World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


MINORITIES AND IDENTITY IN ISRAEL - 1/2 (452) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI, 23 / 11.30 am - 1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Paper presenter:Mandy Turner (Lecturer in Conflict Resolution, Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, UK), “Minorities and Democratic Participation: a study of the Arab-Israeli Members of the Knesset”
Much academic and policy research has been conducted on the role and experience of minorities in politics, particularly on discrimination and the potential for instability in conflict-prone country contexts. It is generally acknowledged that discrimination against minorities does not automatically transfer into protest by the minority group, but that a complex relationship exists mediated by the potential to affect minority group voice, influence and policies through conventional electoral channels. Arab-Israelis (hereafter AIs) constitute a significant minority (around 20%) of the Israeli population. Various studies have analysed the discrimination and inequality faced by AIs (e.g. by Baruch Kimmerling, Jonathan Cook), and recognised by the Or Commission (Sept 2003), which investigated the treatment by police of AIs in October 2000. However, none have focused on their experience as political actors within the Israeli parliamentary system. This paper aims to fill that gap by addressing the following questions: (1) What is the experience of the AI Members of the Knesset (MKs)?; (2) What threats and opportunities have AI MKs faced in trying to represent their communities?; and (3) What are the obstacles to effective / democratic AI involvement in Israeli parliamentary politics? These are important questions because increasingly the Jewish majority is supporting curbs on AI political expression as indicated by the success of Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu party in the February 2009 Israeli General Election, which indicates a shift to the far right, particularly with regards tolerance towards the AIs. This, in turn, will have an impact on the ability of AIs to organise and mobilise involvement in parliamentary politics. The paper is based on interviews conducted in Jerusalem with members of the main AI parties. Theoretically, the paper places itself within the debate over whether Israel is an ''ethnic democracy? (Sammy Smooha) or an ''ethnocracy'' (Yoav Peled); empirically, it situates itself within this debate through an exploration of the experience of the political mobilisation of the AI minority. It also engages with theories of ''minorities in politics'' to cast light on the particular experience of AI MKs.

Paper presenter:Ahmad H. Sa'di (Senior lecturer, Ben Gurion University, Israel), “Controlling an unwanted minority: Israel's methods during the first two decades”
In the course of history, various states have found themselves debating the cumbersome question: What modes of population management ought to be employed in order to contain unwanted indigenous population of annexed territories? In this paper, I explore the way in which Israel has managed the Palestinian minority which remained within the state’s boundaries during the first two decades of its establishment. While, large sections of Israeli officials and the Jewish public preferred to transfer the minority and, various plans to this end were laid-down, transfer had become with the passage of time unattainable. Yet, Israel’s endeavours to control the Palestinians have their roots long before 1948. Then, however, the Jewish minority lacked the power needed to force its will. Non-the-less an organisational structure to deal with the Arab majority was established and a large amount of data was gathered and various methods to disorganize the local Arab population were drafted. After 1948, the state has become in control of the physical and the bureaucratic means to force its will. I shall analyse the state’s methods of control, such as the imposition of a Military Government and the employment of emergency regulations, through the paradigms of both Michel Foucault - particularly by employing the notion of bio-power and the tools of control he discussed in Discipline and Punish - and Carl Schmitt, whose notion of exceptionalism is particularly helpful in this context.

Paper presenter:Ibtisam Ibrahim (Assistant Professor, American University, USA), “Muslim Non-Violent Resistance: the Case of the Al-Aqsa Association for Islamic Restoration and Sanctities (AAAIRS) in Israel”
This paper studies the role of Muslim nonviolent resistance to Israeli hegemony and control of Muslim sites, particularly the Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem. The Islamic charity association in Israel, better known as the Al-Aqsa Association for Islamic Restoration and Sanctities (AAAIRS), has drawn quite antagonistic reactions from the Israeli government and public realms despite its nonviolent activities. The goals of this organization are to preserve the large number of destroyed, damaged, or threatened Islamic and Christian holy sites in Israel, and also to provide support and solidarity to Palestinian brethren in the Occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip. The goal of preserving holy sites has taken two primary forms. First, since the beginning of the recent Intifada in 2000, thousands of Muslims from Arab villages and cities within Israel have participated in the daily organized bus trips to Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. These trips serve as one of the most popular and non-violent resistance activities of Palestinian citizens of Israel to the occupation and particularly to Israel’s control of the city of Jerusalem. A concurrent activity is organized visiting to the villages and towns that were demolished by the state of Israel during and after the 1948 war. This paper analyzes the significance of the Al-Aqsa activities, namely, the daily organized trips to the city of Jerusalem, and how such activities aim to preserve the Arab identity of the city and resist Israel’s deliberate policy of emptying the city of its Arab residents. I outline how the Al-Aqsa Association uses religious sites as a form of political resistance to Israeli control of the Arab sector of the city. I seek to understand and explain the Al-Aqsa Association through recent theoretical perspectives on nonviolence. In particular, I draw on the use of religious and cultural values such as unity, solidarity, justice, empowerment, and commitment for strengthening nonviolent struggle and resistance. My fieldwork based on interviews with a few leaders and activists of the Al-Aqsa Association will shed light on interpreting the role of Islamic civil society in resisting Israeli hegemony in Jerusalem.