"An important book which adds the often neglected angle of political geography to the growing body of critical research on the Israeli state and society, and on the Jewish-Arab conflict."—Baruch Kimmerling, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine

Oren Yiftachel

2006 | 368 pages | Cloth $69.95
Political Science
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Table of Contents


1. Introduction
2. The Ethnocratic Regime: The Politics of Seizing Contested Territory

3. Zionist and Palestinian Nationalism: The Making of Territorial Identities
4. Debating Israeli Democracy
5. The Making of Ethnocracy in Israel/Palestine
6. The Spatial Foundation: the Israeli Land System

7. Fractured Regionalism among Palestinian Arabs in Israel
8. Bedouin Arabs and Urban Ethnocracy in the Beer-Sheva Region
9. Mizrahi Identities in the Development Towns: The Making of a Third Space
10. Between Local and National: Mobilization in the Mizrahi Peripheries

11. A Way Forward? The Planning of a Binational Capital in Jerusalem
12. Epilogue: A Demos for Israel/Palestine? Toward Phased Binationalism


Excerpt [uncorrected, not for citation]


This book is a culmination of nearly a decade of work on ethnocratic societies. Equally, it is a product of living in the midst of such a society, and being 'thickly' involved in its volatile turns and tribulations. The book is a result of much research, reading, listening and reflection, but also a fruit of love—love of theory, critique, scholarship, and teamwork, and—most important—profound empathy to the people of Israel/Palestine, who have had to struggle against enormous odds in very trying circumstances.

Writing a full-length book is always a daunting task. This is particularly so on a topic like ethnic relations in Israel/Palestine—a hotbed of tensions, conflicts and violence. It's particularly hard when one writes "from within" and at the same time takes a critical stance, as attempted in this book. The space for "local" critical scholarship is always narrow in ethnocratic nationalistic societies, and Israel is no different.

The timing of writing this book has added to the difficulties. For one, the fast series of events so typical to Israel/Palestine always threaten to make one's work outdated before it even hits the printers. But further, the hostile nature of events in Israel/Palestine during the last five years—known as the al-Aqsa Intifada—has made both societies even less attentive and often openly intimidating of critical voices. This book has thus been written within a surrounding atmosphere of adversity and suspicion, "against the grain" of a general move of academic, political and cultural forces into the cozy ethnonational center.

However, several key factors made the writing of this book an experience to cherish. First and foremost, I have had the privilege to work with a set of young, dynamic and innovative scholars, who have given me much energy and inspiration. Their contribution to the development of the concepts outlined in the book, and to the gathering of evidence, has been crucial, through debate, critique and fieldwork. These are the scholars who participated in the various research projects I have conducted on Israel's land regime, urban planning, and ethnic relations. This group includes Batya Roded, Erez Tzfadia, Haim Yacobi, Asad Ghanem and Sandy Kedar, whose specific contributions are highlighted on the pages of the various chapters. Other researchers, who have participated in the projects, have also made an important contribution, namely Yosef Jabareen, Nurit Alfasi, Yizhak Aharonowitz, Jeremy Forman, Ella Bauer and Chaia Noach. I am very grateful for their contributions, although the final text remains under my sole responsibility.

The writing of this text has also been assisted greatly by the editorial skills of Tamar Almog, who chastised me ceaselessly and rightfully for inconsistencies, duplication or general sloppiness. Na'ama Razon, Elana Boteach and Roni Bluestein-Livnon have also assisted greatly with their copyediting and cartographic skills, respectively. Last but by no means least, Amanda Yiftachel—a best friend, critic and editor, has not only read, corrected and debated most of the book's chapters but has also tirelessly held our family and home together during the writing period—a difficult and most appreciated task.

Moreover, a wider circle of scholars have also been part of the making of this book, unknowingly. These are the many people kind enough to read my work, engage with my ideas, comment, debate and criticize. They have been my valuable partners in many scholarly conversations over the years, often sharpening—and at times also destroying—my concepts and observations. While the entire list is too long to mention here, I would like to highlight my particular appreciation to a group of excellent colleagues and friends at Ben-Gurion University in Beer-Sheva—particularly those associated with the Humphrey Institute, and the journal "Hagar," which I edited for five years. Our frequent gatherings at the seminars of the Humphrey Institute and other settings have produced some of the best intellectual debates for which one can aspire, where academic frankness and critical scholarship have remained vibrant, even during hard political and financial times.

Finally, despite the difficulties, and despite the recent period of hostility and violence gripping Israel/Palestine, let me express the cautious hope that some of the insights outlined on the pages of this book will help open people's eyes to the ominous processes currently unfolding in our homeland, and to the few remaining rays of hope. Perhaps one or two lessons drawn from the historical and comparative analyses presented here would transform some of the intransigent attitudes so prevalent in Israel/Palestine, and particularly Israel's futile and brutal attempt to continue and occupy the Palestinian territories, and the equally futile and brutal faith of many among both Jews and Palestinians in the effectiveness and desirability of violent action. Of course, the road between theory, research, evidence, and corrective action is long and arduous, but it is hopefully worth taking.