Dissertation: Atalia Omer, How Does the Israeli Peace Camp Think about Religion, Nationalism and Justice?

Omer, Atalia. After Peace: How Does the Israeli Peace Camp Think about Religion, Nationalism and Justice? Ph.D. dissertation. Harvard University. 2008.

***** Abstract (Summary) *****

The dissertation analyzes the Israeli peace camp and how positions on the questions of the interrelation between religion and nationality relate to the interpretations of justice vis-à-vis the Palestinian predicament. The dissertation studies the ‘visions of peace’ and the ‘visions of citizenship’ articulated by groups as diverse as Peace Now, Gush Shalom, Netivot Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, the Israeli- Palestinian Balad political party and the Mizrahi Democratic Rainbow. By drawing on recent scholarship which attempted to link ‘peace’ and ‘justice’ in a meaningful way, this work devises a set of dynamic criteria with which to evaluate each peace platform and its respective interpretation of justice. Challenging the modernist-secularist inclination to interpret ‘nationalism’ as a ‘religion surrogate’ or a structural analogue of religion, the underpinning theoretical point is that religion and nationalism are intricately related and thus cannot be viewed as dichotomous or antithetical. Hence, religious sources, vocabularies, institutions and leadership may function centrally in devising interpretations of culturally embedded secularity in zones of ethnonational contestations –a process which is referred to in this dissertation as the hermeneutics of citizenship.

Likewise, the dissertation emphasizes the critical importance of rearticulating subaltern voices and histories as a central dimension of conflict transformation and peacebuilding efforts. It accomplishes that by highlighting the counter-hegemonic cases of the Mizrahim (the "Arab Jews") and that of Palestinian-Israelis. Both the effort to centralize subaltern counter-narratives (including those of internal victims) and the insistence on the irreducibility of ‘religion’ to ‘nation’ suggest creative potentialities for thinking about questions of peace and justice in contexts of ethnoreligious national conflicts.

The dissertation further argues that the new field of inquiry and practice of ‘religion in peacebuilding’ overlooks the importance of introspecting the nexus between religion, nationalism and ethnicity as articulated and reproduced in zones characterized by ethnonational conflicts. This critique derives from this work’s recognition of (1) the persistent role of religion in the processes of imagining and reimagining the nation as suggested in Anthony Smith’s work on nationalism, (2) the potentially transformative and liberalizing role of ‘state’ institutions in moving away from exclusivist interpretations of nationhood toward increased inclusivity which, according to Anthony Marx’s study, has been the case in western Europe, (3) David Little and Scott Appleby’s notion of the ambivalence of the sacred and the irreducibility of the resources of religion to interpretations of nationalism, despite what might be suggested by nationalist rhetoric and (4) ongoing theoretical conversations which have challenged modernist interpretations of the ‘secular’ as representing the absence or diminishing presence of religion and as subsequently implying a neutral public sphere.

The central contention that emerges out of this scrutiny of the Israeli peace camp is that a just peace to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would necessitate (1) recognizing Zionism as a root cause of conflict and (2) partaking in a process of reimagining alternative interpretations of the ‘nation’, understood as a ‘political theology’. The two cases of the new Mizrahi discourse and of the Palestinian citizens of Israel were presented in order to underscore (1) why the ideology of Zionism may be viewed as a root cause of the conflict and (2) the structural and ideological interconnectedness between the broader Palestinian-Israeli conflict and questions of social justice within Israel proper, (3) the importance of exploring and reclaiming subaltern counter-narratives in the process of introspecting and reimagining the national ethos,(4) the creative and empowering effectiveness of post-colonial and post-modern theoretical insights in de-naturalizing national claims and perceptions and (5) the relevance of international human rights conventions and theories of multiculturalism to thinking locally through the problem of peace and justice.

***** Indexing (document details) *****

Advisor:          Little, David

School:           Harvard University

School Location:  United States — Massachusetts

Keyword(s):       Religion and nationalism, Religion and peace, Religion and

                  conflict, Conflict transformation, Peace-building, Israeli-

                  Palestinian conflict, Religion, Nationalism, Justice

Source:           DAI-A 69/10, Apr 2009

Source type:      Dissertation

Subjects:         Religion, Middle Eastern history, Ethnic studies

Publication       AAT 3334832

Number:

ISBN:             9780549884880

Document URL:     http://proquest.umi.com/

                  pqdweb?did=1617355791&Fmt=2&clientId=17454&RQT=309&VName=PQD

ProQuest document 1617355791

ID:

Keywords: Israel-Palestinian Conflict; Peace Process, Atalia Omer, Zionism, Post-Colonialism, Human Rights, Religion, Justice, Nationalism, Patriotism

[Thanks to John Erlen, University of Pittsburgh for info]

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