International Conference

 

Identity's

Allies and Labels

History of Identity Categories in Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel

January 20-21, 2020

 

University of Tokyo, Komaba

Graduate School of Mathematical Sciences Bldg. (数理科学研究科棟), 002 (1F)

For access, click here

Photos above from Walid Khalidi, Before Their Diaspora: A Photographic History of The Palestinians 1876-1948; Eugene M. Avrutin et al. eds., Photographing the Jewish Nation: Pictures from S. An-sky's Ethnographic Expeditions

 

Aim and Scope

In the twentieth century, Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel experienced a profound reorganization of identity categories. This included Zionists categorizing Jews as a nation rather than a religious group and other Jewish activists combining Jewish and Russian identities or other regional or political categories. In Palestine, the British Empire categorized Palestinian Arabs into religious categories, while Palestinian Arabs identified themselves as natives of Palestine. Rather than consider how several nations or proto-nations acted or how they interacted with or opposed one another, this conference examines the history of such categories, namely, how, why, and by whom people were grouped into a particular category as well as the relationships between these categories. Why was one category connected to another particular category? What were the consequences of this connection? Was there any reciprocity between them? Attempting to answer these questions naturally sheds light on the several dynamics and levels of structure experienced by the people who lived through this period of history in Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel. Such answers must avoid essentializing and exaggerating these collectivities.

For more details, click here.

Program

January 20

10:00-10:10 Introduction 

Taro Tsurumi


10:10-12:00 Session I - From Russia to Palestine

Only Parts of the Program: On Zionism as a Personal Revolution

Brian Horowitz

Categories of Experience and Projection: Pogroms, People, and State in the Russian Zionist Imagination

Taro Tsurumi

(Core discussants: Aziza Khazzoom, Hanan Harif)

13:30-15:20 Session II - Categories in New Regimes

On the Origin of a Bio-Political Identity: Jews and Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War

Elissa Bemporad

From Jordanians to PLO Supporters: A Palestinian Alternative Identity

Hiroyuki Suzuki

(Core discussants: Jonathan Gribetz, Sherene Seikaly)

15:45-17:35 Session III - The Local and the Translocal Entangled

Litvak Jewry in a Time of Transition: Zalman Reyzen's Vision of Vilna as a Jewish Civil Society

Samuel Kassow

Palestinian Popular Identities in Lifta: Oral Histories on a Destroyed Palestinian Village

Miyuki Kinjo

(Core discussants: Brian Horowitz, Taro Tsurumi)

18:00-20:00 Reception

Open to anyone with registration in advance: mail me for registration

 

January 21

9:30-12:10 Session IV -  In Search of Categories, or Out of Ones

The National Boundaries of Citizenship in Mandate Palestine: Of Naturalization Applications and British Categorizations of ‘Former Ottomans’

Lauren Banko

The Matter of Time: A Native’s Trajectory

Sherene Seikaly

Labeling and Categorizing the Enemy: The PLO Research Center's Studies of Jews and Zionism

Jonathan Gribetz

(Core discussants: Samuel Kassow, Miyuki Kinjo)

13:30-15:20 Session V - Between the East and the West

Semitism: A Short History of a Controversial (Jewish) Concept

Hanan Harif

Mapping the Categories: Neutral, Political, and Other Groupings Referenced in Life Story Narratives of Jewish Polish and Iraqi Women Who Immigrated to Israel in the 1950s

Aziza Khazzoom

(Core discussants: Elissa Bemporad, Hiroyuki Suzuki)

15:35-17:30 General discussion

Every panelist and audience

Abstracts of each paper

 

Click here

Papers (After early January)

 

Click here (Participants only; contact me if you are going to join us)

Panelists


Lauren Banko (Yale University)

Ottoman Empire, 19th-20th century Arab world, 19th-20th century Palestine

Author of The Invention of Palestinian Citizenship, 1918-1947  (Edinburgh UP, 2018)
Elissa Bemporad (
Queens College and The Graduate Center - CUNY: City University of New York)

Jewish history, Russia and the Soviet Union, Gender, Holocaust and genocide studies

Author of Becoming Soviet Jews: The Bolshevik Experiment in Minsk (Indiana UP, 2013), and Legacy of Blood: Jews, Pogroms, and Ritual Murder in the Lands of the Soviets (Oxford UP, 2019); Co-editor of Women and Genocide: Survivors, Victims, Perpetrators (Indiana UP, 2018)
Jonathan M. Gribetz (Princeton University)

History of Palestine and Israel, Jewish-Arab Encounter, Race and Religion in the Modern Middle East

Author of Defining Neighbors: Religion, Race, and the Early Zionist-Arab Encounter (Princeton UP, 2016)
Hanan Harif
(Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Zionist intellectual history, Pan-Asianism and Islamic studies among Zionists

Author of For We Be Brethren: The Turn to the East in Zionist Thought [in Hebrew] (The Zalman Shazar Center, 2019)
Brian Horowitz
(Tulane University)

Russian and East European Jewish and Zionist history, Russian literature

Author of Russian Idea-Jewish Presence (Academic Studies Press, 2013), Empire Jews (Slavica, 2009), and Jewish Philanthropy and Enlightenment in Late-Tsarist Russia (U of Washington Press, 2009) among others
Samuel D. Kassow (
Trinity College)

East European Jewish history

Author of The Distinctive Life of East European Jewry (YIVO, 2004), and Who Will Write Our History: Emanuel Ringelblum and the Oyneg Shabes Archive (Indiana UP), among others
Aziza Khazzoom (
Indiana University)

Ethnicity and stratification in Israeli society, Mizrahi Jews in Israel, Sociology

Author of Shifting Ethnic Boundaries and Inequality in Israel: Or, How the Polish Peddler Became a German Intellectual (Stanford UP, 2008)
Miyuki Kinjo (
Ritsumeikan University, and others)

History of modern Palestine and Palestinian historiography

Author of many articles on Palestinian historiography and memory, especially on Nakba [in Japanese]
Sherene Seikaly (
University of California, Santa Barbara)

History of modern Palestine, Economic thought, Development

Author of Men of Capital: Scarcity and Economy in Mandate Palestine (Stanford UP, 2016)
Hiroyuki Suzuki (
University of Tokyo)

Palestinian society and politics after 1948

Author of Intifada and Palestine under Occupation [in Japanese, forthcoming] (U of Tokyo Press, 2020)
Taro Tsurumi, organizer (
University of Tokyo)

Russian Jewish and Zionist history, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Historical sociology

Author of Zion Imagined: Russian Jews at the End of Empire [in Japanese] (U of Tokyo Press, 2012), and co-editor (with Benjamin Nathans and Kenneth Moss) of From Europe's East to the Middle East: Israel's Russian and Polish Lineages (U of Pennsylvania Press, forthcoming)

 

Access

To the University of Tokyo, Komaba I

Get off at Komaba Todaimae Station (IN03) of Keio Inokashira Line (IN), which is two stops away from Shibuya Station. Only local trains (各駅停車) stop at this station (don't take express trains).  Proceed to Todai Exit, and you will find the main gate of the university.

Access map of UTokyo campuses (PDF)

In the Komaba I Campus

Entering the main gate and looking at the clock tower ahead, proceed to the right and walk between the administration office and Komaba Museum buildings, and over the wood deck, then you will find Graduate School of Mathematical Sciences Building. The venue (Room 002) is located in a kind of an annex, two-store building on your right, closest to the clock tower and the railway. The annex and the main building is not connected inside. 

正門を入ってすぐ右のアドミニ棟と駒場博物館のあいだ、ウッドデッキを抜けた先に数理科学研究科棟があります。会場は一番手前(西)側に付随した2階建ての建物にあり、中ではメインの棟とはつながっていません。入り口も一番手前側です。

Click here for the map and photo

 

Aim and scope in detail

In the twentieth century, Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel experienced profound reorganization of the identity categories. Most typically, several ethnic categories such as Poles, Hungarians, and Lithuanians, converged into nations, while people who did not share the typical aspects of each category were excluded or disregarded as ethnic minorities, including Jewish people. In Palestine, partly through conflict with Zionists, and partly as a result of Ottoman and British rules, diverse categories of people such as various villages and clans, Muslims, Christians, and Jews converged, being categorized as either Arabs or Jews.

An important part of the historical origin of contemporary Israel and Palestine can be traced back to Eastern Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, aside from Arab, Ottoman and British history. Previously ruled by the Russian Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Eastern Europe became the ideological and demographic center of the Zionist movement.

Ethnic categories played a significant role in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century. For example, during the era of the Habsburg Empire after 1867 and under the Soviet Union, such categories determined the boundaries of administration and income redistribution, and in the USSR as well as in other East European countries, population exchange and forced migration, not to mention mass killings, took place along these ethnic lines. In such environments, people had to be well aware of the categories with which they were affiliated.

Therefore, in analyzing the historical course that reached Palestine/Israel, sociologist Rogers Brubaker’s approach to nationalism should be a starting point: rather than thinking about how several nations or proto-nations as real entities moved and interacted or conflicted with each other, this conference looks into the history of categories; namely, how, why, and by whom people were grouped into a particular category.

This conference, moreover, attempts to proceed to the next step: to examine the complexity of such groupings, which has rarely been done. It has been well discussed that one’s identity is generally defined in relation to others. In the history of Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel, discourses on others who define identity have often been presented. For example, Jews have been defined in relation to Christians or the majority populations. The Palestinian identity has been defined vis-à-vis Zionists. However, little has been discussed about the role of categories that are neither selves nor others but something in between, and these are integral aspects of the selves but do not completely overlap the selves. For instance, those who had German Jewish identity in the early twentieth century could not be considered German exclusively. Yet, their fellow Germans and the German culture were not others, and these German elements gave meaning to the German Jews' selves and could even be defined as part of their selves.

In Eastern Europe, several categories of people (such as citizenship, estates, ethnic group, religious group, regional affiliation, and party affiliation) have remained intertwined even after the advent of the age of nationalism. Local categories did not converge and become a homogenous geographical unit; instead, several collective categories remained distinctive and inter-connected, often beyond political boundaries.
 
For example, some of those who had a Russian Jewish identity endeavored to defend the Russian Empire at the time of the First World War and the Russian Civil War, not only as Russian citizens but also as Jews, for several reasons, including their belief that Russia’s rule on them would be better than that of others, their social connections in Russian society, and their affection for Russian culture and the people involved there. In this case, the Russian was the ally of the Jewish identity.
 
Category coupling was imposed from the outside as well. Since the Russian Revolution, Jews have often been labeled as communists, and, with this label, Jews became an easy target of violence from the White as well as the Ukrainian nationalist armies during the Russian Civil War.

Among the relationships between categories, the conference especially examines such couplings of categories—that is, both alliance and labelling—because people have focused on ethnic categories not only due to government policy or because it is in fashion, but also when one is related to another. In the above examples, alliance with the Russian did not weaken the Jewish identity of Russian Jews but rather made them focus on their particular role and position in Russia. The label as communists made anti-Semites easily imagine—however illusory it was—what Jews were like. Coupled categories could thus strengthen each other.

Moreover, such coupling could change those involved in the relevant interactions. By allying with the Soviet, for example, Jews in the former Russian Empire could make sure their culture survived and even be promoted (although mostly only in the 1920s). With this alliance, however, Jewish culture was forced to transform, because looking “Soviet” required several limitations on Jewish culture such as that the Jewish language should be Yiddish and not Hebrew, and that the culture should be secular and consistent with Soviet norms. 
 
At first glance, Zionists began to attempt the decoupling of the Jewish category from others, especially denouncing Jews’ assimilation into surrounding nations. Zionists called for the unification of world Jewry, and for their gathering, or at least investment, in Palestine. 
 
In reality, however, Zionists did not completely cease any kind of alliance. In fact, in Palestine, Zionists often associated Jews with the West vis-a-vis the “Orient” or the Arabs, and in the early stage of the Zionist project, some attempted to locate Jews in the context of the “Orient” or Asia as well. These alliances (mostly the former) not only shaped the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs but also the hierarchy within Jews, most prominently between Ashkenazim and Sephardim (Mizrahim).

Likewise, through coupling and interaction with other categories, the category of Palestinians has been historically formed. This happened not just through conflict with Zionists but also with the British mandate that categorized Palestine’s population into either Muslims, Christians, or Jews; this created a rift between the Jewish population and others in the region. 

While scholarly works focusing on settler colonialism in a past few decades have revealed structural obstacles Palestinian (or Muslim and Christian) society faced, by which their identity was affected, Palestinians by no means responded only passively to the reality. Although more or less under the settler colonialist framework, and thus politically less successful than Zionist cases, they tried to define themselves, for example, as a native nationality in the British mandate system. As a competition with Jews became intensified in Palestine, some economic elites who first located themselves within the entire Arab economy began to do so within the Palestinian Arab economy. Others referred to religious categories, underlining the fundamental divide between Muslims and Christians on the one hand and Jews on the other.

Nakba (a catastrophe in 1948) and the resultant experience of being refugees completed the establishment of the group’s identity as Palestinians. With the prominence of Arab nationalism, Palestinians allied with it and represented themselves in Arab contexts, and they were required to be involved in broader Arab politics. Especially after the prominence of Islamic radicalism in the 1990s, mostly by their adversaries, Palestinians began to be associated with Islam in a negative sense as well, often becoming the target of the “War against Terrorism.” 

At least in recent Palestinian historiography, the Palestinian category began to be coupled with much smaller categories such as with people from specific villages and families, and in the cases of Diaspora Palestinians, with their host state and society. In the Jewish world as well, diversity within the Jewish community both in the present scenario and in history is becoming increasingly highlighted, although in Israeli politics today, Jewish collectivity is being emphasized.

In this conference, rather than the acts of any groups as unified entities, we will examine category practice and the overlapping, confusion and separation of identity categories, which have existed between individuals and state apparatuses in Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel, and what the consequences of such practices of categorization were. This will naturally shed light on several levels of structures and dynamics in which people in the history between Eastern Europe and Palestine/Israel have been involved, avoiding essentialization and exaggeration of collectivities.

Abstracts of each paper

 

January 20

10:10-12:00 Session I - From Russia to Palestine

Only Parts of the Program: On Zionism as a Personal Revolution

Brian Horowitz

   I am writing a book on Zionism that compares ideology and practice. I have found that many people, even among leaders, weaved in and out of the movement. At times they were passionate, but often not for long or not entirely. The figure I am treating here, Leib (Lev) Jaffe represents an exception to my study because he had no room for ambivalence, he was a Zionist through and through; there was never a moment when he was not a Zionist, he did not accept that there could be any other activity than Zionist in nature. 
   Jaffe (1876-1948) was born and grew up in Grodno. He was a diplomat, poet, editor, and official who devoted all his energies to Zionism. His grandfather, Gimpel Jaffe, was a rabbi who moved his congregation to settle in Palestine. Jaffe earned his B. A from Heidelberg and then moved to St. Petersburg.
   This article treats Jaffe’s activities in Heidelberg and in tsarist Russia before and then during World War I. Jaffe published original verse and translations of poems in Russian in various journals. The subject of his poems was inevitably Zionism. During the war, he edited and published two volumes of a literary almanac, Safrut, in the Russian language. It is curious that he related everything he did to Zionism even when the connection is not always visible. In his explanations one can perceive the influence of the Russian revolutionary movement with its ethical absolutism—everything must be subordinated to the cause. 
   In Jaffe’s case he naturally took his wife to live in Palestine in the 1920s. It caused Frieda Jaffe pain and anguish because she was not a Zionist (at least not to the degree that Leib was). She viewed herself as a child of Western culture, books, music, and refinement. The coarse ways of Palestine repelled her. Their relationship became strained.
   This paper describes a phenomenon that seems very Russian, the primacy of politics over all other domains even personal life. The material basis of the project consists of published writings, archival material, and Jaffe’s book of memoirs and another book of letters that appeared in print after Leib Jaffe’s death in 1947.   

Categories of Experience and Projection: Pogroms, People, and State in the Russian Zionist Imagination

Taro Tsurumi

Pogroms that raged during the Russian Civil War had profound impact on Jewish life. On the one hand, because the Bolsheviks were the sole power that more or less seriously rejected anti-Semitism and suppressed pogroms, many Jews became inclined to support the Bolshevik regime. On the other hand, Jews who were against the Bolsheviks, Zionists among them, were also influenced by pogroms and their backgrounds. The events became the last push to estrange these Russian Jews—who had slightly combined their Jewish aspect and Russian aspect into themselves until then—from Russian society as well as the Russian state. Although they left Russia after a few years, they by no means abandoned their memory of Russia. In fact, the way in which they experienced and memorized pogroms constituted their prism to perceive events and people in Palestine. In their Russian years, the Zionists as well as many other Russian Jews associated Jewishness with the West; especially Russian Jewish liberals believed that their value in Russian society resided in their role as Westernizers. Russian Zionists shed light on the lack of statehood as the cause of pogroms, indicating how savage Eastern people and undisciplined military officers behind them were involved in pogroms, while punishment for these acts from a provisional authority was in name only. That sort of tripartite relationship—Jews as Westerners, savages as Easterners, and the indulgent state—was brought to Palestine. The Zionists described a picture in which Jews as Western people confronted Arab rebels (“pogromists”) as Eastern savages and the indulgent British mandate government.

13:30-15:20 Session II - Categories in New Regimes

On the Origin of a Bio-Political Identity: Jews and Bolsheviks in the Russian Civil War

Elissa Bemporad

This paper traces the origin of the accusation of Judeo-Bolshevism in the Russian Civil War, 1917-1921. The mythic image of the Jewish revolutionary, set to destroy Russia, dated back to the early 1900s when the slogan “Beat the Yids and save Russia” had become exceptionally popular in right-wing political circles. This deep-seated legacy, together with Lenin’s official condemnation of antisemitism in 1918, and the remarkable number of Jews who eventually joined the Bolshevik ranks made the identification of Jews and Bolshevism palatable and commonsensical for the revolution’s opponents. Anti-Bolshevik forces in particular resorted to violence against the Jewish communities to punish the imagined bio-political enemy that gashed at the Ukrainian, Polish, or Russian national fabric. The paper will analyze instances of anti-Bolshevik propaganda that identified the Reds with Jews-such as the so-called Chomskii Affair, a military trial staged by Ukrainian forces-as well as shed light on the gendered nature of the imagined politicized enemy group. Finally, this paper will map out the legacies of Judeo-Bolshevism in Soviet society during the 1920s, 1930s and into the 1940s.

From Jordanians to PLO Supporters: A Palestinian Alternative Identity

Hiroyuki Suzuki

As Jerusalem was conquered in 1967, local Palestinians represented themselves as Jordanians and insisted adherence to international law. However, nearly ten years after, they transformed into Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) supporters. This paper focuses on the strategic aspect of identity selection among Palestinians who live in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Just after the Six-Day War in 1967, locals—including judges of the Islamic court—stressed the importance of Jordanian natural spaces in Jerusalem to avoid Israeli annexation of the city. This attempt was hampered as some leaders were deported to Jordan. Local Palestinians who had remained developed the characteristics of their political strategy while an autonomy plan was erected by Israeli authorities. Palestinians named PLO as their sole representative and rejected negotiating with Israeli authorities on the state of their own status. Especially after the Camp David accords in 1978, this movement led to the establishment of the National Guidance Committee (NGC), which coordinated political goals for locals. How and why did local Palestinians change their identification within the ten years? By referring to open letters and documents, it was revealed that local rationality and strategy determined Palestinian self-identification in relation to Israeli authorities.

15:45-17:35 Session III - The Local and the Translocal Entangled

Litvak Jewry in a Time of Transition: Zalman Reyzen's Vision of Vilna as a Jewish Civil Society

Samuel Kassow

This paper deals with Zalmen Reyzen, the editor of the Vilna Yiddish newspaper Vilner Tog. It focuses on the turbulent 1915-1922 period when Vilna changed hands seven times. Reyzen challenged East European Jewry, and Vilna Jewry in particular, to confront the implications of total war and the breakup of established empires. His solution was to embrace a vision of DOIKAYT(hereness) which envisioned a new Jewish identity, non-Zionist, non-Religious which emphasized Yiddish, regionalism, and support of the claims of "weak" nationalities like the Lithuanians in order to protect Jews from the hegemonic predations of the Poles. 
 

Palestinian Popular Identities in Lifta: Oral Histories on a Destroyed Palestinian Village

Miyuki Kinjo

   In the course of the Palestinian struggle for self-termination in the settler-colonial context, a variety of identity modalities have appeared in Palestinian society. In the past few decades, following the rift between the Palestinian political leadership, and the non-elite, refugee communities, the Palestinian dispossession in 1948—known as Nakba (the Catastrophe)—has taken up the central position in their identity formation.
   Until today, many Palestinian memory on Nakba has been presented in locally produced monographs or personal memoirs. Such Palestinian oral history contains details about specific villages that were destroyed in 1948. This paper focuses on some of the oral history booklets on Lifta, a destroyed Palestinian village located in the Jerusalem area.
Reading about the people of Lifta and their identity from oral history requires both historical and anthropological analysis, since it goes beyond the concept of national identity of Western origin. Lifta people’s oral history contains not only the memory of struggles against the British mandate and the Zionists, but also indigenous folklores, which show the rural Palestinian life prior to the total penetration of capitalism. Presently, Lifta people reconstruct their identity by recalling such indigenous knowledge; some people have actualized this form of identity by setting up the Lifta Charitable Association (juma‘iya khaiyariya). 
   Lifta people set such village-based indigenous identity in contraposition to the one currently insisted by the Palestinian political leadership (Palestinian Authority), whose discourse is dominated by international politics. Some features of the Lifta people’s village-based indigenous identity include diverse and overlapping identity grouping within the village (clans (hamula), families, (‘ayla), residential quarters (hara), occupations, etc), where Jews are also counted as residents. Presumably, Lifta people remember these diverse and overlapping identities with high appreciation, since they could be considered as traces of the village heritage. As this sort of identity takes root in the village (balad), the homeland (watan) is envisioned as assemblage of such balad-based identities. 
   From this point of view, the Palestinian identity on a national level—often referred as wataniya—should be understood differently from nationalism of western modality. This watan-based identity suggests a cosmopolitan inclusive identity based on the land, though driven from the indigenous knowledge on the heritage of the land.

 

January 21

9:30-12:10 Session IV -  In Search of Categories, or Out of Ones

The National Boundaries of Citizenship in Mandate Palestine: Of Naturalization Applications and British Categorizations of ‘Former Ottomans’

Lauren Banko

In analyzing a range of naturalization applications and petitions for Palestine Mandate citizenship by Arabs, Arabic-speaking Jews, and other Jews from outside of Europe, the paper will explore the ways in which the British administration applied and used the term ‘former Ottomans.’ In light of the ways in which the Mandate created a specific Palestinian nationality, conditioned on the understanding that individuals ceased to be Ottoman after a certain point in time, I will focus on what being ‘formerly’ Ottoman meant for the citizenship and nationality prospects of migrants to Palestine. This topic, particularly as it focuses on non-European Jews and non-Palestinian Arabs who attempted to become Palestinian citizens, offers a new understanding of how colonial labels and categorizations influenced understandings of nationality identity outside of the bounds of those promoted by Arab and Zionist nationalist discourses. This augments the big question of the conference itself: how, why, and by whom were people grouped into particular ‘nationality’ categories? My paper will also use records of deportations from Palestine to narrate the ways in which these nationality labels ensured that certain migrants could be accused of unlawful entry and presence in Palestine, and thus removed.

The Matter of Time: A Native’s Trajectory

Sherene Seikaly

Following the lessons of a ghostly ancestor, my great-grandfather, Naim Cotran, “The Matter of Time” begins in Sudan in 1916 and ends in Lebanon in 1951.  It traces Naim’s multiple subject positions from a white-adjacent colonial official in Omdurman, to a “backward” and “rootless” native in Palestine, to a dispossessed refugee in Lebanon. The piece shows how Mandate rule in Palestine narrowed subjectivities and initiated the temporal abeyance and the presence-absence that Palestinians wrestle with until this day. It explores how my great-grandfather has been haunting my thinking and research for the last two decades. “The Matter of Time” takes up Naim’s invitation to escape national and colonial epistemologies, and ponder the relationships between historical writing and autobiography.

Labeling and Categorizing the Enemy: The PLO Research Center's Studies of Jews and Zionism

Jonathan Gribetz

Just months after the 1964 founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Jordanian-annexed Jerusalem, the new organization established its own Research Center 150 miles north, in Beirut, Lebanon.  This Research Center served a variety of purposes for the PLO but perhaps the most important, and for me the most interesting, was the Center’s role in helping Palestinians and other Arabs “know the enemy,” as Anis Sayegh referred to this part of the Center’s mission.  The Research Center dedicated scores of books and journal articles—that is, countless hours of research and significant financial resources—to informing its intended readers about “the enemy.”  Who or what, though, was “the enemy” in the minds of the PLO Research Center scholars and activists?  Was Zionism “the enemy”?  Zionists?  Jews?  Israelis?  Colonialism?  In this paper, I will address the question of how the PLO Research Center, in its many publications from 1965 until it was eventually expelled from Beirut in 1983, conceptualized “the enemy,” paying particular attention to figures who tested or challenged simple classification: anti-Zionist American rabbis, leftist Israelis, Mizrahi/Arab Jews, Israeli women, and others.  Ultimately, I will explore what we learn more broadly about the PLO in these formative years from its Research Center’s labeling and categorizing of “the enemy.”

13:30-15:20 Session V - Between the East and the West

Semitism: A Short History of a Controversial (Jewish) Concept

Hanan Harif

   When did Jews "become Semites," and how did they react to this new category which was forced upon them? The term "Semites" was used by "anti-Semites" as a way to depict the Jews as "others" in Europe, and therefore it is generally viewed and analyzed exclusively as an anti-Jewish category which had a significant role in the Nazi world view and propaganda, toward the actual extermination of the Jews during the WWII and the Holocaust. However, this category has also an (often neglected ) inner-Jewish history.
   In my lecture I will discuss the inner-Jewish use and adoption of this category by presenting and analyzing several reflections of Jewish writers and political leaders (from the late 19th century Russia through Central Europe at the turn of the century to the late ottoman and mandatary Palestine) on themselves and on other Jews as "Semites." Among the discussed figures will be: M.L. Lilienblum, Emma Lazarus, Rabbi Moses Gaster, J. Radler-Feldmann (Rabbi Binyamin) and Arthur Ruppin. Some of these thinkers went one step further, and used this self-definition as a way to overcome the growing Arab-Jewish national conflict in Palestine by stressing its transnational essence and its potential as the basis for Jewish-Arab pan-movement: "pan-Semitism."       
    

Mapping the Categories: Neutral, Political, and Other Groupings Referenced in Life Story Narratives of Jewish Polish and Iraqi Women Who Immigrated to Israel in the 1950s

Aziza Khazzoom

The project examines life story interviews I collected from Jewish women who immigrated to Israel in the 1950s, from Poland and Iraq, when they were young adults. Polish and Iraqi immigrants are an interesting comparison group because, as a whole, the groups were similar to each other prior to immigration - on such factors as occupational structure, educational attainments, access to putatively western societies, and even the position of women - but diverged from each other as the Israeli ethnic structure settled into a binary, Mizrahi/Ashkenazi formation. As such, they give us a window into how ethnic boundaries changed in Israel. In this study, I am mapping the full set of groups, physical locations, and institutions that are mentioned in the interviews. The goal is to contextualize the use of racial/ethnic categories by asking how their description and use differ from other groupings referenced in the interviews, and by pointing to the diversity of groupings an individual can use in describing her life. Other groupings include those based on age, occupation, religiousness, "veteran" and Israeli born status, and even general behavior. 
 

Fund

 

Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences (JSPS) KAKENHI grant #16H05930 "Israel in

Russian history" (科研費若手研究A「ロシア史のなかのイスラエル―帝国崩壊と戦時暴力のシオニズムへの影響」)