The Israeli Radical Left: An Ethics of Complicity 9780812295351

Fiona Wright traces the ethics and politics of radical Jewish Israeli leftwing activists who challenge the violence perp

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The Israeli Radical Left: An Ethics of Complicity

Table of contents :
Chapter 1. Performing Complicity
Chapter 2. Love, Mourning, and Solidarity
Chapter 3. Infiltrators, Refugees, and Other Others
Chapter 4. The Violence of Vulnerability
Chapter 5. Exiling the Self

Citation preview

The Israeli Radical Left

THE ETHNOGRAPHY OF POLITICAL VIOLENCE Tobias Kelly, Series Editor A complete list of books in the series is available from the publisher.



u ni v e r si t y o f p e n n s y lva ni a p r e s s phil adelphia

Copyright © 2018 University of Pennsylvania Press All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of review or scholarly citation, none of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-­4112 Printed in the United States of America on acid-­free paper 1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2 A Cataloging-­in-­Publication record is available from the Library of Congress ISBN 978-­0-­8122-­5047-­3


A Note on Language


Introduction 1 Chapter 1. Performing Complicity


Chapter 2. Love, Mourning, and Solidarity


Chapter 3. Infiltrators, Refugees, and Other Others


Chapter 4. The Violence of Vulnerability


Chapter 5. Exiling the Self


Conclusion 144 Epilogue 152 Notes 159 Bibliography 167 Index 185 Acknowledgments 191

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Figure 1. Israel/Palestine.

Figure 2. Tel Aviv-­Jaffa.



omparisons to other places and times are a matter of much sensitivity among Jewish Israelis, as a pervasive anxiety about the “outside world,” and how Israel is seen by it, is grafted onto memories and narratives of the historical experiences of persecution and oppression of Jews. Words such as apartheid or fascism used in relation to contemporary Israeli politics provoke anger and heated debate even among those activists who themselves sometimes employ them to describe their surroundings (cf. Grinberg 2009). With the power of such comparisons and vocabularies in mind, and an awareness of their ethnographic import in the place about which I write, it is helpful to think about the challenges of writing about Israel/Palestine with Vincent Crapanzano’s account of the experience of white South Africans in the later days of apartheid, Waiting, in mind. Reflecting on the use of particular words, those words’ entwinement in ideology, and the inevitable effect this has on ethnographic writing, Crapanzano quotes Jane Kramer writing in the “New York Review of Books”: The languages of South Africa have been consonant with race and caste, owner and worker, citizen and servant, for so long that language itself—​­the language one speaks and writes—​­is a weapon there, quite apart from those details of identity and ideology with which it happens to coincide. Words smother, sacrifices to apartheid, in the closed context of the expectations they arouse. They can sanction such perverse exaggerations, such profound contempt, that anyone who wants to write in South Africa is left with the home truth that language has lost its metaphoric flexibility and assumed, instead, a kind of brute synecdochic power. By now, to write in South Africa is by definition political. (Kramer 1981, cited in Crapanzano 1985: 28)


A Note on Language

As such, Crapanzano notes, his use of terms such as “white,” “black,” “coloured,” and so on, is necessitated by his attempt to write the particular political arena at hand, and one can only reproduce certain powerful—​­sometimes uncomfortable or, quite simply, racist—​­constructions of reality in doing so. The same linguistic restraints present themselves to anyone writing about ­Israel/Palestine and one finds oneself constantly stumbling over which word or phrase to use while writing about particular people or places. It is with the acknowledgment that words are not neutral, especially in a place where decisions to use certain words over others, or to describe the political situation in a particular way, have clear political effects, that I take responsibility here for using certain words, and not others, while being clear that my writing will always be restrained by the politics of language and by the need to give an ethnographic, and not a legalistic or objective, account. Thus while I often refer to Israel/Palestine to underscore the intermeshing ethical, political, and historical space that encompasses the internationally recognized state of Israel as well as the occupied Palestinian areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, I sometimes use only the word Israel. This is for the sake of brevity as well as to emphasize the predominantly “Israeli” spaces and worlds in which I was involved, and the word Israeli here is meant to imply also “Jewish.” I did not only interact with Israeli Jews, but I sought to understand the experience of Jewish Israeli left radical activism and, as such, lived a particular kind of Jewish Israeli life during my research. My decision to use the term “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” or “Palestinian Israeli,” however, rather than the more common “Israeli Arab” or just “Arab,” when I refer to those Palestinians whose parents or grandparents were granted Israeli citizenship but placed under military rule until 1966, marks the particular kind of politics my language seeks to convey. The use of the noun “Arab” is considered by many Palestinians and most of the activists with whom I worked to be part of a Zionist erasure of Palestinian history. Further, my identification of my activist interlocutors as “Jewish Israeli” must be broken down into two further problematic labels—​­Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, referring to Jews of western European origin and Jews whose origins are in predominantly Muslim and Arabic-­speaking countries. Both terms essentialize and homogenize diverse groups of people but are necessary to relate the ethnic and class segregation in contemporary Israel that sees Mizrahi citizens as less powerful,

A Note on Language xi

less privileged, and less represented in official political domains than their Ashkenazi counterparts. Finally, the names and identifying features of most of those whose lives and words appear on the following pages have been changed to protect and respect my interlocutors’ safety and privacy. Sometimes, when discussing public figures or statements made in public forums, I have judged it necessary for analysis or ethically appropriate to use real names. Ultimately, I have sought to represent sensitively and safely the political lives and intimate worlds of others, while bearing in mind the difficulties and dangers that writing can pose.

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rom inside the cool, air-­conditioned offices of a human rights organization in the heart of Jaffa, one need not know about the protesters squaring up to hundreds of armed police officers just a short distance away. Indeed, the fortnightly staff meeting has begun this time with a round of coffee and cake in honor of one of the team members leaving for another job, and the atmosphere is even a little festive. We have finally settled down to start the meeting, when Dina, one of the organization’s Palestinian members of staff, gets a phone call. “They’re arresting everyone,” she tells us after quickly hanging up, and we look around at each other with concern but a lack of surprise. We have all heard about the plans of a nationalist, right-­wing Israeli group to march through Jaffa that morning, and we saw the heavy police presence on the way to the office, in anticipation of the counterprotests of Jaffa’s Palestinian residents and their allies. Yotam, who was speaking before Dina’s phone rang, picks up his previous train of thought. He seems to want to go back to the meeting’s agenda and not to react further to what we have just heard. Einat, another Jewish member of the staff, interrupts him, shocked, asking, “Wait, isn’t this a bit weird, all of us sitting here when we know that right there”—​­she points t­oward the door—​­“they’re beating and arresting people? Shouldn’t we go there?” Yotam expresses ambivalence about her suggestion, but the others quickly agree among themselves that we should leave the office and go into the surrounding streets, noting the potential effect of the presence of a number of Ashkenazi Jews on the dynamics between Palestinians and police. We leave the office together after a few minutes, despite further expressions of doubt by Yotam and a couple of others, who suggest that we might actually increase the number of arrests and have little power to curb police violence. After less than a minute, we reach Yefet Street, one of Jaffa’s main

2 Introduction

arteries, to find a large crowd of Palestinian protesters surrounded by police fully equipped with riot gear and horses. The right-­wing march is nowhere in sight. Although a few members of the human rights group have been active in demonstrations in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and are used to this confrontational dynamic, others mostly avoid such spaces and prefer the quieter activism of the nongovernmental organization (NGO) world. Einat’s face has gone pale and she looks around nervously but walks on at a steady pace. The street that we would normally traverse to get to or from the office, or to pick up supplies for lunch, seems to have been transformed into a militarized zone, and a police helicopter looms overheard. We gradually move down the street with the crowd. After a short time, protesters are pushed into a space that directs them ­toward a line of police horses and everyone starts to feel threatened. Confrontations between protesters and police officers start to intensify and some ­toward the front are arrested and led away and into prison vans. Splitting into two groups, some continue down the street with the main body of Palestinian protesters, and the rest of us head t­ oward Jaffa’s port area, where the right-­wing march is reported to be heading. Very quickly, we have left the scrum and are walking through the town’s side streets, where a few people still sit quietly on the sidewalk with coffee and cigarettes, or are out walking their dogs. It is as if the loud noise of the nearby clashes cannot even be heard. We pass by the luxurious villas lining the seafront, as well as a newly opened coffee shop that Einat, who is calmer now, jokes that we could all visit together on a day when things are normal again. We turn a corner and are suddenly overlooking the right-­wing march, a small group of around thirty people surrounded by at least three times that number of police officers. Headed by the notoriously inflammatory right-­ wing member of the Israeli parliament Michael Ben-­Ari, the marchers wave Israeli flags and protest the “Islamic takeover of Jaffa,” as we look on, stunned by the sheer force of such a provocation. “What is this?” Einat asks with disbelief, and she starts to comment loudly about the waste of public resources being spent on policing the event as we pass by a line of police officers on our walk back ­toward the office. We are blocked along the way as some streets have been closed off and Dina shouts at the officers blocking our entry, “What, the whole of Jaffa is closed now?!” Einat takes her arm and leads her

Introduction 3

away, and they start to talk about reports from those who had stayed on Yefet Street, where many Palestinians and some Jewish activists had been arrested. Eventually we all reconvene in the office and even sit down to have the postponed meeting later that day. As we are all gathering again in the central meeting room, we hear a loud siren—​­like those sounded during war—​­and we all stop and look at each other, curious and a little worried. The siren sounds throughout Israel about once a year when there is a military “drill,” but normally it is publicized in advance. Dina exclaims, “What is that?” and Einat replies, “Well it’s a war siren. I guess there’s a war!” I ask them what we are supposed to do, and they both laugh: “Nobody ­really knows what you’re supposed to do. You’re just supposed to remember that there’s always a war.” We go ahead with the staff meeting as usual, discussing an upcoming conference, a report about Gaza, and the organization’s possible participation in a demonstration next month in Tel Aviv. Later, we make our journeys home through the quiet streets of Jaffa, the warlike sights and sounds of earlier that day once again an all-­too-­fresh memory.

* * * Questions of what to do, of how to act, of where to be, and of how to relate to the Israeli state and its various modes of violence and oppression are those that preoccupy Jewish Israeli left radical activists and on which this book centers. Such questions regularly manifest themselves in pressing and concrete ways, and activists—​­as relatively privileged and powerful actors—​­feel compelled to do something about the historical situation in which they find themselves, creating an unsettling and unresolved confrontation with ethical and political responsibility. These are activists who, as Jewish citizens of the state of Israel, attempt to act in solidarity with Palestinians and other non-­ Jewish inhabitants of Israel/Palestine, but who also struggle with the challenges, dilemmas, and implications of their own actions. The uncertainty and discomfort of this activism does not reflect a lack of commitment or resoluteness in their politics. What unites the various groups and individuals I encountered in eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in Israel/Palestine is their principled rejection of Israel’s militarist and

4 Introduction

colonial regime, and the injustice and oppression that come with it, even as they work in different organizational contexts or with varying ideological affiliations. Unlike the overwhelming consensus among most of the Jewish Israeli population in support of the state’s policies and actions, Israeli left radical activists challenge and question its most fundamental aspects: from the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the obligatory conduct of military service, from regimes of surveillance and control to racism and discrimination against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and from how history is taught in Israeli schools to the pervasive nationalist imagery that decorates Israel’s public space. Some are active in small direct action or protest groups and influenced by anarchist or socialist political thought, while others work or volunteer in one of a handful of human rights organizations that catalog and campaign against systematic abuses of Palestinians and other marginalized groups. Many have given up on the sphere of formal party politics, feeling that even the parties that have historically represented “the Left” in mainstream Israeli discourse are unable and unwilling to challenge the violent status quo. Others cast their vote for one of the Palestinian-­led parties in national elections or still have hope that one of the small socialist or left-­ liberal parties may have some positive, “damage limitation,” effect in the Israeli parliament (the Knesset). This ethnography follows the complexities and dilemmas of these clearly “political” engagements, but it also focuses on the everyday: in activists’ leisure spaces, in time with friends and family, and in the banal forms of action and communication that constitute the often invisible backdrop to what we generally recognize as activism. It is an analysis of ethics—​­of how these activists respond to their circumstances with care and attention—​­as much as it is of politics—​­of how structures of power and inequality shape one’s capacities for response in the first place. As begins to emerge in the scene that I described at the beginning of this chapter, taking ethical and political responsibility in contemporary Israel/Palestine entails a confrontation with the violence faced by many of its inhabitants, a confrontation that brings with it immense amounts of deliberation and anxiety, urgency and caution. These experiences seep into intersubjective relationships and into activists’ routines and ways of living, as well as find expression in moments of public protest and dissent. While the ethical and political commitments of Jewish Israeli left radical

Introduction 5

activists are both heartfelt and in many ways all-­consuming, then, they are also characterized by profound tensions and ambiguities. As Jewish citizens of the state of Israel, they occupy a position of power, both legally enshrined and socially embedded, relative to Palestinians and other non-­Jews in Israel/ Palestine. They are also mostly highly educated, secular, and Ashkenazi (of European Jewish origin). They thus inhabit particular ethnic and class positions relative to other Israeli Jews, such as Mizrahi (in Hebrew literally “Oriental,” used to refer to Jews from non-­European and often Muslim-­majority countries) and Ethiopian Jews, and have historically been, and continue to be, privileged by the Israeli settler-­colonial project.1 Jewish Israeli left radical activists act, therefore, in response to the oppression of others but as members of the dominating and colonizing group. They routinely find themselves politically pitted against loved ones and coworkers, as well as having to challenge the ways in which this position of power has been ingrained in their own patterns of thinking, acting, and relating to people around them. There is no simple way to continually try to remember, and to make other Israelis aware of, the systematic violence exercised ­toward Palestinians, when one also lives a life made “normal”—​­made livable—​­by a system of governance based on this violence. Practicing solidarity and embodying dissent are therefore neither straightforward nor self-­evident but rather involve compromise, disappointment, and even, as I will explore, complicity.

* * * The gray zones and ambiguities foregrounded in my analysis reflect and emerge from how I carried out ethnographic research with Israeli left radical activists, the empirical starting points of that research, and the ideological assumptions it both carries and unsettles. Having planned a research project on human rights and medical ethics in Israel/Palestine, I began my fieldwork by volunteering at Physicians for Human Rights–­Israel (PHRI), the NGO introduced in the above opening scene. PHRI was one of the handful of Israeli organizations that cooperated with the United Nations Fact Finding Mission led by Judge Richard Goldstone in the aftermath of the 2008–­2009 attacks on Gaza in “Operation Cast Lead,” providing his team with information and testimony about the effects of the Israeli army’s actions on Palestinians’ access to health care during the conflict. The organization is part of the community of

6 Introduction

critical Israeli human rights groups that in the last two to three decades has persistently campaigned against the Israeli state’s actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as within the “green line” (the 1949 armistice lines and internationally recognized borders of Israeli territory). As such, it has been caught up in the general attack on the Israeli radical left by right-­ wing and nationalist Jewish and Israeli groups who police, in various ways, the legitimate bounds of public criticism of Zionism and of the state. While best known for its work on human rights violations against Palestinians, though, PHRI also campaigns on the rights of others in Israel/Palestine, primarily for non-­Jewish and non-­Palestinian migrant workers and refugees. A major part of this work is the open health clinic that PHRI runs from its offices in Jaffa, which mainly catered, at the time of my fieldwork, to refugees from Eritrea and Sudan. It was in relation to this work that I, as a researcher-­ volunteer with no medical training, was initially able to get involved with the organization. Unlike the desk work of doing research, writing reports, speaking to patients in Gaza on the phone, or negotiating with army bureaucrats on behalf of those patients, which the staff in the shtachim (territories) department carried out, just down the corridor PHRI’s other busiest department was caught up in a daily struggle to provide refugees with the most basic care and support.2 Each afternoon, up to one hundred refugees arrived for basic medical attention in the Open Clinic, often queuing up for hours before it opened to make sure they would see a doctor. Volunteer receptionists, nurses, and physicians provided the basis of this under-­resourced and struggling facility, and I was able to start right away behind the reception desk, helping to sort files and receive patients a couple of times each week. There I started to learn not only about the behind-­the-­scenes activities that produced the official reports and press releases on human rights violations but also about the community of refugees and migrant workers and the odd Palestinian living without a permit in Israel, who relied on the rudimentary services provided by organizations like PHRI and the network of activists that coalesced around them. I started going with these activists to other sites of protest and organization outside the office, while at the same time helping with research for a report about food insecurity in Gaza that the shtachim department wanted to produce. I quickly came to understand that the small collection of human rights NGOs in Israel went hand in hand with its equally marginal radical leftist

Introduction 7

activist groups. Staff and volunteers were also activists, and I was likely to encounter many of the same faces whether in PHRI’s offices or at a demonstration against the occupation. Although some in PHRI were not active in this radical scene, and talked of a more humanitarian motivation as well as more mainstream liberal political convictions, this kind of human rights work was, for the most part, tightly intertwined with a stringent activist critique of state violence and militarism. My fieldwork thus emerged from these mixed beginnings—​­with ideologies and motivations of human rights, humanitarianism, anarchism, socialism, feminism, and even liberal Zionism, all implicated in the leftist community I came to consider as my “field.” It is for this reason that I use the term “radical left” to refer to the activism described in this ethnography. While most studies focus on groups clearly defining themselves as anti-­ Zionist (Elian Weizman 2017), “joint” or Arab-­Jewish (U. Gordon 2010; Hallward 2009a; Koensler 2015; Pallister-­Wilkins 2009; Svirsky 2012), antioccupation (Lamarche 2010; Ziv 2010), or as focusing on human rights (Dudai 2009; Hajjar 1997, 2001) or peace (Hallward 2009b; Helman 1999; Hermann 2009; Norell 2002), I worked with a variety of people and groups who sometimes disagreed with each other on these identifications but often found themselves cooperating nevertheless. A sense of emergency about the need to act, as well as increasing attacks on these groups by right-­wing groups in Israel, meant that there was as much pragmatic cooperation as there was debate and division over political differences. I therefore use the loose definition “left radical activism” to delimit the field of my research, which refers here to those who actively challenge the colonial and militarist violence of the Israeli state, even as the ways they do so may differ significantly. It is an ethnographic term, from the Hebrew haSmol haRadikali (the radical left) that was most often used by activists to describe themselves (although others in Israel mostly refer to it as haSmol haKitsoni [the extreme left]). While there are some mobilizations in Israel t­oward “leftist” politics in the socioeconomic sense—​­recently most notably in the social justice protests that took place in the summer of 2011—​­“the Left” in Israel has generally referred to the Palestinian question and an antioccupation or pro-­peace position, as opposed to a more clearly exclusionary and colonial vision of the Israeli right. Although this “emic” definition of the Left traditionally includes the Israeli Labor Party, or groups such as Peace Now, these are generally excluded from

8 Introduction

my ethnography as they are seen by the activists I worked with as part of the nationalist, uncritically Zionist mainstream. Indeed, a suitable diagnostic for whether a particular group might appear within this loose definition of “left radical” activism is its stance on the attacks on Gaza in Operation Cast Lead and the later assaults of November 2012 and July–­August 2014. Those who supported the government’s narrative that these assaults were both necessary and justified found themselves on clearly opposing sides of the political fence from the activists I came to know, for whom these acts constituted the pinnacle of nationalist and colonial violence (cf. Callan 2016). Taking a clear stance against the broad popular consensus on the army’s actions in Gaza as with the state’s actions ­toward the Palestinians more broadly, the Israeli radical left has increasingly found itself under attack—​­in both figurative and literal terms—​­from a largely hostile Jewish public. Actions in public spaces are regularly met with verbal abuse, spitting, or egg throwing, as well as physical assaults by other Jewish Israelis; mainstream Israeli politicians and media outlets depict non-­Zionist leftists as “extremists” and “traitors,” and their protests as violent, although they predominantly are not; and NGOs that expose state violence or advocate for Palestinians’ rights have been subject to public campaigns against their work as well as proposed legislation that would cut their funding from abroad and criminalize some of their activities. Most activists I knew would readily use the word fascist to describe the nature of these mobilizations and many consciously enacted forms of self-­censorship in what they publicly said or did, out of fear of potential repercussions. Whether avoiding showing the antioccupation T-­shirt they were wearing on a bus on the way to a demonstration or attempting to conceal their activism or politics in the workplace, these silencings reflected the tacit or explicit consent of a broader Israeli public to the forms of violence and domination habitually exercised by military and state authorities. Given such a polarized context, the theme of this book, an ethics of complicity, may appear out of place. The word complicity seems to signal alignment with the state regime, silence, or participation in its violence, rather than the conscientious and active struggle to challenge it with which my activist interlocutors resolutely persist. Indeed, as one (non-­ Israeli, non-­ Palestinian) attendee suggested at a talk about my research I delivered in Jerusalem, it could even be considered as “blasphemy” to use it in relation to this small and beleaguered activist community. Although I understand these

Introduction 9

misgivings, these critiques also reflect and reproduce the bifurcated imaginaries of Israeli politics sketched here that have culminated in an oppressively narrow field of possible thought and action. They tend to hold up Jewish Israeli left radical activists as heroes in a David-­and-­Goliath-­esque scenario, or, as in another ancient metaphor, bnei haOr ubnei haChoshech (sons of the light and sons of the darkness).3 While I am sympathetic to their aims and admire their dedication, I wish to consider how this activism is subversive and challenging but also, and simultaneously, how it marks ethical and political gray zones. Without such a perspective, we risk concealing the complexity and ambivalence of this activism. As scholars and activists, we fail to grasp the contradictions and challenges entailed in mobilizing against militarist and colonial power when one is embedded in a position of relative privilege within the dominant group. I think of this activism instead as a difficult and troubled negotiation with complicity, and wish to consider the ethnographic richness of what it means to take responsibility—​­to live responsibility—​­as a challenging set of practices and not only as an abstract ethical concept. Complicity, here, signals the fraught nature of activists’ endeavors to act differently and to affect the actions of others in Israel/Palestine.4 It refers to the ways in which activism can be constantly pulled back into violent ways of thinking, feeling, and being in relation to others, even as it attempts to depart from that violence. Following Mark Sanders, who writes of “complicities” in relation to intellectuals in apartheid South Africa (2002), I use the idea of complicity to explore the impurity of ethical and political relations and the often uncomfortable ways this makes itself felt in Jewish Israeli left radical activism. For Sanders, advocacy on behalf of racialized Others under a political system imposing such separations can be considered “responsibility-­in-­complicity” (11). In Sanders’ reading, complicity takes on two meanings, the distinction between which makes it possible to address one’s implication in injustice: the first meaning is a broader, existential one that harks back to Levinasian ethics, in its sketching of a generalized condition of relatedness (“folded-­together-­ness” [5]) among human beings that makes possible the notion of responsibility; the second is narrower and connotes particular acts (or failures to act) within historically specific situations that result in complicity with injustice, as in the more common understanding of the term (11). It is only by rejecting the

10 Introduction

possibility of separation—​­apartheid’s p ­ remise—​­and thus recognizing the more generalized notion of complicity, Sanders argues, that one can also begin to struggle against its practices of domination by way of addressing one’s own particular acts of complicity with them. The fantasy of separateness that characterized South African apartheid politics parallels, of course, a similar denial of the intimacies of violence and unequal cohabitation of Israeli Jews and Palestinians over the last century, and it is activists’ confrontations with the impossibility of separateness—​­between Israeli Jews and Palestinians and between Israeli Jewish citizens and Israeli state ­violence—​­that is the focus of this book. As in Sanders’ work, the idea of complicity complicates a reading of Jewish Israeli left radical activism as simply a heroic resistance purified of its implication in the forms of power and violence it aims to subvert. Activists’ hopes and desires, their attachments to ideas of a different and more equitable life in Israel/Palestine, emerge as an integral part of their activism in this analytic of complicity. Their enduring discomfort with their own position as Jewish Israeli citizens and their attempts to refuse attachments to the Israeli state and polity even as they simultaneously underscore those very attachments mark a conflicted and an affective dimension of activist subjectivity. These aspects of activist ethics and politics cannot be explained either by a quasi-­functionalist analysis of their actions (regarding whether this activism succeeds in its intended political effects) or through a discursive approach that takes activist rhetoric at its own word. Here, anthropological approaches to politics that highlight the violent and “strange intimacy between the state and the people” (Aretxaga 2003: 403), often informed by psychoanalytic theory, help to situate the political subjectivities of activists and others in more ambivalent terms. In this scholarship even when the state is revealed as a “fictional reality” (401), it maintains its sovereign, psychic hold through the anxiety produced over its secret and magical qualities (Taussig 1992, 1997) and even as people cynically critique its power (Navaro-­ Yashin 2002). Thus in Shattering Silence, Begoña Aretxaga’s ethnography of Catholic women in Northern Ireland and their contributions to the nationalist movements against British rule in the 1980s and 1990s, the “liberating effect of political action” (1997: 116) is not the negation of power but rather the psychological and emotional relief that comes from the troubled engagement

Introduction 11

with its very structures that emerged in women’s activism. In this way, sovereignty, whether of the state or other oppressive forces, is seen not as separate from the desires, ideals, or acts of resistance by those who challenge it but as an integral part of the very constitution of those phenomena. Experiences of ambivalence and fractures of consciousness involved in activism and protest are thus central for political anthropologists who wish to study the nuances of how power reproduces itself in the face of constant struggle. In this vein, recent studies have considered the interstices of affect, emotion, and language in political activism in different ethnographic contexts. Deborah Gould, in her work on the American ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) movement against the AIDS crisis, writes about the affects of sadness and grief as central elements through which “the boundaries of ‘the political’ are continually made, unmade, and remade” (2009: 4). She argues that the mobilization of emotion can be a central factor in the intensification of political struggle and a key site through which to study activism (29). Pushing this perspective somewhat, Athena Athanasiou (2005), Naisargi Dave (2012), and Eirini Avramopoulou (2012) have all argued that affect marks the limits, as well as the potential, for political contestation in ways that invite us to attend to power’s enduring psychic grasp in the moments when these are named or exposed by those challenging sovereign subjugation. When considered in this way, and with the “cruel” quality of ongoing attachments to and desires for damaging forms of power in mind (Berlant 2011a), Jewish Israeli activists’ uncomfortable relation with their own complicity can be considered as sovereignty’s affective mark. The frequent moments in which they express the meaning of their deeds as a totalizing rejection of any implication in Israel’s violent politics, I suggest, are precisely those when we sense most strongly its effects on their subjectivities. Activists’ failures to be at one with ethical conflicts and psychic ambivalences emerge as disavowals of complicity that intimate “responsibility-­in-­complicity” (Sanders 2002: 201). But equally, as Judith Butler suggests, they may be the basis on which activists continue to act, to shift their enfoldedness with Others and complicities with violence ­toward different ethical and political conditions (2009: 177). In this sense, Jewish Israeli activists’ negotiations of complicity resemble those played out in other places and at other times. In particular, accounts

12 Introduction

of cases of extreme and racialized inequality in other settler colonial societies indicate a similar discomfort of those in positions of power and privilege, including among those who have consciously attempted to challenge the political situations in which they find themselves. In his ethnography of liberal white South Africans in the final years of apartheid, for example, Vincent Crapanzano describes his interlocutors’ expressions of horror and disgust at racism and segregation as a kind of “living folklore” (1985: 23), which worked to make the contradictions of their own positions more bearable. This is more pronounced still in studies of white settlers who have made strident attempts to become “allies” working with indigenous people, as in the context of Australian supporters of Aboriginal struggles (Kowal 2015; Land 2015). In this case, it is clear that white activists invest much time and energy in guarding against perpetuating racist or colonial views and power structures, attempting to manage the ways in which they, the “good whites” (Land 2015: 244), are implicated in colonial dynamics. At the same time, gaining credit and sometimes material benefit from their activist work, as well as contributing to an exoticist picture of authentic indigeneity in their reverence for the Aboriginal individuals with whom they work, these allies remain caught up in the modes of domination they strive to disavow. With these discomfiting dynamics a recurrent feature of solidarity activism and dissent, explorations of their specificities in particular historical situations remain important. Taking my lead from Sanders’ notion of complicity, as he elaborated in relation to the example of apartheid in South Africa, I suggest the broader value of the concept for studies of radical politics in ­Israel/Palestine and beyond. What needs elaboration in each case, however, are the different articulations of power and privilege, of inequality and difference, that shape and limit the form that such activism can take. For what Sanders’ framing of complicity as “folded-­together-­ness” (2002: 5) suggests is that, while we may—​­as political subjects—​­always be implicated in each others’ lives, the crease of the fold will lie in distinct patterns, inviting different forms of mutuality and requiring different kinds of realignment in struggles ­toward more equitable and less violent worlds. Attending to the ambiguities and dilemmas of particular examples of solidarity activism is therefore not a way of measuring them against some kind of benchmark of radical politics

Introduction 13

but of “seeing complicity” (Koopman 2008: 298) and asking how responsibility and struggle might, then, look different.

* * * The shape of contemporary Jewish Israeli left radical activism, and its internal fragmentation despite its small size, traces back to the various factions and ideological groups that have been active before and since the state of Israel’s 1948 establishment. In the early years of Zionist settlement in Palestine, the yishuv, and as Zionist organizations in Europe were encouraging further Jewish immigration, the political and economic foundations for the state were laid by those nationalist, socialist bodies that dominated government for the first two decades of the Israeli state. The MAPAI (Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel), and other Zionist socialist groups that were the predecessors of today’s Labor Party, were central in institutionalizing and organizing collective Jewish settlement, transferring land ownership to national institutions, establishing the predominance of avodah ivrit (Hebrew labor) over Arab labor, and thus contributing to the displacement of the Palestinian Arab population from land acquired by Jews. Alongside these processes, military power and control was established such that the Zionists were able to gain control over the territory that was then internationally recognized as the state of Israel in the course of the 1947–­1949 war (Grinberg 2004; Kimmerling 2001; Y. Shapiro 1976). As Zeev Sternhell has shown, although these transformations were framed by socialist rhetorics, the key priority for the “pioneers” and their leader David Ben-­Gurion, was to build a national project and framework for the state, rather than a universalist, socialist utopia (1998). From the start, ideologies of “the Left” were secondary to, or at least deeply embedded within, the nationalist project of building a Jewish state and stabilizing distinctions between Jews and others in the settled territory. Soon after the June 1967 Six-­Day War, when Jordan’s rule of the West Bank and Egypt’s occupation of the Gaza Strip were succeeded by Israeli military occupation, and with Israel also occupying the Golan Heights in Syria and the Sinai desert in Egypt, fractures appeared both within the Labor government and more broadly in Israeli politics between those who sought to settle Jewish citizens in the newly conquered territories and those who believed that those areas should be kept “in custody” until they could be

14 Introduction

returned in exchange for peace (Isaac 1981; Pappe 2004: 200). As the settler movements proved successful in their ideological project, already colonizing southern areas of the West Bank in the years immediately following its occupation, early radical movements of the Israeli left emerged in opposition to the settlement of “Greater Israel” and to the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. One of the most notable, Matzpen (Compass), a 1962 breakaway from the Israeli Communist Party and formed by a group of Jewish Israeli intellectuals, gave one of the first sustained and public critiques of Israel as a Western imperialist state (Bober 1972; Nahas 1976; Rubenstein 1985). The Communist Party itself was also outside the national political consensus, given its membership of both Jews and Palestinians and its clear advocacy for a two-­state solution, long before this had become the norm in Israeli leftist politics (Pappe 2004: 201). In the differences between these two early radical movements, the split between those supporting the Zionist project and the validity of a Jewish state, though within certain political and ethical boundaries, and those whose relationship to Zionism was either more ambivalent or unequivocally oppositional, also emerges a distinction which would be carried throughout the history of Israeli left-­wing activism, even as these and other ideologically distinct groups continued to work together at various moments over their histories (Kaminer 1996). In the years since 1967 and the kibush (occupation) of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, dozens, if not hundreds, of peace organizations emerged in opposition to Israeli state policies t­oward the Palestinians. These organizations could roughly be grouped into the following historical periods: (a) 1967–­ 1977: the last years of the dominance of the Labor Party in government and the beginnings of Israeli settlement in the occupied territory; (b) 1977–­1987: the period of rule by the right-­wing Likud Party under Menachem Begin, and the First Lebanon War—​­the first war seriously questioned as a “failure” by a large section of the Jewish Israeli population; (c) 1987–­2000: the period of the first intifada (Palestinian “uprising”) and the negotiation of the Oslo peace accords; and (d) 2000 onward: the years since the outbreak of the second intifada, in which “peace” has largely been considered an elusive or impossible aspiration, and the Left has been seen to be in decline. The first period (1967–­1977) consolidated the emergence of a Marxist critique of Zionism as colonialism, reflecting global political events and movements, and based primarily on the activities of Matzpen and the Israeli Communist

Introduction 15

Party, as well as the appearance of groups such as SIAH (Israeli New Left) and Moked, further breakaway student groups from the Communist Party. During this period, the early roots of conscientious objection—​­the Israeli ­refuseniks—​­also took shape, as the 1973 Yom Kippur War resulted in the anger of reservists and demands for accountability after misgivings about governmental and military authority (E. Weiss 2011). As Menachem Begin was negotiating with Anwar Sadat in 1978, the process which resulted in the Israeli-­Egyptian Peace Treaty of 1979, Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), one of the primary peace organizations campaigning in the 1980s and 1990s, was born off the back of an open letter to Begin signed by 348 reserve officers and soldiers from Israeli army combat units urging him to work t­ oward meaningful peace accords (Kaminer 1996). Peace Now continued to dominate what emerged as the “peace camp” throughout the next decade, particularly in opposition to the First Lebanon War, and the Sabra and Shatila massacre, in which hundreds, if not thousands, of civilians were killed, mostly Palestinians and Lebanese Shiites, in Beirut by a Lebanese Christian militia under the watch of the Israel Defense Forces (Roberts and Tucker 2008: 879). Following the massacre, one of Israel’s largest ever political demonstrations took place, bringing four hundred thousand people to protest in Tel Aviv (Wolfsfeld 1988). Peace Now was criticized by other leftist groups, though, for its overwhelming concern not with the rights of Palestinians or the injustice of the occupation but with the threats to Israeli security and collective conscience that came with being an occupying power (Norell 2002). As such, groups appeared that promoted conscientious objection on different grounds, such as Yesh Gvul (There Is a Limit), or Dai LaKibush (End the Occupation). These movements laid the groundwork for those who acted in solidarity with Palestinians during and since the first intifada, and they can be considered the basis of an Israeli left-­ wing or peace camp perennially torn between the desire to act with and for the benefit of Palestinians resisting occupation and out of longing for a peaceful and morally acceptable Jewish Israeli home. Most Israelis who remember the period, activists and others, now talk wistfully of the period of the 1990s “peace process,” which for a brief moment in the region’s history engendered a collective “euphoria,” a belief that the conflict would end (Peri 2000). With irony as well as nostalgia, many explained to me that while they now understand that the Oslo accords in fact paved the way for the

16 Introduction

expansion of the Israeli settlement project and the further fragmentation and destruction of Palestinian life, at the time it felt like an end was on the horizon. The start of the second intifada, in 2000, is considered by many as the definitive moment in which an atmosphere of hope, and the peak of Israeli leftist opposition to the occupation, was destroyed. Many who had previously been activists, in more and less radical groups, referred to the years since then as a time of disappointment and despair (Rosenblum 2008). The dominant Israeli narrative since then has echoed former Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s infamous mantra, that “there is no partner for peace,” which was his commentary during the 2000 Camp David summit with Yasir Arafat and Bill Clinton (Ben-­Eliezer 2012; Malley 2001). Israeli activism resisting this dictum has thus challenged the prevailing sense that the state of Israel is willing to make peace, while the Palestinians are not. Equally, while the “two-­state solution” has nominally been accepted by Israeli politicians, including the right-­wing Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu, the “facts on the ground” continue to make this option seem remote.5 In criticizing dominant Israeli understandings of the state’s intentions, and emphasizing instead the ongoing process of colonial expansion and suppression of Palestinian resistance, left radical activists have found themselves in stark opposition not only to the state but also to most of the rest of the Jewish Israeli population. In the light of this state of affairs, as well as a rising consciousness among Israeli activists of the buried histories of Palestinians’ expulsion and displacement in the 1947–­1949 war, or Nakba (Arabic for “catastrophe”), there is a widespread feeling among left radical activists of total alienation from a wider Jewish Israeli public. They find themselves in constant positions of opposition and rejection regarding possible ethical responses to the suffering of Others, basic understandings of history, and political imaginaries of the future in Israel/ Palestine. The ethical and emotional rejection of the Israeli state, and dominant Jewish Israeli orientations t­ oward it, go hand in hand, among left radical activists, with the desire to come closer to Palestinians and others who have been made “enemies” (Anidjar 2003) under Israeli sovereignty. This is expressed in two key ways: first, in the idea that the key role of Jewish Israelis should be to support and participate in the struggles of Palestinians, rather than to lead and define the shape of protest and dissent; second, in the

Introduction 17

myriad ways in which activists try to struggle in the everyday against the regime of separation that the state has imposed (for example, through taking Arabic lessons or in actively seeking out encounters and friendships with Palestinians). Rather than working ­toward the moral purity of Jewish Israel, as did earlier and more Zionist leftist groups, the radical left as it exists now has promoted a fundamental reconsideration of the imperative for and the ethical nature of the “Jewish state” (cf. Lamarche 2010; Sela 2005). This simultaneous affective disconnection from the Israeli state and desired relation with its oppressed Others is perhaps the key feature of the activism I analyze here. A strong and passionate rejection of predominant Jewish Israeli subjectivities, and their othering of Palestinians and other non-­ Jews in Israel/Palestine, emerges as activists attempt to challenge and curtail state violence. Activism becomes as much about rejecting the self as it is about reaching out to the oppressed Other. Placing these dynamics at the heart of an analysis takes us far, I claim, in understanding how Jewish Israeli left radical activism takes shape as it does, why it remains rather disconnected from Palestinian struggles and forms of resistance, and the vitriolic reactions it receives from the wider Jewish Israeli public that are disproportionate to the size and influence of this rather marginal social movement. More than ideological programs or labels such as anarchist, anti-­Zionist, or socialist—​­although these identities and political philosophies are significant, to be sure—​­what I found in common among all the activists I came to know was the way they vehemently rejected the broader Jewish Israeli population’s expressions of fear and hatred of the Palestinian Other, and the associated presupposition of a loving nationalist kinship among Israeli Jews.

* * * Relations with Others in Israeli activists’ attempts at solidarity thus appear in what follows as the site of ethics. Placing otherness at the heart of the ethical, I follow the thought of philosopher Emmanuel Levinas and argue that ethics is constituted by a worldly response to Others, and thus is also tied up in that world’s politics, its troubles and its failings. Beyond processes of ethical self-­ cultivation (Faubion 2011; Hirschkind 2006; Laidlaw 2002, 2014; Mahmood 2005) or the tacit and “ordinary” quality of everyday ethical practice (Lambek 2010), the ethics of Jewish Israeli left radical activism entail difficult and

18 Introduction

unchosen relations with Others and practices that unsettle and disturb. How to live differently with Others was the key question for Jewish Israeli left radical activists I came to know. It was a question that they could only ask, reflect on, and attempt to answer, in response to the violence, inequality, and injustice that determines how Jewish Israelis, Palestinians, and others currently cohabit the space of Israel/Palestine. My use of the notion of “ethicopolitics” in this book, then, signals how ethics could only take shape in relation to politics—​­to how different subjects have been made to live under Israeli sovereign control in very particular ways. In Israeli activists’ struggles and their almost obsessive focus on Others—​ ­Palestinians, primarily, but not exclusively—​­and their attempts to turn away from what have emerged as dominant ways of being Jewish Israeli, I find echoes of Levinasian ethics and the notion of the subject “interrupted” (Butler 2005, 2006) or held “hostage” (Levinas 1991) to the Other. Considered by many to have overstated both the primacy of the Other and the use of a rather pained language to refer to ethics, Levinas’ project was a critique of early twentieth-­century phenomenology and of Western philosophy’s approach to consciousness more broadly. Before subjectivity, he argues, is sentience and sensibility, as well as alterity—​­the world that exists prior to and outside of the subject (Levinas 1979, 1991). The encounter with this otherness, through which subjectivity, and ethics, come to be, is a fundamentally traumatic one and it is to this affective rupture that the self consequently responds, or is repeatedly called on to respond (Critchley 1999: 194–­195). The language of persecution Levinas uses to describe ethical subjectivity thus signals the founding violence at the heart of subjectivity. He then proposes that ethics is the relation with the Other, or with alterity in general, that attempts to recognize that otherness in its own affective and bodily forms, rather than in the categories of the self—​­the “ego”—​­that transform otherness into the already damaged realm of subjective being. There is, therefore, an impossibility about ethics, in its Levinasian sense. Ethics is an always failed attempt to relate nonviolently t­oward Others, constantly undermined by the actual moment of response, which can take place only in the terms already laid out by the reductions and limitations of language and politics. Thus, those who in this book figure as “Others” are the subjects who become fixed as such, as Palestinian, Mizrahi, or otherwise Other, in the shadows of a dominating Jewish (Ashkenazi) Israeli self. The activist imaginary relies on these homogenized,

Introduction 19

almost phantasmatic Others, even as it attempts an openness to difference and challenges the violence of such representations. When ethics is imagined as the difficult encounter with Others and otherness in the world, it already implicates the ways in which such distinctions and divisions between selves and Others have been shaped, governed, and restricted, by the political. Equally, subjective engagement in political life—​­of activists or others—​­is a maneuvering of one’s positioning in systems of power and domination that is, as a response to Others, already an ethics. For Levinas, “the ethical emerges,” as Howard Caygill writes, “as a fragile response to political horror” (2002: 2). In this sense, Levinasian ethics is profoundly in tune with anthropological perspectives on politics, in its understanding of the political as a realm of engagement beyond institutional, “big P,” Politics, that refers to the workings of power across intimate, intersubjective, and cultural domains. Thinking with Levinas in the anthropology of ethics and politics, however, is not an entirely straightforward venture. As countless critics have outlined, his universalist and unyielding notion of the Other can be considered a “globally totalizing thinking” (Drabinski 2011: 9; cf. Ahmed 2000). Unwittingly demonstrating its own limits, Levinas built his ethics on notions of Same and Other with a striking lack of reference to the ways in which distinctions and categorizations of different kinds of people took shape in his own worldly context. His Eurocentric philosophy was not only revealed in notorious remarks about particular, non-­Western Others (Levinas 1994, cited in Caygill 2002: 184; Mortley 1991: 18) but based itself explicitly in Biblical notions of strangeness and community that emerge in a deeply theological engagement with French twentieth-­century thought (Drabinski 2011: 4–­8). Perhaps most obvious and pressing in the context of this book, is the question of Levinas’ Zionism and his famous remark, when asked about Israel/­Palestine, that some Others are not “neighbours” but “enemies”; that “there are people who are wrong” (Levinas 1989: 294; cf. Caro 2009; Caygill 2002: 159–­198). As John Drabinski argues, however, Levinasian ethics can also be a politicized intervention into thinking about subjectivity, and one which gives up even on its own impossibly purist models and colonial epistemologies that erase the violence on which they are based. “Decolonizing Levinas,” Drabinski writes, “corrects that constrained sense of identity, restoring the

20 Introduction

entanglement of empire back at the center of identity talk” (2011: 8). Equally, I propose, we can take up Levinas’ ethics both on and against its own terms as a useful corrective to the writing of violence and politics out of the anthropology of ethics.6 On the one hand, its focus on otherness and the fraught nature of responding to Others, allows us to widen our theories of ethics beyond the self.7 On the other hand, however, and as a “broken theory” (9), Levinasian thought also echoes and reiterates the limits of practicing ethics. Just as the Israeli activists whose “responsibility-­in-­complicity” I analyze here constitutes a fraught, compromised, and unsettled kind of lived ethics, our conceptualizations are also always “broken,” imperfect, the work of “ruination” (Navaro-­Yashin 2009). Theory can fail just as practice can. Shaking our epistemological as well as ethical certainty, Levinasian ethics demonstrates its own violence, paralleling how worldly responses to Others can appropriate or injure them in troubling ways.8 Broken theory may, in fact, be precisely the way to think through and with imperfect lives. The notion of complicity, then, may not be a perfect tool for thinking about Jewish Israeli left radical activism. It wavers on the line of certitude that would be misplaced in relation to this ethnography. Through writing of an ethics of complicity, though, I mean to signal its ambivalence. Tied up with violence and colonialism in various ways, this activism is also a response to Others, a response that expresses care but is not divorced from the political context in which it takes place. Thinking about Jewish Israeli left radical activism in terms of complicity does not therefore deflect critique away from the Israeli state and t­oward those who seek to challenge and disrupt its violent rule. Rather, it shifts our analytical gaze ­toward understanding how such violence permeates even these attempts to curb and contain it. Through the notion of complicity I aim to inhabit the discomfort of this ethnographic-­ analytical space, just as living ethics is uncomfortable. Perhaps this can even be considered as an act of solidarity with the activists I write about and the ways in which their endeavors to shift their ethical and political conditions manifest an intense and enduring disquiet.

* * * Starting in November 2009 and ending in May 2011, with subsequent visits of several weeks each year, I lived and conducted research in Tel Aviv-­Jaffa, as

Introduction 21

the city in which many of Israel’s left-­wing activists not only undertake their political activities but also navigate the conflicts and contradictions of living as Jewish Israeli citizens within a polity and social surroundings from which they feel alienated. Getting to know activists through PHRI and later other groups and contacts, I accompanied them to protests and meetings, and I gradually became personally closer to some of them, spending time together in activists’ homes and at the bars, cafés, and political centers in which they spent their “time off.” This book, therefore, incorporates an ethnography of Tel Aviv-­Jaffa, from the particular perspective of left radical activism, but paying attention to the lives and rhythms of the city more broadly. Dissonances between specifically activist events and sites and the rest of Jewish Israeli life in the country’s urban metropolis were stark, and they inform my attempt to reflect the discomfort of living in a place where one is surrounded by those who oppose, if not detest, one’s politics, in the particular context of the “first Hebrew city” (Azaryahu 2007). I chose Tel Aviv-­Jaffa as my base, rather than, for example, the “mixed city” of Haifa, or Jerusalem, with its prominent religious population and obvious conflicts over territory, not only because many leftist activists choose to live and work in the city but also because it is in many ways the urban pinnacle of the Zionist project and Israel’s desire to be seen as a “normal,” liberal, secular, democratic state. The affluence and self-­styled cosmopolitanism, the beaches and bars, and the sexualized hedonism of the place are all reasons that the activists with whom I conducted research decided to live there but also felt uncomfortable doing so. Their uneasiness stems, also, from the unequal and racialized space of the city that this image plasters over, both historically and in the current period. “Tel Aviv-­Jaffa” is the official municipal name given to an area that was historically dominated by Jaffa, the main port city of the region and home to a thriving commercial, cultural, and intellectual community (Levine 2005). When Jewish immigrants started to build the neighborhoods of Tel Aviv in nearby plains in the early twentieth century, this was the beginning of the colonization of an area which has ultimately turned Jaffa into an impoverished and rapidly gentrifying suburb of Tel Aviv. While Jaffa is still associated with Palestinian Arab identity, Palestinians there now constitute a minority of around 30 percent of the population, with further demographic shifts threatened because of continuing gentrification as well as aggressive moves of private organizations to “Judaise” the town

22 Introduction

(Monterescu 2015). While some Palestinians—​­citizens of Israel, as well as some living there illegally without a permit—​­reside in Tel Aviv, they are largely not seen or perceived as being there, erased from view to effect a strikingly homogeneous Jewish space.9 Equally, the association of the city with elite Hebrew-­language cultural production and public spaces, as the center of a middle-­and upper-­class Ashkenazi hegemony, obscures the deeply divided racial and class-­based geography of Tel Aviv, with migrant workers and undocumented migrants from parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America settling since the early 1990s in the marginalized neighborhoods in the southeast of the city, where various southern-­or non-­European Jewish communities have lived since the early twentieth century. These inequalities are hidden from view in the city’s self-­image and in the image promoted to tourists and investors, the “white city” (Rotbard 2005) modeled on its wealthy northern quarters, which appeals to an Ashkenazi and anglophone secular elite. These urban divides also reflect the sociological composition of the left radical activism I analyze. For while I met some activists with different ethnic, class, or religious identities and backgrounds, the movement as a whole was overwhelmingly white Ashkenazi, secular, and highly educated. Many of my interlocutors were academics or studying for second or third degrees, worked in Tel Aviv’s civil society organizations or in the arts, and had spent extended periods of time abroad (primarily in Europe or North America), in countries where they perhaps also had citizenship or the ability to acquire it. Although most activists were conscious of structural inequality and their privileges, this awareness did not often translate into creating different kinds of activist spaces or rethinking how they might engage in ways that did not alienate or neglect large swathes of the Jewish Israeli population who did not share their social capital. I analyze these dynamics later in this book, but it is important to emphasize here that this study is about activist ethics as they are embedded in this particular privileged Jewish Israeli lifeworld, and it does not attempt to represent experiences of those who have been Othered and marginalized by it, beyond the extent to which activists related to them as I describe in the chapters that follow.10 Over the course of eighteen months of fieldwork, I lived in two different apartments, first in Jaffa and then in the southern Tel Aviv neighborhood of Florentin, where the lower rents and lively streets and markets were attractive for me as they were for many of the activists with whom I became acquainted.

Introduction 23

Sharing my living space with left-­leaning but ultimately apathetic Jewish Israeli flatmates, I moved between the explicitly politicized spaces I experienced with activists and the worlds of those who found such active practices of dissent unfamiliar and shocking. These movements were instructive, as I gained a sense of how nonactivist Israelis, those who serve in the army and feel more or less “at home” in Tel Aviv, and in Israel, live and perceive themselves and their surroundings, and the great contrasts between them and the activists with whom I spent most of my time. The ethnography I present here is thus of activism and activists specifically, but my description and analysis are certainly also informed by interactions with nonactivists. Activists based in Tel Aviv-­Jaffa also frequently traveled to sites of protest and contestation throughout Israel/Palestine, mostly to East Jerusalem and urban and rural locations in the West Bank but also to the cities of Be’er Sheva, Haifa, and Nazareth, and smaller towns and villages that were embroiled in housing struggles. I joined them on these journeys, as well as on many of the “alternative tours” that activists and residents gave in these spaces, and I took part in political demonstrations and meetings, sometimes informally interviewing activists while we were in these locations. These encounters were recorded in notebooks in which I sometimes scribbled while with activists; extensive field-­diary entries I wrote later that day or as soon as possible thereafter; photographic, video, and sound recordings I made at public protests and events; and recordings of interviews I later transcribed. The combination of these ethnographic methods of participant observation and informal and sometimes more structured interviews made it possible for me to meet and interact with a range of activists, between the ages of fifteen and ninety years old, although most were in their twenties and thirties, and to be part of the more personal lives of some of them. Moving from the position of researcher, to whom activists often expected to give a certain kind of interview, to being a friend and co-­participant was not always simple, particularly given the heavy media and scholarly attention extended to Israel/Palestine. Many local and international researchers, anthropologists and others, as well as journalists, activists, and volunteers were constantly requesting interviews and meetings with the politically engaged people with whom I worked. It thus helped that I learned Hebrew to a high level, studying in the language school designed for Jewish immigrants—​­the ulpan—​­for the first six months of my fieldwork. Particularly by the second

24 Introduction

half of my eighteen months living in Tel Aviv-­Jaffa, I had been around long enough and was able to converse in Hebrew to a sufficient level that people started to relate to me differently, and indeed spoke with me about how they perceived me when I first arrived—​­the slightly naïve visitor who would move on soon enough—​­and the different ways in which they felt they could interact with me during these later stages. The national, class, and ethnic-­ cultural-­ religious identifications with which I came and/or was labeled during my fieldwork—​­a white, middle-­ class, Scottish woman from an elite British university, and an atheist with a Christian background—​­were also important to my positioning. These often arose in the ways in which I was perceived by activists and others in the field, but they were never definitive or fixed. Being the “non-­Jewish Scot who speaks Hebrew” sometimes became the source of jokes or simply bewilderment about why I was there, while being a woman invested in issues of gender and sexuality-­based violence often led me to relate to and share moments with feminist and queer activists.11 My interlocutors’ knowledge that I would analyze and write about their lives and politics was not generally a source of anxiety, given their habituation to being written about and objectified by so many others, but it was discussed among us as I sought to explain my position and gain informed consent for their part in my research. Access to organizations was often formally facilitated by certain gatekeepers within the institutional hierarchy, and then negotiated over time with members of these groups. Sometimes not being Jewish and being seen to represent, rather, the former colonial power, which played such a significant role in determining the course of Israeli and Palestinian histories, made relationships with activists and others difficult, while in other moments it was the beginning of deep and reflective conversations. So while my nonnative Hebrew and my status as a researcher marked me throughout my fieldwork, reflecting on the changes in the ways in which I could relate to activists over time made me conscious of how Israeli activists would speak and act differently ­toward various kinds of visitors, depending on what they knew and how they could relate to their personalities, their aims in being in Israel/Palestine, and their political commitments. By the time I arrived back in the country for a one-­year research fellowship in August 2015, I had come to be regularly involved with a group of Israeli activists

Introduction 25

working with residents of Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills, an area in the southern West Bank. Taking an active role in this group’s attempts to get to know and to support the residents of this region, and to fight against the house demolitions that ultimately threaten their continued inhabitation of their land, I stepped back somewhat from an explicit, “researcher” role, but I continued to absorb and to learn about the nature of this activism and the ways in which it did, or did not, change with the fluctuations of the surrounding politics over time. My participation as someone who shared many of the ideals and aims of my interlocutors, then, despite my quite different background and motivations for being there in the first place, was an integral part of building trusting relationships with many of those whom I came to know and of understanding more deeply what it means to live as a Jewish Israeli left radical activist.

* * * The chapters that follow describe Jewish Israeli left radical activism through various modes of organization and action, as well as moments of pause, doubt, and disappointment. Starting with a focus on activist attempts of direct action and civil disobedience, predominantly in places in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank, the first two chapters outline how complicity is exposed, performed, and refused as an integral part of solidarity. This happens in spatial terms, as in the movements of activists and their verbal and physical interactions with state authorities, which I analyze in Chapter 1. It also takes shape in expressions of love and mourning for the Palestinian Other with whom activists are attempting to work in solidarity, which I describe in Chapter 2 as a subversive but ambivalent affective politics. I subsequently trace shifts in activist concerns and modes of action as they turn their attention t­ oward other Others of the Israeli state: refugees from Eritrea and Sudan in Chapter 3, and other Jewish Israelis, the systematically marginalized Mizrahi and working-­class citizens, in Chapter 4. Through this ethnography, different vocabularies of activist care come into clearer view—​­of human rights and humanitarianism, in relation to refugees, and of class and intra-­Jewish inequality, in relation to Mizrahim—​­which challenge the stability of a Jewish and Palestinian self and Other that otherwise dominate the

26 Introduction

radical left imaginary. I explore how a desired relation to Others that emerges in activism bases itself on an ethicopolitical framework of Jewish Israeli subjects as opposed to non-­Jewish Others that is both challenged and reinforced in these particular struggles. Finally, I move in Chapter 5 to consider one of the quieter ways in which activists reckon with ethical compromise and impurity, in the form of dilemmas about whether to emigrate from Israel. Proposing the notion of an “exilic ethics” that is expressed primarily in intimate conversations and joking, artistic expressions, and ironic unwindings of activists’ affective ties to Israeli cultural and spatial forms, I analyze this ultimate form of dissent as a predominant form of activist subjectivity.


Performing Complicity


arly on a Saturday morning in Jerusalem’s well-­ to-­ do Mishkenot Sha’ananim area, the streets are quiet. A group of Jewish Israeli activists called Ta’ayush, often accompanied by some international visitors, regularly meets here to set off for its weekly activities in the South Hebron Hills area of the occupied West Bank. On one of the days I join the group in April 2011, the organizers give a brief overview of the plans for the day and then split the activists into smaller groups to travel to different spots and join Palestinian farmers in various locations. I am sent with three Israelis and an American to travel in a car rather than the minivan the other group goes in, and our part of the convoy thus skips the stop-­and-­check by the Israeli army patrol that awaits the group, as it does every week, en route to its destination. Our aim, as in the activities of Ta’ayush more broadly, is to witness, record, and perhaps disrupt the practices of settlers and Israeli military authorities in the South Hebron Hills, where its Palestinian inhabitants face perpetual harassment, violence, and the threat of expulsion and house demolitions. We are to travel to a thoroughly colonial space to perform an anticolonial politics, alongside and on the land of the Palestinians who Ta’ayush activists call their “partners.” The less-­articulated side of this activism, though, is the field of interactions it gives rise to among the Israeli activists, settlers, soldiers, and police officers, a scenario that exposes this activism’s complexities, contradictions, and even, as I will explore, shades of complicity. We arrive at a roadside location a few kilometers southeast of Yatta, the southern West Bank’s main town, to which the Israeli state would like to see most of the South Hebron Hills’ Palestinian residents relocate. We are greeted by five Palestinian men who come carrying tools and olive trees that we are to


Chapter 1

plant together in their land, a short walk across fields overlooked by an Israeli outpost—​­one of the settlements in the region officially deemed illegal even by the Israeli authorities. Ilan, the most experienced of the activists and designated our group’s contact person by the organizers, explains that the settlers often come to disrupt the farmers whenever they try to work on the land and that we are there in the hope that our presence will let them get some more work done before disruption, and to witness and record any interaction with the settlers, army, or police officers. I am assigned the task of filming the activities and Ilan gives me the small video camera the organizers have brought for that purpose, together with instructions about making sure always to get a wide field of vision so that as much as possible will be captured on film. Two soldiers are already standing a short distance away from the field when we arrive—​­it is not the first time Ta’ayush activists have been there, although it is not clear how the soldiers knew we would come today, or whether there is a constant army presence in that spot—​­but we are able to work undisturbed for about one hour. After that time, one of the settlers, an older man, comes down the hill from the outpost and starts to shout at us. He screams in Arabic at the Palestinians, and in Hebrew at us, accusing Ilan in particular of being a traitor, stating that he is a Hamas supporter. The two soldiers stand by for the time being but call their commander, who arrives after a few minutes. He starts to ask questions of the Palestinian farmers, checking the title deeds they have brought with them to ascertain whether the land does indeed belong to them, and asks why we are there with them. In the course of this discussion, more soldiers and police officers arrive, some of whom are able to speak in Arabic with the farmers. They demand that the Palestinians come to an army office to show a different document than the one they have brought, which is in Arabic and without any map and which the commander claims is not good enough as evidence of ownership. As this is going on, a police officer is taking photographs of each of us. I continue to film the whole interaction, though the Israeli activists, the American, and I remain silent, as we were instructed to do by Ilan at the beginning of the day. The commander then declares the area a closed military zone, the settler still stands nearby shouting at the group, and the Palestinians start to leave. We walk with them, and one of the soldiers asks me (in Hebrew) if I am a journalist, and I respond that I am not. He says that in that case I should stop filming and so I lower the camera, unsure of the repercussions of not doing

Performing Complicity 29

so, although Ilan later informs me that we are entirely within our rights to film everything and that next time I should continue.1 The soldier says, in a sarcastic tone, “Shabbat shalom ve chag sameach” (the weekend “good day” greeting and happy holidays, as it was during the Passover festival), and we continue to walk away in silence. Ilan is disappointed that we have left without the soldiers showing us a written order stating that the area was a closed military zone, which techically the army has to do before we are legally obliged to leave. Much of the aim of these Ta’ayush actions is to record occasions on which these written orders have been shown, in order to prove continued Palestinian presence on their land.2 He asks the Palestinians why they left without waiting for it, and they say they did not realize that the army has to show a written order. Ilan explains to them that next time they can wait until they see such an order, and one of the other Israeli activists, Efrat, asks Ilan why we left without it. Ilan replies, “I’m not going to tell the Palestinians what to do” and explains that because we had filmed the interactions those videos could still be used by Ta’ayush in any advocacy or legal discussions about settler and military

Figure 3. Ta’ayush activists interact with soldiers in the South Hebron Hills; a Palestinian man sits to the side. Photograph by Margaret Olin.


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harassment of Palestinian farmers. Thus Ilan says that he still considers the action semi-­successful. This kind of interaction was typical of Ta’ayush’s Saturday excursions during my fieldwork. Ta’ayush would travel to the rural South Hebron Hills area, a southern region of the West Bank designated as “Area C” under the Oslo agreements, and thus under full Israeli military and civil control, but because of the presence of the settlements also one of the easier parts of the West Bank for Jewish Israelis to enter and leave without breaking any laws or being conspicuously out of place.3 Many Palestinians living in this area are farmers, infrastructure and social services are poor, and the Israeli Civil Administration (an entity acting under the authority of the Ministry of Defense and officially responsible for planning and construction in Area C) carries out frequent house demolitions in the region, despite the “houses” in question often being tents or caves (B’Tselem 2013). Along with neglect by the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinians here suffer much harassment and violence from Israeli settlers. In large part because of these conditions, Palestinians in the area are often more willing to work with Jewish Israeli activists than in other parts of the West Bank, where political reasons as well as fear of being considered collaborators (Kelly 2010) often prevent such cooperation. However, unlike other Israeli-­Palestinian partnerships in areas such as East Jerusalem or in the villages of Bil’in, Ni’lin, and Nabi Saleh, for example, where mobilizations have taken quite a specific form following established traditions of nonviolence and civil disobedience (see Chapter 2), the form of action and Israeli-­Palestinian interaction is rather more open and shifting in the South Hebron Hills region. Thus several Jewish Israeli activist groups, as well as Ta’ayush, have been active in the South Hebron Hills over the past ten to fifteen years. Although these groups have different agendas and modes of action, all are active in the campaign against house demolitions and expulsions, which are currently among the biggest threats to Palestinian residents’ continued inhabitation of this part of the West Bank. While this activism depends on much behind-­ the-­scenes work from activists’ homes in telephone calls, organizing transport, publicizing their actions to other Jewish Israelis, and working in Israeli NGOs, activists’ physical presence in the South Hebron Hills with Palestinians is its political and symbolic core. The focus of this chapter is, therefore, how groups such as Ta’ayush inhabit this thoroughly colonial space through

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their actions in order to perform an anticolonial politics and the contradictions that characterize such an engagement. Indeed, it seems necessary for these activists to expose the colonial practices in this region by physically being there themselves and providing some kind of counterpresence to the settlers, army, and police—​­the other Jewish Israelis in the region whose presence and actions there enforce its occupation. These practices are a fitting example through which to explore this problem, not because they are unique to this activism (this thread runs through all of the Jewish Israeli activism discussed in this book that relates to the Palestinians), but as one of the most striking cases in which the dynamics of “being there” in order to perform an anticolonial politics become apparent. In foregrounding them, I engage with the political and analytical approach t­oward Jewish Israeli activism, and the politics of Israel/Palestine more generally, that proposes “decolonization” as a way in which Palestinian life and resistance can be both supported in activism and reflected in scholarship (Svirsky 2012; Todorova 2015; Turner 2015). How can decolonization be practiced by members of the colonizing society, I wish to ask, and what does it mean to do this through physical presence on the land of, and at the side of Palestinian residents struggling for existence in a colonial space? In what follows I explore these questions through an analysis of the activism of Ta’ayush, as I began to describe above, and of other Jewish Israeli groups that similarly perform an anticolonial presence in the South Hebron Hills and elsewhere in Israel/Palestine.

*  *  * The Saturday activities of Ta’ayush normally involved Israeli activists going to different locations, depending on where a Palestinian farmer was having difficulty working the land without settler harassment, or perhaps going to help dismantle a new roadblock or to clear the rubble from a water well that had been filled in by the army during a house demolition. The main outcomes of these actions were, according to Ta’ayush organizers, the documentation of enduring Palestinian presence in the region as well as settler and army violence against the Palestinians—​­through recording closed military zone orders or filming Ta’ayush actions or through an arrest of a Ta’ayush activist or a settler, possibly leading to the production of court records testifying to the interactions taking place on one of these Saturdays. Cooperation and


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solidarity with Palestinian residents of South Hebron Hills was central to activists’ self-­conception of what they were doing, but it remained striking how much this activism depended primarily on interactions with other Jewish Israelis: relating both to the documentation and witnessing of interactions for judiciary processes and to the on-­the-­ground encounters with settlers, army, and police while physically in the region itself. In the physical space in which Israeli colonization was further entrenching itself apace, leftist Israeli activists would meet with other Israelis to perform an alternative and anticolonial politics. Most of the activists’ inability to speak Arabic, as well as a lack of time outside the intense and chaotic Saturday actions, prevented much communication between activists and the Palestinians they accompanied. Rather, a Jewish Israeli cultural intimacy (Herzfeld 1997) and its breach unfolded with a Palestinian landscape as its mise-­en-­scène. Another action in which I participated illustrates well these ethical and political contours of this solidarity activism. I arrive on one of the Saturdays on which a deliberately more confrontational action is planned, after a week in which Israelis from one of the settlements considered to be the most “extreme” in the West Bank (known even to other, nonactivist Israelis as such) have attacked four children and their mother with stones on their walk home from school, badly injuring one of the girls in the head. The Israeli army did not intervene to stop the violence. We are to walk up to the settlement in protest. Alon, one of the organizers, instructs us to walk more t­oward the army than ­toward the settlers; he explains that the settlers are simply “freaks” who will not pay attention to any protest, but the soldiers have a legal duty to protect the Palestinians from such attacks. The organizers do not expect that we will actually reach the settlement but rather that the army will intercept us and that those who are willing will get arrested in the process. Alon makes clear that it is a decision to be arrested, which none of the group is to feel under pressure to make, and in particular internationals (for whom an arrest may mean deportation or not being able to reenter the country later) or Israelis who already have open police files or other reasons not to make themselves known to the authorities can stand further back and avoid being detained. We thus split into smaller groups according to who is willing to be arrested and who is not and according to walking ability, as we will have to hike across fields and hills to reach the back of the settlement without being seen in advance by the army.

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I join one of the groups of mainly internationals and a few Israelis, including a friend, Ravid, who wants to avoid arrest because she works for a major Israeli company. As we walk ­toward the settlement, she explains to me that she is worried about getting fired from her job if she is arrested for any reason but especially for taking part in this kind of political action. Just a few weeks before, she told me, she met a work acquaintance during one of Ta’ayush’s actions; he was one of the soldiers who intervened in their activities, who was doing his reserve service (miluim) at the time. It was a shock to encounter one another in this way, Ravid reflected, and they did not say much to one another at the time. Later, at work, when they talked at length about it, he asked her what she was doing there and she explained a bit about Ta’ayush to him and her experiences in the South Hebron Hills. She said she felt something had switched in him, during the conversation, that he is “going through something,” a kind of process of reeducation that activists often talked about as the genesis of their becoming more involved in these kinds of actions. Not just through being posted in this area of the West Bank for his army service, Ravid explains, but because they had had this conversation, he had started to see Ta’ayush activists from a different perspective, and not just as an irritation, as soldiers and police commonly seem to perceive them. Still, Ravid is nervous about having had this encounter and the possibility of her activism becoming visible to others at her workplace and so she chooses to take a less prominent role in the confrontation that week. As we approach the settlement, we can already see a line of Israeli soldiers standing to prevent us from entering it. We begin to split up into our chosen groups and those who are prepared to be arrested approach the soldiers and try to pass them, while the rest of us hang back. Within a few minutes, some arrests have been made while other activists are still filming the scenario and making statements on a megaphone about why we have come and that this is a nonviolent protest against the settlers’ violence against Palestinians. The situation turns out to be a bit less under the activists’ control than the organizers have anticipated, though, and some who did not intend to get arrested are unable to avoid it. As my group starts to move further back from the soldiers, an Israeli female activist gets hold of the megaphone and announces over it in Hebrew, “Don’t say you are just following orders,” directed ­toward the soldiers. “You know who just followed orders. . . . ​Be ashamed. I have grandchildren your age.” Ravid then takes over and continues: “When you


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hear about Israeli democracy, you should reflect on that. Democracy includes something called equality, and here it seems like there’s one law for settlers, one law for Palestinians, and one law for leftists!” She then beings to sing “Hero of the Defence Army” ( gibor tzva hahagana) by the Israeli punk band Pollyanna Frank, which mocks the macho young soldier whose sexual conquests are cast in the light of the state’s military conquests. By this point, some settlers have arrived at the scene and the risk of arrest is accompanied by that of physical violence by the settlers against the activists, so all those who have not yet been detained start to leave and walk back ­toward the Palestinian village, after some negotiation with the army commander present about what path we are allowed to take. Let us pause here to consider what is being enacted in these encounters in the South Hebron Hills. Although the name Ta’ayush means “living together” in Arabic, and activists would often explain this meaning as they talked about the group and its cooperative modes of action, what was striking to any observer of this Saturday action and others like it was the lack of emphasis on Palestinians’ experiences or Palestinian-­Jewish cooperation. Rather, this activism’s orientation ­toward and against other Jewish Israelis—​­settlers and state authorities—​­performed a political breach of cultural intimacy as a way both to expose and to disturb how Jewish Israeli citizenship is tied up in uncomfortable ways with state violence. Both the physical movements of the activists and the ways in which they drew on culturally resonant symbolic tropes in their verbal interactions can be read here as an intimate form of communication with those deemed to be “like us” by the activists—​­other Jewish Israeli citizens. This emphasis on common Israeli citizenship, and highlighting of the ways in which it privileges Jewish subjects specifically, is what was enacted by activists’ approach to the soldiers blocking the entrance to the settlement: unlike Palestinians, who would be much more likely to be shot were they to approach the soldiers in this manner, the physical approach of a Jewish Israeli body ­toward the state apparatus is an invitation for that body to be restrained and disciplined but with the knowledge that it will be unlikely to suffer the kind of grievous physical harm faced by other kinds of subjects. The action sets in motion a chain of legal procedures that will result, in all likelihood, in the activists’ release by a judge after up to twenty-­four hours in a police cell, with the possibility of a criminal charge to be tried and punished at a later date. In thus eliciting and exposing state power, the

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Ta’ayush activists also reveal its uneven terrain: that they, as Jewish citizens are differently subject to its workings than are the Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills as in other areas in Israel/Palestine. This physical method of exposing the injustice of Israeli rule was then echoed in the activists’ cries over the megaphone. Addressing the soldiers in Hebrew, and thus evoking again their common status as Israeli Jews, the older female activist first alludes to the Holocaust, a common trope in all kinds of Israeli political discussions, with her statement “Don’t say you are just following orders” of course recalling Adolf Eichmann’s “Nuremberg defence” (Arendt 2006). She then draws on her age to suggest a maternal authority (cf. Handelman 2004: 111, cited in Paz 2016: 26), which, together with the common experience of Jewish suffering in the Holocaust, is intended to shame the soldiers as having betrayed a shared Jewish Israeli ethos on two different levels. In Ravid’s subsequent return to the discourse of citizenship and democracy, she links the breach of morality to the discourse of inequality and injustice, finally turning to expose and mock the soldiers’ bodily incorporation into the state regime with the Pollyanna Frank song. Although Ravid had recently experienced a more sober and nuanced encounter with a colleague with whom she felt able to discuss the situation in the South Hebron Hills and individual soldiers’ roles in perpetuating injustice, in general activists’ denunciations of other Jewish Israelis’ actions and their consequent responsibility to act differently were performed in these more dramatic and confrontational ways in places like the South Hebron Hills. This theatrical mode of communication contrasted with other spaces and encounters in everyday life, where activists would more often try to “keep their head down” and to avoid difficult discussions about politics both from their fear of consequences and from a desire not to live their lives in a constant mode of argument and aggression. On my way back to Tel Aviv after the action, I receive a phone call from a friend, Yifat. She calls to check with me that I am okay, having heard through social media about the arrests in the South Hebron Hills, as she knows I had planned to go that day with Ta’ayush. I assure her that I am fine and that I had been able to make the choice not to get arrested—​­“the others intended to get arrested, you know, they had planned it that way,” I explain to her. She replies, “Of course they did!” I did not need to explain the tactics to her; she is involved in this activism and knows how Ta’ayush and similar groups work. She


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understood that when such activists got arrested in this way, it was likely to have been intentional. At the time, I did not reflect on the way in which she had taken for granted the intentionality of the arrests: activists tended to narrate reports of these arrests as the shocking enactment of a heavy-­handed and authoritarian state in the face of nonviolent political action when recounting these occasions in the press and on social media. Anybody involved in this kind of activism, however, knew that these actions were more often than not intended to provoke a certain reaction and that the army and police could be relied on to use physical violence and/or to detain activists. The gap, though, between the intentionality of these actions and the performance of surprise at their unfolding deserves further consideration. Jewish Israeli activists invite and meet the force of the state in the form of military and police violence and arrests and yet profess shock when they indeed receive such reactions. In the same moment, they partially shift the focus of both their and their audience’s attention from what the Palestinians face to ethical and political relations among different Jewish Israelis.

*  *  * Here I want to examine more closely the idea of complicity and its relation to this activism’s elements of performance and staging. Anthropologists and others considering the dynamics of social movements, including those deploying similar tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience, have considered the theatrical elements of protest in various ways. These analyses question any approach to activism that would narrowly consider its efficacy in positivist terms or propose a functionalist analysis of social movements, focusing instead on the symbolic resonances and phenomenological experiences of activist displays within specific cultural and political contexts. A significant thread of such interpretations emphasizes the creativity of these protests, which often use music, art, or humor to expose or symbolically invert dominant power relations (Haugerud 2013; Reed 2005; Spellman-­Poots et al. 2014), and often create alternative or “liminoid” spaces which imagine or “prefigure” (Juris 2014) different cultural and political forms. Here confrontations with state authorities are understood as political performances that enable not only the envisioning of these utopian political futures (Juris 2008) but also the development, or “self-­cultivation” (Flynn and Tinius 2015)

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of subjectivities that bring energy and motivation to these movements. The Jewish Israeli activism I consider here certainly shares the element of staging or performance with these other examples and, on some occasions, also the affective qualities of joyfulness and play that contribute to the sense of a creative horizon of different potential worlds, as well as feelings of solidarity and connectedness within the group that enable the members of the group to continue with their often challenging practices. Central to this activism, however, is not so much a creation of different worlds to the one in which they live, I contend, but rather an exposure of the violence and injustice of activists’ own reality as well as the crucial centering and challenging of their entanglement within this political domain. Contrary to those accounts of activist performances that emphasize the creation of alternative realities through performance and storytelling, I propose the notion of a “theatrics of complicity” as a key feature of this particular case of nonviolent activism and civil disobedience. A “theatrics of complicity” describes the way in which this activism operates by staging a certain confrontation with state authorities. This confrontation allows activists to exploit the cultural intimacy between themselves and the police officers or soldiers with whom they come into contact, in order to expose their own privilege as Jewish Israeli citizens and thus their complicity with the Israeli state regime. This is enacted through physical presence in Palestinian areas, presented as an act of cooperation and solidarity with the Palestinian residents: subjects who, however, appear only in the background of this activism. They can only appear as such because the potency and reverberations of this activism depend precisely on a Jewish Israeli cultural poetics of complicity with colonial domination. It is the very spaces in which this domination is most visibly in the making that give a certain opportunity for these relations to be exposed in the ways I describe. What this activism also highlights, then, is the uncomfortable symbiosis of state sovereignty and activist mobilizations, a distinction that some scholars of social movements tend to take for granted and to draw with crisp and clear lines. It is precisely through employing their own status as Jewish Israeli citizens in these confrontational performances that these activists unsettle and place into question the ethics and politics of a militaristic and colonial political culture more broadly. They make the distinction between themselves and state authorities through the dramatics of their activism by rendering visible how close and


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familiar they are to them.4 This complicates the conceptualization of this activism as decolonizing, I suggest, because it relies on a mutual implication of both activists and soldiers or settlers in the ongoing force of the colonial project. It does this, moreover, precisely through activists’ physical presence and interactions in colonized spaces that foreground interactions among Israeli Jews, while Palestinian residents’ agency and subjectivities remain in the shadows.

*  *  * More than three years later, in the summer of 2014, I was visiting Israel/­ Palestine for a few weeks when Israel’s military operation in Gaza that the army called “Operation Protective Edge” began. On the second day of the attacks, long before the high death toll was finally counted over two months later, and as activists were still hoping that perhaps this would be a relatively short and thus less deadly incursion (as had happened in November 2012), I traveled with activist friends from Tel Aviv to the South Hebron Hills region. The drive there was long, and we were accompanied both by our growing frustration at the radio news and by the frequent interruption to broadcasts by alerts warning of rocket attacks across the country. We stopped at a kibbutz in the south to pick up two fellow passengers, Daniella and Dagan. For most weeks of the past decade they had been visiting Palestinians in their homes in the South Hebron Hills, as part of a small circle of mainly Jewish Israeli activists who engaged in a quite different form of activism to that of Ta’ayush, but who similarly aimed to create different and anticolonial relationships with Palestinians and to strengthen their struggle against the house demolitions and expulsions. We arrived at Daniella’s home to find her angry and despondent about the situation. “I won’t go to the shelter when the siren sounds,” she said, “I’m not moving.” Refusing to be part of what she considered the collective hysteria and persistent misinformation that served to justify the killings, Daniella had come to associate the sound of the sirens with injustice and complicity. We did not have to put her statement to the test, though, as we left the kibbutz to continue our journey, before the sirens again sounded across southern parts of Israel. I wish to focus on Daniella’s remarks here, to further elaborate on an ethic of refusing complicity that is most succinctly captured in the often-­used

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Figure 4. “Not in my name” social media profile picture. This image was posted by many activists as their profile picture on social media accounts during attacks on Gaza and afterward. Image creator unknown.

activist slogan “not in my name.” When even the sound of sirens warning of rocket attacks becomes an object of refusal because it is a mark of complicity with a hated regime, what is being resisted is not only injustice but also one’s (bodily) inclusion as a Jewish Israeli citizen and thus incorporation into the Israeli state. “Not in my name”—​­lo bishmi in Hebrew—​­circulates as a way of refusing such incorporation particularly in times of heightened violence, perhaps, because it is in such moments that the distinctions between Jewish Israelis and Others in Israel/Palestine become even more visible than usual and sensed in auditory and other embodied ways. In such a context, the push against the claiming of Jewish Israeli subjects by the state feels increasingly urgent and complicity an ever more anxious state that activists seek to address. Thus, having analyzed the performative elements of refusing complicity in nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, as described above in the actions of Ta’ayush, here I elaborate on the acute sense of complicity that is an


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enduring feature of Jewish Israeli activist subjectivity and that permeates motivations, experiences, and relationships within this activist community. The phenomenology of activist presence in Palestinian areas—​­where this sense of being implicated in the perpetration of injustice is often most clearly ­confronted—​­tells of the difficulty of inhabiting an ethical space of resistance when one’s very person has been made to represent that which one resists. Sheikh Jarrah, the neighborhood in East Jerusalem where considerable numbers of Jewish Israeli activists regularly protested house evictions from 2009 to 2011, was a space in which these dynamics emerged quite strikingly. Although the protests had begun in August 2009, they grew to numbers above a few dozen people only after twenty-­one activists were arrested on December 10th of that year (the day internationally marked as human rights day, no less). From this date, activists were no longer allowed to protest directly outside the homes of the Palestinians; rather, they were restricted to stand and shout from a park area at the top of the street in which those homes were located. Many of the Israeli activists and the Palestinian residents were unhappy about these restrictions and continued to try to lead the protests past the lines of border police, who had also started to arrive regularly and punctually on Friday afternoons in time for the demonstrations. Some of those who had started to come to take part in the demonstrations remained in the park, however, unwilling to go with the other activists to put themselves up for arrest or to enter into direct physical confrontation with state authorities. Resentments quickly developed among some of the more experienced activists who had been coming to Sheikh Jarrah for many months by now, and had perhaps been arrested on several occasions. Many felt that the demonstrations were becoming a modish, habitual affair and disconnected from the political imperatives and strategies from which they had developed in the first place. On one Friday afternoon in May 2010, for example, the atmosphere leading up to the demonstration was particularly tense, given events earlier in the week around Jerusalem Day, an Israeli marked holiday celebrating the “reunification” of Jerusalem after the Six-­Day War. In recent years, the day had become one of provocative marches of Kahanist and other right-­wing and ultra-­nationalist Jewish groups through the old city and of the clearing of Palestinians from its streets as well as police violence t­ oward Palestinian protesters.5 On the bus on the way from Tel Aviv to Sheikh Jarrah, one of the

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experienced activists explained to newer participants what might be expected that day, as was common during those journeys. As he explained that, although the organizers were not expecting arrests or violence, there was a chance this could happen but that there was no need to be anxious, one of the other activists prompted him to tone it down a bit, that he was probably scaring people. He laughed, and continued: “This is not to worry anyone, we’re not expecting anything to happen, but in case it does just stand back and nothing will happen to you. The important thing is just to be there and to be joyful, standing together with the Palestinians there, let’s not be sad. In any case, nobody ever died from being arrested at a demonstration. Well, no Israeli.” He paused, and then added, “Well, no Jewish Israeli,” checking himself once again. The contradictions in what he had said—​­to stand back and not to worry, on the one hand, but to stand together with the Palestinians, on the other—​­were underscored by his stumbling over his words about what danger is or is not imminent, and for which kinds of subjects, in the demonstration. Over the course of the demonstration, the political positioning of the Israeli protesters (who were the majority of participants, with only a few Palestinians and internationals taking part) further developed as an issue of tension. All the protesters remained on one side of the road in the park for some time at the beginning of the demonstration, holding their banners and chanting slogans against the evictions and against the occupation more generally. But after about half an hour a few people crossed over and started taking photographs and approaching the line of police blocking the entrance ­toward the houses in question. A quarrel between two of the officers and one of the activists began and soon more activists crossed the road to join the confrontation, before the organizers urged everybody to approach the police and to bring the demonstration closer to the contested area. Many of the protesters did so, mostly those more experienced or affiliated with other groups, such as Ta’ayush and Anarchists Against the Wall—​­the kind of activists who were interested in challenging the injustice written into Israeli law and who saw the Sheikh Jarrah evictions as a stark demonstration of that injustice. Others, however, held back and looked nervous about the unfolding confrontation, particularly as police managed to push the advancing demonstration back and were quite aggressive in the way in which they did so. One organizer stayed in the park and reassured those protesters that it was fine if they did not want to cross the road and encouraged them to chant loudly in


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support of those who had. At other moments, however, activists were gesturing for more people to come and join the push against the police and, at one point, one of the activists who had been arrested several times in Sheikh Jarrah and elsewhere cried out in frustration at those who stayed in the park, “OK, I see more or less the demographics here.” His remark spoke to discussions that had been going on within the organizing group and among other radical activists who were unsure about the large number of more liberal and Zionist participants in the demonstration: they were concerned that for some of those who had arrived at Sheikh Jarrah only after the outcry about the ­arrest of Jewish Israelis in protests there, the issue had been framed as one of a threat to Israeli democracy rather than the ongoing oppression of Palestinians. Though these tensions often appeared around debates about ideology—​ ­Zionist versus anti-­Zionist approaches to activism, for example—​­another way to consider them is as a struggle among the different Jewish protesters as to how far their participation in these demonstrations involved their refusal to be complicit with Israeli state violence. It recalls the effort invested also by more liberal, Zionist Israeli leftists to differentiate themselves from the settlers in the Gaza Strip, which Joyce Dalsheim describes on the peripheries of her ethnography of the latter (2011). For the left radical activists in Sheikh Jarrah who felt that civil disobedience t­ oward the police was necessary during those demonstrations, it was not only a question of political tactics or strategy but also an ethical refusal to grant legitimacy to and thus be complicit with the actions of the state. It was this that those protesters who were reluctant to put their bodies on the line, to be arrested, to confront the state in this embodied way, seemed to be doing. It was an anxiety about complicity, I suggest, as much as a disagreement about political strategy or principle, that brought out these tensions at this and other demonstrations and political events. Hence the sense of embarrassment or cowardice that those remaining in the park at Sheikh Jarrah reported feeling, and the urgency with which other protesters were keen to enter into confrontation with the police, even though there was confusion and disagreement within the movement as to whether this was an intentional, or wise, strategy. This aspect of the activism was underscored for me when one activist, Guy, who had been heavily involved in the Sheikh Jarrah protests told me: “Today [as opposed to earlier experiences of activism] there are people for whom to get arrested, from their

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Figure 5. Activist drummers at a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. The drummers are dressed in pink masks, mocking and mimicking the black masks worn by armed police in previous weeks. Photograph by author.

point of view, it’s respectable—​­for all of us. It’s not pleasant. But in a moral, political sense, we’re happy to be arrested, because it gives us the chance to show that we’re not part of the story.” The desire to demonstrate a disconnection from or a rejection of the “story” of Israeli state violence and domination was what was expressed in many of the more dramatic moments of antioccupation activism, but it also appeared in other spaces and settings in which the confrontation with the state was more subtle and perhaps therefore even more pressing. During the 2012 and 2014 attacks on Gaza, when Qassam rockets were fired t­oward cities such as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, sentiments like Daniella’s about refusing to heed the siren’s warning to take shelter were common among activists. A disavowal of one’s implication as an Israeli citizen in the army’s assault manifested in these refusals as well as in the bravado of those who deliberately went onto rooftops in Tel Aviv to watch the “Iron Dome” missile defense system shoot down the incoming rockets. In more mundane ways, it manifested as activists’ careful and pointed use of ­language—​­talking about “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” rather than “Israeli


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Arabs” or just “Arabs,” for example, or rejecting the increasingly common Israeli use of “Judea and Samaria” to refer to the occupied West Bank—​­or in seeking out alternative cultural spaces and forms of schooling for their children, as well as many more often small and everyday attempts to extricate themselves from unwilled support for, or compliance with, Israeli state power. Often this took the form of a kind of resentment that other Jewish Israelis did not feel the same discomfort. One activist told me, for example, “I want Israel to be humiliated. I’m not a big fan of punishment, in general, but Israel should be punished. I want Israelis to feel uncomfortable when they go abroad and have to admit to having done army service.” In this sense, “not in my name” was a myriad of more and less dramatic practices and forms of expression that mediated an affective relation to activists’ Israeli citizenship and what this meant in terms of ethical responsibility. The moments of solidarity activism that I consider in this chapter are among the most visible and theatrical ways that activists routinely attempt to address the ways in which their lives have been made complicit in violence and oppression.

*  *  * In the light of the anxiety over and confrontation with complicity that I have laid out thus far, Jewish Israeli activists were highly concerned with the murky ethical space of compromise and the dominance of Zionist and statist delimitations of legitimate political action. An impossible desire for moral purity in their political action was an ethnographic predicament, as well as a problem in scholarly analyses of politics. As Jessica Greenberg argues, interpreting any political affect that falls short of revolutionary sentiment as failure “runs the risk of reinscribing a binary of hope and disappointment that defines the ‘negative’ affective experience as a form of loss” (2016: 2). However, the hope/disappointment binary that Greenberg describes as a problem of analysis was in many ways also a feature of Jewish Israeli activists’ feelings and experiences of their worlds. In considering complicity a central feature of activist subjectivity, I thus share Greenberg’s framing of “ ‘negative’ affective experience” as one through which political engagement can develop (cf. Greenberg 2015), but I also wonder whether activist desires to negate that negativity—​­to be free from such complicity—​­and the impossibility of realizing such desires, may indeed lead us to interpret them as a certain experience

Performing Complicity 45

of loss: as an uncomfortable reckoning with the impurity of ethics. In this way, we might be able to hold experiences of loss and the negative in our vision of politics as a set of difficult confrontations with violence, and with a damaged sociality (cf. Berlant and Edelman 2014; E. Wilson 2015), that also shape activist subjectivities and their attendant political practices. Here, complicity is not an accusation but an analysis of how dissent can emerge and develop while bearing the trace of the violence from which it is born. In this case, activists’ physical presence and confrontation with state authorities in Palestinian areas where settler and military aggression are at their height are key spatial practices through which the negative political affect of complicity is most intensely felt. For if land and territory have become central to Zionism and Israeli nationalism (Yiftachel 2002), both in practice and symbolically, this activism similarly operates with the physical and symbolic qualities of space as its core. Activists’ attempts to expose and challenge the violent expansion of the Israeli “frontier” (Yiftachel 2002) play with nationalist and colonial territorial practices and their “facts on the ground” tactics (Abu El-­Haj 2001) to create an anticolonial presence that is not that of the colonized, the Palestinians, but rather comes from within the colonizing group itself.6 They use such familiarity and likeness to unsettle a presumed united national project through alternative spatial practices. Activists’ reliance both on Zionist preoccupations with land and territory and on culturally intimate forms of communication with other Jewish Israelis may be interpreted by some as an eschewing of supporting Palestinian modes of resistance in favor of engaging a Jewish Israeli cultural poetics, and thus not achieving “decolonization.” This follows the logic of those who have framed decolonization as a radical departure from any ethnonational frameworks (Svirsky 2012) and as “counterhegemony” (Turner 2015). I suggest, however, that the entanglement of these activist practices and narratives with hegemonic Zionist and Israeli ones is precisely what gives them their anticolonial character. Indeed, the demand for a radical break from colonial epistemologies by recent scholars of Israeli settler colonialism and “decolonization” unintentionally commits some of the same errors as those discussing Israel/Palestine in terms of postcolonial theory. As Joseph Massad (2006) and Ella Shohat (1992) both note, the “postcolonial” moniker implies a straightforward leaving behind of a colonial past across diverse geographical and national


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contexts, thus refusing any ongoing structural manifestations of imperial power and erasing the enduring psychosocial, political, and economic traces of relations between colonizer and colonized that thinkers such as Fanon, Bhabha, Nandy, and Spivak analyzed. In the case of Israel/Palestine specifically, employing a postcolonial framework for description and analysis accepts Zionist historiography’s representation of the establishment of the state of Israel as the victory of an anticolonial liberation movement rather than as a nation-­and state-­building endeavor tied up in the European colonial project (albeit representing a “colonialism of the displaced” [Yiftachel 2002: 224]) (Massad 2006: 22). A more accurate analysis, Massad argues, would highlight Israel/Palestine’s simultaneous “post-­coloniality” for Ashkenazi Jews, its “coloniality” for Palestinians, and the dual status of colonizer (vis-­à-­vis Palestinians) and colonized (vis-­à-­vis Ashkenazi Jews) of the Mizrahim (Massad 2006: 13–­40; cf. Shohat 1988: 25–­27). In this way, we see the coexistence of colonial and postcolonial subjectivities and practices in contemporary Israel/ Palestine, as well as the gray zones which permeate any postcolonial or anticolonial situation: the line between being or not being in or part of a colonial situation is very often more blurred than any clear colonial/postcolonial distinction can apprehend. I would like to suggest a similar problem with certain uses of a “decolonization” framework, in that it posits the possibilities of clearly and cleanly disengaging from complicity with colonial domination. The difference, of course, is that this excision of colonial thinking and practice is proposed as coming before, rather than after, the neatly sequestered time of colonialism. Rather than suggesting that activism and/or scholarship can only be either colonizing or decolonizing, guilty of furthering colonial power or celebrated for challenging it, the activism described here calls for a less purist, and perhaps therefore less gratifying, analysis.

*  *  * The entanglements of this anticolonial activism with colonial time and space go hand in hand with activists’ sense of contradiction and complicity. Their practices of dissent and solidarity carry a tacit acknowledgment of activists’ enmeshment in the power structures they aim to challenge, while their words and reflections often express their disquiet around this knowledge. Dwelling on this discomfort, and on the ways in which negative affects pervade this

Performing Complicity 47

activism, is not to accuse it of failure. It is, rather, to make room for certain kinds of loss in radical politics and to unsettle our ethical certainties about what it means to be committed to anticolonial and other radical political projects. Jewish Israeli activism’s attempts at solidarity with Palestinians entail both entanglements with violence and a potent challenge to the Israeli state’s use of it. In the chapters that follow, I further pursue this line of thought, observing the ambivalence of much Jewish Israeli left radical activism and exploring how activists’ anxieties and uncertainties tell us much about the political possibilities at hand.


Love, Mourning, and Solidarity


n an auditorium in central Tel Aviv, May 2010, about a hundred people were gathered for an event called “Sheikh Jarrah in Tel Aviv.” The event was organized by Jewish Israeli activists and some Palestinians involved in the recently formed group, Solidarity, which was protesting the eviction of Palestinians from their homes and the entry of Jewish Israeli settlers in their place in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. After the usual mingling with acquaintances and friends from the rather small and familiar activist community, who made up most of the audience, everybody was seated and the lights were dimmed. An amateur video titled Love, made by one of the regular participants of the protest, was projected onto a screen in front of us. The video showed, in black-­and-­white images and to the soundtrack of John Lennon’s “Love Is Real,” a series of photographic stills of the demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah. The video hardly featured Palestinian families from the neighborhood at all, with viewers not catching the first glimpse of some of Sheikh Jarrah’s ­residents—​­in the background of a shot with Israeli activists in the ­foreground—​ u ­ ntil almost one minute into the video. For the rest of the film, Sheikh Jarrah residents continued to appear in the background and in relation to spectacular moments of confrontation between Israeli police and protesters. It was this of activists’ dramatic confrontation with state aesthetic and imagery—​­ ­authorities—​­that was the focus of the film. Thus we mainly saw scenes of activists being separated from one another, carried away, and arrested by police officers, who are mocked by the activists as lyrics about love are sung over images of state force unable to quite comprehend or contain the protest. What the video emphasized, then, was not primarily a story of

Love, Mourning, and Solidarity 49

Figure 6. Still from the film Love by Yoav Peled. In this still, left-­wing activists, police, and right-­wing settlers clash at a demonstration in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Photograph by Yoav Peled.

relationships of Israeli activists with Palestinians; rather, it was one of a conflict between activists and other Jewish Israelis. Unlike the kinds of territorial confrontations I described in Chapter 1, however, here this conflict was portrayed as an affective one: a betrayal of the love that should exist among Jewish Israelis, a love that has been perverted by the predominance of state violence. The video’s portrayal of a failure of loving solidarity among Jewish Israelis, and the attempts of activists to create alternative ties with oppressed Others, signals an ambivalence, an affective conflict which plays out along the fault lines of this form of activism. In this chapter, I explore this ambivalence and detail how Palestinians are in some ways appropriated as the object of Jewish Israeli left-­wing activism, both in these expressions of love for the Other and in those of public and political mourning for that Other who has been lost. This desired relation to Palestinians, I argue, in fact centers on contestations over a loving Jewish Israeli kinship and over memories of past violence and nationalist mourning, as central features of Zionist and Israeli politics.1 Jewish Israeli left radical activism is more closely related to these


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forms of belonging and collective subjectivity than is often appreciated. Such articulations of solidarity and dissent thus mark an affective dimension to this activism’s complicity with its particular nationalist and colonial context, as love and mourning bind activists to aspects of Israeli sovereignty in troubling, as well as subversive, ways.

*  *  * The kind of activism in which this affective politics was strikingly prominent was the direct action and on-­the-­ground form of organizing that I introduced in Chapter 1. A focus on love and mourning emerges from the common understanding of activism in which two central features are emphasized: that Jewish Israeli activists should support and join, in solidarity, Palestinian-­ led protests, rather than focusing on their own actions directed ­toward the Jewish public; and that they should “be there,” in nonviolent direct action on the grounds where political struggles are seen to be playing out—​­in Palestinian areas where house demolitions and evictions, and the construction of the separation wall, are taking place—​­rather than in lobbying or protest actions removed from these spaces of conflict. In his documentary film Bil’in Habibti (Bil’in My Love, in Arabic), for example, the Israeli activist and director Shai Carmeli-­Pollak follows Palestinians’ Friday demonstrations against the separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in (Carmeli-­Pollak 2006). We witness it all through the eyes of the Israeli left-­wing activist who travels to participate in these protests, as Carmeli-­Pollak weaves his story of the village’s struggle together with images and narratives of friendship, solidarity, and affection. The film ends on a photographic image of Rani, one of its Palestinian protagonists, together with the director and two other friends. Carmeli-­Pollak narrates, initially in Hebrew, as in the rest of the film: “In one of the Bil’in demonstrations after I finished filming, Rani asked me, what is the difference between ‘I like you’ and ‘I love you’? I told him that ‘I like you’ is a bit less. ‘If so, Shai,’ he said, ‘then I love you.’ [The director/narrator’s voice continues, but in Arabic:] I love you too, Rani, and Wagee and Mohammed. I love Bil’in. I love the Palestinian people” (Carmeli-­Pollak 2006). Thus while suspicious of Israeli nationalist notions of love and kinship, activists also enact different manifestations of these affects in an alternative politics of joint Palestinian-­Israeli activism. “Loving” the

Love, Mourning, and Solidarity 51

Other, whom one is not supposed to love, is adopted as a nonviolent subversion of nationalist and racially segregating Israeli politics, which yet employs its very vocabulary. Love as solidarity played out in the mundane rhythms of activism that anchored these more dramatic representations. Acts of solidarity with Palestinians in joint protests, direct action, and helping with legal, medical, or other needs, as well as the telling of such acts—​­in media reports, personal recounting, the narratives of documentary films—​­were framed as acts of love, affection, and friendship, rather than as those of care or empathy, for example, which mostly appeared only in the medical humanitarian language of certain NGOs. Likewise, Carmeli-­Pollak’s film’s ending highlights how “love” in this context does not only denote a romantic, sexual, or familial love, as it may elsewhere. The Hebrew noun ahava and verb le’ehov are used to imply not only these kinds of love but also affection, friendship, admiration, and respect. It was mostly through these Hebrew words that Israeli activists mediated their expressions of loving solidarity for Palestinians, and sometimes with the Arabic word habibi, or its feminine form habibti, meaning “my darling” or “my love,” as in Carmeli-­Pollak’s film title and some activist slogans. The activism I consider here thus has much in common with other radical or progressive political mobilizations that have been considered by anthropologists to be moved and motivated by shared affective experience. Attempting to transcend older models of identity or interest-­based politics, the contemporary anthropology of activism has shown great interest in questions of subjectivity, emotion, and affect, and indeed excitement at the political potential unleashed in the often unexpected bursts of energy of recent movements. Particularly since the Tunisian uprising in December 2010, and the subsequent wave of pro-­democracy and economic-­justice movements that have appeared to signal a new political moment and forms of ­resistance—​ f­rom the Arab Spring to the Occupy movement, from Istanbul’s Gezi Park protests to Athens’ anti-­austerity mobilizations—​­anthropologists have sought to understand the connection between subjectivity and solidarity, relations across difference, and a sense of radical possibility. Of concern have been the techniques of practicing a more democratic politics, such as modes of assembly in the Occupy and M15 movements (Corsín Jiménez and Estalella 2011, 2013; Dole 2012; Garces 2013; Juris and Razsa 2012), or the use of social media to create a “horizontalist” collective subjectivity (Juris 2012). An


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analytic of alternative “being” through this activism’s prefigurative politics (Graeber 2009), as well as that of “becoming otherwise” (Razsa and Kurnik 2012; Sitrin 2013), has been characteristic of much of the anthropological attention to this activism and its attempts at creating affective solidarities. The concern with processes of “becoming-­other-­than-­one-­now-­is  .  .  . ​through encounters with difference” (Razsa and Kurnik 2012: 240) reflects a broader disciplinary interest in Deleuzian notions of becoming (otherwise) (Biehl and Locke 2010; Hamilton and Placas 2011; Povinelli 2006, 2012). This seems to have proved particularly fruitful for ethnographers of activism who wish to consider how the breakdown of certain subjectivities and the emergence of others might enable resistance to structures of hierarchy and exploitation. There is another kind of becoming that we might want to attend to, though, in relation to transformations in relationalities and political subjectivities made possible by radical activism. Naisargi Dave analyzes becoming not as a process that creates the new but as an event in itself, in her ethnography of both queer activism and animal rights activism in India (Dave 2012, 2014). She writes of moments in which the incommensurable (Indian and lesbian in one case, and human and animal in the other) are brought into relation with one another, such that they both defy the sovereignty by which they are made incommensurable and, in doing so, break down the boundaries of subjectivity that define the subject as either one or the other: Indian or lesbian, human or animal. Here, becoming is an event that exposes the violence to which activism is a response; or, as Dave puts it, activist witnessing means “to exercise a disciplined presence to violence that opens up a death that then compels a new kind of responsible life in a previously unimaginable skin” (Dave 2014: 442). The point is not, as in other renderings of becoming, and becoming otherwise, only to celebrate the hope and sense of possibility that these becoming-­events may inspire but to trace the death of certain kinds of subjectivity, a letting go of normative versions of being and relating to Others. This attention to the relation between becoming and violence requires not only a certain ethnographic focus and sensibility but also a serious attempt to “face history” (von Bieberstein and Tataryan 2013), as observers of the Gezi Park protests of 2013 (Yıldırım  and Navaro-­Yashin 2013) showed was also a demand and dynamic of that movement. Similarly, anthropologi-

Love, Mourning, and Solidarity 53

cal reflections on the “Greek crisis” trace the desire for and creation of new solidarities in relation to precarity and vulnerability, physical and structural violence (Papailias 2011). These analyses foreground dispossession, displacement, and the erasure of certain histories within contested public spaces as part of resistance, such that the courage, spontaneity, humor, and, indeed, becomings of the movements could be analyzed only in relation to the violence which engendered these very protests. In her analysis of the death of Ali, a transsexual activist whose struggle against cancer coincided with that of LGBT activists within the Gezi mobilizations, Eirini Avramopoulou asks what it means to die a liveable death, as well as to claim life, within a context in which nationalist, sexist, and homophobic forms of violence have already overdetermined the ways in which one might live and demand political presence. As in Dave’s analysis, Avramopoulou explores how a “passionate attachment to a different vision of life/death” (2017: 82) may both articulate and challenge forms of dispossession, of dying, and of killing. New or alternative relationalities appear here as fragile moments within histories of meaning and affect, which must be considered in connection to identitarian norms and sovereign power. I follow this approach to affective and political becomings in studying Jewish Israeli left wing activists’ voicing and performing a notion of love, and one of loss and mourning, as a kind of solidarity that enacts its own violence. What I mean here by violence is not a physical assault on one agent by another, although it is related to the long history and present-­day reality of that kind of violence in Israel/Palestine. Rather, I evoke the kind of violence to which Dave refers as “a radical interpenetration of life and death,” a disintegration of subjectivity in the face not only of the Other but of the Other whose suffering or whose death the activist subject must witness, or “be with,” in moments of becoming. In this witnessing, Dave suggests, the violence that wounds or kills the Other is exposed and in the same moment breaks the witnessing subject down, shattered by proximity to death as well as by the realization of her own survival in the face of it. The privileged relation of the subject who bears witness ­toward the one who dies demands of the survivor a different relation to the life that continues in the wake of such witnessing. This willed and momentary affective “being with,” therefore, is also a kind of killing: a killing of the norms and identifications through which the subject ordinarily lives and relates to otherness. An ethical relation is also


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a violent one, an affront to subjectivity and its attachments to Others in the world. I will later return to this analytic of killing, and its relation to the very real deaths that haunt my ethnography, in the light of my description of love and mourning as troubled forms of solidarity.

*  *  * In the affective politics of Jewish Israeli left radical activism, friendships Israeli activists nurtured with Palestinians often involved the sincere commitment and affection we might associate with a feeling of love, despite being complicated by their political context. In moments of crisis, such as when Palestinian families were newly threatened with eviction or with the demolition of their homes, activists reacted with shock, sadness, and concern, and they often responded by dropping work or family commitments to travel to the West Bank to be with their Palestinian friends. Not only would they undertake actions such as arranging protests, liaising with and paying for lawyers, and mobilizing public campaigns to lobby the Israeli authorities, but they would also spend time talking to, eating with, and sleeping in the houses and villages of their friends. At these moments, activists would describe their engagements not as strategic or even political, but rather as something they “just had to do.” Elad, who had been active with several solidarity groups since the second intifada, commented: “I don’t have a choice about whether to come or not. If friends need help you give help, it’s quite simple.” On one such occasion, Elad was crucial in organizing the protest actions that eventually stopped the demolition of a whole West Bank village. He hardly slept for almost a week making sure that the demolitions would not take place as planned, demonstrating that his commitment to the Palestinians he had been working with for years was neither an effortless nor simply a more professionalized kind of activism. Although his affective engagements were not any less real for their inflection by the colonial politics within which they were formed, this politics made possible the affection, friendship, and love that was the backbone of Elad’s solidarity with Palestinians. While forming friendships with Palestinians, for example, Elad also lived separately from them in significant ways.2 Beyond the privileges of Israeli citizenship and the identity card that meant he could freely come and go from the West Bank villages in which he spent

Love, Mourning, and Solidarity 55

much time, Elad made films about the villages and their inhabitants and worked in one of the Israeli NGOs that campaigned against the occupation, gaining a kind of social capital within certain Israeli and international networks. He felt the effects of his activism in tense relationships with family members whose nationalist allegiances contrasted with his own politics, as well as sensations of alienation from a broader Israeli public, but Elad also benefited from his loving solidarity with Palestinian friends while they continued to live with the oppressive restrictions and precarity of the occupation. This solidarity activism was thus a contradictory and an imperfect relation between unequal subjects. The relation of nonviolence and antiracism with love brings Israeli left-­ wing activists into dialogue with other contexts in which scholars and activists have called for a progressive politics based on the ethical enactment of this affect. Frantz Fanon’s reflections on love, in Black Skins, White Masks, underscore the question of the violence it is possible that one does in objectifying oneself or Others in relation to loving affects. “True love,” Fanon writes, would entail “the mobilization of psychic drives basically freed of unconscious conflicts” (2008: 28). Writing on the psychic remnants of colonialism for racialized and colonized black subjectivities, Fanon thus posits that “true love” is what eludes intersubjective relations in postcolonial contexts. There the essentialized categories of black and white, or slave and master, in Fanon’s reading of Hegel, live on in the self-­understandings and self-­objectifications of the black man, always forced to see himself through the eyes of the white Other, as inferior and subordinate. The spirit of Fanon’s words, though, remains as a plea for a different psychic and political reality, one in which relations across difference may not always be characterized by a master-­slave dialectic but for which we first require an analysis of the processes of recognition, desire, and conflict, for an emancipatory postcolonial politics. Thus, he writes further: “Today I believe in the possibility of love; that is why I endeavor to trace its imperfections, its perversions” (28). In relation to the American civil rights movement, bell hooks argued similarly that love can be a “practice of freedom”; a counter to despair and aggression. Following Martin Luther King Jr. in his call to make a decision to love rather than to hate, hooks and others have appealed to love as an ethic that can feed into an emancipatory politics. Her text also raises something of the complexity of the appeal to enact a political ethic and an affect of love,


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though, as she writes: “Wounded in that space where we would know love, black people collectively experienced intense pain and anguish about our future” (hooks 1994: 245). What hooks’ text highlights, then, is how such political movements can move between her idealized concept of love and a more melancholic affect of collective grief and hopelessness. This connection and short distance between love as a transformative political affect and grief and melancholy as its more obviously disciplinary and violent counterpart, relates hooks’ and Fanon’s words with Israeli activism against racism and ­toward equality and liberation. The closeness of these psychic structures and modes of political subjectivity—​­love and mourning—​­as well as the features they hold in common, lead us closer to the ambivalence of love as a political affect. Part of this ambivalence can also be linked to the ways in which love as solidarity emerges from a specific Jewish and, later, Zionist Israeli history. The ethnonationalist implications of a loving Jewish kinship have a much older, and different, history in the idea of ahavat Israel (love of Israel). This notion can be traced back to medieval rabbinic literature, in which the commandment to love other Jews had the connotation of a love of God—​­a love of the divine soul that lives in every Jew. In the context of Enlightenment thought, the secularization of the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries, and Jewish and Zionist nationalism, this idea morphed into a preoccupation with ethnic or national community, a notion that was then further strengthened but also modified into a communal solidarity in the face of the mass murder of Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust (Kupfer and Turgeman 2014). Cracks in this idea of a Jewish people united by loving sentiment most prominently arose in Hannah Arendt’s famous exchange with Gershom Scholem, whose anger at her analysis and criticism of Israel in Eichmann in Jerusalem led him to charge her with a lack of ahavat Israel, to which she replied in the affirmative. Challenging the nationalist overtones of his accusation, Arendt wrote: “You are quite right—​­I am not moved by any ‘love’ of this sort, and for two reasons: I have never in my life ‘loved’ any people or ­collective—​­neither the German people, nor the French, nor the American, nor the working class or anything of that sort. I indeed love ‘only’ my friends and the only kind of love I know of and believe in is the love of persons. Secondly, this ‘love of the Jews’ would appear to me, since I am myself Jewish, as something rather suspect. I cannot love myself or anything which I know is part and parcel of my own person” (Arendt [1963] 2007: 466–­467).

Love, Mourning, and Solidarity 57

It is in this spirit, as a critique of exclusionary nationalism, that leftist Jewish Israeli activists also reject and invert this secularized version of ahavat Israel. While the influence of the international left’s countercultural “make love not war” ethos is evident in many of the articles, fanzines, and posters produced by activists throughout the Israeli left’s post-­1960s incarnations (Massey 2002), the particular Jewish Israeli cultural politics of love, the history of which is traced here, remains dominant in most. When accusations of “Arab-­lover” were directed by passers-­by ­toward protesters during left-­wing demonstrations—​­implying treachery and betrayal, and a casting of activists as outside of the legitimacy of the national, Jewish, loving consensus—​ a­ ctivists sometimes retorted, then: “Yes, we do love Arabs!” This perhaps surprising and unsettling response, given its interpellation by the very framings of both love (as unquestioning loyalty) and the naming of difference (the orientalized “Arab”) that activists otherwise oppose, makes a certain sense within the nationalist context that I have briefly sketched.3 A simultaneous affective connection, in the subversive act of loving the Other, and disconnection, in its ultimate reference to nationalist and racist politics, seems to coexist in this objectification of the Palestinian, “Arab” Other. These ambivalent inversions of a nationalist loving sentiment emerge more clearly still in activist mobilizations of an alternative politics of mourning, and it is to these forms and intersections with Israel’s broader affective histories I now turn.

*  *  * On the eve of Israel’s 2011 Remembrance Day—​­the memorial day for Israeli soldiers and civilians killed in combat or terrorist attacks—​­I met with Shira, an activist in antioccupation, feminist, and animal rights movements. We chatted about the “alternative memorial day service” planned by the group Combatants for Peace, an Israeli-­Palestinian group of “ex-­combatants” who now promote joint struggle against the occupation and militarism.4 The ceremony had become established as one of the ways in which left-­wing Israelis try to subvert events in the Israeli and Jewish calendars to promote their own messages alongside alternative Holocaust memorial services, for example. Thus instead of the official ceremony in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, for which large crowds would gather to watch videos on huge screens of testimonies by mourning families, Combatants for Peace invited particular activists, artists,


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and prominent figures to represent an alternative politics of mourning. Shira was particularly interested in the inclusion of one speaker, Moti Fogel, in the lineup of the service, a decision we both felt may lead to right-­wing protests. Moti was a long-­standing peace activist sympathetic to Combatants for Peace, but he was also the brother of Udi Fogel, an Israeli settler who was murdered, along with his wife and three young children while they were sleeping, by Palestinians who entered their home in the West Bank settlement of Itamar in March 2011. The killings had been considered a national tragedy, shocking in their brutality, and utilized by some commentators to describe Palestinians as generally cold-­blooded and murderous t­ oward Jews.5 Moti Fogel’s appearance at Combatants for Peace’s alternative ceremony, then, was enmeshed in personal and collective affects of grief and loss. As Shira and I discussed the situation, she related it to her experiences of navigating personal and political imperatives in the last days of her mother’s life, which fell at the same time as Shira was called up for military service. Her mother had been religious and right wing, according to Shira, and completely different politically and in her relation to Israel from her daughter. Shira decided at that time to refuse any kind of army service related to the occupation and told the army that she was unwilling to carry a weapon as part of her service. As a result, she was imprisoned for refusal for three months. She undertook this action alone, not getting in touch with any of the activist organizations that help young people making similar decisions, as she did not want her mother to know about it. She was allowed to go home every weekend to see her mother and phoned every evening, acting ­toward her parents as if she were doing normal military service in another part of Israel. After three months, Shira managed to persuade the army that she needed to be close to her mother, given her failing health, and she completed her conscription with a civil service placement, teaching children in a community center close to her parents’ home. She succeeded, she reflected, in going through her army service without lifting a weapon but also never having to “go into any of that” with her mother, who died a few months later. Shira stated that she was unsure about Moti Fogel’s decision to take part in the Combatants for Peace service on the basis that, no matter what the political situation, she “could not imagine using the grief over someone you loved and their memory to do something with which they would entirely have disagreed.” I later wondered what Shira had thought of Moti’s speech,

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though I did not have the chance to discuss it with her, when he made more or less the same statement during the ceremony. Personal grief, he commented, should not be used for political purposes, and thus he had not come to the ceremony to talk about his brother’s killing but to speak out about the way in which the deaths of Israelis—​­loved ones—​­have come to be used routinely by the Israeli state for political purposes, the memorial day on which he spoke illustrating precisely this phenomenon. This refusal to bring personal grief into one’s activism rang true, but it also jarred with my impressions of activists’ objections to the penetration of the Israeli state into the intimate fabric of its citizens’ lives. True, because integral to their politics was a protest against the ways in which Israel’s violence and occupation had become so finely intertwined with, and virtually unquestioned in, the lives of most Jewish Israelis, as Juliana Ochs illustrates in her ethnography of everyday life and security discourses among middle-­class Ashkenazi Israelis during the second intifada (Ochs 2010). The activist Israelis with whom I conducted research, in contrast, attempted to remain vigilant to militarism, resisting the ways in which a “sacrificial moral economy” (E. Weiss 2014) entices even some of the state’s strongest critics to comply with its demands of communal obligation. Unlike the often elite and more conformist Israelis, whose processes of refusal to do military service Weiss analyzes and who attempted “to achieve dissent without social and cultural alienation” (E. Weiss 2014: 132), most of my interlocutors found themselves experiencing, and in many ways invested in, precisely the kind of alienation from other Jewish Israelis that certain relationships with Palestinians entailed. Thus, as in Shira’s and Moti Fogel’s cases, they explicitly struggled against the militarist logic by which the loss of a loved one might be a legitimate sacrifice to make to the state, whether in death caused by war and occupation or otherwise.6 However, this position on the privacy of grief was striking, as I juxtaposed it with the many instances of public and political mourning I had experienced with Shira and other activists, in events such as the alternative memorial services but also much more regularly in the course of their activism. An action by the organization Zochrot on the night of Remembrance Day 2010 remains vivid in my memory, for example. With Zochrot I walked around central Tel Aviv, among the crowds returning from the ceremony in Rabin Square, putting up posters for an action called “I Almost Forgot!” This


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action aimed to bring into the public domain the reminder, or provocation, that this was also the anniversary of the “Nakba”—​­the Palestinian term meaning “catastrophe,” that denotes the displacement and loss sustained in the 1947–­1949 war and the establishment of the Israeli state. Dana, the woman with whom I went into the streets that evening, told me that she had lost her brother when he was killed as an Israeli soldier in the first Lebanon war and that official dates like this made her feel nauseous. She tried to find the most conspicuous and (she hoped) offensive places to stick the posters, while telling me how she would have to attend the remembrance service for soldiers killed in service the next morning because it was important to her mother that they go together. She seemed determined that the state’s politics of remembrance and mourning would not entirely engulf her being on that day as she told me of her anger and her pain. On many other occasions, I joined Israeli activists in solidarity visits to Palestinian families who were mourning in some way—​­the loss of a family member through death or imprisonment, or the destruction of a home or even an entire village. Similarly, many protest events harnessed affects and symbolisms of grief and mourning and sometimes of deceased persons but also frequently of the loss of homes, histories, narratives, and memories, all connected to the dispossession of the Palestinians during and since the Nakba. This kind of activism pulled together private and public grief, even as it resisted the way in which the state had done just that in its appropriation of processes of love and loss, its control of how people die and how those left behind may grieve. Continuities exist, therefore, between the activism I describe and broader Israeli preoccupations with bereavement and commemoration (J. Feldman 2008; Zertal 2005; Zerubavel 1997). As Ronit Lentin has argued about Zochrot specifically, such activism, radical and challenging though it is, may relate more to the obsessive focus on the memory of past violence by Jewish Israelis and its moral implications than to an understanding of the Nakba as a form of dispossession and colonialism that for Palestinians is far from over (2010; cf. Slyomovics 1998 and Stein 2010). More broadly, this activism’s attempts to subvert what many scholars have studied as political community based on particular forms of victimhood (J. Feldman 2008; Ochs 2006; Stein 2012) and mourning (Gabriel 1992; Handelman and Katz 1998; Lomsky-­Feder 2011; M. Weiss 1997) draw our attention to how activists’ mourning for lost Others may also relate very closely to loss as a

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nationalist Zionist and Israeli discourse. In this sense, these practices of relating to Others through mourning their loss may remain tightly intertwined with the violence that harms or kills them in the first place. The activists with whom I spent time were themselves critical of some other attempts to politicize mourning. The work of the Israeli Palestinian Bereaved Families for Peace, or the Parents Circle-­Families Forum, as it is also known, for example, although with similar intentions of bringing into the public sphere relatives’ grief for Palestinians killed by Israeli violence, did so with an equalizing language that suggested parity in Palestinian and Israeli experiences of mourning. This group organizes events in which Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members can share the pain of their grief with a wider public (in Israel/Palestine and internationally) and thereby expose what they refer to as its “human face.” Focusing on this language of “humanity” and equality in suffering, the organization argues for the need for Palestinians and Israelis to come to know each other differently through the acknowledgment of common suffering. Although this kind of activism shared with the kind I discuss in this chapter a belief in the transformative potential of mourning and the importance of acknowledging the deaths of those not normally marked in a particular political community, its inability to speak of the asymmetry with which Palestinians and Israelis lose their lives severely limited its politics, for most of the activists I knew. The suggestion that communal mourning could take place without a discussion of the different structural positions of Israelis and Palestinians, and the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli state, was for radical leftists a way of concealing the colonial politics in which such mourning could occur. And yet, in their own practices of public and politicized mourning, as I have noted, connections endured with a nationalist Israeli culture of bereavement. The difference between the ways in which Israeli activists politicized grief, I suggest, lies in their relations to otherness, to the alterity of the subject whose loss is marked. Whereas in the case of the Parents Circle-­Families Forum, and similar initiatives and discursive practices, the idea of shared humanity through common experiences of loss serves to equalize Palestinian and Israeli subjects, activists in the radical left sought to disrupt a nationalist culture of mourning precisely by highlighting the inequalities in how Palestinian and Israeli lives are valued. It is this turning ­toward an Other, whose death otherwise remains unmarked within the political community t­ oward which Jewish


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Israeli radical leftists orient their actions, that allows us to further understand the reverberations of a more critical activist mourning. This activism’s entanglement in a certain kind of violence is constituted not only by its partaking in nationalist tropes of bereavement and cultures of memorialization, then, but more crucially by how otherness figures in this challenge to a political community constituted by practices of grieving. Returning to a close consideration of the affect of love and the ways in which it can claim the Other as object, with its appropriative impulse, highlights the ways in which mourning may act to efface the deceased. In response to Michael Hardt’s (2011) depiction of love as a revolutionary political affect, Lauren Berlant argues that love cannot escape the ambivalences of attachment and relations to the world, which involve desire (Berlant 2011b). Love as a political affect, she proposes, shares with other desirous affects the inescapable and potentially “cruel” projection of fantasies onto the object Other ­toward which it is directed (Berlant 2011a). Thinking again of the Love video screened at the event Sheikh Jarrah in Tel Aviv, in which Palestinians appeared as objects through which relations among Jewish Israelis were mediated, one wonders whether the actions of activists such as Elad might also partake in such phantasmatic, and perhaps “cruel,” renderings of Palestinian Others as part of their ambivalent relations with themselves and those identified with the self—​­fellow Jewish Israelis. This touches not only on the difficulty of implementing and living a politics of solidarity but also on the difficulty of the ambivalence and foreclosure that any loving relation entails. In this particular case, the violence potentially done by activist narrations of love is compounded by the simultaneous proximity and distance of the Palestinian Other for, or about, whom Jewish Israeli activists speak. These Others both intimately cohabit and are decisively excluded from the worlds of Israeli activists (cf. Butler 2012a), whose acts of resistance to certain histories of enmity through narratives of love and affection thus at once create a space for a transformative relation with, and risk erasing the subjectivities of, their Palestinian interlocutors. Much of that risk emanates from the ways in which such relationships are forged in interplay with Israeli activists’ desires to disavow the politics and militarism of Jewish Israel. Such desires lead them to forge a relation with Palestinian Others in a way tightly intertwined with the rejection of a part of the self, or of the sameness postulated among Israeli Jews by the state regime. It is not that

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there necessarily is any other option, if we consider Linda Alcoff ’s words, for example, that “speaking for Others” may always remain a risky endeavor, yet to retreat entirely from it, “to replace both ‘I’ and ‘we’ with a passive voice that erases agency results in an erasure of responsibility and accountability for one’s speech” (1991: 11). This becomes all too obvious when thinking about the predominant alternative in the Israeli context; that is, the silence about or active participation in the state violence perpetrated on Palestinians. These loving affects also differ from liberal multicultural discourses of love for difference (Ahmed 2004: 122–­141), as it is not a generic or an abstract love for difference that is proposed here but rather a specific negation of a dominant, illiberal discourse of hatred for an Other conceptualized as enemy (Anidjar 2003). In the Israeli context, actual practices of romantic love between Jews and Palestinians are discouraged and even met with violence and aggression—​­one facet of the so-­called “demographic war” (Kanaaneh 2002; M. Weiss 2005). Nevertheless, some features of the “conditional love” that Sara Ahmed theorizes in the case of British multiculturalism are relevant here. Ideas of tolerance or respect for difference, Ahmed notes, incorporate an idealization of the Other as love object and therefore as that which invests the subject with its value. What this shares with Jewish Israeli leftist activism is an erasure or a silencing of the subjectivities of the Other(s), often for the purposes of the subject’s self-­perception and material flourishing, which sits uneasily with a conceptualization of this activism as a nonviolent relationship of solidarity and love. With such complicities with both normative Israeli political discourse and in liberalism’s inadvertent violence, we may ask what it is about this activism’s capacity to “love,” and to mourn the loss of the loved Other, that remains either subversive or ethical at all. Is there anything in these practices of loving solidarity that retains the sense of possibility of moments of becoming (otherwise), which anthropologists and activists in other contexts have found so appealing? Berlant concludes that love must be regarded as unethical, given its relation to desire and the narcissism and compromises of the political (2011b: 684). I propose a different argument, however, in analyzing Jewish Israeli leftist activists’ love and solidarity for and with Palestinians as a relationship that remains ethical even as it is compromised by violence and politics. This approach engages a notion of the ethical that is more Levinasian than theorizations of ethics that focus primarily on the relation of the self to itself, as have


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recently been influential within anthropology.7 As in anthropological analyses of activism that trace its liberating potential, I also argue that the loving solidarity of this ethnography is ethical in its attempts to relate differently to otherness and to subvert a dominant political regime. However, in their enactments of an alternative ethical relationship to a particular, excluded Other of the Israeli state, Jewish Israeli activists also remain tied up in the oppression of that Other through a dominant symbolic economy of identification, as well as the material practices of living and dying that separate Israel/­ Palestine’s various inhabitants. Within this context, I suggest that the objectification of the Other by the subject that inheres in the relation between them, even an ethical relation, is a kind of violence that emerges in the affective becomings of this solidarity activism. Activist loving and mourning call into question the nature of solidarity and alert us to the difficulty of ethics as troubled relations enmeshed in the violence of politics. In what follows, I expand on this argument through the examination of one particular death, its link to different kinds of killing, and the challenge to ethical subjectivity that such relations between subjects and Others may pose.

*  *  * On December 31, 2010, the death of a Palestinian woman from the village of Bil’in, Jawaher Abu Rahme, is announced. She had taken part in one of Bil’in’s regular demonstrations and reportedly died after suffocating in the tear gas poured over the village by the Israeli army.8 Her brother, Bassam, had also been killed taking part in these demonstrations when, in April 2009, a tear gas canister hit him directly in the chest. Activists respond to the news of Jawaher’s death with a demonstration outside the Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv. The atmosphere is somber and friends meet, hug, and comfort one another. Some of the demonstrators knew the woman killed and her family; some have regularly joined the protests in Bil’in; and some are simply moved, frustrated, and angry. For a while the demonstration remains relatively quiet—​­signs in Hebrew are held up that read “murderer in uniform” and “democracy isn’t built on demonstrators’ bodies,” alongside an Israeli flag painted in red to depict bloodstains. As numbers grow and slogans are chanted louder, the atmosphere becomes more dynamic and confrontational. Soon the protesters

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move to sit on the road and block traffic, and they manage to remain there for about one hour, though eight of them are arrested in the process. There is loud screaming at this point, the slogans change to “criminals, criminals, criminals . . . ,” “police, police, who are you protecting, you’re working with the racists,” and “a brave policeman beats demonstrators.” The chants are familiar, but the air is more charged than usual. There is a feeling of urgency and rage, unlike at some of the other Tel Aviv demonstrations that are planned in advance—​­the regular, repetitive protest marches that often feel insufficient and self-­indulgent. Later that evening, another group of activists goes to the home of the American ambassador to “return” the weapons manufactured in the United States and then sold to Israel, throwing empty tear gas canisters over the fence of his property. Eleven of this group are also arrested. With the death of Abu Rahme, as well as the arrests, tensions remain high all week. On the Friday, the numbers at the regular weekly demonstration in Bil’in are swelled by Israelis who had never been to such a protest before but were convinced to join by the week’s events. I travel to the demonstration this week in the bus arranged by Combatants for Peace, along with some friends and acquaintances who have not previously been to any of the West Bank villages’ demonstrations, either because of fear for their safety or hesitation over the actions of the protesters and the role of Jewish Israelis there. The journey passes much like in other weeks: explanations for new activists on what to expect and what to do in the case of arrest or inhaling tear gas; some words about Combatants for Peace; and a generally jovial if slightly trepidatious atmosphere among the group, some of whom exclaim as we climb across the fields t­ oward the village on the last leg of the journey, “It’s like the tiul shnati [annual school field trip]!” The demonstration itself, despite the usual violence, has a similarly cheerful feel for many of the protesters who, staying ­toward the back and not approaching the fence where the confrontations with the army are most dangerous, walk and talk among themselves and interact with children from the village who try to make some money by selling small braided bracelets and tea to visitors. After the protest comes to an end, as the smell of tear gas and skunk—​­a noxious liquid sprayed at protesters—​­remains over the village and some protesters’ clothes and faces, one of the coach organizers, Eran, declares that we will go to visit the grieving Abu Rahme family before


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heading back to Tel Aviv. We walk through the village and into the courtyard of the family’s home, greeted by Jawaher’s mother Subiha and surviving brother Samir Ibrahim, and sit down as Eran starts conversing in Arabic with Subiha and we are served fizzy juice. We are quiet as Eran addresses Subiha and the rest of the family in Arabic, with no translation into Hebrew or English. Then Subiha speaks in Arabic, and Eran translates her words into Hebrew. She describes what happened to her daughter, and to her son before her. She links their deaths to the building of the wall and the taking of land in Bil’in and to the struggle the village has built up in resistance. Finally, she speaks of the Israeli guests who are listening to her as her “partners,” whose presence is appreciated and whose solidarity with the struggle and with the family’s grief valued. The group of visiting Israelis sits quietly, solemnly, many seeming not quite sure where to lay their eyes. Samir Ibrahim then also speaks, with similar words of explanation and thanks, and invites the Israelis to join the protests in Bil’in again. The journey back to Tel Aviv is more subdued than the morning trip had been, as passengers chat quietly or sleep lightly amid the smell of skunk that has stuck to the clothes of a couple of the protesters, who were caught in the army’s assault.

*  *  * In “Mourning and Melancholia,” Freud suggests that melancholia emerges from the ambivalence of the subject’s relation of love ­toward a lost object, turned back upon the subject in a narcissistic identification that disrupts the ego: “The loss of a love-­object is an excellent opportunity for the ambivalence in love-­relationships to make itself effective and come into the open. Where there is a disposition to obsessional neurosis the conflict due to ambivalence gives a pathological cast to mourning and forces it to express itself in the form of self-­reproaches to the effect that the mourner himself is to blame for the loss of the loved object, i.e. that he has willed it” (Freud 1957: 250–­251). While the analysis of melancholia that Freud presents here denotes its pathological nature—​­to be contrasted to the “normal affect of mourning” (243), in which the obsessively painful attachment to the lost object passes with time—​ ­he notes in the essay’s conclusion that ambivalence, as a quality of love in general, is present in both mourning and melancholia. It is in the ambiva-

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lence of both love and loss, and the way in which the subject’s relation to the object Other is a particular and contradictory relation to the self, that Freud’s words resonate with this ethnography of love and loss as features of Israeli activism. In Abu Rahme’s death, and in the various ways in which Israeli activism mourned her loss, we see again both a radical opening to the life of the Other and the limits of this relationship as activists were also preoccupied with their subjectivities as Israeli Jews. The mixture of silences, slogans, and loud and angry protest at the Ministry of Defense, for example, suggested both a sincere sadness and rage, and also the transformation of the death of an Other into a political statement by Israeli Jews t­ oward their own government and military authorities. The discomfort I sensed when sitting with visiting Israeli protesters in Abu Rahme’s family home in Bil’in arose from how we were expressing our solidarity with the grief of loved ones as a moment of protest: making the loss of a Palestinian woman most of us had not known or even met into an object of a broader struggle—​­not just between Palestinians and Israelis but also among Jewish Israelis themselves. I am suggesting that there is a limit to the activist ethics of loving and mourning, a limit in its capacity to recognize (the loss of) Others, because of its implication for a broader politics in which Palestinians are claimed as objects, whether by the state or by its activist opponents. Shira’s questions about how to be true to herself politically while loving and mourning the loss of her mother, Dana’s participation in a disruptive act of public mourning in response to her brother’s death in war, and the reactions of Jewish Israeli activists in the aftermath of the death of a Palestinian protester, all relate, I argue, to the struggle of subjects to relate ethically not only to Others but also to themselves, their families, and their state. These struggles often waver on the edge of subsuming the lives and deaths of Others into what Edna Lomsky-­Feder (2011) has called “traumatic nationalism” in relation to Israeli school memorial ceremonies. That is, the pain and sorrow of those who mourn, rather than the remembrance of the deceased, becomes the central feature of memorial practices in ways that are echoed even in the most subversive activism against Israeli state violence. The immanence of loving and mourning can easily slip into the (dis)comfort of established norms and relations, even with all the troubled reflections and self-­critiques that attempt to guard against this “re-­normalization.” Neni


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Panourgiá explores the issue of authenticity in Fragments of Death (1995), her ethnography of mourning among middle-­class Greeks in Athens, noting that suspicions of people visiting relatives’ graves too often or too flamboyantly arose, as onlookers felt these conspicuous practices were attempts to portray the status of the grievers in the context of the living, rather than expressing a more honest relation to the deceased. “Technologies of mourning” often attempt to fix, somehow, the “realness” (Layne 2000) of death and one’s loving relation to the deceased, even as such a fixity escapes the mourners (Gibson 2004; Layne 2000; Panourgiá 1995). Penelope Deutscher’s (1998) analysis of mourning as a kind of cannibalism, an “eating” of the Other, as she brings together Derrida’s comments on the “impossibility of mourning” with Irigaray’s proposal of an “ethics of non-­appropriation,” touches precisely on this place where mourning enacts a kind of violence (cf. Throop 2010b). It is striking that such analyses, together with anthropological studies of death and grieving that relate to death as a form of ultimate alterity, come back to the similarity between the fine line walked between loving and grieving an Other.9 As Panourgiá notes, the excess represented in the “true” state of mourning makes it constantly slip away (203), as such a pure relation of recognizing alterity without appropriating it remains fragile or elusive.10 As several scholars have noted, however, the ambivalence of loss, alongside love, is also what lends activism that deploys these affects much of its potency. Athena Athanasiou describes the “intense emotional component of a memorial gathering” of a Serbian Women in Black group, whose public and political acts of mourning are “conditioned and structured by a certain disavowedness of anonymous losses” (2005: 41). In making the loss of Others who they do not know, and recognize precisely as not known, the basis of their ethics and politics of responsibility, these women simultaneously name and challenge the limits of what Judith Butler calls “grievability.” That is, they question the conditions and presuppositions under which a life can “matter” or not, under which a life is felt as a loss or not when extinguished (Butler 2009). Athanasiou’s analysis underscores what Butler makes clear: that what is at stake in the mourning of a lost Other is not only an intersubjective relationship but also the norms and boundaries of a political community within which love or care can be extended and lost lives grieved. Similarly, when Israeli activists display public grief, they draw attention to how the relation between the living and the dead is policed by state violence (Athanasiou

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2005: 51–­52). At the same time, this activism challenges that very policing, in forging a new relation not quite contained by the existing political conditions, “both as a self-­positioning and as a turning to another” (52).11 Both a Levinasian conceptualization of ethics as compromised and difficult and a Freudian one of the subject’s ambivalent appropriation of the object Other, here echo the ways in which this activism challenges the state’s relation to the death of Others, but it does so through an appropriation of those Others’ deaths. Here I would like to return to the notion of killing, in order to trace the connections between the discomfort and difficulty of activist mourning and the promise of new becomings in the promotion of an idea of love for Palestinians. In her ethnography of queer activism in India, Dave studies activism’s relation to social moralities as a play of the becomings of ethical, affective solidarity and the foreclosure of such moments through their connection to existing political norms and socially sanctioned forms of recognition. In their search for inclusion, she asks whether certain lesbian activist subjects have to “die a little” (2011: 13), sacrificing aspects of life for political recognition and effect. I take inspiration from her analysis when I ask, in relation to left-­wing Jewish Israeli activists, and their simultaneous affective connections and disconnections with Palestinian Others, whether they have to kill a little in the ethical practice of their activism: whether the relations to and care of certain Others within an eminently political domain necessarily involve a violence ­toward and foreclosure of the Other that we might interpret as a kind of killing. This is an epistemic violence that stems from the actual acts of violence that activists seek to challenge. But it is crucial here to note that this is not only because Israeli activist proclamations of love for a Palestinian Other, and the mourning of the loss of that Other, represent an appropriation of Palestinian subjects in a narcissistic affirmation of the Jewish Israeli self, although I agree with Lentin (2010) that this is partly the case. Rather, what remains subversive about the activist claim to an alternative loving relationship to that of Zionist versions of a Jewish national kinship is the way in which it posits a relation between the Jewish Israeli subject and the abjected Palestinian Other, an Other made enemy who threatens to kill the self (Anidjar 2003; Hochberg 2010). The fantasy of a loving relationship with that enemy-­Other is premised on the rejection of a certain “we,” as in the claim “yes, we do love Arabs!,” a rejection of a normative Israeli


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subjectivity that is part of the activist self. In this sense, the “killing” of the Other that I have suggested is involved in activists’ relations with Palestinians is also a killing of the self—​­a kind of suicide, perhaps. There is a disintegration of the Jewish Israeli subject in the loving—​­and killing—​­of the Palestinian Other, that challenges the very integrity of the Israeli state and polity, and its violence ­toward the Palestinians, while remaining utterly entangled in the workings of its sovereignty. Activists both affirm their own subjectivities as Jewish Israeli citizens (and the privileges that come with that citizenship and identity) and simultaneously challenge the basis of this self-­Other differentiation and the violent politics that maintain it. Solidarity activism here exposes the violence of ethics by basing its rejection of a dominant politics on a relation in which the subject claims the Other as object, even in solidarity with that Other, and even as that subject confronts his or her own position of privilege.

*  *  * Questions of solidarity are intimately linked to the histories of violence that may shape the political becomings about which anthropologists, like others, have been so hopeful. This case of an affective politics of love and loss in Jewish Israeli left-­wing engagement reveals the troubled ways in which subversive activism can also be tied up in the forms of power it aims to confront. It therefore complements other ethnography that situates solidarity and activist commitment as difficult, flawed, and reliant on a pursuit of the sentiments, attachments, and desires that keep activists going even as they often feel compromised (Hermez 2011). While Joseph Massad has claimed about love in the Arab Spring, “The role of hegemonic structures of governance is to produce the political affect of love” (2014: 129), here it is not only a love for the regime but also a love for those persecuted by it that may take part in its very hegemony. It is in the ethical ambivalences and affective entanglements of loving and mourning that the becomings of activism are closely linked to the sovereign power it exposes and challenges. Although subversive and potent, expressions of love and grief for the Palestinian Other also incorporate an appropriation of that Other as object in ways that bind this solidarity activism to prevailing Israeli affective politics. In echoing the nationalist loving kinship

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as well as the “traumatic nationalism” of the Israeli state, radical leftist Jewish Israeli activism performs a kind of solidarity that is not innocent of normative ways of being and relating to Others. Violence, though predominantly emanating from the domain of state and colonial power in this ethnographic case, may also be a feature of ethical subjectivities and relations that bear witness to and confront such power. Though primarily this violence involves the reproduction of normative forms of objectifying Others, it also directs itself back on the subject, whose attachments and identifications break down in the face of radical opening t­ oward the Other. The ethics of solidarity activism transform the self through making a claim on the Other, seizing the Other as object of affective becomings and subjective disintegrations. Love, and other affects that have been promoted as part of a nonviolent, progressive politics—​­empathy, care, compassion—​­may thus warrant some critical attention. It is not in order to reject such a politics altogether that I frame love as an ambivalent part of activist solidarity but rather to question the possibility of imagining it as an untroubled embracing of difference or as straightforwardly nonviolent. Here, practices of solidarity and nonviolence, manifested in affects of love and loss, are troubled and disturbing in their relation to violence and death. Activists and scholars alike might remain attentive to the ways in which dissidents remain enmeshed in the political subjectivities produced by the regimes they seek to challenge, even in moments of radical becoming. As Kelly Oliver suggests in her reading of Luce Irigaray’s I Love to You (1996), a critical love may be one that understands and reflects on the limits of recognition, the limits of knowing the Other. In Irigaray’s self-­critical love, Oliver writes, “We can love an other as other only through vigilant self-­limitation” and as “an acknowledgment of our indebtedness to others and otherness” (2001a: 72). A politics of solidarity, and even of love, may be crucial for any possibility of progressive change in Israel/­ Palestine, or elsewhere, as state and imperial violence continue to structure and delimit the lives, and deaths, of too many. The forms that solidarity takes, however, its entanglements with domination and violence, demand a vigilance with regard to its enveloping of the Other in the affective contours of the self. Indeed, it is worth keeping an eye on the ways in which relating to and loving Others can also kill them, a little, even as one mourns their loss.


Infiltrators, Refugees, and Other Others


aor was a committed and an idealistic medical student at Tel Aviv University. He spent many of his free hours volunteering in the Open Clinic of the NGO Physicians for Human Rights–­Israel (PHRI), which offers basic medical services to people without health insurance in Israel. Since the mid-­2000s, the clinic has mainly catered to refugees from Eritrea and Sudan entering Israel through the Sinai desert in the hope of claiming asylum.1 Indeed, staff and volunteers at the clinic could barely keep up with the demand for appointments and other assistance that had (not for the first time) reached crisis point by mid-­2010. Thus Maor was constantly busy with his medical studies, volunteering in the clinic, or helping one of the refugees he had met there. He often assisted individuals in dealing with basic survival needs, given their lack of access to the social or medical services of the Israeli welfare system. Despite his busy schedule, we arrange to meet for an interview on a weekday evening at a central Tel Aviv hospital, where we are to talk after he has visited Kidane, a patient from the clinic. An Eritrean man who is HIV positive, Kidane has been hospitalized with suspected tuberculosis, having had no access to antiretroviral drugs, which are not provided by Israeli state medical authorities for HIV-­positive refugees. I find Maor in the hospital’s pharmacy, where he is with his partner, Tal, another PHRI volunteer. They are buying some basic supplies for Kidane—​­a razor, a toothbrush, and some soap. The three of us go up to the ward where Kidane is in a private room because of the risk of infection, and we all put on surgical face masks before entering. We spend some time in the room with Kidane, chatting, checking that he has something to read and credit on his phone to contact us or the other

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NGO activists who are helping him. We then leave and sit down to talk further about Maor’s political engagement and his activities helping refugees. Maor and Tal express their anger and despair that it is only at this point, with Kidane’s life in severe danger, that he can be treated in the hospital. “It’s easier to get the drugs he needs in Africa than in Israel,” Maor comments, lamenting the shortsightedness, as well as the injustice, of the state’s policy. The Ministry of Health refuses to supply the antiretroviral drugs based on an argument about cost, but then, instead, has to provide expensive intensive medical care for someone who becomes very ill because of this lack of earlier treatment. PHRI had been trying for some time to campaign for policy change on the issue of HIV-­positive patients but with limited success. During the second half of 2010, two of the 150 HIV-­positive patients under their care died because of their lack of access to medical treatment.2 Maor and Tal had been taking care of, visiting, and trying to help these patients before they died. Maor’s engagement was part of a broader activist mobilization against state policies regarding these migrants, as well as popular racist sentiment against them. This sentiment was expressed in the term mistanenim (infiltrators), one of several pejorative terms used by many Israelis to talk about these refugees. Activism promoting their rights and welfare took place against a backdrop of increasing discussion about the need to promote and maintain a Jewish demographic majority in Israel, and as legislation was being discussed in the Israeli parliament under which anybody helping a so-­called infiltrator would be committing a criminal offense.3 Maor was not only involved in this form of activism with refugees, however; he was also part of the radical Israeli left, the activities of which I have described in previous chapters. A more recent member of this activist community than some, Maor had embarked on this activist path after Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip in December 2008 through January 2009. At the time of the attacks, Maor was supposed to do his reserve duty in the army, but he decided not to go. Refusing quietly, as many young Israelis do, Maor “came to an arrangement,” as he put it, with his unit commander. Since then, he had not done his reserve duty. He started to get involved in student activism on campus and vividly remembered the way in which this brought him into contact, and a kind of alliance, with the students in his class who were Palestinian citizens of Israel. He became aware of their status within a tense political atmosphere


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in the university, he said, as he tried to bring other Jewish students to demonstrations against the attacks, with limited success. Through these activities, he reflected, he understood something of what it meant to be silenced, excluded, and seen as being outside of a legitimate political community. It was after this period that he came to the clinic. He was looking for a way to work with and learn about different groups of people living in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Maor described to me a swift process of seeking out a political education. He read books published in the 1980s by so-­called post-­Zionist scholars, which led him to reconsider the history of Israel as he knew it. And he got to know activists from the radical left. He became a regular protester in a West Bank village on Fridays, demonstrating with Palestinians against the construction of the separation wall through their land. It was his vision of ethical being through both getting to know the struggle of an Other and helping or giving care where possible that subsequently brought Maor to take on the work of managing the cases of chronic and terminal patients in PHRI’s Open Clinic. He added, however, that to him these activities, demonstrating with Palestinians or helping Eritrean and Sudanese refugees, were the same. In both cases, he felt he was confronted with a stranger, ben adam zar in Hebrew, literally a “foreign human being.” Maor explained to me the processes he had gone through of getting to know and trying to understand the situations of various strangers, Palestinians and refugees, and his different approaches ­toward helping those people when he felt he was able. Maor’s story is one that I met in various forms during my research with Israeli left radical activists. It involved a kind of political engagement based on, or intertwined with, exposure to the suffering of Others—​­Others defined as strangers, or “foreign human beings.” Whereas in the previous chapters this activist concern for Others or strangers has taken shape in specific, sometimes troubling, discursive and affective ways vis-­à-­vis Palestinians, what is striking about Maor’s engagement, and that of other Israeli activists working with refugees, is how ethical relations with other Others relates to and calls into question activists’ relations with Palestinians. Maor’s narrative highlights the noteworthy and in many ways surprising parallel drawn between his politicization in relation to Palestinians and the ways in which he helps and forms friendships with refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, and other African states—​­two quite different ethical and political relationships with the

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Other, or activisms based on “knowing the stranger,” that nevertheless Maor considered part of the same ethicopolitical engagement. Whereas one was focused on medicalized bodies, suffering, and the charitable giving of food, money, or time, the other kind of activism imagined radical systemic change. The first was an engagement that could to some extent be related to a broader Jewish Israeli imaginary of victimhood and ethical responsibility based on an identification with the figure of “the refugee,” whereas the second challenged an ethnonational politics in which the Other with whom activists attempted to form a relationship, the Palestinians, was considered an enemy whose very being has been made to signal a threat to Jewish Israeli life. Both strands of Maor’s activism thus posit a politics based on an ethical relation to an Other, somehow oppressed or excluded from a dominant political regime. But brought together they also underscore the distinctions and differentiations that emerge in relation to and about different kinds of Others, even as they appear in the same ethnographic and ethicopolitical field. It is this meeting of two seemingly different political projects in one ethical frame, despite activists’ awareness of the differences between and among the refugees and Palestinians they encountered, that I consider in this chapter. For although a certain fetishization of the undifferentiated Other emerges in this “ontology of strangers” (Ahmed 2000: 3), which resonates with the anthropological critique of humanitarianism’s passive, “pure victims” (Malkki 1996; cf. Fassin 2011; Ticktin 2006), activists’ engagements in and through a lens of Israeli selves and foreign Others also challenged the increasingly exclusionary approach ­toward non-­Jews prevalent in Israeli politics and public life. Activists’ ethical responses to various Others were tied up both in the troubling implications of a politics advanced in “the name of humanity” (I. Feldman and Ticktin 2010) and in asserting a challenge to the racist and violent sentiments that were gaining ground in Israeli domestic politics.

*  *  * Walking into the offices of PHRI, on a street near the market and gentrifying center of Jaffa, one enters a long, narrow corridor, off which are found the small rooms that are the offices of the organization’s different departments—​ ­the Occupied Territories, Migrants and Status-­less People, Prisoners and Detainees, Residents of Israel, and Unrecognised Villages (referring primarily to


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Bedouin settlements in the south of Israel).4 At the time I first entered this building, in November 2009, visitors were also party to the leftist NGO worker’s sense of humor—​­a piece of paper had been stuck on the wall printed with the words misdaron humanitari (humanitarian corridor). This term had been prominent during Operation Cast Lead, which PHRI had strongly opposed and was involved in through its medical work and cooperation with Palestinian medical and international humanitarian workers in Gaza, referring to the daily three-­hour period of ceasefire and safe passage, which was demanded of Israel by PHRI and others. Also adorning the walls of the offices were a patchy covering of personal mementos of political demonstrations, comical reworkings of slogans, or posters from different campaigns, as well as letters PHRI had received from human rights organizations abroad, commending their work in Israel/Palestine. At the end of this passage one reaches the Open Clinic, a small space consisting of a cramped reception and waiting area, and four rooms which are alternately used as consultation rooms and office space for the clinic’s staff and volunteers. The opening of the clinic four evenings and one morning a week, when, during the period of my fieldwork, between 50 and 150 people would arrive most days seeking medical or other forms of assistance, transformed the atmosphere of the office significantly; suddenly it was full of volunteers scurrying around in search of the right paperwork or advice from staff members about unusual cases and patients waiting, often for hours, for their turn to see the doctor or nurse. In the face of such high demand from people who mostly had no other option to get any kind of medical attention, staff members and volunteers felt themselves pulled into the realm of hands-­on humanitarian and medical activity in an overwhelming way, despite the organization’s aspiration to work primarily in office-­based research and advocacy work. The everyday work of the clinic involved volunteer doctors, nurses, and receptionists, as well as a couple of PHRI staff who managed this work and who would endeavor to assist anybody without health insurance and therefore unable to get most forms of medical treatment in Israeli state facilities. During my fieldwork, when I volunteered in the clinic’s reception once or twice a week, most patients were refugees from Eritrea and Sudan, but other patients included some migrant workers from countries such as Ghana, the Philippines, Nepal, or Colombia, and occasionally Palestinians living without

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permits in Israel. On one occasion, the clinic even assisted the wife of an American Israeli oleh (Jewish immigrant to Israel) who had come to live in a settlement in the West Bank, as she had not yet obtained Israeli citizenship and was having difficulties getting treatment through the kupot cholim (the Israeli semi-­privatized national health insurance providers). Staff were bemused and somewhat unhappy at having to spend time on the case, but all were in agreement that the clinic would first treat any person in need without considering “politics” and that this was an important standard of medical ethics to which the organization was committed. Casework was difficult, physically and emotionally, as volunteers worked long shifts trying to help as many of the people as possible who would arrive in the clinic on any given day, who often had problems and requests that went well beyond needing an appointment with the doctor, and whose difficulties were connected to their situations of extreme hardship or homelessness. The practice of immediately extending care to those in need wherever possible, however, contrasted with staff members’ aspiration for the clinic—​­that it was to be run as a kind of protest against the state’s neglect of the people denied health care in its facilities. This clinic was not intended to, neither could it possibly hope to, sufficiently meet its patients’ needs. Various actions through which the organization had been in communication and negotiation with the Ministry of Health had resulted in PHRI being offered generous funding to run several of these clinics across the country so that they might help more of those people who were not cared for by the state. While some of PHRI’s volunteer base and board had found this proposition attractive, the suggestion was fiercely debated within the organization, and those who found it to be “the most anti-­PHRI that is possible,” as Tzviya, one of the organization’s founders put it, were successful in convincing the others to turn down the proposal. Tzviya explained: “They wanted us to give a kind of service that people can go to, and receive under the table. That’s what I said—​­could you walk straight up under a table? All this clinic is ­really not service, but a protest—​­to show them what they [the state] have to do, not that we need to do it.” Thus in 2008, the clinic was closed by PHRI for a period of several weeks in protest at the way in which the state seemed to welcome the organization’s assumption of a duty to provide medical care for certain kinds of people: noncitizens and undocumented migrants. Those arriving at the clinic at this time were sent to local emergency rooms by


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activists, and for a short while this had the effect of emphasizing for the state health authorities the need for them to take responsibility for these people in need. It was not long after reopening the clinic, however, that PHRI seemed to be back in the same position of trying, but not succeeding, to care adequately for the hundreds of patients who presented themselves there each week, and with the Ministry of Health apparently once again deaf to the activists’ campaigns.

*  *  * This architecture of PHRI’s office and its daily transformation from a space of quiet, computer-­based work to one of noisy, direct engagement with vulnerable people reflect its historical development and ongoing debates about its character and the nature of its work. Fortnightly staff meetings and monthly board meetings tended to repeat similar arguments about the underlying vision of the work of these different departments: Are we a “political” or a “humanitarian” organization? Should we be lobbying parliament or working with communities? Do we end up contributing to a disenfranchising politics when we engage in the language of law and human rights, on the one hand, or humanitarian compassion, on the other? The issue had indeed come to a head in 2005, when the question of its self-­definition—​­as a “political” organization rather than a “humanitarian” one—​­was debated intensely with the appointment of new board members. After much contention, the “political” category won out in the vote, but the debate was ongoing during my research and showed no signs of subsiding any time soon. A brief history of PHRI, as well as human rights and humanitarianism more broadly in Israel, is crucial here. Human rights discourses gained traction in Israel, as in much of the world, in the late 1980s, with the outbreak of the first intifada and other global events which were reported on in terms of human rights violations, also in the Israeli press (N. Gordon and Berkovitch 2007). The emergence of NGOs, such as PHRI, happened concurrently and reflected broader global processes of the institutionalization of political mobilization in the form of NGOs (Fisher 1997); from the less professionalized “committees” of activist intellectuals and early radical direct-­action groups came organizations using global legal languages as their mode of engagement with the situation, such as B’Tselem (the Israeli Information Center for

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Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) and the Public Committee Against Torture, as well as PHRI (Kaminer 1996). Thus from the beginning, references to rights and humanity were tied up in local political concerns and associated with a leftist political agenda—​­leftist, in Israel, being understood as a “pro-­Palestinian” or “pro-­peace” position. Apart from being defined as leftist, a concern with human rights was also identified as “political,” the popular Israeli meaning of which is that it is connected to concerns of the state, the ongoing conflict, war, and security. Such matters are understood as “political” (politi) while others, such as the cost of housing, health care, education, and so on, are considered to be of a “social” (chevrati) nature. Thus in the “tent city” protests over the summer of 2011, a mass movement about the costs of housing and general standard of living in Israel, organizers were keen to emphasize the “nonpolitical” and “social” nature of the protests, meaning that they should not be allowed to become protests based on the traditional left/right political identifications in Israel or focused on the Palestinian question (U. Gordon 2013; Grinberg 2013). The association of human rights values with the left was strengthened especially in the wake of Israel’s attacks on Gaza in Operation Cast Lead and the subsequent report by the South African judge Richard Goldstone to the United Nations. PHRI was among the Israeli human rights organizations to cooperate with and provide information for Goldstone’s fact-­finding mission that was from the outset boycotted by the Israeli government. The catalog of violations of international law which resulted was seen by most Israelis and treated by the state as resting somewhere between hypocrisy and pure lies. In this case, human rights discourses were associated with a perceived external hostility, rather than having any neutralizing effect on political agendas. Organizations such as PHRI, which supported the findings of the Goldstone report, were categorized as being on the side of the enemy, at best politically naïve and at worst treacherous to the Jewish state. The period that followed saw the establishment of groups such as Im Tirzu, an extra-­parliamentary group presenting itself as the defender of the Zionist project and the state of Israel from the perceived threat of left-­wing and human rights groups—​­the so-­called de-­legitimizers of Israel. The very name “Im Tirzu” is a reference to the phrase from the Zionist leader Theodor Herzl’s 1902 work Altneuland (Old-­new land): “if you will it, it is no dream”—​­im tirzu, ein zo agada. This group and others have led public campaigns against left-­wing and human


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rights organizations, as well as promoting, through the Knesset, the introduction of legislation which would criminalize some of their activities and block the organizations’ channels of funding.5 While PHRI’s history and much of its current work still relates to the occupation and Palestinian question, the organization and its activists have gradually taken on board other causes, which have also become part of this politics of humanity. The example with which I opened this chapter, about Maor, Tal, and Kidane, was part of one of these other stories, that of PHRI’s work on the rights of those formally called by the organization “migrants and status-­less peoples.” This department’s main project is the Open Clinic, which offers basic medical services to people without health insurance in Israel. The (mainly volunteer-­run) clinic was established in 1998 primarily to deal with the health problems of migrant workers from countries such as Thailand and the Philippines, who had been brought to Israel under new labor migration policies following the first Palestinian intifada and new restrictions on the entry of Palestinian workers from the occupied territories into Israel.6 The later transition, which saw the clinic mainly catering to a newer migrant population of refugees from Eritrea and Sudan, was linked to the increasing numbers of people from these countries heading ­toward Israel through Egypt and the Sinai desert, and the state’s refusal to provide most kinds of medical or other assistance to them. With Israel lacking a clear procedure of “refugee status determination”—​­the international term for the process by which an asylum seeker’s claims are to be assessed and protection either granted or denied—​­migrants arriving across the border from Egypt were first detained in the south of the country and then, if released at all, sent with a temporary “conditional release” visa—​­a guarantee against deportation but denying them the right to work or to access social and health services—​­and a one-­way bus ticket to the central bus station in south Tel Aviv (Furst-­Nichols and Jacobsen 2011; Yaron 2009). In these circumstances, the clinic was under increasing pressure with growing numbers of refugees seeking treatment each day, and a situation that looked to be on the verge of a public health crisis. By 2011, PHRI had offered basic medical treatment to more than 25,000 people since the Open Clinic’s opening in 1998, and the organization viewed the work of the clinic as an essential part of its knowledge of the problems of, and basis of advocacy for, noncitizen migrants. This “political” conceptualization of the clinic was in line with the idea of the space as a form of protest against the

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state’s negligence, which was felt to be in tension with the staff ’s and volunteers’ more “humanitarian” impulses to try to help, at an immediate medical level, as many of those arriving to the clinic as possible. In these ways, PHRI’s staff and volunteers lived, reflected on, and worried about the dilemmas and contradictions that anthropologists have highlighted in their often strong criticisms of human rights and humanitarianism. At times, their engagements seemed—​­in their eyes as well as mine—​­to be quite clearly constituting the kind of “anti-­politics” that Miriam Ticktin analyzes and condemns in her ethnography of the politics of humanitarian care for migrants in France (2011a), following James Ferguson’s influential use of the term in relation to development (1990). The prevailing humanitarian regime Ticktin observes is one privileging the body and physical or medicalized forms of suffering as indexing victimhood and the moral obligation of others to care for such victims, in ways recalled in the Jewish Israeli activism I describe here. However, their relation of the suffering of refugees to their politics vis-­à-­vis the Palestinians and their awareness and constant reference to the global context of crisis around migration, as well as their insistence on the state’s responsibility ­toward refugees, also pervaded these interpersonal encounters and attempts to help individual refugees access health care or simply survive the difficulties of their lives in Israel. Thus there was significant overlap between the anti-­politics of this activism with the “politics of living”: its furnishing of “a ground from which to act and to make claims” (I. Feldman 2012: 168). Further, although anthropological accounts have generally analyzed human rights and humanitarianism separately and maintained quite clear distinctions between them when discussing them in parallel, the ways the two are linked, merged, and slip into one another in this ethnographic case demands a different approach (cf. Zigon 2013b). Peter Redfield and Erica Bornstein emphasize, for example, the ways in which human rights tends to relate to longer-­term and more clearly “political” debates about systems of governance and law, while humanitarianism involves an immediacy in which suffering must be urgently addressed “before” politics can proceed (Bornstein and Redfield 2011). Other work has challenged that separation, however, focusing instead on the ways a certain concept of the human, or humanity, has emerged as a framing of both human rights and humanitarianism, in their various legal, social, and political forms (Allen 2009; Fassin


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2011; I. Feldman and Ticktin 2010; Ticktin 2011a). As Lynn Hunt has outlined in the field of literary studies, at the heart of the politics of human rights is a selfhood based on “imagined empathy,” one in which pain and suffering become an obstacle to the equality of human subjects imagined to be similar to the self (Hunt 2007). In the Jewish Israeli activism discussed here, human rights and humanitarianism similarly coexisted in a rather blurred and intertwined, or “mushy” (Willen 2011: 306) relationship centered on the figure of the human Other, the “foreign human being,” or the stranger (cf. Bornstein 2012). The kinds of legal distinctions employed in much human rights and humanitarian language and practice were, on the whole, not in the foreground for PHRI activists, even as their use of certain strategies, such as producing reports for and in coordination with other Israeli, Palestinian, and international organizations employing humanitarian or human rights legal frameworks or submitting petitions to the Israeli high court, required a fluency in legal vocabularies and practices, including those of human rights and humanitarian law. These categorizations and distinctions, however, neither dominated nor defined the actions, language, or ethicopolitical vision of PHRI and its activists. Rather, various ethical, political, and culturally and historically specific mobilizations around the notion of the human, of humanity, constituted the complex and sometimes contradictory terrain of this activism.

*  *  * In March 2011, I sat in on a two-­day internal PHRI staff meeting—​­an unusual event in which the director of the organization decided to close the office and set aside some time in order to reflect on the organization’s plans for the coming years, along with more general questions of its aims, motivations, strategies, and effects, the discussion of which was so often postponed due to lack of time and a heavy workload. The first session opened with us watching a short YouTube film—​­an animation of a talk by Slavoj Žižek on the ethics of charity and giving.7 The film ended with a question about the value of helping someone to pay for a medical operation if this form of help does not address the structural problems which caused the person to need an operation and not have the means to access proper health care in the first place. What followed was a discussion by the staff about the kind of medical humanitarian

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work they undertook along such lines and whether they were simply another one of those NGOs whose work conceals and ultimately contributes to the ills of global capitalism. While varied opinions and degrees of critique of this proposition were voiced in this discussion, a statement made by Ayala, who worked on PHRI’s press and communications, seemed to resonate for many in the room. She noted how, unlike some of the other human rights organizations in Israel, whose work is singularly interpreted as antioccupation, and therefore “political,” PHRI’s remit, involving the medical and humanitarian aspect because of its focus on health rights, as well as campaigning on other issues apart from the occupation, can bring across to the public other kinds of messages, stories, and perspectives on what “human rights” might be about. Ayala commented, “I don’t hate the Israeli public. It would be a mistake to give up on them.” She meant, I interpret, that to simply write off the language of suffering, humanity, and helping Others—​­that which PHRI was well placed to ­exploit—​­because of the concern that, within that language, the real, “political” challenge to the Israeli state was avoided, would mean the complete loss of the attention of a public that must still be involved, somehow, in bringing about change in Israel/Palestine. Neta, someone who always liked to clarify and distil from staff discussions the basics of what was being said, responded to her, “So, what you’re saying is that the humanitarian is the megaphone and the political message is what you’re saying through the megaphone?” Neta’s distinction stuck with me, and I continue to find it helpful in reconsidering the question of the categorizations and debates revolving around the “humanitarian” and the “political” in PHRI’s work. While there were moments when activists treated the language of humanitarianism with much caution and skepticism, there were other times, as in relation to the issue of refugees in Israel, that PHRI readily used it as their “megaphone.” The use of certain rhetorical framings was thus consciously adopted by PHRI activists, and the political messages they were meant to convey were based on the daily close, and often difficult, interactions among patients, staff, and volunteers in the Open Clinic. Some of the experiences of Yoav, a fellow volunteer with whom I often worked, help to illustrate how the organization approached its campaigns based on the messy realities of its attempts to provide basic medical services. On one occasion, when Yoav and I were working together in the reception area, a young Eritrean woman called


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Senait came into the clinic. Like many who had shared her experience of arriving in Israel through the Sinai desert, being detained by the Israeli army after crossing the border and eventually sent to Tel Aviv with no money, support system, or access to social welfare services, Senait was in a vulnerable situation and seemed weak and troubled. Finding a quiet space in the crowded clinic, Yoav, who spoke Arabic and whose skills were often vital for communicating with patients, and I sat down with Senait to try to understand what she needed. She was unable or unwilling to tell us her story, and so it was unclear what exactly she had gone through since arriving in Israel, but we understood that Senait, nineteen years old, had come to Israel with her husband and son. She was now alone, her husband no longer around and her son having been removed from her care. The doctor examined her and established that she was five months pregnant and approaching the point in the pregnancy when it would be impossible for her to have an abortion—​ ­what she had sought in coming to the clinic. On the doctor’s advice, we tried to arrange the relevant appointments and help for Senait to proceed with the operation within the next two or three days, and gave her the relevant paperwork and contact details for a volunteer at another organization that specifically helped women refugees from Africa, who had agreed to meet with her. The next week, however, Senait returned to the clinic, having failed to arrive for any of her appointments. This time, Yoav, who had been particularly shocked and moved by her case, took it upon himself to accompany her to an appointment the next day in order to ensure that she would be able to have the abortion and receive further treatment and help afterward. At next week’s shift, shortly before the clinic closed, when it was possible for volunteers to chat a little after the busiest hours had passed, I talked with Yoav about what had happened and asked how Senait was doing. He told me about the process through which he accompanied her, translating for her during the committee sitting, before which every woman seeking an abortion in Israel must appear in order to have permission granted for the medical procedure to take place. “They were monsters,” he said, outraged at the way the doctor on the committee had talked to Senait, describing in graphic detail how the abortion procedure worked at that stage of the pregnancy. Further adding to Senait’s misfortune and Yoav’s frustration, the committee did not believe that she had been raped, as she had attested, because of the dates of her and her husband’s arrival in Israel, which the doctor had written down in

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the initial consultation in the clinic, and the apparent inconsistencies between this report and Senait’s claims. She therefore had to pay for the abortion, a high fee (equivalent to around $650 at the time) that is only waived when the woman is believed to have been raped. As Senait had no means to pay such a fee, Yoav decided to contribute a large part of the sum and Senait was able to have the abortion later that week. These kinds of cases, in which volunteers would meet refugees who were in extremely vulnerable conditions, and sometimes build up some kind of connection or friendship with them, were not uncommon, as indicated also in the case of Kidane, Maor, and Tal. The way in which Israeli activists became involved with refugees in terms of helping them to seek medical care, giving them money, housing them temporarily, or translating for them were acts that formed a significant part of the interactions among activists and refugees. Such encounters, to which activists often reacted, like Yoav, with sadness, anger, and shock, informed, to a large degree, the shape of the formal advocacy and media campaigns about the rights of refugees in Israel. For example, activists who built these personal connections with refugees through organizations like PHRI began to notice certain patterns in the experiences of the refugees with whom they came into contact starting in late 2009. Many refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan began to enter Israel from the Egyptian Sinai desert and became particularly visible, specifically in south Tel Aviv, though also, in lesser number, in other Israeli cities, from 2007 onward. Early responses from the activist community, as documented, for example, in Shai Carmeli-­Pollak’s documentary film Refugees (2008), involved trying to organize emergency accommodations and provide basic necessities, such as clothes and blankets, for those arriving. While these activities were very much ongoing in the period of my fieldwork, and some kind of routine had been established by various organizations in how to manage them, the numbers of refugees arriving in Israel continued to increase and living conditions were getting worse. More and more people were sleeping outdoors and going hungry in the area near the central bus station in Tel Aviv, and tensions were rising as Israeli residents became increasingly hostile to the situation in general and often to individual refugees. The clinic was becoming ever more crowded when it opened its doors and, in particular, more women who attended were pregnant and were seeking to have an abortion. The reasons that so many people had started to arrive in Israel through


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the Sinai from 2007, and the frequency with which activists heard stories of rape, abuse, and other kinds of suffering, led PHRI to try to investigate more broadly what was happening in the course of these journeys. Activists already knew a little about refugees paying traffickers to help them reach Israel from Egypt, where many had spent years after leaving their countries of origin. The connection of this route with these stories of rape and torture, however, was increasingly noted, and PHRI decided to conduct a survey of all new patients arriving at the clinic who had entered Israel in this way. All new patients who said they had arrived in Israel through the Sinai were asked when registering at the clinic to answer questions about their journey to Israel. An Eritrean nurse and nun, who volunteered for PHRI, collected the testimonies and sometimes noted physical signs of injury, such as scars and wounds, and with the help of a volunteer entered the answers into a computer database. In this manner, the organization collected stories and compiled them into statistics about experiences of rape, torture, killing, other physical and sexual abuse, and being held hostage for ransom from family members abroad: those experiences of refugees who had paid large sums of money to Bedouin traffickers to take them to the Egypt/Israel border. Many of these stories were clearly exceptionally difficult to tell and to hear, and on several occasions the interviewing process simply broke down altogether as those involved, interviewers and patients, were too distressed to continue. As the survey went on and activists became more attuned to the issues involved, it emerged that an extensive network of Bedouin traffickers in the Sinai desert were making significant amounts of money by holding migrants hostage and demanding ransom payments from family members for their release and, in the meantime, subjecting them to physical abuse, torture, and rape, and even killing some people in their custody.8 In December 2010, PHRI released an initial report which offered statistics and testimonies detailing refugees’ experiences in the Sinai and started a media campaign on the basis of its findings. In this, they requested that pressure be put on Egypt by Israel and other states to take action against the traffickers in the Sinai and that Israel offer care and medical treatment to the victims of torture and rape now residing in the country. This advocacy combined the medical and statistical language of the report with newspaper and television interviews of a number of refugees who agreed to recount to journalists their testimonies and tell them about their current lives in Israel.

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These processes of inviting refugees to tell their story—​­and indeed not only inviting but making this a condition of becoming a patient of the clinic9—​­could, in many ways, be said to sit well within what has been studied as a particular regime of subjectivation in relation to the life histories of asylum seekers and refugees. PHRI’s approach recalls the ways in which “truth” and “evidence” turn upon particular emotional registers and upon the status of the (traumatized) body as truth-­telling in several different contexts worldwide (Fassin and d’Halluin 2005, 2007; Good 2007; Ticktin 2006; cf. Kelly 2012) and often with a focus on women as victims of sexual violence as the “model subjects of aid” (Cabot 2013: 459; Ticktin 2011b: 250). Furthermore, the use of both medical-­scientific language and the compilation of such testimonies into statistical knowledge partook of the kind of technocratics of development and human rights bureaucracies (Escobar 2001; Ferguson 1990; Li 2007; Merry 2011; Mitchell 2002) that aimed to give PHRI’s report and claims about the refugees’ experiences a legitimacy within a public sphere judged to be deaf to more “political” language about structural violence and its relationship to a global migration crisis. These forms of knowledge production around the victimhood of the refugees were not only “anti-­political,” then, but they perhaps even enacted their own violence in the way in which refugees were made to re-­live their experiences, which, as Liisa Malkki (2007: 339) has noted, may be re-­traumatizing in itself. They may deny the particular and contextual agency of the “victim” in the attempt at “bearing witness” (McKinney 2007), and they certainly ignore the pressing question, “how does a wounded or sick or even dead body become a fact?” (Stevenson 2014: 32). In this sense, the activism discussed here could be considered within broader anthropological debates on the nature of human rights and humanitarian work and the violence often done by acting “in the name of humanity” (I. Feldman and Ticktin 2010; cf. Fassin 2011). Just as work on human rights has highlighted the often damaging effects when an abstracted liberal notion of the human subject comes to dominate in local political economies (Allen 2013; Englund 2006), the anthropology of humanitarianism has followed and elaborated on the insights of Malkki’s seminal essay, Speechless Emissaries (1996). In the spirit of Malkki’s critique, anthropologists have paid attention to the effects of humanitarianism’s affective ethics (Fassin 2007, 2008, 2011; Ticktin 2006, 2011a) and to its form as a justification for military intervention since the 1990s (Fassin and Pandolfi 2010; Fassin and Vasquez 2005).


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An extensive body of literature has highlighted the genealogies and potential consequences of the will to “do good” and the mobilization of such a will by state and nonstate actors in different contexts, and their specific relations to notions such as empathy and compassion as ethical responses to bodily and psychological suffering (Bornstein and Redfield 2011; I. Feldman and Ticktin 2010; R. Wilson and Brown 2009). Indeed, an ethical response to the suffering human Other, it is often argued, becomes part of a pervasive structural inequality, such that ethics becomes a cover for the violence of politics, or even the means through which it is enacted. In the Jewish Israeli activism described here, however, the connection between ethics and politics is more ambivalent, as the affective aspects of the use of languages of suffering and care merge with the strategic impulse of deploying them within a particular political context. The deliberate use of certain classic elements of humanitarian knowledge production—​­testimony, a focus on the body and pain, the foregrounding of personal narratives over political analyses, the use of scientific and technocratic language—​­in PHRI’s public campaigning was not only a passive adoption of a global (anti-­)political form, or a straightforward reproduction of “hierarchies of humanity” disguised in ethical language. This activism was implicated in these troubling aspects of humanitarian and human rights movements, but it also emerged out of the specificity of activists’ relations to particular Others and the sense of obligation that these relationships engendered. As a response to this obligation, these modes of storytelling and testimony can be approached as “enigmatic,” to borrow Cathy Caruth’s framing of speech about trauma (1995, 1996). They are forms of narration that face the paradox of representing the unknowable through language that can be heard, a productive tension that may be considered part of a responsible politics of witnessing (Oliver 2001b). For such testimony does not necessarily claim a mastery over injury but rather makes it knowable and invites a response, even if that knowledge is always constrained in certain ways or may even threaten to inflict further “psychic costs” to the narrator (Dawes 2009: 402). In this way, speaking of human pain in universalist modes is as much a performative intervention into a silence as it is an attempt to access the truth of what is being narrated (Felman and Laub 1992). Moreover, this practice of eliciting and listening to these narratives, and the attendant acts of extending care or compassion to refugees, could not be

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said to be particularly widespread among a liberal Israeli public during this period. Rather, activists mobilized against much racist sentiment against refugees, who were most commonly referred to in popular Israeli parlance as mistanenim (infiltrators), kushim (a derogatory word for black people), ha sudanim (the Sudanese—​­regardless of the actual nationality of the individuals being spoken about), or shachorim (blacks). Indeed, the development of these public sentiments and the manipulation of them by certain Israeli politicians led to spectacular moments of violence in May 2012, when some Jewish residents of communities in south Tel Aviv, following the organization of several demonstrations and community events against the refugees’ presence in “their” neighborhoods since 2010, proceeded collectively to damage the homes and shops of refugees, as well as to physically assault refugees and those they could identify as “leftist” activists helping or defending them.10 It is crucial, therefore, to situate the formation of personal relationships with these refugees, acts of helping them, and telling their stories within the dynamics of this particular historical moment. Not only engaging “anti-­political” formulations that reduce the refugees’ struggles into the logic of the nation-­state and its “exceptional” acts of kindness ­toward victims (Ticktin 2011a), such activism also sought to challenge a politics in which the refugees had become the subjects of violence and rhetorics of exclusion from the Israeli polity. It did so shrewdly and strategically, all the while reticent about the kinds of ethical compromises being made. Thus one of the organization’s key staff member’s joked with me, “We ­really don’t care about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” while another flippantly told me, “There is no international community.” These were expressions of frustration but also of a cynical knowledge that activists would need to talk about and present their work in a particular way in order to maintain a certain public legitimacy, in Israel and abroad, and to continue to secure their mainly European sources of funding (which, with bitter irony, had flowed easily in the wake of Operation Cast Lead and PHRI’s cooperation with the Goldstone report, but in the subsequent year’s absence of such events was much more difficult to obtain). When they used humanitarian vocabulary and practice as a “megaphone,” then, the effect may not only have been the subjectivation of refugees into humanitarian victims for a liberal public but also the calling forth of such a public that would be willing to be responsible for these victims and their suffering: a collective ethical subject


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that is called on to respond, even when the nature of that call is necessarily compromised by the language through which it must be spoken. Equally the collective subject, the Israeli public, that is thereby summoned, was recognized by activists as a troubling one, reinscribing the lines of racial and ethnic exclusion and othering that has framed Jewish ethics and identity in Israel in very particular ways. Activists often elaborated on their relationships and interactions with refugees by speaking about refugee rights with reference to Jewish histories of displacement and persecution, and the question of what Jewish ethics might mean in contemporary Israel. For example, PHRI activists participated in a “refugee seder” in Tel Aviv during Passover, highlighting how narratives of Jewish exile and longing for a homeland could be interpreted as reminding Israelis about the experience of refugees currently in Israel. Terms such as mevakesh miklat (asylum seeker) and palit (refugee) carried emotional and ethical significance, given the Israeli state’s pride in its heritage as a medinat miklat (state of refuge/absorption) for the Jewish refugees fleeing Europe. It was common to see banners referencing the yellow Star of David at demonstrations of African refugees, particularly those from Darfur, together with words urging the public “not to forget.” The campaigns of PHRI, and other NGOs engaging with this issue, for refugees in Israel to be granted certain rights (to have their asylum claims assessed, and in the meantime to have access to welfare and health-­care services and to be able to work) were very often framed in such imagery and language, which was aimed at bringing some legitimacy and ethical urgency to activists’ demands (cf. Willen 2010). As a counterpoint to this, though, activists were aware not only of the way in which the occupation of Palestinian territories had been maintained and managed through humanitarianism (I. Feldman 2009) but also of how Jewish histories of suffering and a subsequent form of Jewish ethics had been employed by Israeli state and nonstate actors, often to justify Israeli nationalism and militarism. Although they were sensitive to the local histories of the use and abuse of certain narratives of suffering and persecution, activists nevertheless, and often reluctantly, engaged such rhetorics as they held onto the idea of being able to change the situation of the refugees by eliciting a certain affective reaction from a wider Jewish Israeli public. For some, though by no means all, of these activists, the connection between the stories of those people arriving in Israel from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and those of the

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Figure 7. Protest for refugee rights in central Tel Aviv. One sign displays the Nazi label for Jews, the yellow Star of David, with the word yishcach—​­ “it will be forgotten” written over it. Photograph by author.

Palestinians who had been made refugees with the creation of the state of Israel and were now being denied the possibility of return, also left its trace as they deliberated over using Jewish histories of seeking refuge as their form of ethical plea in the Israeli public sphere. In the light of this, the formulations often used in public speech by activists and in statements by PHRI often engaged first of all the “humanitarian” needs of the refugees, and the idea of everybody deserving equal access to the same basic welfare, medical, and educational resources. It was as an additional point, an afterthought, or sometimes when pushed, that activists would then add “especially in Israel,” and in the light of Jewish history, these values should be respected in the case of the refugees because “we” know what it means to be persecuted, discriminated against, and displaced. In private and internal organizational meetings, as I have described, activists often reflected on the effects and ethics of such rhetoric and were often intensely critical of the perceived need to legitimize their politics, and the rights of refugees, by


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referring to a particular Jewish Israeli imaginary of victimhood. This was especially sensitive given that a minority of PHRI’s staff members were Palestinian citizens of Israel, already critical about and disturbed by the extent to which even the Hebrew language was dominant within the organization, let alone this appeal to a dominant Jewish Israeli ethics. But, much like the pull of wanting to be able to help, in a practical way, as many of the patients that came to the Open Clinic as possible, despite the vision of the clinic as protest and not principally as a service-­providing space, activists also often felt desperate to find any way they could to advance the claims of, and stop some of the very real physical violence against refugees attempting to build lives in Tel Aviv and elsewhere in Israel. This was very much, therefore, an “anti-­political” struggle in the way in which it emphasized this “human” story, with PHRI underscoring how it was not asking for refugees to be given citizenship or the right to vote but to be recognized under what it termed a “social residency” status—​­whereby refugees would be granted access to basic welfare, health, and education services but not the political and civil rights of a citizen. At least, as one staff member put it in a press conference about the report PHRI had published on refugees’ journeys through the Sinai, aimed at Israeli journalists, “We’re not talking about political rights just now.” The temporality of this statement—​­the “just now”—​­underscores the doubts these activists had about a rhetorical framing, which, as I have noted, they might be said to use as their “megaphone,” and its limits as an (anti-­)politics. In other words, activists struggled with the ways in which their campaigning techniques were intertwined with nationalism and histories of state violence, but they chose to continue, “just now,” with this form of engagement. This was a kind of engagement which did have effects, if limited, on the ways in which a broader public was made to see the issue through activists’ and refugees’ own actions, as well as on the response they provoked from some of the more liberal Israeli media outlets. Apart from a physical presence on the streets of Tel Aviv that could not be erased, there was a sense in which the issue of the refugees was one that could more easily be made present to a surrounding ambivalent or actively oppositional public, than the more considerably challenging task of subverting dominant Jewish Israeli perceptions of, and the state’s approach to, the Palestinians. In a conversation I had with Einat, who worked in PHRI’s Migrants and Status-­less People’s department and who spent much time in the Open

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Clinic, about the level of attention the organization was getting for its work on refugees compared to what it does on the occupied territories, she talked about this feeling: “It’s pure politics. It’s easier to get media coverage and all that because the refugees a­ ren’t the enemy, people are interested in this ‘humanitarian’ thing [with a mocking tone], but they don’t care about the Palestinians, about the territories, the occupation. The other departments, like Prisoners, they do great work, but we never hear about it. The thing is, for us, we see our patients. But the other departments do loads of work.” Einat’s words reflect how activists working for refugees’ welfare enacted a deferral of what they considered the real political questions—​­which remain close to how anthropologists have framed their concerns—​­while engaging precisely in a politics through trying to make excluded Others visible as proximate subjects whose suffering could be deemed to lie within the realm of Jewish Israeli ethical responsibility—​­“we see our patients.” By rendering refugees more visible through the strategic use of a digestible humanitarian framing, they simultaneously relied on a distinction between Jewish Israeli self and (normally Palestinian) enemy, in positioning the refugees as close enough, not-­enemy enough to not be excluded like the Palestinians, but they also undermined the very premise of such distinctions. They proposed that a non-­ Jewish Other, whose presence sparked fears of demographic change—​­not unlike those evoked in discussions about the Palestinians as a population threat—​­could viably be transformed from stranger to proximate, familiar subject. Similarly, intimate interactions with individual refugees in need of humanitarian help, like those of Maor and Yoav that I have described, constituted a more general challenge of the conceptualization of Jewish Israeli selves and foreign Others so dominant in Israeli ethical imaginaries. We could criticize the relative ease (although, as I have suggested, it was not at all easy) with which refugees from Eritrea and Sudan could be made into the objects of humanitarian care while Palestinians remained as enemy Others, and in so doing illustrate humanitarianism’s anti-­political character and reproduction of hierarchies of humanity. An alternative reading, though, might view this activism’s strategic use of humanitarianism as megaphone as a compromised but also subversive reconfiguration of how ethics and politics are generally linked in Israel. Elsewhere, the intersubjective and affective encounters through which both NGO workers and asylum seekers navigate the field of care and humanitarian aid has been described through the notion of


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“circumscribed agency” (Cabot 2013: 453). Heath Cabot shows how in sites of “anti-­politics” in Greece such encounters reveal the ways in which “fraught and partial forms of agency that emerge within systems of aid distribution, while always circumscribed by structural inequalities, may destabilize normative frameworks of assessment from within” (462). This attention to the partial nature of ethical and political solutions, to the grey zones and ambiguities that emerge from humanitarian and legalistic endeavors to advance migrants’ and refugees’ struggles, resonate closely with the ethnography I analyze here. This activism seems to slip in and out of political and anti-­political modes, sometimes both and sometimes neither, in its engagement through and with Jewish Israeli ethical obligation to the Others of the Israeli state and polity.

*  *  * Considering ethics and politics together, and mobilizations around the notion of humanity as bound up in both, opens up the analysis of this kind of activism as speaking with and through the dominant ethical languages available in this context, and doing so in a way that challenges the limits of their political implications and horizons. Levinas argues for such a fraught relation between ethics and politics through his concept of “the Third” (Levinas 1979: 213), which refers to the implication of “other Others” in every particular relation of the subject to the “face” of any particular Other (Critchley 1992; Fagan 2009). The very fact that in relating to any particular Other, the subject is always already implicated in a wider relational setting whereby that subject could similarly be called upon to respond to the (troubling) existence or demands of any other Other, already implies a wider politics never separate or separable from the affective encounter with the Other that for Levinas constitutes ethics. Ethnographically, this conceptualization of ethicopolitics was borne out in every single moment that activists related to and interacted with their interlocutors, not just as Kidane or Senait, but as refugees from Eritrea who had made their way or found themselves in Israel, an Israel that has been defined and delimited in relation to Palestine and the Palestinians. This is not to say that in relating to Others in terms of broader political realities activists were never sensitive to the particularities or singularities of individual ­persons—​­indeed, the “ethical” nature of such encounters depended on such

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sensitivity to the specific persons involved—​­but that the kinds of relationships formed were inexorably intertwined in broader discursive regimes and political economies through which people become particular political subjects. The ways in which activists could forge ethical relations with particular Others were thus related to their emplacement within a certain politics and, conversely, their political visions based themselves on affective, ethical relations with Others. Particularly in the discursive and affective sphere of Israel/ Palestine, where suffering, victimhood, and claims of oppression are so much enfolded in each other and in mobilizations t­oward different ways of living together, it seems imperative that we think of an “ethicopolitics,” rather than a separate “ethics” and “politics” that feed into or contaminate one another. It is also for this reason that in Levinasian thought, ethics is never an easy, comfortable, or peaceful, notion. Ethics is always troubled by the broader conditions within which encounters with Others can occur. The subject is “persecuted,” in Levinas’ depiction of the ethical relation with the Other because the transformation the subject must undergo in response to the Other also makes the subject “other” to her-­or himself—​­an alterity like the one experienced in relations with Others. This disrupts any fantasy of the subject who knows and is free to decide exactly how to act and how to be in the world (Butler 2005; Caygill 2002: 136–­137; Critchley 1992: 220). PHRI’s activists faced perpetual dilemmas and struggles over how to relate ethically ­toward the Others whom they encountered because these ethics were bound up in a wider politics in which the portrayal of Palestinians, on the one hand, and refugees, on the other, as suffering victims in need of medical or other immediate forms of humanitarian help, had oppressive echoes and effects. Being able to bear the difficult relation between ethics and politics, as PHRI activists had to do simply in order to continue to act, even as they continually struggled with the implications of these acts, might open new paths for anthropological accounts of humanitarianism and other engagements of responsibility ­toward Others. If an ethical response to an Other can also be a political act that challenges the terms through which relations with Others can take place and unfold in the first place, then we need not be surprised when that ethics does not emerge unscathed by the violent political conditions that are also the conditions of its possibility. Rather than lament the idea that politics has become too ethical, or expose that what looks like an


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ethics is in fact a politics, as in anthropological critiques of humanitarianism, perhaps we can differently confront the mutual enveloping of the two (cf. I. Feldman 2007; E. Weiss 2015). The activism I have described, however, sometimes wavers on the outer limits of the ethical, relying as it does on a rather generalized notion of suffering Others that always threatens to conceal the particularities of the people with whom activists are trying to relate. In the name of humanity, as we have been amply warned, particular political histories and struggles are all too easily erased and ethical responsibility sacrificed to a violent politics (cf. Benson and O’Neill 2007: 40). Does this lead us back, then, to an all-­encompassing “ontology of strangers” (Ahmed 2000: 3) whereby politics fixes Others as “like us” or “not like us,” as political subjects or as Others made into passive victims or threatening enemies? If such moves are made in the name of humanity, I circle back here to the particular naming involved in this politics of humanity, that revolved around the term “infiltrators.” As described above, this word has been used recently in both popular and official state vocabulary to describe refugees from Eritrea, Sudan, and other African countries. The term has a longer Israeli history, however, which continues to haunt its current usage. “Infiltrator” was the term originally used in the 1940s and 1950s to refer to Palestinian refugees who tried to return to their homes in the newly created state of Israel.11 It is the very same 1954 “Prevention of Infiltration Law” that has been the subject of contention since 2008 in the dispute over the fate of African refugees. Various amendments have been proposed and debated in the Israeli parliament that would both facilitate the indefinite detention of refugees, who could then be charged with the crime of “infiltration,” and also criminalize those citizens who in any way aid such persons.12 Despite their significant differences, then, both Palestinians and African refugees have been considered “infiltrators,” a particular kind of stranger, and one that is made to signify a threat to Jewish Israelis. When they challenge the contemporary circulation of the term “infiltrators” in relation to non-­Palestinian, non-­Jewish refugees, Jewish Israeli activists also reiterate their insistence that Palestinians are, in fact, not strangers to this place at all. For although the two issues—​­refugee rights and the Palestinian question—​­are often held separate within and outside of Israel, activists’ relations of care for both Palestinians and African refugees as different but also similarly othered kinds of Others, as different kinds of “infiltrators,”

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underscore a connected struggle over the various names—​­and practices of naming—​­of humanity in contemporary Israel/Palestine. It is the othering of Others in broader terms that is challenged in activists’ particular attempts to resist racist and exclusionary rhetorics, a calling into question of the resonance of the word infiltrator within the Israeli public sphere even as this is done by reference to other dominant, and sometimes violent, ethical grammars. That is, appeals calling on the language of a universalized humanity in relation to both Palestinians and African refugees employ a vocabulary complicit in the injustice and inequality of global politics, while strategic uses of dominant Jewish Israeli imaginaries of persecution, victimhood, and the figure of the refugee engage through a discursive terrain habitually used to justify Israel’s violence against the Palestinians. And yet, such appeals are also politically subversive and productive because they express an ethical relation to an Other that is otherwise written out of Israeli politics, and challenge the ways in which “Others” are named as such in the first place. Indeed, poignantly, given Palestinians’ desire for return—​­that is, no longer to be either “infiltrators” or “refugees”—​­it is precisely the aim of activists to ensure that these more recent “infiltrators” will be named as “refugees.”


The Violence of Vulnerability


ira, a feminist Mizrahi community activist from south Tel Aviv, is speaking about the struggles of refugees from Eritrea and Sudan in the neighborhood when an older Israeli woman passes by the tour Mira is leading and starts to interrupt. “I live just over there,” she says, and points to a dilapidated apartment block at the edge of the park where many of the refugees spend much of their time, some also sleeping there for lack of anywhere else to go. “There’s no peace here anymore, they don’t observe Shabbat, they’re just there all the time.” Mira engages the woman, asking how long she has lived in the area—​­the answer is forty-­two years—​­and what kinds of problems she faces. Mira continues to explain to her tour group, mostly Ashkenazi leftist activists, some of whom have been campaigning for refugee rights, about the increasing feeling of insecurity among older residents of the neighborhood and the neglectful attitude of municipal and state authorities ­toward both the refugees and the Jewish residents, stating, “It’s not that they [the refugees] have anywhere else to go back to, of course.” The older woman again interjects, this time annoyed: “They do have somewhere to go back to; this is our home and they’re ruining it.” Some of the tour’s participants start to respond to her with irritation, and within a few seconds a calm and quiet circle of people has become embroiled in a loud and angry exchange of mutual accusations of neglect and injury. Mira is enraged at the activists’ reaction to the woman’s expression of her views, claiming that it is their failure to listen to residents’ concerns and fears that has exacerbated the tension in the south of the city. She continues to debate with the woman on her statements about the refugees, however. By the end of the tour a feeling of mutual mistrust, frustration, and stalemate is palpable, a sense that continues to develop and erupt at

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certain moments over the next few months in the interactions of community activists such as Mira and Ashkenazi leftist activists trying to support the refugees’ struggle for existence in south Tel Aviv. These tensions mark the point at which experiences of wounding or injury intersect with responsibility for the wounding of Others. Criss-­crossing and clashing in complex ways, the issue of refugee rights and welfare in south Tel Aviv made visible different subjects’ ethical and political relations with various Others: Ashkenazi leftists with disenfranchised Mizrahi citizens; local Israeli residents with refugees; and, though yet to arise in the scene of the tour I describe above, Jewish Israeli citizens in general with Palestinians. In this chapter, different and conflicting positions of responsibility t­oward distinct wounds and diverse Others unsettle the figure of the Jewish Israeli activist subject. For ethical responsibility—​­the question of how to respond to the Other and to injury—​­is here raised alongside the experience of having been injured oneself, as well as having been implicated in the injury of Others, whose call for a response one has perhaps not heard. In what follows, I trace the paths of different voicings of vulnerability and of woundedness as well as the capacity for inflicting wounds that is, in this ethnographic context, more difficult to bear. It is that capacity to inflict harm on Others, as well as to suffer harm, that is also, and crucially, revealed by the wound. The feeling of impasse created by this troubled scene of ethical and political relations was precisely what activists had tried to address when they attempted to bridge left-­right and Ashkenazi-­Mizrahi divides in Tel Aviv. The Ashkenazi activists who had attended Mira’s tour were all involved in a recently formed coalition, the municipal political party called City for All of Us. The party was established in 2007 with the aim of uniting the city’s activists and residents who typically remain divided and mutually opposed by the right-­left split in national Israeli politics that, first and foremost, relates to the Palestinian question. Aiming to shift the focus away from these issues, a coalition of mainly Ashkenazi activists from the socialist, Arab-­Jewish party Hadash, and mainly Mizrahi activists who were typically supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-­wing Likud party, had established City for All of Us as a municipal party hoping to overcome such ideological differences by working together on struggles over housing, education, transport, and environment within Tel Aviv. After a surprisingly successful result in the 2008 municipal elections, City for All of Us had become the biggest opposition party in the


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city council, and was attempting to maintain such strength and develop its platform of progressive city politics when I started attending its meetings in 2010. Increasing tensions in south Tel Aviv about African refugees’ presence in the area of the central bus station were also reverberating within City for All of Us, however. While the Palestinian question seemed to be more easily put to the side, the fate of south Tel Aviv was felt as a burning issue that continued to highlight the fragility at the heart of the coalition. Neighborhoods surrounding the central bus station, such as Shcunat HaTikva, Shapira, and Neve Sha’anan, had become emblematic of the crisis around Israel’s refusal to provide support to refugees, who began arriving in Israel in significant numbers in the mid-­2000s, reaching a population of 33,273 by the end of 2010 and with estimates of 1,500–­2,000 people continuing to cross the border from Egypt each month.1 The park through which we walked in Mira’s tour was home to hundreds of refugees every night, who often had no access to health and social services. Jewish residents of the area—​­mostly the working class, primarily Mizrahi citizens who had lived there for decades—​ c­ omplained of feeling unsafe in the area, while Israeli newspapers published stories of robberies and assaults by “infiltrators” against local residents. As Israeli residents started to organize various demonstrations about the situation, in which far-­right national politicians appeared alongside local leaders, discussions within City for All of Us about how to approach the issue were becoming a source of division and heated arguments in meetings. Mira’s comments during the tour were indicative of these tensions. She talked about the construction of the new central bus station in the 1980s and 1990s, which had been heralded by municipal authorities as the start of the aesthetic and economic renovation of the area, but which had been an unequivocal failure in this regard. It was like “turning on the gas” for the residents of the south, she said—​­“We are in the gas chambers here.” She not only drew on this vocabulary of suffering related to the Holocaust, as a central trope in Israeli politics, but reflected on the connections between the situation in south Tel Aviv to ongoing inequalities between Mizrahi citizens, “veteran” residents of the neighborhoods, and Ashkenazi citizens, the “European” incomers to the region more broadly and more recently to south Tel Aviv, as either gentrifiers or activists. Throughout the tour, Mira positioned herself vis-­à-­vis these “Europeans,” who were also her audience in that moment,

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implicating their responsibility for, and denial of, the egregious situation in the south of the city. Through both evoking the histories of persecution to which Ashkenazi Jews could readily associate and, with the same words, suggesting their involvement in the suffering of Others, Mira voiced the tensions present in the coalition City for All of Us had built. She went on to refer to the attempt to “clean up” the southern neighborhoods by imposing the Bauhaus architectural style of the “white city” of central Tel Aviv. This phrase referenced the Israeli architect Sharon Rotbard’s White City, Black City (2005), in which he argues that the modernist architectural development of Tel Aviv-­Jaffa enacted Ashkenazi Zionist narratives of bringing civilization and progress to the desolate, primitive sand dunes of Palestine, and links this to the way in which the settlement and establishment of the state of Israel acted to erase the histories and identities not only of the Palestinians but also of the Mizrahi population, by positing European (Ashkenazi and white) Jewish history and culture as Jewish and Israeli history and culture in general. The scholarly critique of European Zionism and the colonial, Orientalist nature of the project of Jewish settlement in Palestine in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, echoes in this activist rhetoric, with Mira’s argument about the neglect of Mizrahim, one that has repeatedly been articulated by scholars of Israel/Palestine (Lavie 2014; Raz-­Krakotzkin 2005; Shenhav 2006; Shohat 1988; Smooha 2008; Swirski 1989). Many of these are the Mizrahi scholars who organized into the activist group of intellectuals named the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow (HaKeshet HaDemokratit HaMizrahit), and have described and analyzed the socioeconomic and cultural positions of Mizrahim, in their terms “Arab Jews,” as subaltern in the Israeli polity. Thus while the tour was addressing the problems and tensions in south Tel Aviv, with its uneasy cohabitation by long-­time Jewish Israeli residents and recently settled refugees, the question of the political priorities of the “European” Ashkenazi activists was its underlying focus. Voicing her uneasiness at one point during the tour, Mira cried out, “You want to talk about occupation? Look at the occupation here, there’s an occupation in Tel Aviv!” It was unclear, in that moment, whether the occupation she spoke of referred to the presence of the refugees or of the Ashkenazi activists, or both, but what was unambiguous to all present was her critique of the Ashkenazi activists’ outspoken concern for Palestinian rights (indexed by the word occupation)


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and relative silence on intra-­Israeli discrimination and inequality. References to “whiteness” by activists such as Mira thus continued to circulate in the following weeks and months, as the struggle over the future of the southern neighborhoods of Tel Aviv intensified—​­for example, in the efforts by left-­ wing activists to prevent the deportation of undocumented migrant workers’ children, and those on the part of neighborhood activists wishing to restate their claims on the area and their right to recognition as citizens equal to their northern Ashkenazi counterparts. Thus at a demonstration against the deportation in the summer of 2010, Mira and other Mizrahi activists staged a small counterprotest against the “white left” protesters, accusing them of a hypocritical engagement with the rights of non-­Israelis while ignoring inequalities along class and ethnic lines within the Jewish population. The clash of ethnic and class tensions within City for All of Us played out in the wake of such accusations of betrayal and neglect. In what follows, I tease out the contours of these struggles through an ethnography of this movement and explore their implications for the anthropology of wounds and vulnerability. For if notions of vulnerability and precarity have primarily been conceptualized as conditions of woundedness that elicit an ethical response (Murphy 2011), this case suggests that we also attend to various subjects’ capacities to inflict injury. The impasse the coalition reached, again and again, turned on the painful confrontation of activists’ identifications with those whose role in injuring Others also signaled their own capacities to injure. Taking ethical and political responsibility, in this form of activism, thus entailed a reckoning with one’s own implication in the violence intimated by woundedness.

*  *  * The surprising electoral success of City for All of Us in 2008 followed the widely proclaimed demise of Israeli left-­wing parties at the national level, as well as sustained attacks on the party’s leader Dov Khenin in the run-­up to the elections. Flyers and posters published by his opponents exploiting his Slavic origin middle name to highlight his Communist affiliation—​­Dov Boris Khenin2—​­who should therefore by no means be given control over Israel’s metropolitan center. The shock of the election results thus hung over the movement’s supporters as a recent memory of an extraordinary moment of

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the realization of their hope that genuine change was possible through the politics they were trying to construct. When I asked activists about the formation of the movement, they narrated the period to me with a nostalgic tone—​­“we conquered the streets,” “we owned Tel Aviv,” some recalled, as I was told of the recruitment of more than one thousand volunteers to hand out flyers and to canvass voters in the days immediately before the election. As Yuval, one of the movement’s central activists, commented, a kind of myth began to circulate about the founding of the movement as a wave of popular engagement in city politics. “Everyone thinks City for All of Us was born in their living room,” he told me, as he described the energy of the movement’s early days. Most City for All of Us activists were left-­leaning Ashkenazi Israelis from central areas of Tel Aviv, and a great many of these worked in academia or had academic backgrounds. Many were members of Hadash, and thus identified as left-­wing on the level of national politics, and some were very actively involved in radical, sometimes joint Israeli Palestinian, activism against the occupation. Others, fewer in number, among the Ashkenazi activists came from a less radical political background (in the sense of the Israeli Palestinian issue, in any case), and portrayed themselves as concerned with the future of the city and its inhabitants as a matter of social and economic justice. These members were less likely to come from academia but were instead skilled professionals living in the affluent center of Tel Aviv. The other, smaller but significant, part of the movement was made up of Mizrahi residents of the traditionally working-­class neighborhoods of southeast Tel Aviv mentioned in the description of the tour at the beginning of this chapter. The second figurehead (after its mayoral candidate Dov Khenin) for City for All of Us was a local Likud politician, Aharon Maduel, who represented the neighborhood of Cfar Shalem, in southeast Tel Aviv.3 This kind of cooperation between radical left and mainstream right was almost unheard of in the Israeli political landscape until the establishment of City for All of Us, and both sides took a great political risk by engaging in the coalition. Such cooperation in this form was only possible, I was told, after Ashkenazi radical leftist activists had proved their concern for the disenfranchised population of south Tel Aviv by arriving to try to prevent the eviction by state authorities of Mizrahi residents of Cfar Shalem from their homes of over fifty years, as they regularly do for Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank facing


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Figure 8. City for All of Us flyer for 2009 municipal elections, showing Dov Khenin (first row, third from right) alongside Aharon Maduel (first row, second from right) and others standing on the party’s list for election to the city council. Image creator unknown.

the same fate. Much as the use of Israeli Ashkenazi demonstrators’ bodies is a powerful tool in the defense of Palestinians, so too it carried much weight in the resistance to what was happening to those Mizrahi Jews in Cfar Shalem who felt their second-­class status as Israeli citizens (despite their enduring “loyalty” to the state, as opposed to the “treachery” of the left) was being brutally demonstrated in the act of the eviction. Only after this bodily demonstration of solidarity and care was a political cooperation possible between these two groups of people. Significantly, before the municipal elections, negotiations with Palestinian politicians from Jaffa were also held but did not succeed in bringing together a left-­right, Jewish-­Arab coalition—​­an arrangement that would have made the movement an even more successful (and unlikely) bridging of difference than the left-­right Jewish coalition for which they ultimately settled. In their reflections, activists viewed this as a failure of City for All of Us to be able to realize one of its central goals, that of uniting those divided on the national level through the framework of municipal

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politics. In this way, the sense of victory after the elections was already laced with shadows of failure and ongoing division, which would be periodically evoked as the movement attempted to consolidate itself in a turbulent local and national context.

*  *  * As I started to follow the work of City for All of Us, the planning and development of a campaign they were launching about public transport in the city introduced me to some of the challenges involved in the movement’s model of politics and coalition-­building. Intended as a challenge to the program of the Tel Aviv-­Jaffa municipality, which echoed the state’s plans for the introduction of ultra-­modern light-­rail infrastructure, an infrastructure that was in the more advanced stages of implementation in Jerusalem at the time of the campaign launch, City for All of Us activists proposed a revamping of Tel Aviv’s bus network. This network would be a low-­cost, environmentally friendly way of improving the rather unreliable bus services of the city and would link areas such as the southeastern neighborhoods and Jaffa with places such as the university campus in the north of the city—​­journeys that until that time were excessively time-­consuming and impractical. The proposal was launched with the publication of an image of a map of the proposed central bus routes, showing that the buses would run in separate bus lanes and therefore cross the city much faster than the existing infrastructure allowed. This campaign motif visualized the broader aim of City for All of Us, to challenge or even redraw the standard Israeli “political map.” The bus routes indicated in this image make some very clear associations for residents of Tel Aviv-­Jaffa—​­the more marginal and ethnically Other (either Palestinian or Mizrahi) areas of Jaffa in the south and Cfar Shalem in the southeast were to be linked much more easily to central and north Tel Aviv so that, according to the rhetoric of the campaign, the student living in Jaffa or the worker from Cfar Shalem in the southeast should be able to make their daily commutes more quickly and affordably. The colors of the map also signaled a certain political intent, with the party’s typical use of green to signify environmentalism and red its socialist affiliation, as well as its defiant refusal to use the blue and white of the Israeli flag as routinely used in campaigns by right-­wing, nationalist parties.


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As I handed out these flyers in central Tel Aviv with City for All of Us activists, it became clear to me that this map was also not perceived as innocent by those taking the time to examine it—​­“You have a political agenda here” was one of the more explicit, and negative, comments made in response to activists approaching passers-­by. This man spoke about his objection to prioritizing linking Jaffa and the southeast of Tel Aviv with the center and north, at the expense of other routes, and perceived it as a statement about the positions of certain sections of the city’s population, and an attempt to change them, rather than a campaign interested purely in decongesting the city’s traffic. He was not the only respondent who questioned or objected to the “political” nature of what should have been, according to many, a nonpolitical, or a “social” issue—​­a local, municipal affair which should not have been driven by any program related to “state” problems. Somebody else pointed out that on our City for All of Us T-­shirts the slogans were printed not only in Hebrew but also in Russian and Arabic, thereby signaling the movement’s intent to talk to some of Tel Aviv-­Jaffa’s marginalized “other” populations, and that therefore we must have a “political” purpose. That some of the City for All of Us target voters identified as “political” the attempt to relate to certain “Others” was also narrated by activists as a central part of the movement’s politics. Crucially, however, it was simultaneously a critique of what has been defined as “political” in popular Israeli imaginaries, as well as by the Left—​­that is, “national” or “state” level questions relating primarily to the Israeli-­Palestinian conflict. As Renen explained to me in the following anecdote, the idea of City for All of Us was to expand and contest the versions of “the political” that, in his terms, those in power want Israelis to accept. At a march in Tel Aviv protesting the attacks on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, Renen took the opportunity to invite others to sign a petition about the future of a community garden in central Tel Aviv, as City for All of Us had aligned itself with the long-­term ongoing struggle to prevent this space from being turned into a parking lot. One woman questioned his tactics with reference to a traditional Jewish phrase—​­ata lo mearbev simcha b’simcha?—​­literally, whether he wasn’t “mixing joy with joy,” a religious saying that prescribes that one should not dilute the significance of one kind of celebration by combining it with another. Here the woman was implying that it was inappropriate and ineffective to be combining activism on the two different issues on that day. Moreover, to equate the power

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struggle of resisting Israeli attacks on Gaza with a municipal campaign to save a small green area frequented by wealthy Tel Aviv residents, was to mix political issues of such different scale and significance as simply not to make sense to her at all. Renen responded to her, he recounted, that he was indeed mixing issues, though in his eyes mixing sorrow with sorrow rather than joy with joy. He told her: “I’m doing that and I’m marching with you, we’re in this together.” One had to mix the issues, Renen told me, as it was the “warlords” who want them to be kept separate in the first place. That is, the traditional divisions of Israeli politics, of left from right, and of “social” from “political” issues, the latter defined through the dominant Israeli paradigm of conflict and security in relation to the Israeli-­Palestinian issue, were seen by City for All of Us activists as barriers to a politics that could differently empower diverse political subjects fighting various and dissimilar fights, by creating a front that would support and enable all those whose ideological struggles posited a popular challenge to a disinterested political elite. Although the establishment of City for All of Us was seen as a positive step ­toward progressive change in Israeli politics by most of the group’s activists, despite the frustrations and failures encountered along the way, it was also clear that this kind of bridging of differences, and forming relations with various Others, was only possible through the silencing or severing of other possible political relations. Moreover, these relationships or acts of silencing them did not always hold stable in the course of the activism. Even through the campaign on public transport—​­a relatively uncontentious issue, one might assume—​­tensions at the core of City for All of Us became apparent. Efforts were made to consult with and listen to the views of residents and activists from the southern neighborhoods in the building of the propositions and the strategy of the campaign, but as this need for “consultation” already shows, most of the core activists lived and worked in central Tel Aviv and were Ashkenazi, secular Jews whose concerns for the environment and the sidelining of public in favor of private transport by the municipality seemed far from those fearing for their safety and indeed the security of their homes in the south. As Nira, from central Tel Aviv, put it: “All the environmental issues are being understood there as something very tzfoni [northern]. The stereotype of the wealthy north, of privilege basically. And you can see, you know, recycling, cycling, all these things—​­which are not privileges—​ ­but when you don’t have food on your table, or you are being evacuated from


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your house, it’s not your top priority. I’m sure if I was getting evicted from my house, well, recycling would not be on the top of my agenda.” While many meetings between different activists within City for All of Us were positive and supportive of the transport campaign, the core activists were also accused of being detached, lev ha ir (literally, heart of the city, but also referring to luxury central Tel Aviv real estate) dwellers who did not “­really know” the problems of the south. Some of the meetings on the transport campaign ended in heated exchanges and activists storming out of the room. With such strong feelings circulating even in relation to the proposal for reforming the city’s transport network, it is clear that the divisions and resentments of the group’s activists had hardly been satisfactorily addressed in the process of building the coalition, and neither were they hidden away in the everyday workings of the movement. The specificities of the pained sentiments underlying the challenge to the group’s unity emerged even more clearly, though, in relation to the issue of the different activists’ opinions and ethics regarding the issue of the refugees and migrant workers in the south of the city, as I began to describe above. I shall now return to the south of the city, as it continued to be of issue for the movement, in order to examine in more detail the claims and counterclaims of “woundedness” around which political activism took shape.

*  *  * In December 2010 in a meeting of the central committee of City for All of Us, I observed a heated debate over how the movement should engage on the issues of both the welfare of refugees and the difficulties emerging around neighborhood residents’ mobilizations against the situation. The following is an excerpt from my fieldnotes about this meeting: Although they decided not to talk about the south Tel Aviv issue at length, they discussed it a bit after Ofra arrived. She talked about the meeting that had happened in the last week between refugees, the Mizrahi activists, and residents of the neighbourhoods like Neve Shaanan, Shapira and Shcunat Hatikva, and how it had been pretty difficult. She said that it’s not a simple situation, that everyone had said their piece and there had been questions but there wasn’t a plan or aim to resolve

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things—​­at this stage it was just a space for people to be heard. She mentioned a man from Sudan, a psychologist, who spoke at this meeting, and who, Ofra said, “is dying to return” to Sudan (he is from Darfur). She is active in this forum which is dealing with these issues and said that they are trying to figure out how to act. They talked about doing a demonstration but didn’t want to cause violence against the refugees, which seems like a real possibility. Ami spoke after her, saying how basically there are two groups of people concerned here who are both “wounded” (nifga’im), and their wounds cross each other in a way which makes them clash. The refugees have no home, no jobs, ­aren’t allowed to work, but the state isn’t allowed to deport them. So it’s ignoring them, it wipes its hands of them, it doesn’t take responsibility. What does it expect to happen? That’s how the situation is, and it’s not surprising that things are bad. And, yes, the refugees sit around in the park and they don’t have anything to do or anywhere to go, and they drink. And it’s getting ­really bad, so from the side of residents it’s clearly a problem. So the question is, according to Ami, what do we do about it? Ran said that they need to outline a clear “position” and Ami responded that they already have one, an “excellent position,” he thinks, and that it’s more a question of how to act, to put their position into action, of how they should approach this problem in practice. The meeting followed a tense few weeks in the south of the city after the first demonstrations organized by neighborhood residents against the situation there regarding the refugee population. A complex political formation in itself, given the varying motivations and voices of those organizing and attending these demonstrations, which should not be described simply or uniformly as racist rallies “against foreigners,” these events did, however, give a stage to exactly those kinds of demands and were arenas of much hate speech, sometimes spilling over into physical violence against those “foreigners” who happened to pass by at the time. At least as much as these demonstrations were targeted at government officials felt to be responsible for the overcrowding of the refugee population in already run-­down neighborhoods, they were also intended to send a message to those yafe nefesh (bleeding heart) leftist activists whose concern for the “foreigners” was seen as part of their neglectful and uncaring attitude t­ oward other Jewish Israelis.


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During the meeting described above and other meetings, City for All of Us activists continued to discuss the movement’s strategy regarding the situation in the south of the city. Mizrahi activists were cautious about joining or lending support to the demonstrations of the southern neighborhoods because of their xenophobic and aggressive overtones, yet the activists were keen to somehow engage with these residents and the problem as it was unfolding on the ground. They suggested at one point a different rallying cry—​ ­ against state officials Netanyahu and Barak, and their role in Israel’s immigration policy, and in favor of the state “taking responsibility for” its borders, preventing refugees from entering across the Sinai desert from Egypt until it can properly deal with those who had already arrived and take the burden off the neighborhoods of southern Tel Aviv. This suggestion resulted in difficult arguments about the legitimate stances the movement could take, centering on whose vulnerability should be met by whose responsibility. While Mizrahi activists intended to indict the state with such imagery and language, others in City for All of Us took issue with the ethics being posited ­toward the arriving refugees and the rallying cry’s mimicking of statist discourses regarding national borders, and about which people legitimately “belong in” and should be protected by the state, while others are categorically excluded. One leftist Ashkenazi activist, Kobi, suggested instead that demonstrations should be staged by residents from all over the city and the refugees themselves, demanding that some of them be housed in central and northern Tel Aviv and that the state should take care of them properly, rather than dumping them all in the central bus station in the south of the city. “You live in a different reality from me,” was the curt reply of one of the Mizrahi activists, who continued, “It’s all very well to be humanist and bleeding heart about this, but an Israel without borders is not realistic—​­you expect Israel to take in everybody!” Enraged, Kobi started to recount the history of Israel’s treatment of refugees, with very small numbers of people actually being granted refugee status, and the state lacking processes of checking the claims and determining the status of asylum seekers. He, like others in the group, felt this to be unacceptable, particularly in a state that claims to represent Jews and their histories of expulsion, exile, and the search for a safe home. A mutual focus on victimhood or woundedness was a shared affective currency here, but different visions of what or who could be the object of

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activist care and solidarity complicated a victim-­perpetrator binary. Even in moments when it was acknowledged that more than one kind of subject had been wounded, it was difficult to deal with the differences in their wounds and the different kinds, or different layers, of ethical response they might call forth. Something of this complexity was voiced—​­as Ami stated, “There are two groups of people concerned here who are both wounded [nifga’im], and their wounds cross each other in a way that makes them clash”—​­but then again subsumed into a generalized confrontation over woundedness, imagined as a purified ethicopolitics of victim and perpetrator. In the next section, I further explore what is happening in these moments when the difficult coexistence of wounding and being wounded collapses into neat distinctions of victimhood and culpability. It is in these moments that activism, as well as theory, elides a certain political possibility, I argue, a possibility for an imperfect form of response to violence.

*  *  * The activism of City for All of Us seemed to stall when the meeting of different layers and forms of suffering uncovered a complicity with oppression at the site of the wound. How can we understand this intersection of active and passive experiences of injury and its relation to ethical and political responsibility? Anthropological as well as feminist critical theories of “vulnerability” and “precarity” have sought to examine or understand how injurious as well as passionate attachments to Others in the world, and the political regimes within which subjects find themselves, make certain kinds of political subjectivities possible or otherwise (Allison 2013; Behar 1996; Muehlebach 2013; Weston 2012). An earlier anthropology of “social suffering” (Das 1996; Das et al. 1997, 2000, 2001) dwelled on ideas such as “reestablishing sociality” (Das and Kleinman 2000: 14) and “reinhabiting the world” (Das 2007: 217). With this attention to people’s attempts to rebuild sociality and engagement with the world after disaster or trauma, the sites of violence themselves are seen as the opposite of the social—​­as that which destroys, rather than is part of, people’s mutual entanglements and relations with one another. Vulnerability, the condition of being vulnerable to such disaster, was thus the basis of an aberration in this work, the starting point for the destruction of relationality, rather than integral to subjectivity. While some have argued for a shift


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away from an ethnographic focus on suffering and a shift ­toward “the good” (Robbins 2013), more recent work following from the grounds laid by the social suffering literature takes a different tack. Anthropologists working in troubled contexts where neglecting to write about injury, inequality, and precarity would be impossible, if not irresponsible, have rather allowed violence to be a part of our thinking about ethical and affective relations of love, care, and healing (Das 2015; Garcia 2010; Han 2012; Pinto 2014; Stevenson 2014). I suggest here, following Lisa Stevenson, that “we allow ourselves to be shaken” (2014: 2) in theorizing vulnerability’s reverberations in ethics and politics, just as our ethnographic contexts are shaken by injury and violence. Shaken, here, not only in the sense of upset or moral outrage but in our sense of ethical certainty about what it means to respond to suffering (cf. Fassin 2013: 253). For ethics to be thought of as “broken theory,” as I proposed in the introduction, the ways in which we conceptualize responsibility might also be broken, or shaken, by a recognition of the violence written into its very inceptions. Such a move parallels feminist theory’s confrontation with vulnerability, as its shift to focus on wounding and not only being wounded makes room for the ethical uncertainties of the ethnographic ground as well as our theorizations of it.4 Emanating from the stalemate of certain mobilizations of identity politics and its “logic of ressentiment” (W. Brown 1993),5 feminist philosophers have advanced Levinasian as well as psychoanalytic approaches ­toward relations among different subjects and the difficulties of building solidarity across divisions built by violence and injury (Butler 2012b, 2015; Oliver 2012). A Levinasian conceptualization of vulnerability introduces intersubjectivity as the mutually implicated being of self and Other. In Otherwise Than Being, Levinas writes: “The more I return to myself, the more I divest myself, under the traumatic effect of persecution, of my freedom as a constituted, wilful, imperialist subject, the more I discover myself to be responsible; the more just I am, the more guilty I am. I am ‘in myself ’ through the others” (1991: 113). The concept of vulnerability thus here implies the pre-­subjective condition of being always already exposed—​­not necessarily to the wounds of the Other but to the very being of that Other, a condition which thus becomes our responsibility, our obligation to respond (cf. Burggraeve 1999). It is the capacity of the Same and the Other to impact upon and enter into relationship with one another that signifies vulnerability, thus

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broadening vulnerability from the ethnographic case of physical or psychic woundedness, as I am addressing here, to signify the very condition of being and constitution of ethical relationality in which human subjects are bound. While it is clear that such a framing offers a way out of conceiving the subject as the sovereign, autonomous individual of Kantian ethics, how can such an overarching conceptualization of vulnerability contribute to an analysis where the question of specific and politically positioned vulnerabilities is precisely in question? I am mindful here of the ways in which Levinas’ generalizations of the Other and its relation to the self can have the effect of writing out political specificities and thus perhaps even of reinscribing the victim/ perpetrator binary that in this ethnographic case is precisely in question (Ahmed 2000; cf. Frosh 2011). This is a concern raised in Sunera Thobani’s (2007) critique of Judith Butler’s use of the idea of vulnerability in Precarious Life (Butler 2006). Thobani argues that, despite her very different intentions, Butler’s sharing in a narrative of post-­9/11 vulnerability actually reconstitutes hegemonic discourses of the “War on Terror” by basing itself in the experience of American realizations of vulnerability after the attacks on the twin towers (Thobani 2007). Thobani highlights how, in searching for a progressive ethicopolitics, mobilizations of affects and notions of vulnerability equalize very differently positioned political subjects, with the privileging of the wounds and anguish of a dominant group that was shocked when it “suddenly and graphically discovered its own vulnerability” (176). This risk is acknowledged in Butler’s work, which considers the potential of vulnerability to mobilize a recognition of a shared existential condition of mutual dependency and entanglement ­toward an ethicopolitics that would differently position those currently most harmed by such conditions of relatedness. Butler begins with an abstracted idea of vulnerability as dependency on Others and the recognition of and by Others in language and within discursive norms, in which certain subjects are recognizable and Others’ lives are not even considered as inviting an obligation to preserve life (Butler 2009: 23). What can happen in such a universalized recognition of vulnerability, or the capacity to be wounded and to suffer, though, is not only a decontextualizing or depoliticizing of specific forms of suffering, as the anthropology of humanitarianism has amply warned against (see Chapter 3), but even also a renewed justification for responding to vulnerability with violence. If we are all equally exposed to injury, we all may defend


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ourselves from such potential injury through the use of force and aggression, a logic that is abundantly clear in Israeli politics. It seems that there is a circular and self-­perpetuating violence that is enacted in the mobilization of vulnerability as a concept that places the violence of intersubjective relations at its heart: Does the recognition of a generalized capacity to suffer violence justify the infliction of violence on Others when it comes to be considered an inevitable part of relationality or intersubjectivity? Further, when we discover ourselves to be implicated in such violence, even as we attempt to respond to the injury of Others, what becomes of that ethical response? These difficulties are raised also, I suggest, by the ways in which different injuries, different experiences of being vulnerable to violence, were mobilized in the interactions of City for All of Us activists, reflecting a broader Israeli ethicopolitics in which suffering violence appears relentlessly to validate the infliction of violence on Others, as a preemptive move against its inevitable return. The claims of some residents of south Tel Aviv that their suffering undermines leftist activists’ case for supporting refugees in the city exemplify this kind of employment of vulnerability to justify violence against Others. This voicing of suffering is what Fiona Jenkins, commenting on Butler’s theorization of vulnerability and its relation to violence, considers as a violent move in itself: “In what passes for a fully justified returning violence, injury is made to lose its irresolvable temporality, its corporeal resonance, and its material significance beyond that which can be absorbed by the claim to legal justice. It is the very abstraction of injury into an element that violence might appear to annul that in an important sense allows injury to persist as the ‘deadening’ force of a moral law, one exploiting the very violence it putatively claims to curb” (Jenkins 2007: 165). In the case of the mobilizations against providing support and care for the refugees in south Tel Aviv, the decades-­ long injury inflicted on marginalized Jewish Israelis is removed from a sociopolitical analysis that would question internal dynamics of racism and the distribution of resources within Israeli society and is deployed instead in a reiteration of the violent separation of Jewish Israeli citizens from excluded Others. The impassioned and defensive reactions of Ashkenazi activists to these claims, however, may have something to do with the ways in which their very participation in the City for All of Us coalition had already involved a certain blindness to another kind of violence. In accepting as a silent Other in the

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City for All of Us activism, the Palestinians—​­both on the national level as an issue which is deemed outside the city’s politics and on the municipal level, given the failure to incorporate Jaffa’s Palestinian politicians into its front—​ ­these activists have become complicit, in a sense, with a kind of “amnesic silence” (Rabinowitz 1997: 17) of the Israeli polity. That is, the silencing of a Palestinian history of dispossession and expulsion from their homes was a precondition of their being able to work with most of the Mizrahi activists, whose differing politics on the question of the Palestinians normally precludes such coalitions from forming at all. I suggest that the struggle within City for All of Us over the issue of the refugees is related to Ashkenazi activists’ desires not to become complicit in this way once again, in relation to another Other with whose suffering they feel complicit. This is especially the case when the figure of the African refugee, fleeing genocide, can be made analogous with the figure of the persecuted Jew and therefore not only is poignant in Israeli political discourse but also touches on an ethical vocabulary which, as described in the previous chapter, is at the heart of these activists’ engagements with a wider Israeli public. This fragile coalition does not only complicate the victim/perpetrator binary, and its role in identity politics, in Israel/Palestine, then. Rather, part of the tension of the coalition that the City for All of Us attempted to build emanates from what Kelly Oliver has described as the difficulty of identifying with “those whom we abhor and those whose actions from which we disassociate ourselves in the most adamant ways” (Oliver 2012: 126). As Oliver analyzes, an abhorrence of Others who represent a politics different from our own does not necessarily come from an absolute differentiation from those Others; instead, it comes from a sense of complicity and likeness that poses a challenge to the sense of ethicopolitical integrity that she describes as fantasy. In the case that she explores, death-­penalty abolitionists expressed outrage over the execution of the black man Troy Davis, while remaining silent about the celebrations of some antiracists over the less-­publicized execution of Lawrence Brewer, a white Texan who brutally murdered a black man. Oliver reflects on the “revenge fantasies” enacted in the celebration of Brewer’s killing as existing in direct relation to the opposition to Davis’ execution, as an identification with victimhood that erases from view the complicities of those white subjects with the kind of racial violence of which Brewer was guilty. Oliver argues that a responsible ethicopolitics must thus tread


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carefully and “examine our own economic and psychic investments in, and dependence on, state-­sanctioned violence, killing, and war” (127). In protesting against injustice, and attempting to relate to Others as we do so, we also confront the capacity within ourselves to inflict violence on Others. Oliver writes: “Unconscious fears and desires produce others whom we recognize as friend or enemy, loved or hated, human or animal, virtuous or monstrous, having the right to live or deserving to be put to death. . . . ​We cannot begin to witness to what is beyond recognition in the singularity of each life until we come to terms with the death drive in ourselves, specifically as it manifests itself in our own fears and desires through which we create both our friends and our enemies, both those who are like us and those who are not, both those who are with us and those who are against us” (129). City for All of Us activists had, for the purpose of creating an operative political movement, to draw certain lines against “those who are with us and those who are against us.” These lines turned into obstacles when they became blurred, reflecting the breakdown of a clear victim/perpetrator distinction. As this coalition stumbled in the face of its different activists’ complicities with different kinds of violence, wounds emerged as the sites of struggle around the making of the activist subject. In vulnerability, not only the violence suffered by the victim, whoever that is deemed to be, but the capacity of the subject to inflict that violence in the first place, comes to the fore. Butler relates this to Levinas’ framing of vulnerability as the subject’s exposure to the impulse to kill the Other, and therefore the need to formulate an interdiction against the killing: “If I fear for the Other, it is because I know the Other can be destroyed by beings like myself ” (Butler 2012b: 56). It is a struggle with the subject’s own aggression and capacity to inflict pain on Others, Butler suggests, that can lead to a redirection of that aggression t­ oward an attempt at nonviolence, an ethical response to an Other ­toward whom one has the capacity to inflict violence. Such a response would make vulnerability signify not primarily the position of victimhood that follows from having suffered violence but the realization of the possibility of every relation to involve the infliction of violence by the subject on an Other. The struggle within City for All of Us was precisely a struggle around how to redirect various relations already constituted by different experiences of violence and injury, ­toward an alternative response to injury which would not simply reiterate that violence with the “moral sadism” (Butler 2007: 188)

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that the experience of woundedness can provoke. As Fiona Jenkins, in her commentary on, and defense of, Butler’s theorizations of violence and nonviolence, carefully delineates, the practice of nonviolence is thus not about a purification of the aggression of the subject or of the ways in which that subject has been formed in relation to normative violence. Rather, nonviolence can be considered as the attempt not to resolve experiences of loss or injury by erasing them from view but to engage in a “negative dialectic” (Jenkins 2007: 161) that “works to expose a failure inherent in the hyperbolic promise of violence to staunch vulnerability or resolve grief through recourse to a returning violence” (162). The “failure” to which Jenkins refers is the inability of the subject to be fully at one with itself, to be able to resolve its inner conflicts, which lead to the very difficulty and impurity at the heart of ethics. It was in the moments in which City for All of Us could hold these troubling impurities, these recognitions of various subjects’ own responsibility for violence, that it was able to move beyond the stalemate of the mutual accusations of injury that often stalled its capacity to act.6 When both the Ashkenazi activists were able to recognize their own implication in the oppression of Israel’s Mizrahi citizens and the Mizrahi activists were able to act in solidarity with Israel’s non-­Jewish Others, the political coalition created indeed presented a voice both radical and subversive in the context of Israel/Palestine. Thus, on occasion, the movement’s activists from different backgrounds arrived to demonstrate in solidarity with Palestinians facing eviction in Jaffa or at a rally for refugee rights in central Tel Aviv, and these were genuinely novel moments in a politics of protest that has in many ways become routine and ineffective in Tel Aviv as more broadly in Israel/Palestine. Vulnerability, when it remains a framing through which specific injuries are abstracted into a generalized victim/perpetrator binary, indeed creates an impasse in this political context. When it moves to expose different subjects’ implications in the violence done ­toward Others, however, it can open moments of political possibility and transgression.

*  *  * City for All of Us was a political movement that attempted to disrupt the prevailing limitations of the Israeli political landscape. Imagining a coalition that could overcome some of the divisions and categories through which Israelis


Chapter 4

mostly identify their positions and allegiances, the municipal party’s activists sought an alternative ethicopolitics that would not pit “left” and “right” against each other but that would instead reconceptualize what a challenge to the governing regime could look like. Bringing together a group of people wishing to work for and in solidarity with the marginalized and the disenfranchised, however, stumbled as different activists were differently invested in varying notions of who those subjects were and how their own positions entailed responsibility t­ oward them. As multiple layers of woundedness—​­that of Mizrahi Israelis, of Palestinians, of non-­Jewish refugees arriving in Israel, and of the historical persecution of Jews—​­reverberated within this group’s desires for a more just municipal politics, vulnerability was exposed not only as a condition of having been injured but also as a confrontation with the subject’s own capacity to inflict injury on Others. The meaning of responsibility—​­of how to respond to Others—​­is a vexed issue when it is not exactly clear who is the subject who is called upon to respond. If in previous chapters the figure of the Other has been the object of reflection, as I explored how Palestinians are somehow appropriated or effaced in Jewish Israeli solidarity activism, as well as the ethnographic entry of the African refugee as an other Other, here the boundaries of the activist subject are also brought into question. In this case, the ethnic and class position of the Jewish Israeli leftist activist becomes both an issue of scrutiny and an obstacle for a political movement, as that subject’s complicity with multiple forms of violence can only fleetingly be deployed as a subversive engagement against a prevailing regime. More often, the entanglements of the different activists of City for All of Us in related but discrete layers of violence throughout Israeli history were muted in a discursive sphere that mostly responds to wounds with a clear-­cut victim/perpetrator distinction. In such a politics, vulnerability is more often a justification for further wounding than a condition through which mutual dependency is mobilized for a progressive politics whose actors can fully recognize their own violent capacities. The ethical is a domain of impurity and imperfection. Attempts to respond to violence without returning it are fragile and often imperfect, in ways that caution against any endeavor to fully “resolve” vulnerability, or the conflicts within the subject that ultimately form the basis of our engagements in the political. Anthropological theories of resistance and solidarity, as well as of ethics, struggle with such uncertainty, seeming to want to redeem and

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resolve with the clarity of suffering and woundedness. Those whose lives we write about, however, persevere in their desires for different ethicopolitical ground even as that ground continues to present itself as a struggle and to evade uncomplicated resolution. In Chapter 5, the final ethnographic chapter, I explore this perpetual state of uneasiness, as activists wrangle with the option of leaving Israel. Considered the potentially ultimate form of dissent, emigration was also considered a shirking of responsibility ­toward those who did not have such an option. Through this example, as in the example I have just discussed, then, what emerges is the persistent fragility of ethical and political engagement, and the ways in which activists’ own implications in structures of power and domination perpetually unsettle their responses to Others.


Exiling the Self

Extremism, police brutality and dreams of faraway lands are common the world over, but not everywhere is there an occupation and not everywhere is democracy crumbling. Not every nation state was born as a dream which turned into a nightmare. Though not everyone sees this, this place is a nightmare, where countless individuals are imprisoned without trial, where children are abducted by armed soldiers in the dead of night, where enormous concrete walls engulf villages and towns to maintain fear and humiliation, where multitudes bow to propaganda as if taken over by body snatchers, repeat racist slogans and blindly support violence. . . . ​A better life awaits us out on another continent, one where many of us have more tangible roots there than on our native Canaanite soil. A growing number of “deviant Israelis” (myself not included) hold European passports and almost all of us possess linguistic skills that allow swift integration. We may make good newgoers some day. —​­Yuval Ben-­Ami, 2012


hus concluded the Israeli blogger Yuval Ben-­Ami in his post “Heart-­ Drain” Diary: The Option of Leaving Israel, on the English-­language news website, primarily authored by leftist activists and journalists, +972 Magazine (Ben-­Ami 2012). His post provoked a response the following day from Haggai Matar, a prominent figure in the activist left, having been

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one of the four army service refuseniks whose trial famously resulted in the young men’s two-­year prison sentences. Matar listed his reasons for deciding to stay—​­ including the responsibility to struggle against Israeli violence against Others, which one would be rejecting in deciding to leave—​­and suggested that others should think carefully before following Ben-­Ami in his desire to leave the country (Matar 2012). The exchange echoed a dilemma common to many of the activists I knew and the topic arose frequently, many having left in the past decade and many more contemplating such a move, which promised a new relation to that imagined outside, the “better life” awaiting activists in Europe or North America. Staying momentarily with Ben-­Ami’s words helps to evince the central contradictions and dilemmas I explore here in activists’ visions or questions of leaving Israel. Positioning himself as a “deviant” who sees the violence of the occupation when other Israelis fail to do so, Ben-­Ami highlights both the privileged status of those who have the option of leaving—​­both as non-­ Palestinians and as mostly Ashkenazi Israelis, who more often have foreign passports and language skills—​­and the effects of Israel’s violence even on those who do not suffer it directly. Evoking the sense of promise that many Israeli Jews still hold dear in the idea of a Jewish state, he also voices a sense of disappointment and the familiarity of displacement, the Israeli state’s failure to have secured the “normal” life that it repeatedly claims to provide. And so the passage ends with the possibility of escape, not only because it is, practically speaking, a viable option for many (though not all) Israeli Jews but also because it is part of an ongoing narrative of the forever displaced Jew, moving on, once again, in an escape from violence. What is captured in the passage, then, is the sense of agency and privilege that accompanies an acute feeling of persecution and victimhood—​­a paradoxical state that, as others have noted, permeates Israeli subjectivities, nationalist and otherwise (Kuntsman 2009; Ochs 2006; Stein 2012; Yaron 2006). In this chapter, I explore how this contradiction is experienced as a dilemma for my activist interlocutors, highlighting how the question of ethical and political responsibility is at the forefront of their concerns but remains unresolved. Rather, practical possibilities of escaping these circumstances are discussed, debated, and sometimes put into action when activists indeed decide to emigrate, but these possibilities are always to be found wanting as they fail to provide the moral wholeness and coherence that the rejection of violence


Chapter 5

often seems to promise. This ongoing discomfort is what is expressed in the idea of an “exilic ethics,” through which I characterize activists’ predicament: a sense of power within the self to reject one’s complicity with domination that yet cannot entirely evade its mark. Through following the jokes and reflections about leaving Israel, the comings and goings of those who have left, and the enduring attachments to a place that so deeply unsettles them, the question of otherness returns as a question of internal contradiction—​­of otherness within the subject—​­such that the very self who moves to act against violence repeatedly finds itself caught up in it again. In the notion of an exilic ethics, then, I propose a decentering of the self in the anthropology of ethics in order to address the perpetually uncomfortable position in relation to which responsibility is articulated. The reflections and acts that constituted activist ethics in this case were responses to historical circumstance and to relations with Others, within which they found themselves emplaced in unchosen ways (Butler 2012a)—​­an unchosen-­ness that disturbs both dominant Israeli narratives of home and belonging and theories of ethics that rely on a stable, knowing self. An exilic ethics, as I will explore here, constitutes an ethical subjectivity that is not wholly at home with itself.

*  *  * On a Sunday evening, in the apartment of Tomer and Galit in south Tel Aviv, I am with a small group of activist friends and our Palestinian Israeli Arabic teacher, and we are struggling to remember the words we had learned in the previous lesson. “Demonstration,” “prison,” “my head hurts,” and “ashtray” are among our supposedly growing Arabic vocabulary that we have been working on for the past few months. Tomer is getting irritated as Anat and Ilan enter into one of their seemingly endless conversations, in Hebrew, about a planned action the next week in Tel Aviv. Tomer interjects, asking Ilan, who, at twenty-­one years old, is younger than the rest of the group, about his arrest the previous week, during one of the Friday demonstrations in the West Bank. “Your first time, eh?,” asking with a little smile. Ilan fails to notice the playful tone and explains with apparent pride how it happened, remarking that it was not so bad, he just had to sit it out until the evening when he was released from the police station in the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba, next to Hebron, and a couple of other activists were waiting

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with a car to take him back to Tel Aviv. Tomer lights another cigarette and suggests we get back to practicing the verb “to write” before we all get too tired. We formed as a group to take Arabic lessons together a few months earlier, in the hope of being able to communicate in and better understand the situations of joint Israeli-­Palestinian activism in places like Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem and the village of Bil’in in the West Bank, as well as being able to communicate with Palestinian citizens in Israel in Arabic, rather than Hebrew, the “language of the occupier,” as many activists refer to their native tongue. Most of the rest of the group members have learned at least a little Arabic in school, but the literary rather than the spoken language, and thus consider that education rather useless in the settings in which they now find themselves. Tomer and Galit are in their late twenties, and have recently moved in together to the apartment where we often hold our lessons. Tomer works as the media spokesperson of an Israeli human rights organization, and is one of the newer faces to left-­wing activism among the group. Galit has recently found work with a feminist antioccupation organization, which allowed her finally to leave her job in a record store where she worked for two years as she looked for something she felt passionate about. She has been involved in activism from her earliest days, as her parents took her to demonstrations as a child. They made her life difficult, as she puts it, by not letting her take part in school trips they deemed politically problematic—​­for example, trips to the Golan Heights (Syrian territory occupied and annexed by Israel) or to events in Jerusalem that took place in occupied Palestinian land. The others in the group are a similar mix of long-­term activists and those who have more recently become involved in radical politics. Our teacher, Aziz, teaches Arabic on an irregular basis to groups of students like us, while also working full time at a human rights organization. Later in the evening, our conversation turns to the issue of citizenship and the various passports those in the room possess. We have been discussing the increasing pressure on leftist activists from the state and right-­wing groups, including the recent sentencing of the anarchist activist Yonatan Pollak to three months in prison. The others are joking about how soon they will be claiming asylum in European countries and that I will have to campaign for them on my return to the United Kingdom. Galit, Matan, and Ilan have European or U.S. passports, two since birth and one having gone through the


Chapter 5

process of claiming citizenship from a European country more recently. The other two, Tomer and Anat, joke about how they will be left behind, stuck in Israel. Anat—​­who often jokes about being “Polish,” both in terms of her family origins and in the Israeli sense of referring to the “Polish” stereotype, one of being worried and obsessive—​­says how she might be able, but would not want, to claim Polish citizenship. “No way,” Tomer mocks her, “the Poles are Nazis!” The elephant in the room, of course, as this joking and laughing goes on, is the presence of Aziz. A Palestinian Israeli citizen, he remains quiet throughout the conversation. With the same formal citizenship status and options to travel as a tourist as the others, he has, however, none of the same possibilities of obtaining foreign citizenship as many Israeli Jews, but also, more to the point, he does not share their unease about his very presence in the country. This, despite the fact that if anybody in this room will suffer legal or physical consequences for their political views or activism, it is most likely to be Aziz, given the oppressive measures regularly taken against Palestinian citizens of Israel protesting against the occupation or against discrimination and racism within the green line. Reflecting on this scene, we could of course criticize the irony and indulgence of Jewish Israelis’ feelings of being trapped and wanting to leave, given their relative mobility and freedom as compared even to Palestinian citizens of Israel, let alone Palestinians in the West Bank or Gaza. What I wish to emphasize, however, is the way in which Jewish Israeli activists’ imaginations of being trapped and simultaneously displaced echo broader Israeli nationalist discourses of the situation of “the Jewish people” and its relation to Israeli-­ Palestinian politics. Activists’ ambivalent relations to Israel, as the state or regime from which they feel alienated or wish to disconnect and which yet intimately shapes their sense of relations to Others, betray an uneasy and unsettling relation with dominant Israeli formulations of displacement and exile, most succinctly expressed in the phrase ein lanu brira—​­we have no choice. This saying references a feeling of a lack of alternatives and is used in political rhetoric to express the idea that Israeli militarism and security practices are justified by the absence of any other choice—​­the expressions commonly heard from the dinner table to the speeches of politicians: we will always be attacked, we live surrounded by enemies, and Jewish histories of persecution show us that there is no other reality. We must defend ourselves because others will not.

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Such sentiments are most often explicitly expressed by nonactivist Israelis who are highly invested in such conceptualizations of themselves and their country. For example, after the “flotilla affair” in May 2010, when nine Turkish activists on board a ship attempting to break the siege on Gaza were killed by the Israeli army, the Hebrew teacher with whom I was taking private lessons spent most of our hour-­long meeting appealing to me to tell my friends and family at home, and in my academic writings, why the Israeli state has to act as it does. “You understand now that you have been here,” she suggested, “that things are not how they look from the outside. We don’t have any other choice when we live like this.” This fatalism or expression of powerlessness, however, oddly coexists with Zionist ideas of the newly strong body of the Israeli Jew, as opposed to the weak Jews of exile, who, in one of the most extreme forms of this sensibility, as Holocaust survivors in Israel were silenced and stigmatized (Lentin 2000; Zertal 2005). Oz Almog (2000) and Meira Weiss (2005) have both discussed how the sabra Israeli Jew—​­the term literally referring to a prickly pear cactus but taken up in Hebrew to refer to the native-­born Israeli—​­was constructed as the strong and pioneering body made possible by the Zionist project and the creation of the state of Israel. Thus Israelis are also often proud of their country’s achievements, will boast of its technical and physical prowess (often by reference to Israel’s popular militarist education), and will exhibit a general pride and enthusiasm for their country and state. The idea of being a people in exile, then, of being permanently displaced and the victims of persecution, has been transformed in Israeli history and politics to sit alongside a pride in nationalist strength, military power, and a love of Israel’s landscape and geography (Stein 2009; Zerubavel 1997). A pervasive politics of victimhood coexists with a refusal to be considered victims. Activists’ feelings of being trapped while simultaneously aware of a sense of privilege and power constituted critical reformulations of these nationalist tropes, which nonetheless retained a strong sense of ambivalence as to their place in history and circumstance. As one Israeli activist put it, in her reflections on the “joint but unequal struggle” waged in the cooperations of Palestinian and Israeli activists: “The life of an anti-­Zionist activist in Israel is a lonely one; I sometimes find myself envious of the tsumud (Arabic for “streadfastness”) I see in the West Bank” (Shaindlinger 2012). In anthropological analysis, too, this distinction has been drawn between a Palestinian


Chapter 5

“rootedness” and a Jewish Israeli valorization of the condition of displacement. Writing on the histories of previously Palestinian-­owned property in Jerusalem, Rebecca Stein argues: In the Jewish Israeli case, by contrast, rootedness is not a precondition for claims of possession. To the contrary: the fact that Israelis have come from elsewhere to either their “Arab houses” or to their nation-­ state is not grounds for a nullification of their property rights. Rather, this history bolsters Jewish property claims at the scale of both the house and the territory of the nation-­state in broader terms (“they had nowhere else to go”). Indeed, processes of national self-­invention, this being the antithesis of ontology, are a celebrated dimension of the Israeli national character. Like the Palestinian houses they inhabit, Jewish Israelis were constituted through renovation. Of course, this is not the story of Israel alone, but that of the settler-­colonial project in broader terms. (2010: 12) Jewish Israelis, in nationalist and activist discourse, express a great deal of existential angst, then, as opposed to Palestinians, whose condition of displacement is seen as a struggle against dispossession from a home they know is theirs. The idea of the “wandering Jew,” reformulated in Zionist terms, is both celebrated and anguished over as a central feature of Jewish Israeli subjectivity. This sense of unease at living in Israel, at thinking of this place as home, and the dilemmas thus arising for activists, form a central part of what I call here an exilic ethics.

*  *  * In Reflections on Exile (2001), Edward Said notes that a subjectivity of exile is based on being disconnected from a national collective, but that this feeling of disconnection entails a longing, a balancing act between identification with the place from which one has been wrenched and a resistance to this kind of sense of belonging. It may seem somewhat perverse to refer to Said’s theory of exile in relation to the relatively privileged, mobile, Jewish Israeli activist, especially given Said’s position as the displaced Palestinian intellectual. As noted above, in my description of Jewish Israeli activists reflecting on

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their options to leave the country, there is a stark difference in their position and that of Palestinians. This applies both to those who still reside in Israel/ Palestine and face a political regime in which they are either treated as second-­class citizens or subject to a military occupation and to those who have been forced into exile abroad, whether it be in the refugee camps of surrounding countries in the Middle East or in establishing lives in other parts of the world, as did Said.1 Equally, the kind of exile I am describing among Israeli left-­wing activists is not equivalent to that of Jews in Europe and elsewhere over centuries before, and culminating in, the Holocaust, in which Jews were expelled, persecuted, and massacred. Rather, I reflect here on Said’s idea of the cultivation of an ethics of exile in relation to Jewish Israeli activists’ attempts to relate differently, and critically, to ideologies of defense and security, attempts that yet find themselves intensely and ambivalently tied to nationalist imaginations. Activists’ relation to the concept of “exile” I analyze here is not one of forced displacement but rather one of an ethical, affective, and political alienation from a state and a collective—​­the Jewish Israeli ­population—​­which yet are so much a part of their personal and family histories and lives today. Said’s nuanced account draws distinctions between different kinds of exile, most strikingly between the refugee—​­as the paradigmatic figure of exile of the current era, in which millions of people have been forcibly displaced through war or other violent means, and the cosmopolitan and intellectual subjects—​­those who choose to be émigrés, to exile themselves, citing writers such as James Joyce, who elected the discomfort of not being at home in order to fuel their creative and intellectual achievements. For these latter exiles, there is an element of choice which resembles that of my ­interlocutors—​ ­the activists whose lives I describe here have not been forced from their homes by violent means, or (for the most part) had members of their family killed or imprisoned by the Israeli state. Rather, they face a discomfort at living in a regime which privileges them and exercises violence on Others, purportedly in their name and for their defense. Their dilemmas revolve around the issue of how to respond ethically to this situation, and how to disassociate themselves from the ideologies and practices of this regime. It is this discomfort, these reflections, and the responses in practice, of activists, which I gloss here as an exilic ethics—​­an ethical and subjective exile, rather than a forced physical one, which nonetheless they have mostly not chosen


Chapter 5

for themselves. What these activists have actively nurtured, however, unlike most other Jewish Israelis, who may well share the sense of discomfort or existential unease, is an exilic ethics which opposes that suggested to them by the state and the dominant Israeli narrative. Whereas the state of Israel’s promotion of the concept of Jewish exile has been geared ­toward justifying its violence ­toward the Palestinians, Israeli left-­wing activists reject that imperative and formulate an alternative ethics of exile that opposes Israeli ethnonationalism and state violence. This is no simple task and has required of activists the kinds of reflection and public exposure of themselves that I describe here. For, as Said insists, exile can also be harnessed as an unsettling force vis-­ à-­vis the institutions and regimes of nationalism and the state. He writes—​ ­ perhaps with Jewish Israeli as much as Palestinian subjectivity in mind—​­“Provided that the exile refuses to sit on the sidelines nursing a wound, there are things to be learned; he or she must cultivate a scrupulous (not sulky or indulgent) subjectivity” (2001: 181). Rather than embracing the logics of nationalism and the state, therefore, Israeli activists’ exilic subjectivity follows more the adage of Theodor Adorno, whose Minima Moralia Said cites: “It is part of morality not to be at home in one’s home” (Adorno, cited in Said 2001: 147). This ethical demand, to position oneself in a displaced relation to normative moralities, is one, I argue, which the activists of this ethnography take seriously. This is not to say that their response is always a simple or successful one. It is the dilemmas, contradictions, and difficulties, of these attempts to live a “scrupulous” exilic ethics that reveal the ways in which such processes of taking responsibility may be troubled by the political circumstances in which they emerge.

*  *  * Israeli left-­wing activists’ jokes about looking for a foreign partner and, by association, a passport, were only partly made in jest. Noa, a twenty-­six-­year-­ old woman who was working in one of the leftist NGOs in Tel Aviv and studying for a master’s degree in philosophy, often had the question on her mind. In a conversation among friends, she said that she had been checking out her options in Europe and ran through the list of possible countries to which she had been considering emigrating—​­while keeping in mind the

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practicalities of visa arrangements and different countries’ rules for bringing a foreign spouse. The conversation departed from practicalities and Noa started to reflect on her feelings about the options she felt were open to her. She repeated, over and over, “I’m a pessimist,” stating that things were just getting worse and worse in Israel and that she felt the Left shrinking, that people are afraid to join political actions, and that she could not see any way out of that situation—​­“The most you can do is help individual people, not change the bigger picture.” Sonia, an activist who had left a few years earlier and was back for a short visit, tried to introduce some optimism into the conversation, saying that she had seen people grow up in this place and get a certain political education as they did so, through their activism. Noa was critical of the apparent self-­indulgence of Sonia’s comments: “Just so you could say that you were there and that you fought it, though?” I asked her why she works in the political organization she does, then, if she felt it was so hopeless. She repeated the phrase she had used earlier in relation to her dilemma over getting foreign citizenship, ein li le’an lalechet (I don’t have anywhere else to go). She paused a while, and then continued: “You know, sometimes I just want to wake up in the morning and read a book about something else, and think about other things apart from all this shit. And I know things are not all OK in other places either. You know, I talk to my immigrant friends abroad and they tell me how hard it is as well. So I guess ein li le’an lalechet after all.” She laughed as her reflections went round in circles, and the conversation moved on to other topics. A year later, though, Noa had indeed found a job in London and was preparing to leave Israel. Such conversations and decisions to leave the country were not isolated cases, nor were they only about activist “burnout” as might occur in any place where activists are involved in physically and emotionally challenging political activities over a long period of time. Indeed the question of possibilities of escape is widespread among Israelis in general and not just in the activist scene. The idea of getting out of the “pressure cooker” of Israeli life and politics is reflected in tourism practices, primarily through the long backpacking trip in places like India and South America after leaving the army that has become a common practice of young Israelis (C. Noy and Cohen 2005); in actual practices of emigration; or at the very least in seeking an “insurance policy” in the form of obtaining a foreign passport in case one should ever decide that the time has come to leave the country (Lustick 2008). These were


Chapter 5

practices and dilemmas I heard discussed widely and often. A staunchly apathetic friend of mine, Erez, whose grandfather was Bulgarian, told me about the process he went through to acquire a Bulgarian passport as the country was in the run-­up to joining the European Union. He laughed as he recounted having to convince the embassy staff in Tel Aviv about his desire to reconnect to his Bulgarian “roots,” despite never having been to Bulgaria or learned the language. It was not that he necessarily wanted to leave Israel—​­it was the place he felt most at home and he loved the lifestyle there—​­but he wanted the option, should he choose to take it, of being able to get out. Erez’s apparently nonpolitical attempt to acquire such an “insurance policy” passport was one case in a growing trend, to which websites such as www.leaveis also attest, giving guidance for Israelis wishing to leave about their options for getting a foreign passport, finding work, and starting new lives abroad. These practices are the subject of an anxiety that betrays their political import and nature, as one can observe in the television news broadcasts which regularly report the number of Jews immigrating to Israel, or the state’s intensive promotion of trips such as the Taglit (birthright) tours, of young non-­Israeli Jews to visit the country and to “make aliyah”—​­to immigrate and obtain Israeli citizenship. These practices of seeking out foreign citizenship and documentation, then, even as they entail a cynicism and an ambivalence t­oward the options ­really bestowed by them, are intensely political. I would liken them to Navaro-­Yashin’s description of Turkish-­Cypriots obtaining Republic of Cyprus passports, which Navaro-­Yashin interprets as “a political act, a willing or unwilling commentary, through a relation with state objects, on their state of discontent as subjects of the unrecognized regime in the north” (2012: 122). Indeed, and as Lustick (2008) argues, the trend t­ oward emigration or securing the possibility of it by Israeli-­born Jews must be recognized as part of the broader trend of Israelis to reject what he calls the “Middle Eastern muck,” supporting an ideology of separation most violently expressed in the building of the wall in the West Bank, and turn t­oward an idea of belonging in Europe or the West as a central element in Israeli politics after the collapse of the peace process in the 1990s. “Adjusting the ‘us here, them there’ slogan, one might say that what the barrier expresses is a deep Israeli yearning for ‘them’ (the Arabs) to be ‘here’ (in the Middle East) and ‘us’ (Israeli Jews) to be ‘there’ (in the United States and Europe)” (41). As Lustick observes, there is a

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sense of a lack of agency and fatalism widespread among Israeli Jews, which, however, coexists with practices which display the implementation of the very choices Israelis claim not to have—​­to travel abroad, to get a foreign passport, or to leave the country for good. So while the expression “we have no choice”—​­ein lanu brira—​­is an often heard refrain, Israelis’ actual practices convey something different. The sense of inevitability and lack of political agency Israelis often report has informed the interpretation by many scholars of the phenomenon of backpacking Israeli youth. As Ayana Haviv argues in her analysis of young Israelis traveling in Asia after their army service, “unlike their parents’ image of this ‘escape’ as an evasion of adult and societal responsibilities, Israeli backpackers’ construction of ‘escape’ is as a well-­deserved break from responsibilities forced on them” (2005: 58). Here, the relation of these travels to military service and the militarization of Israeli culture more generally is framed by Haviv as a “rite of passage” in the identity-­formation processes of a generation of young Israelis since the 1980s and 1990s—​­one in which serving in the army and traveling afterward are made continuous with a normative Israeli identity whose relation to the state and its discourses remains unquestioned. I would suggest, however, that such practices may go beyond and even against identity formation and can be interpreted as reflecting a particular relation to the state and its claims on its citizens. They might be regarded as another “unwilling commentary” (Navaro-­Yashin 2012: 122), a recognition that there is something from which it is necessary and desirable to “escape” (livroach—​­a term Israelis often use to describe their travels), a reason to leave, and a realizable possibility of doing so.2 These phenomena of obtaining foreign documentation, emigration, and travel illustrate a widespread unease among Jewish Israelis about their place and future in Israel. Left-­wing and anti-­Zionist activists’ participation in or deliberation over these practices take place within, yet are somewhat distinct from, this broader trend. Whereas the ethics of leaving Israel and the problematic nature of doing so as articulated by the mainstream is related to the responsibilities t­oward the Jewish Israeli collective one is neglecting—​ p ­ rimarily symbolized through army service but extending ultimately to the obligation to live and to stay in Israel as a Jew and to help guarantee its existence as a Jewish state—​­for left-­wing activists, the Others to whom one must respond, for whose life one is responsible, are understood in a different way.


Chapter 5

While many activists face the same feelings of obligation and responsibility ­toward their family and friends as do other Israelis, the relation to the idea of the Jewish Israeli collective, and its purported protector, the Israeli state, is clearly very different—​­with these entities considered by activists as accountable not only for the suffering and displacement of the Palestinians but also for the ongoing state of conflict in which Israeli Jews live and the anxiety and suffering this causes. For some left-­wing activists leaving the country—​­ceasing to be part of a collective which perpetuates violence on Others, not serving in its army, and not having one’s taxes fund that regime—​­was not only a more powerful form of resistance but also a morally correct one. For others, this choice was seen as irresponsible, defeatist, and one only available to those already privileged by political and historical circumstances. In either case, activists asked: What kind of disconnection should, or could, one be making? What kind of exile would be an ethical one? The fact that there was no easy resolution to this dilemma led to the kind of reflection and contestation I have started to describe in this chapter, and can be considered another expression of the exilic ethics of activists that I analyze here. Arguably, these conflicts come out most clearly and productively among those who chose to stay in Israel. For if one concluded that the only thing to be done was to stay, to live in Israel and to remain politically active, the question was how best to live in that place and in what ways one could still disconnect from and protest against the political regime there. Paradoxically, perhaps, I reflect a little further on this dilemma by focusing on the physical act of emigration, and how this was a kind of exile which entailed a disavowal of one’s ethical obligations for many activists.

*  *  * Berlin was often evoked by activists as a place which encapsulated these feelings of the desire to escape, the symbolism and irony of which was not lost on my interlocutors. After all, the feelings of being out of place, and the need to move, to leave, perhaps to return, or to long to return, were not without very specific Jewish, Zionist, and Israeli histories of their own. To emplace these feelings in the city that had been at the heart of the Nazi genocide—​­in the logic of the nation-­state the ultimate reason for the existence of, and the

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“return” to, Israel—​­was an act carrying all the ambivalence, sadness, and internal contradictions posed by the dilemma of whether and, if so, how to leave Israel. The focus here on Berlin as the place of escape is not based on a detailed ethnographic study of Israeli activists who have chosen to live there, or on any claims I would make about these choices as acts of rebellion or protest against the state of Israel and its claim that Jews will now be safe and at home only in Israel, as opposed to in Europe from where they had to flee. Rather, I highlight the way in which Berlin was constantly evoked as a place of being away from Israel, of living a different life, to allude to the symbolic possibilities it held for activists. On the one hand, the “return” to Berlin complements the idea held by many of the activists that the way to fight anti-­ Semitism, alongside other forms of racism, was not, as the state of Israel proposed, to leave Europe and create a Jewish state elsewhere, and certainly not when this leads to the dispossession of another people. This critique of the state of Israel by Israeli leftists could be distinguished, however, from many of the debates over Israel’s “right to exist” taking place in European activist and other circles. Most Israeli activists who would make this criticism did not intend to suggest that the fundamental problems at the heart of the state of Israel and its founding mean that Israeli Jews should have to, or would be able to, leave Israel/Palestine and “go back to Europe.” Indeed, they would recognize such a suggestion as highly offensive and counterproductive—​­part of the racism against Jews and the lack of knowledge of Jewish history that has contributed to the extreme polarization of discourses around Israel/­ Palestine in contemporary Europe. Choosing Berlin as a place of escape from Israel is both an act of protest against the state of Israel, then, and one against European racism. On the other hand, the recognition of how such a choice to escape is tied up in, or against, the political logics and realities from which one is trying to flee, leads to an awareness that its possibility may anyway be an illusion. During a visit to Berlin in the summer of 2011, I meet with Limor, a woman in her early thirties, who I had heard about from many of my contacts in Israel. During my research there, activists repeatedly told me it was a shame that I could not meet her because she was no longer active there—​­she had gone to live in Berlin—​­but that she had been heavily involved in a few of the different groups whose activism I was interested in, and she was generally respected as someone with dedication and integrity in the way she worked.


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Throughout our meeting at a café in Berlin’s Kreuzberg district Limor is distracted, as she keeps receiving text messages on her phone about migrant workers being deported in Tel Aviv. “It’s absurd,” she explains to me, “I am getting these messages because of the ‘infiltrators law’—​­you know, where you can be prosecuted in Israel for helping a migrant worker, so they don’t want to send out the messages themselves. So I get these messages from individual activists, then I or someone else in Berlin sends a text message to a list of activists in Tel Aviv, telling them that there is going to be a deportation in the next few hours so that they can go and try to warn the family or prevent the deportation. It’s crazy, that this is where this state has got to.” The idea that she is no longer active, that she is disconnected from the activism she undertook in Israel, is quickly shattered. She continues to take and redirect these messages as we talk about her experiences of activism and her decision to leave Israel. Limor, like many others, has left to be with her partner, who is from Germany, and she is still deliberating about her move: “I think we all are obliged to do some soul-­ searching [cheshbon nefesh] about this phenomenon that everyone is leaving. It’s a very limited kind of political protest. It might be political in its intent, but to just up and leave when others have to stay? The decision to leave, the ability to leave, it’s not something that everyone can do. It comes with privileges. I don’t think it’s OK that you just say that you’ve had enough, and you’re going to leave.” She tells me that she plans to return to Israel, for precisely that reason, and that her dilemma is more on a personal level, involving her partner and his desire to live in Germany. Other Israeli activists I met outside Israel, or those in Israel who had left and returned—​­and most had left at some point, at least for short periods of travel or study abroad—​­reached different conclusions from Limor, but the dilemma was a common one. The ethics of leaving was often described in terms of efficacy: “I can do more from abroad than in Israel anyway,” some said, with the idea that the healthier mental and physical state one will be in while living abroad would allow for a more sustained form of political engagement. What Limor and others’ predicaments pointed t­ oward, however, was that, no matter what one ultimately decides to do or where one lives, there is no escape from one’s ethics, from a subjectivity in which part of what has formed you is your engagement with the political situation in Israel/Palestine. Limor went on to reflect on the very possibility for activists to leave what

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it was that they objected to about the situation in Israel. “The oppression here, in Germany, it might not be to the same extent. But the racism? It’s exactly the same. Europe is just as racist a place as Israel. It’s the same Western, colonial perspective. It’s just that it feels further away here. The bubble is a little bigger.” This idea that escape was an illusion was often evoked in conversations about leaving Israel. Reflections on the social problems that, as a politically aware and active person, one cannot ignore, wherever one may be and decide to live, often led back to the sense of entrapment in a subjectivity shared with many other Israelis. The leftist activists, as radically critical of their state and society as they might be, would often end up feeling defensive of the place they had come from when engaging in conversations abroad about Israel/Palestine. The feeling that “outside” of Israel people simply did not understand, and were ready to vehemently criticize Israel even with the most basic, and often mistaken, knowledge of the place and its politics, without a similar critical reflection on their own country’s policies and actions, could push activists into a corner of feeling the need to explain, historicize, and educate, as well as even perhaps to defend slightly the social and political processes going on inside the country. This experience of feeling pushed into a position of identification with the state, the very state from which they have acted to disconnect, whose claims on their public and intimate lives they have actively disavowed, reinforced a strong sense of “inside” and “outside,” which gives grounds to the very notions of escape and exile in the first place. The question that Israeli leftists are often asked, “Why do you not leave Israel?,” while accurately preempting the question activists ask of themselves, also reiterates their dilemma, in which emigration is often far from a satisfactory resolution. Noa, whose deliberations I discussed earlier, and who left Israel to work in London, later reflected on her decision to leave. During the week of attacks on the Gaza Strip in November 2012, the most spectacular violence of this kind since Operation Cast Lead in 2009, Noa had been attending demonstrations in London against the war and it was all that could occupy her thoughts. Her experience of these demonstrations was one of confusion, despair, and frustration, however. Instead of finding the politics of nonviolence and refusal she had experienced through activism in Israel, she was confronted with an unfamiliar coalition of secular left-­wing and Islamic religious groups, whose slogans at demonstrations she felt included those that promoted


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revenge and further hatred, and whose politics involved an almost complete nonengagement with any Israeli or Jewish groups, even those most critical of the Israeli state. She commented, angry at the situation both in London and in Israel, “I emigrated. It doesn’t feel any better.” Noa and Limor’s frustrations reflect the incomplete nature of an exilic ethics. Characterized by a continuously unfolding responsiveness to Others in the world, and thus subject to the displacements and disturbances of politics and history, such an ethical subjectivity is not resolved or accomplished but rather tends to be circular and troubling. An imperfect process of confronting violence, activists’ orientation ­toward themselves and ­toward Others met with perpetual failure as well as partial modes of being held in place. I now turn to this uncomfortable aspect of exilic ethics in some final ethnographic reflections on the vicissitudes of escape and attachment that their reflections on leaving Israel express.

*  *  * The song “Escape Will Always Fail” was penned by an Israeli band, Pollyanna Frank, famous in the alternative punk scene of the 1980s and 1990s, and whose lead singer Sharon Ben-­Ezer herself spent many years “in exile” in London (Yavin 2002). Well known for many of their songs in the radical scene, Pollyanna Frank’s music subverted nationalist, heteronormative, and militarist Israeli ideologies. The lyrics of “Escape Will Always Fail,” one of the band’s more melancholic pieces, reflect on coming and going, orienting oneself emotionally and politically in relation to violence, and contain the following lines: I hear the next war coming Awake all night-­time, smell the blood The omens always tell me I try to listen, can’t decide I rule out paranoia Too simple, there must be a way To sympathise with danger And to know it’s here to stay But you can’t go far knowing

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It will make you strong and pale It’ll beat you up and give you nothing And let you live only if you dare Cross the swamps and bring your sorrow It will hang on like a tail Even drama queens and heroes know it Escape will always fail Escape will always fail Escape will always fail The next war tries to like us But it’s impossible I guess To sympathise with victims Of our own arrogance and strength I know the next war’s coming And in my daydreams it strikes hard And all the voices say You know now, we’re your shelter You’ve come back You’ve come back You’ve come back The song underscores the anxieties around coming and going, being attached and detached, in relation to the violence of war that has become such a definitive feature of life in Israel/Palestine. Ruminating on the tension between responsibility ­toward the situation and the desire to escape the consequences, to escape the sense of responsibility as much as the violence itself, the song insistently circles back to a past that can only repeat itself. It taps into the endless repetition of violence and war, and a painful identification with their perpetrators, poignantly describing the disquiet of those alienated and disoriented within such a politics. The sense of simultaneous identification and alienation described in the Pollyanna Frank song mirrors the affective space inhabited by many of the activists I knew and resembles what Vincent Crapanzano calls the “deadened time of waiting” (1985: xix) with reference to the whites of South Africa in the later days of apartheid.3 Although Crapanzano was writing about those South African whites who accepted, maintained, and reproduced a system of


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racial segregation, whereas Jewish Israeli leftist activists attempt to refuse to be part of an oppressive politics, both share the sense of powerlessness and despair that Crapanzano describes in Waiting (1985). Proposing the notion of “social entrapment” within a temporality of waiting, Crapanzano notes his concern with “the discourse of people who are privileged by that power and, paradoxically, in their privilege victims of it. My concern is with social ­entrapment—​­with the way in which a people’s understanding of themselves, their world, their past, and their future limits their possibility” (ix). Unlike the “indulgent” (22–­ 23) characteristics of Crapanzano’s interlocutors in South Africa, and the ways in which they turned inward as they eschewed a recognition of their place within relations of domination with nonwhites in the apartheid context, the Israeli activists I knew actively sought out and nurtured relations with Palestinians and other Others, even if sometimes in the problematic ways I have described in earlier chapters. A sense of the contradiction of feeling trapped by historical circumstance while inhabiting a position of privilege as a consequence of it, however, as well as the feeling of the burden of that history on one’s shoulders—​­the ways in which it weighs you down even as you attempt to relate to it differently—​­seep through the “deadened time” of waiting and hoping for better days in Israel/Palestine. Perhaps the most striking moments in which the deadness of time made itself felt among activists was on the very occasions marking the Israeli calendar during which most in the country were celebrating the state, its continued strength and existence. As other Israelis gathered with exuberance in shows of statist and militarist prowess, and met with their families for hikes and picnics, activists tended to try to shut out the noise and bravado on these days, when not organizing their own alternative ceremonies or protest actions (as I described in Chapter 2). The walls that they built for themselves, however, were not always able to shelter them completely. On Remembrance Day in 2011, I joined friends for a quiet evening in, an escape from Tel Aviv’s streets that were adorned with Israeli flags and resounded with the sounds of the official ceremony and the crowds making their way to and from Rabin Square. As we are all arriving at the apartment of Liat, an activist with whom I have spent time in different locations around the West Bank, Liat is on the phone as the rest of us are chatting and the siren that marks the official beginning of Remembrance Day sounds loudly. While we know that outside on the streets the city has come to a standstill, traffic stopping and pedestrians

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standing tall and solemn for one minute, we continue our movements and conversations, a small but self-­conscious act of defiance against the call of the state. Liat finishes her phone call shortly afterward and looks at us with a mixture of bemusement and frustration: “That was ­really weird,” she says, “I was talking with a Palestinian friend and we both could hear the siren going off in the settlement beside her village while we were on the phone.” The deadening feeling of hearing the siren, from an apartment in Tel Aviv to the geography of occupation in the West Bank, is quite present with us that evening whether we like it or not. We continue the evening with a collectively prepared meal and generous measures of arak, the potent anise-­flavored alcoholic drink popular across the Levantine region. Amid a light and convivial atmosphere in which we take comfort in the familiarity of each other, the food, and the intimate space of a friend’s apartment, we chat and joke about everything and nothing. Sometimes we touch on discussions about the demonstration most of us had been at the previous week, or the fear of the next war that everyone feels is just around the corner, but mostly we enjoy the chance not to have to think about it all for a few hours. At some point, Ofer, someone I know less well but have come into contact with a fair amount at meetings and protests, asks me how my research is going and what I think I might write about. I explain that I am not yet sure, but that I am interested in thinking more about the gap between activists’ hopes and ideals and the experience of disappointment at the political situation; he sighs and gives a little laugh of recognition. “Yes, you know a few years ago I thought we were ­really going to change things . . .” he trails off. Ofer made a film a few years earlier about Israeli radicals and what their politics and actions entailed, out of rage at the situation, he says, and he reflects that he expected thousands of people to see it and to get angry like he did and to start demonstrating. The excitement and creative energy he felt as he made and started to screen the film slowly dissipated and fizzled away as a slow sense of frustration settled in its place, only occasionally erupting into the thrill of being able to release one’s anger loudly and passionately at a demonstration, or in the rare moments of hope when a small-­ scale political strategy of the Left seemed to be getting somewhere. These quiet, familiar evenings were a backbone of the kinds of activism I have described throughout this book, although activists were rarely explicit about this. Away from the spaces of public dissent and dramatic


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confrontation with the state, spaces of closeness and trust in activist friendship groups acted as a kind of “containment” (Bion 1959, cited in Lazar 2013), a therapeutic space in which affective energies and challenges are held within relationships of trust that help to process emotions and to care for the activist subject. As Sian Lazar writes of trade union members in Argentina, “Containment works to shape citizens’ political citizenship, as it channels discontent, at times damming it (continuing the flood metaphor), at others dissipating it through many ultimately ineffectual protests, and at still others, directing its overflow” (2013: 124). If in the Argentinian context, however, such processes build or reinforce a sense of collective political agency, the workings of containment among Jewish Israeli leftist activists have a more melancholic hue. Constantly interrupted by reminders of the surrounding political context, as during the phone call between Liat and her Palestinian friend and the pervasive sound of the Remembrance Day siren, and imbued with the deadening weight of feeling powerless in the face of a violent regime, gatherings like this one provide a transient kind of comfort that is only ever partially containing. As in South Africa’s “deadened time” of waiting (Crapanzano 1985: xix), sites of refuge among Jewish Israelis—​­even those who persistently and actively challenge the surrounding denial and apathy—​­are an ambivalent and partial shelter from the necropolitics (Mbembe 2003) that continues to kill time as well as hope. Thoughts of leaving Israel had crossed the minds of most of those I sat with on that evening and they had also been tried and tested by some of them in extended periods of travel or study abroad, while others repeatedly underscored their feeling of alienation in offhand comments and jokes about escaping the country. What they would leave behind, however, is not only the violence and its pervasive effects but also the partial containment that their activism and its community afford them. Some of those who returned after a period of living abroad reflected on those feelings, noting that when living elsewhere their thoughts were anyway still mainly with Israel/Palestine, only that they had felt even more powerless as they could not even participate in the activism anymore. Particularly with twenty-­four-­hour news culture and social media providing an immediate, real-­time link back to events and protests, activists often reported feeling obsessively connected to what was going on back home even when they were not physically there. On their return, they met again a group of people with whom they shared a political vocabu-

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lary and trust, activist histories, as well as linguistic and cultural belonging even in a place that they were reluctant to call home. For these reasons, as well as the explicitly ethical and political reasoning I described earlier in this chapter, practicing an exilic ethics in Israel/Palestine was often the ambivalent and unresolved path that activists continued to follow. Pollyanna Frank’s lead singer, Ben-­Ezer, gave an apt summary of this decision, when asked in an interview with the national newspaper Haaretz how she felt about “the situation” (ha matsav—​­the Hebrew euphemistic shorthand for the occupation and conflict). Reflecting that “the situation” was the reason she chose to return to Israel, she elaborated as follows: “Every week someone I know leaves the country and everyone thinks I must be out of my mind to come back. The fact that I can go outside and be blown up at any moment because of the policy of a government that I don’t support in any way, the fact that I am part of the problem, that I have placed myself here, puts me in a dilemma, whose other alternative is not to be here. I prefer to be here and to resist” (Yavin 2002).

*  *  * Referring to the Palestinians, Said wrote, “Perhaps this is the most extraordinary of exile’s fates: to have been exiled by exiles: to re-­live the actual process of up-­rooting at the hands of exiles” (2001: 141). As I have described by reference to Israeli leftist activists’ practices of leaving and staying in Israel, however, this experience of being “exiled by exiles” is not one known by Palestinians alone. While far from the physical expulsion from one’s home or internment for one’s politics as experienced by Palestinians, the subjectivity of the Jewish Israeli activist who actively opposes the ethnonationalism and militarism of the Israeli state is another kind of exile, an ethical one, or, we could say, constituted by an exilic ethics. This exile is one which shares with Said’s interpretation the quality of being simultaneously connected to and disconnected from a place, a collective, or an idea of those entities—​­of feeling that one is both part of, and somehow excluded or painfully wrenched from, one’s home. This ethnography of both practices and considerations of emigration, and the ways in which those who decide to leave and those who decide to stay are subjectively and affectively confronted by their decisions, shows how activist discourses and experiences of a kind of exile reflect a


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broader Israeli nationalist discourse that itself employs the notion. Histories of displacement, of being forcibly moved away from people and places, of not knowing where home is, have informed both the most intimate experiences of many Israeli Jews and the nationalism and militarism of the state, which has made these histories part of its rationale for, and defense of, its acts of violence. The sense of anxiety and unease about living in Israel as an Israeli Jew is not one felt by left-­wing activists alone. Activists’ exilic ethics are distinct, however, from these broader sensibilities in the way in which they deal with that unease or anxiety by confronting its central contradictions, the idea of being entrapped while one is privileged by historical and political circumstance. This crucially differentiates such activist ethics from mainstream Israeli notions of exile, in its acknowledgment of the stark difference in the kinds of exile Israelis and Palestinians experience. In enacting such an ethics of “not being at home in one’s home,” Jewish Israeli activists unsettle the very idea of Israel as home, their place in relation to it, and its ethical and political foundations. As they do so, they simultaneously disturb the notion of an ethical subject acting in sync with itself, or of ethics as a necessarily conscious and self-­willed set of practices. Rather, these processes of coming and going, and of feeling stuck as one does so, speak to the otherness that lives within or constantly interrupts the self, the ways in which the self is exiled from itself, as (political) relations with Others make for an ethical subjectivity based on a profound sense of disquiet and discomfort.4 In the deadened time of waiting, of hoping, for a different reality in Israel/Palestine, the question of ethics is not necessarily “how ought I to live,” as Brighupati Singh and Naisargi Dave also note in their observations on various kinds of killing of animals in India (Dave and Singh 2015). In situating their question about the ethics of more and less ritualized practices of killing, Dave and Singh acknowledge the place of violence in the realm of ethics in a way that also resonates in cases in which the death and killing of humans saturates any possibility for relations with Others. If for these authors, ethics can be “a mode of relatedness, even if the relation is as ephemeral as a mood that may escape measure or description, lying somewhere between mourning and indifference” (233), I suggest that a similar lack of resolution and purity characterizes ethics when violence is integral to that relatedness. Activists’ exilic ethics carry the troubled field of politicized and intersubjective relations among different subjects in Israel/Palestine into the intimate and

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affective life of activist selves even in the moments they forge for themselves spaces of containment. Neither left-­wing activists nor other Israelis feel quite at home in their home, I submit, because their relations to themselves depend on a relation to Others. Those Others, in this case, have been denied the possibility of calling this place home.



ctivist attempts to inhabit the space of Israel/Palestine differently, to inhabit different relations with the various Others t­oward and by whom they feel compelled to respond, are the difficult practices and affects that in this book I call ethics. These are responses that are unchosen but desired, that activists worry endlessly about but passionately pursue. They are practices and modes of organization that emerge from and push back against a historical and political situation in which it often feels like nothing can be done, and yet something must be done. Finding themselves repeatedly frustrated at the apparent futility of their endeavors, Jewish Israeli left radical activists also draw from and assert a position of power even as they struggle against the political conditions that privilege them in multiple ways. The trouble with their relations with Palestinians, non-­Palestinian refugees, other Israelis, and their own intimate lives and worlds is that these relations throw such contradictions into sharp relief. As they live an ethics of responsibility, activists also encounter a politics which has made their responses both necessary and impossible. Ethics, in this case, is imbued with the fraught nature of relations that have been shaped by long histories of violence. What it means to practice solidarity or to embody dissent in such a context is neither self-­evident nor straightforward. I have argued in the preceding chapters that left radical activist ways of challenging Israeli sovereign power are subversive yet imperfect. They propose different kinds of relations with Others that undermine and disrupt the prevailing regime, and yet they perpetually find themselves caught up in its hegemony, unwillingly complicit in its forms of domination. Questions about ethics, then, about how people relate and respond to Others, are also questions about politics, about how the forms and conditions of those relations have been governed and delimited. It is this interaction between ethics and politics that anthropology has thus far only just begun to

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articulate. Confronting violence and injury, as this and other ethnographies of the ethical have had to do, can leave us reeling, unsure of how to handle negativity as we seek to describe and think with forms of living, of inhabiting life. I suggest that we dwell in the ambivalence and ambiguity of these confrontations despite their troubles. Thus, rather than attempting to purify the realm of the ethical of violence and politics, we might sit with its imperfections, even as that can leave us in some of the same quandaries and dilemmas that I have described in this ethnography of Jewish Israeli activism. Politically, thinking with an ethics of complicity leaves us somewhat unsettled: it offers neither heroes nor villains, and it leaves only compromised and difficult activist and intellectual paths for us to follow. Let me elaborate on the latter, before returning, here and in the Epilogue, to the implications of my analysis for those who take the risk of political action.

*  *  * How can ethics be violent? What does it mean for ethical practice or experience to be complicit in the “horror” (Caygill 2002: 2) of the political? The response I have offered to these questions in this book speaks to the work of others who have sought to introduce negativity, in various forms, into the anthropology of ethics. Conflict (Singh 2011), resentment (Fassin 2013), dying (Dave 2011; Garcia 2010), killing (Dave and Singh 2015), even suicide (Stevenson 2014) have been offered as modes of care and of ethics that are tightly intertwined with violence and inequality. These contributions are significant, given the ways in which the anthropology of ethics has otherwise mostly taken inspiration from moral philosophy to emphasize concepts such as virtue, the good, and freedom. Responding to a perceived overemphasis on suffering (Robbins 2013) and deterministic sociological approaches (Laidlaw 2014), anthropologists of ethics have used concepts that have been described as part of a “happiness turn” (Ortner 2016) to explore the ways in which people labor ­toward hope (Mattingly 2010), rebuild a comfortable “dwelling” in the world after moral breakdown (Zigon 2007), or inhabit the ordinary (Lambek 2010) to perform or accomplish ethics (Lempert 2013). To insist on the persistence of negativity, then—​­of violence, death, suffering, or melancholy—​­as part and parcel of ethics, and not only as that which ethics works against, requires some elaboration.

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The ethical and political engagements of Jewish Israeli left radical activists are characterized by an unsettling discomfort and melancholic ambivalence. For these activists, ethics is not about working t­oward a given moral telos, as some of the anthropological literature inspired by Foucault emphasizes, but involves responding to, as well as struggling against, particular Others within a given political and discursive regime, in which multiple, ambiguous, and contradictory affects and identifications are at play. One gets stuck, lost, and pulled in opposing directions, in this case, which calls into question our conceptualizations of what it means to be an ethical subject. There are points at which Foucault touched on this less linear conception of the subject’s relationship to herself/himself, though, which invite us still to attend to his theory of the relation between ethics and power: “[The subject] is not a substance. It is a form, and this form is not primarily or always identical to itself. You do not have the same type of relationship to yourself when you constitute yourself as a political subject who goes to vote or speaks at a meeting and when you are seeking to fulfill your desires in a sexual relationship. . . . ​It is precisely the historical constitution of these various forms of the subject in relation to the games of truth which interest me” (Foucault 2000: 290–­291; emphasis added). Here Foucault highlights what his theory never completely elaborated—​­the contradictions and ambiguities of subjectivity, and the way in which relationality and intersubjectivity are integral to them. It is for this reason that some scholars have turned ­toward psychoanalytic and other theories of the subject in their thinking on ethics: Foucault’s rapport à soi implies, but does not fully account for, relations with Others and alterity within the subject. The role of desire in the relation to alterity, Judith Butler argues, is central in theorizing a notion of ethics which might adequately address power, relationality, and subjectivity, and the interactions between self-­reflexivity and subject formation. She argues that a theory of agency must recognize how although “a power exerted on a subject, subjection is nevertheless a power assumed by the subject, an assumption that constitutes the instrument of that subject’s becoming” (1997: 11). In line with her critique of structuralist thinking within anthropology and psychoanalysis, whereby the realm of the symbolic is characterized as a quasi-­timeless and an invariable set of norms, Butler argues that the relation of the subject to moral and legal norms is a split and therefore potentially destabilizing one. That is to say, because the

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subject can only speak, and therefore resist the law, through the reiteration of its very terms, subjectivity always involves an identification with authority, even if one acts in opposition to it. As Butler notes in her interpretation of the story of Antigone, “The deed is and is not her own, a trespass on the norms of kinship and gender that exposes the precarious character of those norms, their sudden and disturbing transferability, and their capacity to be reiterated in contexts and in ways that are not fully to be anticipated” (2000: 24). In this sense, ethics, as conceptualized here, can create openings and fractures from, as well as conformities with, sovereignty and law, and involves not only self-­ reflection and critique but fantasy, desire, and imagination as unconscious elements of subject formation. Equally, this relation between law and the subject is one formed through negative as well as positive affects. Becoming is as much an encounter with trauma, injury, or fear as it is with joy, love, or hope. Different traditions within psychoanalytic thought have approached this aspect of subjectivity in varying ways, some trying to overcome or repair subjective experiences of guilt and melancholia while others becoming more interested in the ways in which destructive affects attach themselves to different objects and the effects this has on the subject’s relationships. For our purposes in anthropological thinking, however, it might be enough simply to note and confront the presence of the negative, as well as the positive, in our conceptualizations of the ethical subject. If socially and perhaps intellectually we have been trained in a “normative logic of optimism” (Berlant and Edelman 2014: xiv; cf. Ahmed 2010), there is an erasure of the discomfort and sometimes violence of actually existing social relations, and the ways in which people relate to Others as well as to themselves within historical and cultural settings, in an idea of the subject who strives t­oward goodness or virtue. In the ethnography I have presented, ethical subjects are also attached to and give expression to melancholic affects and relations of domination at the same time as they manifest a kind of hope. In their responses to Others, they are ambivalently positioned among different Others and the various sensibilities and symbolic identifications these different relationships entail. The point here is thus not only that ethics is a fundamentally relational phenomenon (see Keane 2014), but also that ethical experience carries with it traces of negativity—​­of coercion, trauma, and violence—​­even as it also constitutes modes of practice and being we more readily associate with

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ethics, such as hope, care, or benevolence. Such a relation with power does not imply only suffering or victimhood, but it does require us to pay attention to the ways in which ethics is also politics—​­“ethicopolitics”—​­a way to think through the relations among subjection, subjectivation, and the moments in which new and possible ethical relationships are able to disrupt prevailing systems of domination. These two sides of ethics, the negative and the affirmative, are, crucially, inseparable, dialectical (Mazarella 2015). This duality, and its ambivalence, is what I have sought to analyze in this book through the notion of complicity, conceptualized as the difficult confrontation of Jewish Israeli activists with their own entanglements in oppressive systems of power that yet enables a response to Others, a performing of responsibility. In order to grapple with this tension, I have drawn on Emmanuel Levinas’ thinking on ethics. This is a conceptualization that frames ethical subjectivity as the result of the phenomenological encounter with otherness, rather than ethics as something that can be discovered, cultivated, or nurtured after such an encounter. Ethics and responsibility go against intentionality (Levinas 1991) because the Other, or alterity, is always already present within the acting, thinking self. This coexistence, or entanglement, of subject and object, Same and Other, moreover, is a difficult, painful one. Writing in the wake of the Holocaust and in response to the entanglement of European thought with its brutality and the suffering it caused, Levinas places pain and evil (with both expressed in his use of the French term mal), at the heart of human relations. Consequently, violence is always present in the encounter of the self with the Other, a presence that is not erased but rather acknowledged in the subject’s response to the injury of the Other (Derrida 1999: 32–­33). What this does not mean, though, is that ethics, response, being, and life are not possible or are only and wholly characterized by pain. Neither must subjectivity be redeemed or resolved from its traumatic or melancholic aspects. These, among other critiques, are proposed by those who have suggested that Levinas either seeks to resolve the problematic nature of ethics by offering a theology of the Other (Singh 2015: 304–­305) or that this theology only inverts Kantian ethics by focusing on the Other rather than on the autonomous self and thus remains stuck in an individualized concept of subjectivity (Zigon 2017). Rather, I argue, a view of the ethical inspired by Levinasian thought leaves room for tension and ambivalence such that the

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presence of politics, of violence and power, need not write out the possibility of ethics. We need not purify our notions of ethics just as we need not resolve the troubling nature of the lives, and deaths, we write about in ethnography. Brighupati Singh suggests “agonistic intimacy” as a way of thinking about how the line between cohabitation and conflict can move and blur, making room for multiple intermediate points along a spectrum of neighborliness and violence (Singh 2011; cf. Han 2012). While Singh still ultimately holds ethics and politics as separate though joined poles, however (Singh 2013; cf. Stevenson 2015), I concur with Stevenson that the real difficulty occurs when attempting to think of those aspects we readily associate with politics—​ ­violence, injury, death, nothingness—​­as integral to the ethical. I think of ethics not as the move away from politics but as the inhabitation of the political in nonheroic but, rather, troubled yet responsive ways. To consider “death in life as an ethical possibility” (Stevenson 2015) is not to forgo our capacity to manifest or articulate hope and care. It is this ambivalent mode of ethics, I argue, that Jewish Israeli left radical activists inhabit, even as they simultaneously perform and reinscribe certain kinds of violence.

*  *  * To foreground ethical ambivalence and ambiguity in the study of Israel/­ Palestine, as in other polarizing situations perhaps, is a way to think about the uncomfortable entanglements of subjectivity and power. It is an attempt to render the ethnographic complexity of Jewish Israeli radical activism in a domain that is often characterized by “methodological nationalism” (Monterescu 2015; cf. Svirsky 2012) and in which talking about gray zones can be read as a failure to commit to any of the political and ideological positions that have already been made legible. While acknowledging that it is a privilege to take the time and space to write such an analysis, one linked to my own position as someone who does not have to stay in Israel/Palestine and live the modes of subjection or action I have written about here, I nevertheless insist on the importance of such a distance from ethical and political certainties about this place. The idea of making room for negativity and violence in our conceptions of the ethical, for leaving its ambiguities unresolved, offers a way for us to imagine potential forms of engagement and activism that would not require piety or purity in order to be considered legitimate or,

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simply, necessary. This is the aim of the notion of complicity, and the way I have linked it to ethics and responsibility. Complicity points to the entanglements of Jewish Israeli solidarity and dissent with the normative context of their surroundings, and not to an accusation or a judgment of failure. We need to attend to ethnographic moments that betray complicity and other awkward elements in activism, then, in order to understand the potential as well as the limits of such political engagements. In the case of Israel/ Palestine, the demand for an acute ethnographic sensibility does not stem from a fetishistic approach ­toward the anthropological method, and neither does it reiterate the claim that this historical case is “more complex” than activists portray (which so often serves as a rebuttal of principled critiques of the Israeli state). Rather, I offer this analysis out of an urgent sense of the need to properly address and not to sidestep the difficult realities of practicing resistance, and in the hope that a less romanticized view of Jewish Israeli left radical activism can prompt discussions about different possible forms of solidarity and dissent. Ultimately, it cannot be ignored that, despite these activists’ efforts and sacrifices, their political hopes and the struggles they are engaged in remain frustrated by those whose politics dominate in Israel/­ Palestine. The ways in which this activism’s inefficacy may be linked to the privileged positions of many of its protagonists, to their extensive practices of self-­reflection and critique, or to its complicities with dominant modes of being and relating must be considered without recourse to comfortable political categories. The ethically impure nature of political action is not unique to Israel/­ Palestine, and I hope this analysis of radical activism there might prove useful for scholars of other contexts. Anthropological accounts of resistance, protest, and activism, in particular, may gain from this analytical capacity to attend to gray zones. Rather than turning away from contentious politics altogether, given concerns that our analyses were romanticizing (Abu-­Lughod 1990) or decontextualized (Ortner 1995) or that they presented an idealized picture of subaltern agency (M. Brown 1996), or, alternatively, rediscovering the appeal of resistance and forgetting these important critiques, the notion of complicity offers a fresh view. It carries with it crucial attention to the subject’s intimacy with domination—​­the ways in which their actions may echo or reproduce sovereign power. Only when this kind of relationship with power becomes visible, recognizable, can we meaningfully talk about

Conclusion 151

responsibility within it. This is the notion of “responsibility-­in-­complicity,” following Sanders (2002: 11), that I put forward in this book. I have argued that Jewish Israeli left radical activists perform and refuse this complicity, confronting their own positions of power and privilege in Israel/Palestine as they grapple with ways of unsettling it. Even when complicity is not explicitly articulated, the physical movements, symbolic tropes, and affective resonances of this activism signal its uncomfortable presence. A theory of negativity and violence as integral to the ethical and that, therefore, unreservedly links ethics with politics, is one that opens up new ways of thinking about resistance and activism. There is a simultaneously self-­negating and affirming quality to activism that knows it is failing and yet persistently, and with hope, continues to fail. My centering of the ethical subject, and the ways in which that subject’s relations with Others manifest this contradiction, bring into view the intersubjective and affective ways in which people struggle with this ambivalence and its contours of submission and protest, of complicity and refusal. Subverting or challenging violent regimes, in this analysis, does not require a pure or perfect space outside the structures of power but rather activists’ continual confrontation with their entanglements within them. These are processes and practices that unsettle and disturb, sometimes in the ways in which they demonstrate their own futility and fall back into established political forms because even that demonstration refuses to accept the conditions from which it emerges. Responsibility and resistance, here, are tied up in complicity.



round 2 a.m. on Wednesday, January 20, 2016, a Palestinian man, Nasser Nawajeh, was arrested by the Israeli army at his home, a tent in the village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills. Nasser, a leader figure in his community, had been working for the Israeli NGO B’Tselem for several years as a field researcher. He was in close contact with many Jewish Israeli activists, including the organizers of Ta’ayush as well as those with whom I had been visiting in the South Hebron Hills since 2011. Nasser has always therefore had to be mindful of his political affiliations—​­since being a Palestinian working closely with Jewish Israeli activists and organizations could land him in trouble, with other Palestinians who are suspicious of such relationships or with the Palestinian Authority’s intelligence services and with the Israeli authorities who seek to make such cooperation as difficult as possible. On this occasion, Nasser had truly been caught in the crossfire. The story r­ eally begins a couple of weeks earlier, when Nasser had unwillingly appeared on Israeli television, alongside Jewish Israeli Ta’ayush activist Ezra Nawi. Both had been secretly filmed by an Israeli man, Itzik Goldway, posing as an activist who had spent many months traveling with Ta’ayush to the South Hebron Hills, while surreptitiously recording material that might be used to incriminate activists. The “mole” or “agent”—​­as he came to be known by activists who were increasingly aware of such attempts to infiltrate their groups, but also the term increasingly used to describe leftist activists by the Israeli right—​­was part of a group called Ad Kan (This Far, or No More), an organization funded by settler groups who claim to be defending Israel from attacks “from within.” Ad Kan had passed its material to the show Uvda (Fact), fronted by the generally well-­respected and serious journalist Ilana Dayan. Itzik had filmed Ezra talking about his interactions with an alleged Palestinian land dealer, “Mousa,” who telephoned Ezra and tried to

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enlist his help in securing the sale of Palestinian land from the village of Susiya to Israeli settlers. Ezra talked about turning Mousa over to the Palestinian security services (for it is indeed prohibited by the Palestinian Authority to sell Palestinian land to Jews), who, he said, would possibly torture and kill him.1 In early January 2016, the footage appeared as the centerpiece of the Uvda broadcast, with different scenes of conversations between Nasser and Ezra edited in to appear as if the two were conspiring to have the land dealer tortured and killed. With dramatic music and soundbites from Ad Kan activists, the show portrayed activists such as Ezra and his Palestinian co-­ conspirators as violent and attempting to harm other Palestinians. Ezra was arrested a few days later at Ben-­Gurion airport, when he was attempting to leave the country, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit a crime. The arrest of Nasser and another Ta’ayush activist, Guy Butavia, followed after just over a week, and initially the identities of all three, as well as details about the case, were placed under a court-­imposed gag order, although within activist circles and on social media this knowledge was circulating. Given thin evidence of any wrongdoing and the apparent lack of a legally robust case against them, it was obvious that the point of the detention was to hold the three for as long as possible and to subject them to long and perhaps harsh interrogations in the hope of obtaining more information that could be used against them. This has long been the case whenever Ta’ayush activists were arrested, as the Israeli authorities seem particularly keen to disrupt the actions of Ezra in the South Hebron Hills, and his determined obstruction of settler violence and the expansion of the settlements. All three were eventually released and the judge in a Jerusalem magistrate’s court slammed the political motives of the Israeli police in pursuing the case. What happened to Nasser, though, unlike Ezra and Guy who were able to walk free directly from the court, is a further twist in the tale. When the decision about Ezra and Guy was yet to be announced, the judge had already ruled that his court did not have jurisdiction over Nasser—​­as a Palestinian and not an Israeli citizen, accused of conspiracy to commit a crime against another Palestinian on Palestinian territory—​­and ordered his unconditional and immediate release. The police appealed the decision at a higher Jerusalem court, but again received the same ruling. Rather than releasing Nasser, though, they quickly took him to the Ofer military court and prison in the occupied West Bank, where a military judge was asked to extend

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Nasser’s remand. His Israeli lawyer was not present at that hearing because she was still in Jerusalem filing an emergency petition to hold the police in contempt of court. Nasser was kept in Ofer for four more days, until the military judge ruled that he must be released, at which point the army drove him a short distance south of Jerusalem and dumped him at the side of the road near a checkpoint leading to Bethlehem. Nasser was left standing in the bitter cold and rain and on territory that, under occupation governance, he would normally require a permit to enter. Left miles from his home and with only his phone and a small amount of cash, Nasser had to find a way back to Susiya before he could be detained for illegally being present on the wrong side of the separation barrier. The case of Nasser, Ezra, and Guy came after several months of stabbing and shooting attacks on Jewish Israelis in public spaces in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and other cities, as well as on settlers and soldiers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—​­actions that some were heralding as a third intifada while Israeli media reported on a renewed “wave of terror.” The attacks were spontaneous and popular, often perpetrated by very young Palestinians and not organized by any of the political parties or factions. Their occurrence in public spaces, such as on buses and in markets, had Israelis recalling the time of the second intifada when bombings in cafés and on buses transformed Jewish Israeli experience of these spaces into one of fear and suspicion (Ochs 2010). Rather than reflecting on the contestations over access to the Al-­Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem’s old city, which had reached a tipping point and sparked the violence over the summer of 2015, or indeed on the steady and often increasing tensions in recent years over the attacks on Gaza, frequent house demolitions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and constant building of new settlements in those territories, among other ongoing violence, Israeli media and politicians instead relied on a familiar politics of fear, stoking racial divisions and tensions and bolstering increasingly authoritarian policy and legislation. This deteriorating political situation—​­the culmination of higher-­than-­ usual tensions that had been building up at least since the summer of 2014 and that year’s massive assault on Gaza—​­coincided with what felt like a low point for Jewish Israeli left radical activists. Since my main fieldwork over 2009–­2011, many forms of activism in which I had become involved had either dwindled or ceased entirely. The demonstrations and events I had attended several times in a week, or even on the same day, had become less

Epilogue 155

frequent, and some of the groups I had worked with had dissolved. Some activists had grown tired or disillusioned, while others were working in different ways—​­often very active online and from home (e.g., promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, rather than going to protests or rallies). This shift in Jewish Israeli left radical activism had happened not only in the wake of the events around Al-­Aqsa but steadily over the four years since I first left, with far-­right political parties increasing their power in the Knesset and in government, and punctuated by some key events and phases of violence. After the briefly lived optimism of 2011’s summer of social justice protests and its potential to speak to a wider Jewish Israeli public than the radical left could ever hope to (Gordon 2013, Grinberg 2013), the confidence of the state’s militarist and colonial rule made itself felt in manifold ways and not only in relation to the Palestinians. Ongoing tensions in south Tel Aviv around the presence of Eritrean and Sudanese refugees led to riots in 2012, with refugees and their Israeli allies chased and attacked following demonstrations in southern neighborhoods. The summer of 2014 saw popular and state violence in and around Gaza and the West Bank at devastating levels, with Operation Protective Edge killing thousands in Gaza and resulting in the deaths of seventy Israelis. Among activists, the experience of that summer seemed to be one of shock, disbelief, rage, and exhaustion. Their actions felt utterly futile. Thus, each time I visited over those years, friends would tell me how things just kept getting worse, even though that seemed impossible because they were already bad enough. A brief interlude in this narrative occurred around the March 2015 elections, as the four main Palestinian parties in Israel joined forces in response to a raised threshold required to enter the Knesset. Optimism about potential voter turnout left Jewish Israeli radical leftists and Palestinian citizens feeling hopeful, for the first time in many years, about the potential for real opposition in the parliamentary system. But it did not take long for that feeling to subside with the violence of the following summer, as well as the painful realization that, despite being the third-­largest bloc, with thirteen seats in the Knesset, the potential for what can be done within an overwhelmingly right-­wing parliament remained limited. The refrain—​­of a decline in progressive political energy, of activist frustration, and of horror at an increasingly dire political situation—​­was not unfamiliar to me, however. Despite looking back with activist friends at the

156 Epilogue

period of my first fieldwork as one of hope and energy, compared with a gloomier 2015–­2016, this had not been the narrative during that earlier period. At that time, also, people often told me that this was a more difficult, darker, time than they had ever known before, and that things just kept getting worse despite the situation already seeming to be at a breaking point. The arrest and detention of Nasser, Ezra, and Guy, then, came at a time when the situation was, once again, at an “all-­time” low and was interpreted by many activists as a wake-­up call, echoing similar statements I had heard in earlier times. When even Jewish Israelis who support and befriend Palestinians and who organize with them in their struggles against the occupation are being imprisoned on the flimsiest of evidence and subject to smear campaigns in national media, my friends told me, people should realize that the situation is truly dire, that any notion of democratic checks and balances—​­of a liberal space of public action—​­does not apply in the Israeli case. This old-­new low might seem to present a limit case for my analysis of Jewish Israeli left radical activism as a form of ethicopolitical responsibility that entails complicity. Indeed in the years since my fieldwork, these activists have increasingly been subject to attacks, of all kinds, from a strengthened right-­wing public and government, such that their engagements appear to be among the few ways in which operating outside state hegemony is still possible. In some senses, this is true. If we think of different levels, or kinds, of complicity, then Ezra Nawi and Guy Butavia are surely among the least complicit Jewish Israeli citizens with their state’s violence t­oward Palestinians. They have, I wish to emphasize, paid high prices for their activism. Returning to my analysis in Chapter 1, though, of Ta’ayush’s activities in the South Hebron Hills, let us remember what happens to that landscape and to its Palestinian inhabitants in the face of Jewish Israeli practices of solidarity and dissent. In the face of such drama, the Palestinian inhabitants become a backdrop, a stage on which struggles among various Israeli Jews play out. When the mole from Ad Kan arrived, and Ezra’s blunder became the subject of the Uvda show, this is precisely what happened. Nasser and his words were edited into a television sequence in order to incriminate Ezra. Nasser’s detention and eventual release were a side effect of the state’s determination to prosecute Ezra and were siphoned off from the main spectacle of the Jerusalem court to Ofer military prison, then to the side of a road near Bethlehem, and eventually back to a tent in Susiya that Nasser, his wife Iyam, and their

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three children make their home. Ta’ayush’s activities continued as before, with renewed vigor if any differently, and other activists returned to their more habitual activities after having attended the protests and vigils demanding the release of Nasser, Ezra, and Guy. In May 2016, however, B’Tselem, the NGO that employs Nasser, appeared to have heeded something of the wake-­up call. In a statement accompanying the release of its report titled The Occupation’s Fig Leaf, the organization explained that it was to stop filing complaints with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) about the unlawful abuse and killing of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers, breaking the mold of how they have operated since being founded in the late 1980s. Doing so only helps to sustain the appearance of the military’s and the state’s legitimacy, B’Tselem claimed, by making them appear to take action on human rights abuses and injustices: And so, for 25 years, with a view to establishing accountability and preventing future harm, we contacted the military law enforcement system and demanded that soldiers suspected of harming Palestinians be investigated. Over the years, the military law enforcement system has developed the expectation that human rights organizations, including B’Tselem, serve as subcontractors for the military investigative system: that they submit the complaints, coordinate collecting statements, obtain documents, and so forth. Although this is not B’Tselem’s job but the responsibility of the military system, we have elected to perform it for the last 25 years for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons we did so was that we hoped that in this way we were helping bring justice to the Palestinian victims and to establish deterrence that would prevent future similar incidents. If that had been the outcome, this paper would not have been written. In reality, however, B’Tselem’s cooperation with the military investigation and enforcement systems has not achieved justice, instead lending legitimacy to the occupation regime and aiding to whitewash it. B’Tselem will no longer play a part in the pretense posed by the military law enforcement system and will no longer refer complaints to it.

158 Epilogue

The experience we have gained, on which we base the conclusions presented in this report, has brought us to the realization that there is no longer any point in pursuing justice and defending human rights by working with a system whose real function is measured by its ability to continue to successfully cover up unlawful acts and protect perpetrators. (B’Tselem 2016: 38–­39) With its clear sense of frustration and disappointment, B’Tselem’s statement was lauded and derided in equal measure by activists: on the one hand, this internationally prominent human rights organization’s clear condemnation of Israel’s supposed respect for the law and for democratic norms was seen as important—​­a sign of, and perhaps a push ­toward, different modes of censure and activism against the Israeli state regime; on the other hand, it had come twenty years too late, according to many activists, who had long denounced B’Tselem’s and other NGOs’ forms of cooperation with the state and with its techniques of occupation and colonization. The statement was, perhaps, another form of “shooting and crying” (yorim vebochim), the Hebrew phrase connoting the retrospective hand-­wringing and soul-­searching that occurs only after the fact of having participated in violence. If B’Tselem’s words signaled an awakening, the hope it offered was thus compromised and ambivalent. As an organization that has in many ways been deeply entrenched in the workings of Israeli occupation rule, it could not break from, but only maneuver within the uncomfortable space that it for so long helped to carve out. Forms of ethicopolitical engagement develop as modes of complicity shift. Ever partial, ever flawed, activists continue to act, and to confront the challenge of what it means to take responsibility in contemporary Israel/Palestine.


Introduction 1. See Salamanca et al. (2012) for an overview of work framing Israel/Palestine as a settler-­colonial society. 2. Throughout this book, I use the word territories to describe the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, or occupied Palestinian territories, as the equivalent of shtachim—​­the Hebrew term mostly used by Israeli leftists (across the spectrum from Peace Now to the radical left) to refer to those spaces. On the “magical aura” of a distanced and separate space of the “territories,” and comparison to Israeli settlers’ use of the term “Judea and Samaria” to refer to the West Bank, see Feige (1999). 3. I thank Yael Berda for this imagery. 4. In their work on mainstream Jewish Israeli participation in militarism through digital means, Adi Kuntsman and Rebecca Stein briefly use the terms “digital complicity” (xiii) and “ordinary complicity” (xi) to refer to Israeli support or “appetite for militancy” (10). My use of the term “complicity” in this book is in tune with their interest in practices of “living with one’s complicity with violence” (15) but from the point of view of those who are critically reflexive and aware of it, struggling against it, rather than those who give their consent in the ways Kuntsman and Stein document. In many ways, therefore, my framing of complicity speaks to Ariella Azoulay’s meditation on whether, and, if so, how, Jewish Israelis can have a “right not to be a perpetrator,” in a situation where “implicit complicity with the reproduction of the regime awaits every newborn Israeli Jew” (Azoulay 2015: 691). 5. Uvdot ba shetach (facts on the ground) is a common phrase in Hebrew to describe the de facto way in which policy is made, and also the concept Nadia Abu El-­Haj (2001) uses to describe the making of Israeli national identity through archeological practices. 6. With few exceptions, anthropological perspectives on ethics have focused on striving ­toward the good, or on inhabiting the world well (see, especially, Robbins [2013] for an explicit call for an “anthropology of the good”), even when that striving is difficult or requires struggle (Mattingly 2013, 2014). See, however, Dave and Singh (2015), Furani (2014), and Garcia (2010) for different takes on the relation between


Notes to Pages 20–24

killing or death and ethics. Other work in the anthropology of care (e.g., Han 2012 and Stevenson 2014) has similarly pushed at the boundaries through which the ethical, care, and violence have been held separate. 7. Terence Evens’ Anthropology as Ethics (2008) has advanced a theory of ethics and social life which in many ways resonates with this aim, though with an emphasis on logic and ontology rather than on subjectivity and affect. C. Jason Throop (2010a) has proposed a Levinasian approach to moral experience through his ethnography of pain and suffering among the Yap, although he does not broach the question of violence and the political as is my aim in this book. Other work that has questioned, in different ways, a rather individualist focus in the anthropology of ethics includes Al-­Mohammed (2010), Englund (2008), Mittermaier (2012), and Zigon (2014). 8. Didier Fassin has called for anthropological attention to “grey zones” through his theorization of the distinction between resentment and ressentiment, which, he notes, requires “a rejection of our Manichean propensity and ethical comfort” (2013: 261). My approach combining Levinasian thought on ethics with psychoanalytic insights and attention to affect and subjectivity presents one answer to this call, although not upholding the separation between the psychological and the political that Fassin proposes (250). 9. The precarious presence of Palestinians in Tel Aviv becomes visible at certain moments, though, as in January 2016 when, following a shooting in a bar in central Tel Aviv and the escape of the Palestinian attacker and the police search for him, apartments where Palestinians were living were raided and searched with apparently little discrimination or cause to believe the people living in those apartments were associated with the attack. It was not clear how the police knew the addresses of these Palestinians, though reports that Tel Aviv University gave them lists of Palestinian students living in dorms circulated (O. Noy 2016). 10. It is important to note that my research does not address the activism of Palestinian citizens in Israel, which is, for the most part, separate and distinct from the kind of political movements with which I was involved (Marteu 2009; Payes 2005; Plonski 2015; Rabinowitz 1994). 11. The politics of gender and sexuality was a significant aspect of the activist scene in which I worked, with many of the activists I knew who were also active in feminist and queer politics perceiving and presenting their struggles as inextricably linked with those of Palestinians and other marginalized groups in Israel/Palestine. Because I did not conduct ethnographic research with the activist groups focusing specifically on these connections, this is not the focus of my analysis in this book; however, it is the subject of several studies (Baum 2007; Gabriel 1992; Helman and Rapoport 1997; Sassoon-­Levy and Rapoport 2003; Sassoon-­Levy et al. 2011; Sharoni 1995; Ziv 2010) and deserves further scholarly investigation.

Notes to Pages 29–45


Chapter 1 1. On these practices of filming their interactions in the South Hebron Hills, Jon Simons describes Ta’ayush as creating “an archive of the ‘future perfect’ ” that will one day show the practice of peace in the time of occupation (Simons 2016: 36). While my reading of Ta’ayush’s activism as performing complicity differs somewhat from Simons’ interpretation, we share an interest in the elements of display, performance, and perhaps even spectacle that make this activism meaningful in ways that surpass its ultimate “failure” to achieve its desired ends. 2. This technique stems from the ongoing use of Ottoman laws by the Israeli military legal system and, in particular, to the observance of a law about “dead land,” in which only those who continually farm the land to which they may have the title deeds are still considered its owners (Schmidt 2001: 364). The law is also discussed in Ra’anan Alexandrowicz’s documentary film The Law in These Parts (2012). 3. Under the 1995 Israeli-­Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, or “Oslo II,” the West Bank was divided into three areas: Area A, which would consist of territory to be placed under direct Palestinian control; Area B, jointly controlled territory, in which the Palestinians would exercise civil and police authority, but Israel would retain security responsibility; and Area C, territory in which Israel would have exclusive control. As opposed to Area A, from which Israeli citizens have been formally barred from entering by the army since October 2000, there are approximately 325,000 Israeli settlers in Area C (B’Tselem 2013) and an elaborate road and transport network for their use, whereas Palestinians are subject to various technologies of closure within the West Bank and in any attempts to enter Israel proper (Bishara 2015). 4. This argument thus perhaps relates to older debates about the nature of civil disobedience by political philosophers (e.g., Dworkin 1985: 104–­118; Habermas 1985; Rawls 1971). While their preoccupations with the line between legality and legitimacy might have presupposed the robustness of democracy and constitutionalism in ways that would be misguided in relation to this ethnographic case, they share with my analysis a concern with civil disobedience as a practice of citizenship, rather than as being totally opposed to state power. 5. Kahanist groups follow the anti-­miscegenist and other far-­right thought of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the founder of the political party Kach and the American Jewish Defense League. Kahane served as a member of the Knesset before Kach was banned from participating in the 1988 elections through a revised law that prevented parties inciting racism from running for parliament. 6. Israel’s politics of separation are enforced by a complex system of control over people’s movements in different categorizations of space in Israel/Palestine, of which the permit system and the construction of physical barriers are only two of the more striking techniques used (Hanafi 2012; Ophir et al. 2009; Tawil-­Souri 2011; Eyal Weizman


Notes to Pages 45–58

2007; Zureik et al. 2010). Palestinians are required to carry permits to leave the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip (which for the latter have, since Hamas’ election in 2007, become almost impossible to obtain). Since the mid-­1990s, a physical barrier separating Israel and the Gaza Strip has been constructed, and since the mid-­2000s several different fences and walls running along Israel’s border with and mostly inside parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem have made it increasingly difficult for Palestinians in these areas to travel within and beyond the West Bank.

Chapter 2 1. Rebecca Stein (2008) similarly theorizes Jewish Israeli tourist and consumption practices as tied up in desire for the Palestinian Arab Other, though in her ethnography as part of a dominant nationalist imaginary rather than a critical, leftist activist one. 2. This is due at least partly to an effective politics of separation, constituted by pervasive securitization (Ochs 2010) and by a complex system of control over people’s movements in different categorizations of space in Israel/Palestine. See Chapter 1, note 6. 3. A similar observation has been made in relation to antiracist activism and supporters of the civil rights struggle in the United States, as certain exoticizations of black culture seem to mimic this fetishization of the Other with whom one works in solidarity (hooks 1992: 24). 4. Combatants for Peace is one of the groups that has been accused by some of promoting “normalization”—​­the representation of Israelis and Palestinians as equal “sides” in a symmetrical conflict and thus equal partners in peace-­building, an image certainly disseminated in many “dialogue” or “coexistence” projects. The issue of normalization, what it means and how it relates to different kinds of joint Palestinian-­Israeli activism is complex and cannot be adequately discussed here, but it should be noted that most of the activists to whom I refer are critically aware of and consciously opposed to normalization, as the recognition of the oppression of Palestinians and the need to combat this in all interactions is foremost among their political concerns, even if their activism is, in practice, imperfect in this regard. Thus my theorization of the affective entanglements of Jewish Israeli solidarity activism with Israeli state sovereignty is not straightforwardly as a form of normalization but is attentive to ways in which it can slip into or incorporate the reproduction of unequal and oppressive relations among Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. It should also be noted that, of the activists with whom I conducted research, Combatants for Peace was one of the closest of all the groups to practicing normalization in terms of both the group members’ ideas and acts, but the group was still widely respected among other activists for its committed antimilitarist stance and was included in meetings and events on that basis (unlike, for example, the organization Breaking the Silence, which appealed to a wider Israeli public through a more militarist and nationalist language and was widely criticized by left radical activists). 5. “Horror in Samaria: Terrorist Murders Family of 5,” Ynet News, http://www.ynet,7340,L-­4040974,00.html, accessed June 17, 2013.

Notes to Pages 59–73


6. On Israeli militarism, see Ben-­ Ari and Lomsky-­ Feder (1999), Kimmerling (1993), and Levy (2012). 7. Jarrett Zigon’s article, “On Love,” demonstrates this approach to ethics in considering love as an “ethical demand,” prompting a process of self-­remaking. My framing of love as an affect that brings subject and Other into troubled relation differs from this conceptualization; while it addresses the risky and self-­shattering effects of love, as well as divorcing it from notions of “the good” or “virtue,” it ultimately returns to redemptive ethical subjects capable of self-­mastery, with love “as a tactic for remaking their moral subjectivities and constructing new life trajectories” (2013a: 203). 8. “Death of Palestinian Woman at Bil’in Protest Goes to High Court,” Haaretz, July 18, 2012,­defense/death-­of-­palestinian-­woman -­at-­bil-­in-­protest-­goes-­to-­high-­court-­1.451798, accessed June 19, 2013. 9. Thus Johannes Fabian noted in his article “How Others Die” that the anthropology of death often remains folkloristic and exoticizing, marking a broader hermeneutic problem in the writing of the discipline, because death marks the point at which “getting directly at ‘the others’ ” (1972: 567) becomes most aporetic and troubling to the positivist aspirations of the anthropologist. 10. See Kelly Oliver (2001a) on Irigaray and Levinas and Penelope Deutscher (1998) on Irigaray and Derrida. 11. Here Athanasiou’s analysis recalls those of Douglas Crimp (2002), Deborah Gould (2009), and Ann Cvetkovich (2003) in their work on the politics of mourning in the LGBT community in the period of AIDS deaths in the 1980s and 1990s. This work shows how marking the silences and the traumas, the unknowability of each death and each Other, can enact a politics of responsibility, of recognizing alterity, and perhaps, even, of love.

Chapter 3 1. I use the word refugee throughout this book to reflect the ethnographic use of the Hebrew term, plitim, which activists and refugees themselves used. Most refugees have not been granted formal refugee status by the Israeli state, however. As of February 2015, only four of 2,408 asylum applications from Eritrean refugees had been approved; in June 2016, Israel granted a Sudanese asylum seeker, Mutasim Ali, refugee status for the first time. See reports in Haaretz,­news/.premium -­1.643134, accessed July 20, 2016; and +972 Magazine,­first -­israel-­grants-­refugee-­status-­to-­sudanese-­asylum-­seeker/120209/, accessed July 20, 2016. 2. See the report by the Physicians for Human Rights–­Israel (2011). 3. Since 2008, various amendments to the “Prevention of Infiltration Law,” a piece of legislation originally introduced in 1954 and aimed at Palestinians crossing back into Israel after their expulsion, have been introduced by the state to facilitate the indefinite detention of refugees, who could then be charged with the crime of “infiltration,” and also to criminalize those citizens who in any way aid such persons. Israel’s High Court


Notes to Pages 73–100

of Justice has overturned or limited some of those new provisions, with a ruling in August 2015 partially accepting the objections of NGOs campaigning for the rights of the so-­called infiltrators. See the summary by the organization Hotline for Refugees and Migrants,­and-­asylum-­seekers-­en/%e2%80%8fdetention -­of-­asylum-­seekers/, accessed April 11, 2016). 4. Here I have used my translation of the Hebrew names of the departments, although PHRI also works in the English language and has translated the names slightly differently. I have tried to convey the connotations for a Hebrew-­speaking public as much as possible. 5. Since December 2013, various versions of a bill aimed at restricting the funding and activities of left-­wing NGOs have been debated and passed in the Israeli parliament. These laws include provisions to harshly tax Israeli NGOs receiving funding from abroad, restrictions on their ability to call on others to boycott Israel or to call for the prosecution of Israeli soldiers for war crimes, as well as forcing representatives of organizations deemed “foreign entities” to wear markers of this status when lobbying in the Israeli parliament. (See the most recent overview by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel,­content/uploads/2015/12/Anti-­NGO-­Bills-­Overview -­Updated-­December-­2015.pdf, accessed April 11, 2016). 6. On this aspect of labor migration to Israel, see Bartram (1998), Kemp (2004), and Willen (2005). 7. Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (2010),, accessed July 20, 2016. 8. For an extensive treatment of this situation, see Jacobsen et al. (2013) and Lijnders (2011). 9. This observation must be tempered by the fact that anybody requiring emergency treatment and/or refusing to take part in the survey would have been granted treatment. The scenario of refusal to take part never occurred, to the best of my knowledge. PHRI staff and volunteers were also aware of this issue, but they felt that the desired end justified the means in this case. 10. See reports of the main violent incidents at, e.g., +972 Magazine, http://972mag .com/africans-­attacked-­in-­tel-­aviv-­protest-­mks-­infiltrators-­are-­cancer/46537/, accessed March 1, 2014. The complexities of these dynamics are addressed more fully in Chapter 4. See M. Shapiro (2013) for an analysis of the sorts of class dynamics contributing to the tensions in south Tel Aviv. 11. Kanaaneh 2002: 40. 12. See note 3 on this law and its developments.

Chapter 4 1. See Chapter 3 and Furst-­Nichols and Jacobsen (2011) on the situation of refugees in Israel as of January 2011. In late 2012, Israel completed constructing a barrier along the border with Egypt, which has almost completely stopped the entry of people from

Notes to Pages 100–117


the Sinai desert. See­challenges-­facing-­african-­asylum -­seekers-­arriving/, accessed June 26, 2016. 2. This echoed the assault on “Barack Hussein Obama” in American politics around the same time, although it denoted an internal enemy of a different kind. 3. In 2013, Khenin and Maduel were to change places as Maduel stood as the mayoral candidate for City for All of Us in the municipal elections. Maduel gained only 9 percent of the votes for mayor (compared to Khenin’s 35 percent), and the party retained only three of its previous five seats on the city council. 4. My argument in this chapter has been strongly influenced by the work of Tiffany Page, whose doctoral thesis The Provocations of Vulnerability (2016) provides a more thorough discussion of vulnerability than I am able to do here. I am grateful to her for the stimulating discussions and exchanges we have had on this topic and her comments on drafts of this chapter. 5. Wendy Brown writes of the “wounded attachments” that reinscribe essentialized identities rather than opening other possible forms of intersubjectivity and ethicopolitical engagement. Indeed, it was as a counter to these difficulties of identity politics that the activists with whom I conducted research established City for All of Us, a coalition that aimed to address what Joyce Dalsheim (2014) has described as the entrenchment of a politics of fear and separation that binaristic conceptualizations of Israel/Palestine, even those that promote “coexistence” or “dialogue,” tend to reinforce. 6. Stephen Frosh (2011), in his discussion of Butler’s reading of Levinas, and the subject’s implication in violence t­oward Others—​­what Frosh calls Butler’s proposition of a “relational ethics”—​­suggests that Butler’s interpretation of Levinas and other Jewish philosophers verges on erasing the specificities of Jewish history and suffering while deploying Jewish thought in a universalist ethics. Frosh’s critique, and its part in a discussion of the relevance of such ethics to Israel/Palestine, appears to question the emphasis on Jewish thought specifically when discussing Jewish (Israeli) responsibility for the suffering of Palestinians. I agree with Frosh that Butler’s work and other modes of engagement drawing on Jewish ethics and history, specifically when proposing ethical and political stances ­toward Israel/Palestine, can waver on the boundary of promoting a “reverse exceptionalism” (241) in which Jews are invited to be more responsible than others for the Israeli state’s actions, and overidentified with Israel and Zionism. A different, but related, critique of the frequent emphasis on Jewish dissent in the Palestine solidarity movement convincingly argues that such exceptionalism, as well as being essentializing about Jews, also erases Palestinian voices and narratives (Elia 2016). My argument about vulnerability, responsibility, and violence, based on readings of Butler, Levinas, and others, but in dynamic engagement with ethnography (which is crucially one engaging with Israeli Jews, and not diasporic Jews), is precisely intended to introduce historical specificity into this theorization in order to avoid these kinds of dangers.


Notes to Pages 127–153

Chapter 5 1. For an auto-­ethnographic account of one experience of this kind of exile, see Lila Abu-­Lughod’s (2007) writing about her father’s return to Palestine and his funeral in Jaffa. 2. See also other contributions in C. Noy and Cohen (2005) for a similar analysis. Likewise, Jacobson and Luzzatto (2004: 159) also argue that such travels are a “rite of passage” and not an “act of protest.” While I would not argue that these travels are an explicit form of “protest,” like that of the activism I study, I remain hesitant about these approaches to youth travel, which accept uncritically the depoliticized interpretations of the phenomenon that one hears in popular Israeli discourse. 3. Ghassan Hage describes something similar in relation to work on both migrants and racists, arguing for a conceptual separation between physical and existential “stuckedness” (2009: 99). His analysis of this “stuckedness” and the way in which it combines a sense of agency with its absence, however, is portrayed less as a contradiction and more as a kind of perseverance, a “heroism,” and is thus somewhat less useful in my interpretation here than Crapanzano’s rendering of “social entrapment.” 4. Compare with Drabinski (2011: 89–­128) on Levinas’ “fractured subjectivity.”

Epilogue 1. On Ezra Nawi’s words and actions, see David Shulman: Nawi, never famous for circumspection in speech, fell straight into the trap and foolishly spoke to Goldway, whose camera was running, about turning Mousa over to the Palestinian Security Forces—​­who, he said, would possibly torture and kill him. It was an empty, though obnoxious, remark: no one has been executed in Palestine for the last ten years, although selling land to Jews remains on the books as a capital crime in the Palestine Authority. For the record, the shady land dealer is alive and well. Ezra later claimed that he considered turning to the Palestinian Security Forces in order to protect his name and standing among the Palestinian population of the South Hebron Hills (2016).


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abortion, 84–​­85 Abu Rahme, Jawaher, 64–​­67 activism. See Israeli left radical activists; political actions ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), 11 Ad Kan (This Far, or No More), 152–​­53, 156 Adorno, Theodor, 128 affective politics, 44–​71; complicity and, 44–​ 47; love and, 48–​60, 62–​63; mourning and, 56–​62, 66–​69, 163n11 Ahmed, Sara, 63 Alcoff, Linda, 63 Almog, Oz, 125 American Jewish Defense League, 161n5 Anarchists Against the Wall, 41 anthropology: activists studied by, 23, 51–​52; and death, 68; and ethics, 19–​20, 63–​64, 118–​19, 144–​46; and humanitarianism, 75, 81, 87, 95–​96; and politics, 10–​11, 19, 70, 93, 144–​45; and social movements, 36; and vulnerability/wounds, 102, 111–​12 anticolonialism. See decolonization anti-­politics, 81, 87, 89, 92–​94 apartheid, 9–​10, 137–​38 Al-­Aqsa mosque, 154–​55 Arabic language, 122–​23 Arabs, meaning and use of term, x Arab Spring, 51, 70 Arafat, Yasir, 16 architecture, 101 Area A, 161n3 Area C, 30, 161n3 Arendt, Hannah, 56 Aretxaga, Begoña, 10 arrests, 32–​36, 122, 153 Ashkenazi Jews: in City for All of Us, 103,

107, 114–​15; meaning and use of term, x–​xi; Mizrahi Jews in relation to, 98–​104, 115; radical left’s ties to, 5, 99; status and power of, x–​xi, 1–​2, 5; in Tel Aviv-­Jaffa, 22 Athanasiou, Athena, 11, 68 Avramopoulou, Eirini, 11, 53 Azoulay, Ariella, 159n4 backpacking, 129, 131 Barak, Ehud, 16, 110 Bauhaus, 101 becoming, 52 Bedouin traffickers, 86 Begin, Menachem, 14, 15 “being there,” of left radical activists, 31, 41, 50 Ben-­Ami, Yuval, 120–​21 Ben-­Ari, Michael, 2 Ben-­Ezer, Sharon, 136, 141 Ben-­Gurion, David, 13 Bereaved Families for Peace, 61 Berlant, Lauren, 62, 63 Berlin, Germany, 132–​35 Bhabha, Homi, 46 Bil’in, 30, 50, 64–​66, 123 Bil’in Habibti (documentary), 50–​51 Bornstein, Erica, 81 Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, 155 Brewer, Lawrence, 115 broken theory, 20, 112 Brown, Wendy, 165n5 B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories), 78–​79, 157–​58 Butavia, Guy, 153, 156–​57 Butler, Judith, 11, 68, 113–​14, 116–​17, 146–​ 47, 165n6

186 Index Cabot, Heath, 94 Camp David summit (2000), 16 Carmeli-­Pollak, Shai: Bil’in Habibti, 50–​51; Refugees, 85 Caruth, Cathy, 88 Caygill, Howard, 19 circumscribed agency, 94 citizenship, 34–​35, 44, 54, 70, 123–​24, 129–​30 City for All of Us, 99–​118; characteristics of activists in, 103; complicity of, 114–​17; election flyer for, 104 (fig.); election results of, 99–​100, 102–​3, 165n3; formation of, 99, 103, 165n5; ideological cooperation in, 99, 103; mission of, 99–​100, 117–​18, 165n5; and Palestinians, 104, 115, 117; political views underlying actions of, 105–​7; and refugee question, 100–​102, 108–​11, 114–​15; tensions in, 100–​102, 107–​8; transportation campaign of, 105–​8 Clinton, Bill, 16 closed military zones, 28–​29 colonial violence. See state violence Combatants for Peace, 57–​58, 65, 162n4 Communist Party, 14–​15 complicity: of City for All of Us, 114–​17; concept of, 9–​10, 12, 148, 150, 159n4; as folded-­together-­ness, 9, 12; of left radical activists, 8–​9, 11–​12, 20, 40, 46–​47, 50, 64, 151, 156–​58; in mourning practices, 60–​61; PHRI’s fears of, 82–​83; in political actions, 36–​38; refusal of, 38–​39, 42–​44, 157–​58; responsibility-­in-­, 9, 11, 20, 151; theatrics of, 37–​38 containment, 140 Crapanzano, Vincent, ix–​x, 12, 137–​38 Crimp, Douglas, 163n11 Cvetkovich, Ann, 163n11 Dai LaKibush (End the Occupation), 15 Dalsheim, Joyce, 42, 165n5 Dave, Naisargi, 11, 52, 69, 142 Davis, Troy, 115 Dayan, Ilana, 152 death, 52–​54, 68–​69, 163n9 decolonization: activists’ efforts at, 30–​32; complicating factors in, 38, 45–​46 demolitions and expulsions, 25, 27, 30, 38, 54 Derrida, Jacques, 68 Deutscher, Penelope, 68 Drabinski, John, 19–​20

East Jerusalem, 2, 23, 25, 30, 154. See also Sheikh Jarrah Egypt, 13 Eichmann, Adolf, 35 emigration and exile: to Berlin, 132–​35; ethics of, 26, 119, 122, 126–​28, 132, 136, 141–​42; as issue for left radical activists, 119–​43; to London, 135–​36; rationales for, 120–​21; refugee experience compared to, 127; social status implicated in choices regarding, 121, 126–​27, 134; subjectivity and, 122, 124–​25, 128, 134; wandering Jew type, 126 Enlightenment, 56 ethicopolitics, 18, 94–​95, 113–​16, 148 ethics: anthropological theories of, 19–​20, 159n6, 160n7; as broken theory, 20, 112; of charity, 82; exilic, 26, 119, 122, 126–​28, 132, 136, 141–​42; love and, 63–​64, 67; otherness at foundation of, 17–​20, 94, 148; politics in relation to, 18, 94–​96, 144–​45, 148–​49; purity as ideal in, 17, 26, 44–​45, 147; and subjectivity, 146; uncertainties, compromise, and impurity in, 20, 26, 44–​45, 67, 69, 95–​96, 112, 117–​19, 142, 145–​46, 148–​50; violence and negativity linked to, 70–​71, 116–​19, 142–​51. See also ethicopolitics; responsibility Evans, Terence, 160n7 exile. See emigration and exile exilic ethics, 26, 122, 126, 132, 136, 141–​42 Fabian, Johannes, 163n9 Fanon, Frantz, 46, 55–​56 fascism, imputed to anti-­leftist sentiments, 8 Fassin, Didier, 160n8 feminist theory, 112 Ferguson, James, 81 first intifada, 14 First Lebanon War, 14, 15 flotilla affair, 125 Fogel, Moti, 58–​59 Fogel, Udi, 58 Foucault, Michel, 146 Freud, Sigmund, 66–​67, 69 Frosh, Stephen, 165n6 Gaza, 3, 8, 13–​14, 42–​43, 125, 135, 154, 155. See also Operation Cast Lead; Operation Protective Edge

Index 187 Gezi Park protests (2013), 51, 52 Golan Heights, 13, 123 Goldstone, Richard, 5, 79, 89 Goldway, Itzik, 152 Gould, Deborah, 11, 163n11 Greenberg, Jessica, 44 Hadash, 99, 103 Hage, Ghassan, 166n3 Hardt, Michael, 62 Haviv, Ayana, 131 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 55 Herzl, Theodor, 79 Holocaust, 35, 56, 100, 125, 127 hooks, bell, 55–​56 humanitarianism: human rights in relation to, 87; as rationale for aiding refugees, 87–​ 93, 97; violence done in the name of, 87, 96 human rights: emergence of, in Israel, 78–​79; humanitarianism in relation to, 81–​82; violence done in the name of, 87 human rights groups: campaigns of, against state of Israel, 6; identification of, with the radical left, 79; radical left in relation to, 6–​7. See also Physicians for Human Rights–​Israel Hunt, Lynn, 82 Im Tirzu, 79 infiltrators, 73, 89, 96–​97, 100, 163n3 injury. See woundedness intifadas. See first intifada; second intifada Irigaray, Luce, 68, 71 Israel Defense Forces, 15, 157 Israeli Civil Administration, 30 Israeli-­Egyptian Peace Treaty (1979), 15 Israeli Jews: affective and cultural bonds among, 32, 34, 37, 48–​50, 56; citizenship of, 34–​35, 44, 54, 70, 129–​30; complicity of, 159n4; ethical contexts and vocabulary associated with, 35, 61, 90, 95, 100, 115, 124–​25, 142; inequalities and tensions among, 98–​102; leaving Israel as consideration for, 129–​31; nationalist kinship among, 17, 49–​51, 56–​57, 61–​62, 70–​71, 124–​27; relation of, to left radical activists, 8, 16, 23; subjectivities of, 10, 17, 18, 67, 70, 125–​26, 131, 142. See also separation, of Israeli Jews and Palestinians Israeli left radical activists: activities of, 4;

anticolonial actions of, 27–​47; Ashkenazi ties to, 5, 99; citizenship status of, 123–​24; companionship nourishing, 139–​40; complex lives of individuals in, 4, 10; complicity of, 8–​9, 11–​12, 20, 38–​40, 42–​44, 46–​47, 50, 64, 151, 156–​58; decline of, 154–​56; defining, 7–​8; demographic characteristics of, 22; effectiveness of, 150; emigration as consideration for, 119–​43; ethical responsibilities and commitments of, 3–​5, 8–​10, 16–​17; fragmentation of, 13–​15; and health care provision, 85; human rights groups in relation to, 6–​7; human rights and humanitarianism as perceived by, 82; legislation aimed at, 164n5; loving solidarity displayed by, 53–​55, 62–​64, 67–​71; opposition to, 6, 8, 98–​102, 109, 152, 156, 164n5; Palestinians’ relation to, 3, 16–​17, 32, 62–​63, 69–​70; and Palestinians in South Hebron Hills, 30; personal narratives of, 73–​75, 123; questions occupying, 3; refugees’ relations with, 84–​85, 89–​90; relation of, to the public, 8, 16, 23, 79–​80; relation of, to the state, 3–​5, 8–​11, 16–​17, 44, 80, 124, 132, 135, 138–​39; relations of, with Others, 16–​ 18; response of, to state violence directed at them, 36; self-­censorship of, 8; social position of, 5, 126–​27, 134; state violence as target for opposition by, 3–​5, 7–​8, 14, 30–​31, 42–​43; subjectivities of, 125–​26, 141; tensions among, 40–​43; Zionism in relation to, 14, 17; Zionists among, 42. See also political actions Israel/Palestine: map of, v (fig.); meaning and use of term, x; separateness and complicity in, 10. See also state Jenkins, Fiona, 114, 117 Jerusalem, 21, 40, 105, 123, 126, 154 Jerusalem Day, 40 Jordan, 13 Joyce, James, 127 Kach, 161n5 Kahane, Meir, 161n5 Kahanist groups, 40, 161n5 Kant, Immanuel, 113, 148 Khenin, Dov, 102, 104 (fig.), 165n3 killing, 53–​54, 69–​70 King, Martin Luther, Jr., 55

188 Index Kramer, Jane, ix Kuntsman, Adi, 159n4 Labor Party, 7, 13, 14 language: Arabic, 122–​23; political effects of, ix–​x Lazar, Sian, 140 Lennon, John, “Love Is Real,” 48 Lentin, Ronit, 60, 69 Levinas, Emmanuel, 9, 17–​20, 63, 69, 94–​95, 112, 113, 116, 148, 165n6 Likud Party, 14, 99 Lomsky-­Feder, Edna, 67 London, England, 135–​36 love: affective politics and, 48–​51, 53–​60, 62–​63; and ambivalence, 56–​57, 62, 66–​67, 70–​71; critical, 71; ethical character of, 63–​64, 67; of Israeli Jewish activists for Palestinians, 50–​51, 53–​55, 62–​64, 67–​71; of Jews for Jews and Israel, 32, 34, 37, 48–​ 50, 56–​57; of the Other, 50–​52, 57, 62–​64, 70–​71, 163n7 Love (video), 48, 49 (fig.), 62 Lustick, Ian, 130–​31 Maduel, Aharon, 103, 104 (fig.), 165n3 Malkki, Liisa, 87 MAPAI (Workers’ Party of the Land of Israel), 13 Massad, Joseph, 45, 70 Matar, Haggar, 120–​21 Matzpen (Compass), 14 melancholia, 66 M15 movement, 51 migrant workers. See refugees and migrant workers military service, refusal of, 58, 59, 73, 120–​21 Ministry of Defense, 30, 64, 67 Ministry of Health, 73, 77–​78 Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow, 101 Mizrahi Jews: activists on refugee issue, 110; Ashkenazi Jews in relation to, 98–​104, 115; disenfranchisement experienced by, 98–​ 104; meaning and use of term, x–​xi modernist architecture, 101 Moked, 15 mourning, 56–​62, 66–​69, 163n11 Nakba, 16, 60 Nandy, Ashis, 46

nationalism: activists’ resistance to, 51, 57, 61–​62, 105, 124–​25, 128, 149; and the establishment of the Israeli state, 13; as source of Israeli Jewish kinship, 17, 49–​51, 56–​57, 61–​62, 70–​71, 124–​27. See also Zionism Navaro-­Yashin, Yael, 130 Nawajeh, Nasser, 152–​54, 156–​57 Nawi, Ezra, 152–​53, 156–​57, 166n1 Netanyahu, Benjamin, 16, 99, 110 normalization, of Israeli-­Palestinian relations, 67–​68, 162n4 Northern Ireland, 10 “not in my name,” 39, 44 Occupy movement, 51 Ochs, Juliana, 59 Oliver, Kelly, 71, 115–​16 Operation Cast Lead, 5, 8, 73, 76, 79, 89, 106 Operation Protective Edge, 38, 155 Oslo accords, 14, 15, 30, 161n3 Others and otherness: constitution/construction of, 18–​19; ethicopolitics and, 113–​16; ethics of advocacy for, 9; at foundation of ethics, 17–​20, 94, 148; human rights and humanitarianism in the context of, 82; Israeli treatment of, 16; kinds of, 75; love and, 50–​52, 57, 62–​64, 70–​71, 163n7; mourning and, 67–​68; radical leftists’ relations with, 16–​18; refugees as, 72–​97; subjectivity and, 122, 146; suffering of, 16, 53, 74, 88 Palestinian Authority, 30, 152–​53 Palestinians: actions on behalf of, but not including, 32, 34, 37, 48, 156; as activists, 160n10; citizenship status of, 124; City for All of Us and, 104, 115, 117; left radical activists’ relation to, 3, 16–​17, 32, 62–​63, 69–​70; Palestinian Israelis, x, 43–​44; refugees’ experiences compared to those of, 90–​97; sociopolitical conditions of, 30; in Tel Aviv-­Jaffa, 21–​22, 160n9. See also separation, of Israeli Jews and Palestinians Panourgiá, Neni, 67–​68 Parents Circle-­Families Forum, 61 passports, 120, 121, 123, 128–​30 Peace Now, 7 peace organizations, 14–​15 Peled, Yoav, Love, 48, 49 (fig.)

Index 189 performance, political actions as, 36–​38 Physicians for Human Rights–​Israel (PHRI), 5–​7, 72–​95; history of, 78–​79; offices of, 75–​76; as political vs. humanitarian organization, 77–​83; refugees and migrant workers served by, 72–​73, 76–​77, 80–​95 political actions: case examples of, 27–​36, 40–​43, 43 (fig.), 64–​65; complicity integral to, 36–​38; Israeli-­to-­Israeli context of, 32, 34, 36; performative element of, 36–​38 political anthropology, 10–​11 politics: City for All of Us party’s insertion in, 105–​7; ethics in relation to, 18, 94–​96, 144–​45, 148–​49; language and, ix–​x; radical left and, 4. See also affective politics; ethicopolitics Pollak, Yonatan, 123 Pollyanna Frank, 34, 35, 141; “Escape Will Always Fail,” 136–​37 postcolonial theory, 45–​46 post-­Zionism, 74 Prevention of Infiltration Law, 96, 163n3 psychoanalytic theory, 10, 146–​47 Public Committee Against Torture, 79 purity, moral, 17, 26, 44–​45, 147 Redfield, Peter, 81 refugees and migrant workers: activists’ relations with, 84–​85, 89–​90; attitudes toward, 73, 89, 92–​93, 96, 98; barrier constructed against, 164n1; City for All of Us and, 100–​ 102, 108–​11, 114–​15; emigrants compared to, 127; health care of, 6, 72–​73, 76–​77, 80–​ 85; Israeli Jews’ violence against, 89; Jewish history compared to lives of, 90–​92; narratives of experiences of, 86–​91; numbers of, 100; Palestinians’ experiences compared to those of, 90–​97; protests of, 91 (fig.); in south Tel Aviv, 98–​102, 108–​11, 114, 155; state policy on, 110; status of, 163n1 Remembrance Day, 57–​59, 138 responsibility: ascribed to the state, 78, 81, 109, 110; avoidance of, 96, 119, 121, 131–​ 32; concrete practices of, 9; emigration and the issue of, 119, 121–​22; existential ground of, 9, 112; facing violence as aspect of, 4; solidarity activism and, 44; subject position as component of, 118; victimhood/woundedness and, 75, 99, 102, 111–​ 12, 117–​19

responsibility-­in-­complicity, 9, 11, 20, 151 right-­wing groups, 1–​2 Rotbard, Sharon, White City, Black City, 101 Sabra and Shatila massacre, 15 Sadat, Anwar, 15 Said, Edward, 126–​28, 141 Sanders, Mark, 9–​10, 12 Scholem, Gershom, 56 second intifada, 14, 16, 154 separation, of Israeli Jews and Palestinians: challenges to, 17; complicity in, 9–​10; control of movement as component of, 161n6; political actions’ exposure of, 34–​35, 37–​ 38, 45; in Tel Aviv-­Jaffa, 21–​22 settler movements: colonization of Palestinian lands by, 13–​14; harassment of Palestinian farmers, 27–​31 Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), 15 Sheikh Jarrah, 40–​43, 43 (fig.), 48, 49 (fig.), 123 Shohat, Ella, 45 Shulman, David, 166n1 SIAH (Israeli New Left), 15 Simons, Jon, 161n1 Sinai desert, 13, 84–​86, 164n1 Singh, Brighupati, 142, 149 Six-­Day War (1967), 13, 40 social entrapment, 138 socialism, 13 social suffering, 111–​12 soldiers, behavior of, in political actions, 28–​38 Solidarity, 48 solidarity activism: complexities and contradictions of, 5, 9, 12, 70–​71; of the radical left, 3, 53–​55, 62–​64, 67–​71 South Africa, ix, 9–​10, 12, 137, 152 South Hebron Hills, 25, 27–​35, 38 Spivak, Gayatri, 46 state: establishment of, 13; health care provided by, 77–​78; left radical activists’ relation to, 3–​5, 8–​11, 16–​17, 44, 80, 124, 132, 135, 138–​39; psychic power of, 10; questioning of policies and actions of, 4; refugee policy of, 110. See also separation, of Israeli Jews and Palestinians state violence, left radical activists’ resistance to, 3–​5, 7–​8, 14, 30–​31, 43, 59, 62–​63, 128, 132

190 Index Stein, Rebecca, 126, 159n4, 162n1 Sternhell, Zeev, 13 Stevenson, Lisa, 112, 149 subjectivity: ambiguities and contradictions in, 146–​47; emigration and, 122, 124–​25, 128, 134; ethics and, 146; of Israeli Jews, 10, 17, 18, 67, 70, 125–​26, 131, 142; of left radical activists, 125–​26, 141; love’s effect on, 50–​52; and relation to Others, 122, 146; responsibility linked to, 118 suffering: of the dispossessed, 82; of Others, 16, 53, 74, 88; shared Israeli-­Palestinian, 61; social, 111–​12; trope of Jewish, 35, 61, 90, 95, 100, 115 Syria, 13 Ta’ayush, 27–​35, 29 (fig.), 38–​39, 41, 152–​53, 156–​57, 161n1 Tel Aviv-­Jaffa: architecture in, 101; Ashkenazi Jews in, 22; City for All of Us in, 99–​118; demographics of, 21–​22; history of, 21; image vs. reality of, 21–​22; left radical activists’ experience in, 21; map of, vi (fig.); Palestinians in, 21–​22, 160n9; refugees in, 98–​102, 108–​11, 114, 155 theatrics of complicity, 37–​38 the Third, 94 Thobani, Sunera, 113 Throop, C. Jason, 160n7 Ticktin, Miriam, 81 travel and tourism, 129, 131 Tunisia, 51 two-­state solution, 16 United Nations Fact Finding Mission, 5, 79 Uvda (Fact) (television show), 152–​53, 156

victimhood. See vulnerability/victimhood victim/perpetrator binary, 115–​19 violence: defining, 53; ethics and, 70–​71, 116–​19, 142–​51; exposure of, 8, 31, 37, 52, 68; mourning as, 68; of settlers against Palestinians, 32–​34; and social relations, 111–​12; state-­sponsored, 3–​5, 7–​8, 14, 30–​31, 36, 42–​43, 49, 59, 62–​63, 68, 128, 132; vulnerability in relation to, 113–​14, 116–​17. See also state violence vulnerability/victimhood, 111–​14, 116–​19, 125 wandering Jew, 126 Weiss, Erica, 59 Weiss, Meira, 125 West Bank, 2, 13–​14, 23, 25, 130, 154, 155. See also South Hebron Hills woundedness, 98–​99, 108–​19 Yesh Gvul (There Is a Limit), 15 Yom Kippur War (1973), 15 Žižek, Slavoj, 82 Zigon, Jarrett, 163n7 Zionism: critique of, 101; early settlements inspired by, 13; history from perspective of, x, 101, 132; and Jewish subjectivity, 125–​26; Levinas’s, 19; and love, 56; post-­, 74; in radical left, 42; radical left’s relation to, 14, 17. See also nationalism Zochrot, 59, 60


I am deeply indebted to all those in Israel/Palestine who have generously engaged with me during and since my fieldwork. While I cannot thank all by name, it is because of the openness, interest, kindness, and warmth of many Israelis, Palestinians, and fellow interlopers that I have been able to learn and write about this place. For advice and help with practical matters at an early stage of my fieldwork, I am grateful to Dan Rabinowitz. Special thanks go to Erella Dunayevsky, Ehud Krinis, Tamar Almog, Limor and Ophir Münz-­ Manor, Hamed Qawasmeh, Dani Alexandrowicz, Eid and Naima, and various members of the Nawajeh family for all the love and hospitality. Heartfelt thanks, too, go to the women who propped me up time and again in Tel Aviv and elsewhere: Gabi Berlinger, Lisa Feinberg, Mary Loitsker, Tatiana Michala, Karen Ross, and Sonia Zafer-­Smith. I am so grateful to Maayan Ashkenazi (and her extended family), who helped me to settle and live in an unfamiliar place from beginning to end, and to Maya Shapiro, who has been an unwavering source of love, support, and inspiration. And most recently, during a challenging year in Jerusalem, it was a joy and a relief to discover the friendship of Nora Parr, Caitlin Procter, Yosefa Raz, and Elian Weizman. A community of friends and fellow anthropologists in Cambridge has been a great source of feedback and support: thanks to Axel Bangert, Anna Bull, Franck Billé, Miriam Boyles, Romelia Calin, Laura Chinnery, Anna Grigoryeva, Paula Haas, Paolo Heywood, Jessica Johnson, Johanna Gonçalves Martín, Nayanika Mathur, Tom Neumark, Branwyn Poleykett, Annie Ring, Marlene Schäfers, Sertaç Sehlikoglu, Alice Von Bieberstein, and Alice Wilson. I am grateful to Matei Candea, Harri Englund, Caroline Humphrey, James Laidlaw, Sian Lazar, and David Sneath, who have taught me, read and commented on my work, and otherwise supported me at various stages of my studies and beyond. Elsewhere, Ana Aparicio, Louise Bethlehem, Ilana

192 Acknowledgments

Feldman, Jessica Greenberg, Faith Kares, Tamar Katriel, Alexander Koensler, Felicity Laurence, Margaret Olin, Alejandro Paz, Matan Shapiro, and Jessica Winegar have read or commented on presentations of my work at various stages and have helped me to develop and improve it. Jarrett Zigon has been a spirited interlocutor and critic on all things Levinasian, and I thank him for his ongoing support. For pushing me to pursue vulnerable thinking, and for her friendship and collaboration, I am grateful to Tiffany Page. In its early stages, Eirini Avramopoulou read and commented on much of this work, and I continue to be touched by her brilliant thinking and loyal friendship. And from the beginning, Yael Navaro has guided me through the thinking and writing of this project. I am indebted to her for years of encouraging and challenging me; for reading draft after draft; and for doing so with warmth, humor, and enthusiasm. For helping me to think through this book and other work, I am most grateful to Tobias Kelly. His generous feedback, advice, and support have been invaluable. At the University of Pennsylvania Press, it has been a privilege to work with Peter Agree, who has provided great support and encouragement for this project. I am grateful, too, to the anonymous reviewers who provided valuable comments and criticism, and to the editorial staff for their careful work on the manuscript. None of the research, thinking, or writing that I have done over the past decade would have happened without the love and encouragement of my friends and family. I owe so much, especially, to the support and quiet curiosity of my parents, Alison and John. And for his presence through just about every idea, thought, and feeling as I wrote this book, my deepest thanks go to David Massey. Financial support for the research and writing of this project was provided by an Economic and Social Research Council studentship, held at the Division of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge; by King’s College, Cambridge; and by a Visiting Research Fellowship at the Kenyon Institute in East Jerusalem, Council for British Research in the Levant. Material from the following article has been reproduced with permission: “Palestine, My Love: The Ethico-­Politics of Love and Mourning in Jewish Israeli Solidarity Activism,” American Ethnologist 43, no. 1 (2016): 130–­143. I am grateful to Margaret Olin and Yoav Peled for permitting me to use their wonderful images as illustrations.