Confession and Testimony As Repertoires of Contention in Conflict Zones
Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 10:45-12:15
Room: Hörsaal 21
RC48 Social Movements, Collective Actions and Social Change (host committee)
Confession and testimony are central repertoires of contention in the disclosure of “ugly pasts.” Solidarity movements mobilize testimony to diffuse human rights violations condoned and supported by their own societies. Less attention has been paid to the deployment of testimony and confession by anti-denial movements, movements that demand that the members of their own societies acknowledge the “problematic present” in situations of ongoing ethno-national conflict, and take responsibility for it and action against it.
This session invites research that engage in the analysis of confession and testimony in contemporary conflicts by members of the perpetrator nation amongst them:
Are these repertoires gendered and how?
What are the groups that engage in testimony and confession?
How states and civil societies in perpetrator nations react to anti-denial movements?
Anti-denial movements and national identity.
Sara HELMAN, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel
Natanel, Katherine. Sustaining Conflict. Apathy and Domination in Israel-Palestine. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016.
Sustaining Conflict develops a groundbreaking theory of political apathy, using a combination of ethnographic material, narrative, and political, cultural, and feminist theory. It examines how the status quo is maintained in Israel-Palestine, even by the activities of Jewish Israelis who are working against the occupation of Palestinian territories. The book shows how hierarchies and fault lines in Israeli politics lead to fragmentation, and how even oppositional power becomes routine over time. Most importantly, the book exposes how the occupation is sustained through a carefully crafted system that allows sympathetic Israelis to “knowingly not know,” further disconnecting them from the plight of Palestinians. While focusing on Israel, this is a book that has lessons for how any authoritarian regime is sustained through apathy.
Table of Contents
1 The Everyday of Occupation
2 Bordered Communities
3 Normalcy, Ruptured and Repaired
4 Embedded (In)action
5 Protesting Politics
KATHERINE NATANEL is a Lecturer in Gender Studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter.
Kotef, Hagar. Movement and the Ordering of Freedom: On Liberal Governances of Mobility. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.
We live within political systems that increasingly seek to control movement, organized around both the desire and ability to determine who is permitted to enter what sorts of spaces, from gated communities to nation-states. In Movement and the Ordering of Freedom, Hagar Kotef examines the roles of mobility and immobility in the history of political thought and the structuring of political spaces. Ranging from the writings of Locke, Hobbes, and Mill to the sophisticated technologies of control that circumscribe the lives of Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, this book shows how concepts of freedom, security, and violence take form and find justification via “regimes of movement.” Kotef traces contemporary structures of global (im)mobility and resistance to the schism in liberal political theory, which embodied the idea of “liberty” in movement while simultaneously regulating mobility according to a racial, classed, and gendered matrix of exclusions.
Table of Contents
1. Between Imaginary Lines: Violence and Its Justifications at the Military Checkpoints in Occupied Palestine / Hagar Kotef and Merav Amir
2. An Interlude: A Tale of Two Roads—On Freedom and Movement
3. The Fence That “Ill Deserves the Name of Confinement”: Locomotion and the Liberal Body
4. The Problem of “Excessive” Movement
5. The “Substance and Meaning of All Things Political”: On Other Bodies
HAGAR KOTEF is based at the Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University.
As with religious women’s quest to create inclusive faith communities, which in Plaskow’s assessment means allowing “the words of women to rise out of the white spaces between the letters in the Torah as we remember and transmit the past through the experience of our own lives,” women’s peace work takes place in unmapped white spaces. Their religious experience, exemplified by a Muslim woman’s story of a holy mother standing watch, invites us to reconsider our understanding of community and the meaning of peace and security – a reconsideration that is enriched when Palestinian women’s activism is analyzed with reference to Jewish feminist theology.
As demonstrated in this essay, the two fall into natural dialogue, articulating perspectives that are absent from secular conversations on women’s peacemaking. The questions raised by their life experiences as women of faith – on the nature of female participation in justice struggles, on the politics of space, on the relationship with the land, on interpersonal encounter – demand a change in language and a more holistic analysis of the issues at stake.
Helman, Sara. “Challenging the Israeli Occupation Through Testimony and Confession: the Case of Anti-Denial SMOs Machsom Watch and Breaking the Silence.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society (early view; online first).
This article analyzes the repertoires of contention and discourse of two Israeli anti-denial movements, Breaking the Silence and Machsom Watch. Through confession and testimony, both social movement organizations (SMOs) demand that Israeli society acknowledge its “problematic present,” which includes human rights violations in the Palestinian Occupied Territories in a situation of ongoing ethno-national conflict, and insist that it take responsibility for this reality and act against it. It is based on the interpretative analyses of both SMOs’ reports. Reports are analyzed as narratives in the context of Israel’s national identity and its main motives which are also constitutive of a culture of collective denial. The article compares the testimonial practices of Machsom Watch to testimonies of women in Truth and Reconciliation Commissions and the confessions of Breaking the Silence veterans to those displayed in Truth and Reconciliation Commissions as well as confessions of veterans during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Confession and testimony are usually analyzed as blazing the path to a new and inclusive national identity (as was the case in South Africa). In the case of Israel, however, their adoption and mobilization destabilize national identity and turn it into a field of contention.
What do human rights activists see? What do their organizations show in their reports? How do the choices of visual images report on the conflict? What kind of gaze does human rights discourse produce? How does the universal discourse meet with local discourse in visual documentation? How does the citizenry of activist framework their field of view, and how does the universal discourse do this? In Ruthie Ginsburg’s book, Ye may be to us instead of eyes, the visual plane is not merely a representation added to the verbal one, it is instrumental in designing the questions.
The book offers a theoretical space and historic mapping of Israeli human rights organizations. A discussion of the discourse of local human rights organizations active in the occupied is through interdisciplinary study that combines analysis of photographs, interviews with key individuals in these organizations and a close reading of their reports is offered here for the first time. The different chapters offer a comparative examination of three major human rights organizations operating in Israel: B’Tselem, Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, and Machsom Watch. By studying the archives created in each of these organizations, the material and emotional conditions that shape the reports, along with spatial and political relations produced in their activity can be examined. The Analysis of the activists’ gaze strives to understand the practice of these organizations, located amidst a polarized system between occupier and occupied, perpetrator and victim.
This book joins pioneering studies conducted worldwide that examine visual, aesthetic, and sensory elements that shape civil negotiations and visual aspect which it designs.
What makes citizens choose a particular mode of protest? This paper discusses the role of space in recent protests by three Israeli groups, Machsom Watch, Anarchists Against the Wall, and Women in Black, in Israel/Palestine. It looks at the way groups protest state violence (i.e., the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the construction of the separation wall) by initiating counter hegemonic strategies and tactics, and by creating new terrains of opposition. More specifically, I elaborate on their model of action and its function within a range of spheres (physical, geographical and virtual), supported by four key principles (difference, decentralisation, multiplicity and informal order). I argue that unlike more conventional protest rituals, often led by the dominant political parties, contemporary dissent takes place in parallel spheres constructing what I call transformative terrain – a social platform that challenges bounded politics by using imagination and space in creating new possibilities.
Hatuka, Tali. “Civilian Consciousness of the Mutable Nature of Borders: The Power of Appearance along a Fragmented Border in Israel/Palestine.” Political Geography [In Press, Corrected Proof, online since July 20, 2012]
What is the role of citizenship in a protest? How are civilian rights used as a source of power to craft socio-spatial strategies of dissent? I argue that the growing civilian consciousness of the “power to” (i.e. capacity to act) and of the border as public space is enhancing civil participation and new dissent strategies through which participants consciously and sophisticatedly use their citizenship as a tool, offering different conceptualizations of borders. This paper examines the role of citizenship in the design and performance of dissent focusing on two groups of Israeli activists, Machsom Watch and Anarchists against the Wall. Using their Israeli citizenship as a source of power, these groups apply different strategies of dissent while challenging the discriminating practices of control in occupied Palestinian territories. These case studies demonstrate a growing civilian consciousness of the mutable nature of borders as designed by state power. Analyzing the ways actors consciously and sophisticatedly use citizenship as a tool in their dissent, which is aimed at supporting indigenous noncitizens, I argue that Machsom Watch and Anarchists against the Wall enact and promote different models of citizenship and understandings of borders, in Israel/Palestine.
► The paper analyzes how civilian rights are used to craft socio-spatial strategies of dissent. ► Analysis is focused on groups of Israeli activists, Machsom Watch and Anarchists against the Wall. ► Case studies demonstrate a civilian consciousness of the mutable nature of borders. ► Protests have the capacity to challenge the state’s model of citizenship.
This article examines the Israeli women’s movement, Checkpoint Watch, as a case from which to argue that the strategic use of the politics of care can challenge existing social and political orders. The conscious decision of activists to direct the practice of care toward the ‘wrong’ subject – toward Palestinians rather than Israeli soldiers – challenges the dehumanisation of Palestinians in Israeli society. While the politics of care may call the political order into question, the service of a behaviour that is considered essentialist may paradoxically reinforce the existing social order. I argue that the politics of care has the potential to challenge both the political and the social order, though not simultaneously.