Unsettling Gaza: Secular Liberalism, Radical Religion, and the Israeli Settlement Project

Unsettling Gaza: Secular Liberalism, Radical Religion, and the Israeli Settlement Project

Unsettling Gaza: Secular Liberalism, Radical Religion, and the Israeli Settlement Project

Unsettling Gaza: Secular Liberalism, Radical Religion, and the Israeli Settlement Project

Synopsis

Joyce Dalsheim's ethnographic study takes a ground-breaking approach to one of the most contentious issues in the Middle East: the Israeli settlement project. Based on fieldwork in the settlements of the Gaza Strip and surrounding communities during the year prior to the Israeli withdrawal,Unsettling Gazaposes controversial questions about the settlement of Israeli occupied territories in ways that move beyond the usual categories of politics, religion, and culture. The book critically examines how religiously-motivated settlers think about living with Palestinians, how they express theological uncertainty, and how they imagine the future beyond the confines of territorial nationalism.

This is the first study to place radical, right-wing settlers and their left-wing and secular opposition in the same analytic frame. Dalsheim shows that the intense antagonism between these groups disguises fundamental similarities. Her analysis reveals the social and cultural work achieved through a politics of mutual denunciation. With theoretical implications stretching far beyond the boundaries of Israel/Palestine,Unsettling Gaza's counter-intuitive findings shed fresh light on politics and identity among Israelis and the troubling conflicts in Israel/Palestine, as well as providing challenges and insight into the broader questions that exist at the interface between religiosity and formations of the secular.

Excerpt

“Your fellow is your mirror. If your own face is clean, so will be the
image you perceive. But should you look upon your fellow and see a
blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering—you
are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself.”

—Ba’al Shem Tov

The Ba’al Shem Tov, an eighteenth-century Jewish sage, is credited with these words of wisdom. It is easy to find fault in others, to criticize and thereby differentiate ourselves from those whose beliefs and practices we deplore. But beware, the Ba’al Shem Tov warns; when you find fault with others, it may well be your own imperfections you see. Sigmund Freud, in his theory of the narcissism of minor differences, offers a very similar insight (although he does not credit the earlier sage), suggesting that we often project negative feelings onto others who in fact resemble us. These ideas, their similarities, and the fact that they are traced to both religious and secular sources stand as a metaphor for the story that unfolds in the course of this book. It is a story about settlement in Israel, about antagonism between Israelis, and a story of the discomfort arising through that antagonism.

Because the book emerges from a place of discomfort it has been the kind of work that led some to ask why I was writing it and others to suggest abandoning the project. But throughout the process that eventually led to this volume, family, friends and colleagues provided . . .

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