Day: December 1, 2010

Re-thinking Israel-Palestine: Racial state, state of exception

Introduction: The dialectics of Israel-Palestine

2010 has been another eventful year in Israel-Palestine. First there was the debacle of the Gaza flotilla. Later on, Israeli police forces demolished the ‘unrecognised’ village of El Araqib three times. In Sheikh Jarrach, Silwan and Bil’in riot police keeps arresting unarmed demonstrators. In October, Israel legislated to obligate all non Jewish candidates for citizenship to pledge allegiance to Israel as a Jewish democratic state. The law officially entrenched  nationalist and fascist principles, endorsed by large parts of the Israeli Jewish population (Misgav, 2010). This occasioned debates as to whether this, and several other proposed laws – such as ‘the Bishara law’, revoking wages and pensions of Knesset members suspected of terror-related offenses and aiding the enemy, approved earlier this month by the House Committee following heated exchanges between Arab and rightist MKs (Sofer, 2010) – signal new manifestations of fascism and racist nationalism. These debates build on academic debates on Israel as settler colonial society or ethnocracy.
Following Edward Said’s argument (1980: xv) that thinking Palestine involves dialectically setting the Palestinian experience against Zionism, and following my book Thinking Palestine (Lentin, 2008),   this paper dialectically theorises Palestine, after Giorgio Agamben (1998, 2005) as a ‘state of exception’,   and Israel, after David Theo Goldberg (2002, 2008, 2009), as a ‘racial state’.   According to Fabio Vighi (2010), theorists such as Agamben (and, he stresses, Žižek and Badiou, and, I would add, also Foucault), reject postmodern theories as essentially a-political and instead insist on the urgent need to re-politicise theory. I refer to their theorisations, therefore, not in order to present abstractions of the Palestinian question, but rather as an attempt to re-politicise universal questions of sovereignty and abject subjecthood in the context of Palestine and Israel. Read more