As my partner and I were taking what has become our routine journey (twice a month) from my parents’ home in Al-Ram (between Jerusalem and Ramallah) to the Sheikh Hussein Bridge heading for Amman-Jordan, he raised an interesting question. Noting that the State of Israel has devoted so much energy and resources to “protect” itself through occupation, the separation wall and check points, he wondered whether Israelis foresee a solution, or do they believe that the current situation is a final solution? Our bi-weekly trip to the bridge provides the context for this question.
My parents’ home is on the outskirts of Jerusalem, which under normal circumstances could have been a natural expansion of Jerusalem. It could have been a desirable suburb in a normal setting, as it has access to the northern exit, making a northern trip swift. This was a plus when my father decided to buy that plot of land, as he is originally from the Nazareth area, and we used to make the trip up north almost weekly to visit family.
With the continuing Palestinian Israeli conflict and the resulting decision by the Israeli government to build the wall, Al-Ram neighborhood was one of the areas that suffered. To make matters worse, the State of Israel has an Industrial zone (“Atarot”) opposite our neighborhood, which means that they needed access to it. As a result the “Wall” was erected in the middle of the street dividing it into two parallel streets and declaring one side of it as Israeli and part of Jerusalem while the other side as Area B. (Area B: The Oslo II Accord of Sep. 28th 1995 has created three “temporary” distinct administrative divisions of the Palestinian territories thus creating what have become areas A, B and C. According to Oslo Accord, Area B is Israeli controlled but administered by Palestinian Authority.)
This arrangement meant that we no longer have the convenient access of the northern route and now in order to leave our neighborhood and reach Jerusalem, we have two options. The first is Qalandya checkpoint, . . .
Read more: The Israeli Future? A View From Both Sides of the Wall
To skip this introduction and go directly to read today’s In-Depth post, “Israel Against Democracy: Post-Elections Analysis” by Hilla Dayan, click here.
In today’s “in-depth” post, Hilla Dayan provides critical insight into the Israeli political landscape, following the recent elections. She paints a stark reality. The elections in her judgment have a “Groundhog Day” quality. Once again, a centrist, anti-religious, patriotic party appeared from nowhere. Once again, the left was not a significant factor, and once again the right-wing ruling party prevailed to form the coalition. Dayan presents a much more radical response than did Michael Weinman in his inquiry into the future prospects following the elections for Israel. Weinman foresees a fundamental challenge to Israeli democracy, worries about theocratic and authoritarian dangers, and sees in the modest quest for a normal society a possible key for a democratic future.
In Dayan’s account, in contrast, the key question is whether the strong anti-democratic agenda of the far right will proceed, whether Israel’s present regime, combining an unsteady and receding liberal democracy for Jewish citizens and second class Palestinian citizens, with dictatorship over the Palestinians in the occupied territories, will be replaced by a more pure authoritarian indeed fascist regime, with the potential of a genocidal approach to the Palestinian other.
While for Weinman hope lies in the internal dynamics of Israeli society, for Dayan hope can be found in the potential common project linking the post if not anti-Zionist left within Israel and in the occupied territories. Both see the elections as indecisive. Both see real dangers. Yet, both also provide some grounds for hope: Weinman in the possibility of incremental steps toward a two state solution, between now and a better then, Dayan in the radical step that must be taken for a just secular one state solution.
My ambivalent response: as a matter of temperament and personal experience, I am attracted to the quest for a normal society as a wise . . .
Read more: Israel Against Democracy: Introduction
The recent elections in Israel were held, as in past years, in a climate of resignation. No big surprises were anticipated, and no one for a minute doubted that Benjamin Netanyahu would be elected for a historic third time. Even when the results were announced, the landslide victory of the new party, Yesh Atid [there is a future], led by media celebrity Yair Lapid, was hardly a surprise. It is the third time that a vaguely centrist party with a vaguely anti-religious, patriotic agenda took a big chunk of the “average Israeli” votes. (Kadima is today the smallest party in the Knesset with 2 seats. In its first elections in 2006 it took 29 seats to become the largest party within the coalition government. Shinuy party won 15 seats in 2003 and disappeared in the 2006 elections.) With 17 out of 120 Knesset seats, Yesh Atid has become the second biggest party in Israel overnight, second to the ruling party. They were declared the “winners” and the Netanyahu-Liberman duo the “losers,” for losing a large portion of their mandate through the merger of Likud and Israel Beitenu.
The massive vote for Lapid, riding on a general discontent with politics, made it painfully clear how sectorial the “social justice” protest in the summer of 2011 was after all, which drew primarily on middle-class frustrations with dwindling economic prospects for future generations. The amazing creativity and energy of many young and more radicalized 2011 protestors dissipated much too soon. Difficult yet promising alliances forged at the time between Mizrahi neighborhoods in Tel Aviv and Palestinian activists in Jaffa found no political expression. The summer of 2011 was a moment when hundreds of thousands poured to the streets to demonstrate against the rule of the so-called “tycoons,” Israel’s business oligarchy. This seemed to have the potential to lead to an even broader, more threatening mobilization against the existing order. It didn’t happen. No serious opposition to the reign of the neoliberal hawkish right emerged from this outburst. The 2011 protest did not generate any visible crack in the tectonic structures of Israeli politics. The main players on the Israeli political map remain Netanyahu-Liberman, a spineless, inflated center, and a disproportionately strong settler-dominated . . .
Read more: Israel Against Democracy: Post-Elections Analysis
In the immediate aftermath of the latest elections in Israel, my (somewhat snide, but really felt) response was “good thing there is a future; there’s surely no present.” Meaning, I suppose, something like: nice to see that folks really made a statement that the current political system is fundamentally broken (by voting in droves for the newly-minted Yesh Atid [i.e., there is a future] party), but that doesn’t mean that anything has actually changed, or can be expected to change, any time soon. I had wanted to try to develop that reaction into a sustained thought, but failed. Then, in the build-up to Obama’s visit and the drama of Netanyahu’s troubled, but ultimately (and predictably) successful, attempt to forge a coalition, I thought that there was a real moment to expand on my initial response. I failed again. Obama’s visit itself would have been a nice occasion to revisit my thesis and see how it was holding up against “facts on the ground.” But, alas, that moment passed as well.
Who would have thought that the “critical mass” would have been reached through a seemingly benign, almost anodyne, gesture by Yair Lapid (head of the afore-mentioned party) in saying that any structural changes to Israeli economic and fiscal policy—and such changes, it is universally agreed (and, seriously, now, how often is universal agreement reached on anything in Israel?)—must first of all resolve the difficulties faced by the “ideal typical” family of “Riki Cohen” who (it so happens) is said to hail from Hadera, the suburban semi-city between Tel Aviv and Haifa where my wife’s parents have lived for 25 years.
So, I am sitting here in their house in Hadera, looking over the pages and pages devoted to “Rikigate” in the thick Friday [think: Sunday] editions of Yediot Ahronot and HaAretz (including prized positions on the front covers thereof), and I realize: this is the evidence that the January version of me would have wanted to rip from the near future and point to in making my comment about the lack of a political present in . . .
Read more: Is There an Israeli Future? Post-Election Reflections on Minister Lapid, “Riki Cohen from Hadera” and the Pursuit of a Normal Society
To skip this introduction and go directly to read Zachary Metz’s In-Depth Analysis, “Peace Writ Small: Reflections on “Peacebuilding” in Iraq, Burma, Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, the Balkans and Beyond,” click here.
In today’s “in-depth post,” Zachary Metz, a veteran conflict resolution practitioner, reflects on his vast experience exploring the potential of “peacebuilding.” He notes that, in recent years, the concern among practitioners has turned away from the simple cessation of violence, toward “positive peace,” a term advocated by Johan Galtung, working for “peace writ large,” in which peace includes a focus on long term, large scale, social change. Metz appreciates this move and has applied it, but he also recognizes its limits. Conflict is embedded in everyday social practices, he notes, in the small interactions that lead toward or away from violence, which promote conflicts or understandings. He thus focuses this piece on what he calls “peace writ small.” After explaining how his close focus on interaction responds to problems of the day and problems among conflict resolution practitioners, and after he draws on relevant theoretical developments, Metz illuminates how his approach looks like in practice. He describes and analyzes a moving example of “peace writ small” in a group he led in Iraq in 2005. In Iraq in 2005!
I am first impressed by the bravery involved, but even more significant is that Metz clearly illuminates the type of work that needs to happen for the Iraqis to have any chance in the aftermath of this tragic war. In miniature, I think I see in Zach’s account the only way for an alternative to the again escalating strife in that long-suffering country. In the ten year anniversary post mortem of the war, reflections have all been writ large, too often repeating thread worn partisan positions. Metz shows how we see and can do much more when we pay attention to everyday experience and concerns, and respond accordingly.
P.S. As the author of The Politics of Small Things, from which Metz draws insight, I find . . .
Read more: Peace Writ Small: Introduction
“There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen, “Anthem”
Over the course of my career as a practitioner and researcher in the field known as “peacebuilding,” I have worked alongside thousands of people in conflicted societies, including in Iraq, Burma, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, the Balkans, and elsewhere. In this article, I explore a dilemma I see in the field, namely the increasingly singular emphasis on grand narratives of peace, known as “Peace Writ Large.” I fear that this frame, while valuable in many ways, may have the unintended consequence of actually undermining inquiry into and support for the powerful micro interactions that occur in even the most polarized conflicts. I argue that we must not lose sight of the power embodied in “peace writ small.”
Since the mid-1990s, approaches to theory-building, policy-making and intervention in conflict have increasingly emphasized macro, long-term societal changes, first under the rubric of “conflict transformation” and now “peacebuilding”.
Building on Johann Galtung’s fundamental concept of positive peace (meant to contrast with “negative peace,” meaning the cessation of violence), “Peace Writ Large” articulates an expansive vision, embracing human rights, environmental sensitivity, sustainable development, gender equity, and other normative and structural transformations. (Chigas & Woodrow, 2009). Anderson and Olsen (2003:12) define Peace Writ Large as comprising change “at the broader level of society as a whole,” which addresses “political, economic, and social grievances that may be driving conflict.” Lederach (1997:84), integrates Peace Writ Large into his definition of peacebuilding, which is:
“…a comprehensive concept that encompasses, generates and sustains the full array of processes, approaches and stages needed to transform conflict toward more sustainable, peaceful relationships…Metaphorically, peace is seen not merely as a stage in time or a condition. It is seen as a dynamic social construct.”
The focus in this article does not allow space for a full discussion of the rich dialogues and debates relevant to peacebuilding or Peace Writ Large. That said, I note that in my own work I have found that this meta approach expands our tools of engagement and pushes us to move beyond official “Track I” diplomacy and state-based mechanisms, to involve civil . . .
Read more: Peace Writ Small: Reflections on “Peacebuilding” in Iraq, Burma, Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Rwanda, the Balkans and Beyond
This is the first part of a two-part post. Today I focus on Israel and point to comparisons. In part 2, I explore the comparisons. –Jeff
I am mimicking the title of my second book, On Cultural Freedom: An Exploration of Public Life in Poland and America in the title of this post, as I am imagining writing a second volume, a case study focusing the theory in my book written thirty years ago to a particular cultural domain today. My thought experiment is motivated by a concern for my intellectual home, the university.
While the immediate stimulus for these reflections is the attack upon the Politics and Government Department at Ben Gurion University in Israel, first reported here on Tuesday, I think the crudeness of the attack is matched by more subtle, but also powerful, challenges to academic freedom and quality quite apparent in the United States, and elsewhere. I write about these concerns, thinking of my students and particularly of a Deliberately Considered contributor from Pakistan, Daniyal Khan.
The attack on the academic freedom of the politics and government of Ben Gurion University is straightforward political repression. There is an attempt on the part of the Israeli right to cleanse the Israeli academy of what it takes to be “anti-Zionism.” A NGO, sometimes labeled as Fascist, Im Tirtzu, has led the charge. Right-wing politicians have used institutional means to attempt a purge. There are only days left to forestall this dire outcome. (protest against these developments here)
An international review panel recommended reforms to broaden the intellectual profile of Ben Gurion University’s Department of Politics and Government (something I for one am not sure is a good idea) and the recommendations have been creatively misinterpreted by the Israeli Council for Higher Education (CHE), a government-appointed body charged with the supervision and financing of universities and colleges in Israel, to justify closing the department down. The independence of the university is under direct political . . .
Read more: On Cultural Freedom: An Exploration of Academic Life in Israel, Pakistan and the U.S.
The members of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben Gurion University have agreed among themselves not to individually publish opinion pieces on the threat of closing of their department. For this reason, I have taken down the first version of this post. Instead I reproduce here the explanation of the situation of the department and the state of academic freedom in Israel given on the site Israel Academy Under Attack. For more information on the attack, go to the site, which includes suggestions for ways concerned readers can effectively respond to this assault on academic freedom. -Jeff
On September 4th 2012 the sub-committee for quality control of the Israeli Council of Higher Education recommended that the department of Politics and Government at BGU be prevented from registering new students for the 2013-14 academic year. This recommendation — which, if implemented, will lead to the closure of the department — will be voted on by the CHE in its next general meeting, due to take place on October 23rd. Below we provide an overview of the events that led to the sub-committee’s decision.
The saga began when the Israeli Council of Higher Education established an international evaluation committee to scrutinize political science departments in Israel.
From the very beginning, the process was mired by irregularities. First, Prof. Ian Lustick, a prominent American political scientist from U of Penn and an internationally recognized expert on Israeli society and politics, was removed from the evaluation committee for unknown reasons. In response, the original committee chair, Prof. Robert Shapiro of Columbia University, resigned and the political science department at Hebrew University stopped cooperating with the committee. The committee was subsequently recomposed with Prof. Thomas Risse from Frei University in Berlin taking the helm (Risse was aware that the other people resigned and still took it on), and included such people as Israeli Prof. Avraham Diskin who had previously written articles in support of the radical right wing group Im Tirzu.
This committee, whose members are praised as positivist and empiricist political scientists produced a report that was not only . . .
Read more: Academic Freedom Attacked in Israel
Carl Schmitt (11 July 1888 – 7 April 1985) is alive and well. Thank you for asking. As a matter of fact, he is walking the streets of Jerusalem nowadays, taking notes that confirm his understanding of politics as the realm in which the friend-foe distinction rules. If he were really alive today, he would notice that his distinction permeates everyday life as a series of racial confrontations. Last week, this culminated in an attempted lynching by a mob of Jewish Israeli teenagers of a few Palestinian youth.
On the Friday night of August the 17th, four Palestinian young people from East Jerusalem strolled the city center, trying to enjoy its night life, relaxing after a day of Ramadan fasting. They were attacked by the mob shouting racial slogans, beating them, and leaving one of the Palestinians unconscious and seriously wounded. The attack took place in the open public, viewed passively by hundreds of people. Only a few intervened, saving the lives of the Palestinians. The rest of the crowd feared for their own life, or worse, supported the mob.
The attack is the latest example of escalating racial violence conducted by both sides. In April this year, another mob, fans of the Jerusalem football club Beitar Jerusalem, violently confronted Palestinian workers in a Jerusalem shopping mall. And on November 2010, a group of Jewish students who mistakenly entered the streets of Al-Issawiya, a Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhood, were stoned almost to death, narrowly escaping with the help of the police.
The latest attack aroused a public uproar in Israel. Chief of the Israel Police, Yohanan Danino, acted decisively, denouncing the attack, establishing a special investigating team that soon arrested the suspects, who confessed participating, justifying themselves with a racist agenda. Many of them were seen as teenage drop-outs. Also politicians joined in the denunciations, first among them: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres, and the Speaker of Parliament Rubi Rivlinwho visited the wounded Palestinian teenager in the hospital.
It seems that the alarming lessons of what happened in Tel Aviv on May 22th, which I analyzed in my . . .
Read more: Carl Schmitt in Jerusalem: Reflecting on the Mob Violence of August 17th