Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Old Will Die and the Young Will Forget: Zionist Discourses and State-building in Israel/Palestine

Another installment of "What has whatsername been working on in school?"[1]


“I pray that all [readers of this book] may unite in the resolve that evil forces will never again be permitted to set one people against another”
– Alicia Appleman-Jurman[2]

The first time I remember coming across the name “Palestine” was in a Holocaust memoir by Alicia Appleman-Jurman called Alicia: My Story.  I was probably thirteen years old.  Although the facts of this remembering are highly suspect at this point, the truth of it as a personal historical moment was formative in my developing political consciousness and thus cannot be dismissed out of hand.  As I remember it, Alicia hears from a fellow Holocaust survivor that European Jews have started congregating in Palestine as a safe haven after the Holocaust and Russian pogroms.  Palestine is presented as the ancient site of the Jewish homeland (Eretz Yisrael) and as safely out of the reach of genocidal and antisemitic Europe.  At the time, and after having just read in detail how horrible the Holocaust was, this information made sense to me and I recall feeling happy that the people of Palestine were willing to accept this influx of immigrants with something like open arms, something that Europe apparently was incapable of.

As the years went by I remember hearing about the “troubles” in Israel and being puzzled by them.  When did this area go from a safe haven to a place where one could not go grocery shopping without fear of a suicide bomber (or so the narratives in the United States media went)?  Of course, what I never thought to ask myself was: “When did Palestine become Israel?”  Naively, I suppose I assumed that such a transition would have been for the common good, as Jewish people had settled there as a safe haven.  Surely these settlers wouldn’t treat those already living in the area the way the United States had treated its indigenous population.  But slowly, bits and pieces of information incongruous to my understanding of Palestine/Israel as a welcoming safe haven for post-Holocaust Jews began to trouble me. Finally, well over a decade after my initial exposure to that formative personal narrative I read another memoir, In Search of Fatima by Ghada Karmi.  Just a child in 1948, Ghada and her family escaped Palestine for England just before Israel’s declaration of Independence. 

What intrigued me most about this second text was the recounting of the author’s childhood up to this point of exodus.  The question I should have asked all those years ago began to be answered as I read of the waves of immigration and resistance to them, of the terrorism perpetuated against Arabs as well as Jews and ultimately the British abandonment of the region in an “inexcusably abrupt and reckless fashion” (Shlaim 50) and resulting war between Arab and Jew (such as it was presented in the memoir).  The connection between these two narratives, one of a Zionist immigrant and another of a Palestinian, both just, or little more than, girls in that same time and place, will forever be intertwined in my memory as the tragedy and promise of Palestine/Israel.  I begin with this recounting as it is important to understanding my stakes and investment in this project. 

In keeping with that aim, I must admit that while my knowledge regarding Israel/Palestine has deepened in the months spent working on this current project, I continually feel the immensity of what I still do not know.  Knowledge gleaned from one source will be hotly contested by another, where both seem to be intellectually honest, academically rigorous and personally sincere; thus confounding most aims to finding “the truth” of the facts on the ground.  This caveat is important to understanding this project because it must be clear that this essay is not comprehensive; the scope is limited.  In particular, my interest solidified around the question of Arab expulsion from the areas which would become the present-day state of Israel.  I have become fascinated by the recurring rhetoric regarding this expulsion; particularly the discourse around the nakba (catastrophe), otherwise known as Israel’s declaration of Independence in 1948, and it is about this which I will write.

In this paper I will argue that the state of Israel pursued a program of formalized expulsion against Palestinians as a necessary nation-state-building exercise.  In proving this argument I will examine the discourses upon which politicians, philosophers and other Zionist groups based their work.  To begin, I will justify my project, illustrating why this particular investigation constitutes a puzzle to be solved.  Then I will turn to a discussion of the way in which three specific discourses produced national ideological currency.  Next, I will discuss the modern subject and the discourse surrounding it, which appears at first to contradict the thrust of the previous three, but in fact buttresses them.  Finally, I turn to a discussion of the competing nationalisms within Palestine/Israel and the way in which they were facilitated by the discourses discussed thus far.  In my conclusion I will examine how these ideas have maintained circulation in popular media and how they have facilitated Israel’s ability to solidify and preserve their international image as a valid, modern democracy in the Middle East, paying particular attention to the way in which this information may prove to be vital in considering the creation of a lasting peace.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Support for the Community Garden Effort in Dover Street Park, North Oakland

From Phat Beets Produce: Media Advisory

Over the last year, with permission from the city, the neglected and unused perimeter of this public park has been transformed by the Dover St. Neighborhood Group and Phat Beets Produce. Replacing overgrown weeds are a 4000 square foot vegetable and herb garden and a recently planted 25 tree fruit orchard. Also added over the past year is a large food justice themed community mural created by the Community Rejuvenation Project. The project receives no money from the City of Oakland. All of this activity has contributed to far greater use of the park by the neighborhood and a heightened sense of community.
Now, a year later, Oakland Parks and Recreation have recommended the removal of 1/3 of the fruit trees and to limit future edible landscaping on most of the park perimeter. Concerned neighbors are invited to speak up for food justice and to demand much needed policy change regarding local, sustainable food production in Oakland Public Parks.
Please consider signing this petition (and if you are local, coming to the meeting).
Petition: Support for the Community Garden Effort in Dover Street Park
Meeting: Wednesday, June 8th, 4:30pm
Lakeside Park Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Avenue – next to Lake Merritt