays its bias by failing to reject any form of nationalism other than the Jewish one. Needless to say, such a discriminatory denial of this basic right to only one nation (and one of the few that can trace its corporate identity and territorial attachment to antiquity) while allowing it to all other groups and communities, however new and tenuous their claim to nationhood, is pure and unadulterated racism.

No less disingenuous is the JDA’s claim that it is not antisemitic “to compare Israel with other historical cases, including settler-colonialism or apartheid”—another attempt to discredit Israel’s right to exist on account of its alleged dispossession of the (supposedly) indigenous population. Apart from failing to indict any other manifestation of “settler-colonialism” (from the US, Canada, Australia, to most of Latin America, to earlier manifestations of this phenomenon in Europe and the Middle East), this claim ignores the fundamental fact that the Jews are not “colonial settlers” but rather the indigenous inhabitants of the Land of Israel (renamed Syria Palaestina by the Roman occupiers). This millenarian attachment was specifically emphasized by the 1922 League of Nations mandate, which tasked Britain with establishing a Jewish national home in Palestine.

If anything, it is the long string of Muslim occupiers of the Land of Israel (or parts of it)—from the 7th century Arab invaders, to the Seljuk Turks, to the Mamluks, to the Ottoman Turks, to the Egyptians, Jordanians, and newly formed Palestinians—that can be defined as colonial settlers.

As with the “settler colonist” slander, the apartheid canard is not only false but the complete inverse of the truth. Whether in its South African form or elsewhere, such as the US South until the late 1960s, apartheid was a comprehensive and discriminatory system of racial segregation, on the basis of ethnicity, comprising all walks of life—from schooling, to public transportation, to social activities and services, to medical care. None of this has ever been applied in Israel, where the Arab minority has enjoyed full equality before the law and has been endowed with the full spectrum of democratic rights—including the right to vote for and serve in all state institutions. (From the first, Arabs have been members of the Knesset.) From the designation of Arabic as an official language, to the recognition of non-Jewish religious holidays as legal rest days for their respective communities, to the granting of educational, cultural, judicial, and religious autonomy, Arabs in Israel may well enjoy more formal prerogatives than ethnic minorities anywhere in the democratic world. This is at a time when apartheid has been an integral part of the Middle East for over a millennium, and its Arab and Muslim nations continue to legally, politically, and socially enforce this discriminatory practice against their own minorities.

The JDA argues that calls for “boycott, divestment and sanctions are commonplace, non-violent forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic,” but it does not call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against any other nation except Israel. Quite clearly, the document is intended to legitimize the anti-Zionist boycott movement against Israel.

Ironically, after the JDA’s writers bent over backward to appease the Palestinians, a leading Palestinian group rejected the JDA. According to the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the highest authority on BDS, there are inherent flaws in the document, such as the following:

  • The JDA excludes the Palestinian perspective as expressed by Palestinians themselves. “Some liberals still try to make decisions that deeply affect us, without us. Palestinians cannot allow any definition of antisemitism to be employed for policing or censoring advocacy of our inalienable rights,” including “[our] history of struggle against settler-colonialism and apartheid.”
  • The JDA fails to mention that “white supremacy and the far right [are] the main culprits behind antisemitic attacks.”
  • The JDA guidelines still try to “police some speech critical of Israel’s policies and practices, failing to fully uphold the necessary distinction between hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate opposition to Israeli policies, ideology and system of injustice on the other.”

Aljazeera, the Qatari media outlet, which favors the Palestinians, published a negative article about the JDA, calling it “an orientalist text.” Mark Muhannad Ayyash, an associate professor of sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada, authored the piece. He says the core problem with both the IHRA and the JDA definitions of antisemitism is their failure to address the “silencing and erasure of Palestine and Palestinians.” He argues that by proclaiming that the Jews have a right to their own state, it obscures the fact that “this state was established on a land that was already inhabited by Palestinians.”

Ayyash goes on to say that like the IHRA definition, the JDA sets out to determine “which kinds of anti-Zionist critiques and views constitute antisemitism, and which do not.” But “like all liberal documents that have been produced in the thick of a colonial or settler-colonial moment, this document keeps intact the colonial contract whereby the colonial masters retain the position of privilege and supremacy in voice and status over the colonized.” Ayyash calls the JDA an “orientalist text” because it does not oppose the core problem of the IHRA definition: the “silencing and erasure of Palestine and Palestinians.”

Ayyash considers the JDA an example of “covert orientalism” because “hostility to Israel could be an expression of an antisemitic animus, or it could be a reaction to a human rights violation, or it could be the emotion that a Palestinian person feels on account of their experience at the hands of the State.” Therefore, the JDA, “in supposed opposition” to the IHRA definition’s “anti-Zionism is antisemitism” premise, tells its audience—the Euro-American world—that even the Palestinians, whom Ayyash apparently believes should be absolved of such attentions, should be policed for possible antisemitism. Because the Palestinians “are so reactionary, emotional, and hostile,” they are a “source of statements and campaigns that Euro-Americans should tolerate but also remain vigilant against.”

According to Ayyash, the JDA dares to question “the reasonableness and lack thereof of Palestinians,” and that very assessment is presumptuous and Orientalist. His concern is that according to the JDA, any Palestinian who “question[s] the validity of the idea of a Jewish State for a Jewish majority“ could be characterized as “at best unreasonable and at worst antisemitic.” This is “Orientalism at its best,” Ayyash concludes.

The JDA tried to appease the Palestinians by asserting that anti-Zionism is not antisemitic. But for the Palestinians, this is splitting hairs. In their view, both the IHRA and the JDA are inherently flawed because they accept the basic premise that Jews have a right to a Jewish State. The Palestinians flatly reject the Jewish right to self-determination in any form. No matter how the pro-Palestinian writers of the JDA might want to spin it, that view is fundamentally antisemitic.

Dr. Dana Barnett is a Research Associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.



We, the undersigned, present the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism, the product of an initiative
that originated in Jerusalem. We include in our number international scholars working in Antisemitism
Studies and related fields, including Jewish, Holocaust, Israel, Palestine, and Middle East Studies. The
text of the Declaration has benefited from consultation with legal scholars and members of civil society.
Inspired by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1969 Convention on the Elimination
of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, the 2000 Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on
the Holocaust, and the 2005 United Nations Resolution on Holocaust Remembrance, we hold that while
antisemitism has certain distinctive features, the fight against it is inseparable from the overall fight
against all forms of racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, and gender discrimination.
Conscious of the historical persecution of Jews throughout history and of the universal lessons of the
Holocaust, and viewing with alarm the reassertion of antisemitism by groups that mobilize hatred and
violence in politics, society, and on the internet, we seek to provide a usable, concise, and historicallyinformed
core definition of antisemitism with a set of guidelines.
The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism responds to “the IHRA Definition,” the document that was
adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016. Because the IHRA Definition
is unclear in key respects and widely open to different interpretations, it has caused confusion
and generated controversy, hence weakening the fight against antisemitism. Noting that it calls itself
“a working definition,” we have sought to improve on it by offering (a) a clearer core definition and (b)
a coherent set of guidelines. We hope this will be helpful for monitoring and combating antisemitism,
as well as for educational purposes. We propose our non-legally binding Declaration as an alternative
to the IHRA Definition. Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a
tool for interpreting it.
The IHRA Definition includes 11 “examples” of antisemitism, 7 of which focus on the State of Israel.
While this puts undue emphasis on one arena, there is a widely-felt need for clarity on the limits of
legitimate political speech and action concerning Zionism, Israel, and Palestine. Our aim is twofold:
(1) to strengthen the fight against antisemitism by clarifying what it is and how it is manifested, (2) to
protect a space for an open debate about the vexed question of the future of Israel/Palestine. We do not
all share the same political views and we are not seeking to promote a partisan political agenda. Determining
that a controversial view or action is not antisemitic implies neither that we endorse it nor that
we do not.
The guidelines that focus on Israel-Palestine (numbers 6 to 15) should be taken together. In general,
when applying the guidelines each should be read in the light of the others and always with a view to
context. Context can include the intention behind an utterance, or a pattern of speech over time, or even
the identity of the speaker, especially when the subject is Israel or Zionism. So, for example, hostility
to Israel could be an expression of an antisemitic animus, or it could be a reaction to a human rights
violation, or it could be the emotion that a Palestinian person feels on account of their experience at
the hands of the State. In short, judgement and sensitivity are needed in applying these guidelines to
concrete situations.
Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice, hostility or
violence against Jews as Jews (or Jewish institutions as Jewish).


1. It is racist to essentialize (treat a character trait as inherent) or to
make sweeping negative generalizations about a given population.
What is true of racism in general is true of antisemitism
in particular.
2. What is particular in classic antisemitism is the idea that Jews
are linked to the forces of evil. This stands at the core of many
anti-Jewish fantasies, such as the idea of a Jewish conspiracy
in which “the Jews” possess hidden power that they use to promote
their own collective agenda at the expense of other people.
This linkage between Jews and evil continues in the present:
in the fantasy that “the Jews” control governments with a
“hidden hand,” that they own the banks, control the media, act
as “a state within a state,” and are responsible for spreading
disease (such as Covid-19). All these features can be instrumentalized
by different (and even antagonistic) political causes.
3. Antisemitism can be manifested in words, visual images, and
deeds. Examples of antisemitic words include utterances that
all Jews are wealthy, inherently stingy, or unpatriotic. In antisemitic
caricatures, Jews are often depicted as grotesque, with
big noses and associated with wealth. Examples of antisemitic
deeds are: assaulting someone because she or he is Jewish, attacking
a synagogue, daubing swastikas on Jewish graves, or
refusing to hire or promote people because they are Jewish.
4. Antisemitism can be direct or indirect, explicit or coded. For
example, “The Rothschilds control the world” is a coded statement
about the alleged power of “the Jews” over banks and
international finance. Similarly, portraying Israel as the ultimate
evil or grossly exaggerating its actual influence can be a
coded way of racializing and stigmatizing Jews. In many cases,
identifying coded speech is a matter of context and judgement,
taking account of these guidelines.
5. Denying or minimizing the Holocaust by claiming that the
deliberate Nazi genocide of the Jews did not take place, or
that there were no extermination camps or gas chambers, or
that the number of victims was a fraction of the actual total,
is antisemitic.
Israel and Palestine: examples that,
on the face of it, are antisemitic
6. Applying the symbols, images, and negative stereotypes of classical
antisemitism (see guidelines 2 and 3) to the State of Israel.
7. Holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct or
treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel.
8. Requiring people, because they are Jewish, publicly to condemn
Israel or Zionism (for example, at a political meeting).
9. Assuming that non-Israeli Jews, simply because they are,
Jews are necessarily more loyal to Israel than to their own
10. Denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and
flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance
with the principle of equality.
Israel and Palestine: examples that,
on the face of it, are not antisemitic
(whether or not one approves of the view or action)
11. Supporting the Palestinian demand for justice and the full grant
of their political, national, civil, and human rights, as encapsulated
in international law.
12. Criticizing or opposing Zionism as a form of nationalism, or
arguing for a variety of constitutional arrangements for Jews
and Palestinians in the area between the Jordan River and the
Mediterranean. It is not antisemitic to support arrangements
that accord full equality to all inhabitants “between the river
and the sea,” whether in two states, a binational state, unitary
democratic state, federal state, or in whatever form.
13. Evidence-based criticism of Israel as a state. This includes its
institutions and founding principles. It also includes its policies
and practices, domestic and abroad, such as the conduct
of Israel in the West Bank and Gaza, the role Israel plays in
the region, or any other way in which, as a state, it influences
events in the world. It is not antisemitic to point out systematic
racial discrimination. In general, the same norms of debate
that apply to other states and to other conflicts over national
self-determination apply in the case of Israel and Palestine.
Thus, even if contentious, it is not antisemitic, in and of itself,
to compare Israel with other historical cases, including
settler-colonialism or apartheid.
14. Boycott, divestment, and sanctions are commonplace, nonviolent
forms of political protest against states. In the Israeli
case they are not, in and of themselves, antisemitic.
15. Political speech does not have to be measured, proportional,
tempered, or reasonable to be protected under article 19 of
the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or article 10 of the
European Convention on Human Rights and other human
rights instruments. Criticism that some may see as excessive
or contentious, or as reflecting a “double standard,” is not, in
and of itself, antisemitic. In general, the line between antisemitic
and non-antisemitic speech is different from the line
between unreasonable and reasonable speech.



About the IHRA non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism

The IHRA is the only intergovernmental organization mandated to focus solely on Holocaust-related issues, so with evidence that the scourge of antisemitism is once again on the rise, we resolved to take a leading role in combating it. IHRA experts determined that in order to begin to address the problem of antisemitism, there must be clarity about what antisemitism is. 

The IHRA’s Committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial worked to build international consensus around a non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism, which was subsequently adopted by the Plenary. By doing so, the IHRA set an example of responsible conduct for other international fora and provided an important tool with practical applicability for its Member Countries. This is just one illustration of how the IHRA has equipped policymakers to address this rise in hate and discrimination at their national level.

The working definition of antisemitism

In the spirit of the Stockholm Declaration that states: “With humanity still scarred by …antisemitism and xenophobia the international community shares a solemn responsibility to fight those evils” the committee on Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial called the IHRA Plenary in Budapest 2015 to adopt the following working definition of antisemitism. 
On 26 May 2016, the Plenary in Bucharest decided to:

Adopt the following non-legally binding working definition of antisemitism:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations:
Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.




A Palestinian civil society critique of the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism

March 25, 2021 By Palestinian BDS National Committee  / Europe, European Union, North America

The “Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism” (JDA), despite its flaws detailed below, presents a mainstream alternative to the fraudulent so-called IHRA definition of antisemitism and a “cogent guide” in the fight against real antisemitism, as many progressive Jewish groups define it–defending Jews, as Jews, from discrimination, prejudice, hostility and violence. It respects to a large extent the right to freedom of expression related to the struggle for Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law, including through BDS, and the struggle against Zionism and Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid. 

The JDA can be instrumental in the fight against the anti-Palestinian McCarthyism and repression that the proponents of the IHRA definition, with its “examples,” have promoted and induced, by design. This is due to the following JDA advantages:

  • Despite its problematic Israel-centered guidelines, it provides a coherent and accurate definition of antisemitism. Its authors explicitly reject codifying it into law or using it to restrict the legitimate exercise of academic freedom or to “suppress free and open public debate that is within the limits laid down by laws governing hate crime.” This is helpful in countering the IHRA definition’s attempts to shield Israel from accountability to international law and to protect Zionism from rational and ethical critique. 
  • It recognizes antisemitism as a form of racism, with its own history and particularities, largely refuting the exceptionalism that the IHRA definition (with its examples) gives it.
  • Recognizing that antisemitism and anti-Zionism are “categorically different,” it does not consider advocating for Palestinian rights under international law and for ending Israel’s regime of oppression per se as antisemitic. It thus refutes the most dangerous and weaponized parts of the IHRA definition’s “examples.” Specifically, the JDA recognizes as legitimate free speech the following examples: support for the nonviolent BDS movement and its tactics; criticism of or opposing Zionism; condemning Israel’s settler-colonialism or apartheid; calling for equal rights and democracy for all by ending all forms of supremacy and “systematic racial discrimination;” and criticism of Israel’s foundation and its racist institutions or policies. 
  • It states that “holding Jews collectively responsible for Israel’s conduct or treating Jews, simply because they are Jewish, as agents of Israel” is antisemitic, a rule that we fully agree with. We call for applying this rule across the board, even when Israel and Zionists, whether Jewish or fundamentalist Christian, are guilty of violating it. Fanatic Zionist and Israeli leaders, like Netanyahu, for instance, often speak on behalf of all Jews and encourage Jewish communities in the US, UK, France and elsewhere to “go home” to Israel.
  • It theoretically recognizes that context matters in the sense that particular situations influence whether a certain utterance or action may be considered antisemitic or not. 

Still, Palestinians, the Palestine solidarity movement, and all progressives are urged to approach the JDA with a critical mind and caution due to its flaws, some of which are inherent:

  1. With the JDA’s unfortunate title and most of its guidelines, it is focused on Palestine/Israel and Zionism, unjustifiably reinforcing attempts to couple anti-Jewish racism with the struggle for Palestinian liberation, and therefore impacting our struggle. In spite of that impact, the JDA excludes representative Palestinian perspectives, an omission that is quite telling about asymmetric relations of power and domination and how some liberals still try to make decisions that deeply affect us, without us. Palestinians cannot allow any definition of antisemitism to be employed for policing or censoring advocacy of our inalienable rights or our narration of our lived experiences and evidence-based history of struggle against settler-colonialism and apartheid.
  2. Its ill-conceived omission of any mention of white supremacy and the far right, the main culprits behind antisemitic attacks, inadvertently lets the far right off the hook, despite a passing mention in the FAQ. Most far right groups, especially in Europe and North America, are deeply antisemitic yet love Israel and its regime of oppression.
  3. Despite freedom of expression assurances in its FAQ, the JDA’s “guidelines” still try to police some speech critical of Israel’s policies and practices, failing to fully uphold the necessary distinction between hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate opposition to Israeli policies, ideology and system of injustice on the other. For instance, the JDA considers as antisemitic the following cases:

A. “Portraying Israel as the ultimate evil or grossly exaggerating its actual influence” as a possibly “coded way of racializing and stigmatizing Jews.” While in some cases such portrayal of Israel or gross exaggeration of its influence may indirectly reveal an antisemitic sentiment, in the absolute majority of cases related to defending Palestinian rights such inference would be entirely misplaced. When Palestinians who lose their loved ones, homes and orchards due to Israeli apartheid policies publicly condemn Israel as “the ultimate evil,” for example, this cannot be reasonably construed as a “coded” attack on Jews. 

Interpreting opposition to Israeli crimes and regime of oppression as anti-Jewish, as Israel and its anti-Palestinian right-wing supporters often do, effectively makes Israel synonymous or coextensive with “all Jews.” Ethically speaking, other than being anti-Palestinian, this equation is deeply problematic because in effect it essentializes and homogenizes all Jewish persons. This contradicts the JDA’s opening statement that it is “racist to essentialize … a given population.”

B.“Applying the symbols, images and negative stereotypes of classical antisemitism … to the State of Israel.” As the JDA itself admits elsewhere, such a sweeping generalization is false in all “evidence-based” cases. Consider, for instance, Palestinians condemning Israeli PM Netanyahu as a “child killer,” given that at least 526 Palestinian children were slaughtered in Israel’s 2014 massacre in Gaza, which the International Criminal Court has recently decided to investigate. Can this be considered antisemitic? Though the hard evidence is irreproachable, should Palestinians avoid using that term in this case simply because it is an antisemitic trope and Netanyahu happens to be Jewish? Is it Islamophobic to call the Saudi dictator Muhammad Bin Salman – who happens to be a Muslim — a butcher due to reportedly orchestrating the gruesome murder of Khashoggi, not to mention the Saudi regime’s crimes against humanity in Yemen? Would showing MBS holding a bloody dagger be considered an Islamophobic trope, given how Islamophobic caricatures often depict Muslim men with blood-soaked swords and daggers? Clearly not. So why exceptionalize Israel then? 

C. “Denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.” The principle of equality is absolutely paramount in protecting individual rights in all spheres as well as in safeguarding collective cultural, religious, language, and social rights. But some may abuse this to imply equal political rights for the colonizers and the colonized collectives in a settler-colonial reality, or for the dominant and the dominated collectives in an apartheid reality, thus perpetuating oppression. Anchored in international law, after all, the fundamental principle of equality is not intended to, nor can it be used to, exonerate crimes or legitimize injustice. 

What about the supposed “right” of Jewish-Israeli settlers to replace Palestinians in the ethnically cleansed land of Kafr Bir’im in the Galilee or Umm al Hiran in the Naqab/Negev? What about the ostensible “right” to enforce racist admission committees in tens of Jewish-only settlements in present-day Israel that deny admission to Palestinian citizens of Israel on “cultural/social” grounds? Moreover, should Palestinian refugees be denied their UN-stipulated right to return home in order not to disturb some assumed “collective Jewish right” to demographic supremacy? What about justice, repatriation and reparations in accordance with international law and how they may impact certain assumed “rights” of Jewish-Israelis occupying Palestinian homes or lands? 

Most importantly, what does any of this have to do with anti-Jewish racism?

 1. As recently revealed by Der Spiegel, a police report in Germany, for example, shows that the right and far-right were in 2020 responsible for 96% of all antisemitic incidents in Germany that are attributable to a clear motive. https://twitter.com/bdsmovement/status/1362411616638275586 

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism is an orientalist text

The JDA fails to produce true opposition to the core problem of the IHRA definition: the silencing and erasure of Palestine and Palestinians.

21 Apr 2021

In a 2000 interview for the Israeli daily Haaretz, journalist Ari Shavit asks Palestinian literary theorist and anti-colonial writer Edward Said whether he thinks “the idea of a Jewish state is flawed”.

In response, Said asks his own questions about the notions of “Jewishness” and “who is a Jew” in this state. Shavit abruptly stops that line of thinking, stating “But that’s an internal Jewish question. The question for you is whether the Jews are a people who have a right to a state of their own?”

Shavit’s argument asserts that the very foundation of the Jewish state as a state for Jews is a matter only for Jews to debate and critically discuss. The only point of entry into this discussion for non-Jews, like Said, is to accept the non-negotiability of that foundation: namely, that Jews have the right to their own Jewish state. What this argument omits is that this state was established on a land that was already inhabited by Palestinians. This argument, and the omission of Palestine and Palestinian life from it, precedes Shavit by decades, and 21 years later, it persists.

Today, we are in the midst of a wave of definitions of antisemitism that are determined to protect the validity of the idea of the Jewish state from any serious critique coming from anti-Zionist Jews (whose Jewishness is increasingly questioned) and non-Jews, foremost among the latter being Palestinians like Said.

The Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA) illustrates this point. This document situates itself as the liberal replacement to the conservative International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. Like the IHRA definition, the JDA sets for itself the task of determining which kinds of anti-Zionist critiques and views constitute antisemitism and which do not. As one of its signatories, Yair Wallach, recently put it, “The JDA pays special attention to antisemitism in anti-Zionist veneer.”

As a liberal document, the JDA shows tolerance for the diversity of views and perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian question. But like all liberal documents that have been produced in the thick of a colonial or settler colonial moment, this document keeps intact the colonial contract whereby the colonial masters retain the position of privilege and supremacy in voice and status over the colonised.

The JDA is an orientalist text that fails to produce true opposition to the core problem of the IHRA definition: the silencing and erasure of Palestine and Palestinians.

I am not making a blanket statement on the signatories of the JDA and branding them as orientalists. I am saying that they all have signed an orientalist text.

Part A of the document is the only segment that is worthy of praise, though the anti-racist and anti-colonial intersectional framework could have been employed in much more depth in its formation. Putting that aside, let me focus on the Preamble and sections B and C.

An orientalist text

Said’s seminal work, Orientalism, did not become a classic only because it critiqued avowedly imperial and explicitly racist texts and authors. It gained widespread acclaim because it showed how imperialist and racist world views can also remain intact in texts that profess liberal and even anti-colonial positions.

Whereas the IHRA definition is an overtly conservative, settler colonial and racist text, the JDA casts itself as a liberal, tolerant and anti-racist document. I need not repeat the critiques of the IHRA definition here, which are plentiful. But the relatively covert orientalism of the JDA requires further explanation and critique.

Two main features of the JDA text clearly illustrate its orientalism.

The first feature concerns the positionality of the Palestinians in the document. Palestinians and the Palestinian critique of Israel appear in two main ways in the JDA.

First, near the end of the Preamble, the JDA states: “[H]ostility to Israel could be an expression of an antisemitic animus, or it could be a reaction to a human rights violation, or it could be the emotion that a Palestinian person feels on account of their experience at the hands of the State [emphases added].”

In supposed opposition to the IHRA definition’s blanket claim that “anti-Zionism is antisemitism”, the JDA tells its intended audience, the Euro-American world, that even though hostile, reactionary, and emotional, the anti-Zionism of the Palestinian can be, in some cases, tolerable. Thus, what is going to save Palestinians from the charge of antisemitism is not a fair hearing of the substance of their claims, statements, and campaigns which have always emphasised that their opposition is not to Jews but to a state that has committed acts of violence against them. Rather, what will save Palestinians is the idea that gentle hearts in the “civilised West” can appreciate that the Orient is an emotional subject whose irrational exaggerations are based on experiences of brutal eliminatory violence and therefore should be tolerated. Pardon me, I meant based on experiences “at the hands of the State.”

Second, precisely because they are so reactionary, emotional, and hostile, the document claims, the Palestinians are a source of statements and campaigns that Euro-Americans should tolerate but also remain vigilant against. This position is clear in the Preamble where it is stated, “Determining that a controversial view or action is not antisemitic implies neither that we endorse it nor that we do not.” Already Palestinian critique of the state of Israel is marred in “controversy”, whereas debates about the Jewish nature of the Jewish state are not. The JDA continues along this path.

The heading of section C states, “Israel and Palestine: examples that, on the face of it, are not antisemitic [whether or not one approves of the view or action]”. The brackets here are key. They are the warning label that appears in the document only when it is about to identify Palestinian critiques and campaigns (such as the BDS movement). No vigilance is required from Euro-Americans when Jews debate what they claim to be an internal Jewish question. But when it comes to Palestinians and their critiques, the message is to stay on guard, because these pesky Palestinians will make unsubstantiated statements as they are so emotional on account of their experiences “at the hands of the State”.

And just in case there was any remaining doubt about the out of control, emotional, and disproportionate responses of the Palestinians, guideline #15 under section C eradicates it: “Political speech does not have to be measured, proportional, tempered, or reasonable … Criticism that some may see as excessive or contentious … is not, in and of itself, antisemitic. In general, the line between antisemitic and non-antisemitic speech is different from the line between unreasonable and reasonable speech.”

The coup de grâce: the JDA gets that questioning the reasonableness and lack thereof of Palestinians is appropriate, especially when they oppose “Zionism as a form of nationalism”, demand justice, ask for full equality in one state, compare Israel with other settler colonial and apartheid states, or when they advance and promote BDS, but that does not mean they are antisemitic. So, bear with and tolerate their emotional outbursts, despite their unreasonableness.

The second feature that illustrates the text’s orientalism is the framing as essentially antisemitic a core feature of the Palestinian critique of Zionism and Israel.

The JDA provides two sets of guidelines to determine what constitutes antisemitism. Section B lists five guidelines on Israel and Palestine where we find “examples that, on the face of it, are antisemitic” and section C lists five guidelines where the examples are not, on the face of it, antisemitic. And in guideline number 10 under section B, the JDA declares the following as antisemitic: “Denying the right of Jews in the State of Israel to exist and flourish, collectively and individually, as Jews, in accordance with the principle of equality.”

What are the boundaries of the State of Israel when it is a state that is engaged in an ongoing project of annexation that has no end in sight? At whose expense is this “flourishing” taking place? The Zionist project advances a zero-sum worldview: either Jews or non-Jews will be sovereign in the land of historic Palestine, there is no compromise. So how is this “principle of equality” to be secured in a context where the Israeli state must maintain Jewish sovereignty for a Jewish majority at all costs? Are Palestinians supposed to accept that the right of Jews in the State of Israel ought to take precedence over their own sovereign rights? According to the JDA, Palestinians are not allowed to answer these questions or any other questions about the Jewish right to a Jewish state by saying “not at my expense”.

Rhetorical sophistication aside, there is very little substantive difference between this guideline and the IHRA definition’s claim that arguing that Israel is a racist endeavour constitutes antisemitism. This probably explains why the JDA is so timid in its declared opposition to the IHRA definition, where instead of unequivocally opposing its adoption, it states, “Institutions that have already adopted the IHRA Definition can use our text as a tool for interpreting it.” And based on guideline number 10, I have full faith that such an interpretation is not only possible but also acceptable to the authors and promoters of the IHRA definition.

The colonial contract is merely repackaged in the JDA: should any Palestinian question the validity of the idea of a Jewish State for a Jewish majority [on the land of historic Palestine and at the expense of Palestinians], then they are at best unreasonable and at worst antisemitic. And the omission of the section in brackets seals and secures the contract, all under the rubric of liberal tolerance.

Orientalism at its best.

The Jewish and Palestinian questions intertwined

The JDA’s preamble states, “There is a widely-felt need for clarity on the limits of legitimate political speech and action concerning Zionism, Israel, and Palestine.”

The issue here is not that there are not any cases of antisemitism appearing in the veneer of anti-Zionism. These incidents certainly exist. But not only do similar deplorable and racist incidents exist against Palestinians, but Palestinians also have to contend with systemic anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian racism in diplomatic and allegedly peace-oriented discourses and processes, which dehumanise Palestinians and deny them their right to sovereignty.

The dehumanisation, dispossession, and erasure of Palestine and Palestinians is never properly situated in the JDA’s guidelines on the question of Palestine, Israel, and Zionism. Much like Israel’s unilateral annexation of Jerusalem, the Jerusalem Declaration unilaterally determines what constitutes legitimate political speech and action without the slightest consideration of the Palestinian experience of Zionism as integral to the framing of the discussion. That is the epistemic violence of orientalist texts such as the JDA.

In the interview I cited in the beginning, Said stressed the connections between the Palestinian and Jewish experiences of exile, dispossession, and statelessness. When Zionism initiated and commenced a political project to colonise Palestine, it destroyed Palestinian society and life and created a Jewish state on top of it. The destruction of Jewish life in Europe was dealt with by destroying Palestinian life in Palestine, and thereafter, the Jewish question ceased to be an internal Jewish question and became intertwined with the Palestinian question. To properly name and tackle antisemitism means properly naming and tackling colonial modernity and the settler colonisation of Palestine. Anything short of that is bound to replicate colonial orientalist discourse and perpetuate colonial modernity.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

  • Mark Muhannad AyyashAssociate Professor of Sociology at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada.Ayyash is the author of A Hermeneutics of Violence (UTP, 2019). He was born and raised in Silwan, Jerusalem, before immigrating to Canada. He is currently writing a book on settler colonial sovereignty.

Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder and Tamar Hager Present Racism in Israeli Academia


Editorial Note

Last week, Prof. Sarab Abu-Rabia Queder, the BGU Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion, and Prof. Tamar Hager of Tel-Hai College published a call for papers on “Various shapes of whiteness: A new look at racism and its institutional operation in Israeli academia.”  The field of research is the critical whiteness theory and the settler-colonial paradigm. 

This call charges the Israeli academia of being “a white Jewish and Ashkenazi patriarchal hegemony which is dominated by European culture.” Also arguing that “non-Jewish groups (principally Palestinians) and non-Ashkenazi Jewish groups (such as Mizrahim Jews, of North African and Middle Eastern origin) remain transparent minorities.”

It also states that the “exclusion of minority groups in higher education institutions in Israel manifests in terms of discrimination, gaps, and lack of representation,” the “racial injustice and discrimination in Israeli academic space.” All this, based on “Critical race theory, which developed in the United States, posits that race and color are significant—albeit constructed—concepts.” 

This call for paper states that “processes of racialization and racism occur across a variety of sociological and cultural fields.” Furthermore, “Class, ethnicity, sex, and gender groupings are tagged ‘black’ or ‘white’ by the hegemony,” where “the ‘black’ groups are considered as inferior in the organizational setting.”  Therefore, the Israeli academia is a “blindness of white privilege”, “devaluing the natives” and a “sovereignty of male whiteness.” 

This sounds odd when these two ladies have both received professorships in Israeli universities and one of them is a Bedouin Arab in charge of diversity and inclusion. 

They also add political perspective, that “In Israel, white privilege remains grounded in a settler colonial reality that has been eradicated in most other parts of the world.”  In Israel, “racist practices are not eradicated—safeguarding the power and privilege of those defined as colonial whites.”  

According to the authors, it was expected that universities “would challenge the exclusion of minorities on the basis of class, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or disability.” However, in practice, “Higher education institutions in Israel constitute a unique instance and space, where the “coloniality of knowledge” is controlled by a colonial-racial matrix of power”. The journal will “shed light on the ways in which political structures and policies perpetuate new structures of racial domination, blindness, and superiority in the academic arena.” 

As IAM repeatedly argued, in critical theory research, there is no need for empirical proof, it is enough to cite scholars from the same field. 

The authors invite papers with “historical and contemporary perspectives on policies and practices of racialization, whiteness, racism, and colonialism—such as segregation, tagging, exclusion, normalized power relations (concealed and open)—in Israeli academia” to analyze the “privileges of white and colonial groups holding power.”  

This is not the first time Abu-Rabia-Queder explores the Israeli “racist” academia.  

A 2019 paper, “The paradox of diversity in the Israeli academia: reproducing white Jewishness and national supremacy,” claims that Israeli policies which are designed to promote diversity and provide Ethiopian Jews with opportunities in Israeli institutions of higher learning create a paradox where, rather than diversifying student bodies and faculties in universities, they “bolster the reproduction of national and religious supremacy of white Jews… the racialized cultural indexes on which Israeli society structures its racialized attitudes towards Ethiopian immigrants have not been purged from university campuses.” Instead, Israeli universities, “reinventing Jewish privilege and national exclusivity.”  

Abu-Rabia-Queder reached this conclusion by interviewing 50 Ethiopian female students on their everyday experiences with other students, professors and administration policies on campus. Abu-Rabia-Queder’s article shows how the academic authorities’ measures to diversify the student body and extend unique aid produces notions of the Ethiopian immigrant as “passive victims in need of rescue and compassion.”  The “aid offered by the establishment… still revolve around a white hegemonic core.”  

Abu-Rabia-Queder describes how, “In an attempt to alleviate racism against Ethiopian immigrants in the Israeli society, academic authorities have devised numerous ‘affirmative action’ policies aimed at incorporating youth of Ethiopian origins in larger numbers into institutes of higher learning. A number of programs and various measures whose objective was to promote ‘diversity’ by extending broad-ranging scholarships to anyone of Ethiopian origins, alongside numerous pre-schools and foundations tackling particular issues in their path to higher education actively herd students of Ethiopian origins into separate programs of ‘affirmative action’.” 

For Abu-Rabia-Queder, the universities have failed. 

She cites Sara Ahmed from Goldsmiths University of London, who “claims that universities failed because they did not take… seriously enough to truly promote social justice and change,” when it “secures rather than threatens the ethos of the university.”  

Abu-Rabia-Queder explains, “By institutional racism, I draw on Ahmed’s (2004, 1) definition of ‘the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their color, culture or ethnic origins. It can be seen [. . .] in processes, attitudes and behaviors which amount or discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage minority ethnic people’. Seeing as institutional racism and white supremacy are unmarked, ‘taking for granted [the] routine privileging of white interests’.”  

Abu-Rabia-Queder’s paper aims to unveil the mechanisms “through which white Jewish privilege and Jewish national exclusivity are reproduced and reinvented in Israeli universities through black women’s bodies.”  

Based on Ahmed’s theory, Abu-Rabia-Queder describes Israeli universities as racists towards Israeli women of Ethiopian descent.  Abu-Rabia-Queder is interested in the Ethiopian women because these are black people, and through them, she would prove Israel is racist. 

In a similar vein, Abu-Rabia-Queder wrote a 2017 paper, arguing that “From an Israeli colonial perception, the Palestinian woman’s body is perceived as a threat that must be destroyed but also controlled. By colonizing Palestinian women’s bodies, Israel thus colonizes the entire Palestinian population.”  

Such “perceptions leave their imprint on the colonized body… by presenting narratives of Palestinian women from the first generation of the Nakba. Palestinian women consider invasion into their land as a metonym for penetrating the female body.” Abu-Rabia-Queder even argues that “To the settler, the figure of the native female functions as a metonym for unending increase and production of land/bodies that impedes settler expansion and is consequently perceived as a surplus body that should be eliminated.”  

By presenting Jews as wanting to destroy and eliminate Palestinians, Abu-Rabia-Queder slides into anti-Semitism.  

Based on interviews of Bedouin women, Abu-Rabia-Queder was, again, eager to present Israelis as racists.  “A psychologist discusses her experiences trying to hide her Arab identity when meeting with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish patient, fearing a racist reaction: ‘There was a case last week of an ultra-Orthodox family. I wasn’t on duty and the father came in to ask a question. As soon as I saw him, I hung up the phone. What if they find out I’m an Arab?'”  

Beyond the Israeli reality, Abu-Rabia-Queder co-authored a 2019 paper titled “Muslim women in the Canadian labor market: Between ethnic exclusion and religious discrimination,” comparing the labor market position of women from Muslim origin in Canada, with that of the majority group of Christian White Canadian women.  The paper considers cultural explanations and the role of discrimination and a human capital deficit.  Language proficiency, length of stay in Canada and qualifications have significantly affected the labor market. However, “by and large, structural inequality, fostered by cultural racism and that based on color, remains the most plausible explanation.” It is likely that “Islamophobia is increasing in Canadian society, and thus, as in other Western societies, these penalties are more likely to be transmitted (to the second generation) from one generation to the next.” The paper “reveals that Muslims are likely to be facing an additional penalty due to their Muslim background, at least in the case of unemployment, which is likely to be associated with the increase of Islamophobia.”  

Arabs charging Western society with unproved Islamophobia absolves a serious discussion on what causes some Muslim women to fail in achieving their goals. Patriarchal society structure comes to mind. 

Examining Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder’s scholarship, it is easy to see the pattern. She does not find cases of proven racism, but rather, the interviewees’ fear of racism is what counts.  

Based on this method, Abu-Rabia-Queder is trying to prove that the Israeli society in general and the Israeli academia, in particular, are racists. She does not provide solid evidence, and instead, with the help of Hager, they publish the call for papers in the hope that evidence will come.  

For years now, IAM has brought to attention the writings of critical, neo-Marxist scholars.   Racial critical theory, an American import, is the latest rage in this circle.  Unburdened from providing evidence of any kind, this new wave of “research” resembles the previous one; an effort to prove that Israel is a congenitally racist society, laden with hard-to-understand jargon and unsupported contentions.  Arguably, in some cases, the authors themselves could be construed as racists. Nevertheless, the political activist scholars, masquerading as academics, leave the taxpayers to pay the bill.



קול קורא // למאמרים (כתב עת): צורות שונות של לובן: מבט מחודש על גזענות והפעלתו המוסדית באקדמיה הישראלית ב (סראב אבו-רביעה-קווידר ותמר הגר) [אנגלית] דדליין לתקצירים=30.9.21

פרטים כלליים

סוג הודעה: קולות קוראים

תאריך פרסום: 28-08-2021

מקוון / לא מקוון:

מיקום: .ישראל

דדליין: 30-09-2021

מעניק מלגה/שכר: לא

כרוך בעלות: לא

אקדמיה/קהילה: אקדמיה

קהל יעד: חוקרים/ותתלמידי/ות מחקר

שפות: אנגלית

פקולטות: חינוךמדעי החברהמדעי הרוח

דיסציפלינות: חינוך והוראהסוציולוגיההיסטוריה

מחקר אינטרדיסציפלינרי: ישראל: השכלה גבוההאנטישמיות וגזענותישראל: חברהישראל: עדות, קבוצות, מגזרים

פרטי קשר

raceisraeliacademia@gmail.com — סראב אבו-רביעה-קווידר ותמר הגר

כתובת ההודעה: https://www.hum-il.com/message/1082810/

Various shapes of whiteness A new look at racism and its institutional operation in Israeli academia

Israeli academia is primarily characterized by a white Jewish and Ashkenazi (Jews of European descent) patriarchal hegemony and is dominated by European culture. While the gender composition of Israeli academia has improved in recent years, non-Jewish groups (principally Palestinians) and non-Ashkenazi Jewish groups (such as Mizrahim Jews, of North African and Middle Eastern origin) remain transparent minorities. Israeli academia has begun to open up to hitherto excluded ethnic and religious minority groups, but exclusionary practices and systems of separation and segregation continue to operate towards these groups in hidden oppressive ways.

With respect to the broader academic discourse, the exclusion of minority groups in higher education institutions in Israel manifests in terms of discrimination, gaps, and lack of representation. Although this discourse does identify institutional practices that generate inequality, it ignores what is described elsewhere in terms of racialization and/or racism; this discourse is thus unable to expose the power structures (both hidden and obvious) and justification regimes that support these organizational conducts.

This issue seeks to take a new look at the practices that reproduce racial injustice and discrimination in Israeli academic space by juxtaposing critical race theory, critical whiteness theory, and the settler colonial paradigm.

Critical race theory, which developed in the United States, posits that race and color are significant—albeit constructed—concepts, and that processes of racialization and racism occur across a variety of sociological and cultural fields. Class, ethnicity, sex, and gender groupings are tagged “black” or “white” by the hegemony; however, the “black” groups are considered as inferior in the organizational setting. Critical whiteness theory complements race theory by providing the theoretical concepts that make it possible to observe and examine the social and institutional challenges created by the blindness of white privilege (Delgado & Stefacic, 2013).

In Israel, white privilege remains grounded in a settler colonial reality that has been eradicated in most other parts of the world. Settler colonialism is a project producing a racialized and gendered national identity, normalizing the sovereignty of male whiteness through mechanisms directed toward devaluing the natives (Veracini, 2010). This objective is achieved through practices of biopolitics aimed at the regulation and administration of the population, as individuals and as collectives. These include practices of correction, exclusion, normalization, disciplining, selection, and elimination (Lemke, 2011).

The most prevalent social perception views liberal perspective and policy as a guarantee of cultural progress and the ultimate fulfillment of values such as equality and freedom. In contrast to this, critical race theory, critical whiteness theory, and the settler colonial paradigm emphasize the ways in which liberal governments maintain and perpetuate the privileges accorded to certain groups, and how they disseminate direct types of camouflaged violence, power relations and exclusionary mechanisms towards other groups. According to their approach, policies of blindness to native identity or color, which ostensibly promote neutral and universal equality, should in theory abolish both obvious and symbolic exclusion and racism. But, even when overt racial practices are eliminated, hidden (and more widespread) racist practices are not eradicated—safeguarding the power and privilege of those defined as colonial whites (Crenshaw, 1988; Delgado & Stefancic, 1997; Siegel, 2001)

In recent years, institutions of higher learning have promoted diversity programs, part of the adoption of a neoliberal mindset and policies. Thus, it might be expected that these institutions would challenge the exclusion of minorities on the basis of class, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. However, in practice, the neoliberal diversity discourse makes it possible to disregard complex types of racist and colonial power relations, and obscures exclusionary practices that continue to exist (Abu-Rabia-Queder, 2019). The current issue seeks to thrust these issues to the surface.

Higher education institutions in Israel constitute a unique instance and space, where the “coloniality of knowledge” is controlled by a colonial-racial matrix of power (Quijano, 2007). Analysis of the complex power relations within its confines will shed light on the ways in which political structures and policies perpetuate new structures of racial domination, blindness, and superiority in the academic arena.

For this issue, we invite submissions presenting historical and contemporary perspectives on policies and practices of racialization, whiteness, racism, and colonialism—such as segregation, tagging, exclusion, normalized power relations (concealed and open)—in Israeli academia, and analysis of the mechanisms that perpetuate the privileges of white and colonial groups holding power. We invite the submission of articles that investigate these issues through the categories of race, whiteness, colonialism, gender, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, disability, and the intersections between them.

Issues to be examined and questions posed:

  • How can racialization and whiteness discourse describe power relations in academia?
  • How are racist discourse and white privilege manifested in the organizational space: for example, in academic departments, in curricula, on bulletin boards, in campus activities, in the choice of library books, on campus, and in general?
  • What types of intersectionality can be identified on academic campuses in Israel, and how are these mechanisms of oppression expressed?
  • How does racism feed into a culture of silencing in courses’ syllabi and teaching, and other campus activities?
  • How does accessibility discourse maintain racialization and white privilege?
  • How do whiteness and racism intersect with colonialism and occupation in knowledge production, diversity policy, and selection processes?
  • How does critical race theory assist us in identifying and locating groups who experience intersecting forms of oppression but remain transparent in the academic space?
  • How do whiteness and racialization intersect with decolonialization in Israeli academia?
  • How practices of settler colonialism such as “elimination,” sovereignty, discipline and dehumanization are manifested in higher education institutions in Israel?

Submission Guidelines:

Abstracts/Proposal (300-400 words) examining Israeli academia through the theoretical prism that we have presented and responding to one of the above issues or to other relevant issues with a 50-word biography due: September 30th 2021

Acceptances of abstracts made by: October 15th 2021

Accepted and completed papers (70000-8000 words); March 15th, 2022.

Please send inquiries and abstracts to editors at: raceisraeliacademia@gmail.com



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Race Ethnicity and Education
ISSN: 1361-3324 (Print) 1470-109X (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cree20
The paradox of diversity in the Israeli academia: reproducing white Jewishness and national supremacy
Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder
To cite this article: Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder (2019): The paradox of diversity in the Israeli
academia: reproducing white Jewishness and national supremacy, Race Ethnicity and Education,
DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2019.1694502
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2019.1694502
Published online: 02 Dec 2019.
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The paradox of diversity in the Israeli academia: reproducing
white Jewishness and national supremacy
Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder
Department of Education, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel
This paper claims that policies designed to promote diversity and
provide Ethiopian Jews with opportunities in Israeli institutions of
higher learning create a paradox where, rather than diversifying student
bodies and faculties in universities, they bolster the reproduction
of national and religious supremacy of white Jews in the Israeli academia.
Interviews with 50 Ethiopian students reveal that the racialized
cultural indexes on which Israeli society structures its racialized attitudes
towards Ethiopian immigrants have not been purged from
university campuses. Instead, I argue, they continue to suffuse and
shape those very programs designed to combat them by reinventing
Jewish privilege and national exclusivity in Israeli universities.
Received 8 May 2019
Accepted 14 November 2019
Racism; black women;
diversity; higher education;
This paper claims that policies designed to promote diversity and provide Ethiopian Jews
with opportunities in Israeli institutions of higher learning create a paradox where, rather
than diversifying student bodies and faculties in universities, they bolster the reproduction
of national and religious supremacy of white Jews in the Israeli academia.
In an attempt to alleviate racism against Ethiopian immigrants in the Israeli society,
academic authorities have devised numerous ‘affirmative action’ policies aimed at incorporating
youth of Ethiopian origins in larger numbers into institutes of higher learning.
A number of programs and various measures whose objective was to promote ‘diversity’
by extending broad-ranging scholarships to anyone of Ethiopian origins, alongside
numerous pre-schools and foundations tackling particular issues in their path to higher
education actively herd students of Ethiopian origins into separate programs of ‘affirmative
action’. However, as this study’s findings will attempt to demonstrate, the racialized
cultural indexes on which Israeli society structured such attitudes towards Ethiopian
immigrants have not been purged from university campuses. Instead, I argue, they
continue to suffuse and shape those very programs designed to combat them. Through
interviews with 50 Ethiopian female students on their everyday experiences with other
students, professors and administration policies on campus, the article shows how
authorities’ measures to diversify the student body and extend unique aid sustain
essentializing notions of identity, and reproduce notions of the Ethiopian immigrant as
passive victims in need of rescue and compassion. Despite the initiatives of incorporation
CONTACT Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder sarab@bgu.ac.il
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
and aid offered by the establishment, liberal campus cultures still revolve around a white
hegemonic core which revalidates its ascendency through a ‘politics of commiseration’
with an essentialized, colored other.
In other words, the paper will discuss how institutional racism replicates itself in the
various arenas of Israeli academy. By institutional racism, I draw on Ahmed’s (2004, 1)
definition of ‘the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and
professional service to people because of their color, culture or ethnic origins. It can be
seen [. . .] in processes, attitudes and behaviors which amount or discrimination through
unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping which disadvantage
minority ethnic people’. Seeing as institutional racism and white supremacy are
unmarked, ‘taking for granted [the] routine privileging of white interests’ (Gillborn 2005,
485), the paper aims to help unveil the rhetorical, political, cultural and social mechanisms
(ibid, 489) through which white Jewish privilege and Jewish national exclusivity are
reproduced and reinvented in Israeli universities through black women’s bodies.
Black Ethiopian women’s positionality locates them at the intersection between forms
of oppression based on race, gender and nationality. Since women’s bodies are central in
the ethnic reproduction of transmitting its cultural artifacts and serve as markers of the
collective boundaries (Anthias and Yuval-Davis 1983, 66), the black woman’s body is
transformed into a racialized signifier in the creation of racial hierarchies as part of the
‘liberal’ mechanisms of justification deployed by the modern establishment. This study,
therefore, focuses particularly on this group of women.
Throughout history, the bodies of black women were seen as deeply pathological, representing
a danger to the politics of the body as defined by white men. The role of this image,
Wekker (2016) argues, was to facilitate racialized hierarchies which justify benign intervention
which reaffirms the liberal character of the establishment. Thus, the self-image of
a liberal, enlightened establishment which ‘rescues’ black women is reproduced, spreading
the white masculine establishment’s fantasy of ‘rescuing’ black women from depredation.
The Politics of Diversity in Institutes of Higher Education: A Critical Review
A majority of the literature on diversity points to the paradoxes inherent to the ethnic
diversification policies. A common argument with regard to diversity in the academia is
intervention in the form of affirmative action strengthens, rather than weakens, racism
and inequality on campus by turning attention away from the continued monopolization
of the expounders and adherents of hegemonic whiteness of the levers of power in the
academy. On the one hand, policies devised by liberal academic institutions portend
larger equality and diversity, but, on the other, they do not challenge misrepresentations
in course syllabi, biases in academic curricula and the limited diversity amongst faculty
and students alike. As a result, the goal of increasing ‘diversity and the promotion of
equality for minorities’ amounts to little more than lip service, whose most indelible
result is the superficial absolution of the institution in question from complicity in
structural inequality and racism and its branding as progressively liberal and morally
upright (Mirza, 2006; Ahmed, 2004).
The turn to ‘diversity’ in western higher educational institutions is, in part, due to
failure in a broader struggle for equality. Ahmed (2007) claims that universities failed
because they did not take the term and its implementation seriously enough to truly
promote social justice and change and bare its attendant loss of privileges. The adopted
term of ‘diversity’ fits such a gestural commitment to social change, Ahmed writes,
exactly because it ‘secures rather than threatens the ethos of the university’ (ibid, 238).
The discourse of diversity and the premise of affirmative action therefore serve the
white establishment by superficially alleviating racial tensions on campus, allowing the
persistence of the unequal status quo while permitting the spokespersons of the academia
to congratulate it for ‘celebrating diversity’. These implicitly patronizing policies have
far-reaching repercussions on the sense of legitimacy and belonging of students from
underprivileged groups, making them believe that they are accepted only because race/
color ‘quotas’ rather than thanks to their own merit (Crawley, 2006).
Aguirre Jr. Adalberto (2010) argues that the white academic system promotes diversity
and extends more staying opportunities to underprivileged sections of the population
only when, and if, the interests of the academia align with the stated goals of the
diversification agenda. Thus, for instance, prior to extending support to affirmative
action policies, leading institutions put it through a number of preemptive questions:
Is increased diversity a positive thing for the university, given its unique circumstances
and interests? Will increased diversity aggravate or alleviate broader racial and cultural
dissonances between whites and non-whites? Such questions reveal how the agenda of
diversity is cut to size so that it will never contradict the immediate interests of the
dominant group and the institution itself. Such agendas structurally marginalize minority
students and those from underprivileged backgrounds.
As long as the dominant group continues to be the leading factor in setting the
immediate objectives and the constitutive criteria of eligibility in pro-diversity policies,
they will continue to be sources of unstated relationships of dependence and breed an
economy of gratitude. So long as a white-majority commission determines the ostensibly
‘appropriate’ white:nonwhite ratio in an institution’s faculty or student body, the minority
and underprivileged beneficiaries of such programs will be unable to adopt an active
and critical stance regarding current policies. The white majority thus attains a privileged
stance in the instrument through which the diversification of higher education is
managed and discussed.
Another symptom for the entrenchment of hegemonic groups in the academia is the
ruling out of separate programs and curricula for students of ethnicized and racialized
minorities by the claim that they fail to attend to white sensibilities, narratives or
otherwise marginalizes white students wishing to enroll. Multiculturalism, or the commitment
to pluralism, would thus offset such a hypothetical monocultural program,
further entrenching whiteness as the lingua-franca of school curricula and the indispensable
component of appropriately diversified environments. Offering courses for
foreign languages to all students, by contrast, would promote an institution’s broader
interests since such programs are more likely to attract governmental funding for
teaching assistants and external teaching positions than would effecting real change in
the sought capacities in the institute’s permanent faculty.
The paradox is evident, too, in the process of knowledge production. White
Academics are construed in ways that reinforce their intellectual property rights and
set the tone for what knowledge consists of and its trappings. Their biases are legitimated;
those of their ethnicized colleges are ‘ethnic partisanship’, undue and unwelcome in the
academic community. On certain occasions, Mason (2013) argues, promoting diversity is
taken simply to mean that they must offer more courses on ethnic minorities and ‘speak
correctly’ to avoid offense, rather than restructuring the admissions and faculty recruitment
processes so they are more representative of the heterogeneity of the societies in
which they operate. This is a self-reinforcing circle, Mason (2013) adds, when courses on
minorities are offered by white lecturers, white students feel they are more ‘objective’
than when they are offered by minority faculty members. The institutional practices
preserving White supremacy drowning out minorities’ discourses are thus camouflaged.
Mirza (2006) demonstrates how diversification policies are experienced as not real to
black students, since they are not accompanied by initiatives instilling a sense of belonging
or community but rather communicate that their ‘just being there’ is the point, as if
their sole function was to be pawns in the head counting game of superficial diversity.
Sara Ahmed likewise argues that diversity became ‘technologies of concealment in the
unfinished work of racism’ (Ahmed, 2004: 8). To her, ‘diversity work’ is an unfinished
project in higher education, because it currently is ‘cut off from histories of struggle
which expose inequalities’ (Ahmed, 2004: 19) and reinserted into a context of white
benevolence, however implicit. She also addresses what she calls ‘a gap’ between the
language of diversity and the performance of diversity (Ahmed, 2007). Most academic
institutions brand themselves ‘diversity led’ organizations, she writes, but how does one
‘do’ diversity?
Glyn Hughes (2013: 126), too, determined that ‘diversity and social justice efforts often
reproduce rather than challenge systemic inequities.’ He poses that the term ‘diversity’
itself is part of the problem, used variably as it is to refer to racial differences, people of
color, the totality of human differences, the array of niche demographic markets, or the
way those differences shape patterns of social inequity.
The present study joins, then, these former contributions in examining the diversity
paradox in Israel, based on the experiences of female Ethiopian students in higher
education institutions across the country. Through broadening the repertoire of diversity
paradoxes, arguing it is not necessarily a phenotype-based index of descending privilege
but a hierarchization rooted in a moral economy of compassion and benevolence
mediated through signifiers of nationality and religion, I seek to expand our understanding
of other modes of racialization.
Ethiopian Jews in Israel: data and history
As of 2017, some 149 thousand Jewish citizens of Ethiopian origins reside in the State of
Israel, 41% of whom were born in Ethiopia (Israel Central Bureau of Statistics 2018).
While a majority of existing literature on African émigrés speaks of European destination
countries forced to accept refugees fleeing war, persecution and insurmountable economic
hardship in their home countries, the Jewish Ethiopian case is unique in the
literature due to the destination country’s involvement in the migratory process and the
émigrés’ premeditated and longstanding desire to immigrate there, thereby making their
‘Aliyah1’ based on the Zionist narrative of the ‘ingathering of the exiles’2 in the Holy Land
(Lamont et al. 2016, 269).
From the Zionist-Israeli perspective, however, Ethiopian Jews were not always considered
a Jewish diaspora due to the orthodox Jewish establishment’s skepticism towards
their Judaism. The state of Israel has therefore reneged on its responsibility to facilitate
their Aliyah. Only after the passing of the 3379 UN resolution in 1975 which equated
Zionism with racism, did the Israeli government hasten the Aliyah of Ethiopia’s Jews,
culminating on 1984’s ‘Operation Moses’ (Tenenbaum 2013). Conceptualizing Israel as
a settler colonial state, most critical scholars point to the paradoxical ideology at work in
the immigration of Ethiopian Jews to Israel: on the one hand, they are often treated as
‘settlers of color3’, passive pawns brought to Israel as part of Judaizing Palestine in order
to restrain the demographic balance and the increasing of the Arab body. On the other,
dissociation and contempt dominated the representation of the black body as ‘other’,
suffusing exclusionary practices of echoing the grammar of white supremacy to the
exclusion of the Ethiopians from the Israeli national collective through questioning
their Judaism and interpolating them through images of inferiority and dependence
through processes of racialization and criminalization (Yacobi 2015, 20).
Racism directed against Ethiopian Jews in Israel is expressed in two main forms
(differentiated here only in the interest of an analytical dissection): institutional and
everyday racism. Institutional racism begins with the patronizing working assumption of
the Israeli bureaucracy that those who immigrate from ostensibly ‘third world countries’
are inherently unable to master their fates in their new countries and is expressed in
myriad ways: requisite changing of first names of immigrant children to ‘Israeli’ names;
separation of children from their parents and sending them to designated boarding
schools, primarily religious, where little regard was paid to their individual needs and
wishes and were instead trained for blue-collar jobs (Ben-Eliezer 2008; Walsh & Tuval-
Mashiach, 2012).
The absorption of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel was derived, to a large extent, on
a modernizing mindset that underscored enormous cultural gaps between the two countries,
arguing that, in moving from a primitive agrarian setting in Ethiopia to a white, modern and
urban environment in Israel, the immigrants would have to adapt dramatically. To help them
make up for so much, the argument went, the state must pitch in with a structured integration
mechanism which would ‘de-socialize’ and ‘re-socialize’ the immigrants (see, for instance,
Kedar 2012). This approach dictated an integration policy based on far-reaching, often
explicitly patronizing interferences in their lives, one of whose harshest expressions was the
mass relocation of immigrants to designated ‘absorption centers’. Although these centers
were originally supposed to provide a temporary housing solution to the influx of Ethiopian
immigrants, to many they became permanent homes in a process of ‘ghettoization’ of the
immigrants which perpetuated their dependence on government power-brokers and rapidly
transformed the centers into crime-ridden and poverty-stricken quarters segregated from
adjacent residential areas (Herzog 1993; Kaplan and Rosen 1994; Chehata 2012).
Some focal moments have burned themselves into the collective memory of Ethiopian
Jews as signifying the history of institutional racism against them. As soon as they began
arriving in Israel, governmental and rabbinical factors expressed doubts regarding the validity
of their Judaism, leading to lengthy deliberative processes that paused all Aliyah and forced
thousands to wait indefinitely in transit camps for immigration permits. The persistent
discreditation of their religious convictions and affiliations by their coreligionists in Israel
led to initiatives during the late 1970s and 1980s to forcibly proselytize them in ceremonies
including ceremonial baptisms by immersing in Mikvehs, public attestations of their accepting
the yoke of Orthodox rabbinical law and, for men of all ages, circumcision (Kaplan and
Rosen 1994). Although these initiatives were finally curtailed, following the wide
condemnation and resistance they engendered, they were a watershed moment in the
relationship between the Israeli establishment and Ethiopian Jews. This was made worse by
the fact that Russian-speaking immigrants from the former USSR, who flooded Israel during
the early 1990s, were not subjected to any commensurable ‘initiation’ ceremony into the
Israeli-Jewish collective, despite the fact that their personal documents proved some 30% of
them were not Jewish by Halakhic law (Jewish religious law) (Ben-Eliezer 2008).
Another watershed moment in the history of institutionalized racism against Ethiopians
in Israel is popularly known as the ‘blood donations affair’. In 1996, journalists revealed
that, for years, public hospitals in Israel unofficially threw out blood donations from
Ethiopian donors out of unfounded fears that it might be HIV positive. The revelations
set new lows in the relationship between the Ethiopian immigrants to the Israeli establishment,
prompting spontaneous rage and protest demonstrations across the country. Despite
the public outcry, similar revelations were made 10 years later, in 2006, once again uniting
an otherwise diffuse immigrant community in outrage (Chehata 2012). The blood donations
affair of 1996marked a pivotal moment in discourses on race and racismin Israel. The
fact that the issue revolved around differentiation in a physical unchangeable and, indeed,
hideously loaded factor such as blood strengthened the notion that ‘colorblind’ discrimination
has been little more than a cultural-veneer for scientific racism. In academic circles, the
terms ‘race’ and ‘racism’, by and large considered taboo in the intra-Israeli context, had
reemerged in the discussion of Ethiopian Jews in Israel (Salamon 2003).
Over the last years, second-generation Ethiopian immigrants lead new waves of public
protests against institutionalized racism against the community following a proliferation of
incidents of extreme police brutality and fatal shootings against youngsters (Kobovich 2014).
These younger generation activists also attest more loudly and clearly to experiencing everyday
racism, as well. More than their parents ever were, they are more interconnected into
society, many have spent years in boarding schools or other ‘integrationist’ institutions and
have reported having to cope with a grinding array of routine racism in representations,
discourses by their teachers and guides, microaggressions in everyday exchanges with peers
and strangers, all contributing to an overwhelming sense of marginalization, disaffection and
powerlessness. Such microaggressions are reported in almost all aspects of everyday life in
Israel: white Israelis not wanting to sit next to them in the bus, shake their hand, or hire them
to jobs; ‘white flights’ from residential areas, schools, synagogues; categorical denial of
admission to night clubs and dance bars; in unwontedly aggressive behavior by service
providers and police officers (Ben-Eliezer 2008). The number of indictments of Ethiopian
Jews in 2015 was highly disproportionate, twice that of the nationwide rates (3.5%), with
indictments against minors four times as high (8.5%) (Ministry of Justice 2016).
Of the omnipresent difficulties and failures of the absorption policies, Ethiopian
immigrants have been subjected to in Israel one may learn from their long-term socioeconomic
results. Thirty-five percent of Ethiopian Jewish households are under the
official Israeli poverty line compared to 22% nationwide (according to 2013 data).
Although the number of children enlisted in public schools is high and the number of
high-school drop-outs remains low (2% in 2015) compared to nationwide high-school
drop-outs in Israel (2.2%) (Rabinovits 2017, 15, table 8), but those who matriculate with
high-school diplomas sufficient to facilitate higher-education learning amounts to only
a third of all Ethiopian high-school students compared to 52% nationwide (12).
According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics, in the 2016–2017 academic year
some 3194 Ethiopian Jews were enlisted in institutions of higher learning, amounting to
some 1.2% of all students. Only 8% of males acquired higher degrees compared to
a higher 22% of females, which is still considerably lower than the nationwide rate of
Jewish females acquiring higher education (43%) (Fox and Friedman 2017, 5, Table 2).
As of 2017, Ethiopian Jews without college degrees are overrepresented in low-paying
job sectors such as human resources agencies, maintenance, retailing, food production,
and textiles. In the retailing sector, non-college educated Ethiopian Jews earn 79% of the
overall median income in that sector, compared to college-educated Ethiopian Jews whose
average income amounts to only 47% of the median income rates in their respective
sectors (Fox & Wilson, 2017). Salaries of non-college educated Ethiopian women are by
and large the lowest of white-collar jobs: production, communications, computer programming,
architecture, scientific research and development, advertising, vehicle sales,
and publishing. For instance, in the communications sector, Ethiopian women average
66% of the median income, and 41% of male median income (Israel Central Bureau of
Statistics 2017)
The study relies on critical race methodology that is crucial in understanding various
ways of racism. Critical race methodology challenges the hegemonic ideology towards
minorities or people of color by exploring the hidden mechanisms of racism experienced
by them. In this paper (Lynn & Parker, 2009), exploring Ethiopian female student’s
experience in Israeli academy challenges the human liberal approach of higher education
as meritocratic, liberal, and color-neutral institute. Relying on narrative as a method
exposes the everyday racism and turn it into overt (Yosso and Solorzano 2009).
As such, this study adopts a qualitative approach, focusing on narrative research that
addresses meaning as part of the participant’s life story. The narrative research characterizes
each person as someone who creates stories concerning his or her identity,
focusing on the participant’s interpretation of his or her life (Bertux and Kohli 1984).
In-depth narrative interviews were held with 50 Ethiopian women students from the
various academic institutes in Israel. Interviews were held in two sessions, seeking to
obtain a rich narrative concerning different aspects of the participants’ academic experience
(Denzin and Lincoln 1994). The interviews employed two methods found to be
mutually complementary: Rosenthal’s (1994) open-ended question producing a narrative
life story, followed by semi-structured questions.
All 50 participants recruited by a research assistant from the various academic institutions
in Israel. Aged between 24 and 36, most respondents are single, a slim minority
married. Twenty respondents were born abroad, 30 born in Israel. Thirty-five study in
Israeli public universities and 15 in collages.
Analysis of the interviews
The analysis of the data followed the grounded theory procedure of Strauss and Corbin
(1998) of open, axial and selective coding. The researcher initially read through the data
several times and took notes to determine patterns and regularities. The data then coded
into derived categories and subcategories.
Narratives of the participants point to the paradox of diversity and affirmative action
employed in Israeli academia toward Ethiopian Jewish students. Thus, the academia is
‘over’ helping and ‘saving’ on one hand; on the other, this policy is ‘emptied’ by the
constant racism experienced by these students in the various arenas of the academia, as
this part shows.
The paradox of ‘the politics of rescue’: celebrating academic morality
The interviewees speak of a situation in which the academic establishment is interested in
aiding the Ethiopian population and facilitate its access to the academia through extensive
full-funding scholarships to Ethiopian candidates, but also describes how this
‘generosity’ stigmatizes its recipients, and the Ethiopian population as a whole, as
dependent. As Herzog claimed (1993, 264), the inherent problem of affirmative action
is that it strengthens the group’s boundaries rather than dissolves them and fuels stigmas
about them, essentially that ‘Ethiopians’ cannot compete on the basis of merit. This is
echoed on Shoshana:
I won’t say no to funding. But to me it’s kind of another nail in our coffin. Makes us more
and more dependent. And you’re always getting stuff: in the army you’ll get a special course
to help you out, in the university they’d give you extra courses. It’s as if they never let you go,
never let you actually compete for anything. It’s also important to make the distinction
between Ethiopians who immigrated during the 90’s and the 2000’s. Because it really is two
entirely different stories. But the issue is, as far as the government is concerned, I’m basically
still a newly-arrived immigrant [Ola Khadasha]. There’s one definition to every immigrant
in Israel, and then there’s one for an Ethiopian immigrant. An Ethiopian immigrant is
anyone whose parents were born in Ethiopia. That’s to say that my child, when and whether
they’ll be born [in Israel], would still be labelled as ‘newly arrived’. And to me it’s very
disturbing to think that I’ll have a child who’ll be eligible from birth to benefits of a newlyarrived
immigrant, when he really isn’t one, never immigrated anywhere.
This extension of such lavish aid to black women effectively robs them of credit for their
achievements, their success is always seen as derived from the aid they have been given, as
Rachel tells:
If I pass something it’s because they’re doing me a favor and I’m Ethiopian. And that’s
kind of disappointing. It’s like it’s not an empowering experience. There’s no question
of forgetting . . . that the academy counts it to its own benefit, the place I am at right
Mirza (2006) found that black women feel that they must be accountable to the establishment
which sponsored them. This feeling of accountability, of being beholden to
generous benefactors, is especially rampant when full funding is extended, as is usually
the case with Ethiopian students, as Miriam recounts:
I do think it preserves [a relationship of dependence, S.A.Q], but I really don’t know if it’s
possible otherwise. I don’t know how . . . I don’t see how these studies could be funded
without this help. But it’s obvious to me that it does preserve, and that there are so many
wrong things that need to be corrected.
At the same time, however, some students are willing to bear the price in order to get the
funding, as Hanna narrates:
There are those who make sure to present us as . . . the image of the African child with a fly
on his face. I know it’s cynical exploitation, but I play along because I don’t have much of
a choice, I want to go places and I can use it. Like its something very demeaning but there’s
little choice. To work while I study is impossible.
The politics of rescue, structured on the otherness and inferiority of the Ethiopian
(Yacobi 2015, 20) allows the Israeli academic establishment to take a moral high ground.
Its role in ‘saving’ Ethiopian students thus make it a socially redemptive space and
provides the moral justification for the policies designed to ‘integrate’ the Ethiopians.
All the while, as the interviewees attest, the academic establishment traffics in stereotypical
images of abject third-world poverty in the interest of raising donations for the
institution. This allows the institution to ‘celebrate its morality’, as Mirza (2006, 103)
aptly noted:
It would appear that black women are highly ‘visible’ when their bodies help higher
education institutions achieve their wider moral and ethical goals and help them appeal to
a wider global market. But this is not a true representation of equality. It is a notion of
diversity that is skin-deep . . . Black women often find themselves appropriated, their bodies
objectified and commodified for ‘the “desiring machine” of capital’.
One of the expressions of the commodification of the black body in service of the
‘desiring machine’ of capital is the appropriation of the personal story of the ‘needy’
Ethiopian for an aggregated collective. Ofra recalls:
I did that trip to Ethiopia. And then the organizer calls me and asks me if I want to share my
experience . . . if I had, what did he call it, if I had an ‘anecdote’ from my Alyiah. And I’m
like, ‘It’s hard to believe you feel you can just call me. You don’t know me . . . ask me to come
share my private story with 30 people. I mean why ever call it my story? It’s so commercialized
now anyway . . . I just think I shouldn’t be going around, selling my story to everyone
. . . I’ll decide whether to tell my story or not. I’ll choose whether to connect it to the
group or not. But his decision to see an Ethiopian name on the list and say ‘Hmm! . . . that’s
interesting! She could tell us her story!’ made me really angry.
The paradox of ethnic non-diversity
Being the first generation of women to study in the academy, their representations in
universities are still low compared to the general population, sometimes amounting to
a single woman in an entire division. How does the lack of ethnic diversity and of ethnic
representation affect the experiences of the racialization of students from Ethiopian
origins? And how does it play into the establishment-led status quo?
The acute scarcity of Ethiopian women in the university faculty is cause for endemic
introspection whether they owe their admissions to their merit or due to the establishment’s
unofficial ‘quotas’ necessary to tick the diversity box, or, in the words of Sara, to
‘color’ the department:
I’m always a bit suspicious of people who really like me only because I’m Ethiopian. I mean,
obviously I believe in my abilities but sometimes I wonder if it’s because I’m Ethiopian,
I mean, so they’ll have a few, so they’ll have a little ‘color’ in the department.
The threshold of representation and ethnic diversity of the Ethiopian population in the
academic establishment is what would complement the liberal façade of the institution
and its departments, rather than ensuring that the student body is proportional to the
various sectors of the population, as explains Ruti:
Even in an honors program, if you have twenty Ethiopian guys who’re excellent, they won’t
admit twenty . . . it is very plausible that some institutions would accept Ethiopians and
who’re not racist, but clearly, like, theoretically, that if you have 40 people who could be
admitted to the same institution – they won’t give them to that institution despite the fact
that there are institutions where there aren’t any Ethiopians whatsoever. Get the drift?
Edna adds:
This is what happens a lot of the time. We’re not seen as individuals, but as an aggregated whole.
One is enough, or two are. Maybe ten. It doesn’tmatter. The idea should be that if you’re good,
you get accepted, regardless of what you are. And that is what’s wrong a lot of the times.
Crawley (2006) shows in this regard that the policy of ethnic diversity in higher education
institutions contents itself with minimal representation, therefore making representation
a façade masking the persistent interest of retaining white privilege in the academy. Mirza
(2006) argues that diversity is often construed as just ‘being present’, as a token presence
of minorities, regardless of any broader agendas of justice or ensuring an equal representation
of the population. Numerical lack of diversity creates a feeling of invisibility, as
Rona describes:
There’s a feeling of being invisible. I felt in my first year, I remember, how it felt everyone
were talking, even that they don’t know each other, and I felt I was sort of like a pink
elephant in the room.
Infrequent presence creates an experience of the ‘burden of representation’, i.e. a collective
gaze unto the student that equates her with her ethnic affiliations, as Telma explains:
You’re the only student in your department. Raise such a subject when you don’t have
support a lot of times. No one really understands you, no matter what you say. Sure, they’ll
empathize with you, but no one will really understand you, so you don’t want to carry that
burden alone. And it’s bearing a whole issue, a whole community, because you’re the
representative. Every trifle you say, people around you take it as if it is the authentic voice
of your people.
Between ‘out of place’ and ‘in place’: denial of academic merit
Wekker (2016, 47) notes: ‘securing white superiority . . . requires automatically assigning
blacks to lower-class status’. Being black in the colonial archive means to be inferior in
the racial ladder. This inferiority has been created and recreated by whites as part of
generating a natural order (ibid, 74) and an essential inferior category. Thus, any
deviation from this inferior category is perceived by whites as being ‘out of place’.
Preserving the inferior status of Ethiopian students also goes through not recognizing
their academic abilities by their automatic herding into separate programs intended for
underprivileged students. In practice, a labeling process is created whereby anyone of
Ethiopian origins is marked regardless of their respective capabilities in the interest of
keeping them ‘in their place’, namely their inferiority in the power matrix of academia.
Thus, attests Mira:
One of the first significant times I realized that my background matters. In the academia you
expect there will be equality and that one’s background won’t matter. You have good grades,
then why should there be any question, you either meet the requirements or you don’t . . .
I remember one meeting with this advisor to Ethiopian students, she tells me ‘Listen, there’s this
program for Ethiopian students in Bar Ilan university, why don’t you try it out.’ I triedasking her
why. Why should I go to an ‘Ethiopian students’ program’ in Bar Ilan if I have the grades to try to
gain admissions to Tel-Aviv. She doesn’t think I’ll get in. I said no. I’m not enrolling in another
university. I have no money, I paid 600 Shekels here, I’mgoing to study. I didn’t understandwhy
they were referring me to the Ethiopians’ program. Couldn’tmake any sense of it. Second degree
again, another advisor for Ethiopian Affairs tells me ‘I don’t think you’re ready, I don’t think
you’re ripe’. Couldn’t see why they kept holding me back. Made me angry. On the other hand,
that’s how I break down doors. So, like, the first time around I understood there’s an issue here.
All that B-S they sold me allmy life, work hard, get a degree, get a good job – it isn’t that simple. It
doesn’t erase the color of your skin. You will not categorize me.
To the white gaze, the presence of Ethiopian students’ black body in the university is
almost automatically associated with staff performing menial tasks, as Keso recalls:
I remember two of my friends asked me, told me ‘Listen, there was a group here who
thought we’re cleaning ladies.’ I was shocked.
Another aspect of racist commends is revealed when Ethiopian students receive astonished
responses for their being bright, meaning their exit from the inferior class, or, to
commentators, being out of place, as Tami illustrates:
I always hate it when people tell me I speak in a high register. “Wow, how impressive! You
speak really well.” I get that a lot. “You’re so articulate!”. All the time. And it’s just
Their labelling as occupying an inferior place is done through numerous everyday micro
gestures of marking by professors and students, and, most forcibly, by the class curricula,
as Dorit explains:
They always throw Ethiopians and Arabs into the same category. When you see studies
about, like, where Ethiopians are in terms of education, schooling, crime rates. And they
show data.
Amit similarly says,
She [a White lecturer] says, “that’s Blacks. They’re more violent.” And I’m the only
Ethiopian in class. So I kind of look at her . . . tell her, “Let’s not talk about it so detachedly.
Let’s talk about me, here. When you say ‘Blacks’, I think you’re generalizing about me, too.”
The labelling of the Ethiopian group as a perpetual failure, or an underclass in the
literature extends to the subjecting of Ethiopian students to demeaning categories, ones
of whom expectations are never high, as Nurit explains:
We’re labelled for her [the professor] as the weakest group, forget about it! That’s what’s
been going on throughout the semester, no matter how hard you try, you’re already
labelled. And it pissed me off, because we really worked our asses off, even more than
other groups.
Studies (e.g. Wekker 2016) show that ignoring status, class or professional capital is
defined as a racist practice, as it reflects an a priori assumption that Ethiopian women are
out of place. This assumption manifests the lack of recognition imprinted in the colonial
archive, perceiving Ethiopian women through the essential category of inferiority according
to the ‘natural order’.
The struggle against their label as out of place is expressed in their attempt to overcompensate,
to work harder and be recognized as brighter than everyone else in hopes of
breaking the racial stereotype. To Yafa, it means:
Being always at the top, being the most witty, sharpest, most on-point, like with answers up
your sleeve, to know as much as possible because you’ll always be asked the questions . . .
I really don’t want to be in the representation trap but you fall into it in a second.
Rina adds:
I don’t want my successes to be ‘the first Ethiopian’ . . . and I don’t want my shortcomings to
be ascribed to that, either. Because I’m Ethiopian, I came from a bad place.
In her study, Wildhagen (2015) argued that the designation of ‘first-generation’ collage
students by the academic institution classifies them as separate from the ‘typical’ college
student and thus grounds views by their peers and professors that they are deficient both
academically and culturally.
‘Apartheid of knowledge’: securing white Jewishness
“Apartheid of knowledge’’ is defined according to Bernal and Villalpando (2002) as the
separation of knowledges that occurs in the American higher education context. For
many years, the knowledge of blacks as inferior created by white hegemony.
The production of hegemonic knowledge in the Academia is inseparable from white
privilege and hegemony. That is to say that hegemony of white privilege is crucial to
legitimating knowledge as ‘correct’ and its current producers as the natural candidates for
the creation and dissemination of knowledge. White privilege is implicit, manifest and
legitimate. Therefore, the knowledge, values, and standards enshrined and promoted by
whites are essential ‘objective’ in the academic field whereas non-whites are ever tainted by
suspicions of bias, whether succumbed to or eventually overcome. The wells of white
experience are everlasting sources for the knowledge industry; those of blacks are apprehensively
brought as counterpoints, inversions or colorful additions to the mainstay (Ibid, 107).
In the Israeli case, as well, women experience the apartheid of knowledge. Thus, for
instance, a white lecturer ventures her explanation as to what black feminism is, without
bringing into account the experiences of her Black student of Ethiopian origins. So tells
us Gili:
It is clear to me that my feminism is different from hers [the white professor, S.A.Q.] But she
thinks she knows more than me. She’s already learned these things, and offers . . . offers to
use it in my benefit, supposedly. It doesn’t help me. She comes and tells me what black
feminism is all about. And I’m like, “Ok, I get that you’ve learned about it, and read articles
about it but let me express myself the way I am right now. Or in general, how I cope with
things.” I mean the issue is how I respond to her on level she’ll understand that she doesn’t
understand me just because she’s read bell hooks.
In the Israeli case, we see that the struggle over controlling dominant knowledge is not only
relevant to creating categories of cultural white superiority and of black inferiority, but
there is also a specific context here of the Jewish category, where Judaismis appropriated by
whites through the production of knowledge in the academia. Thus, explains Klara:
What is astounding to see is how the white, western culture, for at least a thousand years, but
let’s focus on the last six hundred years, really like ties itself to antiquity, to Greece and Rome,
how it celebrates it and tries to insert itself into it. Because there’s some kind of ascendancy
because, like, they were at the top. But then you look and see that they, like you see the bias
(strikes table with her hand) itself in the research. How. Don’t. They. Talk. About. Ethiopia!?
Again, Ethiopia. Not even Africa. Ethiopia. Which, in the Iliad, which is Homer’s earliest text,
he, too uses the word ‘Ethiopos’. Ethiopians. The word, it comes from there. It turns out
Ethiopia was a nation highly valued by the Greek. (dolefully) No one even talks about it.
Because I found who I want to study. I want to study Tamra Temanuel. He’s a Jewish figure.
He was in contact with theHaskalah movement, the Jewish Enlightenmentmovement. He was
part of it and its exactly that. This exactly is that place that allows us to deal with things that
people don’t want to deal with, or don’t interest anybody, or are silenced in an attempt to form
our cognition this way or that. They like saying (angrily) that the Ethiopian Jewry was isolated!
But here, it wasn’t cut off! It’s not true! The Ethiopian Jewry had ties to the Jewish diaspora.
For this student, as Giroux (2000, 494) claims, curriculums, which represents only
dominant culture in society, are also ‘pedagogical resources to rewrite the possibilities
for new narratives, identities, and cultural spaces’.
‘Blind love’: securing national-liberal superiority
The day-to-day encounters of Ethiopian students with white students in Institutions for
higher learning in Israel are often marked by the latter’s professed adoration or blind love to
anything Ethiopian. This over-familiarity is explained by Yacobi (2015) as a white passion to
discover and decipher the fantasy of Ethiopian culture rather than an earnest interest in them.
In the Academia, however, the Ashkenazi white student’s adoration is also a testament of his
liberalism, his class, and his occupation as an academic person. Sima relates:
Because academics so often wave their banners of liberalism, so you know they really love Arabs,
you know? Love Arabs and hate Mizrahim. Love refugees, eager to help. I think it does them
good, because, it underscores their superiority over the other. A sort of paternalism, like. “I’m
lord here, but I accept everyone equally, love . . . ” it’s worst with Ashkenazim. But I think most
pronounced is a feeling of superiority. So they don’t know that, but I thinksub-consciously, I also
have this professor; say, when she addresses an Arabic student in her class, she starts talking a bit
more slowly, starts gesturing a lot, like “Do you understand? Sure?”. Things like that. So it’s
particularly visible in the academia, as sort of, yeah, liberal racism.
Olzi recounts:
I particularly felt this with a friend of mine. He always seemed to have a need to talk to me
about Ethiopia, about Ethiopians and about food. Its like our relationship was based on my
ethnicity. There’s lots of fascination, you know? Lots of fascination. because Ethiopians are
usually nice, so that seems to me the issue, like, they’re really, really nice people, and they
have an amazing culture. Doesn’t know anything about the culture, but it is undoubtedly
“Amazing” to him. To me that’s also racism. Its like being overly nice, unjustifiably so. Its
also something I found to be a symptom of liberal racism.
Yacobi (2015) explained that this encounter reaffirms the gazer’s western position without
meeting his moral infrastructure ‘it carries him away from bearing responsibility for
the colonial oppression and provides the narcissistic indulgence of expressing a critical
stance without remorse’ (ibid, 84). A complementary aspect to this may be white
colonials’ desire to discover the other’s primitivity. The objectification of this primitivity
and its commercialization provide the basis for an ostensibly ‘extraordinary’ encounter
which invariably lends a sense of empowerment and control. This feeling of control is
essential to the setting of national and territorial boundaries to the public in Israel.
Adulation to Ethiopians can conversely be construed as a self-absolution of the charge of
racism, with this anti-racism providing ‘a new discourse of white pride’ (Ahmed 2004, 4).
Narratives of Jewish Ethiopian students in the Israeli academy reveal the paradoxical nature
of the diversity agenda led by a number of higher education institutions. The cultural archive
of the Israeli society and the institutional racism on the basis of color, religion, and nationality
continue to seep into the academia on two additional levels, the meso and micro, producing
an ‘expanded multilevel framework’ of institutional racism (see Coretta 2011).
This framework explains institutional racism as a racialization that takes place at the
micro, meso and macro levels. The macro racialization level includes the structural forces
that determine material conditions which ‘provide a frame through which institutional
processes and practices at the meso level are enacted’ (ibid, 177). Those are implemented
by individuals (micro) that are constrained or enabled by structural forces as well. The
meso level includes the socio-economic disadvantage, political, media and popular
discourses dressing race\ethnicity, all which ‘contribute to the common sense understanding
of social life, which inform processes of the micro-level racialization’ (ibid, 177).
Drawing from this model, the paper shows that despite diversity policy suggested at
the macro institutional level, it is not sufficient enough by its own to reduce racism at the
meso (i.g, curriculum, financial support) and micro levels (daily interactions with
professors, colleagues, and white students). Even when universities at the meso level
try to enhance the socio-economic situation of Ethiopian students by scholarship for all,
it does not minimize racialized interactions at the micro-level, which is still influenced by
the inferior representation of Ethiopian women.
Findings here reveal that the practice of diversification is, in fact, a form of lip-service
which fell short of fully instituting diversity. As a result, in other words, the diversification
policy did not change the daily forms of racism experienced by Ethiopian students
from their teachers and their peers (micro) and did not alter their exclusion from the
curricula (meso). The paradox of diversity raises the ‘racial grammar’ of inequality in the
Israeli academia, revealing a deep structure of inequality in thought and affect based on
race at the heart of the Israeli archive and is sustained by actors of all academic levels.
This racial order is imprinted onto the history and institutional structure of the state
(Martinez, LaBennet, and Pulido 2012).
The intersection of the experience of racialization on the macro, micro, and meso levels
label Judaism and Israeli nationalism as the patrimony of white Jews only. Its white
supremacy also furnishes moral ascendancy and liberal supremacy over the abject
Ethiopian woman. This preservation draws the limits and creeds of the national collective –
the Jew as white, hegemonic and morally superior to marginal groups and minorities. The
sense of moral superiority which bred by the homogenic diversity policy is important and
significant in sustaining the nation through a strategic instillation of shame and pride, as
Ahmed writes, ‘the ideal image of the nation, which is based on some bodies and not on
others, is sustained through this very conversion of shame and pride’ (2004, 3).
In the Israeli context, the diversity policy creates a sense of high moralism amongst the
white protagonists of the Israeli academy, forming the national identity as essentially moral,
or as Ahmed put it: ‘to assert our identity as a nation’, since ‘shame makes the nation in the
witnessing of past injustice. It allows the nation to feel better or even to feel good’ (Ibid, 3).
In celebrating the Establishment’s moral constitution and its white Jewishness, the category
of racialization develops, molding into different forms according to the political and
social objectives the establishment designates and the forces operating within it (Martinez,
LaBennet, and Pulido 2012) on all levels. For instance, in order to keep with its moral
ascendancy, racialization takes the form of ‘rescue’ (macro), ‘blind love’ (micro) and ‘apartheid
of knowledge’ (in preserving the ascendancy of white Jewishness in the meso level).
The different expressions of this category form the various definitions of Ethiopian
students in the academia, and this depends on the manner in which their shifting definitions
serve the interests of the academic establishment. In order to celebrate its morality, the
establishment depends not only on forming ever new categories of ‘need’ (otherness, invisibility,
and inferiority) associated with being Ethiopian but also on the categories of ‘representativeness’
(visibility/prominence). These categories are interchangeable in the macro,
micro, and meso levels according to the establishments’ needs. Thus, for instance, the separate
programs for Ethiopians (macro), the extensive scholarships (meso) and the exclusionary
curricula (meso) place them in the category of persons ‘in need’ or as ‘others’, assisting the
preservation of moral ascendancy of the establishment and its self-image as a force for good.
This labelling, according to Crawley (2006, 107) is ‘threatening and as necessary. Their
strangeness is threatening in relation to how social order is perceived, and it is necessary
in order to provide boundaries to what is considered to be normal’. This category
switches in their transformation into ‘representatives’, for instance, through the practice
of commercializing their bodies in pursuit of a diverse façade alongside their minimal
representation in departments’ faculties (‘color in the department’). However, the criteria
of visibility and representation are themselves put in service of the establishment. For,
according to Ahmed, ‘standing out can invoke deep feelings of need, rejection and
anxiety within the “white other”’ (Ahmed 2004). All these help the academic institution
celebrate its morality, which is an important part of the reaffirmation of the exclusion of
Ethiopians from the national collective and white Jewishness.
In the Israeli context, national and religious ascendancy plays an important role in
preserving the normative order through a juggling of visibility and invisibility, presenting
the Ethiopian students once as abject women in need of donations and once as exemplary
entrepreneurs to be celebrated.
1. Zionist movement placed Aliyah (Emigration of Jews from Europe to Palestine) as one of its
primary goals, a priority that stands at the heart of the Law of Return, amongst the first laws
to be legislated in the State of Israel, that determines that the Aliyah of Jews to the state does
not constitute immigration but rather a realization of a Jewish birthright to return to their
homeland (Fikar 1999, 338).
2. The melting pot was an integration policy led by early Israeli governments aimed at
achieving the ‘ingathering of the Exiles’, one of the primary goals of early Israeli statehood
that stipulated the social, economic and cultural absorption of immigrants and their full
integration with the veteran Jewish population from the mandatory era.
3. Settlers of color is a term aims to ‘highlight how non-indigenous people of color are set up (by
settler colonial states) to take part in the politics of genocide regardless of their intentions or
historical circumstances, because their displacement into indigenous lands simultaneously
erases indigenous people who previously occupied these lands’ (Smith 2012, 80–81).
I thank the ministry of science, technology & space for funding this research between 2014-2017.
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.
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Current Sociology 2019, Vol. 67(1) 141–158
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DOI: 10.1177/0011392117742432
The biopolitics of declassing
Palestinian professional
women in a settler-colonial
Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder
Bluastein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University, Israel
This article argues that the biopolitics of declassing Palestinian professional women
in Israel, which constitutes part of the logic of eliminating the native, is mediated by
colonial violence that secures labor market class sovereignty for settlers. In this context,
the term declassing refers to rendering this class invisible by disregarding the women’s
presence and/or value in the labor market. The study unpacks the logic of elimination
through the racialized, everyday lived experience of middle-class professional women in
Bedouin society who succeeded in entering the Jewish workplace. These women face
sophisticated erasure tactics, paralleling various manifestations of the direct politics of
fear that discipline the body, will and mind, as well as indirect opposition reflected in the
settler-colonial reinforcement of patriarchal power against women. This article reveals
concealed violent forms of power practiced by the colonialists to declass Palestinian
women and preserve colonialist class superiority in the labor market.
Biopolitics, declassing, middle-class women, settler colonialism
The colonial logic of elimination (Veracini, 2010) and exclusion of indigenous Palestinians
through settler colonialism have been studied from various points of view in several
Corresponding author:
Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder, Bluastein Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev,
Israel, 8499000.
Email: sarab@bgu.ac.il
742432CSI0010.1177/0011392117742432Current SociologyAbu-Rabia-Queder
142 Current Sociology 67(1)
disciplines, including citizenship (Abdo, 2011), space (Yiftachel, 2009), history (Jamal,
2011) and others. In this article, I argue that the biopolitics of declassing Palestinian professional
women, as part of the logic of eliminating the native, is mediated by colonial
violence intended to secure settler class sovereignty in the labor market. The term declassing
refers to Palestinian women’s class subordination, i.e., disregarding their presence
and/or value in the labor market.
The research population consists of a group of middle-class women from the southern
Naqab, who account for no more than 4.1% (Ghara, 2015: 73) of Bedouin1 society yet
represent its greatest financial, educational and cultural capital.
Colonization of the Palestinian economy has been examined extensively with regard
to strategies that impede work access and deny economic rights through land exploitation,
geographical separation, ghettoization of economic enclaves and displacement (see
Turner and Shweiki, 2014). By contrast, my study aims at unpacking the logic of elimination
through the racialized, everyday lived experience of middle-class women in
Bedouin society who succeeded in entering the hegemonic Jewish workplace. I argue
that the settlers’ elimination mechanisms target not only weakened segments of the population,
but also its economically strong sections.
By decolonizing the corpus of knowledge on women and employment, this study
offers an innovative approach that has not been addressed previously in the relevant
literature. First, most research on racialization of the political economy of Palestinians
in Israel examined the topic from a macro standpoint, analyzing power relations between
the state and the Palestinian minority and their effect on the Palestinian political economy
(Abu-Bader and Gottlieb, 2009; Abu-Rabia-Queder, 2017; Lewin-Epstein and
Semyonov, 1994). Second, studies assessing the marginality of Palestinian women in
the labor market mostly adopted a statistical approach (stipulating percentages of
employed and unemployed women) and a perspective that links the political-colonial
structure with cultural factors that deny women equal access (Herzog, 2004; Khattab,
2002; Yonai and Kraus, 2010).
This article argues that despite the obstacles addressed in the literature (such as a
shortage of employment opportunities, the lack of public transportation to and from
Palestinian villages and ongoing racism in the Jewish labor market that largely close
the gates to Palestinian women and thereby lead to high unemployment rates − 80%
among Bedouin women; see Abu-Bader and Gottlieb, 2009), a minority group of professional
middle-class women succeeded in entering the hegemonic labor market. It
is there, however, that they face sophisticated erasure tactics, paralleling various
manifestations of the direct politics of fear that discipline the body, will and mind, as
well as indirect opposition reflected in the reinforcement of patriarchal power against
This article contributes to the field of bodily class stratification/subordination, that is
not carried out primarily by economic (Scott, 2002) or symbolic (Anthias, 2001) means,
but rather through everyday embodied practices involving violent mechanisms. I begin
by unpacking the mechanisms of the ‘logic of elimination’ of women in settler contexts
along two principal theoretical axes: Settler colonialism and its mechanisms of violence,
control and biopolitics, on the one hand, and understanding the politics of declassing in
settler-colonial contexts, on the other.
Abu-Rabia-Queder 143
Settler colonialism, violence, control and biopolitics
Settler colonialism has been defined as a structure (Veracini, 2010) serving as a basis for
analyzing race and gender subordination (Glenn, 2015). In this article, I add class subordination
to the formula. The settler’s primary goal is to establish sovereignty and property
rights over lands and territory through the logic of ‘eliminating’ the natives, an
objective achieved through biopolitics aimed at administration and regulation of the
population – as individuals and collectives – including practices of correction, exclusion,
normalization, disciplining, selection and elimination (Lemke, 2011: 5). In his work,
Foucault (1980) refers to three meanings of biopower: Rearticulation of sovereign power,
which has a central role in the rise of modern racism and the production of liberal forms
of social regulation and individual self-governance. Settlers use various direct and indirect
forms of violence, such as forced displacement of indigenous people from their
lands, masked by ideologies such as modernization, militarized genocide, cultural erasure
through biological or cultural assimilation, containment through segregation and
separation in the public space (Glenn, 2015) and body politics.
Glenn (2015) refers to settler colonialism as a project producing a racialized and gendered
national identity that normalized male whiteness; in the Palestinian case, it normalizes
Jewish sovereignty. This supremacy is achieved by various violent forms of ‘denial
and disavowal of the history of violent dispossession of the indigenous’ (Veracini, 2010:
14), as well as by structuring a naturalized image of the indigenous person as an uncivilized
‘other’ who does not belong to the national boundaries of the nation, unlike the
white full citizen.
In this regard, women’s bodies are used to discipline the native either directly or indirectly,
by manipulating patriarchal control (Stoler, 1997). Patriarchal order may be
exploited, for example, through legitimizing sexual violence and not interfering in cases
of violence against native women. The colonial perception is that women’s bodies are
polluted and thus sexually violable and ‘rapable’ (Smith, 2003: 73). ‘Dirty’ bodies are
perceived as a security, economic and social threat, as ‘ “biologized” internal enemies
(Stoler, 1997: 59). Moreover, women’s bodies are used as a tool for colonial intervention:
particularly through the rhetoric of saving native women from native men, legitimizing
colonial control in land and space (Abu-Lughod, 2013). In addition, colonial
imperialism strengthens patriarchy among the natives and thus perceives itself as more
egalitarian – and consequently more normative – than native society. Patriarchal white
men’s need to control white women is legitimized by the patriarchal control of native
women (Smith, 2003).
In the economic realm, settler colonialism is characterized by its capacity to control
the ‘population economy as a marker of a substantive type of sovereignty’ (Veracini,
2010: 12). This sovereignty is driven by body politics that regulate political life, organize
the community and maintain local control. Sovereignty is practiced not only at the formal
levels of state institutions, but also has alternative forms effected through informal
mechanisms, such as controlling the indigenous economy, subordinating its metropole
and disavowing the indigenous subject (Veracini, 2010: 72).
One such concealed violent form of power is manifested in symbolic violence.
Bourdieu (1989) claims that non-recognition is central to the maintenance of symbolic
144 Current Sociology 67(1)
violence. Long-term domination will succeed if it is esteemed as non-recognition of a
kind of fundamental arbitrariness. Such non-recognition allows for legitimation of domination
and its internalization by the dominated, thereby rendering it ‘natural’. Its effectiveness
is inherent in its embodiment in bodies and habitus, as revealed in physical signs
such as the dominated’s discomfort, contrasting sharply with the dominator’s sense of
confidence and wellbeing. Domination is thus based on obedience to the existing order
and its assimilation in the bodies of the dominated, leading to a feeling of low selfesteem
and even to self-denial reflected in emotions such as anxiety, guilt or even desire.
Symbolic violence is not experienced palpably, but is achieved in a soft, less overt
manner, through contact, awareness and emotion. Accordingly, research on the lived
experiences of Bedouin women would contribute significantly to exposure of the relevant
means of control applied to them and the methods used to legitimize these means.
The politics of declassing in a settler-colonial context
The literature detailed below points to various class systems that the colonizer institutes
within the colonized society, based on level of education, family or clan affiliations or
socioeconomic aspects. Another class system level imposed and practiced by the colonizer
is to dehumanize and demote the colonized, deeming them unworthy of freedom,
rights and so on.
Class stratification is mediated by racialized ideologies and practices, along with an
institutionalized policy that usually structures an inferior economic position for disadvantaged
minority groups. Dominant groups generally succeed in legitimizing their own
culture and mores as superior to those of lower classes by exercising ‘symbolic violence’;
they ‘impose a specific meaning as legitimate while concealing the power relations
that are the basis of its force. They use their legitimate culture to mark cultural
distance and proximity, to monopolize privileges, and to exclude and recruit new occupants
to high status positions – translating symbolic distinction into closure’ (Lamont
and Molnár, 2002: 172–173).
Initial contact between economics and colonial conquest is mediated by the mechanisms
of settler colonialism (McEwan, 2009) that wants not only to control the other
but also to eliminate it in concealed ways. History shows that class formation is a
product of settler colonialism (Good, 1976). The colonizer’s need to advance industrial
and economic superiority through control of land and labor was satisfied by the cheap
labor provided by largely unskilled indigenous workers in urban localities. As economic
colonial capitalism proceeded, a change in social structure took place under
settler colonialism.
One way that colonialists define class boundaries is the manipulation of middle-class
positioning during the colonial period. An educated and nationally conscious middle
class played an important role during the colonial period. Its political mobility threatened
the colonial ruling authorities, that in turn instituted a variety of measures to suppress it.
In South Africa, for example (West, 2002), even though the colonial state kept the indigenous
as hewers of wood and drawers of water, the middle class flourished thanks to the
missionary education that colonialism provided as part of its acculturation policies.
African nationals took advantage of this opportunity to escape working life. At the same
Abu-Rabia-Queder 145
time, their skills and knowledge were essential within the colonial capitalist system that
ran the mission schools, in which they worked as clerks, merchants and bookkeepers. As
this group of educated persons represented a threat to the colonial state, particularly on
its expansion after the First World War, the state responded in developing industrial education
to check expansion of an intellectual elite and to mold an underdeveloped indigenous
society. The middle class, however, refused to be subordinated by colonial realities.
As intellectuals with national awareness, they continued to struggle for African rights
and thus continued to pose a threat to the white conqueror.
Consequently, the colonialist was always interested in neutralizing the revolutionaries
from among the ‘skilled and experienced leaders in modern organization, and to narrow
the composition of the movement to poor peasants, unskilled workers and unemployed’
(Good, 1976: 613). Accordingly, the rulers realized that alliances should be forged with
the traditional leaders, intensifying their traditional tribal leadership to preserve control
of the indigenous middle class, thereby practicing ‘containerization of a subject people’
(Mamdani, 1996: 51).
In the colonial history of Mandatory Palestine, repression of the middle class entailed
various strategies to neutralize the common class interest of residents. One of the bestknown
such strategies applies the divide and rule principle by creating a client state and
politics of notables. The ruler forges a kind of alliance with the upper class in exchange
for extra goods, employment privileges and political rights, forming a colonial glass ceiling
(Watenpaugh, 2006: 2013). In response to the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the Arab
intelligentsia and the ruling groups in Mandatory Palestine – who then comprised an elite
of landowners, merchants, senior officials, professional groups and religious aristocrats
– began to organize national protest committees. The political mobility of the Palestinian
middle class threatened the colonial authorities, who responded by adopting various
repressive means, as Rosenfeld explains:
By declassing Arabs, by ‘officially’ making them different, ‘superficial and Levantine,’ … the
state attempt[s] to justify ends, mainly land expropriation, that are specially directed against
Arabs. (Rosenfeld, 1978: 401)
Additionally, colonial rule in Mandatory Palestine broadened class disparities among
different groups and religious sectors, especially when the urban minority controlled the
rural provinces, by reaching out to local leaders and according them additional rights so
that they could control the rural population and exact funds from them (in 1920, most
Palestinians, about 75%, were rural soil tillers; Rosenfeld, 1978). These disparities gave
rise to friction and competition for jobs and employment among religious groups, families
and clans, as well as within the dominant group (educated Muslims and Christians), leading
to the disintegration of class solidarity aiming to decline the national Palestinian interest.
Economic dependence on settlers thus increased, intensifying rural migration to urban
regions. By the 1940s, the emerging proletarian wage-earners’ class had developed into a
flourishing middle class employed in commerce and administration. The thriving urban
intelligentsia played an important role in the Palestinian national movement and in its
political and cultural institutions until it was uprooted by the 1948 war and Nakba (Arabic:
catastrophe) (Mana’a, 1999). The weakened rural group that remained within the
146 Current Sociology 67(1)
boundaries of Israel lacked political and economic power. The Palestinian bourgeois and
the burgeoning Arab cities were cast to the margins and doomed to destruction (Mana’a,
1999). This strategy was intensified by the Zionist Movement, that achieved Jewish control
of state economic resources by conquering land, labor and the market (Mana’a, 1999:
301) through a series of discriminatory laws and political programs and national organizations
such as the Jewish National Fund – a Zionist body established in 1901 to control
land – and the General Federation of Hebrew Labor (Histadrut), established in 1920 as a
trade union to promote Jewish labor. At the Twelfth World Zionist Congress in 1921, the
Zionist Movement coined the expression ‘Zionist ownership’ of land, achieved by replacing
the existing Palestinian population with a Jewish one. Agricultural settlement was a
very important objective for Zionist policy because it was perceived as the most efficient
tool in establishing a territorial base for Jewish society and reinforcing the Jews’ emotional
and cultural ties with the land (Nadan, 2006: 87). This policy endangered the
Palestinian labor market, as 70% of Palestinians were farmers for whom the land was a
source of livelihood, identity and status. As a result of massive land acquisitions, the disparity
between the Jewish and Palestinian economies increased, the rift between the two
populations widened and when the World Zionist Organization (WZO) launched a campaign
to impose Jewish labor in Jewish cities, Palestinian work migration to major urban
centers declined, unemployment among Arabs increased and Palestinian agriculture was
affected adversely, leading to an increase in capitalistic production (commercial agriculture
and industry) in the Jewish labor market, while its Palestinian counterpart remained
non-capitalistic and primarily agrarian (Asad, 1976).
As the Palestinian middle class stagnated, the Jewish one flourished thanks to Israeli and
American government assistance, becoming the dominant factor in all branches of government.
The resulting ruling group thus derived its economic power and resources from land
and property belonging to Palestinians uprooted from their homeland, transforming them
into means of promoting the Jewish middle class and private sector (Rosenfeld, 1978).
This policy is still in effect today: The lack of investment in development of Palestinian
localities and the dearth of economic opportunities for Palestinians preclude emergence
of the human capital required for class mobility, thus perpetuating economic dependence
on the Jewish sector (Khatttab, 2002).
Another means of preserving the rights of the hegemonic collective is the delineation
of physical and symbolic boundaries in the relevant space (Jamal, 2011). One such manifestation
is the isolation of Palestinian localities from Jewish ones through institution of a
racist separation mechanism along spatial and temporal axes, constituting part of a spatial
Judaization policy that gave rise to ghetto citizenship within a creeping apartheid system
(Yiftachel, 2009: 56), in which economic ghettos of poverty are characterized by a backward,
undeveloped and unprofitable economy that cannot compete in the hegemonic labor
market (Khattab, 2002). Most Palestinian localities in Israel are distant from industrial
centers; consequently, anyone who does succeed in finding employment in the Jewish
sector usually works at blue-collar occupations and earns discriminatory wages, even if
his or her training is equivalent to that of their Jewish colleague. Abdo (2011: 40) calls
such conditions racialized inclusion. While the Jewish national economy is based on manufacturing,
industry and development, a third of Palestinian families are dependent on the
Jewish labor market and work therein, another third rely on the local Palestinian market
Abu-Rabia-Queder 147
that is undeveloped and unprofitable and the remaining third on stipends from the Israel
National Insurance Institute because of unemployment, disability, retirement or old age
(Khalidi, 2008: 4). Among the Palestinian-Bedouin, these rates are even higher, with 66%
overrepresentation in unskilled industry and service occupations and very high rates of
women’s unemployment (80%) and poverty (80%) (Abu-Bader and Gottlieb, 2009).
The intersectional location of Palestinian middle-class women in Israel, as women
and as professionals who enter the Jewish labor market with cultural and professional
capital equal to that of their Jewish colleagues, as well as class identity (see Abu-Rabia-
Queder, 2017) that embraces critical awareness, indeed threatens colonial power relations.
As professional Palestinian women are ‘legal persons and living beings’ (Foucault,
2008: 82), one ought to inquire how such subjects are to be governed.
Analytical approach
The study applies intra-categorical analysis, as proposed by McCall (2005), that requires
a focused cross-analysis of a given social group and attempts to reveal new aspects of the
everyday lived experience of racism among the transparent group – Bedouin professional
women in this case. The practical research methods derived from this approach are
qualitative, based primarily on analysis of narratives that help reveal sophisticated ways
in which women experience racism and elimination.
Research population
The study involves 50 college-educated Bedouin women in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties,
employed in the public sector in Bedouin localities and nearby Jewish towns, 80% of
whom are married with children and 20% single. The population includes teachers (20%),
school guidance counselors (8%), principals (10%), social workers (14%), physicians (4%),
nurses (14%), researchers (2%), lawyers (14%), psychologists (2%), pharmacists (10%) and
a librarian (2%). This group is part of a developing population of middle-class professional
women among the mostly poor and unemployed Bedouin society (Abu-Bader and Gottlieb,
2009). Although their salaries are higher than the minimum wage (~US$1000/month) in
Bedouin society and the number of children they have (2–3) is lower than the Bedouin average
(7.1; Negev Bedouin Statistical Data Book, 2010), they remain a reduced minority group
within their society: Educated professional women accounted for only 4.1% of the Bedouin
sector (in 2010–2011), as compared with 18% among their counterparts in the Palestinian
population of Israel as a whole (Ghara, 2015: 73).
Research procedure
As a member of the studied society who is personally acquainted with many of the participants,
I did not find it difficult to locate candidates and persuade them to participate.
Most of the women I interviewed, however, were those with whom I had no previous
acquaintance, as I sought to maintain some distance from the participants, enabling
148 Current Sociology 67(1)
analysis of their narratives without personal bias (interviews with the other women were
conducted by research assistants). They all opened up to me, telling their stories
Data were collected through two-part narrative interviews, of which the first part
focused on personal background questions such as age, number of years of schooling,
number of years at work, marital status, number of children, workplace and place of
residence (Arab or Jewish), while the second solicited occupational narratives, asking
open questions about choice of occupation, workplace selection, hiring processes,
relations with colleagues and clients, barriers in choice of occupation, role and perceptions
of husband, extended family and community and family–work conflicts. The
questions are based on studies of minority women and employment designating these
factors as the principal determiners of women’s participation in the labor market (see
Modood, 2005).
Analysis of the data followed Strauss and Corbin’s (1998) grounded theory procedure
of open, axial and selective coding. Initially, I read the data several times and took notes
to determine patterns and regularities. The data were then coded into derived categories
and subcategories in two primary layers: Discrimination and agency. Discrimination
includes two time axes – professional choice and the various penalties experienced in the
workplace (see Abu-Rabia-Queder, 2017) – while agency consists of the strategies
women employ to negotiate between their public and private lives (a topic beyond the
scope of this study).
The findings presented below reveal the direct and indirect disciplinary means by which
the hegemonic players within the Israeli labor market racialize middle-class women as
part of the colonial logic of elimination.
Hostile ‘otherness’ in language and space: The politics of fear
Non-authorization of the native language constitutes another means of applying discipline
and replicating the conqueror’s sovereignty, as it effectively amounts to non-recognition
of the existence/identity of the indigenous people through their language. Language-based
discipline creates what Bourdieu (1992: 5) calls a unified labor market, that serves as a
means of consolidating the social colonial body.
Colonialists exclude indigenous people from hegemonic space by framing their language
as threatening, using the economy of fear as a mechanism to secure the colonizer’s
authority over space, time and life (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2015: 4). In Jewish public
space in Israel, Arabic is labeled as the language of the enemy and is consequently perceived
as yet another sign of hostile ‘otherness’ that dehumanizes the Arab (Amara et al.,
2016): Anyone who speaks Arabic is marked immediately as an enemy or as a person
speaking the enemy language who must be eliminated from the social body ipso facto.
Language becomes a significant component in the identity of Palestinian women professionals
and speaking Arabic designates the speakers not only as part of the Palestinian/
Muslim enemy, but also as non-authorized others (Bourdieu, 1992: 9).
Abu-Rabia-Queder 149
Arab-Bedouin women employed in the hegemonic labor market report their fear that
colleagues or patients may discover that they are Arabs. Hence they attempt to conceal
their native Arabic language. A psychologist discusses her experiences trying to hide her
Arab identity when meeting with an ultra-Orthodox Jewish patient, fearing a racist reaction:
‘There was a case last week of an ultra-Orthodox family. I wasn’t on duty and the
father came in to ask a question. As soon as I saw him, I hung up the phone. What if they
find out I’m an Arab?’
Their national identity turns these women into hostile, feared ‘others’, who lose their
sense of belonging to their workplace. They report apprehension about expressing political
views, speaking about Arab national identity and fear of racist responses. One health
system employee said:
I’m at this place … but I don’t exactly belong. I have a gut feeling that keeps me from being
confident that this is my place … I cannot say everything I want to say without fear … it’s very
Fear of staff reactions becomes more sensitive during wartime:
I would close myself up inside my room, I preferred coming out only to get my mail or take
something from the printer.
This fear is intensified by employers who insist on using the hegemonic language
even when treating Arabic-speaking patients. One participant attests: ‘The director told
me: “You know what? You’re right, they’re Arabs. But that doesn’t mean you have to
speak to them in Arabic. Speak Hebrew.” ’
The fear of speaking Arabic, perceived as a non-legitimate language that immediately
designates the Arab as a threat, attests to racialization of public space through
language as a signifier of a threatening national identity. In this racialized space,
language is a means of underscoring Jewish sovereignty of public space and the normative
status of Hebrew as the superior language. Internalization of such apprehension
by Palestinian women professionals attests to replication of the settler’s power
and dominance through what Steele (2009) terms a stereotype threat. The fear of
being labeled a threat as a result of speaking your own language is indeed capable of
intensifying the adverse effects of labeling. Fear of being labeled ‘dangerous others’
causes these professional middle-class women to feel unsafe, depriving them of their
sense of belonging.
Biopower in the service of Jewish sovereignty
Supremacist settler colonization produces specific modes of biopolitics that persist not
only in settler states but also in global governance regimes that inherit, extend and naturalize
their power (Morgensen, 2011: 52). The dominant group legitimizes its position
using an ideology that justifies social and racial arrangements. As Lorde (1984) noted:
‘Racism [is] the belief in the inherent superiority of one race over all others and thereby
the right to dominance’ (see also Yosso and Solorzano, 2009: 131). Lorde claims that one
150 Current Sociology 67(1)
should assess white dominance and hegemony not only according to white privilege but
also white sovereignty, as the latter is a condition for the former. Privilege is granted
even without the subjects’ recognition that life has been made a little easier for them,
having been achieved through such markers as skin color, culture, language, etc.
(Leonardo, 2009: 261).
Colonial domination and guaranteed sovereignty in public institutions is expressed
primarily by blocking the progress of Palestinian professional women and placing only
Jewish women in managerial positions. One Family Health Center nurse reported:
I have a kind of feeling that the supervisors will say something like: ‘You know, we represent
the … Jews or the government.’ In this entire affair, I feel that we Bedouin nurses are not having
our voices heard the way they ought to be. It’s as if they’re not allowing us to do so. We know
our own culture more than other people do. We can run the clinic better because we’re more
familiar with Bedouin patients.
A nurse describes the placement of Jewish Russian-speaking nurses instead of Arabicspeaking
nurses in a place where the latter were sorely needed:
When you see someone that they brought in from Russia, who barely speaks Hebrew, people
don’t understand her. It’s a catastrophe! … I asked why all the instructors are Jewish. Why do
they hire so many Jewish employees and then have to rely on translation?
Placing Jewish workers and managers where Arabic-speaking professionals are
needed is an example of the biopower process (Foucault, 1980), that aims at replacing
the ‘surplus’ Palestinian body impeding the colonizer’s expansion and accumulation of
capital and landscape.
‘Out of place’: Settler denial of indigenous professionalism
Bedouin women sense that they have to bear the burden of proof that they are professional.
Most of the women interviewed repeated the statement: ‘I always felt that I had
to prove myself.’ An attorney says: ‘You always have to make sure to prove that you are
professional even though you are an Arab woman.’
The presence of professional Bedouin women in public space as employees with cultural
capital equal to that of their Jewish colleagues arouses astonishment among their
colleagues and employers alike. Such reactions are brought on by a racist system that
ignores the skills and capital of the employee and focuses on her origin. Arab women in
Israel are assigned to an essential category that draws on the colonial archive of public
discourse in Israel, relying on racism like a habitus transmitted and imprinted in institutions,
everyday life, organizations, thinking patterns, behavior and attitudes towards the
other (Wekker, 2016).
Studies show that ignoring status, class or professional capital is defined as a racist
practice, as it reflects an a priori assumption that Arab professional women are out of
place. This assumption manifests the lack of recognition imprinted in the colonial
archive, perceiving Bedouin women through the essential category of inferiority according
to the ‘natural order’ that has also become the colonial order. The amazement that
Abu-Rabia-Queder 151
Jewish employees express demonstrates that the colonialist link between Arabs and low
status is automatic, enabling preservation of Jewish supremacy at the Israeli workplace,
as Wekker (2016: 47) notes: ‘securing white superiority … requires automatically assigning
blacks to lower-class status’. Coping with this situation by demonstrating professionalism
constitutes an attempt to detach the inherent connection between Arabs and inferior
status or professional incompetence.
The class-racial labeling that Bedouin women experience does not differentiate
between their professionalism and their ethnic origin. One way of coping with this situation
is an attempt to shatter ethnic stereotypes by separating one’s professional image
from the ‘Arab woman’ tag. A physician who began her career in the Jewish sector and
suffered racist remarks by patients talks about the separation she institutes to serve as a
role model for the image of a Bedouin woman:
I make this distinction because I see myself as a physician. I ask myself whether I can or cannot
treat someone. If I cannot, then he’ll certainly say: ‘Sure, it’s because she’s a Bedouin. She
doesn’t know how to treat me.’ I have to be a role model and the manner in which I behave …
I have to be respectful and polite, but lately I began to understand that along with my being a
physician, in the background I am also a Bedouin Arab woman and I have to give of myself so
that they will see how a Bedouin woman behaves and I can serve as an example for Bedouin
women, who can look at me and say: ‘Oh, I know a Bedouin woman who conducts herself in
such a manner.’
Indirect disciplining
Indirect disciplining of the professional Bedouin’s presence in public space is mediated
by reinforcement of patriarchal pressure. As Morgensen (2012: 10) points out: ‘[G]
endered and sexual power relations appear to be so intrinsic to procedures of indigenous
elimination and settler indigenization.’ Strengthening of patriarchal power aims at creating
a patriarchal or traditional wall so that women will be unable to penetrate and destabilize
colonial space. In this manner, they would be disciplined by patriarchal control,
preventing any show of resistance to the colonialists. Such pressure is manifested through
the intersection of patriarchal and labor market exploitation.
When women are discriminated against at their workplace and receive no job promotions,
the patriarchy adopts a more inimical stance towards them. One example is the
story of an unmarried librarian whose father supported her financially during her studies
and confronted the extended family to allow her to leave home, but when she was not
promoted and only worked part-time, he began to press her to change her profession to
teaching, so that she would earn a respectable living:
It was only because I worked for four hours that my father began to dislike the job: ‘You’re not
earning enough!’ It was just at this time that my second sister finished studying education and
began working at our local school as a teacher, where she was earning a very good salary and
finished work every day at 2:00. I worked until eight at night, spending many long hours there
but not earning very much, so there was always this comparison between my sister and me,
especially because I had no work benefits. He really began to wonder whether I made a good
choice or not. I kept saying that everything was all right and that it was only a matter of time.
152 Current Sociology 67(1)
He made a decision: ‘It’s really not good for you, so leave it and come back here to be a teacher’
… I think I will leave the job. I’ll get out of it. Out of desperation, I said I would stay at home
for the time being. You cannot believe how hard it was for me out there: Working only four
hours when you’re capable of working more, because you’re able to do so physically.
Another example demonstrates the intersection of place of residence, mobility and
gender, revealing the lack of consideration that Bedouin women employees encounter.
Bedouin villages have no regular public transportation, but Jewish drivers are unwilling
to enter these villages, thus imposing yet another burden on these women:
It was difficult because the hospital’s pick-up van [whose drivers were Jewish] would not come
into the village. The driver and his passengers [nurses] were afraid to do so. At first, they would
pick me up at Shoqet Junction. Standing there alone was really dangerous. I remember the first
day that I got on the van, what the nurses were saying: ‘We won’t let it happen. We won’t go in.
They’d better not think that we’ll go in there.’ They started tossing out all kinds of comments
and I really felt … Each of them was privileged to be picked up at her home, while I had to wait
at the roadside because the nurses were afraid to enter [my village]. ‘If you want to pick her up,
then pick her up first and then get us later …’ I made things very difficult for my parents. I had
them come and pick me up early in the morning after I finished a night shift.
This intersection of vulnerability and colonial manipulation reinforces patriarchal
exploitation. The women become vulnerable in several respects, as the harm they incur
in colonial space increases their vulnerability in patriarchal space, rendering them
dependent on parents or spouses. This is what Crenshaw (1993: 1249) calls an ‘intersectional
subordination that is frequently the consequence of the imposition of one burden
that interacts with pre-existing vulnerabilities to create yet another dimension of
The biopolitics of declassing Palestinian women as part of the logic of eliminating the
native is mediated by colonial violence to secure settler’s class sovereignty and
Palestinian women’s transparency. Such violence is embodied in the settlers’ governing
apparatus, that seeks to construct and preserve inequality by ruling others, thereby
demanding, in Fanon’s words, ‘that they serve your interests to the exclusion of their
own, [which] can only be achieved through application of violence’ (Fanon, 1963: 29–
30). In the case at hand, we find two strategies through which the settlers discipline the
native: Directly (through the body, senses and desires) and indirectly (by imposing and
strengthening patriarchal control).
Direct disciplinary mechanisms aim at displacing and replacing the native, thus indigenizing
settlers and settler space (Wolfe, 2012). According to the narratives, this strategy
imposes tangible exclusion and elimination through the sensations and emotions of
apprehension and fear that silence women’s wishes and desires. Disciplining emotions,
thoughts and the body is a means of excluding the symbolic and social body of ‘internal
danger’ (Lemke, 2011: 249) from colonial space. Silencing wishes and disciplining
thoughts by engendering a sense of not belonging are inherent in the structuring of
Abu-Rabia-Queder 153
feelings of elimination and exclusion, as embodied and normalized among natives,
establishing their exclusive inferiority in a space ostensibly not their own. Such structuring
is substantive in securing the settler’s sovereignty in that space.
Among women participating in this study, inferiority is embodied through senses and
emotions signifying fear of the settler. These become indicators of inferiority through the
sensory layer of the body, that helps the settler portray the native person as trapped and
confined, whereas the settler, by contrast, is free and maintains control. Such disciplining
intensifies the settler’s power through fear that courses through the body. The Palestinian’s
body thus becomes anxious, with an uncertain and unstable presence in the designated
space, whereas the presence of the settler’s body is secure and legitimate, arousing existential
apprehension among the natives. This phenomenon, that I call sensory disciplining,
eliminates the sense of belonging and suppresses existential human wishes and
desires, thus perpetuating the colonial order and hierarchy between settler and native.
Shalhoub-Kevorkian (2016: 1) refers to it as the ‘occupation of senses’ and includes it
among the more violent forms of colonial dispossession that address the ‘sensory technologies
that manage bodies, language, sight, time and space’.
Colonial violence is perpetrated by conquest of the senses in colonial space that disciplines
the language/body/senses of professional women and determines what may be
said and what may not, the legitimate and prevailing language of colonial space, the
opinions deemed legitimate therein and who may express them. Such disciplining maintains
the settler’s privilege and superiority. Using embodied means of disciplining, colonial
institutions produce an ‘injured racialized subject’ (Jafri, 2013), who wants to belong
to the colonial space but knows it will never be possible. This structuring of an unfulfillable
desire leads the native to feel that Israeli public space will never be theirs and that
they will never be part of it. Non-recognition of the ‘other’ and the sense of not belonging
are thus embodied in the feeling of undesirability in colonial space.
Jafri (2013) maintains that racialized subjects persist in desiring to belong even after
becoming aware that the realization of their wishes is necessarily constrained by processes
of perpetual social, political and cultural misrecognition, wherein desire and recognition
mark the tenuous relationship that racialized peoples maintain with settler
colonialism: ‘It is perhaps due to this lack of embodied recognition that settler desire is
so significant to sustaining colonial power’ (Jafri, 2013: 77). The feeling that one will
never belong renders the loss of self legitimate.
Fanon (1963) reminds us that the settler’s existence is affirmed once the colonized
conclude that they are of lesser value than the colonizers. In this respect, the settlers keep
the colonized obedient, exacerbating their sense of inferiority.
The feelings and thoughts that participants express – a sense of shock, not belonging,
apprehension about speaking one’s own language, concern about staff responses, others
ignoring their position as professionals, taking offense, fear of what Jewish colleagues
expect, the amazement expressed by Jewish colleagues and clients regarding the image of
Bedouin professional women – all attest to the importance of the body in racializing and
disciplining the native. By positioning the native body as an illegitimate outsider, King
(2013: 23) makes links between the slave’s black body and settler colonialism by stating
that ‘Black women’s bodies are materially and symbolically essential to the space-making
practices of settler colonialism.’ To the settler, the figure of the native female functions as
154 Current Sociology 67(1)
a metonym for unending increase and production of land/bodies that impedes settler
expansion and is consequently perceived as a surplus body that should be eliminated.
From an Israeli colonial perception, the Palestinian woman’s body is perceived as a
threat that must be destroyed but also controlled. By colonizing Palestinian women’s bodies,
Israel thus colonizes the entire Palestinian population (Wadi, 2012). These perceptions
leave their imprint on the colonized body, as Kassem (2011) demonstrates by presenting
narratives of Palestinian women from the first generation of the Nakba. Palestinian women
consider invasion into their land as a metonym for penetrating the female body. When land
is occupied, female bodies are in danger, as they become a target for violent colonial intrusion.
This act strengthens the role of the male as a patriarchal protector: Women lose their
agency and are perceived only as victims who need the protection of men.
Although colonial discourse on Palestinian women’s bodies refers mostly to destroying
them before they enter its space, the case at hand involves legitimate and legal subjects
in the form of a bourgeois body that did enter hegemonic space and consequently
must be removed in sophisticated ways. Following Bourdieu’s ‘class body’ hierarchy
(for analysis, see Mason, 2013), in which bodies of women and non-white persons are
dehumanized and uncontrolled – unlike controlled and cultured white bourgeois bodies
– I claim that the controlled and civilized bodies of Palestinian women who enter the
hegemonic workplace are threatening the hierarchies of these latter class bodies. The
presence of classed, bourgeois bodies of Palestinian professional women is not wanted
in shared public space because it threatens the growth and sovereignty of the bourgeois
body that rules hegemonic space.
Mason claims that there was less emphasis on individual efforts and more on the evolutionary
advancement of the group/race as a whole (2013: 694). In other words, confirming
the presence of a classed bourgeois group of indigenous Palestinians reflects the
class group’s development potential and not only that of the individual, thereby posing
the risk that the hostile body will proliferate. Biopower is thus manipulated by settler
colonialism in sophisticated and concealed ways, producing the specific modes of violence
that naturalize its power (Morgensen, 2011: 54).
I would like to thank the Rothschild-Cæsarea Foundation for financing this research from 2012 to
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Author biography
Sarab Abu-Rabia-Queder is a senior lecturer at Blaustien Institutes for Desert Research, Ben-
Gurion University, Israel. Her studies focus on sociology of gender, higher education and work
among the Palestinian women in Israel. Her particular focus is the racialization of minority women
(Palestinians and Ethiopian immigrants) in Israeli academy, as well as on agency and indigenous
feminisms. She has published papers in various journals such as Sociology, Anthropology and
Education Quarterly, Feminist Studies, Compare, Higher Education, Ethnography and more. Her
recently published book is titled The Emergence of a Class Identity: Professional Palestinian
Women (Magness Press, 2017).