Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Relations of Ruling in the Colonial Present: An Intersectional View of the Israeli Imaginary

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Relations of Ruling in the Colonial Present: An Intersectional View of the Israeli Imaginary

Article excerpt


Through the interweaving of Zionist myths of nation, identity, and security, Israel presents itself as the national homeland for all Jewish peoples--a land under constant threat of annihilation by Palestinians who are discursively constructed as demographic and security risks. Yet, the Zionist project of Eretz Israel (our land of Israel) is one of colonization which bases the survival and vitality of the state's Jewish population on the removal and absence of the racialized Palestinian other. Israel has continued its settler colonial project in Palestine, with its distinct forms of occupation (Zureik 2011:4) and apartheid (Davis 1987), through state discourses and practices of separation, fragmentation, and violence. Adding to recent work concerning Israel's discursive, systemic, and performative racialization of Palestinians (e.g., Abu-Laban and Bakan 2008, 2011; Abu El-Haj 2010; Lentin 2004, 2008; Goldberg 2008), this article offers a categorical framework that underlines the relationality between race, class, and gender that has been central to the structuring network of Zionist colonization from its initial stages to the colonial present. (1)

Like Patrick Wolfe (2006) who underscores the identifiable features of the structure of settler colonialism, most definitively in what he terms "the logic of elimination," I understand settler colonialism as an ongoing project rather than an event. According to Wolfe (2006:105), the logic of elimination (2) is a historically continuous "structural feature," endemic to all settler colonial projects, that includes the elimination of indigenous people through the erasure of language, culture, traditions, and communities as well as through mass killing. This type of project is never about situational discriminations or circumstantially racialized practices; instead, as Wolfe argues (2006:103), settler colonialism is based on the expropriation of land from indigenous populations for the erection of a "new colonial society." Settler colonial projects thus require the utilization of discriminatory and racialized processes to enable the establishment of the state and the continuation of state pursuits.

To examine the Zionist project of settler colonialism in Palestine, I invoke Chandra Mohanty's (1991) reading of Dorothy Smith's "relations of ruling" which enables the exploration of power relations in particular contexts. Mohanty's third world feminist approach to relations of ruling bridges historical materialism with poststructuralist thought to consider multiple intersections of structures of power. Her method reveals a number of "othering" forms and processes that are operative in relations of ruling to create differences between peoples that legitimate the authority of ruling in the colonial and imperial context of rulers and "natives," and in the liberal capitalist states of citizens and noncitizens. Importantly, her approach avoids simplistic positioning which can reduce relations of power to binary oppositions of oppressor versus oppressed and the normalizing (or naturalizing) of individuals or structures; instead, she stresses the identification and location of transformations in power to emphasize "the process of ruling" rather than "the frozen embodiment of it" in: "(1) forms of knowledge and (2) organized practices and institutions, as well as (3) questions of consciousness, experience, and agency"(Mohanty 1991:14).While Mohanty (1991:17-23) does not describe the forms and processes of colonial and liberal-capitalist rule as categories of analysis, I identify the mechanisms and techniques of rule jointly and identify them as falling into six broad and interconnected categories:

* Racial separation

* Citizenship and naturalization forms and processes

* Construction and consolidation of existing social inequalities

* Gender, sexuality, and sexual violence

* Racialized and gendered prisoners

* "Unmarked" versus "marked" discourses

I utilize these groupings for two interrelated purposes: One, I seek to interrogate historical simplifications of Israel as victim which silence and erase Palestinian narratives of the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel or "al Nakba" (Arabic for "the Catastrophe"); and two, I endeavour to question Israel's dual claim of Jewish exclusivity and liberal democratic inclusivity even as it continues practices of ethnic cleansing, dispossession, displacement, exile, and genocide against Palestinians. …

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