Panel 1E

Political Agency and the Construction of Every-day Life in Israel and Palestine

10.45 – 12.45
Chair: Katie Natanel, University of Exeter

The Resurgence of the Clan in Arab Local Politics in Israel

Dag Tuastad, University of Oslo

In 1965 Abner Cohen published his landmark study ”Arab Border Villages in Israel: A Study of Continuity and Change in Social Organization”, on why the hamula (clan) had been  strengthened rather than weakened within Palestinian Arab villages inside Israel after 1948. Cohen showed that the Palestinians went from class to hamula in terms of political identity and organization. With Israel, the political role of the hamula had been revived. The question was why.  Many scholars criticized Cohen’s study, especially from a new-Marxist perspective. Some even hinted that Cohen “worked up” the political role of the hamula. But time has shown that Cohen’s thesis was basically correct. His critics failed to see the political, cultural and ethnic significance of the hamula within the Arab parallel society in Israel. Over the two last decades the hamulas have in fact resurged in local politics in Israel. The reason for this is that young, educated political activists have entered the Israel political system through their local clans. They have institutionalized internal elections ahead of local elections, they have adopted a programmatic element to attract voters outside their core base, largely replacing the influence of the so-called hamula-elders of the first decades after the establishment of Israel. Hamulas in fact constitute a primary level of politics where the next generation of Israeli Palestinian national leaders are trained and from where they emerge into the national arena.

They Might be Our Enemies, but They Surely Know How to Cook: Consumption of Palestinian Food in Israel

Claudia Raquel Prieto-Piastrom, King’s College London

In this paper I will analyze how the recent academic literature reproduces the silencing of the role of Palestinian food in Israel, the process of des-Arabization of certain dishes and how Jewish-Israelis speak about Palestinian food in their everyday. I will highlight the different ways in which the Palestinian and Arab influences in the Israeli food culture are talked about, silenced or disguise and how this have become a key element in the formation of Israel national identity. I will argue that the influence of Palestinian food in the food culture of Israel is constantly silenced and substituted by the labels “Arab food” or “Mizrahi food.” Accepting there is such a thing as Palestine food would imply the acceptance of the existence of a Palestinian nation, provoking that the consumption of Palestine food by Jewish Israelis becomes a clear sign of their political preferences.  I will also argue that talking about Mizrahi food obscures and hides the Arab origin of some dishes by imposing a Jewish denominator but also denies the possibility of Middle Eastern Jews of being simultaneously Jewish and Arab.

The Effect of Cross-Border Interaction on the Relations of Asymmetric Entities with Strategic Differences: The Case of Gaza-Egypt Border

Georgios Rigas, University of Edinburgh

Starr and Thomas argue that one key aspect of borders is that they affect the interaction opportunities of the social units they demarcate and, consequently, increase the potential costs and gains that derive from them. Based on the above, this paper looks at the cross-border interaction between the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip and Egypt, with the aim of showing how the cross-border interaction between asymmetric entities with strategic differences can upgrade their tactical cooperation. Hamas is an Islamic Palestinian organisation which since June 2007 controls the Gaza Strip; a coastal enclave which in the South-East borders with Egypt’s Sinai. Egypt, a leading Arab state which has mainly been ruled by secularist military-associated figures, enjoys since 1979 a strategic alliance with the US and a peace treaty with Israel; Hamas’s basic adversary. It becomes therefore apparent that strategic differences characterise Hamas-Egypt relations. Nevertheless, because Israel responded to Gaza’s takeover with a trade blockade which resulted in reorienting Gaza’s economy from Israel to Egypt, Hamas-Egypt cross-border interaction after June 2007 contributed to the heightening of Hamas-Egypt tactical cooperation. To be sure, although after Gaza’s takeover the Rafah crossing remained mostly closed, the trade, albeit irregular, between Gaza and Egypt rose significantly due to the increase of the use of illicit underground tunnels. Consequently, this paper will trace the enhancement of Hamas-Egypt tactical cooperation on two axes. Firstly, on the evolution of the phenomenon of Rafah tunnels. And secondly, on the occasions where the Egyptian authorities acquiesced to temporarily open the Rafah crossing.

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Enterprising in Politics and Society: Evaluating Israel’s Northern Islamic Movement in New Contexts

Lilian Tauber, Durham University

This paper examines the Northern Islamic Movement by using ‘socio-political entrepreneurship’ as the analytical framework. While the notion of entrepreneurship originated in the field of economics, it has also taken hold in the social sciences as ‘social entrepreneurship’ and ‘political entrepreneurship’. Social entrepreneurship refers to initiatives taken to ameliorate social issues through economic means, while political entrepreneurship describes the way in which policies are changed in unexpected ways, generally at high levels of government. However, there is a gap in which the literature fails to explain social entrepreneurship with political undertones, or the case of the politician as social entrepreneur. This paper proposes the concept, and various aspects of, ‘socio-political entrepreneurship’, which combines elements of social and political entrepreneurship. The aim of socio-political entrepreneurship is to work on behalf of society to improve social conditions; while this has political undertones, the enterprise need not necessarily, or exclusively, be about changing politics. The Northern Islamic Movement is a social and religious movement that focuses mainly on socio-religious activities in the Israeli Arab communities, but also exhibits goals, rhetoric, and functions with strong political undertones. Thus, the use of ‘socio-political entrepreneurship’ allows for a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the functions of the Northern Islamic Movement in Israeli Arab society.

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Border Collapse and Boundary Maintenance: Movement, Militarisation and the Gendered Micro-Geographies of Violence in Israel-Palestine

Katie Natanel, Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter

Drawing upon subaltern geopolitics and feminist geography, this paper explores how movement and militarisation shape micro-geographies of violence in Israel-Palestine. While accounts of spectacular and large-scale political violence dominate popular imaginaries and academic analyses in/of the region, a shift to the micro-scale makes visible the political significance of everyday bodily motion within space. In the context of Israel-Palestine, micro-geographies have revealed dynamic strategies for ‘getting by’ or ‘dealing with’ the occupation, as practiced by Palestinian populations in the face of spatialised violence. However, this paper considers how Jewish Israelis actively shape the spatial micro-politics of power within and along the borders of the Israeli state. Based on 12 months of ethnographic research in Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem during 2010-2011, narratives of everyday movement and interaction illustrate how relations of violence, occupation and domination rely upon gendered dynamics of border collapse and boundary maintenance. Here, the borders between homefront and battlefield breakdown at the same time as communal boundaries are reproduced, generating conditions of ‘total militarism’ wherein military interests and agendas are both actively and passively diffused. Through gendering the militarised micro-geographies of violence among Jewish Israelis, this paper reveals how individuals construct, navigate and regulate the everyday spaces of occupation, detailing more precisely how macro political power endures.