For the seventh year in a row, with perseverance and determination, Mada Al-Carmel Center organized its seventh conference for Palestinian doctoral students, at Ramada Olivie Hotel in Nazareth, which was broadcasted for Mada Al-Carmel’s audience on its Facebook page. Over time, this conference has become “a spot for, cultural, interactive and deliberative knowledge, where Palestinian postgraduate students meet in Nazareth, with no boundaries, or barriers”, as Dr. Mohanad Mustafa (General Director of Mada Al-Carmel) explained in his opening speech of the conference. Mustafa added that “knowledge, its participation and its circulation are an affirmation of the premise that the cultural field has become – and would be – the field that unites Palestine and its people, under their will, more than the political field, which Israel attempts to enforce it on them against their will”. Dr. Mustafa also stressed that “such knowledge is not only circulated for the sake of gaining knowledge to understand political, social and economic phenomena, rather, it is a right gained for the sake of righteousness, that is, justice and the need to combat tyranny in all its social, political and economic forms”.

The conference hosted two sessions, the first one, entitled “Political and Historical Approaches”, was conducted by Dr. Areej Sabagh-Khoury (Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology – Hebrew University, and member of the Research Committee and the Board of Directors of Mada Al-Carmel). This session included three interventions. In the first intervention, Asma Al-Sharbati, a Ph.D. student at the Doctoral Program for Social Sciences – Birzeit University, presented a paper entitled “How are Palestinians represented in their national school textbooks?” Al-Sharbati placed emphasis on school textbooks being political books, which have a major role in communicating implicit messages with political agendas that reflect the agendas of the national leaders, who have managed to shape its concepts. Such agenda is managed through studying the forms of the textbooks’ representation of different Palestinian groups and its varying effectiveness depending on their different places of residence: whether in the city, the village, the camp, al-badia, or the Diaspora. In these textbooks, Shrabati touched on the internal orientalist discourse appearing in the textbooks by illustrating how certain Palestinian groups (Bedouins; refugees; camp residents; the Diaspora) are represented as outsiders separated from the Palestinian people and alienated by referring to them in the third-person pronoun, as well as limiting the Palestinian institutional representation to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza only. In this regard, Shrabati invoked Oslo Accords and the geographical zoning into “A” – “B” – “C” zones, pointing out that the challenges of the Palestinian city and village are treated in a similar manner to those of cities and villages anywhere else in the world, without linking them to the effects of occupation on them, but with a slight limited allowance of acceptance of the reality of resistance. Sharbati concluded by claiming that the authority reproduces itself and its dominance by including its ideologies, and its enforced submission discourses in school textbooks.

The second intervention, entitled “The Making of ‘the Sons of the Party’ in the Educational System of the Youth Communist Party in Israel”, presented by Imad Jaraisy, a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Education – University of Haifa. Jaraisy discussed the nature of “making” and refining identity through ideological youth movements that are active among young Palestinians in Israel. In his intervention, he addressed the internal relationship between the fields of education and politics, and their role in discrediting the identity of young people, specifically in societies where there is a synergy between minority groups and the majority group. Jaraisy claimed that these ideological youth movements contribute in the making of the “Sons of the Party”, or in other words, the making of Party elites, who do not infringe on the Party’s boundaries, through actively participating in political work for the party. Jaraisy revealed one of the insights of his research; the creation of a new identity that amounts to an “embryonic” identity under the phase of development and creation, is called the “Palestinian-Israeli” identity. This embryonic identity syndicates national identity with citizen identity. On one hand, it prevents any kind of Palestinian incarceration within a collective national and cultural identity aiming at consolidating Palestinians within the Israeli society (not in an Israelization sense). On the other hand, it maintains a collective identity for all factions of the Palestinian society despite all the challenges that Palestinians are experiencing in Israel.

The third and final intervention of this session was entitled “The Birth of the Escaped Self: Sperms and the Negotiation on the Future in Palestine/Israel”, presented by researcher Izzedine Araj, a Ph.D. Student in Anthropology – Institute of Higher Studies, Geneva, Switzerland. In his discussion, Araj referred to the experience of smuggling sperms from Israeli prisons in the last nine years from the point of view of prisoners’ wives. He highlighted the complex and intricate connotations, between social, political, colonial, nationalist and religious perspectives, which are gained through this experience in a complex reality of uncertainty, isolation and family deprivation. Araj explains that, on one hand, women try to emphasize the importance of their roles by showing that they are loyal to the Palestinian struggle. On the other hand, they assert their right to claim a better social life, to improve their social and living conditions, and to negotiate and resist societal norms. He further explained how reproduction in this case would become a negotiating space for the future, the potential and the legitimacy of the act, and a quest for recognition, recovery and family preservation. In this kind of counter-domination, women speak about the future in the present form, as a way to emphasize the ability to redefine the future, the potential and what is possible. Araj argues that in the day-to-day reality of Palestinians, reproduction policies are not only about managing life itself, but also about managing what can be life, a conflict or a negotiation on the future. 

The second session, entitled “Language and Educational Approaches”, was moderated by Dr. Hanin Qurwani Khouri, lecturer and researcher at the Department of Communication Disorders, Faculty of Social Welfare and Health Sciences, University of Haifa. During this session, three interventions were made, the first presented by Mona Abdel Razek, a Ph.D. student in linguistics in the Department of Literature and Linguistics – Bar-Ilan University. In her intervention, entitled “Documenting Language Skills for Palestinian Children Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Abdel Razek focused on comparing the language skills (semantic, grammatical and vocal) of children with autism spectrum disorder and naturally developed children speaking Arabic-Palestinian dialect, in an effort to accurately diagnose language dyslexia in diagnosed children with autism spectrum disorder, in order to find treatment methods. Abdel Razek’s research showed a noticeable weakness in autistic children in carrying out language tasks, compared to naturally developed children in the other group. In addition, individual differences have appeared within the autistic group itself. At the end of her intervention, Abdel Razek stressed on the importance of finding treatment plans that deal with the development of semantic-grammatical skills as a key objective, in parallel with the development of communication skills and social skills. 

The second intervention, entitled “Bilingualism and Intervention Programs for Arab Kindergarten Children”, presented by Lena Hajj, a PhD student in linguistics at the Department of Literature and Linguistics – Bar-Ilan University. She highlighted the importance of built-in overlap programs in developing language skills, language consciousness, language enlightenment and cognitive abilities in bilingual Arab kindergarten children [spoken language used in daily speaking, standard language used in writing and reading]. The intervention program integrates Meta Linguistics and cognitive abilities, in particular operational functions that include: memory; attention; planning; and intellectual flexibility. The results of Hajj’s research have shown that intervention programs have been effective in improving children performance in reading and learning. The results of the research have also shown the influence of group and time factors on the student’s phonemic awareness, verbal awareness, language skills, reading and writing skills, and cognitive skills. The performance of the intervention group after the intervention, was higher than that of students before the intervention. 

The final intervention of this session and of the conference was presented by Taghreed Zubi, a Ph.D. student at the Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, entitled “The Impact of Translating the Psychometric Exam on the Success of Arab Students in Comparison with Jewish Students”. Zubi showcased the cultural and bilingual variables that stand in the way of Arab students’ success in the psychometric exam compared to Jewish students, which was evident by examining the level of verbal skills at which students were able to perform in the psychometric exam; in particular whether or not the translation of the text from Hebrew was the main problem impeding the success of Arab examinees in the verbal section of the exam. Zubi claimed that the exam is orally translated rather than culturally. She listed the factors that could cause the gaps between Jewish and Arab students in their psychometric exam results, in addition to the demographic causes: the variable dialects of Arabic between spoken and written slang, as well as the difference between classical and modern Arabic, the phenomenon of language swapping between Arabic and Hebrew, as well as the problems arising from the translation of the text from one language to another language, including deletion, additions, errors and the tendency to translate literally.

To watch the first session, click here.

To watch the second session, click here.

Mada Al-Carmel – the Arab Center for Applied Social Research held its 2021 Annual Conference at Umm El Fahem Theatre and Cinematheque on July 31st. This year’s conference, entitled the “Political and Social Approaches between the Covid-19 Pandemic and the current uprising,” addressed and discussed the political and social implications of the current pandemic and the popular uprising on the reality, future and the challenges imposed on the Palestinian society in Israel. This conference is part of the academic activity through which Madal Al-Carmel Center seeks to generate focused knowledge on the Palestinian cause as well as showcasing the concerns of the Palestinian people. The conference showcased remarkable progress in its presentation, its knowledge approaches, its organization and its attraction of hundreds of researchers, on both the Palestinian and Arab world levels.

In his speech, Dr. Samir Subhi, Mayor of Umm Al-Fahem, welcomed the audience and and Mada Al-Carmel Center staff. He spoke from his position as a mayor, on fundamental problems that are facing the Palestinian community. Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, chair of the Mada Al-Carmel Board; spoke after the Mayor, where she encouraged research and editorial writing. She praised the path that Mada Al-Carmel is taking towards emancipating from the dominant theoretical formats and promoting Palestinian intellectual cognitive production that challenges and undermines the Israeli narrative. Dr. Ayman Egbarieh, lecturer at the Faculty of Education at the University of Haifa, and member of the Academic Committee of the Conference, chose to resort to art works by recalling the painting “The Triumph of Death” by the Dutch artist Peter Bruegel the Elder, to refer to the intersection between pandemics and wars, as apparent in the Palestinian reality. 

Dr. Mohanad Mustafa, General-Director of Mada Al-Carmel, gave an opening speech entitled: “The Political Orientation of the Palestinians in Israel after the Uprising,” where he reviewed the results of a poll conducted by the Center to understand the causes of the popular uprising and to understand the shifts in the political stances of the Palestinians in Israel following the uprising.

The survey shows that 60% of the participants see the events of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah as the central factor that caused the outbreak of the uprising. According to Dr. Mustafa’s analysis, these findings reveal the centrality of Jerusalem as a religious and a political national symbol, showcasing that these political practices are similar to other practices in other parts of historic Palestine. Jerusalem is the starting point in which the popular resistance started from, as it is a meeting point of the Palestinian people holding different political perspectives, and it is the place that holds the Palestinian amputation together. Another important result of the survey is that 48% of the participants consider that the role of the Arab parties in the recent uprising was minor. Mustafa explains that this uprising arose during a weak point in the Palestinian political status in Israel, and therefore the uprising took place without the direct or the indirect influence of the Palestinian political parties. The Centre plans to publish the remaining results of the survey with an analysis in the Annual Conference report in the coming days.

Professor Amal Jamal, lecturer and researcher in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University and member of the Academic Committee of the Conference, chaired the first session entitled, “The Militarization of the Palestinian Community between the Corona Pandemic and the Current Intifada.” During the session, the representative of “Who Profits” Research Center, and political economy researcher, Hala Marshoud, presented a statement entitled “Israeli Security and Military response to the Pandemic: significance and implications”. She claimed that Israel’s settler colonial system attempts to militarize and nationalize all civil sectors. The crisis was exploited towards militarizing and nationalizing the health sector, through the intervention of military and police officers in civil matters, and through combating the pandemic using the Israeli security system and military agencies. This intervention exceeded to use intelligence units, and manufacture health and surveillance equipment by using the military knowledge in High-tech and Cyber companies, as well as the Israeli weapons manufacturing companies. 

Dr. Nijmeh Ali, Research Fellow at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Research at the University of Otago, New Zealand, shared a statement entitled “Militarized Technology for the Corona Pandemic: “Smart” Surveillance, big prison and “the Israelization of Surveillance”. Dr. Nijmeh tried through her statement to explore the impact of the application of comprehensive surveillance mechanisms, that have been used during the pandemic period, on future Palestinian behavior, linking it to a new type of weapon under technological authority, and connecting it to a new Israelization method amid militarized technology, which essentially aims at disciplining which she called the ‘Israelization of Surveillance’. 

Dr. Ali set forth the most important military manifestations of the Corona Pandemic: granting new powers to deploy soldiers in public spaces, expanding the powers of Shabak (the Israel Security Agency) – legally and legislatively, sorting military medical staff in active facilities, mobilizing army intelligence teams, and employing military technology. Further, Dr. Ali touched on the surveillance methods used in the recent popular uprising: internet censorship, digital safety: facing bans, using cameras, geographic positioning, filming and self-dissemination.

The Arab Deputy Sami Abu Shehada, Knesset Member for the National Democratic Alliance within the Joint List, commentated, noting that Israeli surveillance and espionage mechanisms that exist permanently, are an axiomatic of the regime, and the normal situation there. The Deputy explained the absence of any kind of separation between the society and the army in Israel, makes the State treat the army as the only institution capable of managing any kind of crisis.

Dr. Youssef Jabarin, jurist and former Member of the Knesset for the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality within the Joint list, also offered a critique in the same session. Jabarin criticized dealing with the latest uprising by only focusing on military security methods rather than focusing on the civil methods that any democratic society has to adopt in dealing with civil and legitimate mass protests, even if these protests have taken on a national dimension.

The second session, entitled “Arab Education Amid the Corona Pandemic,” was chaired by Professor Sarab Abu Rabeea-Qwider, Lecturer at the Department of Education at Ben Gurion University, and member of the Academic Committee of the Conference. Taghreed Zubi, educational consultant and doctoral student in the Department of Education at the University of Haifa, shared a statement entitled “Arab Teachers’ Stances Towards Online Learning Amid the Corona Pandemic.” Zubi claimed that the whole teaching system was not ready for online learning, nor were teachers ready and able to teach using technology. This is particularly evident in the Arab education system, which suffers from weak technological infrastructure. In his intervention, “Arab Education in the Negev Amid the Corona Pandemic,” Khalil Dhabshah, Principal of ORT school in Kasifah town in Negev, revealed that tens of thousands of students in Negev have been dropping out of school because the vast majority of them are not ready and are not able to own the means for online learning. Students from Unrecognized Villages were the most affected by the closure of the education system, owing to the lack of infrastructure in these villages and the severe lack of any means of online learning. Further, the crisis revealed that Unrecognized villages lack any kind of services, because there are no responsible authorities or institutions formally formed to manage crises nor providing the necessary support and rationalization to thousands of families living under the Pandemic.

Mr. President Sharaf Hassan, Chairman of the Committee for Monitoring Arab Education Issues called on the civil society and Arab teachers to liberate themselves from the mental inability and to initiate, by calling for a change in the ideological and intellectual dimension of their learning process, their perception of their position and their role in challenging the difficulties caused by the Corona Pandemic. Dr. Hassan asked each teacher to see himself/herself as an intellectual and a responsible leader, not a tool for passing on materials identified only by the Ministry of Education. In the same session Nadeem Al-Masri, Chairman of the National Committee of Arab Parents of Students in Israel, stated that the Ministry of Education was not ready for any kind of emergency other than security related emergencies, and of course it wasn’t ready for the Pandemic. He also added that the Ministry of Education had dealt with the needs of Arab schools in the recent uprising through a policy of neglect, as students were not safe to travel in Arab and mixed towns. Arab schools lacked infrastructure, safe buildings, and shelters. Students were not provided with any kind of psychological or emotional support in the aftermath of the events. Almasri added that the Ministry of Education has also prevented experiencing freedom of expression, by preventing discussion about students’ identity or the current events.

The third and final session of the Conference entitled “Social Violence and Jerusalem Amid the Corona Pandemic,” was chaired by Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, President of Mada Al-Carmel Board. Lubna Elenat Khalayleh, PhD student on “Educational Management” at the Arab American University-Ramallah; participated in the session with a statement entitled “Violence against Women during the Corona Crisis.” Khalayleh stated that the problem of the increasing frequency of violence against women in the Corona Pandemic had been compounded by a number of factors; the conditions imposed by the Pandemic through social isolation and domestic confinement with violent men, in conjunction with the loss of livelihoods, pressure, economic and health concerns provided fertile ground for violence against women.

Mr. Bassam Hamdan, Director of the Social Services Section of Judeide- Maker municipality, commentated saying that the phenomenon of violence against women cannot be studied in isolation from the political, economic and security context. Men’s practices of violence against women are manifestations of the hegemony and domination of Palestinians by the Israeli repressive colonial regime. He called for a change in the approach and methods of intervention, the need to recruit the Arab man and the perpetrator for treatment and the request for assistance, rather than simply settling for only raising women’s awareness of their rights. He indicated that this could be achieved through the development of a comprehensive vision starting from schools and continuing onto the remainder of the social frameworks in each country.

Reham Samana, Master’s student in Literature and Intercultural Communication at the Arab American University in Ramallah, presented her statement entitled, “The Composite Exception within the Old City of Jerusalem during the Period of the Pandemic.” Samana noted that the Occupation had increased its colonial practices during the period of the Pandemic in the Old City of Jerusalem, as crises were often a fuel for the dominant power to increase its control over vulnerable groups. These practices were demonstrated by the increasing excessive colonial violence on the citizens and their place, such as partition, isolation, demolition, issuing fines and imprisonment. Samana claims that all these and other actions were aimed at fusing people’s consciousness, causing them to be easily defeated and be convinced of the futility of the struggle resulting in accepting such reality. 

In commenting on this statement, Dr. Suleiman Egbarieyh, who is responsible for the Al-Quds and Al-Aqsa file in the banned Islamic Movement in Israel, and the former Head of the Municipality of Umm Al-Fahem, stressed that the number of deportations of Palestinians from the Old City and the Al-Aqsa Mosque has been on the rise since the beginning of the Pandemic. He also noted that the shopkeepers had not had access to their shops because of the restrictions. Finally, he spoke of increasing rates of arrests and infractions during the pandemic as part of a policy of intimidation in the Old City of Jerusalem. 

In person attendance – 100 +

To watch the opening and first sessions: Number of viewers – 2800

To watch the second session: Number of viewers 680 

To watch the third session: Number of viewers 600 

Book Review of Mahmood Mamdani’s Neither Settler nor Native[1]

By: Mark Muhannad Ayyash

June 22, 2021

 

*The material below is part of a book manuscript I am currently writing*

 

What Fanon and Césaire required of their own partisans, even during the heat of struggle, was to abandon fixed ideas of settled identity and culturally authorized definition. Become different, they said, in order that your fate as colonized peoples can be different; this is why nationalism, for all its obvious necessity, is also the enemy.

Edward Said, Representing the Colonized: Anthropology’s Interlocutors

 

Mamdani’s masterful analysis of colonial modernity in Neither Settler nor Native, engenders a number of important and difficult questions that the reader cannot shy away from. Among them are, and let me try to pose these in the simplest way possible: what is the path of decolonization? How can we set ourselves on that path? What is the nation-state and what is it meant to accomplish? Does its original or foundational purpose serve those who are struggling for a decolonized world today? How do we frame and make sense of extreme violence – like murderous ethnic cleansing and genocide – and how do we end it? How do we transform political orders from ones that enact extreme violence, to ones that end such violence? Does this transformation need to be simultaneously political, juridical, social, cultural, and economic? Or do we prioritize the political in our decolonial efforts? And how are we to understand this transformation vis-à-vis the victims and the perpetrators? If we shift our understanding of both as survivors, are the victims and perpetrators able to take the same path towards survivor-hood? Will they be walking there from the same positionality? Is the transformation required of each, of the same order and scope?

Let me try to approach some of these questions by first briefly exploring what I think is a constructive theoretical tension between Mamdani’s book and a book also published in 2020 by his colleague at Columbia University, Hamid Dabashi, The Emperor is Naked: On the Inevitable Demise of the Nation-State.

Very briefly, Dabashi argues in that book that the postcolonial state does not hold an organic connection with the people, the nations, over whom it rules. In opposing the violences of the state, Dabashi suggests “a complete decoupling of the nation and the state.” (Dabashi, 2020, p. 17) He argues though in his book that the nation needs to be rescued from the state. As the Palestinian nation teaches, Dabashi argues, the nation is the collectivity of the people who have a shared and layered (as opposed to a univocal and bounded) historical archive, set of lived experiences, interests, identities, struggles, and sense of belonging in the world. Against this nation, the state is “predicated on pure violence” and “with no claim to public sovereignty and/or political legitimacy.” (Dabashi, 2020, pp. 38-40) Dabashi makes the case that national liberation and national consciousness (but not the state-building project of nationalism) are crucial to this struggle, just as Fanon also argued long ago. In Dabashi, the nation is neither held nor secured by the state (as is conventionally asserted), but is rather suppressed, oppressed, and eliminated by the state. In this struggle, nations are striving to achieve “their own stateless sovereignty”: that is, a national sovereignty that both precedes and exceeds the state (Dabashi, 2020, p. 163). The nation, then, is a domain that is sovereign from the state precisely because the state can never fully control it, eradicate it, or saturate its possibilities and fully thwart its revolutionary potential.

Now, like Dabashi, Mamdani calls for a decoupling of the nation and the state, but in Mamdani, it is the state that needs to be rescued from the nation. The problem is not the state state structure itself – as a structure which (re)distributes resources, provides security and protection, builds a social welfare system, produces and enacts laws, etc. – but the problem is the hijacking of this state structure by a majoritarian national identity that then oppresses, exploits, and brutalizes minority nationalities.

To oppose and transform the nation-state, therefore, Mamdani calls for decolonizing the political where: (1) citizenship is granted “on the basis of residence rather than identity”; (2) we “denationalize states” where overarching nonnational federal state structures can enable local autonomy, sovereignty, and help flourish diversity; and (3) we re-educate the public imagination towards a critical reflexivity that accentuates how our identities can be politically remade, “bolstering democracy in place of neoliberal human rights remedies.” (Mamdani, 2020, p. 36)

Now, when we juxtapose Dabashi and Mamdani, we arrive at the agreed assertion that the coupling of the nation and the state produced a monster. But instead of taking a firm position as each of them does on which part of the now decoupled elements can guide us towards a decolonized future, I wonder if we can benefit instead from an agonism between the spheres of the social and the political (beyond their particular configuration in that monstrous coupling of the Euro-American nation-state); so I’m talking here about a constant tension between the social and the political that does not produce a winner, where one side overpowers the other.

So, my first question to Mahmood more specifically is this: is not a decolonization of the social as foundational and necessary as a decolonization of the political? If we understand the social as the space where the social collectivity forms and takes shape: that social bond of the collective “we,” that `asabiyyah that Ibn Khaldûn illuminated many centuries ago; if we understand the social as this space, where colonized people marked for erasure and elimination set themselves on the path of opposing their fragmentation, of asserting and reasserting their humanity, of articulating and rearticulating their collectivity, of reinvigorating their ability to mobilize and wield the power of the “we,” cannot and should not, that social space serve as equally foundational to the project of decolonization? Is that not necessary for a properly decolonial political space? Is not the social more than social justice? Social justice is a concept that is useful in describing specific projects for equity, equality, redistribution of resources, so on. But social justice as a cluster of specific and contextual projects is not to be conflated with the social as such. So, what to do with the social remains a big question for me; decolonizing the social, and the question of whether that is the space where decolonization may indeed gain its vitality, formative structure and direction.

Let me build on my question regarding this tension between the social and the political in addressing the central point from the book. This concerns the core argument that we ought to move beyond the distinction between settler and native. This is the difficult and critical challenge that Mamdani’s body of work has presented and elucidated for us for many years now, and in ways very few scholars have done. And certainly scholars will be debating this challenge for many years still. I also think that this question of settler-native is inescapable and must be tackled in Palestine/Israel.

Mamdani’s case is ground-breaking and is at its strongest in explaining the connections between “the violence of postcolonial modernity” and “the violence of European modernity and colonial direct rule”. His penetrating analysis of postcolonial states like Rwanda and Sudan reveals and convincingly shows in detail those connections. But I still have questions about how the challenge itself – of destroying the native-settler distinction – needs to be posed and articulated in settler colonies like Canada, US, Australia, and Israel. I separate South Africa here as well, because this challenge takes a different shape there, for many reasons, one of which is that the majority was in fact the colonized. When we’re talking majoritarian and minority identities, statistics matter. The dynamics change when the majority are the settler-colonizers (Canada, US, Australia) and when it’s more or less 50-50 in historic Palestine, with the caveat here being that there is an ongoing political project to make it roughly 80-20. Theoretically speaking, the difference is this: in the colonial setting, indirect rule politicized ethnic and racial identities so as to facilitate rule over the native; in the settler colonial setting, a kind of indirect rule politicized ethnic and racial identities so as to facilitate the elimination of the native. And sure elimination appears in the postcolonial setting that comes in the aftermath of colonial indirect rule; but in the settler colony, we’re not in the aftermath, we’re in the thick of the colonial moment. And I think that makes a difference.

And this is why: it is doubtful I think that a strategy to eradicate the Indigenous-settler distinction will yield an improvement in the lived realities of Indigenous peoples in Canada for example, in fact, it would likely do the opposite, and suffocate decolonial Indigenous movements and voices. Certainly, Indigenous activists and scholars would agree that “self-identification is not the same as self-determination,” that Indigenous decolonization is about more than reclaiming cultural identities (Mamdani, 2020, p. 97). Nowhere is the critique of this point more penetrating and harsher than in Indigenous activism and scholarship. The point though that Audra Simpson and many others like Glen Coulthard and Leanne Simpson have emphasized, and in my view rightly so, is that Indigenous identity is in itself part of the regeneration of a decolonial alternative. That their identities are not merely national identities that operate within the logic of the nation-state; but are rather identities that engender a new kind of social and political community: the likes of which Mamdani calls for. Their claim to sovereignty, for instance, does not operate in accordance with the logics of the Euro-American nation-state or Euro-American sovereignty (in fact, Simpson says that the word sovereignty is probably not the right one to describe Indigenous sovereignty). Their claim to sovereignty is more akin to Dabashi’s notion of the sovereignty of the nation, as that which evades the totalizing and eliminatory power of the settler colonial nation-state. Far from standing in the way of decolonization, this element of Indigenous sovereignty is the excess that opposes the completion of an ongoing settler colonial project of elimination. This excess is decolonization.

Let me dig further into Mamdani’s solution to this problem of dissolving the native-settler distinction in the settler colony, and briefly explore how he calls on us to focus on the victims and perpetrators of violence as survivors: this would of course be part of a project of decoupling the nation-state and decolonizing the political (so this is not a liberal equality kind of approach). At the core of this shift of emphasis towards survivors is the effort “not to avenge the dead but to give the living a second chance.” (Mamdani, 2020, p. 195)

In this quote, we find Mamdani’s excellent and timely critique of the criminal violence approach and how it depoliticizes violence. The critique of neoliberal human rights discourses and the legalistic approach to extreme violence is certainly much needed.

Let’s dive into the political approach then. Exemplary of the political approach to extreme violence for Mamdani is the formation of the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), which shows how the decolonial moment comes when the enemy would not be the “settlers but the settler state, not whites but white power.” (Mamdani, 2020, p. 176) Similarly in Palestine, the enemy would not be Israeli Jewish settlers but the Israeli settler state, not Jews or Israelis but Israeli Jewish supremacy.

Promising as this path may be in principle and to a limited extent in practice in South Africa, there are three big questions (and let me be clear, these questions are not posed against Mamdani’s argument but with it, and also, pushing back at it). First, many segments of the Palestinian liberation struggle have framed their resistance in precisely those terms, going back 100 years (that the state and Jewish supremacy is the problem and the enemy – not Jews): Palestinian resistance was never launched “because the [Palestinian] natives thought that Jews were evil, but because no natives take kindly to having their territory settled by foreigners” (Said, 1979, p. 29).

And the result has been this: nobody is listening, Israelis walk past us just the same; most Israelis don’t just lack the knowledge about Palestine and Palestinians; they don’t want that knowledge and actively oppose it and/or avoid it and its lessons and consequences. So, the problem for Palestinians is not an epistemological one, at the very least, not primarily that. So what do we do with the power piece of power/knowledge? This is why BDS says pressure, and only pressure, can work: it’s Gandhian style non-cooperation that is meant to deal directly with the problem of power.

Second is the separation of the social-political, where the social is considered home, separated from the political which is the state (this to oppose political modernity’s conflation of state and society; the idea that they must be one). Mamdani writes, “The state is home to no nation. Home is society, where multiple nations with multiple histories can coexist. The statestate, meanwhile, is not a coming together of nations but a coming together of citizens who share a vision for a common future.” (Mamdani, 2020, p. 318)

I’m not quite clear here what it is that then holds together the political? Is it solely a set of laws that determine the rules and shape of the arrangement of individual units? Is the idea of a political community of survivors that would be codified in law as a community, sufficient for holding people together? What is the nature of the connection between the social and the political in this model? If we adopt the idea (and I think this is where the book goes), of the political as the foundation, as the ground, upon which social life then transpires, we still need a connection between them; something needs to play the role of gravity and keep our feet on the ground. So, what does survivor-hood look like on the level of the social? How does survivor-hood become part and parcel of the collectivity?

The third question revolves around the notion of the enemy: of transforming enemies into adversaries, which Mamdani suggests is crucial in the shift of focus towards survivors and survivor-hood. But if identities are ensconced in an ongoing political project of displacement and elimination, then can we talk about sovereign enemies who belong to the same order or structure of sovereignty? Are we presented with a situation in which there exists equally sovereign Palestinian and Israeli selves who are, as it were, the players in a game of enmity? Or, are we presented with a situation where enmity is precisely the outcome of the elimination of Indigenous sovereignty and selfhood? Can you turn into an adversary an identity which is predicated on your elimination? I’m not raising this question to dismiss the necessity of reimagining Israeli and Palestinian identities, but rather to point towards how deep that reimagination needs to go, the uneven nature of that transformation, and establishing the obstacles which stand in the way of that reimagination. What are those obstacles that I’m referring to?

Mamdani makes the point that “racial political identities of the past were not timeless but rather created by political processes” (Mamdani, 2020, p. 149; emphasis added); certainly, but were not these identities more properly speaking, produced and created by violent political processes? And dare I make this proposition, which I actually make in my own book (Ayyash, 2019), where not these identities produced and created by violence itself, where violence, as it were, creates the casing in which the political then comes to take shape? If I’m right about this latter question/proposition, then this has serious consequences for any political process that seeks to take as its starting point a reality that has been constituted as real by violence. Meaning, the very terms of the political process are from the outset determined and guided by violences that have rendered those terms as “real.” So, we must confront and transform that casing of violence, that’s the biggest obstacle for me: if we don’t, we end up with a political process where cultural Zionism, without naming or addressing Zionism as a settler colonial project, sees itself as a form of resistance in the political.

“Become different, they said, in order that your fate as colonized peoples can be different”, to reiterate from that Said quote in the epigraph. We can agree with Mamdani, Said, Césaire, Fanon, and Dabashi that the closed, fixed, univocal and bounded nationalism of Euro-America is the enemy in this decolonial project; but the big question remains: whose path leads us away from settler colonial violence and the violence of the modern nation-state? An inclusive and common path, that’s needed of course, but on whose and what terms is this path imagined and written?

Yes, certainly it is important, as Mamdani argues, to move away from revenge and “give the living a second chance.” But if we only, or primarily, focus on the living and give the living a second chance, then what have we done to the memories of the dead, to what I have previously called (Ayyash, 2019) the voices of the dead? Perhaps far from favouring the living over the dead, we need to listen more closely and carefully to the voices of the dead, not necessarily for avenging the dead, but for fulfilling the promise of their struggle for a justice that both precedes and exceeds codification in law and even in the political; for the remnants, for the excess that they both reveal and leave behind –  that source of vitality and direction that resists representation yes, yet it points us towards the new. And what is decolonial struggle if not the struggle for the new? For that which refuses, opposes, and transforms the terms constituted by and through the violences of the postcolonial and settler colonial nation-state.

 

References:

Ayyash, M.M. (2019). A hermeneutics of violence: A four-dimensional conception. Toronto:

University of Toronto Press.

Dabashi, H. (2020). The emperor is naked: On the inevitable demise of the nation-state. London:

Zed Books.

Mamdani, M. (2020). Neither settler nor native: The making and unmaking of permanent  

minorities. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Said, E. (1979). Zionism from the standpoint of its victims. Social Text, 1 (Winter), 7-58.

 

[1] This material is part of a book manuscript I am currently writing.

 

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The latest popular uprising by Palestinian citizens in Israel erupted during a complex political period in the country following four election cycles that failed to produce a sustainable working governing coalition between rival political factions. At the time of the uprising, long-serving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heading a caretaker government that included him, the leader of the Blue and White Party Benny Gantz, and a number of smaller parties. Today, that caretaker government is on its way out, to be replaced shortly by another coalition of political parties and forces opposed to Netanyahu, one that emerged from the latest parliamentary election last March.

The uprising was caused by the Palestinians’ feelings of disappointment and anger at events in Jerusalem and at having no influence in the Israeli political system nor involvement in the Israeli political context. This feeling of exclusion came to light in the wake of the Knesset elections of March 2020, when the Joint Arab List Alliance—which gained 15 seats in that round—recommended Gantz to form an alternate government instead of Netanyahu. Gantz, however, refused to form a government based on the list’s recommendation and preferred to join a government headed by none other than Netanyahu himself, despite his repeated promise not to join the latter in any cabinet. Indeed, he campaigned on a platform of replacing Netanyahu as premier. Such a rebuff dispirited Palestinian voters and contributed to an unprecedented decline in their participation rate in the March 2021 election, which was only 45 percent.

It must be emphasized that during the last four election rounds (from April 2019 to March 2021), the right-wing rhetoric that delegitimizes the Palestinian lists and voices was strengthened. This was despite the Palestinian parties’ secular discourse and their willingness to recommend a candidate from a Zionist party and to back an alternate government. Some Palestinians even supported an Israeli government headed by Netanyahu himself, as the leader of the United Arab List, Islamist Mansour Abbas, did after the last election.

Reasons behind the Eruption of the Popular Uprising

Many direct and indirect political factors led to the recent uprising among Palestinian citizens of Israel, which peaked around the events that occurred in connection with the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan. On May 7 alone, the Israeli police stormed the mosque compound, terrorized the worshipers, and used excessive force to disperse the demonstrators using rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades. About 170 Palestinians were injured. Such use of force caused feelings of anger among Palestinians in Israel who actively pray at the mosque and have been subjected to repression, including frequent denial of travel there by the Israeli police. In addition to the Al-Aqsa events, multiple protests erupted in Jerusalem against attempts by settler Jewish associations to displace Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. This is part of the Judaization process of Jerusalem, which is also taking place vigorously in other areas of the city.

In a survey, over 60 percent of Palestinians in Israel said the cause of the outbreak of the Palestinian popular uprising was the events of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem.

Palestinian youth and citizens of Israel participated in these protests, which at times the Israeli police aggressively suppressed, arresting demonstrators. The Israeli security services had warned the government that an escalation in Jerusalem could lead to major protests in Israel, the occupied West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Jewish extremist groups had intended to organize a march in the Old City of Jerusalem on May 9, the day when Israel celebrates the occupation and the “unification” of the city. The Israeli government allowed the march to be organized in the tense atmosphere, a fact that helped to galvanize the Palestinians, especially since the overall purpose of the event was to assert Israeli control over Jerusalem.

In a survey by Haifa-based Mada al-Carmel: Arab Center for Applied Social Research, over 60 percent of Palestinians in Israel said the cause of the outbreak of the Palestinian popular uprising was the events of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem (see Table 1).

Table 1

Causes for the Palestinian Uprising in IsraelPercentage
Events of Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah60.50%
Israeli police and state failure to control crime and violence15.20%
Discrimination against Palestinian citizens21.10%
Other3.10%

Source: “Political Preferences of Palestinians in Israel after the Popular Uprising,” Mada al-Carmel: Arab Center for Applied Social Research, 2021 (forthcoming).

The police crackdown on Palestinians in Jerusalem, and in Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, exacerbated the feelings of rage by Palestinians at the police’s failure to address the violence and crimes against them in Palestinian society. Criminal and violent incidents have spread at an unprecedented rate in recent years, reaching almost 100 Palestinians killed in 2020 alone. Criminal gangs have circulated almost with impunity, without the police taking serious steps to confront them. In contrast, Palestinians are witnessing extreme security procedures by the police to suppress any peaceful political protest in which they participate.

Such security procedures reinforce the impression that the police are treating them as enemies. Indeed, they view the Israeli police as not having changed their policies and perceptions of Palestinian citizens, despite criticism in the wake of the October 2000 demonstrations, in which police killed 13 Palestinian citizens during the protests that erupted in Palestinian cities and towns in Israel. The general unwillingness of the police to fight crime in Palestinian society that numbers some 1.8 million people and their attempt to induce the Palestinians into violence while security forces suppressed their protests in Jerusalem were two main factors for the emergence of the feelings of anger. This is not to mention the “Jewish Nation-State Law,” enacted by the Knesset in July 2018, which officially stripped them of their collective rights as an indigenous group and recognized Israel as the “historic homeland” of the Jewish people. In addition, the law included no mention of any principle of equality among all citizens in the State of Israel.

The most violent protests erupted in the mixed cities, the historically Palestinian cities where most of the population was displaced in 1948 and a few Palestinian neighborhoods had remained.

The most violent protests erupted in the mixed cities, the historically Palestinian cities where most of the population was displaced in 1948 and a few Palestinian neighborhoods had remained. Palestinian groups and areas there have been marginalized, discriminated against, and turned into enclaves of poverty in cities that now have predominant Jewish majorities. Protests in these cities, namely in Lydda, Jaffa, and Akka, erupted due to inequality similar to that of Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem. In both cases, the same Judaization practices, which aim at restricting the Palestinians and settling religious Jewish families with extremist agendas, in order to impede and displace Palestinians from their homes. This similarity between what is happening in Jerusalem in general, and Sheikh Jarrah in particular, which has gained great media and international attention, alongside the policies of Judaization of mixed cities in Israel, are two contributing factors that explain the reasons behind the violent protests that occurred in these particular cities compared to other Palestinian towns in Israel.

The State’s Reaction to the Uprising

The Israeli state’s reaction to the popular uprising in Palestinian society has been violent. The arrests of and crackdown on activists continue to date, despite the end of the protests. The state dealt with the protests in a security manner, without actually considering the simple, civil affairs question: what caused the popular uprising, especially after years of political and economic integration attempts of Palestinians into the state?

These security procedures permitted the use of lethal suppression strategies such as rubber-coated metal bullets and sometimes live ammunition, killing two young Palestinians, one shot by the police and one shot by a Jewish resident. Not only did the government decide to bring border guards—units that work in the West Bank to suppress Palestinian protests there—into Palestinian towns, the state also decided to expand police power to deal with the protests by placing checkpoints and concrete barriers at the entrances of the towns, imposing curfews,, inspecting all vehicles, and imposing arbitrary fines on citizens as part of collective punishment.

Accompanying this security repression, some Israeli journalists participated in incitement against Palestinians. In one interview, an Israeli journalist threatened Arab citizens with a “second Nakba” as well as urged the police to take a more violent stance on the protests. Another journalist demandedi that the police should kill every citizen who assaulted a Jewish settler, saying “they must count their death,” meaning Palestinians.

Many violent Israeli Jewish groups emerged during the uprising. Some of them were armed and aimed to hunt down Palestinians, even though the Palestinian protests were mostly peaceful.

Many violent Israeli Jewish groups emerged during the uprising. Some of them were armed and aimed to hunt down Palestinians, even though the Palestinian protests were mostly peaceful. In addition, the violence attributed to Palestinians that accompanied the protests was not systematically organized but the police quelled it with extreme repression. In contrast, groups of settlers from settlements in the West Bank were organized for “defending” Jews in mixed cities. Many extremist Jewish groups who got involved were affiliated with racist organizations such as Lehava, a racist anti-miscegenation group that believes in the purity and superiority of the Jewish race. Lehava members attacked Palestinian shops in Jewish majority cities and chased and beat Palestinian citizens, killing a young man. All this occurred without the police undertaking any security procedures to halt the violence, and sometimes these groups were free to move even though the police knew about their practices and intentions.

After the events ended, the police launched a campaign called “Law and Order.” According to the campaign statement, they would hold anyone involved in the protests accountable. Indeed, the police, in cooperation with the Internal Security Service (Shabak), began and continued to arrest hundreds of Palestinian youth, including minors. Some of them have been released, but a large number continues to be detained after hundreds of indictments were filed against them.

The popular uprising accompanied many procedures aimed to persecute Arab employees in private as well as public companies. Many of those who expressed political positions on Facebook were illegally fired. When the High Follow-Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel announced a strike protesting police repression on May 18, Arab strikers were threatened with dismissal if they did not continue to work.

No Lessons Learned

This popular uprising among Palestinians in Israel has been the largest protest since the events of October 2000. The reasons for the uprising indicate that the State of Israel may not have learned many lessons since that time, despite the appointment of a commission of inquiry into the events. Rather, its discriminatory policies continue and police treat Palestinian citizens as enemies rather than as citizens. After the return to government of the Israeli right in 2009, headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, the state continued to incite against Palestinian citizens, prosecuting their political leaders, curtailing political action, delegitimizing parties and working to lessen electoral participation in Knesset elections, and allowing crime and violence against them to reach alarming levels.

The legislation of the Jewish Nation-State Law of July 2018 constitutionally and explicitly was enacted to announce that the state is Jewish and therefore it could not provide equality for its Palestinian citizens. As in 2000, the events in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque were provoked by factors that triggered the Palestinians and brought out the anger and frustration that had accumulated over the years, in a protest that accompanied the aggression against the Gaza Strip. This is unmistakably the uprising of the Palestinian youth, who were the most involved, as they are suffering from frustration, discrimination, and loss of hope for a life of dignity and genuine equality.

Mohanad Mustafa is the General Director of Mada al-Carmel: Arab Center for Applied Social research, Haifa, Israel.

Sami Miaari has written a new paper exploring the relationship between changing patterns of voting amongst the Palestinian community in Israel and economic changes. By looking at Israeli general elections between 1996 and the present, applying economic, instrumental and expressive voting theories, and analyzing available data on economic dependency and wealth, Miaari makes a compelling case for a reappraisal of the long-term decline in Arab voter turnout pre-2015. Going against the conventional wisdom which states a causal relationship between increased economic prosperity and an increase in voter turnout, Arab turnout declined through periods of economic growth. Miaari urges us to consider voter abstention as a profoundly political act, as Arab municipalities came to be less reliant on the patronage structures by which funding and resources were acquired through voting for Zionist parties. This speaks to a growth in ideological over ‘practical’ voting grounded in anticipated service provision. The sharp increase in Arab turnout after the union of Arab and non-Zionist parties as the Joint List testifies to the ”political maturation” of the Palestinian community in Israel, according to Miaari‘s analysis.

Sami Miaari is currently a Lecturer at the Department of Labor Studies in Tel-Aviv University and a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Blavatnik School of Government, Oxford University.

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