Hating Israel in the Field
On Ethnography and Political Emotions*
IN JANUARY 2006 I began researching the “political emotions” generated by the Arab-Israeli conflict and the particular way these were experienced by Muslim immigrants in the West. From my previous fieldwork I have come to see that these emotions, particularly as they were intensified by what was often perceived as Western bias in favour of Israel, played a central role in limiting the way Muslim immigrants to the West identified with the countries they have migrated to.
Since 9/11 there has been a growing awareness among at least some political leaders, as reflected in their political speeches, of how important this question is among not just Arab immigrants but all Muslim immigrants in the West—and indeed all Muslims. While none of the politicians formulated it this way, the implication of this reality was nevertheless clear: how a Western nation's foreign policy towards Israel is evaluated by its Muslim immigrants is important in shaping their sense of belonging or lack of belonging to that nation—that is, their social integration. This was brought home to me even more starkly at an earlier stage when I was examining how to conduct this research in a manageable way. I carried out a preliminary survey—with, I hasten to say, no scientific pretensions whatsoever but with a revealing outcome nonetheless. I made a point of asking one face-to-face question to between twenty and thirty Lebanese-born Muslims in France, England, Australia, and the United States. It went something like this: You are often complaining that
* Material in this chapter was adapted from “Hating Israel in the Field” by Ghassan Hage, which
appeared in 2009 in Anthropological Theory 9 (1): 59–79.