Arab-Jewish Activism in Israel-Palestine. Marcelo Svirsky. Farnham: Ashgate. 2012. 211 pp.
ISBN 978 40942297
Since the onset of ‘the Arab Spring’ social scientists have been moving from analysing oppressive political regimes to analyses of acts of resistance. This is particularly relevant in the case of Israel-Palestine, where, since the turning point events of October 2000, when 13 Palestinian citizens of Israel who protested in solidarity with the Al Aqsa Intifada were shot by the Israeli police, acts of resistance are becoming widespread. Several social scientists are beginning to grapple with acts of resistance not only in the OPT, where non violent protestors confront the Israeli security forces on a weekly basis, but also within the state of Israel, where protestors (mostly Jewish) take to the streets to campaign for social justice.
That the two campaigns rarely meet, even though many of the protestors are active on both fronts, has been addressed by bloggers and contributors to social networks and is a point Marcelo Svirsky’s new book may have addressed. Read more
Last week I attended ‘On migrations: Images, subjects, objects’, an event co-organised by the Dublin City Council Arts Office in association with PhotoIreland Festival 2012 and GradCam. Listening to papers on ‘diaspora space’ among indigenous Irish people in the north inner city and on ‘collaborative’ photography projects with residents of direct provision hostels, a line from the Israeli poet Nathan Alterman rang in my head: ‘Here are the trees with their murmuring leaves / Here is the air dizzy with height. / I do not want to write about them / I want to touch their heart’.
But the poet, like us academics, did continue to write. Indeed, writing was his stock in trade, as it is ours. And writing ‘about them’ is just as invasive as the poet’s wish to ‘touch their heart’. So I reflected aloud about the permission we give ourselves to turn others, in this specific case migrants, into the objects of our ‘desire to know’, as Alice Feldman of UCD expressed it. And – although I was a founder member of the Trinity Immigration Initiative, for which I managed a project on migrant networks assisting in their own integration, and although I am deeply committed to supporting migrants in Ireland and elsewhere – I made a decision there and then that I will never again research and write about migrants. Read more
I was privileged to speak at the Irish Traveller Movement 2012 AGM. Travellers have campaigned for recognition as an ethnic group for years and the state’s refusal in 2003 to recognise them as such after years of government attempts to settle and assimilate Travellers was a major setback, because it deprives them of a coherent platform from which to conduct an antiracism campaign.
My argument is that although there is plenty of individual racism against Travellers, from local councils to local residents who do not want Travellers to be accommodated near them, the chief offender is the state. In attempting to settle Travellers, in not providing sufficient halting sites, in prohibiting camping on public or private grounds, in not supporting Travellers in seeking second and third level education, and in denying Traveller ethnicity, the Irish state racialises Travellers as a group apart. Read more