Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Routinergency: Domestic Securitization in Contemporary Israel

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Routinergency: Domestic Securitization in Contemporary Israel

Article excerpt


The Israeli law obliges the construction of bomb shelters as integrated rooms within every residential unit throughout the country. Based on 12 months of fieldwork and extensive interviews with both Jewish-Israeli and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, we argue that the mundane presence and use of these everyday-cum-security spaces has produced a new civilian sensibility towards securitization, which we call 'routinergency': the naturalization of security emergency as intrinsic to the flow of routine life. We demonstrate that while the privatization of domestic securitization affords reliable protection to every citizen, routinergency also excludes Arab-Palestinians from the ethnonational boundaries that still inform the constitution of collective identities in Israel. Yet, as embodied practice, routinergency also enables access to a universal form of citizenship in Israel, which is premised on socioeconomic criticism of Zionist discourse. We use the topological metaphor of a Mobius strip to discuss how mamad rooms accentuate the contemporary tension in Israel between these ethnonational and neoliberal vectors of citizenship.


Routine-emergency, domestic environment, securitization, Israel-Palestine, neoliberalism, ethnonationalism


This essay explores the contested nexus of ethnonational citizenship and domestic securitization in contemporary Israel. (1) Since 1992 the Israeli law obliges building contractors to include rooms that are made of cast iron-fortified concrete in every new residential unit. These rooms are locally known by the Hebrew acronym mamad (merhav mugan dirati)--meaning, Residential Protected Space--and they are currently embedded in roughly 40% of Israeli homes (CBS, 2015; cf. Yaniv 2011). The law also defines tax breaks in exchange for the addition of mamad rooms into existing apartments and ground- level houses alike. Formally a marginal social domain located in basement floors or underground in designated public spaces (Cohen and Amir, 2007), the bomb shelter in Israel thus gradually turns into a normative domestic space that routinizes the enactment of mundane civilian activities even during explosive outbreaks of military violence (Ochs, 2011; Shir-Vertesh and Markowitz, 2015).

This social process articulates a fundamental tension in Israel between what we understand as 'ethnonational' and 'neoliberal' vectors of citizenship. While hegemonic Zionist discourses in Israel since the 1950s have emphasized the securitization of the Jewish community within a well-protected garrison state that keeps gazing outwards at its enemies (Kimmerling, 2005; Ram, 2011), they were suspicious, ambivalent and at times even openly antagonistic concerning the possible inclusion of the Arab-Palestinian community in this ethos (Ghanem and Ozacky-Lazar, 2002; Shafir and Peled, 2002). (2) Within this context Israeli mamad rooms should be understood as powerful Zionist symbols associated with a sense of national invincibility shared primarily by Jewish-Israelis. Far from neutral or functional security devices that merely provide protection, mamad material culture thus exposes an ethnonational divide that still calibrates access to resources in the Israeli civil society (Jabareen, 2014; Yacobi 2008; Yiftachel, 2010). At the same time, however, mamad material culture also manifests a distinctive neoliberal rationale, i.e. the idea that minimal state intervention in socioeconomic regulation will reinforce a republican civil society held together from within through multiple private initiatives (Harvey, 2005). Within this logic the mamad law and adjacent building regulations relocate domestic securitization responsibilities from public security apparatuses to private actors. In that sense the law effectively grants both Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel equal access to tangible shelters in the context of their homes (Cohen and Amir, 2007). …

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