IAM objectives: To collect information about Israel which relates to, inter alia, activities, publications and presentations of Israeli academics. To monitor their academic activities and publications. Activities for academic freedom and scientific resonance of institutions of higher learning and to prevent abuse of the academic platform for foreign interests. Activities for academic ethics.
Professor Gadi Algazi is a Tel Aviv University expert on European history from 1350 to 1600 and the Minerva Center for German History director. Algazi, a longtime political activist, abused his position to promote his politics, as IAM repeatedly reported before.
In the current academic year, Algazi is a research fellow at the International Center of Advanced Studies “Metamorphoses of the Political” (ICAS:MP), a German institution based in New Delhi, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. ICAS:MP was created in honor of Maria Sibylla Merian, the German 17th-century naturalist, and Rabindranath Tagore, the Bengali Nobel laureate.
ICAS:MP is an Indo-German research collaboration of six Indian and German institutions. According to its website, ICAS:MP “critically intervenes in global debates in the social sciences and humanities.” For those unfamiliar with the jargon, using the term “critically” suggests following the neo-Marxist, critical scholarship.
While fellows are expected to use their field of expertise, true to character, Algazi seized upon the opportunity to present Israel in a negative light.
In his research, Algazi will look at Israel’s first years when hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants found themselves in transit camps. While some camps were transitory tent compounds, other camps became “the nuclei of poor neighborhoods and peripheral townships with a lasting impact on the landscape of inequalities in the country.” To Algazi, the early 1950s were formative for “the making of class divisions in Israel.” According to Algazi, “Arab Jews” stayed for several years with little access to worthwhile education or work. “For many Jewish immigrants, this was the site where notions of citizenship and politics, dependence and solidarity were forged.” To justify his research topic, Algazi claims that historians usually treated those Jewish immigrants as “objects of government policies, at best as unruly, tumultuous crowds.”
Algazi’s study looks at the social history of one of the largest camps located near an established agro-town on the border of the West Bank.
Algazi writes that the camp was mainly populated by Iraqi Jewish immigrants, in “walking distance from refugee camps, which had been set up just two or three years earlier as a provisional shelter for Palestinians expelled from this very same agricultural region. Chronically unemployed, camp dweller were subject to tight control by government agencies, the security services and the local elite. Nevertheless, within months of arrival, they started a series of protests that soon spread beyond their isolated camp.”
Algazi declares he seeks “to understand the rise and demise of this movement.” He then launches into a conspiracy theory, writing about the “suppressed event – the secret military operation, in which the camp was dismantled.”
Algazi traces “the forgotten protests and their violent suppression – locally, in the impoverished neighborhood which arose at the same site, and in the different camps to which the banished where relocated. Finally, I follow the main protagonists – the families who led local protests and the party boss whom they confronted – into the 1960s, seeking explanations for the suppression of the memory of these early revolts.”
Algazi should note that by now, the history of early immigration to Israel is very well covered. It is widely known that the new state of some 650,000 people in 1948 was under extreme duress. It had to defend itself from the Palestinians, who rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan, and their Arab allies, who invaded the country. At the same time, Israel had to absorb about a million and a half immigrants, Holocaust survivors, and Jews from Arab countries. Both groups posed a considerable challenge to the state: the Holocaust survivors, most of whom survived concentration camps and lost their families, were penniless and deeply traumatized, unable to be helped by the skeletal mental health system. The Jews of the Arab countries were expelled with only a suitcase. The Iraqi Jews, arguably the most wealthy of the Jewish communities in the Middle East, were also subjected to bloody pogroms.
Looking at the broader issue of absorption of a traumatized and pauperized population, Algazi trivializes the subject by adopting a nebulous conspiracy theory of nefarious military misdeeds. He is also egregiously wrong by blaming the government for creating class divisions in Israel. Like his neo-Marxist, critical scholarship peers, he is unwilling to admit that the market economy developed in Israel favored the better-educated Jews.
As a historian of medieval Europe, Algazi is unqualified to research a subject that touches on many aspects of social and political economy, immigration, and absorption, among others.
Of course, as a radical activist, Algazi is not perturbed by a lack of skill since the real purpose of his work is to denigrate and demonize Israel. What is more perplexing is the involvement of the German government, which finances the ICAS:MP. Supporting scholars who use their academic positions to push a political agenda is not a good return on their money.
PROF. GADI ALGAZI A TRANSIT CAMP ON THE BORDER01 January 2023 to 30 June 2023 Research Description:During Israel’s first years, hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants found themselves in ‘transit camps’. Some camps were indeed transitory tent compounds, but others became the nuclei of poor neighbourhoods and peripheral townships with a lasting impact on the landscape of inequalities in the country. The early 1950s were a formative period in terms of the making of class divisions in Israel. While immigrants, mostly of European descent, typically spent less than a year in a camp, others, especially ‘Arab Jews’ from all over the Middle East, stayed for several years with little access to worthwhile education or work. For many Jewish immigrants, this was the site where notions of citizenship and politics, dependence and solidarity were forged.Historians have usually treated them as objects of government policies, at best as unruly, tumultuous crowds. The study is a social history of one of the largest camps, located on the very border between Israel and the West Bank. It was set up near an established agro-town. The local elite controlled the town council, the labour exchange, welfare services, local companies and credit providers and had direct access to political patrons in Israel’s government. The camp, on the other hand, was populated mostly by Jewish Iraqi immigrants, in walking distance from refugee camps, which had been set up just two or three years earlier as a provisional shelter for Palestinians expelled from this very same agricultural region. Chronically unemployed, camp dweller were subject to tight control by government agencies, the security services and the local elite. Nevertheless, within months of arrival, they started a series of protests that soon spread beyond their isolated camp. I seek to understand the rise and demise of this movement, the making of a short-lived collective subject. At the heart of this microhistory story lies a suppressed event – the secret military operation, in which the camp was dismantled, and its inhabitants dispersed in seven different locations. I trace the afterlife of the forgotten protests and their violent suppression – locally, in the impoverished neighbourhood which arose at the same site, and in the different camps to which the banished where relocated. Finally, I follow the main protagonists – the families who led local protests and the party boss whom they confronted – into the 1960s, seeking explanations for the suppression of the memory of these early revolts.Bio:Gadi Algazi is professor of history at the Department of History at Tel Aviv University and currently director of Minerva Center for German History. He is serving in the editorial board of Past and Present, co-editor of the Hebrew historical quarterly Zmanim, and earlier was senior editor of History & Memory: Studies in the Representation of the Past. His main fields of interest are the social and cultural history of Western Europe between 1350 and 1600, historical anthropology, especially the history of family, kinship and gender, the social history of science, colonialism and settler societies.
The M.S. Merian – R. Tagore International Centre of Advanced Studies ‘Metamorphoses of the Political’ (ICAS:MP) is an Indo-German research collaboration of six Indian and German institutions funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). ICAS:MP combines the benefits of an open, interdisciplinary forum for intellectual exchange with the advantages of a cutting-edge research centre. Located in New Delhi, ICAS:MP critically intervenes in global debates in the social sciences and humanities. Bringing together more than 70 scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds and through its innovative modular and network structure, ICAS:MP generates sustainable research cooperation among leading social science and humanities scholars from India, Germany and other countries who investigate similar research problems rather than necessarily the same region. Scholarly exchange and joint exploration within ICAS:MP are defined by a shared interest in examining the shifting boundaries, historically contingent content, and intellectual lineages of the twentieth-century ‘political’. It is thus not another initiative to strengthen ‘Area Studies’, but rather serves as a centre of advanced international research.
In mid-December, Haaretz published an article by Prof. David Enoch, which was taken from the website of the Faculty of Law, Hebrew University: “In Praise of Boycott Measures (also Academic).” Enoch spoke in favor of a boycott against Israel because “the State of Israel has an interest in being decent, to stop pursuing a policy of oppression and apartheid, to be saved from the anti-democratic jaws that grip its neck. If there is a chance that boycotts will help with that, great.”
Enoch complains that “only in Israel can one argue in the name of democracy for the arrangements that perpetuate the occupation and violent oppression of millions of people for 55 years, without any intention of ending a situation in which the governed have no influence over their rulers…. the reality of the lives of millions of people deprived of any political and legal rights who live under occupation and oppression.”
He argues, “The demand by those of us who still insist on fighting the occupation, on putting up with the decision of the oppressive Jewish majority – ostensibly because of democratic principles, and without any saying to the millions under the occupation – is hypocritical and ridiculous.”
For Enoch, “the basic justification for the boycott measures is as simple as it is convincing: the occupation will probably not end until it is very inconvenient for the Israelis to continue. Of course, there are measures that cannot be justified for this reason as well (such as, for example, terrorism against innocent citizens). But boycott measures are non-violent measures, and given the horrors of the occupation and oppression, and the fact that the State of Israel shows no intention of reaching a reasonable solution, certain boycott measures are completely legitimate.”
He then moves on to discuss the academic boycott. For him, “the decision not to come to Israel for an academic conference that ignores the reality of the occupation… will be justified.” Notably, Enoch justifies a boycott of Ariel University, writing, “Even if the boycott law states otherwise, there is no point in thinking that the right to boycott Ariel University is the same as the right to boycott Tel Aviv University or Haifa University.”
He then argues that the boycott of the academy specifically is not justified, “although the academy is involved in the occupation, but in general, it is not involved in the occupation any more than the extent to which every Israeli is involved in the occupation (and when the involvement of an academic unit is indeed more central, as for example when it comes to Ariel University, boycott measures are indeed more justified).”
Regarding the academic boycott, “I don’t think anyone can seriously think that the professional plight of a number of academics will shock the Israeli public or the decision makers until they reconsider their support for the occupation. There is, therefore, no point in singling out an academic activity that is particularly worthy of a boycott. But there is also no point in distinguishing it as particularly protected from justified boycott measures. I hope that the State of Israel will face more and more boycott measures of various kinds. I hope they will mainly be more effective measures – ones that will burden financially, especially business elites, which will make it difficult for Israelis to show their faces in the world, and those that will harm Israeli representation in world sports. Then, as part of the non-violent boycott struggle against Israeli policy, the thought that the academic circle should be exempted from the consequences of the struggle seems to me ridiculous and somewhat narcissistic. Under such circumstances, I would welcome an academic boycott.”
Two things stand out in Enoch’s views. First, typical of all writings of radical leftist critics is a total decontextualization of Israeli-Palestinian relations to prove that Israel alone is to blame for the prolonged state of affairs. Had Enoch paid more attention to the history of the conflict, he would have known that the Oslo Process was a genuine effort by the Israeli Labor leaders Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres to reach a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat and the PLO. The Iranian theocratic regime was dead set against the move. It has used its Islamist proxies, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as peace spoilers. Helped by the Revolutionary Guards, they launched waves of suicide bombings in which thousands of Israelis were killed and wounded. The extreme violence undermined the Israeli faith in the Oslo peace. A large and growing body of literature on this and the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is available, should Enoch be interested in learning.
Second, As IAM discussed before, Enoch supports the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism. The so-called Declaration is a ploy of the radical academic left, centered around the Van Leer Institute, to provide an alternative to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, a document that 38 countries adopted. IHRA has become the first line of defense against the growing antisemitism in the United States and other western countries.
Quite shockingly, the World Zionist Organization – Department for the Struggle against Antisemitism and the Boosting of Jewish Resilience, invited Enoch to its annual conference, “Challenges of Fighting Boycotts Against Israel,” in December 2022. The organizers apparently did not know that Enoch supports the boycott.
Moreover, just a couple of weeks ago, Enoch won the Hebrew University President’s Award for an Outstanding Researcher, the Israel Pollak Prize in Memory of Prof. Yoram Ben-Porath. Enoch, of the Faculty of Law and the Department of Philosophy, is “recognized as a leading thinker and researcher in moral philosophy, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law.
Awarding Enoch the President’s Award is highly problematic. Israel has accepted the IHRA definition, which argues that singling out Israel, as per the calls to boycott Israel, is an act of antisemitism. There is also the 2011 Boycott Law that makes advocating BDS illegal. Clearly, it is a slap in the face of numerous Jewish organizations worldwide that struggle against BDS. Sending mixed messages is detrimental to the fight for IHRA.
דיונים על צעדי החרמה שונים שמופעלים או שיופעלו נגד ישראל – הן בזירה האקדמית, הן באופן כללי יותר – יוצאים מהנחות מוצא שחשוב לאתגר.
הנחת מוצא שגויה אחת כזו היא שמדובר באיום שלמדינת ישראל יש אינטרס עליון להילחם בו. חרמות כאלה דווקא משרתים את האינטרס האמיתי של המדינה. הם לא משרתים את האינטרס של קבוצות מסויימות בתוכה, של השלטון שלה, אולי אפילו לא את האינטרס שלה כפי שזה מובן על ידי רוב אזרחיה. אבל זה לא משנה דבר – למדינת ישראל יש אינטרס להיות הגונה, להפסיק לנקוט מדיניות דיכוי ואפרטהייד, להינצל מהמלתעות האנטי-דמוקרטיות שלופתות את צווארה. אם יש סיכוי שחרמות יעזרו בכך, מהטוב.
הנחת מוצא שגויה שנייה היא שמדינת ישראל היא דמוקרטיה צודקת, ושעל כן נסיון להתערב בפעולותיה פסול (ואולי גם אנטישמי). אלא שרק בישראל אפשר לטעון בשם הדמוקרטיה להסדרים שמנציחים כיבוש ודיכוי אלים של מיליוני אנשים כבר 55 שנה, ללא כל כוונה להביא לקיצו מצב שבו לנשלטים אין שום השפעה על שולטיהם. הדרישה לאלה מאיתנו שעדיין מתעקשים להיאבק בכיבוש להשלים עם הכרעת הרוב היהודי המדכא – לכאורה מכח עקרונות דמוקרטיים, וללא פתחון פה למיליונים הנתונים תחת הכיבוש – צבועה ומגוחכת.
במילים אחרות: אולי אם רצונכם שאנשים הגונים ברחבי העולם (ורבים מהתומכים בצעדי החרמה, גם אם לא כולם, הם אנשים הגונים) יפסיקו לראות בנו מצורעים מוסרית, כדאי שנפסיק להיות מצורעים מוסרית.
ההצדקה הבסיסית לצעדי החרמה היא פשוטה כשם שהיא משכנעת: ככל הנראה לא יבוא קץ לכיבוש עד שלישראלים יהיה מאוד לא נוח להמשיכו. מובן שיש אמצעים שאי אפשר להצדיק גם מהטעם הזה (כמו למשל טרור נגד אזרחים חפים מפשע). אבל צעדי החרמה הם צעדים בלתי אלימים, ובהינתן זוועות הכיבוש והדיכוי, והעובדה שמדינת ישראל לא מראה שום כוונה להגיע לפתרון סביר, צעדי החרמה מסויימים הם לגיטימיים לחלוטין. המשמעות של הכחשת טענה זו היא של עם תחת דיכוי אין זכות לפעול בדרך כלשהי – גם בלתי אלימה – כנגד מדכאיו. אדם הגון לא יסכים לעמדה כזו (וגם לא לצביעות שכורכה בהכרזה על צעדים בלתי אלימים ומדודים בהחלט כ”טרור משפטי” או “טרור כלכלי”).
ואם כך הם הדברים באופן כללי, מה אפשר לומר באופן ספציפי על החרם האקדמי?
ראשית, יש לומר שאין כזה דבר “החרם האקדמי”. יש צעדי החרמה שונים, עם הבדלים חשובים ביניהם. כך, למשל, ההחלטה שלא לבוא לישראל לכנס אקדמי שמתעלם ממציאות הכיבוש היא סוג אחד של צעד, וההחלטה לסרב לשפוט בכתב עת אקדמי בינלאומי מאמרים שכתבו ישראלים היא החלטה אחרת. בנסיבות רבות הצעד הראשון יהיה מוצדק, והשני לא. בדרך כלל יהיה מועיל יותר לדון בצעדים השונים ובשאלה באילו תנאים הם מוצדקים, מאשר בשאלה הכללית הרבה יותר מדי מתי חרם אקדמי מוצדק.
באופן דומה, יש להבחין בין צעדי החרמה אקדמיים של ישראל, לבין צעדי החרמה חלקיים, למשל, של אוניברסיטת אריאל. הנסיון לטשטש את ההבחנה בין צעדים כאלה הוא עוד ניסיון להתעלם מהקו הירוק, ועימו ממציאות חייהם של מיליוני אנשים נטולי כל זכויות פוליטיות ומשפטיות שחיים תחת כיבוש ודיכוי. גם אם חוק החרם קובע אחרת, אין שום טעם לחשוב שדין החרמת אוניברסיטת אריאל כדין החרמת אוניברסיטת תל אביב או אוניברסיטת חיפה.
צעדי החרמה אקדמיים הם תמיד בעייתיים – הם עלולים לפגוע במדע, בקריירות של א/נשים צעירים/ות, אולי אף בקולגיאליות אינטקטואלית כלשהי. לכן אין להקל ראש בנקיטתם. יש לוודא שאין נזקם מרובה על תועלתם. לכן ייחודה של האקדמיה דווקא לחרם אינו מוצדק: אמנם האקדמיה מעורבת בכיבוש, אבל באופן כללי היא אינה מעורבת בכיבוש יותר מהמידה שבה כל ישראלי מעורב בכיבוש (וכשהמעורבות של יחידה אקדמית אכן מרכזית יותר, כמו למשל כשמדובר באוניברסיטת אריאל, אכן צעדי החרמה מוצדקים יותר). ואינני חושב שיש מי שיכול ברצינות לחשוב שמצוקתם המקצועית של מספר אנשי אקדמיה תזעזע את הציבור הישראלי או את מקבלי ההחלטות עד שישקלו מחדש את תמיכתם בכיבוש.
אין, אם כן, טעם לייחד פעילות אקדמית כראויה במיוחד להחרמה. אבל גם אין טעם לייחדה כמוגנת במיוחד מצעדי החרמה מוצדקים. אני מקווה שבפני מדינת ישראל יעמדו יותר ויותר צעדי החרמה מסוגים שונים. אני מקווה שהם יהיו בעיקר צעדים אפקטיביים יותר – כאלה שיכבידו כלכלית, בעיקר על אליטות עסקיות, כאלה שיקשו על ישראלים להראות את פרצופם בעולם, כאלה שיפגעו בייצוג ישראלי בספורט העולמי. ואז, כחלק ממאבק החרמות בלתי אלים במדיניות ישראל, המחשבה שיש לפטור את המעגל האקדמי מהשלכות המאבק נראית לי מגוחכת,וגם נרקיסיסטית משהו. בנסיבות כאלה, אקבל צעדים רבים מאוד של החרמה אקדמית בברכה.
ברכות חמות לפרופ’ דוד אנוך על זכייתו בפרס פולק לזכר פרופ’ יורם בן-פורת לחוקר מצטיין מטעם נשיא האוניברסיטה העברית.
פרופ’ אנוך מוכר ומוערך כחוקר והוגה מוביל בפילוסופיה של המוסר, פילוסופיה פוליטית ובפילוסופיה של המשפט, בישראל ובעולם.
טקס הענקת הפרס נערך בתחילת שבוע שעבר בהשתתפות הנהלת האוניברסיטה והפקולטה, ורבים.ות נוספים.
Warmest Congratulations to Prof. David Enoch for winning the Hebrew University President’s Award for an Outstanding Researcher, the 2022-2023 Israel Pollak Prize in Memory of Prof. Yoram Ben-Porath.
Prof. Enoch, of the Faculty of Law and the Department of Philosophy, is recognized as a leading thinker and researcher in moral philosophy, political philosophy, and the philosophy of law. The award was granted earlier in the last week at a ceremony attended by the leadership of the University and Faculty, and many others.
December 11, 2022: Beyond blarney Movers and shakers in Israeli society.
By Greer Fay Cashman
The Jerusalem Post,
THERE IS no doubt that antisemitism in its diversity keeps Jews actively engaged in fighting it and in forming local, national and international networks for the exchange of information about increased verbal and physical aggression against Jews, means of combating such manifestations and what is needed to protect Jewish communities from assaults. Strangely, the social negativism that brings all this about helps to identify and develop Jewish leadership potential, which finds outlets not only in the struggle against antisemitism and boycotts, but also in other avenues of Jewish life and even in the broader community. If all the antisemites realized that what they do helps to develop Jewish leadership – they might stop delegitimizing and persecuting Jews. On Thursday, December 15, the World Zionist Organization and its Department for the Struggle against Antisemitism and the Boosting of Jewish Resilience, will hold its annual conference on the Challenges of Fighting Boycotts Against Israel.
The event, which will be held at the ANU Museum on the campus of Tel Aviv University, will examine the situation from legal, economic and social perspectives. There will be three separate panels, with panelists including inter alia several academics such as Prof. Rafi Melnick, the president of Reichman University, Prof. Oded Murdoch of Ariel University, Prof. Asa Kasher, emeritus professor of philosophy at Tel Aviv University, and one of Israel’s most consulted experts on ethics, and Prof. David Enoch, of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Law.
The day’s discussions will be summed up by Mark Regev, the head of the Abba Eban Institute for Diplomacy at Reichman University, and Prof. Albert Pinhasov, the rector of Ariel University.
Regev who writes a weekly column for The Jerusalem Post, is a former Israel ambassador to the UK, where he frequently encountered antisemitic and anti-Israel attitudes.
One of the highlights of the event will be a one-on-one discussion on the legitimacy of a boycott in which Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, a British-born lawyer by profession, will talk with controversial American lawyer Prof. Alan Dershowitz, professor emeritus of the Harvard University Law School.
Education – Ph.D. in philosophy, New York University, May 2003. – B.A. in philosophy, Magna cum Laude, Tel Aviv University, March 1993. – LL.B. (in law), Tel Aviv University, March 1993.
Prof. Sari Hanafi, the President of the International Sociological Association (ISA), published a letter to members in late December 2022. Hanafi recalled how the year 2022 was “particularly violent and challenging for most regions in the world.” He mentioned various cases, including “the intensification of the settler colonial Israeli project in the Occupied Palestinian territories.”
Hanafi is a Syrian Palestinian who moved to France to pursue an academic career. He returned to Lebanon as a Professor of Sociology at the American University of Beirut.
Hanafi was elected as President of the ISA in 2018.
ISA’s 20th conference will convene in Australia in June 2023. Hanafi explains that the conference would feature two presidential panels with “particular interest in connecting sociology to moral and political philosophy.” One is titled “Liberalism, the Other and Religion.” Two philosophers and two sociologists would debate this theme. One is the “Palestinian philosopher Azmi Bishara” who argues that “comprehensive liberalism can be promoted if its basic values, like civil liberties and individual autonomy are reproducible in the context of the prevailing culture.”
Describing Azmi Bishara as a “Palestinian philosopher” is a gross misrepresentation of who Bishara is. He is a Former Member of Knesset who represented the Balad Party in 1996, 1999, 2003, and 2006 elections. In the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon War, Bishara visited Lebanon and Syria. Israeli authorities suspected Bishara of supplying Hezbollah with coordinates for targeting military and civilian sites in Israel for large sums of money. Before he could be charged with acts of treason and espionage, Bishara fled Israel to Qatar, where he resides to this day. In 2012 he was again accused of transferring millions of Israeli shekels from Qatar to Jordan in suitcases. The money was collected by visiting Balad members who transferred the suitcases to Israel. Thirteen Balad members were caught and faced charges.
Yet, for Hanfai, Bishara is a “political philosopher.” This should come as no surprise because Hanafi has a long history of anti-Israel work. In 2014, Hanafi postulated in an article that “humanitarian organizations deprive refugees of their political existence by treating them as only bodies to be fed and sheltered.” Humanitarian Law refers to them as “protected people,” but practices focus mainly on “victims” or “survivors.” By classifying people as victims or even as survivors, the basis of humanitarian action is shifted from rights to welfare.”
Hanafi then added that “I have been very interested in demystifying the depoliticization of humanitarianism since the beginning of the Second Intifada. In 2003 in Jerusalem Adi Ophir and I co-organized a two-day workshop on ‘The Politics of Humanitarianism in the Occupied Territories’ for international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights and humanitarian organizations. Scholars and practitioners presented their different visions, generating much discussion and even some tension. The debate was so absorbing that Peter Hansen, the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees, who came just to present a paper, stayed for the whole workshop. When I became research director of the program ‘Policy and Governance in Palestinian Refugee Camps’ at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), I helped to organize lectures with practitioners from international and local organizations, further contributing to the debate on humanitarianism.”
He explained that in a 2009 book, co-edited with Adi Ophir and Michal Givoni, “My choice to work on The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (2009) with anti-colonial Israelis Adi Ophir and Michal Givoni was unpopular in Lebanon, and I faced a smear campaign from some leftists. At the time, I thought that constructing a healthy conception of the conflict and collaborating with anti-colonial Israelis was more important than my popularity. I hoped that working with dissident Israelis would send a strong message that the Arab–Israeli conflict has nothing to do with religion but revolved around a classical colonial project waged by Zionist ideology, which we could collectively oppose, whether we were Arab or Israeli.”
Hanafi is typical of pro-Palestinian activists who use their academic positions to bash Israel. This development has become prevalent in the United States, where the Middle East Studies Association passed a resolution supporting BDS. The Pro-Palestinian activists also recruit Israeli academics to bolster their arguments. It is troubling to see that the same anti-Israel spirit also pervades other important international associations.
December 2022 President’s Perspective The year 2022 was particularly violent and challenging for most regions in the world. To cite a few, I think of Russia’s war in Ukraine which has driven 7 million people to seek refuge across Europe; deadly floodings in Pakistan and wildfires in the USA induced by climate change; the intensification of the settler colonial Israeli project in the Occupied Palestinian territories; wars in Yemen and Syria. At the same time we have seen more and more social movements and protests against all sorts of injustice: widespread protests across many cities in Iran against the imposition of the veil in the street, and in other countries against the vertiginous rise of populism and authoritarianism. When we chose the theme for the next ISA World Congress, Resurgent Authoritarianism: Sociology of New Entanglements of Religions, Politics, and Economies, authoritarianism was not as spread as it is now, including in the Global North. Its growth is facilitated by the gradual symbolic thickening of public culture through combinations of extreme nationalist and religious fervor, particularly when the political liberal project is replaced by a national conservative project and the public reason becomes incapable of dealing neither with a unified conception of justice nor with different conceptions of the good in society. With more hierarchical polarization in society, we live in a time when reasonable public debate is often impossible. In this context, the International Sociological Association’s mission and activities are particularly important. Let me highlight some of them. XX ISA World Congress of Sociology in Melbourne, 2023 We will finally meet in person. The date of this XX ISA World Congress of Sociology was changed after considering many questions: Should it be online, hybrid or in-person? Who cannot make it? Who is still fearful of coming too close to others? This will be a historical moment as a major in-person event, after almost three years of online meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We envisaged different scenarios, but the outcome is for now most encouraging, with 7,126 submitted abstracts. 66% plan to present in person and 34% virtually. The program coordinators did a great job assessing the submissions, accepting 6,408 abstracts from 124 countries. In comparison with the previous Congress (in Toronto, 2018), the number of accepted abstracts has increased by 19%. We invite all those who were accepted to register before March 22, 2023, the deadline for presenters’ registration. Let me remind you that in addition to the regular Research Committee/Working Group/Thematic Group (RC/WG/TG) grants to attend the congress, the ISA has a Solidarity Fund targeting student membership: Each RC/WG/TG can allocate ISA membership grants for up to 3 students from category A countries and up to 5 students from category B and C countries.
The Congress program has been the subject of many meetings of the Program Committee. Eight plenaries will deal with four themes: secularism from the perspective of postsecularity or multiple secularities ; authoritarianism, particularly in its brutalizing version and its effects on knowledge and post-factuality; populism and its different local forms of a global phenomenon and an invitation for an intersectional approach to understanding the construction of the “people”; and neoliberalism, that generates so many inequalities, jeopardizing both individual and collective rights to life. But let me highlight here the two presidential panels. The two presidential panels are conceived with a particular interest in connecting sociology to moral and political philosophy. In the first one, entitled “Liberalism, the Other and Religion” two philosophers and two sociologists debate this theme. French philosopher Cécile Laborde defends minimal secularism while Palestinian philosopher Azmi Bishara argues that comprehensive liberalism can be promoted if its basic values, like civil liberties and individual autonomy are reproducible in the context of the prevailing culture. For Brazilian-Belgian sociologist Frederic Vandenberghe the sociological critiques of social injustices and social pathologies basically adhere to the repertoire of “liberal communitarianism.” Sometimes it veers more towards the communitarian pole of identity and authenticity, and sometimes towards the liberal pole of autonomy and justice. Finally, for Australian sociologist Anna Halafoff the role of religion is in both enabling and resisting this anti-cosmopolitan terror manifested in the rise of religious nationalism.
The second panel is about “Building a Just Post-COVID-19 World.” The surreal atmosphere of the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed fault lines in trust among human beings, among countries, between citizens and governments, and is pushing us to raise big questions about ourselves, our social relationships, and life more generally. This crisis moment would be an occasion to actively engage in addressing this new reality and the attendant rampant uncertainty. While this global crisis may have prompted fresh strategies to reinforce exploitation, dispossession, and neoliberal capitalism, and increased the reach of our greed and selfishness, it has also given us an opportunity to explore and provide new ways of understanding and reclaiming our social justice and humanity. Didier Fassin points to the unlearned lessons of the pandemic focusing on public health and social inequalities. For him, the health crisis revealed the flaws of public health in most countries and the depth of social inequalities within and between countries. Eva Illouz is interested in fear as the anti-democratic emotion that post-COVID time reveals. Afe Adogame, with his Ghanian sensitivity, unfolds the nexus between religion, science, and pandemics that plays out in myriad ways. While science challenges the legitimacy and potency of religion in offering protection, healing, security, and hope, religion in turn confronts the efficacity and authority of science as a panacea. Finally, in the face of the impact of COVID-19, Li Peilin argues that modern world-systems theory, the Cold War theory and clash of civilizations theory are incapable of understanding regional conflicts and the threat of world economic recession; he thus calls for a post-western sociology, a more inclusive sociology to contribute to the establishment of a world order of peace.
RC/WG/TGs selected papers for so many interesting panels, including Integrative Sessions and Sessions by National, Regional, Linguistic and Thematic Associations, Ad Hoc Sessions, and professional development sessions. I would like to thank the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) headed by Dan Woodman and all members of the Program Committee and Program Coordinators for the great work they have been doing. We ended up by a wonderful program, with most speakers planning to attend in-person. Needless to say, Melbourne is an amazing place to meet: it’s a vibrant and friendly city, with public art, many parks and great food and coffee and some affordable accommodation options. We hope to see you all there in late June 2023! Global Dialogue Magazine Following Michael Burawoy’s editorship, and that of Brigitte Aulenbacher and Klaus Dörre, I would like now to welcome the new editor of Global Dialogue Breno Bringel, a most renowned Brazilian political sociologist. We wish him and his assistant editors Carolina Vestena and Vitória Gonzalez Rodriguez all the best in their editorial work. Founded in 2010 and now translated into more than 15 languages, ISA magazine Global Dialogue has been instrumental in connecting sociologists all over the world. I would like to thank Brigitte Aulenbacher and Klaus Dörre as well as their assistants for consolidating it as a vibrant publication. XVII ISA International Laboratory for PhD Students The 2022 Laboratory for PhD Students in Sociology around the theme Precarization and Resistance: Environment, Everyday Life and Citizenship was organized jointly by the ISA, the Arab Centre for Research and Political Studies, the Centre for Economic and Social Researches and Studies, and the Research in Enlightenment, Modernity and Cultural Diversity Lab, Tunis El Manar University. It took place in Tunis, Tunisia, September 5-11, 2022. This Lab was held successfully despite Tunisia’s current difficult economic and political situation. The quality of this Lab was confirmed by the students’ own evaluation. I would like to thank all those who have been involved in the Lab, particularly Mounir Saidani, member of the ISA Executive Committee and head of the Local Organizing Committee of the Lab, and Executive Committee members Bandana Purkayastha and Geoffrey Pleyers. I am glad to inform you that our support to early-career sociologists continues. In Melbourne, a pre-congress seminar will be organized for the winners and finalists of the ISA Worldwide Competition for Junior Sociologists, which will gather 15 junior sociologists from 14 countries. 5th ISA Council of National Associations Conference On the theme Social Transformations and Sociology: Dispossessions and Empowerment, the Council of National Associations conference took place in Nova Gorica, Slovenia on November 21-24, 2022 with the participation of over 60 delegates from national associations and collective members of the ISA. The conference, organized on the invitation of the Slovenian Social Sciences Association was an academically and socially vibrant event thanks to Filomin Gutierrez, ISA Vice-President for National Associations, and Borut Roncevic, Chair of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) and to the LOC particularly warm hospitality. Nominations of candidates for the election of the ISA Executive Committee 2023-2027 The World Congress is the occasion for electing the ISA President, 4 Vice-Presidents, 8 representatives of the Council of National Associations and 8 representatives of the Research Council, who will constitute the next Executive Committee. Please send your nominations to firstname.lastname@example.org by January 31, 2023. For more details and nomination forms see https://www.isa-sociology.org/en/about-isa/election-of-the-isa-executive-committee. Other News In our last Executive Committee meetings we took many important decisions: • The 2025 ISA Forum of Sociology will be in-person. A call for bids was issued. • The collective membership of the Russian Sociological Association will be suspended until the end of the war on Ukraine. • The ISA has endorsed many statements concerning human rights violations: the Iran protests, in support of the public statement issued by the Iranian Sociological Association; the call to action of Birzeit University to reject Israeli measures against academic freedom; ISA statement on the Russian military offensive happening in Ukraine; ISA endorsement of the code of conduct for United Nations interactions with civil society organizations. • ISA signed the Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) recognizing the need to improve the ways in which researchers and the outputs of scholarly research are evaluated. The idea to write the declaration was developed in 2012 at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in San Francisco. It has become a worldwide initiative covering all scholarly disciplines and all key stakeholders including funders, publishers, professional societies, institutions, and researchers. We encourage all individuals and organizations who are interested in developing and promoting best practice in the assessment of researchers and scholarly research to sign DORA. And Finally Much of what is accomplished by the ISA is the result of all the hard work and diverse contributions of our members. I also take this opportunity to thank all Executive Committee members, our four Vice-Presidents, Filomin Gutierrez, Eloísa Martín, Geoffrey Pleyers, and Sawako Shirahase, as well as ISA Executive Committee members, ISA editors, ISA Executive Secretary Izabela Barlinska, Lola Busuttil and Juan Lejárraga for their work and dedication to the Association. I would like as well to welcome Cecilia Delgado-Molina, our Social Media Manager and forthcoming ISA Executive Secretary (starting from August 2023). Cecilia holds a PhD summa cum laude in Sociology from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), and completed research stays in Argentina, Germany, and the United States. She held a postdoctoral position at the Autonomous University of Barcelona Research Group in the Sociology of Religion (ISOR), in collaboration with the University of Birmingham. She has experience in university-community partnerships, public funding, financial administration, and staff management. Additionally, she has expertise in web design, digital communication, and social media networking. She is a member of the ISA since 2012 and serves as the RC22 (Sociology of Religion) interim secretary, for which she recently redesigned the website and newsletter. Finally I wish you all the best for the holiday season and for a new year which I hope will bring better news for the world and not only for the human…
In this article, the author surveys his own career to illustrate some of the dilemmas of research, especially when it assumes a critical and public face. He shows how his work on Palestinian refugees, their socioeconomic rights, their right of return and their camps evolved toward complex forms of traditional and organic public sociology. The article concludes with reflections on one of the major dilemmas researchers face: conducting public research without losing its critical edge, even toward the deprived groups it seeks to protect. The moral of the story: good scientists are not always popular.
In the Arab world, the profile of the intellectual is well known: typically, he or she is a theorist who talks about tradition, modernity, authoritarianism, democracy, identity, Arab unity, globalization and so on but avoids stepping into society to conduct empirical research. Even social scientists are often guilty of pontificating like philosophers, raising questions rather than offering concrete answers (Hanafi, 2012).
It is even rarer to hear professional social researchers speak in the public sphere.1 This is due not only to the absence of their products in the mass media or newspapers but also to the difficulty of conducting fieldwork in the Arab world, given the authoritarian regimes and the lack of research capacity. Social research agendas in the Arab region – the choice of topics and sometimes the methodology – are often driven by donor interests or by the urgency of immediate social problems. There are important exceptions to this rule, and it is to some of them that I have turned for guidance and inspiration. In this article, I survey my own research trajectory to illustrate some of the dilemmas researchers face while doing research, especially when it assumes a critical and public face.
Damascus, Cairo and Ramallah: Crawling toward public sociology
In 1994, I finished my PhD in France. It examined engineers as a socioprofessional group in Syria and Egypt. My first inclination was to extend my investigations to other middle-class occupations in these same countries, but as a Palestinian and former president of the General Union of Palestinian Students in France, I became involved in many debates concerning the emerging peace process, known as the Madrid Process. As prospects for a new Palestinian entity improved, I decided to study the contribution of the Palestinian diaspora to the construction of this entity.
Clearly, my choice of topic was related to how I saw my engagement in the public sphere. I discussed the project with Philippe Fargues, the director of the French Centre d’études et de documentation économique juridique et sociale in Cairo (CEDEJ). Together we wrote a research proposal dealing with two features of the diaspora: its demography and its economy. It is worth noting that the European Union was only interested in the economic aspect of this research, while the French Foreign Ministry was attracted by the demographic question. The upshot was two fascinating projects. Since I was most interested in the economy, I dealt with this aspect, publishing two academic books and many articles.
At that time, I was not aware of the importance of writing for a large public. At most, I talked to journalists from time to time. I was afraid to give out information that was not grounded in scientific research. I had little experience in presenting my research, but I quickly learned to draw policy implications from my findings. I was approached by a Palestinian deputy minister in the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in Ramallah, who had read my 1997 book, The Role of Business People in the Diaspora in the Construction of the Palestinian Entity. He wanted me to help him establish a Directorate of Expatriate Affairs in his Ministry. I found myself in a dilemma: should I accept a grant from the Ford Foundation to pursue my research or should I suspend my career as a researcher in order to work as a policy advisor, applying the knowledge I had accumulated. I opted for the latter, at that time believing that the Oslo Peace Process would result in the termination of the occupation. This project lasted one year. The Directorate was successfully established, and two conferences were organized, each bringing roughly 150 Palestinian business people from all over the world to the Palestinian territories.
However, I found the relationship between the domineering prince and the dependent researcher to be tumultuous, so I returned to CEDEJ for three more years to pursue research on two fronts: to continue my analysis of the question of Palestinian refugees in the diaspora and to investigate the relationships among donors, international organizations and local NGOs in the Palestinian territories. Again, I was motivated by a deep desire to conduct research that would be useful for the emerging Palestinian entity. Much to my chagrin, I discovered that donors were mainly interested in funding NGOs and were reluctant to support unions and political parties. Moreover, the donors were keen on NGO style research centers outside and disconnected from universities. Here I found myself with another dilemma: conducting research funded by NGOs, through a research center that not only has NGO status but is one of the leading organizations in the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGOs).
The result of my research was a manuscript (written with Linda Tabar) that criticized both the donor community and local NGOs. It was sent to two reviewers: one an academic and one an NGO leader from PNGOs. The former was very positive, but the latter was not. The director of the research center was also unhappy since he feared that my research might reinforce ‘the general climate of criticism of NGOs waged by the Palestinian National Authority.’ The manuscript was sent out again to three new reviewers. All reports recommended publication, and it became my first real encounter with public sociology. I was invited to many places to present our research. I learned how to be careful with my lectures, tailoring them to audiences with a balance of criticism and provocation. I found myself in the middle of a milieu where small NGOs appreciated my research while the bigger ones were unhappy with my results. I learned how to interpret the audience’s smiles and scattered laughter and not to be easily intimidated. I learned a lot from these talks on the basis of which I revised my analysis.
After three years conducting professional and public research at CEDEJ, I was hired to be the director of a research and advocacy center called the Palestinian Center for Diaspora and Refugees (Shaml) in Ramallah. At this center, I conducted research on subjects such as the living conditions of the Palestinian refugees, the debate over their right of return and the political negotiations with Israelis over this matter.
Most of my critical research was not published in Arabic but in English. This gave me international and regional visibility but at the expense of visibility in the locality in which I was working. I was also actively experimenting with creative and rights-based solutions to the Palestinian refugee problem. I developed concepts such as the extra-territorial nation-state, the distinction between the right of return and the possibility of return, and between right of return and rites of return. My main audience was academic and policy circles. Only subsequently did I realize that writing in Arabic more than likely would have got me into a lot of trouble.
It was very difficult to continue living in Ramallah with a tourist visa, as in early 2004 the Israeli authorities started to limit my visa to one month at a time, which meant I had to leave and return every month. I felt I had exhausted my time in Palestine, so I sought a new location. I left Palestine to assume a teaching position at the American University of Beirut. It was here that I discovered the problem of researchers who publish globally but perish locally (Hanafi, 2011). From then on I vowed to translate all that I produced into Arabic so as to help generate debate with the broader public as well as with policy makers.
Beirut: Time for confrontations
Worn out by the intensity of the Second Intifada (2000–2005), I moved to the American University of Beirut where I founded the monthly Sociology Café, which aims at creating a forum for informal discussions between students, professors and the public on critical issues of life in Lebanon and the region. An invited speaker usually initiates the discussion. Since 2006, I have co-organized 52 sessions with Ray Jureidini and then Nabil Dajani. Lebanese newspapers often report on the debates produced in these monthly encounters.
In terms of research, I decided to move into urban sociology and work in the slums of Beirut. I wrote a proposal to study Hay al-Sulom in the southern suburbs with a small component to compare it with Beirut’s infamous Shatila refugee camp. Alas, one donor agency offered me funding but only to study the Shatila camp. At first I was disappointed, but it wasn’t long before I found myself again in the middle of a debate about Palestinian socioeconomic and civil rights. The context is important. In Lebanon, Palestinian refugees do not have some basic rights such as the right to work or to own property, even though they have been living there for 65 years.
In 2005 there were two important issues: first, the liberation of Lebanon from Syrian tutelage and, second, the establishment of the Lebanese–Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC). The latter functioned as an agency attached to the Prime Minister’s cabinet and was heavily funded by many donors seeking to improve the situation of Palestinians in Lebanon. In this vein, the Swiss embassy mobilized a Swiss humanitarian agency to fund a workshop composed of Palestinian and Lebanese experts to assess the need for Palestinians to receive more vocational training. In this way, the agency argued, refugees would be able to work as qualified workers without changing the existing legal framework that bars them from work, denying them access to any profession and even to the formal labor market. I was a participant in this workshop and spoke vehemently against its rationale and against working within the framework of existing rights. Tensions rose, and there were many clashes between the Palestinian and the Lebanese participants. The Swiss agency then called for two ad hoc meetings: one with Palestinian experts and another with Lebanese experts. In the meeting, the representative of the Swiss agency told me that I was politicizing the process and she argued that her agency is a humanitarian one and therefore cannot address the right to work for the Palestinian refugees. After heated arguments, she threatened to withdraw the funding. I replied cynically that there were many refugee communities in Africa that deserve more attention than the Palestinian refugees, and we would be glad to divert the funding to them. One member of the Palestinian delegation was unhappy with what I had said and asked me to use ‘I’ instead of ‘we.’ My comments criticized the donor community for their dichotomous thinking: relief vs. development and humanitarianism vs. politics.
Humanitarian organizations deprive refugees of their political existence by treating them as bodies to be fed and sheltered. Humanitarian law refers to ‘protected people,’ but current humanitarian practices focus mainly on ‘victims’ or at times, to appear more positive, they refer to them as ‘survivors.’ By classifying people as victims or even as survivors, the basis of humanitarian action is shifted from rights to welfare. In disaster areas – the spaces of exception – values of generosity and pragmatism obscure the rights and responsibilities of refugees, which would endow them with their own agency.
I have been very interested in demystifying the depoliticization of humanitarianism since the beginning of the Second Intifada. In 2003 in Jerusalem Adi Ophir and I co-organized a two-day workshop on ‘The Politics of Humanitarianism in the Occupied Territories’ for international, Palestinian and Israeli human rights and humanitarian organizations. Scholars and practitioners presented their different visions, generating much discussion and even some tension. The debate was so absorbing that Peter Hansen, the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees, who came just to present a paper, stayed for the whole workshop. When I became research director of the program ‘Policy and Governance in Palestinian Refugee Camps’ at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), I helped to organize lectures with practitioners from international and local organizations, further contributing to the debate on humanitarianism. When Karen Abu Zeid, the successor Commissioner General of the UNRWA, was invited as an IFI guest, she, too, recognized the tension between the political and the humanitarian. For her, ‘This tension is manifested in a variety of ways. One of its most striking manifestations is the contrast between the readiness of states to fund emergency responses, compared to their failure to address the questions of international law and politics that cause these emergencies. That tension is clear in the way in which the urgency to resolve underlying questions of justice and peace for Palestinians is somehow divorced from the challenge of providing for their human needs.’2
So far I have described my advance toward public sociology, but I was now keen to undertake a more organic public sociology on two fronts: contributing to the Right to Work Campaign for the Palestinian refugees and engaging with the governance system in the refugee camps, based on research in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon.
Right to work campaign
I was writing a lot in right-wing and left-wing newspapers in Arabic and in English to reach different audiences and to understand the opposition to Palestinians having rights to work and property. I wanted to demonstrate that the issue is not only a sectarian one. Yes in Lebanon there are many sectarian divides in politics but there is almost a consensus that opposes extending these rights to Palestinians, including among both Sunnis and Shiites. All are more than happy to exploit Palestinian laborers in the black market. Religion does not tell us everything. Indeed, social stratification might reveal more than religion.
I was invited to give a talk by the Hezbollah think tank, and I had many meetings with members of its Political Bureau to persuade them to take a real stance to change the discriminatory laws. The Palestinian ambassador charged me, along with Sakher Abu Fakher, with negotiating on his behalf with the governmental coalition (March 14 Coalition) for changing the labor laws. The grim result of this experience was increased disillusionment with the politicians’ double language.
In January 2011, I proposed the march as a form of protest. It had been used effectively in 1983 in France by second generation immigrants of Algerian origin demanding better integration, both socially and in the labor market. I initiated the first contact with a group of associations (from various political tendencies) to organize a March for the Socio-economic and Civil Rights of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. We met every week and, by the end, we had gathered support from 102 associations, unions and representatives of youth movements of Palestinian and Lebanese political parties and factions. The June 2010 march brought around 6000 Palestinian and Lebanese from all over Lebanon to Beirut.
This civil society initiative was received with a lot of suspicion from several Palestinian political factions. For many, civil society organizations should conduct advocacy campaigns or provide services, but they should not mobilize constituencies, because that is the exclusive function of political parties. As one said, cynically, ‘Civil society organizations can be coopted easily by foreign powers; they should not take the lead in mobilizing demonstrations.’ Hamas and the pro-Syrian coalition withdrew suddenly from the organization of the march. Subsequently, Osama Hamdan, one of the leaders of Hamas, added that their withdrawal was in part due to a newspaper interview where I referred positively to the 1983 Marche des beurs in France. They considered this a call for the integration of Palestinian refugees into Lebanon, which would undermine the right of return.
Here one can see how social science in the Arab world is doubly delegitimized – from above by the political leaders and from below by religious leaders (among others). Hamas leadership was simply opposed to the linking of the Palestinian march to an historical one in France. I was also surprised how many right-wing Lebanese politicians used the term ‘integration’ in a pejorative way. In an interview, Amin al-Jamyel, the head of Phalange Party, declared that ‘issuing a new law in favor of easing the entrance of Palestinian refugees into Lebanon is one step toward their integration which I denounce.’
In short, it was very challenging to engage a public that is not used to dialogue with social science scholars. This does not mean abandoning the project but rather investing time and energy into being subtle and careful in transmitting social science. Intermingling with the public inspires a deeper understanding of reality. It would have never occurred to me to theorize the Israeli colonial project as a ‘spacio-cidal’ project had I not constantly felt claustrophobic in the West Bank as Israel reduced it to many small Bantustans all divided from one another. I learned how to use the term ‘integration of Palestinian refugees’ without implying any antagonism to the right of return. I learned to avoid using the term ‘governance’ in Arabic as people would confuse it with ‘government.’ A high ranking officer of the Internal Security Forces threatened to arrest me for using ‘governance’ in the title of an IFI workshop. For him, the governance of camps is the business of the state only.
I also learned to be patient with practitioners who were not accustomed to postponing normative claims until they were empirically supported. Thus, I invited three members from the popular committees of the camp to discuss a working paper I produced for IFI: ‘Governance of the Palestinian Refugee Camps in the Arab East: Governmentalities in Quest of Legitimacy.’ Two of them said it was the first time they had been invited to such a seminar and they were especially grateful. However, they were very defensive when I suggested that the popular committees had lost legitimacy with the general camp population. The chair of the session, a faculty member at the American University of Beirut, told me how difficult it was to organize a discussion between practitioners and academics. It required a strong chair to keep the session on track.
Negotiating the reconstruction of Nahr el-Bared refugee camp
While I was doing my research on the governance system in the refugee camps of Lebanon and beyond, Fatah al-Islam, a radical militarized group, gained control of the Nahr el-Bared camp (NBC) in the north of Lebanon. The Lebanese Army responded with armed intervention, expelled the militia, destroyed two-thirds of the camp and brought the remaining part under total military control. There was fierce controversy over the reconstruction of the camp and its administration. Prime Minister Siniora declared that ‘Nahr el-Bared would be a model for other camps,’ and very soon foreign intelligence services became consultants to the Lebanese political and military authorities.
The government’s plan for a new, modern and secure camp left no place for traditional social fabric and living patterns. When the plan was reported in the press, it provoked resistance from the community, which had not been consulted. In Baddawi camp, where most of the NBC residents had taken refuge, a spontaneous grassroots initiative emerged with the goal of formulating a counter-plan. It was energized by the widespread conviction that NBC’s destruction and the government’s reconstruction plans were politically motivated. Named the Nahr el-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC), the group immediately attracted activist academics and technicians from beyond Nahr el-Bared with prior reconstruction experience in Lebanon. The result was an expanded and diverse network that included architects and planners who contributed their diverse knowledge and experience to the local committee, empowering the community to oppose the state’s project.
The real dynamo of this initiative was Ismael Sheikh Hassan, an urban planner and community activist. We both wanted urban planning from below with full community participation, but we differed over the role of the urban planners. I drew on my knowledge of Jenin camp, where the political commissars exercised a heavy influence. I wanted urban planners to play a more proactive role by informing public discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of different options. Sheikh Hassan favored community voices over urban planners. However, we shared the view that urban planners should counter-balance the power of the political commissars. In addition, Sheikh Hassan, like other Palestinian activists, had a historically rooted mistrust of UNRWA and was reluctant to cooperate with the agency. Based on my knowledge of the reconstruction of Jenin in 2002, I, on the other hand, thought that UNRWA could make a great contribution to community participation. After a long discussion, a delegation of the NBRC did meet UNRWA, and the latter was delighted with the NBRC’s progress in planning the reconstruction.
However, persuading the Lebanese authorities to accept the NBRC/UNRWA as an interlocutor was a painful process. Here I used my cultural and social capital as a professor at AUB. Initially, the Lebanese–Palestinian Dialogue Committee (LPDC) refused any Palestinian interlocutor under the pretext that if we called on the PLO Hamas would be upset, and vice versa. We asked the LPDC to accept the NBRC as a civil society initiative, but they refused. I called the head of UNRWA, Richard Cook, to report that we would not cooperate with UNRWA unless the NBRC was present. Cook called the LPDC, but they continued to refuse our incorporation. They said that they would accept me alone as an individual but not as representative of the NBRC. I refused to go under this label. UNRWA threatened to withdraw from the process. Finally, I was invited as a representative of the NBRC, and after the first meeting a more technical delegation from the NBRC continued to meet with the Lebanese authority in charge of the reconstruction. After the battle, protracted negotiations began between the various Lebanese actors and the NBRC/UNRWA. Security-related issues raised by the military dictated all spatial and design considerations. Nonetheless, thanks to the UNRWA–NBRC partnership, the planning process did incorporate some of the interests of the Palestinians.
The Vienna Document: A model of exclusion
From the start of the battle, UNRWA had shouldered the burden of the NBC residents’ immediate relief, but the reconstruction anticipated from the outset would inevitably require massive international funding. On 7 June 2007, scarcely two weeks after the military incursion was launched, the Lebanese government held its first meeting with UNRWA representatives to plan an international donor conference to rebuild the camp. The conference was ultimately set for June 2008 in Vienna under the sponsorship of Austria, Lebanon, the Arab League, UNRWA and the EU. In preparation for the event, the Lebanese government drew up what came to be known as the Vienna Document, a comprehensive recovery and reconstruction plan including cost estimates, for presentation to the donor-participants prior to the conference.
The camp’s physical reconstruction was only one aspect of the Lebanese government’s vision and in fact took second place to ‘Establishing clear and effective governance in NBC.’ This included ‘enforcing security and rule of law inside NBC through community and proximity policing’ (Government of Lebanon, 2008: 46). To this end, the document requested US$5 million in donor funds for ‘Capacity building and technical assistance to the (Lebanese) Internal Security Forces (ISF) aimed at introducing community and proximity policing into NBC’ (Government of Lebanon, 2008: 48).
A major flaw in the document’s proposal for ‘transparent and effective’ camp governance is its problematic reading of the latter as purely a security issue, which flies in the face of the widely accepted contemporary discourse on good governance and its necessary components of administration, community representation and economic development. By proposing policing as the main component of governance, the plan reduces the Palestinian refugees to the status of ‘security subjects’ and frames the camp as an ‘insecurity island.’ The document uses the attractive term ‘community policing,’ with its connotations of community empowerment and citizenship action, but the policing it describes is performed exclusively by the police.
This one-sided decision making was reinforced by the PLO’s exclusion from the formulation of the Vienna Document’s security-related sections. The document makes a point of stating that the ‘above security arrangements for NBC were agreed upon with the Palestinian Liberation Organization’ (Government of Lebanon, 2008: 51), but Abbas Zaki, PLO ambassador to Lebanon, told me that he had not been consulted about the security issue in the camp. I informed Ismael Sheikh Hassan, who joined Zaki to protest to the LPDC, but the document was not altered.
Without doubt, the PLO’s weakness makes this kind of exclusion possible, but it is risky to pursue and secure funding for a one-sided vision of governance in a Palestinian camp, which moreover is planned as a prototype for all the Palestinian camps in the country. This is especially the case when the solutions proposed are not based on a critical review either of NBC’s pre-conflict situation or on the failures of the Palestinian and Lebanese sides that precipitated the rise of Fatah al-Islam in the first place.
Sheikh Hassan and I wrote a piece called ‘Constructing and governing Nahr el-Bared camp: An “ideal” model of exclusion’ for the Journal of Palestine Studies (in Arabic). We wanted to explain the whole story of NBC: its destruction, looting, reconstruction and the plan to establish a mode of governance based exclusively on security. Even though the journal is based in Beirut, the piece did not generate debate. I called a friend at al-nahar newspaper, which is very widely read by supporters of the government coalition. After its publication there, the LPDC replied to me in a very harsh and impolite way. Several journalists wrote to criticize my writings, and I responded with other articles. However, debate was not without intimidation. The head of the LPDC, who is also the president of the American University of Beirut Alumni Association, talked with the administration of my university, the chair of my department and other colleagues. He tried to convince them to denounce my writing, arguing that it might harm the relationship between the University and the Lebanese authority. I was supported by my university, but my friend Ismael Sheikh Hassan was arrested because of his writing about Nahr el-Bared, which suggests that critical public social science can be a dangerous proposition.
Between critical and public social science
One of the major dilemmas researchers face is to conduct public research without losing their critical edge even toward the deprived groups that they seek to protect. Good scientists are not always popular. Louis Pasteur, who saved many through his invention of vaccines, failed to be elected to the Senate in France. I do believe that sociologists’ commitments should be expressed by their choice of topics and how they disseminate their knowledge beyond writing for academic journals. But as regards the research process, once a topic is chosen, fieldwork is fieldwork and should follow its path in the most objective way possible. Of Bertolt Brecht’s committed art, Adorno (1980) said that Brecht ended by doing bad art and bad politics. Criticisms addressed to the community being studied should be considered a way of strengthening it, rather than weakening it; knowledge of weaknesses should be empowering.
I should confess here that sometimes things are very complex. There have been occasions when I have not published the results of fieldwork because they violate the immediate interests of international solidarity groups who have come to Palestine to support people under siege. I am not an advocate of activist research (Hale, 2006) that is politically aligned to the cause of its object, but I do align myself with subjects when their rights are violated. This alignment can become political in the sense of making political compromises. For instance, when defending the Palestinian right of return to their place of origin, I found myself advising people on tactical matters of the more immediate survival of Palestinian refugees. ‘Surrendering,’ to use Wolff’s (1992) term, to the group you are studying can be generative of a deeper scholarly understanding and beneficial to the research, on condition that the researcher does not lose sight of their primary commitment to critical thinking. Researchers may be loyal to a political party or to an ideology, but this should be seen as different from loyalty to the academic sphere.
My choice to work on The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (2009) with anti-colonial Israelis Adi Ophir and Michal Givoni was unpopular in Lebanon, and I faced a smear campaign from some leftists. At the time, I thought that constructing a healthy conception of the conflict and collaborating with anti-colonial Israelis was more important than my popularity. I hoped that working with dissident Israelis would send a strong message that the Arab–Israeli conflict has nothing to do with religion but revolved around a classical colonial project waged by Zionist ideology, which we could collectively oppose, whether we were Arab or Israeli.
I had imagined that writing about my research trajectory would be easy, but it has not been, especially because I don’t want to fall into the trap of heroism, celebration or victimhood. Engaging in public sociology and dealing with critical issues is like crossing a minefield, even as it offers a sense of commitment to the society (through the choice of a topic which is relevant to society) and a sense of justice (helping victims to resist their oppressors). At the heart of this precarious engagement is Pierre Bourdieu’s idea of sociology as a martial art, in which sociology disarms people of their common sense, their ideologies, their folk understandings – in short, their self-deceptions. The question, then, is whether scholars should be in front of the people or behind them, whether they should comfort them (a sort of populism) or remind them of the complexity of social phenomena. In this biographical essay, I have shown how I dealt with the complexity of the Palestinian right of return, their socioeconomic rights and their rights to the city, at the same time that political factions and commissars (including leaders of civil society organizations) were focusing almost exclusively on the right of return. To forge ahead of the people when the overwhelming political and social pressures are holding them back is a hazardous operation indeed.
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.
Here I am using Michael Burawoy’s (2005) typology of knowledge: professional, critical, public and policy.GO TO FOOTNOTE
From her speech for the Host and Donors Meeting, held in Amman on 11 December 2006.GO TO FOOTNOTE
Adorno T (1980) The autonomy of art. In: O’Connor B (ed.) The Adorno Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell, pp. 239–263.
Government of Lebanon (2008) A Common Challenge, A Shared Responsibility: The International Donor Conference for the Recovery and Reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian Refugee Camp and Conflict-Affected Areas of North Lebanon, Vienna, 23 June.
Sari Hanafi is currently a Professor of Sociology at the American University of Beirut and editor of Idafat: the Arab Journal of Sociology (Arabic). He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Sociology and the Arab Council of the Social Sciences. He is the author of numerous journal articles and book chapters on the political and economic sociology of the Palestinian diaspora and refugees; sociology of migration; politics of scientific research; and transitional justice. Among his recent books are: The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (edited with A Ophir and M Givoni, 2009) (English and Arabic), The Emergence of a Palestinian Globalized Elite: Donors, International Organizations and Local NGOs (edited with L Taber, 2005) (Arabic and English) and the forthcoming, Knowledge Production in the Arab World (with R Arvanitis)
ISA endorses Birzeit University’s rejection of Israeli measures against academic freedom
The new Israeli settler regulations about the “Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region,” give Israel the absolute right to select which academics and students may be present at Palestinian universities, as well as set arbitrary criteria on which fields of study are permissible and what qualifications are acceptable. These sweeping draconian measures attack the right to education, academic freedom, and the autonomy of Palestinian universities. Birzeit University’s statement calls on all academics, academic organizations to join in their fight against this proposed procedure, and for their sovereign right to be a university.
Birzeit University rejects Israel’s most recent attempt to constrict the fundamental right of Palestinians to education and to undermine the academic freedom and autonomy of Palestinian universities. Scheduled to take effect in May, 2022, the “Procedure for Entry and Residency of Foreigners in Judea and Samaria Region” grants Israeli military immense powers to isolate Palestinian universities from the outside world, and to determine the future course of Palestinian higher education.
The new directive invests the Israeli military the absolute right to select which international faculty, academic researchers and students may be present at Palestinian universities, including academics and students of Palestinian origin but without residence documents, living and working in Palestine. The Israeli military will impose their own arbitrary criteria on which fields of study are permissible and what qualifications are acceptable. It requires each applicant to submit to interrogation at an Israeli diplomatic mission in the country of origin, while imposing stiff monetary bonds on those selected for entry. Further, the directive sets a low ceiling on the number of foreign teachers and students (100 and 150 per year, respectively), and limits the duration of employment to five non-consecutive years, thereby denying sustainable hiring and promotion of faculty. Consequently, some current faculty and students who do not hold residency permits may be forced to leave and academic programs face the inability to recruit new hires and undertake collaborative scholarly research and exchanges. Plainly put, the directive puts Palestinian Universities under siege and divests them of basic control over their academic decisions.
The attack on the right to education and academic freedom that these proposed procedures embody are part of the ongoing assault on Palestinian institutions of higher learning since their establishment. Birzeit University students, faculty and employees have suffered for decades under a relentless Israeli military campaign that includes forced closures (one of them shut down the university for over four years), campus incursions, intimidation, and imprisonment. Such actions are inseparable from the racist and multilayered system of apartheid and persecution which denies the Palestinian people their most fundamental rights, including to freedom of expression, and the pursuit of scientific advancement and development.
We call on all academic and human rights organizations to join us in refusing these procedures, and demand that governments worldwide hold Israel, the occupying power, accountable for this clear violation of international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), the right to education enshrined in Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (1966).
This moment is dangerous for the future of Palestinian higher education, but it is also a moment to join together for justice, freedom, and equality. Palestinian universities, like all universities, are places of knowledge production that connect scholars and students across the globe and inspire them to imagine and build a better future for all.
Support our efforts to defend the Palestinian people’s right to education, free from duress, intervention, and political persecution. Work with us to break the siege that these regulations impose on Birzeit and other Palestinian universities. Accept our invitation to teach and learn in Palestine. Help us exercise our basic right to education and to preserve the institutional autonomy that we built over the decades despite all obstacles.
Hanafi reflects on lack of Arab contribution in social sciences
Rayane Abou Jaoude| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: While Syrian-Palestinian sociologist Sari Hanafi’s election last week as the first ever Arab vice president of the International Sociological Association is a reason to celebrate, it is also a bitter reminder of the lack of Middle Eastern participation in the social sciences. While the ISA boasts up to 7,000 members, only five Arabs from Lebanese and Saudi associations attended this year’s World Congress of Sociology in Yokohama, Japan, compared to 76 from Israel, 16 from Iran and 45 from Turkey.
“It’s not cultural, it’s got nothing to do with the Arab Islamic culture, it’s something to do with the institutional culture,” said Hanafi, a professor and chair of Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Media Studies at the American University of Beirut.
He said that academic institutions needed to offer more support to those studying social sciences, and that Arabs themselves needed to be more involved in their fields of research.
“It is very rare to find people who are really relevant locally and carry out conversations with their peers in the discipline,” he told The Daily Star.
Although he acknowledged the lack of financing was another reason preventing greater participation, he said that did not need to be a hindrance. He also pointed to the fact that papers could be presented in one of three languages: English, French, or Spanish, and that papers for one of ISA’s two journals, International Sociology and Current Sociology, could be submitted in Arabic.
“There’s really no excuse … It’s a question of resources but it’s also a question of awareness,” he said, adding that it was about promoting the importance and purpose of social sciences.
“The presence of Arabs is not only extremely important scientifically if we want to engage in science and technology in the world,” he said. “It’s also … to say there’s a message we want to deliver to the world.”
Hanafi, also a member of the Arab Sociological Association and the Arab Council for Social Sciences, said he was hoping to bring in at least 10 Arab members during his four-year mandate.
Growing up at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus and coming from a lower middle class family, the sociologist originally enrolled to major in civil engineering at Damascus University to please his family, but decided to obtain another degree in sociology in 1987 for his own sake.
“I was at that time very politicized; I wanted to change the world,” he laughed.
Hanafi left to study in France after he got a scholarship, getting his Master’s degree from the University of Strasbourg and then his doctorate from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris in 1994.
“Why France? Because I like Michel Foucault, I like Gaston Bachelard, and I’m interested in the philosophy of science. So I completed my studies in sociology in France and now I would say I am not only incapable of changing the world, I can barely understand my surroundings,” he joked.
Hanafi said his work in France made him more aware of how the state encouraged its citizens to study and learn, how it listened to their expertise, and its support for organized discussions, all of which was largely lacking in the Arab world.
Despite having now conducted approximately 40 consultancies for NGOs and the U.N. on various topics, he said none of them were for an Arab state or organization.
“This shows that we have a real problem here, that social sciences are not taken seriously by the decision-makers,” he said.
Hanafi said conservative religious groups were looking to delegitimize the social sciences in the fear that they may show evidence contrary to their ideals.
“In times of turbulence, in times of identity crises, in times of uprisings, you need to rationalize the public’s afflictions. You need to bring expertise to that,” he said.
Yet while he can be very critical of Arab societies, he maintains a long-standing commitment to the socioeconomic rights of Palestinians refugees. Hanafi, who also holds French nationality, lived in the West Bank’s Ramallah until Israel began limiting his stays and eventually asked him to leave.
“I had barely any time to pack my stuff. I was a visiting professor for a while in France until I applied to different places and I got in at AUB. And I am so happy to be here, it’s a very interesting place to be in the Arab world,” he explained.
“There is time for research, for freedom of expression, at least at my university, but unfortunately less and less from Lebanon, which was an oasis of freedom of expression. I am very worried of the increasing censorship in Lebanon.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 25, 2014, on page 4.
IAM questioned in September, “Is the BDS Movement Winding Down?” It seemed so at the time. Now the Palestinian Authority is stepping up its efforts to boycott Israel.
The Meir Amit Center on Intelligence and Terrorism reported on a conference (first reported by the Palestinian Wattan TV) titled “Towards a Global Front to Combat and End Israeli Apartheid.” It took place on December 11, 2022. The Palestinian National Anti-Apartheid Committee met in Al-Bireh near Ramallah. The conference was organized by the PLO Anti-Apartheid Department, which was appointed in July 2022. The conference was coordinated with the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Justice, various NGOs, the PA human rights organization, and the BDS movement. As stated by the organizers, its objective was to unite all the groups acting against “Israeli apartheid.” Its overall aim is to merge and coordinate anti-Israeli activities.
One of the speakers was Professor Ilan Pappe. According to the Wattan report, “The historian and Professor Ilan Pappe expressed his rejection of all violations against the Palestinian people, and considered that the settlement project in Palestine is not an ordinary project. He noted that “the occupation is trying to colonize any place and get rid of the population, and this ideology does not disappear with the passage of time, but rather works to cleanse the geographical area of its inhabitants and repeat the crime of 1948. Pappe added: Unfortunately, the racism of the occupation is dealt with in a special way and is not held accountable, like other countries, despite its crimes.”
The conference is the first step in a broader Palestinian campaign to bolster the BDS movement. The Palestinian National Anti-Apartheid Committee recommended the “establishment of a united global front to combat Israeli apartheid and stressed the need to create a Palestinian, Arab and international alliances which would form the foundation for the front.” In addition, the committee voted to launch a campaign to prevent the passage of laws banning “resistance to the Zionist occupation and its racism.” It also “called for developing strategies and tactics, headed by the ‘popular resistance’, in which Palestinian organizations and sources of power would participate, wherever they were located, such as calling for the establishment of a monitoring center of representatives from the PLO, the PA foreign ministry and forces operating within Israeli Arab society.”
For those who are unfamiliar, using the words “Popular Resistance” means violence and terrorism against Israel.
In preparations, a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation arrived Jordan in November 2022 to establish an Arab parliamentary coalition to “counter Israel’s apartheid.” The call was made at a meeting in Petra, bringing together Nayef Qadi, the Chairman of the Jordan Senate’s Palestine Committee; Ramzi Rabah, the PLO Executive Committee member; Sinan Shqdeeh, the head of Anti-Apartheid Committee at the Palestine Legislative Council (PLC); and, Maher Amer, the Director of the Anti-Apartheid Department of the PLO. The Jordan News Agency reported the meeting. Qadi said, “Jordan, under His Majesty King Abdullah II’s leadership, places the Palestinian cause at the forefront of its internal and external priorities, and views the issue as ‘sacred to the Jordanian people’. He noted that Jordan has a “firm and continuous” position in “support of the Palestinian cause and rights of the Palestinian people, foremost is ending Israel’s occupation, settling the conflict through the two-state solution and establishing an independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian homeland with East Jerusalem as its capital on the June 4, 1997 borders.” Qadi noted that Hashemite custodianship over Jerusalem’s holy sites is a “historical reality and a national and Islamic duty” that “cannot be abandoned, adding that pressures that Jordan has faced over more than 70 years did not affect the Kingdom’s position on national rights of the Palestinian people.” In addition, he expressed readiness to “support any ‘serious’ Palestinian move aimed to enable Palestinian people restore their legitimate rights, calling on achieving internal Palestinian unity, whose divisions affect efforts to serve the Palestinian cause.” For his part, the Palestinian delegation’s head, Rabah, said that “the Palestinian move comes at an ‘important’ stage aimed to establish an Arab parliamentary coalition to oppose Israeli apartheid.”
The new campaign plans to lean heavily on the existing BDS infrastructure in the West. The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) published on December 6, 2022, an article on the involvement of Palestinian students in US campuses titled “Education for Liberation,” The BNC stated that, in the US, “We started with 500 schools already, and we are aiming to reach 100 thousand students per year.” The BNC stated that the “Palestinian youth have disproportionately contributed to our decades-old liberation struggle.” According to the BNC, For years, “Aside from the basic curriculum, students learned from teachers, parents and each other the rich heritage of Palestinian popular resistance, including sumud (steadfastness), organizing protests and strikes, and boycotting the oppressor’s products, when feasible. It is that long heritage of rooted popular resistance, along with international anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles, that eventually inspired the BDS movement in 2005. Connecting our liberation struggle not just with other justice struggles but also with the absolute need to end international complicity in Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid, the BDS movement was the clearest manifestation of a global, Palestinian-led intifada of sorts. Decolonizing our minds is at the heart of this intifada.”
The BNC noted that the effort to mobilize Palestinian students started five years earlier. In 2017, the BNC, partnering with the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, launched “Education for Liberation,” a strategic campaign to engage students and communities in the struggle for “freedom, justice and equality.” It was “Providing community-based training to hundreds of teachers on BDS principles, strategic nonviolent campaigning, and supporting youth initiatives, the campaign has so far impacted over 125,000 students and their wider communities. Student-led BDS campaigns have mushroomed in more than 500 schools… to mobilize wide boycotts of Israeli products and support for local products.”
The BNC has also been working with students to build “BDS Student Clubs” in leading Palestinian universities to “offer a space for education and action geared towards local campaigning and international outreach. After participating in intensive, interactive BDS workshops, BDS clubs’ members organize campus- or community-based campaigns focused on the academic, cultural and economic boycott of complicit institutions and corporations. They mobilize students, faculty and workers’ support to make their universities apartheid free, ensuring that their procurement policies and activities are in harmony with the consensus-based guidelines of the BDS movement.”
As can be seen, a new wave to boycott Israel was announced by the Palestinian Authority, described as another “intifada.” They recruit Israeli university professors such as Ilan Pappe to make it successful. IAM would provide updates on the new BDS campaign.
The conference “Towards a Global Front to Combat and End Israeli Apartheid.” Wattan TV, December 11, 2022.
Historian Ilan Pappé (Watan TV, December 11, 2022). The Meir Amit Center wrote that Prof. Pappé is “an extreme leftist who was born in Israel but lives in the UK and is part of the BDS movement”.
A conference was organized by the Anti-Apartheid Department of the PLO in Al-Bireh The First National Conference against “Apartheid”… Raising awareness and unifying efforts to confront Israeli apartheid 11.12.2022 03:59 PM
Watan: Participants in the first national conference against apartheid stressed the need to build a national strategy to confront the apartheid state, develop the means and tools to be used to end the apartheid system, and achieve accountability for the apartheid state.
They recommended supporting international efforts at the grassroots and trade union levels and working to launch an international coalition against “apartheid”, in a way that strengthens the BDS movement and strengthens the circle of alliances with all Arab and international official and popular sectors to support the Palestinian cause.
This came during the first national conference against apartheid, which kicked off today, Sunday, in the city of Al-Bireh, with the participation of members of the Executive Committee of the PLO, ambassadors, consuls, representatives of diplomatic missions, thinkers, activists, and researchers.
The conference, which was organized by the Anti-Apartheid Department of the PLO, in cooperation with the NGO Network, the Palestinian Human Rights Organization, the Boycott and Divestment Movement (BDS), and the Ministry of Justice, included three sessions, on “Zionism and Apartheid,” and “ International accountability and international law, prospects for confronting the Israeli “apartheid” legally, and the “international campaign to isolate and punish Israel”.
The conference aims to enhance societal awareness of the “apartheid” system, by defining concepts, defining apartheid as a tool of Zionist colonialism, and uniting the efforts of all active institutions to oppose and confront it, in order to achieve accountability for the apartheid state.
At the opening of the conference, Ramzi Rabah, Head of the Anti-Apartheid Department in the PLO, explained that the occupation is still practicing the harshest forms of abuse against the Palestinian people.
Rabah told Watan that the conference is being held for the first time to combat apartheid amid the occupation’s expansion of its crimes. Adding: The conference responds to the growing international movement against the Israeli “apartheid”, and the occupation seeks to deport the Palestinian people by withdrawing Jerusalemite identities, confiscating lands, legalizing killing, and giving the green light to settlers to kill Palestinians.
During the opening session of the conference, Fatah deputy head Mahmoud Al-Aloul said that combating “apartheid” is one of the most important issues that we seek to address, specifically in the presence of an Israeli government that has committed all crimes against the Palestinian people. Adding: We seek to unify the Palestinian word in order to reach a deterrent mechanism for the occupation, and therefore there must be a strategy to confront “apartheid”, and the world is still practicing deafness, in front of all the crimes that are practiced against us. Pointing out that “the occupation went crazy when we went to the international courts to hold the occupation accountable for its crimes.”
Al-Aloul pointed out to Watan that the importance of the conference lies in the fact that it is held to combat “apartheid” and the unprecedented occupation practices of arrest and killing, confiscation of freedoms and lands, and displacement in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jerusalem.
“We are here to answer several questions, the first of which is how to fight apartheid, and how to enhance societal awareness of the apartheid system,” said Muhammad Baraka, head of the Supreme Follow-up Committee for the Arab Masses.
Baraka added, in his interview with Watan, that humanity believes that it ended the “apartheid” file when it fought it in South Africa, but that Israel is still practicing this policy against the Palestinian people, and it must be shed light on it. Stressing the need for the conference to clarify the actual steps to combat “apartheid”.
Rima Nazzal, a member of the General Secretariat of the Palestinian Women’s Union, told Watan, “At this stage in which we are witnessing the steadfastness of the Israeli fascist right of the government, we need to discuss all the measures that are being taken, and the issues that we will face, in order to develop a strategy for struggle and resistance, benefiting from the international report.”
She added, “I think that the conference serves to raise awareness among the Palestinian society and the elites about the manifestations of apartheid that we are witnessing.”
The historian and Professor Ilan Pappe expressed his rejection of all violations against the Palestinian people, and considered that the settlement project in Palestine is not an ordinary project. Adding: The occupation is trying to colonize any place and get rid of the population, and this ideology does not disappear with the passage of time, but rather works to cleanse the geographical area of its inhabitants and repeat the crime of 1948.
Pappe added: Unfortunately, the racism of the occupation is dealt with in a special way and is not held accountable, like other countries, despite its crimes.
For his part, South African Ambassador Sean Benfeldt said that the Palestinian struggle is still continuing, and no solution has been reached to the Palestinian issue. Adding: We noticed during the celebration on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian Player, that the demands are still not fulfilled and justice does not exist, so the Palestinian people must be redressed and this injustice must stop, and we continue our support for the two-state solution and we will intensify efforts to achieve this.
In his interview with Watan, Benfeldt indicated that this conference is important, with all these indications that seem to have deep repercussions in Palestine and the Palestinian future. Expressing his belief that “the more we relate to the future and discuss it, the better it will be.”
He said: In the state of South Africa, we are committed to the two-state solution on the borders of the 67 lands, East Jerusalem as the capital, and the return of the refugees.
Overview On December 11, 2022 the Palestinian National Anti-Apartheid Committee met for the first time. It was organized by the PLO anti-apartheid department, appointed in July 2022 and chaired by Ramzi Rabah, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP).1 The meeting was held in coordination with the Palestinian Authority (PA) ministry of justice, various NGOs, the PA human rights organization and the BDS movement.2 Its objective, as stated by the organizers, was to unite all the groups acting against what they claimed was “Israeli apartheid.” So far it is unclear what prompted the establishment of the department at this time but apparently its overall objective is to merge and coordinate anti- Israeli activities. The meeting was attended by several PA government ministers and members of the PLO’s Executive Committee, as well as diplomats serving in the PA, Israeli Arab representatives, and Palestinian and Israeli academics. The committee recommended the establishment of a “united global front” to combat “Israeli apartheid” and stressed the need to create Palestinian, Arab and international alliances which would form the foundation for the front. In addition, they voted to launch a campaign to prevent the passage of laws banning “resistance to the Zionist occupation and its racism.” They also called for developing strategies and tactics, headed by the “popular resistance” [popular terrorism], in which Palestinian organizations and sources of power would participate, wherever they were located, such as calling for the establishment of a monitoring center of representatives from the PLO, the PA foreign ministry and forces operating within Israeli Arab society. The Palestinians have often claimed that Israel conducts a “policy of apartheid” for the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria, comparing themselves to the non-while population in South Africa. According to the Rome Accords of 2002, apartheid is considered a 1 See the Appendix for the department and its employees. 2 Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement. The Palestinian committee to “fight apartheid” and slander Israel meets for the first time to discuss policy December 18, 2022 2 207-22 crime. The Palestinians base their claim on international human rights organizations such as Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, and B’Tselem, which often issue reports claiming the measures used by Israel in the PA territories are “apartheid” (Wafa, March 14, 2022). For the PA, libeling and slandering Israel around the world and in the UN is an important component of its “popular resistance” strategy. It is a useful tool in the political, propaganda and lawfare campaign it wages against Israel and a way of exerting pressure not only on Israel but on the rest of the world and UN agencies. So far, the PA has made use mainly of the claims raised by human rights organizations against Israel. Establishing a PLO department dedicated to “apartheid” is perhaps a sign that the PA intends to institutionalize and expand its activities and to coordinate activities and groups to unify their policies and the tone of their public statements. The Palestinian National Anti-Apartheid Committee The meeting in al-Bireh and its objectives On December 11, 2022, the PLO’s anti-apartheid department held a meeting in al-Bireh, attended by the representatives from the PA’s ministry of justice, NGOs, the PA human rights organization and the BDS movement. Present were members of the PLO’s Executive Committee, and PA government ministers including Muhammad al-Shalaldeh, the minister of justice, and Mai al-Kayla, the minister of health. Also in attendance were foreign ambassadors, consuls and representatives, among them Khalil Atiya, deputy speaker of the Arab Parliament and a member of the Jordanian House of Representatives; the South African representative to the PA; Arab Israelis such as Muhammad Barake, chairman of the Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee; Palestinian and Israeli academics, among them Prof. Ilan Pappé (an extreme leftist who was born in Israel but lives in the UK and is part of the BDS movement). 3 207-22 The meeting in al-Bireh (Watan TV, December 11, 2022). The day-long meeting was divided into three sessions: the Zionist movement and apartheid; international responsibility, international law and horizons for lawfare and confrontation with “Israeli apartheid;” and the international campaign to isolate and punish Israel. According to Ramzi Rabah, a member of the PLO’s Executive Committee and head of the PLO’s anti-apartheid department, the objectives of the meeting were to establish an international coalition that would work to “end apartheid,” operate in the international arena through political channels and with human rights organizations and civilian society, and to increase awareness of Israel’s [alleged] “apartheid regime” as one of the tools used by the “colonialist Zionist occupation.” He stressed that the objective of the meeting was to strengthen the currently-needed collaboration with all local, regional and international antiapartheid institutions because of the formation of an extremist right-wing government in Israel (Wafa, December 11, 2022). Right: The South African representative to the PA speaks at the meeting. Left: Extreme leftist historian Ilan Pappé (Watan TV, December 11, 2022). 4 207-22 PA minister of health Mai al-Kayla (Watan TV, December 11, 2022). Recommendations The meeting voted on a number of recommendations, including the following (Watan TV, December 11, 2022; Ma’an, December 12, 2022). The creation of Palestinian, Arab and international alliances which would form the foundation for the global front against “Israeli apartheid.” Launching campaigns to prevent the passing of laws banning “resistance” to “the Israeli occupation and its racism” [anti-terrorism laws]. Developing strategies and tactics in which Palestinian organizations and sources of power would participate, wherever they were located, led by the “popular resistance” [popular terrorism]. Establishing of a monitoring center composed of representatives from the PLO, the PA foreign ministry and forces operating within Israeli Arab society. The center would monitor the actions of Israel’s “apartheid regime,” document them and establish a digital archive to preserve them. Establishing an international coalition of legal institutions and human rights organizations to lobby against Israel and persecute it in international and legal forums. Establishing an official and Palestinian, Arab and international campaign to determine that “the racist, fascist political parties that constitute the government of the apartheid country” are “terrorist organizations.” Positions of the meeting’s participants The speakers at the meeting were harshly critical of what they termed were Israel’s “criminal, racist policies,” and stated the need to fight them in various arenas. Many expressed concerns over the future Israeli government: 5 207-22 Deputy Fatah chairman Mahmoud al-‘Aloul stated the need to confront “Israel’s crimes and fascist regime” through “popular resistance” [popular terrorism], by increasing global diplomatic efforts in the various UN agencies and by using lawfare to universally isolate Israel (“the occupation”) and its racism. He claimed the “new extreme right government” brought great danger with it, as was already evident in the demands issued by new ministers to give them additional authority, such as the Galilee and Negev portfolios. He stated it obligated them to prepare for a confrontation with Israel. As to Israel’s [alleged] “apartheid,” he listed such things as building new roads for the settlers, stealing water, keeping the bodies of shaheeds and Israel’s treatment of [Palestinian] prisoners in its jails (Wafa, December 11, 2022). Mahmoud al-‘Aloul speaks at the meeting (Wafa Facebook page, December 11, 2022). Sanan Shaqdih,3 chairman of the Palestinian National Council’s anti-apartheid committee, speaking via Zoom, stated the need to appoint Arab, international and regional committees, and to form a broad international coalition of organizations, political parties and countries which supported the rights of the Palestinians (Wafa, December 11, 2022). Khalil Atiya, deputy speaker of the Arab Parliament and a member of the Jordanian House of Representatives, called the meeting an opportunity to unite efforts to deal with all aspects of the “apartheid Israeli regime.” He said establishing the PLO’s antiapartheid department was a strategy in the fight to expose “Israel’s crimes” and the first step towards ending the occupation and the establishment of an independent 3 A Palestinian-America. In reports issued in 2014 and 2015 he was representatives as the coordinator of the coalition of organizations boycotting Israel in the United States, and in reports from December 2022 as a member of the PLO’s Central Council. 6 207-22 Palestinian state. He said the position of the Jordanian House of Representatives was to do everything it could to support the Palestinians (Wafa, December 11, 2022). Some of the participants presented position papers expressing the opinions of the groups they represented (Wafa, December 11, 2022). Muhammad al-Shalaldeh, the PA minister of justice, presented a position paper entitled “International laws and UN resolutions related to the fight against apartheid, the demands for implementing them and forcing Israel to obey them” as the main avenues of the legal campaign. He said the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (ICSPCA) of 1973, the Rome Accords,4 and Article 7 of the ICC convention all strongly condemn the crime of apartheid. He stressed the need to prove the crime of apartheid to prosecute Israel in the ICC, and called for complaints to be presented to the ICC’s chief prosecutor and to the European human rights court, and claims of war crimes to be made to the legal systems in European countries whose laws allow was criminals to be prosecuted. Shawan Jabarin, director of the al-Haqq institute, presented a position paper entitled “Apparatuses for using reports from international organizations to prosecute the Israeli apartheid state,” which stated the importance of creating a unified, focused Palestinian discourse on the issue. Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS national committee (BNC), presented a position paper entitled “The strategy of the international campaign to boycott the colonial apartheid state,” which stated that along with local and international partners, they were waging a campaign to exert pressure on the UN to investigate “Israel’s crimes.” He added that in 2020 they had called on the international community to commit itself to ending the apartheid regime and demanded support for efforts to revitalize the UN’s anti-apartheid committee. Muhammad Aboushi, chairman of the Palestinian NGO network’s board of directors, presented a position paper entitled “The role of international institutions and aid committees in enlisting energy [sic] for the fight against racism,” which stated that local NGOs were operating to defend the Palestinians’ legitimate rights and that the villages which were damaged by settlers had to be provided with services such as paving roads, waging campaigns for support and documenting Israel’s crimes, etc. 4 The Rome Accords signed on July 17, 1998, established the International Criminal Court (ICC). 7 207-22 Ramzi Awda, general secretary of the international campaign to combat Israel’s occupation and apartheid, presented a position paper entitled “The elements of the strategy of the national campaign to confront apartheid,” which stated legal strategies, such as presenting anti-Israeli suits in international courts; media strategies [propaganda] to increase public awareness of the “apartheid regime” and combat it; and a strategy for swaying world public opinion by creating knowledge [sic] and convincing international academics of the seriousness of the regime. Husam Arafat, deputy head of the PLO’s department of human rights and civilian society, presented a position paper entitled “Launching a national coalition against the racist occupation,” which stated that increased social awareness of apartheid as a tool of the colonial occupation was an urgent, necessary task at the Palestinian, Arab, regional and international levels. He said what was needed was to construct a national strategy to confront Israel (“the apartheid state”) by exploiting the international trend to condemn apartheid; to develop means and tools for use in the campaign to end and prosecute apartheid; to strengthen and expand the circle of coalitions and alliances with official and popular Arab and international sectors which supported the Palestinian cause in order to exert pressure on the UN and Security Council to revive the anti-apartheid committee and to implement the UN resolutions relating to the Palestinian cause. To undertake such actions he recommended establishing an international coalition against Israel racism. Taysir Khaled, head of the PLO’s national office to “defend and the land and resist” the settlements,5 presented a position paper entitled “The colonialism of the settlements lays the foundations for an apartheid Israel,” which stated that through the settlements, Israel was constructing an apartheid regime in the Palestinian territories which was similar to some aspects to the apartheid regime in South Africa, for example, discrimination in the allotment of water resources, in infrastructure programs, the destruction of Palestinian buildings and assets, restrictions on freedom of movement, discrimination in the legal system, etc. He called for the establishment of an international coalition and the end of the evasions of Karim Khan, the ICC’s 5 The PLO’s national office to defend and the land and “resist” the settlements is a department established in 1996 on the initiative of Taysir Khaled, a former member of the PLO’s Executive Committee and a member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine’s political bureau. Its office is located in Nablus. 8 207-22 chief prosecutor, regarding initiating a criminal investigation of Israel (website of the PLO’s national office to defend and the land and “resist” the settlements, December 12, 2022). Appendix The PLO’s department of anti-discrimination and apartheid The PLO’s department of anti-discrimination and apartheid was established in July 2022. It is headed by Ramzi Rabah, a senior member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). According to Rabah, the department was established by the PLO’s Executive Committee and is responsible for publicizing “Israel’s crimes” locally and internationally, especially regarding the “apartheid regime” Israel continues to consolidate in Judea and Samaria and “historical Palestine” [the Arabs living in Israel] (Dunia al-Watan, July 5, 2022). The department’s logo (department Facebook page, November 27, 2022). Since its founding, the department has worked to create connections and to coordinate with all relevant local and international groups, including the various popular and civilian organizations, solidarity movements, human rights organizations and boycott committees. Its objective is to construct a broad international coalition that will exert pressure on international organizations and the international community to punish Israel for its [alleged] “crimes” and formulate a combined legal and media [propaganda] plan of action. One of the department’s first steps was taken on July 4, 2022, when Ramzi Rabah met in PLO headquarters in Ramallah with a delegation from the BDS secretariat to discuss increased collaboration and coordination (Dunia al-Watan, July 5, 2022). 9 207-22 The department is headed by Ramzi Rabah Farid (at birth named Farid Boutros Maroun Sarwa) (al-Hadath, March 22, 2021; website of the Palestinian Central Election Committee, 2006). He is 71 or 72 years old, Christian and a member of the DFLP’s Central Committee. In February 2022 he was appointed by the PLO’s Central Council to the Executive Committee, replacing Taysir Khaled, who died (Wafa, February 7, 2022). In an interview he claimed his family came from Biram in the Upper Galilee.6 He said he began his activities in Lebanon in 1966, and in 1969 joined the ranks of the DFLP, and was one of the organization’s founders in Lebanon. In the 1970s he filled various roles in the organization in south Lebanon. After the PLO left Lebanon he remained behind with all the DFLP leaders. From there he went to Syria and between 1992 and 1996 was in charge of the DFLP’s Syrian branch. Until 1998 he was in charge of the organization’s branches abroad. At the end of 1998 he went to the Gaza Strip and had various leadership functions until 2010. From the Gaza Strip he went to Judea and Samaria where he had a role in the popular organizations (NPA website, April 14, 2022). Ramzi Rabah, interviewed during the meeting in al-Bireh (Watan TV, December 11,2022). Other department members: Dr. Maher Amer: department general manager (Petra, November 24, 2022; PLO website, December 9, 2022). He is a DFLP member (Dunia al-Watan, March 10, 2022). According to his Facebook page, he studied at al-Najah University in Nablus. 6 Biram was a Maronite village whose residents were displaced during the War of Independence and not permitted to return. 10 207-22 Dr. Maher Amer (right) in Brussels at the meeting which founded the European-Palestinian Initiative against Apartheid and the Settlements (Dr. Maher Amer’s Facebook page, June 10, 2022). Shadi Zahed: head of the department’s public relations unit (Petra, November 24, 2022). According to his Facebook page, he studied at al-Najah University in Nablus. Shadi Zahed (his Facebook page, May 28, 2022).
Palestinian delegation calls on launching parliamentary coalition against Israel’s apartheid
Amman, Nov. 23 (Petra)-A Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) delegation on Wednesday called on establishing an Arab parliamentary coalition to counter Israel’s apartheid.
The call was made at a meeting which brought together Chairman of the Senate’s Palestine Committee, Nayef Qadi, with PLO Executive Committee member, Ramzi Rabah, head of Anti-Apartheid Committee at Palestine Legislative Council (PLC), Sinan Shqdeeh, and Director of the Anti-Apartheid Department, Maher Amer.
Qadi said Jordan, under His Majesty King Abdullah II’s leadership, places the Palestinian cause at the forefront of its internal and external priorities, and views the issue as “sacred to the Jordanian people”.
Jordan has a “firm and continuous” position in support of the Palestinian cause and rights of the Palestinian people, foremost is ending Israel’s occupation, settling the conflict through the two-state solution and establishing an independent Palestinian state on the Palestinian homeland with East Jerusalem as its capital on the June 4, 1997 borders, he said.
Qadi noted Hashemite custodianship over Jerusalem’s holy sites is a “historical reality and a national and Islamic duty” that cannot be abandoned, adding that pressures that Jordan has faced over more than 70 years did not affect the Kingdom’s position on national rights of the Palestinian people.
In addition, he expressed readiness to support any “serious” Palestinian move aimed to enable Palestinian people restore their legitimate rights, calling on achieving internal Palestinian unity, whose divisions affect efforts to serve the Palestinian cause.
For his part, Palestinian delegation’s head, Rabah, said the Palestinian move comes at an “important” stage aimed to establish an Arab parliamentary coalition to oppose Israeli apartheid. //Petra// AG 23/11/2022 15:35:14
We started with 500 schools already, and we are aiming to reach 100 thousand students per year.
Palestinian youth have disproportionately contributed to our decades-old liberation struggle. Their role reached an unprecedented height during the intifada that broke out in 1987 against military occupation and settler-colonial oppression. Soon after, and as part of its relentless attack on Palestinian education Israel gradually shut down all Palestinian universities and schools in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Colonizing Palestinian minds with hopelessness was Israel’s main objective.
Palestinian educators and students, however, insisted on the right to education by devising alternative “underground” learning spaces – in homes, in mosques and churches, in community centers’ basements – in an inspiring wave of mass defiance of the occupation’s brutal repression. Aside from the basic curriculum, students learned from teachers, parents and each other the rich heritage of Palestinian popular resistance, including sumud (steadfastness), organizing protests and strikes, and boycotting the oppressor’s products, when feasible.
It is that long heritage of rooted popular resistance, along with international anti-colonial and anti-racist struggles, that eventually inspired the BDS movement in 2005. Connecting our liberation struggle not just with other justice struggles but also with the absolute need to end international complicity in Israel’s regime of settler-colonialism and apartheid, the BDS movement was the clearest manifestation of a global, Palestinian-led intifada of sorts.
Decolonizing our minds is at the heart of this intifada. In 2017, in partnership with the General Union of Palestinian Teachers, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) launched Education for Liberation, a strategic campaign to effectively engage school students and communities in the struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
Providing community-based training to hundreds of teachers on BDS principles, strategic nonviolent campaigning, and supporting youth initiatives, the campaign has so far impacted over 125,000 students and their wider communities. Student-led BDS campaigns have mushroomed in more than 500 schools, creatively using art, poetry, dabke (folk dance), music, theater, film and other media to mobilize wide boycotts of Israeli products and support for local products.
We have also been working with committed college students to build “BDS Student Clubs” in leading Palestinian universities to offer a space for education and action geared towards local campaigning and international outreach.
After participating in intensive, interactive BDS workshops, BDS clubs’ members organize campus- or community-based campaigns focused on the academic, cultural and economic boycott of complicit institutions and corporations. They mobilize students, faculty and workers’ support to make their universities apartheid free, ensuring that their procurement policies and activities are in harmony with the consensus-based guidelines of the BDS movement.
We are under no illusion about what more horrors await our people with the rise of overt fascism to Israel’s power. Yet we believe in our people’s, particularly our youth’s, unshakable resolve to resist all oppression and to intensify the struggle for our inherent, inalienable rights. We also believe that your meaningful solidarity is indispensable for this struggle to prevail.
In 2012, the Israeli Council for Higher Education almost closed down the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University because of its activist nature. The Evaluation Committee of the Council found that instead of offering a core curriculum, the courses were essentially an extension of the political agenda of many of the faculty. The Department promised to change its curriculum, but the strong pollical orientation has persisted. Dr. Hagit Keysar, currently a postdoc at the Minerva Center for Human Rights at Tel Aviv University, who completed her doctorate in the Department in 2017, is a case in point.
Keysar was inspired in 2011 by the Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (Public Lab), an activist group in the United States formed to document the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf of Mexico. She joined them and met Jeffrey Warren, one of the co-founders of the Public Lab, during her research for her MA degree, “Do-It-Yourself Aerial Photography in Jerusalem.” Warren was invited to give a series of workshops for the Mamuta Art and Media Center where she studied. One workshop they organized with Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem in the neighborhood of Silwan who expressed interest in creating their own high-resolution aerial photographs to visualize the intricate details of “spatial and political violence” experienced on a daily basis. “For the people we worked with in Silwan, DIY aerial photography was seen as a tactic that had the potential to disrupt the mechanisms of surveillance and visual control that order and organize the visibility and publicity of the conflict in Palestinian Jerusalem,” she wrote.
According to her Ph.D. thesis, “Prototyping the civic view from above” is both a “critique and a creative practice that examines political questions relating to DIY aerial photography by conducting critical analysis and ethnographic research. The present research aims to critically examine these circular relations between tools, issues, and communities; to experiment with these practices and analyze them in a setting of urban-political conflict. The possibility for a civic view from above is considered here within its historical and theoretical contexts; it is examined in relation to existing strata of civic views from above, which are inseparable from the history of military aerial visualization and power.” She wrote. The main purpose of her research is to “experiment with and analyze how DIY aerial photography, as part of a broader set of practices termed by Public Lab as ‘civic science,’ functions in the context of urban and ethno-political conflict in Israel/Palestine.”
She explains that “Public Lab’s idea of civic science establishes connections between public participation in science and the production of knowledge commons by opening the material, social, and literary processes and tools for creating scientific knowledge.”
Keysar further explains that her research follows the parameters of “engaged ethnography,” which essentially means that the research-activists create a certain reality that fits their political goals. In her words, “this work demonstrates various forms of involvement within political and activist arenas that need to be critically addressed.” Adding further, “it demonstrates the production of spaces of collaboration within changing contexts of scientific and political activism.” Consequentially, “activism, as these cases demonstrate, is oriented toward the creation of critical alternatives.” In plain English, the “space” which they produce can be used to bash Israel.
Keysar, a loyal follower of the neo-Marxist, critical paradigm, expands her dissertation to include an attack on “the neoliberal logic, in which ideas and practices of free market and an open and competitive environment are seen as stimulating innovation and economic growth and therefore pushes toward minimizing state intervention and regulation.” This should come as no surprise. While the activist scholars have been normally preoccupied with critiquing Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians, they have a long history of protesting the neoliberal economy, which helped Israel to become a “thriving First-World Economy in a Third World Sea.“
Keysar recently talked at Leiden University in the Netherlands on “Spatial Testimonies, Spatial Photography: Aerial imagery and photogrammetry in spaces of conflict and colonization.”
Unlike many of her peers, Keysar freely admits that she is an academic activist, which she discusses in her dissertation. More than a decade after the Council of Higher Education tried to impose a reform, the Department of Politics and Government is still graduating activists. The Council needs to revisit the issue.
Talk by Ariel Caine & Hagit Keysar: Spatial Testimonies, Spatial Photography: Aerial imagery and photogrammetry in spaces of conflict and colonisation | 20 October 2022 | 17:30- 19:30 | Leiden [Register to join]
Jerusalem is a city famous for its walls. The walls of the old city, the infamous separation wall. Yet less known is an invisible wall that encapsulates the old city and its surroundings. Centred on the Haram al-Sharif and spanning approximately 3km in diameter. This is what is known as a “Geofence”, a cylindrical digital barrier extending from the ground and up into the skies, set to prevent drone flights into or take-offs within the area. The volume of this technologically restricted zone follows the geographic coordinates of an already present regulatory No-Fly Zone (NFZ), enforced by the Israeli security apparatus for more than two decades.
In the eyes of the Israeli state, the corporate geofence is a sort of panacea. It attempts to give a definitive, albeit partial, solution to the question of sovereignty in this territory. Its technical invisibility and ‘remote neutrality’, allows it to sink below consciousness. However, as a navigational technology it has real-world effects. It reconstructs space in a machine-readable format. Territory altered by machines for machines. Terra ex machina.
In this talk we look into the volatile space of Jerusalem through the prism of the geofence. To begin with, we investigate this new invisible technology of aerial and terrestrial control and continue by contrasting it with tactical forms of resistance, balloon/kite photography, that subvert its technological, epistemological, and ontological standing.
How can we make visible an invisible barrier and its effects? How can we materialise and conceptualise this NFZ and its connected infrustructures?
Ariel Caine is a Jerusalem-born artist and researcher. His practice centres on the intersection of spatial (three-dimensional) photography, modelling and survey technologies, and their operation within the production of cultural memories and national narratives. Ariel is currently a Postdoctoral fellow at the ICI Berlin, undertaking his project “Architectures of the Sensed: Models as Augmented Sites for Resistance”. He received his PhD from the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths University of London where from 2016–21 he was a project coordinator and researcher at the Forensic Architecture Agency. In 2021–22 he received a postdoctoral research grant from Gerda Henkel Stiftung as part of the speculative cameras and post-visual security projects at Tampere University (Finland).
Hagit Keysar is a researcher and activist, working and teaching in the fields of science and technology studies, critical data studies and digital urbanism. Her research and creative work concern the politics of data and digitization and the political potentials of community-driven science and technology for articulating rights in situations of conflict and colonisation. She has recently been a research fellow at the Weizenbaum institute for the Internet society, Berlin (2019), a postdoc fellow of the Minerva Stiftung (2019-2021) in Berlin’s Natural History Museum and she is currently a postdoc at the Minerva center for Human Rights at the Tel Aviv University.
When and Where
20 October 2022, from 17:30 to 19:30 LIPSIUS building | Room 003 Cleveringaplaats 1, 2311 BD Leiden
חגית קיסר / Keysar Hagit מבט העל האזרחי: צילום אוויר עצמאי בישראל- פלסטין, Prototyping the Civic View from Above: Do-It-Yourself Aerial Photography in Israel- Palestine, בהנחיית: פרופ’ חיים יעקובי, ד”ר מיכל גבעוני, פרופ’ מרדכי חקלאי London University College
My research and experiments with DIY aerial photography in Palestine-Israel focuses on civic science in spaces of civic inequality mostly in East/West Jerusalem. It shifts away from the focus on environmental issues; though the environment is always there within a range of systemic rights abuse, from discriminatory urban planning, through land expropriation to forced displacement. I work with communities, NGO’s and local institutions entangled in urgent issues who find it relevant and inspiring to create their own, high quality, local scale aerial photography. Some of the collaborations presented here are activist projects oriented towards a particular issue, workshop or event such as the cases of Beit Safafa and Silwan. Other projects present long term collaborative work which is made possible through ongoing collaborations with affected communities, funded through partnerships with NGO’s and academic programs such as the work we do in west Jerusalem with the civic architecture unit in Bezalel, and the work in the Negev (south of Israel) with Zochrot and Forensic Architecture, and the research collaboration with Dorit Naaman in Qatamon. These collaborations always start with a spark in the eye, a shared imagination, rather than an organized idea on what DIY aerial photography is good for. As an activist and a researcher that work within a space of civil inequality and entangled in it as a privileged citizen, this shared imagination is invaluable. It creates a certain common ground for building up a collaboration that is not entrapped and defined by unequal power relations but on outdoor, hands on and even fun activity and shared concerns between researchers, activists and communities. This is not to say that unequal power relations become a solved problem, this is far from being a reality. But it does mean that we can start imagine new kinds of collective and public actions through technological engagement. The projects presented here are initial threads of thoughts and actions for investigating these ideas.
How can you map what cannot be seen on a map and is in constant change and movement? This lecture presents a strand from doctoral research dealing with open source participatory mapping practices and do-it-yourself methods, through a focus on the independent creation of aerial photographs by residents of Jerusalem as a case study for the political and spatial consequences of this type of civic-technological action in a conflicted urban space. Practices for creating aerial photographs independently using accessible and simple tools have been developed during the last four years dealing with The Public Lab by an expanding group of activists, technologists and scientists called in the development of citizen science practices with the aim of expanding the possibilities of research and action around issues of health and environmental justice in local contexts. This study seeks to expand the theory and practice of citizen science focused on challenging and reshaping the concepts and practices of science, to examine the ways in which open technology, do-it-yourself tools and citizen science practices open up the possibility of re-examining the formation of public action and political space. The question and the problem is, how to insert the obvious fact of movement, change, uncertainty and conflict into the map, when we understand that in geography everything is in motion. 1 In the mapping I will present here, which was made jointly by residents, activists and professionals, the map makes it possible to represent, give validity and visibility to burning and worrisome local and planning issues. The mapping process becomes a space of engagement and meeting, where points of contact are created between local issues, residents, professionals and technological activities. Through a phenomenological examination of the mapping process, which is a sort of theoretical and practical laboratory, I will present two test cases in Jerusalem, one in the Kiryat Yuval neighborhood and the other in the Beit Safafa neighborhood. I will raise a number of questions and thoughts about how independent mapping practices and the possibility of producing high quality aerial photographs on a local scale come together and contribute to a discourse that seeks to imagine and create a space for public action that goes beyond the limitations imposed by the professional political system and its institutions.
My research and experiments with DIY aerial photography in Palestine-Israel focuses on civic science in spaces of civic inequality mostly in East/West Jerusalem. It shifts away from the focus on environmental issues; though the environment is always there within a range of systemic rights abuse, from discriminatory urban planning, through land expropriation to forced displacement. I work with communities, NGO’s and local institutions entangled in urgent issues who find it relevant and inspiring to create their own, high quality, local scale aerial photography. Some of the collaborations presented here are activist projects oriented towards a particular issue, workshop or event such as the cases of Beit Safafa and Silwan. Other projects present long term collaborative work which is made possible through ongoing collaborations with affected communities, funded through partnerships with NGO’s and academic programs such as the work we do in west Jerusalem with the civic architecture unit in Bezalel, and the work in the Negev (south of Israel) with Zochrot and Forensic Architecture, and the research collaboration with Dorit Naaman in Qatamon.
*** These collaborations always start with a spark in the eye, a shared imagination, rather than an organized idea on what DIY aerial photography is good for. As an activist and a researcher that work within a space of civil inequality and entangled in it as a privileged citizen, this shared imagination is invaluable. It creates a certain common ground for building up a collaboration that is not entrapped and defined by unequal power relations but on outdoor, hands on and even fun activity and shared concerns between researchers, activists and communities. This is not to say that unequal power relations become a solved problem, this is far from being a reality. But it does mean that we can start imagine new kinds of collective and public actions through technological engagement. The projects presented here are initial threads of thoughts and actions for investigating these ideas.
The work presented here developed from my MA thesis which focused on municipal practices in enforcing the planning and building policies in Jerusalem, which have been creating a major housing crisis for Palestinians in the city. I was looking to investigate how these mechanisms work and are sustained, but due to the political sensitivity of the issue I wasn’t granted any access to the everyday activities and people in the enforcement department. Being a student and not interested in any particular case, I obtained a permission to”only” browse the photographs in classified buildings files. Inspectors, who are also the photographers and are in charge of compiling the files, treat the images as univocal pieces of evidence of a crime committed.
For me, the photos were multilayered sources of information for investigating seemingly mundane practices in enforcing the law and turning it into a living reality. The exhibition “Snapshots” traces the Jerusalem Municipality’s visual practices of surveillance and enforcement of planning policies in Jerusalem. It presents an ethnographic journey made with the photographs I copied from the files in the Archive. Observing the photographs I could retrace practices, events and patterns in the work of inspectors which I was initially not authorized to interview. Later, based on the interpretive work I did, I got a permission to discuss the photographs with inspectors and on a separate route I searched for the photographed Palestinians, to include their knowledge and voices in the ethnography I was looking to create.
De-archived, these photographs compiled with interpretations and conversations, are not anymore a copy of their source. Rather, in presenting the photography along with its extended ethnography I was seeking to interfere and engage with the authority that produced them, enable this visual documentation to regain its political potential as sources of evidence, interpretation and influence. The exhibition I presented in the Zochrot Gallery made it possible to view the visual mass of administrative documentation open and spread like a panoramic landscape that calls for a collective as much as personal and singular interpretation. The archival intimacy which hides injustice and oppression with a guise of impartial legal procedures was disrupted, and the private (classified) space became open to a public. The photographs, de-archived and represented openly in the gallery, were creating a space in which we are all authorized – to access, view, interpret and question the acts of the state.
Prof. Ariella Azoulay, formerly of Bar-Ilan and Tel Aviv Universities, is among the most radical Israeli scholar-activists and a supporter of BDS. She worked with her partner Prof. Adi Ophir in the Minerva Center, Tel Aviv University, on the so-called Lexicon for Political Theory that boasted a litany of Israel’s alleged sins of colonialism, apartheid, and such. After leaving Israel, Ophir and Azoulay were invited by the Middle East Center at Brown University by the then Director, Prof. Beshara Doumani, a notorious Israel-basher with a long list of publications demonizing the Jewish state. Azoulay also holds a dual appointment as a Modern Culture and Media professor at the Department of Comparative Literature.
To fit the tenor of the Middle East Center, Azoulay remade herself into “an Arab Jew” and a “Palestinian Jew of African origin.” To bolster her new identity, she also added the Arabic name of Aisha, as in Ariella Aisha Azoulay. The “Palestinian Jew” conveniently omitted the fact that she was born and lived in Tel Aviv, Israel. But it was her old work in Israel that served as an admission ticket to the Ivy League school. Azoulay describes herself as a photographer, lexicographer, archivist, and curator who adheres to the principle of the “civil contract of photography.” In her view, the “civil contract” is founded on a new political-ontological understanding” of the photographic act. Translated into standard English, this piece of critical, post-modern jargon essentially means that pictures are a way to rehabilitate subjects who are victims of Western imperialism and colonialism. Since Azoulay believes that “imperialist logic pervades our thinking about other people, objects, nature and time itself,” there is a need to “decolonize the past.”
Azoulay put her “civil contract” idea to good use when working as a Lexicographer at Minerva. At the time, Ophir produced work that claimed that the Nazi evil was on the same ontological plane as Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Azoulay mounted exhibitions in the West that aimed at creating a visual link between the Holocaust, the Nakba, and the subsequent treatment of the Palestinians. In one picture Azouly posted in an exhibition, a group of Palestinians engaged in a scuffle with the IDF.
Azoulay’s caption is very telling: “In this act too, Palestinians are the ones who will be arrested. This time, however, they force the Israeli soldiers to chase them as if they were chasing (Jewish) prisoners under the Nazi regime. The soldiers can insist that these are only Palestinians, but the photographic act preserves the meaning with which Palestinians wanted to imbue the situation.”
The goal is clearly to create a link between the Israeli soldiers and the Nazis.
In another case, Azoulay defended Anat Kam, an IDF soldier who copied 2000 or so secret documents and leaked them to the press. Kam was charged with espionage and endangering the state’s security and was sentenced to four years in jail. Azoulay claimed that the IDF files were part of the “public archive” and that the “archivist” Kam was wrongfully imprisoned.
At Brown, she put her “civil contract” photography to another use. In a 2021 co-edited work, she discussed images from Palestine taken by travelers, claiming that “Those images, in which the beautiful and beloved country of Palestine is captured before its systematic colonial destruction.” She then invites viewers to become “time travelers in a time machine of sorts, to think what does it mean to look at these images not as hints of a pre-colonial time but rather as hints of the reversibility of the colonial projects, markers of repair?“ Repair, in her eyes, means the erasure of the State of Israel.
However, she also broadened her mission to include decolonizing into museums, which, in her belief, are major repositories of colonial and capitalist imagery. She also pursued her other task, to focus on marginalized women. In her words, her project wanted to develop a “universal language of citizenship and revolution” in response to the “universal language of power.”
It comes thus as a surprise that Azouly did not participate in two events in the Middle East Center devoted to the recent protest in Iran following the killing of Mahsa Amini and the widespread demand to abolish the chador. In the ongoing riots, hundreds were killed and thousands arrested; two were already executed. Certainly, the developments in Iran – where a brutal Islamist theocracy has terrorized its people and marginalized women – do not fit the radical left’s paradigm of Western colonization and oppression. If this is the case, Azoulay would not be the first to close her eyes to the horrendous violations of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. After visiting Tehran in 1979, Michel Foucault, the “founding father” of post-modern, critical theory, wrote that the revolution ushered by Ayatollah Khomeini might signify a new “political spirituality” with the potential to transform the world.
Foucault, a homosexual, never rebuked the regime for executing gays in public.
The singular obsession with Israel and the refusal to confront brutal regimes like Iran delegitimizes and discredits radical leftist scholarship.
The Israeli Social Science List recently published a Call for Papers for a conference titled “Conceptualizing Specters of Ruination, Resilience and Regeneration.”
The Call for Papers explains who is behind it. “The workshop is a conclusion to the research project “Cities lost and found: The social life of ruins”, funded by Gerda Henkel Foundation.” It will take place at the Central European University (Vienna) on May 19-20, 2023.
The workshop is “Framing urban ruination as a multi-dimensional process.” This workshop “seeks to address the politics and social life of loss in cities today. Remnants of slum clearing, memories of past massacres, colonial settlements, as well as gentrified spaces of renewal and heritage districts for touristic consumption are but some of the specters that haunt contemporary cityscapes. Derived from the general antinomy of creation and destruction… this workshop will facilitate critical discussions on modernity’s urge to build and destroy.”
Prof. Daniel Monterescu of Urban Anthropology at the Central European University Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology in Vienna has published this call. He was awarded €375,000 by the Gerda Henkel Foundation, in 2019, for three-years research into the links between destruction and renewal. The project is entitled “Cities Lost and Found: The Social Life of Ruins in Israel/Palestine, 1882 to the Present.” It traces the urban histories of ruination and recovery in Israel and Palestine. “Torn by a century of conflict and war, our cities are haunted by the ghosts of the past. A relational history of urban loss is therefore a fruitful approach to make visible how ruins of previous urban lives come back to haunt the living in uncanny ways on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides.”
Monterescu focuses on Jaffa and Hebron, where he finds “forced displacement, physical return, and yearnings for future reunion with the imagined homeland.” He says, “In the current political deadlock in the Middle East I believe it is essential to look at history from the perspective of ruination and absence as a way to bridge rival histories and acknowledge colonial realities.” For him, “Shared memories of loss can create common ground for future recovery.”
In an interview on “Lost Cities,” Monterescu said that the project “primarily examines developments in Jaffa and Hebron, as two places of longing for Palestinians and Israelis. Both cities have distinct and separate histories as well as significantly different status today. Before the founding of the state of Israel, Jaffa was a major cosmopolitan city, also known as the Bride of the Sea and the Bride of Palestine. It experienced the mass exodus of its Palestinian population who were forced to flee during the 1948 war. Jaffa was then relegated to the slums of Tel Aviv, which has, however, experienced a dramatic gentrification process since the 1990s. In the aftermath of the 1948 war, Jaffa was annexed to Tel Aviv and placed within Israel’s recognized international borders thus making its remaining Palestinian resident Israeli citizens.”
On the other hand, for Monterescu, Hebron “is in the occupied West Bank and has become a focal point for Israel’s contemporary colonization campaign. Since 1997, Hebron has been divided to two asymmetrical loci: H1 which is under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority and H2 which is under direct control of Israel’s military. While the differences between Jaffa and Hebron are significant, both are entwined in the same political and cultural process of loss and recovery. Since the early 1920s both experienced moments of collective violence between Jews and Arabs who cohabited these places, and as the violence spiraled all over Palestine, both cities were impacted, some might say irrevocably, by the dynamic of violence and destruction. We understand the scientific importance of the project as one which problematize the banalization of the representation of memory and loss through which the stories of Jaffa and Hebron have been told.”
In Hebron, he explains, “Jews were expelled in 1929 after a horrific massacre, a painful memory for Israelis, but also one where we can learn how brutal is Israel’s contemporary military occupation. H2 is a small part of the city where 30,000 Palestinians and 800 Jewish settlers reside. Since 1996, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (RHC) has been fighting the destruction of the city, which resembles a ghost town at its heart. Hebron displays two opposing forces: on the one hand, Israel moves to cement the area as a place which is lost for Palestinians (restriction of movement, prevention of reconstruction) while manipulating the Jewish historical tragedy to claim legitimacy for controlling H2. On the other hand, Palestinians are clinging to their lived place by rehabilitating the ruined urban space. The process of colonization is very intimate, and it takes place house by house, street by street. It is a double process of ruiniation of Palestinian cities, where settlers return to occupy houses formerly inhabited by Jews.”
For those unfamiliar with the language of critical theory, here is a little synopsis. The theory is part of a paradigm change that took over the social sciences, known more broadly as the neo-Marxist, critical, or postmodern theory. Essentially an amalgam of various schools of thought, it shared a critical element. It rejected positivism – a belief in the neutrality of social science and an empirical-based research methodology – on the grounds that it represented the view of the “hegemonic, capitalist classes.” The new methodology called for a more subjective view of reality and a predisposition for political activism to push for social justice. The research was constructed as a means for proving the inequality created by the capitalist and imperialist system.
Conveniently for academic activists, the neo-Marxist, critical paradigm tends to decontextualize history. There is no need to mention the actual history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There is no need to mention the 1947 UN Resolution that divided Palestine into a Jewish and Palestinian area. There is no need to mention that the Palestinians rejected the Resolution and, with the help of Arab states, started a war that they had the bad luck of losing.
Montersescu is a poster boy for the new paradigm. One should note that the wording of the call for paper; it mentions that “this workshop facilitates “critical discussions.” In a manifesto-style article, Monterescu explained that the Central European University, funded by George Soros, relocated to Vienna after being forced out of Hungary. In his view, it radicalized the faculty that is now “taking a leading role in the formation of a new academic elite which speaks “truth to power.”
As for this “new academic elite,” it is amply supported by a network of progressive funds, such as the Gerda Henkel Foundation, the Rosa Luxemburg, Minerva Stiftung, and Van Leer Foundation, not to mention the George Soros foundations, which, as reported, their projects indicate a strong anti-Israel bias. Katharina Konarek discussed the involvement of the German Foundations in “The Role of German Political Foundations in Israel and the Palestinian Territory,” published by the Palestine-Israel Journal.
Monterescu’s Ph.D. was awarded by the University of Chicago in 2005. His supervisor was Prof. John Comaroff, an anti-Israel activist who later signed a call to boycott Israel. On his Ph.D. committee was Rashid Khalidi, another anti-Israel activist and a supporter of the boycott of Israel.
Last year, Tel Aviv University Minerva Center for Human Rights invited Monterescu to discuss his “critical” views of Jaffa. As can be expected from a “critical” scholar, he failed to mention the skyrocketed crime rate in Jaffa that was diminished by modernization.
Monterescu is aware of being described as a self-hating Jew, as his article in Haaretz indicates.
It is more than a coincidence that the current academic view of Israel is very bleak. Phrases like “an apartheid state” a “Nazi-like violent oppressor of the Palestinians” dominate the analysis and feed into the mainstream discourse. Locked into an epistemic bubble of their own making, these “new academic elites” became totally detached from the new international reality in which Israel has collaborated with moderate Arab countries against the growing menace of Iran.
As for the latter, IAM has a suggestion for Daniel Montersescu and the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Why not study the “lost cities” of Iran, which were degraded by the ruthless and corrupt clerical regime that kills its citizens fighting for civil freedoms? Maybe Monterescu can advise how “to find” them.
———- Forwarded message ——— From: ariel handel Date: Thu, Dec 1, 2022 at 5:17 PM Subject: [SocSci-IL] קול קורא לכנס: CONCEPTUALIZING SPECTERS OF RUINATION, RESILIENCE AND REGENERATION To: Social Sciences List <email@example.com>
CONCEPTUALIZING SPECTERS OF RUINATION, RESILIENCE AND REGENERATION
CALL FOR PAPERS
Framing urban ruination as a multi-dimensional process, this workshop seeks to address the
politics and social life of loss in cities today. Remnants of slum clearing, memories of past
massacres, colonial settlements, as well as gentrified spaces of renewal and heritage districts for
touristic consumption are but some of the spectres that haunt contemporary cityscapes. Derived
from the general antinomy of creation and destruction, these city-forms shed light on what we
term “modalities of ruination”: ranging from apocalyptic dystopias to nostalgic utopias of return
and redemption. Envisioning cities as both repositories of memory and material networks of
social action, our workshop explores the contentious relations between revival and loss.
We invite participants with a range of comparative, interdisciplinary and innovative perspectives
to rethink how ruination and recovery operate as images, events and structures. By bringing
together scientists and practitioners, documentarists and artists, this workshop will facilitate
critical discussions on modernity’s urge to build and destroy.
We welcome papers and creative interventions that engage with the following non-exhaustive
1. When do cities, sites and traditions become ‘lost’, and how can visual and narrative
forms represent the temporality and spatiality of urban ruination and recovery?
2. How do artistic interventions affect and represent the temporality and spatiality of
3. How are past urban ruins made invisible or conversely commodified into presence, and
how should we engage them as emblems of transgression, trauma and revival?
4. Does the representation of loss call for a special kind of ethics in documenting
techniques, and what should an ethic of recovery look like?
5. Can representations, narratives, materialities and memories of loss create a common
ground for future recovery?
6. What kind of recovery mechanisms could possibly address the intangible loss of urban
traditions, structures and social tissues?
The workshop is a conclusion to the research project “Cities lost and found: The social life of
ruins”, funded by Gerda Henkel Foundation. It will take place at the Central European University
(Vienna) on May 19-20, 2023.
Travel and accommodation expenses are available for eligible candidates.
Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a short bio (100 words) to
How is the destruction of cities objectified, both by the state and by communities of Jewish settlers? Using the example of the coastal metropolis of Jaffa and the regional hub in the West Bank, it is amongst others this question that Prof. Dr. Daniel Monterescu focuses on in his research project, which is funded within the special program Lost Cities of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Within the scope of the new interview series, we asked Professor Monterescu about the project itself but also its scientific and societal relevance: Why is it scientifically worthwhile to deal with the topic? Where do the researchers see areas of relevance for the society?
“Problematise the banalisation of the representation of memory and loss”
L.I.S.A.: Dear Professor Monterescu you are working on a research project, which is funded within the special program Lost Cities of the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Could you briefly explain the scope of your project? Why is it scientifically worthwhile to deal with the topic?
Prof. Monterescu: Our project “Cities Lost and Found: The Social Life of Ruins in Israel / Palestine, 1882 to the Present” looks at the concept of loss, trauma and recovery by focusing on the convoluted and conflicted story of two urban hubs in Palestine and Israel. The research group comprises of a team of anthropologists, sociologists and geographers with the aim to uncover the ambivalent heritage of lost cities and the material traces of bygone communities that reincarnate local memories as they lend themselves to contemporary projects of mythification, commodification and gentrification. The project, which is funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation as part of the “Lost Cities” programme, primarily examines developments in Jaffa and Hebron, as two places of longing for Palestinians and Israelis.
Both cities have distinct and separate histories as well as significantly different status today. Before the founding of the state of Israel, Jaffa was a major cosmopolitan city, also known as the Bride of the Sea and the Bride of Palestine. It expereiced the mass exodus of its Palestinian population who were forced to flee during the 1948 war. Jaffa was then relegated to the slums of Tel Aviv, which has, however, experienced a dramatic gentrification process since the 1990s. In the aftermath of the 1948 war, Jaffa was annexed to Tel Aviv and placed within Israel’s recognised international borders thus making its remaining Palestinian residents Israeli citizens. Hebron on the other hand, is in the occupied West Bank and has become a focal point for Israel’s contemporary colonisation campaign. Since 1997, Hebron has been divided to two asymmetrical loci: H1 which is under the jursidiciton of the Palestinian Authority and H2 which is under direct control of Israel’s military. While the differences between Jaffa and Hebron are significant, both are entwined in the same political and cultural process of loss and recovery. Since the early 1920s both experienced moments of collective violence between Jews and Arabs who cohabited these places, and as the violence spiraled all over Palestine, both cities were impacted, some might say irrevocably, by the dynamic of violence and destruction.
We understand the scientific importance of the project as one which problematise the banalisation of the representation of memory and loss through which the stories of Jaffa and Hebron have been told. We criticize the convention that situates dynamics of loss and ruination within a narrative of modern progress to rethink what loss means in the present continuous, whereby people continue to cling to the very places deemed as obsolete. We conceptualize how memory of loss (of one’s city and home) is mobilized as a tangible, active tool against forces seeking to solidify the act of destruction. By doing so, our project seeks to rethink how communities which are basically traumatized by ongoing, almost cyclical, process of violence, articulate their sense of loss and their hopes for recovery and for future reconciliation.
“Destruction and reconstruction can be well researched as a lieu de mémoir”
L.I.S.A.: In your project, you look at lost cities and their influence on local memories as well as objectification. Can you briefly explain an example of this?
Prof. Monterescu: One example we discuss is the Slope Park project (Midron Yaffo Park) in Jaffa which was opened for the public in 2010. It is an open space recreation area providing a bucolic scenery of green lawns, palm trees and the Mediterranean sea. It has been a popular meeting place for Tel Aviv Israelis and West Bank Palestinians who are allowed to travel here on certain public holidays. For these Palestinians it is the only opportunity to spend free time on the beach. A popular and happy place, but at the same time a bitter and sad one. The park was created on a landfill where garbage and debris were dumped. Much of the old city and other neighborhoods such as Manshiyya was destroyed in the 1950s and 1960s because these spaces, which had been abandoned by the Palestinians, were perceived as a slum and the process of decay was not stopped.
The tragedy is that Palestinians who come here today to enjoy a fresh breeze are walking on the rubble of their ancestral homes. In this place, destruction and reconstruction can be well researched as a lieu de mémoir. Through the park we can see how Jaffa tells a story of loss and forced migration, but also a story of contrived coexistence. For the Israelis it is a story of destruction and reconstruction, for the Palestinians a story of the lost Golden Age. In our work we think of the park as a historical warning against the commodification and taken for grantedness of the political present. In this case, we see how ruins are touristified and we show that they are always contested in arts, social mobilizatoin and memory. In short, how Jaffa is a an example of commodification of a history of ruins.
In the case of Hebron, Jews were expelled in 1929 after a horrific massacre, a painful memory for Israelis, but also one where we can learn how brutal is Israel’s contemporary military occupation. H2 is a small part of the city where 30,000 Palestinians and 800 Jewish settlers reside. Since 1996, the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (RHC) has been fighting the destruction of the city, which resembles a ghost town at its heart. Hebron displays two opposing forces: on the one hand, Israel moves to cement the area as a place which is lost for Palestinians (restriction of movement, prevention of reconstruction) while manipulating the Jewish historical tragedy to claim legitimacy for controlling H2. On the other hand Palestinians are clinging to their lived place by rehabilitating the ruined urban space. The process of colonization is very intimate, and it takes place house by house, street by street. It is a double process of ruiniation of Palestinian cities, where settlers return to occupy houses formerly inhabited by Jews.
Daniel Monterescu Awarded Three-Year Research Grant by the Gerda Henkel Foundation
December 13, 2019
Daniel Monterescu has been awarded 375,000 euros by the Gerda Henkel Foundation for his research into the links between destruction and renewal. The project, titled Cities Lost and Found: The Social Life of Ruins in Israel/Palestine, 1882 to the Present, traces the urban histories of ruination and recovery in Israel and Palestine.
Monterescu’s research frames ruins as multi-dimensional public, social, and cultural problems. For the new project, a team of sociologists and geographers will aim to uncover the ambivalent heritage of lost cities and the material traces of bygone communities that reincarnate local memories as they lend themselves to contemporary projects of mythification, commodification and gentrification.
“Torn by a century of conflict and war, our cities are haunted by the ghosts of the past. A relational history of urban loss is therefore a fruitful approach to make visible how ruins of previous urban lives come back to haunt the living in uncanny ways on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides” Monterescu notes.
In cities like Jaffa and Hebron, for Monterescu, a figure of loss resonates with “forced displacement, physical return, and yearnings for future reunion with the imagined homeland in ways that are abstract and concrete, symbolic and spatial”.
According to him, it is crucial that we are able to come to terms both with the cities now lost forever in the region, and the potential urban worlds that may yet be created, for future generations. “In the current political deadlock in the Middle East I believe it is essential to look at history from the perspective of ruination and absence as a way to bridge rival histories and acknowledge colonial realities. Shared memories of loss can create common ground for future recovery.”
Daniel Monterescu’s three-year research was among the two projects funded by the Gerda Henkel Foundation’s “Lost Cities” programme.
Danel Monterescu is Associate Professor of Urban Anthropology at CEU’s Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology. The project follows up on previous research by Monterescu into urban Israel/Palestine, resulting in Jaffa Shared and Shattered, published by Indiana University Press in 2015 and Twilight Nationalism, published by Stanford University Press in 2018.
Radical leftist media always looks for ”Useful Idiots,” a term associated with Lenin. This time they found Dr. Yonatan Mendel from the Department of Middle East Studies at BGU. His incessant anti-Israeli tenor was covered by IAM under the title “Pro-Palestinian Propagandists at Ben Gurion University: Yonatan Mendel as a Case in Point.”
Mendel’s latest article concerns how the last Israeli elections will affect the Palestinians.
Mendel completed his doctoral studies in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge. His thesis examined “the history of Arabic studies in Jewish schools in Palestine/Israel from 1935 to 1985, and focused on the politicization and securitization of the language. His research deals with topics such as language policy and war, security considerations and language planning, and the interrelationship between political conflict and foreign language studies in Israel/Palestine.” His book, The Creation of Israeli-Arabic: The Political History and Securitisation of Arabic Language Studies in Israeli-Jewish Society, is based on his thesis.
Mendel was a fellow of the HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University, as stated in the Annual Report of 2015/16. As well known, the billionaire prince spent a small fortune creating academic centers in prestigious Western universities to promote Muslim-Christian understanding. However, incidentally or not, some of the centers nurtured scholars whose animosity toward Israel has stood out.
As an expert in Arabic, Mendel charges Israel with Orientalism, a term he borrowed from Edward Said. His views of Israel are incredibly dim, as seen in a video recording by the anti-Israel media outlet Middle East Eye.
Mendel’s scholarship is based on the assertion that Israel only uses Arabic for security reasons. This is fallacious. There are hundreds of Arabic teaching schools, including in Arab towns, for Israelis to learn.
Mendel co-authored an article, “The Language of Jewish Nationalism: Street Signs and Linguistic Landscape in the Old City of Jerusalem,” published by Palestine Studies. Mendel co-edited a book, From the Arab Other to the Israeli Self: Palestinian Culture in the Making of Israeli National Identity, with Ronald Ranta. The book “sheds light on an important cultural and ideational diffusion that has occurred between the Zionist settlers – and later the Jewish-Israeli population – and the indigenous Arab-Palestinian people in Historical Palestine.” Mendel spoke in a radio program, “Foul Language: The Politicization of Arabic Teaching in Israeli Schools.”
He co-edited a book, Language, politics and society in the Middle East: essays in honour of Yasir Suleiman, withAbeer AlNajjar, published in 2018 in honor of their mentor Professor Yasir Suleiman. “This collection acknowledges his contribution to the field of language and society in general, and to that of language analysis of socio-political realities in the Middle East in particular.” Suleiman, a Palestinian Arab, is the founding Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University. He is the Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa’id Professor of Modern Arabic Studies.
Mendel came to aid the convicted Israeli-Arab poet Dareen Tatour, who posted on Facebook and YouTube a video of herself reading her poem titled “Resist, My People, Resist.” The video includes footage of masked Palestinian youths throwing stones and firebombs at IDF soldiers. It was published in October 2015 during the deadly Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis. She was arrested a few days later, and the prosecutors said her post was a call for violence. The judge delivered a 52-page verdict detailing a literary analysis of the text and video and the Arabic word “shahid” (“martyr”). Mendel, one of the experts, testifying in favor of Tatour, told the court in March 2017:
“The Israeli hears ‘shahid’ and sees an aggressor. The Palestinian sees a victim. That’s a big difference. One sees an attacker blowing up a bus, the other sees a child shot by soldiers.” However, the judge ruled that “the aforementioned violent video does not include images of casualties and victims or legal protests. The video reflects only violent resistance/uprising throughout.”
Mendel has been rewarded by the London Review of Books (LRB), which published 23 of his articles. According to the group Just Journalism, LRB has a pronounced anti-Israel bias. Their report states: “The LRB consistently portrayed Israel as a bloodthirsty and genocidal regime out of all proportion to reality, while sympathetic portraits abounded of groups designated as terrorist organizations by the United States and British government, such as Hamas and Hezbollah.”
Mendel is a good fit for LRB. While attacking Israel, he and his activist-academic peers have never had a bad word to say about the severe problems Palestinian society is experiencing, including honor killing, targeting of LGBTQ, and the skyrocketing crime in the Israeli-Arab sector. While bashing Israel is all the rage, these topics go undiscussed.
Not surprisingly, Mendel is singing praises of the Department of Middle East Studies at BGU. In a short bio he posted on the Department’s website, he says that being employed there “feels as though I have won the lottery.” He is not the only one. A few years ago, Prof. Haggai Ram, a veteran member of the Department, wrote a book Iranophobia: The Logic of an Israeli Obsession. He explains that Israel’s focus on Iran’s nuclear project is a diversion to cover up its real anxiety, the challenges that the Mizrahi and orthodox population pose to the hegemonic Ashkenazi elite. The Iranian media and radical-leftist groups in the West highly praised the book.
The Just Journalism report created a storm when it was revealed the British taxpayers, through the Arts Council of England, supported the propaganda of the LRB. The public who funds Ben Gurion University deserves to know that their money supports anti-Israeli propaganda.
First came the jokes. Black humour as a natural response to frustration and disappointment. ‘How was it yesterday?’ my Tel-Avivian neighbor, also a leftist, shouted from his balcony, wearing shorts and no shirt, sipping his morning coffee the day after the elections. ‘Not great’, I shouted back, continuing my brisk walk toward the kindergarten. ‘You should have had great fun voting’, he said, with a knowing emphasis on ‘great fun’. ‘Why is that?’, I asked. ‘Because’, he replied, delighted to have reached his punchline, ‘it was your last time!’
The Israeli elections of 1 November were indeed rather shocking. For the first time since its establishment in 1992, Meretz (the left-Zionist party) was ousted from parliament, as was Balad (an Arab-Palestinian party striving to make Israel ‘a state for all its citizens’). Simultaneously, we witnessed the spectacular rise of the national-religious list, composed of the Religious Zionism party led by Bezalel Smotrich (arrested in 2005 along with five other right-wing activists for plotting to ‘blow up cars on the Ayalon highway’, according to the Shin-Bet deputy chief) and the neo-fascist party Otzma Yehudit (‘Jewish Strength’) led by Itamar Ben-Gvir (convicted in 2007 of inciting racism and supporting a terrorist organization). Their joint platform was backed by almost 11% of Israeli voters and received 14 seats. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likkud party won 32 seats, while current PM Yair Lapid’s supposedly centrist outfit Yesh Atid picked up 24. The Labor Party – the leading political force during Israel’s first three decades, and a major player thereafter – came away with only 4.
Of course, Israeli democracy was nothing to brag about before the latest elections. The country’s so-called ‘change government’, which lasted from June 2021 to November 2022, was largely comprised of parties from the centre and centre right, who united in opposition to Netanyahu and viewed his ongoing corruption trial as a national disgrace. Their coalition also included the last remnants of the Israeli left and, controversially, the United Arab List. Its domestic agenda revolved around good governance, stabilization of the political system and passing a state budget for the first time in three years. But when it came to the occupation, the siege of Gaza and the refusal to negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, it was not much different to the previous Netanyahu administration. Israel’s Zionist straitjacket may allow some room for debate on internal issues, but its confines are clear.
The most reactionary Knesset in history will now be sworn in on November 15. Yet this should not be read as a fundamental shift to the right. It is rather the outcome of various strategic manoeuvres on Netanyahu’s part as well as long-term processes within Israeli society. Such factors can be elaborated by analyzing the recent history of two political groupings: the Jewish religious parties on the one hand, and the Arab-Palestinian parties on the other.
Starting with the former: Netanyahu will most likely form his government out of the following components: Likkud (32 seats), Religious Zionism (14 seats), Shas (the Sephardic orthodox party, 11 seats) and Yahadut Hatorah (the Ashkenazi ultraorthodox party, 7 seats). The incoming PM can easily assemble this 64-seat bloc, in a parliament of 120 members, with the automatic support of all three Jewish religious parties (representing Mizrahi and Ashkenazi alike), which are now considered ‘natural allies’ of the Zionist right. Yet this is by no means a natural situation. It is the result of Netanyahu’s long-term plan to bring religious, orthodox and even ultraorthodox parties – which are in large part non-Zionist – into his political project, by framing it as quintessentially ‘Jewish’. The old saying goes that ‘the Torah has seventy faces’, but Netanyahu and the hard-right have given it only one. For religious parties, the latter is now a close collaborator while centrists and leftists have become the ultimate anti-Jewish Other – which, in the long run, leaves little hope for another changing of the guard.
Secondly, and no less cannily, was Netanyahu’s strategy vis-à-vis the Arab parties and Palestinian citizens of Israel. During his previous time in office, he both deepened Israel’s divide-and-rule approach to the Palestinians – precipitating the total disintegration of the Arab Joint List – and succeeded in cementing a fanciful association between the Arab parties and terrorism, thereby discrediting their criticism of the occupation. After United Arab List joined Lapid’s fragile coalition, Netanyahu (and the right in general) endlessly reiterated the claim that the new government was ‘reliant on supporters of terror’. The effectiveness of this smear showed how entrenched the discourse of ‘terrorization’ had become, thanks in part to other Zionist political actors from the putative centre and left (Lapid, for example, is currently refusing to meet with the leaders of the Arab parties Hadash and Ta‘al). Through such rhetoric, Netanyahu established a comprehensive formula which meant that every Arab-Palestinian would be required to prove that he or she is not a terrorist. Such delegitimization had a clear strategic aim, making it almost impossible for Arab-Palestinians to voice their opinions, and destroying the conditions for a stable centrist or centre-left coalition.
In other words, by coding the religious parties as right wing, and the Arab parties as terrorists, Netanyahu has rendered any joint coalition of Jews and Arabs unthinkable. What makes this strategy so successful, and so dangerous, is its apparent irreversibility. Over the next four years, the government will take extraordinary steps to lock in its hegemony. It plans to introduce an ‘overriding clause’ that will enable the parliament to overturn Supreme Court rulings, effectively abolishing the separation of powers and ensuring that Netanyahu’s trial will end without conviction. Netanyahu will also exploit the impotence of international law, along with Israel’s warm relations with the new authoritarian right in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, to realize the dream of a de facto annexation of Area C in the West Bank.
Despite what my neighbour said, it is most likely that we will meet again at the ballot box once the new government has completed its term. But the question is what options we – let alone the Palestinians – will have, after four more years of Netanyahu and Religious Zionism.
With Arabs still excluded from large parts of Israeli society, Said’s arguments are as relevant now as they ever were
Tue 17 Jun 2008 15.00 BST
The 30th anniversary of Orientalism has brought with it numerous publications aiming to weaken Edward Said’s project. As I see it they seek to disqualify the writer rather than engage with his arguments, and do not contribute to scholarly debate about his work. I would like to bring forward a contemporary political debate to remind us that Orientalism’s political arguments are still alive and kicking.
As a journalist in Israel, my home country, I frequently found Orientalism to be an effective tool for understanding Israeli discourse, knowledge-construction and the media’s work. In a society which gathers around the army as its focal point and which sees Judaism as a national identity, the Jewish-military discourse emerges almost naturally.
Within this discourse, which becomes the society’s common sense, certain (positive) behaviours are linked to the Jews, and certain (negative) behaviours are linked to the Arabs. Giving the media as an example, one needs to remember that within Israeli common sense, the themes of violence, aggressiveness, propaganda and incitement are Arab-oriented, while self-defence, response, restraint and morality are Jewish-Israeli-oriented, and rarely represent Arab behaviour or ways of thinking.
Following this, and in order to understand how a hegemonic Jewish discourse is being shaped in a country with 1.4 million Palestinian citizens (who can speak Hebrew and are educated in the state’s schools and universities), it is indeed helpful to come back to Orientalism. According to Said:
“In discussions of the orient, the orient is all absent, whereas one feels the orientalist and what he says as presence … We must not forget the orientalist’s presence is enabled by the orient’s effective absence”.
The process of producing sociopolitical knowledge about Arabs in Israel could prove the validity of this notion, mostly due to the fact that within the Israeli spheres where this knowledge is being made, Arabs are not allowed.
Despite the fact that one-fifth of Israeli citizens are Arabs, the establishment has always preferred to understand the region through Jewish-Zionists’ eyes and to assume the task of representing the same Arabs.
The prime ministers’ advisers for Arab affairs, emissaries dealing with Arab delegations, thinktanks seeking political solutions concerning the Palestinians, the media’s Arab affairs correspondents and Israeli-Arabic radio, television and newspapers outlets have practically been controlled, run and presented by Jews from the state of Israel’s very beginning. Interestingly, due to the sensitivity (or even danger) of adding indigenous “Arab” knowledge and understanding to the Israeli-Jewish perception of “the Arabs”, the Palestinian citizens of Israel emerged as being more suited to “non-Arab” positions. For example, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem Universities, there are no Palestinian citizens of Israel who are regular lecturers in the Middle East faculties, but, surprisingly, they can be found in the faculties of medicine, pharmacy, education, law, sociology and others. Taking high schools as another example for knowledge-construction, it is interesting to note that teachers of the Arabic language in Jewish-Israeli schools are rarely Arabs; an Arabic supervisor from Israel’s ministry of education explained their absence by saying that Arabic is the least suitable subject to be taught by Arabs.
These examples show that knowledge about the other was constructed in Israel not only by ignoring it geographically or politically, but also personally. This assisted with the creation and preservation of a discourse which was and still is Jewish and Zionist-oriented, and that immunises Jewish society from being challenged by different or opposing ideas.
The discourse described here cannot explain all processes in Israeli society, but deals with “big practices” that are the general themes in Israeli society. Indeed, out of 160 participants in the 2007 Herzliya conference, addressing Israel’s strategic challenges in the region, one could find two Palestinian citizens of Israel; in the department of Arabic at the Hebrew University there has been one permanent academic staff member who was an Arab during its 82 year history; and Israeli Channel 2 actually has one Arab correspondent in Gaza.
However, these exceptions prove the rule since this hybridity, of Palestinians who penetrate Jewish-controlled spheres, is essentially a western-Jewish notion that emerges from its own complexity, understanding and limits. At the end of the day, the minimal presence of the Arab-east in western-Jewish hegemonic discourse in Israel does not make it any less absent.
(In my review of “Ruins of Lifta”, I mentioned that historian Hillel Cohen was among those interviewed and alluded to his book “1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict” that appears to be an important contribution to “revisionist” literature.)
LRB, Vol. 38 No. 19 · 6 October 2016 Divide and divide and divide and rule by Yonatan Mendel
1929: Year Zero of the Arab-Israeli Conflict by Hillel Cohen, translation by Haim Watzman Brandeis, 312 pp, £20.00, November 2015, ISBN 978 1 61168 811 5
Ten minutes into Elia Suleiman’s film The Time That Remains, the Palestinian city of Nazareth officially surrenders to Israeli military forces on 16 July 1948. In the town hall, the Israeli commander reads out the bill of surrender to the gathered Arab-Palestinian notables. It’s in Hebrew and they don’t understand a word. The commander tells the mayor to sign the document, and then to join his soldiers for a ‘historic photo’. A military cameraman points his camera at the soldiers. But when the black and white photo appears on screen it isn’t the soldiers we see: it’s the puzzled group of Arab-Palestinian figures at the other end of the room, ordinary people, onlookers. They, and others like them, are central figures in the work of Hillel Cohen. Neither the conventional ‘winners’ nor the stereotypical ‘losers’, they play a part in the grand political story which, though crucial, is often overlooked.
Cohen was born in 1961 into a National Religious family; his father was of Jewish Afghan origin, his mother of Jewish Polish descent. As a teenager he lived in a settlement in the West Bank. He left school at 16 and began to explore the neighbouring Palestinian villages. He made friends, learned Arabic, and by being there found out about the lives of Palestinians under the occupation. He worked as a floorer before beginning his academic career. He reads the Bible but no longer considers himself ‘religious’. He goes ‘more often to Hebron than to Tel Aviv and more often to Bethlehem than to Haifa’. He believes in a one-state solution (at least in the long term) and supports Israeli human rights organisations such as Anarchists against the Wall and Hamoked, which works with Palestinians in the Occupied Territories whose rights have been violated by Israeli policies. He writes in Hebrew – unusually for an academic, he doesn’t have an international audience primarily in mind. In half a dozen scholarly books covering the history of Palestine and Israel from 1929 to 1967 and beyond, he has consistently written about ordinary people, something no other Israeli historian has managed to do.
Cohen identifies 1929 as the year that gave birth ‘to the Zionist military ethos’. The Arab-Israeli conflict probably doesn’t have a ‘year zero’ – its roots go back at least as far as the 19th century – but 1929 should certainly be seen as a landmark. Between 23 and 29 August that year, 133 Jews and 116 Arabs were killed. Hundreds more were injured. The worst violence was in the Old City of Jerusalem and near the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Cohen shows how the violence was connected to the threat – real or imagined – of a change in the status of a religious site that served as a symbol of political hegemony. In the 1920s, the Western Wall in Jerusalem was a Jewish prayer site in an Arab area where ‘Jews were allowed to pray … on the condition that they not disturb the residents of the neighbourhood, and on the understanding that they not claim title to the site.’
On 15 August 1929, following months of tension, Jewish demonstrators marched to the Wall, raised the Zionist flag, sang the Zionist anthem and claimed ownership of the site. The effect on relations between Jews and Arabs was dramatic. There was an Arab counter-demonstration the next day, which within a week had escalated into full-blown anti-Jewish riots. (More recent violence in Jerusalem has also been a consequence of Israeli attempts to change the status of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount site. The Second Intifada was sparked in 2000 by Ariel Sharon’s decision to visit the site to prove Israeli sovereignty; and the latest cycle of violence in Jerusalem follows 15 meetings at which the Interior Committee of the Knesset discussed changing the site’s status to allow Jews to pray there.)
Drawing on a wide range of sources, in Hebrew, Arabic and English, Cohen argues that neither side includes in the history it tells itself the massacres and murders committed by its own members. He juxtaposes Hebrew and Arabic accounts of particular incidents – for example, the murder of the Palestinian ‘Awn family in Abu Kabir village by a Jewish policeman named Simha Hinkis – and shows how Jews and Arabs described them at the time, and how they have been remembered, and forgotten, since. In Biladuna Filastin (‘Our Homeland Palestine’) Mustafa Dabbagh describes the murders of the ‘Awn family and the way Hinkis mutilated their bodies: Jewish newspapers didn’t report the crime at all, and when they covered the trial referred to the murder as the ‘Hinkis incident’.
The division between the two communities – Jewish Zionists on one side and Arab Palestinians on the other – ‘grew ever more salient’, Cohen argues, ‘as national identity grew stronger’. At the beginning of the 20th century, many of the Jews in Palestine, not to mention the wider Middle East, had no Zionist national aspirations. The riots of 1929 changed that. ‘No other factor was more influential in bringing the established Jewish communities in Palestine and the new Zionist community together under a single political roof.’
After 1929 tension was no longer between the indigenous population (Arab Palestinians, including Jews) and European Zionist immigrants, but between Arabs and Jews. In Israel today, descendants of Mizrahi Jews (or Arab Jews) tend to have more anti-Arab views than the rest of the Jewish population. This has a lot to do with the narrow range of identities ‘allowed’ by Zionist European ideologies, according to which an Arab cannot be a Jew and a Jew cannot be an Arab. The 1929 attacks on Mizrahi Jews, who spoke Arabic and dressed in Arab clothes, marked a moment of dramatic change.
Mazal Cohen was a Jewish woman murdered in Safed on 29 August 1929. Her brother spoke at her funeral:
For a quarter of a century I have spoken their language, perused their books, learned their way of life, observed their ways and manners, yet I did not know them … Who injected into your inner beings this twisted spirit, to stride with drawn swords at the head of a bloodthirsty throng and to lend a hand to murdering innocent people who lived with you securely for generations, who just yesterday were your companions and friends? … You always said that you considered native-born Jews to be your brothers, that you would love them, that you would respect them, because you share a single language and way of talking with them, and that you bore a grudge only against those who came anew … And how is it that you, the murderers of Safed, beset like beasts of prey solely those inhabitants of the city who have been integrated there for generations, turning their homes to heaps of ruins, mercilessly killing women and the old and the weak, who never did you any harm, taking the lives of people whose mother tongue is your language, and whose way of life is yours, different from you only in religion? … I have lived among you for a quarter of a century, I have been your guest, I have attended to your confidences and thoughts, and I did not know you.
This was the moment at which the possibility of a unified Arab-Jewish identity, or even a shared Arab-Jewish life, disappeared, perhaps for ever. The Zionist movement had succeeded in associating itself with all Jews, no matter whether they were European or Mizrahi, supportive of Zionism, indifferent or opposed to it. From now on Jews would see Arabs, all Arabs, as their enemy, and vice versa.
Theodor Herzl envisaged Israel as a ‘rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilisation against barbarism’. In the 1930s, some 57 Jewish settlements were established in a project called ‘Homa u-Migdal’ (‘A Wall and a Watchtower’), in which new villages were built in Palestine with two prescribed features: they were surrounded by a fence, and there was a guard tower in the middle. Jewish Israeli society still sees itself and its position in the world through the prism of security. Ehud Barak used to call Israel a ‘villa in the jungle’. Benjamin Netanyahu has said: ‘We need to secure our villa, the State of Israel, with fences and barriers from all sides, to protect it from the wild beasts that surround us.’ Military service is compulsory, and generally regarded as the highest contribution to the ‘common good’. The security establishment is also key to the Israeli economy: Israel, with a population of only eight million people, is the world’s seventh biggest arms exporter.
Cohen is less interested in the militarisation of Israeli society than in the practices that have shaped the relationship between Jews and Arabs. In Army of Shadows: Palestinian Collaboration with Zionism 1917-48 (2008) and Good Arabs: The Israeli Security Agencies and the Israeli Arabs 1948-67 (2010), he explores the way that the security apparatus gradually became Israel’s main means of interacting with and controlling the Palestinian community. Intelligence work – especially the recruitment and running of collaborators – has deepened Israeli penetration of Palestinian society, which served not only to strengthen Israel militarily but also to dilute Palestinians’ sense of national identity, their political commitment and above all their social solidarity. Over the years, and especially under martial law between 1948 and 1966, it became clear to some that working with the Israeli security forces was a way to ensure their survival, and to others that it could bring material gain.
By looking at the security apparatus as a ‘bond’ between Jews and Arabs and examining the role played by Palestinian collaborators, Cohen exposes a crucial – and ongoing – aspect of history that nobody else wants to talk about. Much of what’s written on the conflict is confined within the ‘pro’ and ‘anti’ frameworks. Cohen’s angle makes both sides uncomfortable. From a ‘pro-Israel’ point of view, his work raises serious moral questions about the underhand methods used by the Zionist movement and Israel against the Palestinians, as well as making plain that the hands of Jewish decision-makers have not been held out in peace. From a ‘pro-Palestinian’ point of view, his research seems liable to undermine the unity of the Palestinian national movement if only by showing the historic depth of ‘betrayal’ in the Palestinian community in the 1930s and 1940.
In 1920 Chaim Weizmann, then president of the Zionist Movement, called for the ‘provocation of dissension between Christians and Muslims’. Chaim Margaliot Kalvarisky, head of the Zionist Executive’s Arab Department, created the Muslim National Association with the purpose of widening divisions between Palestinian Muslims and Palestinian Christians. These were the early seeds of a Zionist divide and rule strategy that prevailed after 1929. Following another wave of clashes in the 1930s the dominant institutions of the Zionist movement’s security establishment began to take shape (Irgun was established in 1931, the Arab department of the Hagana in 1937, the Stern Gang in 1940 and so on). A Jewish ‘collaboration doctrine’ was formulated, based on the assumption that every Jewish-Arab relationship, however friendly and peaceful, would be subordinated to a ‘higher cause’: the needs of the Zionist movement. This is how Ezra Danin, one of the first intelligence co-ordinators in the Jewish community in Palestine, saw the situation in 1936:
There is always bad blood in a village and sometimes there are murders and then a chain of reprisals. In many cases of this sort, the murderer emigrates to another settlement, where he receives protection under Muslim custom. You can always get information from such a pursued, protected man in need of succour. The refusal to give a girl to a given man can lead to harsh conflicts. A man who asks the hand of a girl and is refused by her parents feels himself abused, especially if he is the girl’s cousin. Types generally exploitable for intelligence work are rebellious sons, thieves who have brought disgrace on their families, rapists who have acted on their passions and fled the avengers of tainted honour. An intelligence agent with open eyes and ready ears will always be able to make use of these personal circumstances and exploit them for his own needs.
‘Rebellious sons’ are still available for exploitation today. Mos’ab Hassan Yousef, son of a Hamas leader in the West Bank, collaborated with Israeli intelligence from 1997 to 2007. His story made it into bookshops (Son of Hamas) and cinemas (The Green Prince). Human rights organisations in the West Bank and Gaza Strip report evidence of Palestinians killed, tortured or jailed, by both official and unofficial Palestinian bodies, for collaborating with Israel. When I worked at Physicians for Human Rights, there were many stories of Palestinians from the West Bank being stopped by Israeli intelligence officers on their way to Jordan to get medical treatment. ‘They told me, if you want to save the life of your daughter, you have to work with us,’ a Palestinian father said. ‘I refused and came back home.’ The next day he tried again, and was allowed to go to Jordan. He told me after his return to Palestine that those who are first refused and then allowed to leave the country, or are allowed through in the first place, will always be suspected of being collaborators. In other words, any contact that Palestinians have with Israeli officials involves the threat of being made to collaborate, or of being labelled a collaborator. For Israeli security it’s doubly useful: it brings in information and deepens mistrust.
The earliest murder of an Arab collaborator that Cohen has discovered took place in 1929; the earliest murder of an Arab land dealer who arranged a sale of land from Arabs to Jews occurred in 1934; in 1938, at the height of the Great Arab Revolt, of 900 Palestinians killed, 498 were killed by fellow Palestinians on suspicion of either collaborating with the Zionists or selling land to Jews. As the circle of khawana (‘traitors’), real or suspected, grew, so did the violence. In such circumstances it was almost impossible to create a united Palestinian front. In 1948, Cohen says, there was not only a general unwillingness among Palestinians to fight, but even active resistance to the Arab fighters. The Zionist intelligence services were working overtime to create the impression that everybody in Palestine was betraying everybody else.
With the creation of the Israeli state, Palestinians became ‘Arab Israelis’ overnight while Israel did its best – with the help of Palestinian collaborators – to create satellite political parties that were friendly to Israel as a way of impeding the creation of an authentic Palestinian leadership. Many Arab members of the Knesset had been collaborators before 1948. As far as Israel was concerned, there were ‘bad Arabs’ (politically aware Palestinian citizens of Israel who wanted to connect to the Arab world, called for equal rights and demanded the return of refugees) and ‘good Arabs’ (Palestinian citizens of Israel who co-operated with the state and showed loyalty to its principles).
Investigating the daily lives of Palestinians between 1948 and 1967, Cohen looks at the school system, and traces letters from informers denouncing teachers who didn’t toe the Zionist line, or tried to remain apolitical. He enters into the political debates between the Communist Party (the Jewish Arab List) and MKs associated with Zionist parties, especially David Ben Gurion’s Labour. He looks at wedding songs to trace the different streams of Palestinian political behaviour. He finds informers who snitched on their neighbours and on people they saw in the village shop or on the city bus; who reported things they heard when they went to have a pee in an olive grove or as they were walking past the house of the head of the village. With the help of informers, the Israeli government ‘was able to obtain information about what was going on in Palestinian communities and what was said in private’, Cohen writes, and ‘even when informers were unable to obtain information, they were able to make their fellow Arabs think they knew.’ As Napoleon III’s chief of police put it, ‘I don’t need one out of every three Parisians chatting on the streets to be my informer, all I need is for each of the three to think that one of the others is an informer.’ Israel made the Palestinian community the first inspector, and the first supervisor, of its own members.
The strategy’s success is at times hard to believe. ‘Good Arabs’ were often as Zionist and anti-Arab as the Israeli establishment, perhaps convincing themselves that they were helping to secure the existence of the Arab community in Israel, or simply for personal gain: rewards ranged from land to public status, from local power to protection. After the 1956 massacre in Kafr Qasim – Israeli border police shot dead 47 men, women and children – Arab community leaders expressed their understanding of the ‘special considerations’ that led to the killings, and rejected the idea of building a memorial in the village. In 1964, Arab MKs chose to celebrate the establishment of Karmiel – a Jewish city built as part of the ‘Judaisation of the Galilee’ – instead of attending a memorial ceremony in Kafr Qasim. And when, on several occasions in the 1960s, the Knesset debated whether to continue with martial law in Arab areas, some Arab MKs voted with the government against dismantling the military regime imposed on their own communities.
The principle of divide and rule governs many walks of life. One significant example given by Cohen was the decision to recruit the Druze into the Israeli army, to cut them off both from the Arab Palestinian community in Israel and from the Druze communities in Lebanon and Syria. Cohen quotes Avraham Akhituv, the former head of Shin Bet: ‘We need to continue our efforts to increase the uniqueness of the Druze and their separateness – that of the young Druze generation especially – from the general Arab population.’ The prime minister’s adviser on Arab affairs said that ‘the individuality of each and every separate community should be consolidated.’ Breaking the Arab community up into smaller communities of Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouins not only forced each group to deal with the state separately, Cohen argues, but helped to change the conflict from a conflict between a Jewish community and an Arab community into one between a Jewish majority and Arab minorities, with the singular and plural forms echoing the power relations established by Israel.
Cohen also records Palestinian acts of resistance, organised and unorganised, collective and individual. He has unearthed a police report, for example, on a wedding in the village of Tur’an in the 1960s. After the regular shouts of ‘long live the prime minister of Israel and long live the military governor,’ one of the guests shouted: ‘long live Abu Khaled [Nasser], long live Ben Bella, long live Amin al-Hafez’ – the leaders of Algeria and Syria respectively. In 1958, the Communist Party called on Palestinian citizens not to celebrate Israel’s tenth anniversary:
Will we dance on the day of mourning for the destruction of our villages? Will we dance on the graves of our martyrs who fell in the many massacres, like the ones at Dir Yasin and Kafr Qasim? Will we celebrate while a million of our compatriots are dispersed in exile and prevented from returning to their homes and their homeland? Will we celebrate when we are stripped of national rights and live under a military regime and national repression? No, we will not celebrate. We are part of a huge nation that is today raising its head everywhere, in Algeria, Oman, Aden and Lebanon, against the imperialists and their lackeys, and we will pay them back double.
When the head of the village of Jish refused to celebrate Israeli Independence Day, he lost his position at the Ministry of Health. A customer in a crowded café in a village in the Galilee told the owner not to turn the radio off when it began broadcasting a speech of Nasser’s. ‘I am not afraid of collaborators,’ he said. In Acre in the late 1950s, the Israeli authorities decided that the renovation of Al-Jazzar mosque would be celebrated together with Israel’s Independence Day. Elias Kousa, a prominent lawyer and activist, wrote to the mosque committee:
The Israeli government took Arab land and put it in Jewish hands, so the Jews can live in prosperity while the Arabs live in poverty … This government … chained your freedom as if you were dogs, humiliated you, hurt your dignity and made you a people without respect or pride. It also hurt our education, progress and success … Are you going, after all that, to celebrate a national day we have nothing to do with?
Cohen studies the tension between national feeling, on the one hand, and the need to survive and feed a family, on the other, without judging those who chose either way. Yet the reality he describes makes it clear why the Palestinians couldn’t put the catastrophe of 1948, the Nakba, out of their minds: not because Israeli attempts at re-education weren’t powerful enough but, on the contrary, because Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians was a constant reminder.
The Rise and Fall of Arab Jerusalem, published in Hebrew in 2007 and in English in 2011, predicts the most recent wave of violence to have hit Jerusalem: the so-called knife intifada, which began in October 2015 and mostly involved attacks by Palestinians from the West Bank on Israeli soldiers positioned around the Muslim Quarter in East Jerusalem. Cohen shows that Israeli attempts to erase any Palestinian political claim to Jerusalem – next year Israeli schools will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its ‘unification’ – and the destruction of Palestinian institutions in the city during the Second Intifada has led to a situation in which Palestinians are still discriminated against, East Jerusalem is still occupied, house demolitions there continue, and the Palestinian national leadership has been taken away from the city. This is the context for the latest round of Palestinian violence. By giving Palestinian Jerusalemites ‘special status’ and building a seven-metre concrete wall between Jerusalem and the West Bank, Israel has continued to divide and rule. Not only have Muslims, Christians, Druze and Bedouins been separated from each other, but so have Palestinian Jerusalem, Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Divide and divide and divide and rule.
Cohen doesn’t try to portray the connection that Palestinians have to Jerusalem as stronger or weaker than that of the Jews. Rather, he wishes to revive the possibility of sharing the city. How many Jewish Israelis know that the Palestinians made Jerusalem their capital before Israel did? And how many know that the founding convention of the PLO was held in the Intercontinental Hotel in Jerusalem? And how many Palestinians know about the place of Jerusalem in Jewish literature, religious ceremonies and thought? When Cohen speaks about Jerusalem he means both Palestinian and Jewish Jerusalem, and when he speaks about ‘Jerusalemites’ he includes the Palestinians; Yerushalmim in Hebrew usually refers only to Jewish Israeli residents.
We are in a period of despair. Israel has an extreme right-wing government and a spineless opposition; its prime minister refers cynically to the evacuation of illegal settlements as ‘ethnic cleansing’; its minister of education approves of a wounded, prostrate Palestinian being shot through the head; a majority of Israeli MKs pass a bill that allows them to dismiss fellow members – that’s to say, Arab members – if they feel inclined to do so. Meanwhile, the historic municipal elections that were to take place in Gaza and the West Bank this month were cancelled, probably because the Palestinian Authority feared Hamas would have a resounding victory; the occupation will be half a century old next year and the siege of Gaza will mark its tenth anniversary. Cohen’s work is a valuable resource in these horrendous times. Neither ‘pro-Israeli’ nor ‘pro-Palestinian’, it is impossible to requisition, which may, in part, explain why he was never elevated to the rank of Israel’s ‘new historians’. He writes critically about Zionism and sympathetically about Jews who ran to Palestine for their lives; he writes with great honesty about Palestinians who were forced to co-operate with Israel, and those who chose to fight. He has a rich, dialectical understanding of the Jewish-Arab relationship, and though he would never compare the occupier to the occupied, his writing will make Jewish and Palestinian readers equally uncomfortable.
Minerva Center for the Humanities at Tel Aviv University was profiled by the IAM in the past. This time, the focus is on Dr. Ariel Handel, the Head of the Lexicon group at the Center, who published a Call for Papers. Handel is a member of the Department of Literature at TAU who is also a veteran politicalactivist and an army reserve refuser. The invitation states: “We are happy to send you the call to the 19th lexical conference for critical political thought. The conference will be held on February 27, Tel Aviv University. The deadline for submitting abstracts is December 20.”
According to the invitation, the “conference lectures should contribute to the composition of an alternative political lexicon that maps and re-examines the basic concepts of the contemporary political discourse and challenges the national-liberal and neo-liberal conceptions that are at the center of it now.” The discussions at this conference will focus on concepts that can be taken from the “familiar philosophical dictionary (such as: freedom, equality, rights, representation, justice, etc.) or express different and original forms of observation about government and the political field (such as: space, time, body, technology, population, etc.). Relevant concepts can also be concepts that describe a device (camera, screen, magnetic card), site (house, fence) or mechanism (police, school), provided that the question will be used as a basis for an original point of view on the government and the political field.”
The “concept can be anchored in one defined theory or move freely between several close or competing theories, provided that the focus is on the concept itself and on the reality it expresses and interprets.”
The invitation continues, “The discussion of the concept should offer innovation in one or more of the following aspects: understanding the concept itself and its theoretical context; understanding the political reality that the concept allows to express; An understanding of the limitations of the theoretical discussion that the same concept seeks to criticize, expand, or replace.”
The participants of the conference will be invited to submit their lectures/or articles that will be developed from the content of the conference discussions to be published in the online journal Mafteakh (Key): Lexicon for Political Thought.
“We invite researchers, including research students, to submit abstracts for a lecture at the conference. The abstract should explain the choice of a specific concept and concisely present the relevant theoretical context and the main innovation in the presentation of the concept. The abstract will be up to 300 words.”
The Lexicon is organized in collaboration with the Van Leer Institution Jerusalem and the BGU Department of Politics and Government, as noted on the letterhead.
A perusal of the articles of the last publication of Mafteakh shows polemics rather than academic writing. Writers, such as TAU School of Culture students, promote Balad, the Arab political party. Other writers are artists and scholars of Literature and Poetry. The exception is Erez Ztfadia and Oren Yiftachel, who provide a Marxist interpretation which they term Marxian, to camouflage the jargon. Adi Ophir, another contributor, provides negative views of any governance.
The Political Lexicon is a home for radical leftists paid by Minerva, Van Leer, and the BGU Department of Politics and Government. The neo-Marxist, critical, and postmodern jargon to which the writers adhere, do not uphold the standards of scholarship.
It is one more example of how some institutions of higher learning use taxpayers’ money to pay the salaries of activist academics. Over the years, both TAU and BGU have paid the wages of these activists and provided them with academic legitimacy. Indeed, in 2012 the Council of Higher Education threatened to close down the Department of Politics and Government at BGU for being top-heavy with neo-Marxist, critical scholars who failed to offer a political science curriculum. The recent Ph.D. graduates at the Department are, among others, Aya Shoshan, who participated in the tent protests in Spain and Israel in 2011, and Debby Farber, a member of the group Zochrot, which aims to promote the discourse on the Nakba and the Palestinians’ right of return.
The permissive atmosphere at TAU is also reflected in the employment of Handel, a military refuser. As a. rule, Israeli academic institutions should not recruit army refusers who teach students who serve in the army reserves. Under the banner of academic freedom, the University tolerated the likes of Dr. Anat Matar, who headed a group dedicated to encouraging draft dodging.
Be that as it may, the major problem is that unlike the United States and other Western countries, Israel has never offered pushback against academic extremism. For instance, public universities, supported by the states, have effective mechanisms to limit scholar-activists. A number of groups also monitor and report on their activists. Most encouraging, as reported, Harvard University has recently denied tenure to a scholar because her scholarship represents advocacy writing rather than genuine research. Absent a pushback, Israeli academic activists would go on spouting barely understandable jargon that masquerades as scholarly research.
———- Forwarded message ——— From: ariel handel Date: Sat, Nov 19, 2022 at 1:42 PM Subject: [SocSci-IL] קול קורא לכנס הלקסיקלי ה-19 למחשבה פוליטית ביקורתית To: Social Sciences List <firstname.lastname@example.org>
אנו שמחים לשלוח לכן/ם את הקול הקורא לכנס הלקסיקלי ה-19 למחשבה פוליטית ביקורתית.
הכנס יתקיים ב-27 בפברואר באוניברסיטת תל אביב. הדדליין להגשת תקצירים הוא 20 בדצמבר.
נשמח לקבל הצעות למאמרים.
אנא הרגישו בנוח להפיץ את הקול הקורא בין עמיתותיכן/ם וחבריכן/ם.
הכנס הלקסיקלי התשעה-עשר למחשבה פוליטית ביקורתית
27 בפברואר 2023
קבוצת הלקסיקון למחשבה פוליטית תקיים ב-27 בפברואר 2023 את הכנס השנתי למחשבה פוליטית ביקורתית באוניברסיטת תל-אביב.
הרצאות הכנס אמורות לתרום לחיבורו של לקסיקון פוליטי אלטרנטיבי הממפה ובוחן מחדש את מושגי היסוד של השיח הפוליטי העכשווי ומאתגר את התפישה הלאומית-ליברלית ואת התפישה הניאו-ליברלית שעומדות במרכזו כעת.
הדיון בכנס זה, כמו באלה שקדמו לו, לא יתמקד בהוגים, בשיטות, בתקופות או בטקסטים מסוימים אלא במושגים אשר יוצעו לדיון על ידי משתתפי/ות הכנס. מושגים אלה יכולים להיות לקוחים מן המילון הפילוסופי המוכר (כגון: חירות, שוויון, זכויות, ייצוג, צדק וכדו’) או לבטא צורות התבוננות שונות ומקוריות על השלטון ועל התחום הפוליטי (כגון: מרחב, זמן, גוף, טכנולוגיה, אוכלוסייה וכדו’). מושגים רלוונטיים יכולים להיות גם מושגים המתארים מכשיר (מצלמה, מסך, כרטיס מגנטי), אתר (בית, גדר) או מנגנון (משטרה, בית ספר), ובלבד שאלה ישמשו כבסיס לנקודת מבט מקורית על השלטון ועל התחום הפוליטי.
כל הרצאה בכנס תוקדש למושג אחד וניתן יהיה לזהות בה מאמץ שיטתי להשיב על השאלה “מהו x?”. הצגת המושג יכולה להיות מעוגנת בתיאוריה מוגדרת אחת או לנוע בחופשיות בין כמה תיאוריות קרובות או מתחרות, ובלבד שהמוקד יהיה במושג עצמו ובמציאות שהוא מעניק לה ביטוי ואשר אותה הוא מפרש. הדיון במושג אמור להציע חידוש באחד או יותר מן ההיבטים הבאים: הבנת המושג עצמו וההקשר התיאורטי שלו; הבנת המציאות הפוליטית שהמושג מאפשר לבטא; הבנה של מגבלות הדיון התיאורטי שאותו המושג מבקש לבקר, להרחיב, או להחליף.
משתתפי/ות הכנס יוזמנו להגיש את הרצאותיהם/ן או מאמרים שיפותחו מתוכן בעקבות דיוני הכנס לפרסום בכתב העת המקוון מפתח: כתב עת לקסיקלי למחשבה פוליטית: https://mafteakh.org/
אנו מזמינים חוקרות וחוקרים, כולל תלמידות ותלמידי מחקר, להגיש תקצירים להרצאה בכנס. התקציר אמור להסביר את הבחירה במושג ספציפי ולהציג באופן תמציתי את ההקשר התיאורטי הרלוונטי ואת עיקר החידוש שבהצגת המושג. התקציר יהיה בהיקף של עד 300 מילים.
Children Itay Snir I would like to define children as those who suffer from oppression and are discriminated against in various ways because of their young age. The label of childhood is used both in everyday discourse and in political theory to justify and normalize the separation of young people from adults and control over them. But the logic that legitimizes power relations in the present based on a claim to a deficiency that will only be completed in the future is also applied to other groups: natives, the poor, and women, to name just a few distinct examples. Despite the obvious difference in the timelines – a few years in the case of the children, compared to many generations in the other examples – one can recognize here the same language and the same regime of charity. But while in other cases we have already learned to see the oppression even if it is covered with beautiful words and even good intentions, this is not the case with children. Their control is transparent and seems natural even to theorists and critical activity.
Issue 18 Extraterritoriality Maayan Amir Extraterritoriality shapes relations between law, representation and space. Historically, extraterritoriality applies to people and spaces. In the first case, and depending on the circumstances, extraterritorial arrangements could exempt or exclude an individual or a group of persons from the laws of the territorial jurisdiction applicable to the physical place where they are located. In the second case, they could exempt or exclude a space from the laws of the surrounding territorial jurisdiction. The unique status that applies to people and spaces to this day has political, economic and legal consequences that range over a very wide spectrum, at one end immunity and privileges, and at the other end deprivation and denial of basic rights.
Issue 17 Balad Orfa Snoff-Filpol, Jud Kadan, Vared Shamshi, Ido Fox In this article, we would like to think about the concept of Balad (بَلَد) as part of a broader project of an Arabic-Hebrew lexicon, which aims to create concepts and reconceptualize existing concepts in a bilingual way. In an attempt to think together from the two local languages, the choice of the term Balad seems acute, because it is anchored in the local Arabic-Palestinian language and marks the space of the local girls and boys. Moreover, the transformations that occur in the use of the concept of Balad in the transition between Arabic and Hebrew express in an honest way the relations between the languages and between the bodies that speak them.
Issue 17 a Room Vered Shimshi The corona epidemic strengthened the recognition of the centrality of the room in our lives. The need to stay in the rooms of the house during the closings and the exposure of the room to the eyes of others through the communication applications increased the attention to the connection between each person and his room, for example to the way the geographical and socio-economic space and personal taste are evident in the room. On top of that, the possibility of owning a private room whose door can be closed is not self-evident, and in itself is a class and cultural matter that teaches about conditions that are not common property.
Issue 17 Giving Birth Orly Dahan A woman is a subject, in the simplest sense of the word: a conscious organism that has psychological states and feelings and must be treated as an active agent in the world. But from the moment of her “birth as a woman”, she is deprived of some of the rights that are usually given to human subjects. A crushing expression of this is revealed when she herself gives birth. In the current article I will focus on the human subject who gives birth and argue that even though the woman’s subjectivity does not disappear during childbirth, she is often treated in various arenas as a born object, or a defective subject.
Download PDF Issue 17
State Legitimacy Yair Yasen Jürgen Habermas argued that legitimacy is the acceptance of authority, which is expressed in agreeing to disobey and obey it. Legitimization (or the process of acquiring legitimacy) is an acquired process of gaining authority. Legitimacy is acquired when actions, processes or ideologies are perceived as agreed because they are identified with norms and values in a certain society, and a certain audience perceives them as acceptable and normative. Legitimacy can be attributed, among other things, to the state as a whole, to governmental institutions separately, or to the actions and decisions of the state and the governmental institutions.
Download PDF Issue 17
Originality Ravid Rovner Originality as a criterion for aesthetic judgment is a central element in the field of art from the beginning of its appearance until today. Creators strive to be valued as original: to present unprecedented uniqueness, to be distinctly different from their predecessors, to chart a new path for other creators. In the last decade, some thinkers have called creators to demonstrate unoriginality as an artistic strategy.
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Displacement Erez Tzfadia, Oren Yiftachel The article focuses on the conceptualization of the phenomenon of repression and displacement using general and open terms to describe a wide variety of situations of violation of residents’ rights, while referring to the transition between English and Hebrew. After introducing the concepts of “rejection” and “displacement”, we will examine how they help to better understand the structure of urban citizenship – a concept that defines the city’s residents as a political community that has the right to take an active part in shaping the city, determining its character and making decisions about it and using its resources. We will progress in addressing displacement and repression as part of different critical theoretical approaches, and examine how they are reflected in different epistemological perspectives. We will end with expressions of resistance and protest against displacement and repression.
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Leisure Oded Tzpouri What exactly is leisure? It is difficult and perhaps even impossible these days to define the concept of leisure other than by way of negation. Leisure, in its everyday meaning, is time (or a certain type of activity occurring in this period of time) that is free from other things. First and foremost, this is time that is not dedicated to work or taking care of the needs of the body and home, and by extension, it is time that is not dedicated to everything that is necessary for existence.
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Religious Zionism Haim Katzman This article examines contemporary political, religious and social trends in religious Zionism in light of the research literature written on “religious Zionism”. Historically, there is reason to doubt the existence of a unified Zionist-religious ideology even before the 2000s, but this is a question that requires further research. My claim is that the etymology and theoretical conceptualization of religious Zionism as an ideology that unites the apparently contradictory dimensions of modern nationalism and the Jewish religion is today anachronistic and even misleading.
Governance Adi Ophir In the words below I will try to reintroduce a “lean” concept of government, one that does not assume the state as an a priori form of thinking about government, nor the concept of sovereignty, Schmitian or otherwise, as the essence of the concept of government. After I equip myself with this concept, I will be able to return to the question of the relationship between government and the state and to the theological dimension of the presentation of government (including state government). Between the thin concept of government and its theological meaning, I hope, a sketch of the concept of government, or at least of the space in which the concept of government must be performed, will be interpreted.
Last week the Goethe institute in Tel Aviv postponed the event “Understanding the pain of the others” that was scheduled for November 13th, 2022.
According to the Goethe Institute, “The remembrance of the Shoah and the commemoration of the victims is of utmost importance to the Goethe-Institut and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. The Goethe-Institut dedicates numerous projects to it in Israel and worldwide and stands for understanding and dialogue. The event “Understanding the pain of the others” was originally set to take place on November 9th in Tel Aviv. It was a very unfortunate decision to choose this date which we corrected. The public discourse that has developed in Germany and Israel in the run-up to the event has made it impossible to carry out the event appropriately. Since we are expecting disruptions to the event, we cannot guarantee a safe implementation of the panel discussion at this point. The important topic of remembrance culture cannot be addressed in the way it needs to under these circumstances. The Goethe-Institut and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation have therefore decided to postpone the event that was scheduled to take place on November 13th to a later date. We will go back to the drawing board and listen to different opinions and voices from the public discourse. We regret that this event was subject to public criticism before it even took place to an extend that we had no choice but to postpone it again.”
However, Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem, announced that the event would be canceled entirely. Dayan wrote on Twitter, “Earlier today, I spoke at length with the Chairman of the Board of the worldwide Goethe Institute Mr. Johannes Ebert. At the end of our in-depth conversation, Mr. Ebert assured me that the event will not take place. Wise decision.”
The event was to feature a dialogue between three people, Amos Goldberg of the Hebrew University, Bashir Bashir of Van Leer Institute Jerusalem, and Charlotte Wiedemann, a journalist expert on intercultural communication and postcolonial thought, with a focus on Islamic life. She has authored seven books, including on Iran. Her most recent book, Den Schmerz der Anderen begreifen. Holocaust und Weltgedächtnis (Understand the pain of others. Holocaust and world memory). In an interview after the publication of her book, she said, “we can see the most striking contrast between colonial victims and Holocaust victims, but if we take a closer look, we can also see a pattern of hierarchies applied to Nazi victims. Roma and Sinti used to be very close to Jews in the Nazi ideology, also constituting a race which had to be exterminated entirely. But their status in the public memory culture of today is much closer to African colonial victims: no voice, no respect. I call them “the victims who are not missed” in my book. Roma and Sinti in fact remain the most discriminated minority in Europe today. To conclude, there is an economy of empathy which is at the same time an economy of values attached to different lives. We should include in the picture that this economy has also been structured by recent wars and by the treatment of victims in these wars. Victims of drone strikes in Afghanistan were considered ‘collateral damage’ or – as I put it in my books – as neglectable lives. ‘As if they had never existed’ is a common statement by the relatives of those victims whose deaths have never been acknowledged, not to speak of the lack of payment of any compensation.”
Wiedemann’s narrative fits well with the accounts of Goldberg and Bashir.
Goldberg and Bashir’s thesis can be described as “the Shoah [Holocaust] and the Nakba are two interlinked catastrophes.” When a Palestinian is asked about the Holocaust, he often brings up the Nakba, “the displacement of Palestinians associated with the founding of the state of Israel.” Goldberg, an Israeli Holocaust researcher, and Bashir, a Palestinian political scientist, have “developed a concept aimed at promoting dialogue about these two interlinked national traumas.” At a linguistic level, there is a parallel between the two terms because both words mean “catastrophe.”
The Goldberg-Bashir collaboration goes some years back. In 2007, the Jerusalem-based Van Leer Institute invited Jewish and Arab educational theorists to discuss the issue of the Holocaust. It soon became evident that the Israelis and Palestinians were having great difficulties “relating to the trauma experienced by the other.” The meetings received financial support from the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a German think tank with close ties to the German Green Party.
In the summer of 2009, the group met for a workshop at the House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin. This is when Holocaust researcher Goldberg, who was part of the team running the dialogue group, met Palestinian political scientist Bashir. Bashir gave a lecture about Arab attitudes to the Holocaust and mentioned the Nakba in his lecture. At the same time, Arab Palestinian participants from Israel also insisted on discussing the Palestinian catastrophe. The controversial nature of the discussions spurred Goldberg and Bashir to consider another form of dialogue. They wrote a paper that compared the Shoah and the Nakba (without equating them with each other), reflected on their comparable importance in the collective memory of the respective groups, and called for “mutual empathy.” Bashir and Goldberg’s introduction to the book translates as “Reflections on memory, trauma and nationalism in Israel/Palestine.”
Goldberg and Bashir published a shorter version in the Journal of Genocide Research in 2014. The authors wanted to discuss in detail the differences in attitudes. They said that the “Shoah was, in terms of its scale, not comparable with any other event that as such is considered singular.” But since “the Holocaust has become the ultimate symbol of evil… any attempt to connect it even loosely with other chapters of the history of violence is quickly suspected of being an attempt to trivialize the Holocaust.”
They argue that “while the Shoah is over as an historical event and the Jewish people have, despite the trauma, been able to get back on its feet again, the Palestinians are to this day, in a position of political, military, economic, and cultural weakness because of the consequences of the Nakba.”
According to Goldberg and Bashir, there is an “asymmetry in the national catastrophes of both peoples from a moral point of view: the Palestinians were not to blame for the Holocaust, but the Israelis were responsible for the displacement and flight of the Palestinians and for their discrimination in Israel and oppression in the Occupied Territories.”
According to Goldberg and Bashir, a “rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians, who both see themselves as victim communities, is made more difficult above all because the Shoah and the Nakba are used equally to legitimize national claims.” Both scientists feel that it should be possible to integrate the catastrophe of the other into one’s own narrative without abandoning the “ultimate claim to justice.” Both scientists considered American historian Dominick LaCapra’s concept of “empathic unsettlement” to be helpful in this.
Despite all the scientific-sounding jargon, efforts to equate the Holocaust and the Nakba are essentially propaganda exercises by those who want to demonize the Jewish state. Diminishing and distorting the Holocaust is the newest trick in this game. Holocaust denial became too crude a tool for the more sophisticated circles of anti-Zionists. Incidentally, Dani Dayan is now on a speaking tour in the United States, where he warns that Holocaust distortion is now more dangerous than Holocaust denial.
In some ways, the Goldberg-Bashir comparison is even more insidious than simple Holocaust distortion.
Jews had no choice whatsoever when they were loaded on the trains and dispatched to Auschwitz, Treblinka, and other extermination camps. The Palestinians had a choice and made the wrong one. The Palestinian Mufti Haj Amin al Husseini, a Nazi collaborator, ordered the riots of 1936-39, where numerous Jews were killed. His ultimate goal, which he discussed with Hitler in Berlin, was to establish extermination camps in Palestine; only the British victory in El Alamein over the Nazis spared the Jews the fate of their European brothers. In 1947, when the United Nations voted for a division of Palestine into two states – a larger one for the Palestinians and a smaller one for the Jews – the Palestinians and their Arab supporters started a war that they had the misfortune to lose. In 1993, when Israel and Yasser Arafat negotiated the Oslo peace, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, under orders from Iran, started a terror campaign that squashed all chances of peace. This is the real reason that “the Palestinians are to this day, in a position of political, military, economic, and cultural weakness because of the consequences of the Nakba.” This is on top of the fact that the Palestinian Authority has run a highly corrupt state, according to Transparency International.
Goldberg, whom IAM profiled before, is essentially an academic activist. As a rule, activists use their writings to tarnish the West, the United States, and, in his case, Israel. On the flip side, the same activists burnish the image of the enemies of the West, especially Iran. Not incidentally, Wiedemann was criticized for her pro-Iranian regime views by Danyal Casar in the German weekly paper Jungle World.
Goldberg was hired to teach and research the Holocaust. His incessant activism detracts from his primary duty.
מכון גתה והנציגות הישראלית של קרן רוזה לוקסמבורג מודיעים על דחיית האירוע “להבין את כאבו של האחר”, שהיה עתיד להתקיים ב-13 בנובמבר, למועד אחר.
זכר השואה וקורבנותיה הוא נר לרגליהם של מכון גתה וקרן רוזה לוקסמבורג. רבות מפעילויות מכון גתה בישראל וברחבי העולם הוקדשו ומוקדשות להנצחתם. המכון דוגל בהידברות ובדיאלוג. הבחירה בתאריך המקורי שנקבע לאירוע “להבין את כאבו של האחר” בתל אביב, ה-9 בנובמבר, הייתה החלטה מצערת שתוקנה מאז. אך לצערנו, השיח הציבורי שהתפתח בגרמניה ובישראל בימים שקדמו לאירוע אינו מאפשר את קיום האירוע באופן הולם.
מאחר שצפויות הפרעות משמעותיות לקיומו, אין באפשרותנו להבטיח את ביטחון הדיון והדוברים.ות בו. זאת אינה הדרך הראויה לדון בנושא החשוב לאין ערוך של תרבות הזיכרון.
לפיכך, מכון גתה וקרן רוזה לוקסמבורג החליטו במשותף לדחות למועד אחר את האירוע שתוכנן ל-13 בנובמבר. את הימים הבאים נקדיש לדיון מעמיק בתכנונו מחדש בהתייעצות עם מומחים.ות מן התחום.
אנחנו מצרים על כך שההתנגדות לאירוע עוד לפני שהתקיים לא הותירה לנו בררה אלא לדחותו בשנית.
Statement in English
The Goethe-Institut and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation are postponing the event “Understanding the pain of the others” that was to take place on November 13th to a later date.
The remembrance of the Shoah and the commemoration of the victims is of utmost importance to the Goethe-Institut and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. The Goethe-Institut dedicates numerous projects to it in Israel and worldwide and stands for understanding and dialogue. The event “Understanding the pain of the others” was originally set to take place on November 9th in Tel Aviv. It was a very unfortunate decision to choose this date which we corrected.
The public discourse that has developed in Germany and Israel in the run-up to the event has made it impossible to carry out the event appropriately. Since we are expecting disruptions to the event, we cannot guarantee a safe implementation of the panel discussion at this point. The important topic of remembrance culture cannot be addressed in the way it needs to under these circumstances.
The Goethe-Institut and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation have therefore decided to postpone the event that was scheduled to take place on November 13th to a later date. We will go back to the drawing board and listen to different opinions and voices from the public discourse.
We regret that this event was subject to public criticism before it even took place to an extend that we had no choice but to postpone it again.
דיון בהשתתפות: שרלוטה וידמן (Charlotte Wiedemann), בשיר בשיר, עמוס גולדברג
שרלוטה וידמן היא פובליציסטית וכתבת זרה. מאמריה הופיעו בין היתר ב-Die Zeit, Geo ו-Le Monde Diplomatique. וידמן בעלת טור ב”taz” ומעבירה הרצאות. היא פרסמה ספרים רבים בנושאים בינלאומיים. בין פרסומיה: „Den Schmerz der anderen begreifen. Holocaust und Weltgedächtnis“ (Propyläen, 2022) (להבין את כאבו של האחר. השואה וזיכרון העולם) בצל השתיקה ששררה במשפחתה היא עוקבת אחר הוויכוחים סביב האחריות הגרמנית לנציונל-סוציאליזם כבר ארבעה עשורים.
בשיר בשיר הוא פרופסור חבר לתיאוריה פוליטית באוניברסיטה הפתוחה ועמית מחקר בכיר במכון ון ליר בירושלים. תחומי מחקרו כוללים תיאוריה דמוקרטית, לאומיות, אזרחות, רב-תרבותיות והפוליטיקה של הפיוס. בין פרסומיו: בשיר בשיר ועמוס גולדברג (עורכים), השואה והנכבה: זיכרון, זהות לאומית ושותפות יהודית ערבית, תל אביב: מכון ון ליר והקיבוץ המאוחד 2015. The Arab and Jewish Questions: Geographies of Engagement in Palestine and Beyond (Columbia University Press, 2020) (השאלה הערבית והשאלה היהודית: גיאוגרפיות של מחויבות בפלסטין ומחוצה לה)
עמוס גולדברג הוא פרופסור חבר בחוג להיסטוריה של עם ישראל ויהדות זמננו וחבר במכון המחקר ליהדות זמננו באוניברסיטה העברית בירושלים. במשך עשרות שנים עסק בחקר השואה וזכרה בצומת שבין היסטוריה, תיאוריה ביקורתית וספרות. מחקריו ופרסומיו מתמקדים בין היתר בחקר הטראומה. בין פרסומיו: עמוס גולדברג, טראומה בגוף ראשון: כתיבת יומנים בתקופת השואה (הגרסה האנגלית ראתה אור בהוצאת אוניברסיטת אינדיאנה, 2017) בשיר בשיר ועמוס גולדברג (עורכים), השואה והנכבה: זיכרון, זהות לאומית ושותפות יהודית ערבית, תל אביב: מכון ון ליר והקיבוץ המאוחד 2015. עמוס גולדברג הוא אחד היוזמים והמחברים של הצהרת ירושלים על אנטישמיות.
אינגה גינתר עבדה ככתבת בישראל ובפלסטין במשך יותר מעשרים שנה, בין היתר עבור הפרנקפורטר רונדשאו והברלינר צייטונג. היא זכתה בכמה פרסים על כתיבתה העיתונאית, האחרון שבהם “פרס העיתונאי” מטעם היוזמה הגרמנית למזרח התיכון בשנת 2017. לצד ברלין הפכה ירושלים לביתה השני מסיבות מקצועיות ואישיות.
האירוע, שכותרתו “השואה, הנכבה ותרבות הזיכרון הגרמנית”, מאורגן על ידי מכון גתה בחסות קרן הקשורה למפלגת שמאל קיצוני בגרמניה. הוא תוכנן להיערך מחר, יום השנה לליל הבדולח, אך נדחה בכמה ימים בעקבות הביקורת. משרד החוץ: “האירוע הוא בושה וחרפה ומן הראוי שלא יתקיים בשום תאריך בלוח השנה”
עופר אדרת 08 בנובמבר 2022
אירוע שכותרתו “להבין את כאבו של האחר: השואה, הנכבה ותרבות הזיכרון הגרמנית”, שתוכנן להתקיים מחר (רביעי) במכון גתה בתל אביב, מעורר ביקורת בישראל ובעולם היהודי. הגינויים נשמעים בשל העובדה שהאירוע כולל עיסוק משותף בשואת העם היהודי ובנכבה הפלסטינית, וכן משום שהוא תוכנן להתקיים בחסות גרמנית ביום השנה לליל הבדולח – אירוע שהיה שלב בדרך לשואת יהודי אירופה. בעקבות הביקורת נדחה האירוע ליום ראשון הקרוב.
יו”ר מכון גתה בת”א שבו היה אמור להתקיים האירוע, שנדחה ליום ראשון, ביטל אותו אחרי ששוחח עם יו”ר יד ושם דני דיין • תנועת אם תרצו: “ניצחון לשפיות”
עמיחי שטיין ודב גיל-הר
11 בנובמבר 2022
אחרי שיחה בין יושב ראש “יד ושם” דני דיין ליושב ראש מכון “גתה”, יוהנס אברט, הוחלט לבטל האירוע שמשווה בין השואה ל”נכבה” ונדחה ליום ראשון בעקבות הביקורת הציבורית. האירוע אורגן על ידי קרן רוזה לוקסמבורג, המסונפת למפלגת השמאל הגרמנית די לינקה, וכותרתו הייתה – ״להבין את הכאב של הצד השני: השואה, הנכבה, ותרבות הזיכרון הגרמנית״.
הערב שתוכנן מתבסס על ספרה של העיתונאית והפובליציסטית הגרמניה שרלוט וידמן שכותרתו היא “להבין את כאבם של אחרים”. וידמן מטיפה לסוג של זיכרון חדש שעושה צדק עם צדדים שונים של אותו סכסוך, ו”מקדם סולידריות במקום תחרות על קורבנות”. וידמן מקדמת במאמריה הכרה גרמנית לפשעים שנעשו בתקופה הקולוניאלית של המדינה, וטוענת שאין העניין מעיב על ייחודיות השואה.
באתר מכון גתה מוסבר כי “כמעט 75 שנים לאחר הקמתו, הזיכרון בישראל נותר שטח שנוי במחלוקת פוליטית. היהודים מתמקדים בשואה, בעוד הפלסטינים מתמקדים בשנה הגורלית של 1948, שבה נמלטו מאות אלפי קורבנות וגורשו על ידי לוחמים יהודים – המכונה בערבית הנכבה”.
במשרד החוץ יצאו ביום שלישי נגד האירוע, שהיה אמור להתקיים במכון גתה בתל אביב יום לאחר מכן. “משרד החוץ מביע זעזוע ושאט נפש לנוכח זילות השואה הבוטה שמטרתה להכפיש את ישראל”, נמסר מהמשרד. במרכז שמעון ויזנטל תקפו בחריפות את קיום האירוע ביום שבו מצוין יום השנה לליל הבדולח. לאחר מכן מסר המכון כי הוא ידחה את האירוע ליום ראשון: “אנו מצטערים שבחירת התאריך לדיון בפאנל הובילה כעת לרוגז”.
בתנועת “אם תרצו” הגיבו: “ניצחון לשפיות. אנו מודים לאלפי הישראלים שהביעו את זעמם לנוכח האירוע האנטי-ישראלי. אנו מתחייבים להמשיך לפעול כדי לעצור את החתרנות המדינית הזרה של גרמניה בישראל”.
REPAIRING THE DAMAGE TO OUR ETHICAL CATEGORIES. A CONVERSATION WITH CHARLOTTE WIEDEMANN
POSTED ON 1ST SEPTEMBER 2022 BY REVIEW OF DEMOCRACY
In this conversation with RevDem editor Ferenc Laczó, Charlotte Wiedemann – author of the just released German-language volume Den Schmerz der Anderen begreifen. Holocaust und Weltgedächtnis (To Grasp the Pain of Others. Holocaust and Global Remembrance) – explores the inequalities of the reigning “economy of empathy”; discusses ways to connect the histories of National Socialism and global colonialism to each other; reflects on problematic aspects of German memory culture today; and suggests paths through which more pluralistic and inclusive memory cultures might be fostered.
Charlotte Wiedemann is an expert on intercultural communication and postcolonial thought, and a foreign reporter who has been conducting research in over thirty countries with a focus on Islamic life worlds and on Southeast Asia. She has published in a host of leading print media and is the author of seven books, including volumes on Iran and Mali. Her newest book, Den Schmerz der Anderen begreifen. Holocaust und Weltgedächtnis has been published by Propyläen Verlag.
Ferenc Laczó: Your new book Den Schmerz der Anderen begreifen (To Grasp the Pain of Others) reflects on and critiques the reigning “economy of empathy,” especially when it comes to the current regime of memory and recognition. You show through powerful examples how recognition depends on a sense of proximity and connection, and how it remains highly unevenly distributed. Our own pain is recognized before the pain of others would even be considered, so very much depends on who we consider part of the “we group,” you underline in the book. Which examples would you highlight to expose the glaring inequalities of empathy and recognition? More generally, how would you briefly characterize the reigning memory regime when it comes to historical injustices?
Charlotte Wiedemann: To become aware of what steers our empathy – individually and more importantly, collectively – opens doors to a more inclusive memory culture as well as to a more just approach to human rights issues of the present.
Let me take the example of Ukrainian war refugees: until the beginning of the Russian invasion, Ukrainians in Germany were considered cheap workforce who tended to work as nurses caring for the elderly in German private homes or on strawberry fields. They had no voice and no lobby. They didn’t belong to us.
The picture has changed entirely. Since the German public and media considers Putin’s war to be a war against us, the West, the refugees belong to us and are considered part of the “we group.” They are allowed to work and have access to social security benefits – quite differently from the Syrian refugees who arrived in the recent past.
This example shows how empathy is steered by political assumptions. These assumptions make victims be perceived as similar to us, but might also make them appear unsimilar, alien.
Currently we witness a mind-blowing contrast within the EU between the friendly treatment of huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees and the cruel treatment of small numbers of refugees at the Poland–Belarus border. The latter are considered aliens, “weapons” in the hands of a dictator to destabilize the EU who do not deserve any of our empathy. Babies die in the border forest, and we just do not care.
It is important that we do not confuse empathy with sheer emotion.
Empathy is foremost an intellectual operation, an identification with another person that develops over time. Most important in this process is whether we consider the other equal to us – as a human being on eye level with us.
If we apply these ideas to memory culture and the categorization of victims, we can easily see how political assumptions and structural racism are intertwined. This is most easily visible in the neglected status of colonial victims. But how exactly does it work?
In my new book, I compare the German perception of the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto and the East African resistance against German colonial rule some forty years earlier, at the beginning of the 20th century. In the so called Maji Maji war approximately 200 000 Africans were either shot or starved. It was a desperate liberation struggle and a case of disastrously asymmetrical warfare. So why is the resistance in the Jewish Ghetto enjoying so much respect and empathy, whereas the Maji Maji liberation fight is of no interest at all, raising no respect, no empathy?
I came to the conclusion that contemporary Germans easily identify with the fighting Jews but cannot identify with the fighting Africans. This happens for two chief reasons. Equating oneself with the Jewish victim is a strong feature of philosemitic German memory culture.
In general, Germans like to put themselves in the shoes of Jews as a way of dealing with suppressed feelings of guilt. In a harsh contrast, hardly anybody from the majority society can image him/herself being a colonized black person, so in that case there is nothing on eye level at all. Second, whereas the picture of the Jew in German collective consciousness has changed substantially between the Nazi era and now, the picture of the African human being has not changed much between the colonial era and the present time.
If we return to the comparison between the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the Maji Maji war, we see what constitutes the difference: Africans are not considered to have a strong and principled desire for freedom, neither in the past, nor now. 200 000 of them dying in resistance therefore has no meaning and their desperate will to fight is not an object of admiration in Germany.
With regards to divided empathy, we can see the most striking contrast between colonial victims and Holocaust victims, but if we take a closer look, we can also see a pattern of hierarchies applied to Nazi victims. Roma and Sinti used to be very close to Jews in the Nazi ideology, also constituting a race which had to be exterminated entirely. But their status in the public memory culture of today is much closer to African colonial victims: no voice, no respect. I call them “the victims who are not missed” in my book. Roma and Sinti in fact remain the most discriminated minority in Europe today.
To conclude, there is an economy of empathy which is at the same time an economy of values attached to different lives. We should include in the picture that this economy has also been structured by recent wars and by the treatment of victims in these wars. Victims of drone strikes in Afghanistan were considered “collateral damage” or – as I put it in my books – as neglectable lives. “As if they had never existed” is a common statement by the relatives of those victims whose deaths have never been acknowledged, not to speak of the lack of payment of any compensation.
I argue in my book that we have to repair the psychological and moral damage such Western policies have afflicted on our consciousness and on our ethical categories in order to be able to develop inclusive memory cultures. One of the most important lessons of the Holocaust is that there is nothing like a neglectable life.
Therefore, I consider the efforts to rescue refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean Sea as a model of a well-conceived and active new memory culture.
You cite numerous important examples of cross-referencing and cross-fertilization when it comes to the interpretations of racist violence, of colonialism and antisemitism, of slavery and genocides. One conclusion that has stood out for me is that discussions of the connections between Nazi and colonial history, and Nazi and colonial violence, more specifically – an awareness of what these histories share and how they might be distinguished analytically – are in fact nothing new. The drawing of such connections and comparisons have been around for numerous decades and may in fact have been less contested in the past. Would you be willing to discuss some key examples of how the history of National Socialism and that of global colonialism have been related to each other in the past? What do you see as fruitful approach through which more solidarity could be fostered?
I dedicate a whole chapter in my book to the colonial soldiers in WWII, especially to the one million Africans who fought under French flag. I do this for several reasons.
In Europe, WWII has not been sufficiently understood because the fact that huge parts of the world were still under colonial rule is still often excluded from the picture. Without the contribution of one million African soldiers France would most likely not have been among the victorious nations. Moreover, the fact that France is a permanent member of the UN Security Council illustrates the long-lasting impact of colonial domination during WWII and its aftermath.
To explore the other side, West Africans developed after WWII a memory culture of self-respect, which connected their war participation to the process of anticolonial emancipation.
I interviewed war veterans who told me how the respect they gained through their contribution to the liberation of Europe from Nazi rule impacted the first general strike of West African railroad workers aiming at equal pay for black and white employees. In Europe, we have not yet learned to connect the liberation from Nazi rule with the liberation of colonized subjects.
At the same time, it is true that the limitations of the white European concept of universalism have already been discussed and challenged some seven decades ago. This is not surprising at all.
Parallel to the Nuremberg trials, European nations were committing mass atrocities in their colonies for which the definition of crimes against humanity is equally fitting.
In the year 1947, when the first edition of Anne Frank’s diary was released in Amsterdam, the Dutch army annihilated the male population of entire villages in Indonesia during its attempt to suppress the Indonesian anticolonial struggle.
That implies that laws and institutions that are depicted as an outcome of the Holocaust are deeply stained by double standards. This is also true for the Genocide Convention, which was conceived in a way that it could not apply to colonial military campaigns against civilians or the violent suppression of liberation movements.
Regarding all these connecting dots between German National Socialism and colonialism, there is a huge gap nowadays between public memory culture and the results of historical research in the past two decades or so. The term Nazi colonialism has been used by historians for the last twenty years but is still causing a hiccup of sorts in public memory culture.
I came across one fascinating example when studying the language used by the Wehrmacht in Eastern Europe. They called the non-German auxiliary forces in extermination camps, some of whom were Ukrainians, Askari – exactly as the African auxiliary forces were called in colonial wars in German East Africa. The word is Arabic for soldier. It entered colonial parlance through Swahili and from there – through the interwar colonial nostalgia in Germany – it entered the language the Wehrmacht deployed at sites of the Shoah.
Unpacking these kinds of stories and connections can already change people’s mindset.
Your book offers a rather critical take on what one might call the dominant memory culture in Germany. You plead for pluralism and inclusiveness and argue that Germans should learn not to place themselves into the center of their own narratives, but rather to observe their own perspectives on history also with the eyes of others living in different parts of the world. In an autobiographical passage, you state that you personally consider the Shoah unique and underline that its utter horror and our inability to come to terms with it have shaped you profoundly. You also state that you have come to realize how this strong conviction concerning the Shoah’s uniqueness is the result of personal experiences you have made – with experiences that have much to do with you having been born and raised in West Germany in the postwar period. Would you perhaps be willing to discuss this process in some detail, that is to say how you came to be personally impacted and shaped by the memory of the Shoah, what triggered your reflections on your own specific positionality, and what motivates you personally to argue so powerfully against attempts to create “hierarchies of victims”?
Born just nine years after the liberation of Auschwitz, at some point I had to realize that I was living in uncomfortable closeness to the perpetrator generation. I grew up with the obdurate silence of my parents, including about my father’s NSDAP membership, and the gradual groping of the abyss beneath my Germanness.
I remember a situation involving my father when I was in my senior school years. I wanted to join a youth group and travel to the Soviet Union, and I had to get his permission for that. Upon hearing my request, my father replied: “There is nothing to see there, it is all flat.” To which I yelled back at him: “Yes, after you guys were there!” We never talked about this again.
But I remember this as a crucial moment because I was not addressing him as an individual, I was addressing a whole generation, or the male part of that generation.
Not long before my father died, he confessed jokingly that he had been a member of the NSDAP and that he threw his membership card into the drain after Hitler’s defeat…
Everything that had to do with National Socialism became like a second skin to me. Nothing else achieved this closeness in the long run. This intensely felt Germanness of mine was later combined with decades of experience in the non-European world: as a foreign reporter in Muslim countries; through stays in societies in West and East Africa, which were marked by the colonial experience; through years of living in Southeast Asia, where the image of the WWII is marked by the experience of the Japanese occupation; and most importantly, through friendship and love with people who look on us from elsewhere.
All these experiences have motivated my search which led to me to write this book.
It has emerged out of an inner dialogue and two great personal concerns: may we, as Germans, as “new Germans” and as “old Germans,” keep the memory of National Socialism close to us with sensitivity and with care, and may we, as Europeans, overcome a white way of thinking about history and be aware of the effects of colonial violence. In other words, keep the responsibility for Nazi crimes, but based on a new understanding of the world oriented towards respect and participation.
The Shoah is a tragedy of special significance, but this significance must not be used to degrade other sufferings. And Germans must learn that in a globalized world, people look at the extermination of the Jews from different angles – and they also look at Israel from different angles.
There have been several controversies in recent years concerning the German state’s uncritical official attitude towards the State of Israel, the rather grave difficulties the German public sphere appears to have to merely accept Palestinian voices and perspectives, and the recent attacks on Jewish dissidents. Would you care to comment on the position and chances of Palestinian voices and memory in German discussions? How would you interpret current forms of Jewish dissent when it comes to policies of the State of Israel, and the reception of such dissent in contemporary Germany?
There is a heated debate in Germany concerning these issues, which also has a lot of unpleasant features. Under the impact of the ever more rightist Israeli politics, spaces for fruitful discussion about Israel–Palestine have become narrower. Antisemitism is by now routinely conflated with anti-Zionism. And the special obligation Germany has to Jews has developed more and more into an unconditional loyalty to Israel’s policies.
Palestinian voices are often excluded from public discourse, allegedly to prevent antisemitism. Jews who are critical of Israel’s occupation policy or of the ethnonational character of the Israeli state also get accused of antisemitism. In a way, memory culture has been turned into a weapon against critical voices and minorities.
I argue in my book that one possible way out of this situation would be to open memory culture for Palestinian narratives about history, about their history.
I argue that we, the Germans of today, are implicated in the Palestinian tragedy, because without European antisemitism and the Shoah, the state of Israel would not have been founded under the conditions that it was and in the way that it was.
Your book sketches an attractive utopia of transcultural encounters based on the principle of equality that would foster a more pluralistic and inclusive cosmopolitan memory and could also revive anti-fascism as a powerful practice. You also point to the fact that the European and Western forms of dominance – which have resulted in so much exclusion, violence, and inequality of empathy in the past – are being challenged ever more in our increasingly interconnected world. How would you sketch a new, much more globally sensitive and egalitarian memory regime? And would you be willing to highlight some of the most positive developments you have observed towards the development of such a more pluralistic and inclusive cosmopolitan memory?
So far, the reception of my books has taken place on friendly terms, despite the palpable hostility against certain positions I hold. I take it as an indicator that a change of beliefs and attitudes is on its way, at least in some parts of society.
The German government has recently restituted art objects to Nigeria, and the mutual agreement states that “a new ethic of relations” is necessary. The vocabulary used is taken from postcolonial artists and initiatives and has been employed in a document by the federal state for the first time.
Apart from a lot of novel resistance against progressive history policies, another important thing has changed as well: the German society of immigrants has abandoned the dangerous ideal of homogeneity, which opens the door to new understandings.
On the global level, there is still a huge imbalance.
The prestige enjoyed by Holocaust memory, which is supported by numerous institutions in the Western world, causes a desire to attach other grievances and sufferings to this label in order to benefit a bit from that prestige. At the same time, Holocaust remembrance is becoming more fragile in Europe through historical revisionism.
We are witnessing that too these days.
Curiously, the phrase “Putin is the new Hitler” is now employed by people who used the thesis regarding the singularity of the Holocaust just a short while ago as a weapon against the inclusion of the remembrance of colonial victims.
The current situation is unstable, to say the least, and it seems impossible to predict the future direction of memory culture.
The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.
Debate about anti-Semitism and the Middle East conflictDissidence and the Jewish diaspora
Jewish voices are much more diverse than the public often sees. Jewish men and women who oppose the injustice of Israeli occupation in the West Bank deserve our respect and protection against defamation, writes Charlotte Wiedemann
Our culture of remembrance features very few references to a Jewish life beyond a middle class that subscribes to state and capitalism. Jews are victims – as if they had never struggled, as if they had never been part of movements that fought for a more just world. In this historical configuration, there is only room for Zionism – not for the opposition.
Among other things, this view of political history is in play whenever left-wing dissident Judaism with German or Israeli roots is met with so much mistrust as is currently the case in Germany. Mistrust and repulsion are at the ready long before words like “apartheid” are even spoken. An incalculable Judaism disturbs the peace, forces us to think and reflect.
The fact that I call Jewish men and women who oppose the injustice of occupation “dissident” is just as much a product of the German situation. Perhaps it would never even occur to me to do so if I were American.
Respect rather than defamation
The events of recent weeks have provided an opportunity to hear a whole range of Jewish voices in the USA and Europe that – with regard to the occupation policy – are united by the slogan “not in my name”. This gives us a hint of all the different things that Judaism in the diaspora can mean. Take, for example, the “Judeobolschewiener*innen” (Judeo-Bolshe-Viennese) in Austria. This collective is based on the principle of doikayt, a Yiddish term for social emancipation in the diaspora that opposes all kinds of nationalistic identification.
The collective’s response to anti-Semitism is based on the intersectional principle: like racism, the hatred of Jews is fought as a form of discrimination and is not viewed separately as the mother of all evils.
This stance is predestined to cause controversy – especially in Austria or Germany. But Jews who are willing, in solidarity with Palestine, to stand up to the brand of anti-Semitism fed by despair over a commonly-held injustice deserve respect, not defamation, in my opinion.
This certainly does not oblige us to like every single way in which Jewish opposition is voiced. I am reminded in this context of a scene in Hebron, where a representative of the organisation Breaking the Silence explained the segregated use of a road (Palestinians segregated from Jewish settlers) with the words “Hey, you’re German, what does that remind you of?” The answer the representative was looking for was “ghetto”, but not one of those present could say it out loud. Some of the things said by dissident Israelis in Germany can sometimes have a shrill edge – akin to someone leaving the family gathering to demonstratively stand outside the front door and flick a cigarette butt into the front garden.
My impulse to defend myself by providing proof of how much the subject of the Holocaust has shaped my life is laughable. Nonsense! Those who slap this devastating label on other people with such ease are never interested in biographies, identity, or what has made them who they are; they just want to draw a line in the sand: on one side the pristine; on the other, the grubby.
For dissident Jewish men and women, particularly in Germany, it is much more painful that what has made them who they are is of no significance. Educationalist Michael Sappir recently wrote that many people just don’t understand how much “effort to overcome, self-criticism and self-formation” it has taken for Israelis like himself to become radical opponents of the occupation policy. Some descendants of those responsible for the Holocaust surmise that the Holocaust simply does not hold the same significance for such Jews.
Jewish dissidence is a challenge
It is always difficult to be marginalised in what is already a small minority. And to then oppose the Israel-related construct that gives the Germans so much relief … In the past, I didn’t want to get intellectually involved in this complexity of Jewish dissidence – there was no handrail in sight. Today, I think that those on the left have to face this challenge.
As an older citizen, I would say that because Germany, after initial reluctance, assumed full responsibility for the Shoah, a large proportion of my generation has settled into a thought mainstream that we believe we have created or at least had a part in creating. Don’t touch what has been achieved, this comfy state of being-in-the-middle! But nothing is achieved for eternity. Just look at the opinion polls. There are reports of teachers describing how far from many young people’s minds (and not only those with migrant backgrounds) the Holocaust is. If these reports are accurate, it must be clear that new approaches are needed.
Today, it is largely minority groups that are showing us how anti-Fascism and radical solidarity can be combined while at the same time overcoming some very German psychology. Jewish dissidence is a very small, yet significant, part of this new phenomenon.
1954 born in Moenchengladbach, one of the most western parts of what was then West-Germany.
In 1979 I got a Master Degree in Educational Science and Sociology from the University of Goettingen, later another degree from the Hamburg School of Journalism.
From 1983 up to 1999 I worked as political correspondent and reporter with several dailys and weeklys in Bonn, Hamburg and Berlin, writing about domestic policies and contemporary history. From 1990 with focus on new nationalism after German Unification, the rebirth of right-wing intellectualism and the so called forgotten victimes of the Third Reich on the other side of the former Iron curtain (east-europaen Jews and forced labourers).
Also lecturing at several Media Academies.
In 1999 I changed to foreign affairs reporting. Lived for four years in Malaysia, covering stories all over South East Asia on human rights, societal developments and inter-faith relations. From the material later grew my first book (“The hut of small phrases”).
Since 2004 based in Germany as a traveling freelance foreign reporter, mostly on Muslim or Islamicate societies. Research trips to many countries in the Middle East (more correctly: Westasia) and to North- and West-Africa, often for “Die Zeit”, Geo or Le Monde Diplomatique, sometimes for my book projects and or as guide for civil society related travel programs.
Mali as well as Iran fascinated me most, over the years I went there again and again and wrote books on both societies. (“Mali or the wrestling for dignity”, 2014. “The new Iran. A society steps out of the shadow”, 2017 and 2019). My findings in various Muslim societies, particulary with regards to the many roles of women, led to the book “You know nothing about us. My journeys through an unknown Islam”, 2008 and 2012.
Reflections about the impact of western media, about Eurocentrism and my personal experiences in other cultures led to an autobiografical collection of essaies “About the attempt not to write white”, published 2012 and again 2018.
More recently I extended my thinking more general to race relations, postcolonialism and the global decline of the white people to whom I belong. “The long farewell to white dominance” was released in fall 2019. Written again in a personal style I examine what has changed since my childhood, within Germany and beyond, with one focus on the meaning of the Shoah in times of migration and right wing populism.
Selection of translated reports
Cambodia – Journey through a traumatized land Islam-experts – ten-a-penny Travels around Iran Road No 6. Calcutta – Mumbai 30 Years Islamic Revolution (Iran) The Green Movement in Iran (2009) Destruction of a Hero – showtrial in Tehran (2009) The Scramble for Timbuktu. Africa`s ancient written culture (2010) Mali: Grassroot democracy and good citizenship in Africa Women in Oman: Why the university needs a men’s quota Armenians in Syria: The fifth generation after the Ottoman genozid
Author of foreign reports, essays and books, since 2003 with a focus on “Islamic lifeworlds”.
Research in about 30 non-European countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Oman, Tunisia, Morocco, Uzbekistan, as well as Nigeria, Swaziland, Cameroon, Senegal, Tanzania, Sudan and especially often Mali. Before 2003 various trips within Southeast Asia.
Publications in Geo, Die Zeit, Le Monde Diplomatique, Qantara (portal for dialogue with the Islamic world), Südlink, leaves for German and international politics, NZZ and others – columnist for the taz
Lectures on Islam, intercultural issues, postcolonial thinking
2020 Member of the Advisory Board of the Leibniz Center Modern Orient
2010, 2016, 2019 tour guide in Iran and Mali
1999 – 2003 Author in Southeast Asia, resident on the island of Penang/Malaysia. Research on politics, human rights, culture in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, East Timor and Australia.
1983 -1999 Political correspondent and reporter in Bonn, Hamburg and Berlin for stern, Die Woche, taz. Previously local editor.
Hamburg School of Journalism (today Henri Nannen School) Master’s degree in social education, sociology and political science, University of Göttingen.
1993 to 2018 lecturer in the training of journalists, mainly at the Evangelische Journalistenschule in Berlin. Lectureships at the University of Erfurt (“The journalistic perception of non-European cultures”) and at the TU Dortmund (“Reporting on Islamic lifeworlds”)
The long farewell to white dominance. Munich 2019 The new Iran. A society emerges from the shadows. Munich 2017/2019 Mali or the struggle for dignity. My Travels in a Wounded Land. Munich 2014 About trying not to write in white. Or: How journalism shapes our worldview. Cologne 2012, extended new edition 2018 You don’t know anything about us. My journeys through an unknown Islam. Freiburg 2008, updated and expanded TB edition 2012 The hut of small sentences. Political reports from Southeast Asia. Berlin 2004
2017 Special Prize from the Otto Brenner Foundation 2013 Recognition Prize from the Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies 2008 Media Prize for Development Policy 2007 Journalist Prize for World Population 1996 EMMA Female Journalist Prize
Founder of the intercultural fund “Sawasya” ( www.sawasya.de ) Member of the PEN Club and Attac 2011 – 2013 Member of the scientific advisory board of the Bremen Übersee-Museum for a new Africa permanent exhibition 2017 – 2018 Member of the jury of the reportage prize of the N -Ost-Netzwerk 2017 – 2019 mentor at “Go your way”/Deutschlandstiftung Integration
Nakba (catastrophe) is the term Palestinians use for their defeat and exile at the hands of Israeli forces during the 1948 War of Independence.
Dayan wrote on Twitter: “At the end of our in-depth conversation, [Goethe Institute Board chairman Mr. Johannes] Ebert assured me that the event will not take place. Wise decision.”
Earlier today, I spoke at length with the Chairman of the Board of the worldwide Goethe Institute Mr. Johannes Ebert. At the end of our in-depth conversation, Mr. Ebert assured me that the event will not take place. Wise decision. https://t.co/O60L0CYtQM— Dani Dayan (@AmbDaniDayan) November 11, 2022
When The Jerusalem Post queried the institute on Monday, Jessica Kraatz Magri, a spokeswoman for Goethe, told the Post that the organization “postponed the event” until Sunday and provided an updated link to the discussion. The event was sponsored by left-wing German political party Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (RLS).
Foreign Ministry, Jewish and Zionist organizations express outrage at planned panel
Following a hailstorm of criticism on Wednesday about the event just as Jews around the world were commemorating Kristallnacht, Goethe stuck with its postponement.
The Foreign Ministry called for the cancellation of the event and expressed “shock and disgust” after the original announcement, calling it “blatant contempt of the Holocaust” and a “cynical and manipulative intent to create a connection whose entire purpose is to defame Israel.”
Dayan tweeted prior to the event that it “constitutes intolerable distortion of the Holocaust. Holding it on the anniversary of the November Pogrom (‘Kristallnacht’) is unforgivable.”
The event planned by the German cultural institute @goetheinstitut in Israel constitutes intolerable distortion of the Holocaust. Holding it on the anniversary of the November Pogrom (“Kristallnacht”) is unforgivable. pic.twitter.com/T1ifmEwVqc
Israel’s Ambassador to Germany Ron Prosor told 103FM Radio that the event is “an attempt to make an inappropriate comparison at the expense of Holocaust survivors.” He added that “if it wasn’t ironic it would be tragic. This must not become an accepted discourse under the pretense of ‘holding a civilized discussion.’ It’s not.”
Alrun Kaune-Nüßlein, the director of political communication for RLS, told the Post that “we try to enable a debate between different democratic and emancipatory positions, as it corresponds to the tasks of an institution for social analysis and political education. As a left-wing institution in and from Germany, dealing with the numerous Nazi mass crimes – and in particular the murder of six million Jews – is central to us. Relativizing the Shoah is unacceptable for the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation,” she said.
“We regret that the date of the event caused irritation. We are therefore postponing the event to November 13, 2022.”
Journalist at center of panel has faced criticism for anti-Israel views
At the now-canceled event, journalist Charlotte Wiedemann was set to discuss her book Grasping the Pain of the Others with Bashir Bashir, associate professor of Political Theory at the Open University of Israel; Amos Goldberg, associate professor of Holocaust History and director of the Research Institute for Contemporary Judaism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and Inge Gunther, a journalist covering Israeli and Palestinian affairs.
Wiedemann has faced criticism for her attacks on Israel’s existence. She wrote in the left-wing German daily newspaper taz: “There is no need to agree on the extent to which the founding of the State of Israel was also an act of settler colonialism.”
The left-wing and pro-Israel weekly paper Jungle World criticized the author for her pro-Iran regime views. Danyal Casar wrote that “Charlotte Wiedemann can nowhere see such an opposition in the taz.” Wiedemann wrote that ‘there is no opposition’ which could take responsibility in Tehran if the current system implodes.”
Date: 20.07.2022 Middle East conflict Shoah and Nakba – two interlinked catastrophes
Asked about the Shoah, Palestinians often bring up the Nakba, the displacement of Palestinians associated with the founding of the state of Israel. An Israeli Holocaust researcher and a Palestinian political scientist have developed a concept aimed at promoting dialogue about these two interlinked national traumas. By Joseph Croitoru
Shoah is the Hebrew term for the Holocaust, the Nazi genocide of Jews. Nakba is the Arabic term used by Palestinians to describe their flight and displacement from the land in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Even at a linguistic level, there is a parallel between the two terms, because both words mean “catastrophe” in the respective languages.
Nevertheless, it became evident as far back as 2007, when the Jerusalem-based Van Leer Institute invited Jewish and Arab educational theorists from Israel to discuss the issue of the Holocaust, that Israelis and Palestinians have great difficulty relating to the trauma experienced by the other. The meetings, which took place over the course of a year, received financial support from the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a German think tank with close ties to the German Green Party. In the summer of 2009, part of the group met for a workshop at the memorial and educational location known as the House of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin.
The meetings also brought together Israeli Holocaust researcher Amos Goldberg, who was part of the team running the dialogue group, and Palestinian political scientist Bashir, who lives in Israel. When Bashir gave a lecture at the Van Leer Institute about Arab attitudes to the Holocaust and mentioned the Nakba in his lecture, Arab Palestinian participants from Israel insisted on discussing the Palestinian catastrophe too.
The controversial nature of the discussions that ensued spurred Goldberg and Bashir to consider another form of dialogue. They drew up a draft paper that compared the Shoah and the Nakba (without equating them with each other), reflected on their comparable importance in the collective memory of the respective groups, and called for mutual empathy.
Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem: Many Israeli Arabs came into contact with the Shoah first and only afterwards with the Palestinian catastrophe, the Nakba. Publicist Marzuq al-Halabi and journalist and translator Antoine Shalhat both wrote that it was only after 1967, when they met acquaintances and relatives from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, that the Nakba became a theme for them. Al-Halabi’s knowledge of the Holocaust made him to a certain extent immune to the Arab and Palestinian defensive attitude which, in his opinion, has less to do with the Shoah as an historical event, than with the way the Israeli side presents it and uses it politically to evade responsibility for the Nakba. He also says that on the Arab side, the Holocaust is denied or played down. A common claim, he says, is that the Palestinians had to bear the consequences of the Holocaust – albeit only indirectly – although they were not responsible for the crime
Asymmetry of national catastrophes
On the basis of this paper, Jewish and Palestinian intellectuals were invited to write contributions for a book, a collection of articles, which was published in Hebrew in Jerusalem in 2015 and immediately triggered protests from the Israeli right wing. Bashir and Goldberg’s introduction to the book translates as “Reflections on memory, trauma and nationalism in Israel/Palestine”. They had previously published a shorter version of this introduction in English in the Journal of Genocide Research in 2014.
The authors’ wanted first of all to discuss in detail the differences in attitudes. They said that the Shoah was, in terms of its scale, not comparable with any other event that as such is considered singular. However, because the Holocaust has become – not only for Jews but also now for large parts of the Western world – the ultimate symbol of evil, any attempt to connect it even loosely with other chapters of the history of violence is quickly suspected of being an attempt to trivialise the Holocaust.
They went on to say that while the Shoah is over as an historical event and the Jewish people has, despite the trauma, been able to get back on its feet again, the Palestinians are to this day, in a position of political, military, economic, and cultural weakness because of the consequences of the Nakba.
According to Bashir and Goldberg, there is also asymmetry in the national catastrophes of both peoples from a moral point of view: the Palestinians were not to blame for the Holocaust, but the Israelis were responsible for the displacement and flight of the Palestinians and for their discrimination in Israel and oppression in the Occupied Territories.
Integrating the other’s catastrophe in one’s own narrative
According to Goldberg and Bashir, a rapprochement between Israelis and Palestinians, who both see themselves as victim communities, is made more difficult above all because the Shoah and the Nakba are used equally to legitimise national claims. Nevertheless, they feel that it should be possible to integrate the catastrophe experienced by the other into one’s own narrative without having to abandon the “ultimate claim to justice” derived from the national traumas.
Both scientists considered American historian Dominick LaCapra’s concept of “empathic unsettlement” to be helpful in this context. When applied to the Israeli-Palestinian case, this would entail developing empathy for the sensitivities of the other, without having to adopt the other’s positions.
Jewish resident Katya Michaelov embraces her Arab neighbour, Obaida Hassuna, whose son, Musa, was killed in recent clashes between Arabs and Jews in the mixed Arab-Jewish town of Lod in central Israel on 29 May 2021. Empathising with each other’s pain and trauma is difficult for Israelis and Palestinians. But in the long run it is essential for mutual understanding between the two parties to the conflict. “My child and their grandson are friends and play together,” Michaelov says of her neighbour. “All of this is political and it’s the people who are suffering”
The Hebrew-language anthology, which was published in 2015, brought together contributions that responded to the call for dialogue on an equal footing and those that criticised this approach. One of the articles in the first group was written by the Israeli professor of literature Hannan Hever, who used several poems by Israeli poet Avoth Yeshurun (1904–1992) to show that in the early years of the State of Israel, there was indeed sympathy among Israel’s literary figures for the fate of the Palestinians.
Yeshurun was of the opinion that genuine understanding for the Palestinians’ experience of being victims could only come from the perspective of Jewish victimhood and that both should be seen as equally important. Hannan Hever even saw in this the seeds of “multidirectional memory” (2009), a concept developed decades later by Michael Rothberg.
Several Israeli Arab authors who contributed to the book recapitulated that as Palestinians, they knew about the Holocaust long before they were in a position to focus on the Nakba and its consequences. One reason for this was the curriculum taught at Arab schools in Israel where there were lessons on the Shoah, but not on the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. What’s more, families did not talk about the Nakba for fear of reprisal from the state. Journalist and writer Marzuq al-Halabi and journalist and translator Antoine Shalhat both wrote that it was only after 1967, when they met acquaintances and relatives from the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, that the Nakba became a theme for them.
The Arabs and the Holocaust
Al-Halabi’s knowledge of the Holocaust made him to a certain extent immune to the Arab and Palestinian defensive attitude which, in his opinion, has less to do with the Shoah as an historical event, than with the way the Israeli side presents it and uses it politically to evade responsibility for the Nakba. He also says that on the Arab side, the Holocaust is denied or played down. A common claim, he says, is that the Palestinians had to bear the consequences of the Holocaust – albeit only indirectly – although they were not responsible for the crime.
In their second anthology on the Shoah and the Nakba, Israeli Holocaust scholar Amos Goldberg and Palestinian political scientist Bashir Bashir also examine the current debate about the competition between Holocaust and colonial memory. For example, Palestinians see Zionism, the State of Israel and its occupation practices as a continuation of the European colonial movement in the form of “settler colonialism” – a perspective that is rejected by the official Israeli stance, which is based on the experience of the Holocaust
The various aspects of the way the Arabs handle the issue of the Holocaust was also addressed in the anthology by the Israeli expert in Islamic Studies Esther Webman and her colleague Meir Litvak.
Their assessment that the issue of the Shoah was being used for anti-Zionist propaganda on the Arab side – for example the accusation of a Zionist “collaboration” with the Nazis – corresponded with the observation made by Samira Lahyan, a Palestinian educationalist living in Israel.
She searched in vain for a reference to the Shoah in school books used by the Palestinian Authority. The authority issued a statement saying that a change in policy would only be conceivable if the Nakba were to be taught in Israeli schools.
Philosopher Elhanan Yakira wrote about the Israeli attitude of refusal in the book: he said that a “universalisation” of the Holocaust as a Jewish gesture of dialogue must be rejected because such a gesture blurs the fact that the Nazi’s primary objective was to annihilate the Jews.
No one, he pointed out, was asking the Palestinians to sacrifice the “Arab character of the Nakba” in return.
In 2018, Goldberg and Bashir published their second collection of contributions, The Holocaust and the Nakba. A New Grammar of Trauma and History (Columbia University Press).
In their introduction, they examine the current debate about the competition between Holocaust and colonial memory. According to Goldberg and Bashir, in the Israeli-Palestinian case, the two narratives collided with particular force.
They said that the Palestinians see Zionism, the State of Israel and its occupation practices as a continuation of the European colonial movement in the form of “settler colonialism” – a perspective that is rejected by the official Israeli stance, which is based on the experience of the Holocaust.
Nevertheless, Bashir and Goldberg believe that a rapprochement of the two “metanarratives” is indeed possible. The post-colonial narrative would have to consider Zionism as an answer to the growing calamity facing European Jews at the time, among other things. And when talking about the Holocaust, awareness should be raised that the Shoah is part of a long history of ethnic cleansing that also includes the Palestinian Nakba.
British historian Mark Levene expanded on this idea in his contribution to the book. According to Levene, the toleration of displacement and genocidal ethnic cleansing in Europe in the first half of the twentieth century made the idea of a “transfer” of the Palestinians seem feasible in the eyes of the Zionist leadership of the Yishuv in Palestine – the consequences of which are known to us all.
Elias Khoury: take the Jewish trauma into consideration
The competing “metanarratives” are barely mentioned in the remaining 14 contributions to the book. Instead – especially in the contributions from Israeli Jewish authors – very personal, sometimes biographical reflections on the Shoah/Nakba field of conflict and reports of fictitious and real individual stories in which the victim images of both sides overlap dominate. Palestinian anthropologist Honaida Ghanim found this dynamic – the frequent change of perspective between Shoah survivors and Nakba victims – in particularly succinct form in the story “Return to Haifa” by the left-leaning writer Ghassan Kanafani, who was killed by the Israelis in Beirut in 1972.
Israeli historian Alon Confino told the exceptional story of two married Holocaust survivors who upon their arrival in Jaffa refused to be billeted in a house abandoned by Palestinians because it reminded them of their own experience of being displaced and persecuted.
A first step towards the historicisation of the attempts to reflect together on the Shoah and the Nakba was taken by the Palestinian political scientist Nadim Khoury, who teaches in Norway, who traced the origins of these attempts to the years following the conclusion of the Oslo Accords.
One entire section of the book was devoted to the Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, who also wrote the foreword. Bashir and Goldberg were inspired by his novel Gate of the Sun in which a Palestinian calls on his compatriots to take the Jewish trauma triggered by the Shoah into consideration. The last three contributions in the book focused on Khoury’s novel Children of the Ghetto: My Name is Adam, which was published in English translation in 2018.
The Palestinian Nakba of 1948
It’s a day of celebration for Israelis but for Palestinians it’s the Nakba, the catastrophe. The foundation of Israel on 14 May 1948 meant hundreds of thousands of them fled or were expelled from their homes. Refugees’ fate
The journal Central European History (Vol. 54, 2021, Issue 1 / Cambridge University Press) devoted six review essays to the book, to which Goldberg and Bashir have responded. Because they, among other things, called for a wider, flexible concept of Israeli-Palestinian binationalism – from a federation via a condominium to a binational state or a cooperative two-state structure – Shoah researcher Laura Jockusch accused them of “political activism” at the expense of a scientific approach.
Goldberg and Bashir countered by saying that it must be possible to think about ways in which dialogue could be accompanied by an egalitarian, binational political theory that considers a process of decolonisation to be a prerequisite for an historic reconciliation of both peoples. Moreover, they said, the obvious overlap of Shoah and Nakba is suitable as a scientific object for a number of reasons, for one because the two are to this day closely intertwined in the collective memories of Israelis and Palestinians. They also pointed out that the two are interlinked as historical events too.
Goldberg and Bashir said that at political level, the shock of the Holocaust conclusively cemented within the Yishuv leadership the endeavour to found a Jewish state with a Jewish majority, which was only made possible by the displacement of the Palestinians in 1948. They also said that the interlinking is also illustrated by the numerous biographies of the one third of Israeli soldiers involved in the war at the time were Holocaust survivors.
In response to the objection expressed by several people, including Philipp Ther, that Zionism cannot be seen as just another version of colonialism, the two researchers replied that for them too, in this context, settler colonialism is not the only explanatory approach. The complaint – voiced by a number of reviewers – that there was a lack of historical analytical depth to the book’s contributions, which addressed more literary, philosophical and artistic issues, Goldberg and Bashir explained that it had been exceedingly difficult to find authors willing to write about this very difficult subject. Both men hope to continue the debate they have started.