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Title: Not just a panic: settler colonialism, mobility, and identity among Palestinians in Israel.
Keywords: Human rights - Israel;Palestinian Arabs - Legal status - Israel;Israeli settlements - Ethical aspects - Palestine
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Biography
Abstract: In the spring of 2003, while conducting interviews for my dissertation, I met the Imam of the village and told him about my research into the history of communal relationships in the village and the surrounding region. While talking about the need for Palestinian input regarding the relationship between Palestinian society and the Israeli state, and the responsibility of Palestinian scholars to enable Palestinian voices to be heard, the Imam argued that no matter what Palestinians write, Israeli authorities and their western supporters will use this writing to their advantage, and to the disadvantage of the local community. His remarks had a huge impact on me. After thinking it over for some time, I decided to continue working on the village, while remaining always sensitive to what the Israeli authorities already know—what is public knowledge—but also attuned to the community’s history and experiences. My writing, then, aims to expose state policies, as I keep my sources as anonymous as possible and try to avoid causing further frictions within the community. One of the strategies I use to protect community members is to intermix some of the stories and actors so that it becomes difficult to identify the people interviewed. Furthermore, due to my training in interdisciplinary studies, my fieldwork is not typically ethnographic, but rather utilizes local voices and archives as a central part of my political analysis. In other words, the voices I include in my research are not informants or objects of knowledge, but as will become evident in this article, sources of knowledge and theorizing about the past and the present. Since 2003, I have amassed a personal archive, as I have gathered stories from and conducted interviews with residents in the village, and read anything that community members wrote or published locally in Arabic. The narratives in this article are part of over a decade of fieldwork. Through the lens of two picnics that took place, one in the 1960s, and one in the early 1970s, and the people who were part of these gatherings, this essay explores the shifting social, political, and cultural lives of people living in Kafr Yasif; what it meant for them to remain on the land and become citizens of a state that was built on the ruins of their own society; how that historical event (1948) structured their sense of place, mobility, and identity; and what lessons can be drawn from that experience that can help in understanding both the predicament of those Palestinians who fell under Israeli colonial rule in 1967, and that of the Palestinian people in general. The essay will explore people’s sense of place, the shrinking area of mobility that they enjoyed after 1948, and their relations to one another. My approach in exploring these issues through the lens of the village life is under-utilized in studies on Palestine. The history of this village, one known to possess many aspects of social and cultural life that are usually associated with cosmopolitan city life, might also help to complicate the binaries associated with urban versus rural social and cultural dynamics. As I address the local impact of the rupture in 1948 from the perspective of the people in the village, I also focus on how the Israeli settler colonial state structurally disrupted the mobility, memory, and local and regional identity of Palestinians in Israel generally. By memory, I mean collective memory, oral history, and local knowledge that became alienated. I explore how villagers became alienated from other Palestinians and Palestinian society, from their land and region, and from the knowledge discourse about the region. After outlining the history of Palestinians since 1948 as it relates to my focus here, I turn to the history of the village as written about and told by community members.
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