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PAST IS PRESENT: SETTLER COLONIALISM MATTERS!

UPDATE 18th FEBRUARY 2011

SOAS Palestine Society Conference Organizing Collective

On 5-6 March 2011, the Palestine Society at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London will hold its seventh annual conference, “Past is Present: Settler Colonialism in Palestine. ” This year’s conference aims to understand Zionism as a settler colonial project which has, for more than a century, subjected Palestine and Palestinians to a structural and violent form of destruction, dispossession, land appropriation and erasure in the pursuit of a new Jewish Israeli society. By organizing this conference, we hope to reclaim and revive the settler colonial paradigm and to outline its potential to inform and guide political strategy and mobilization.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is often described as unique and exceptional with little resemblance to other historical or ongoing colonial conflicts. Yet, for Zionism, like other settler colonial projects such as the British colonization of Ireland or European settlement of North America, South Africa or Australia, the imperative is to control the land and its resources — and to displace the original inhabitants. Indeed, as conference keynote speaker Patrick Wolfe, one of the foremost scholars on settler colonialism and professor at La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia, argues, “the logic of this project, a sustained institutional tendency to eliminate the Indigenous population, informs a range of historical practices that might otherwise appear distinct — invasion is a structure not an event.”

Therefore, the classification of the Zionist movement as a settler colonial project, and the Israeli state as its manifestation, is not merely intended as a statement on the historical origins of Israel, nor as a rhetorical or polemical device. Rather, the aim is to highlight Zionism’s structural continuities and the ideology which informs Israeli policies and practices in Palestine and toward Palestinians everywhere. Thus, the Nakba — whether viewed as a spontaneous, violent episode in war, or the implementation of a preconceived master plan — should be understood as both the precondition for the creation of Israel and the logical outcome of Zionist settlement in Palestine.

Moreover, it is this same logic that sustains the continuation of the Nakba today. As remarked by Benny Morris, “had he [David Ben Gurion] carried out full expulsion–rather than partial–he would have stabilised the State of Israel for generations.”[ii] Yet, plagued by an “instability”–defined by the very existence of the Palestinian nation–Israel continues its daily state practices in its quest to fulfil Zionism’s logic to maximize the amount of land under its control with the minimum number of Palestinians on it. These practices take a painful array of manifestations: aerial and maritime bombardment, massacre and invasion, house demolitions, land theft, identity card confiscation, racist laws and loyalty tests, the wall, the siege on Gaza, cultural appropriation, and the dependence on willing (or unwilling) native collaboration and security arrangements, all with the continued support and backing of imperial power.

Despite these enduring practices however, the settler colonial paradigm has largely fallen into disuse. As a paradigm, it once served as a primary ideological and political framework for all Palestinian political factions and trends, and informed the intellectual work of committed academics and revolutionary scholars, both Palestinians and Jews.

The conference thus asks where and why the settler colonial paradigm was lost, both in scholarship on Palestine and in politics; how do current analyses and theoretical trends that have arisen in its place address present and historical realities? While acknowledging the creativity of these new interpretations, we must nonetheless ask: when exactly did Palestinian natives find themselves in a “post-colonial” condition? When did the ongoing struggle over land become a “post-conflict” situation? When did Israel become a “post-Zionist” society? And when did the fortification of Palestinian ghettos and reservations become “state-building”?

Such an alignment would expand the tools available to Palestinians and their solidarity movement, and reconnect the struggle to its own history of anti-colonial internationalism. At its core, this internationalism asserts that the Palestinian struggle against Zionist settler colonialism can only be won when it is embedded within, and empowered by, the broader Arab movement for emancipation and the indigenous, anti-racist and anti-colonial movement-from Arizona to Auckland.

SOAS Palestine Society invites everyone to join us at what promises to be a significant intervention in Palestine activism and scholarship.

For over 30 years, SOAS Palestine Society has heightened awareness and understanding of the Palestinian people, their rights, culture, and struggle for self-determination, amongst students, faculty, staff, and the broader public. SOAS Palestine Society aims to continuously push the frontiers of discourse in an effort to make provocative arguments and to stimulate debate and organizing for justice in Palestine through relevant conferences, and events ranging from the intellectual and political impact of Edward Said’s life and work (2004), international law and the Palestine question (2005), the economy of Palestine and its occupation (2006), the one state (2007), 60 Years of Nakba, 60 Years of Resistance (2009), and most recently, the Left in Palestine (2010).

For more information on the SOAS Palestine Society 7th Annual Conference, Past is Present: Settler Colonialism in Palestine: http://www.soaspalsoc.org

SOAS Palestine Society Organizing Collective is a group of committed students that has undertaken to organize annual academic conferences on Palestine since 2003.

First published on: http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/661/past-is-present_settler-colonialism-matters
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[i] Patrick Wolfe, Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event, Cassell, London, p. 163

[ii] Interview with Benny Morris, Survival of the Fittest, Haaretz, 9 – January 2004: http://cosmos.ucc.ie/cs1064/jabowen/IPSC/php/art.php?aid=5412

 Original Post, Past is Present: Settler Colonialism in Palestine (including a detailed programme of the event), 25th January 2011, is at: https://rikowski.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/past-is-present-settler-colonialism-in-palestine/

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ARABS AND ISRAELIS FACING THE HOLOCAUST AND THE NAKBA

LONDON MIDDLE EAST INSTITUTE

School of Oriental and African Studies

TUESDAY EVENING LECTURE PROGRAMME ON

THE CONTEMPORARY MIDDLE EAST: AUTUMN 2010

The LMEI’s Tuesday Lecture on 19 October will take the form of a panel debate on the subject of Gilbert Achcar’s book The Arabs and the Holocaust, please see below for details.

ORGANISED IN ASSOCIATION WITH SAQI BOOKS

Arabs and Israelis Facing the Holocaust and the Nakba

Gilbert Achcar, SOAS

Nur Masalha, Centre for Religion and History and the Holy Land Research Project, St Mary’s University College, University of Surrey

Idith Zertal, Institute for Jewish Studies, University of Basel

Chair: Deniz Kandiyoti, SOAS

Tuesday 19 October – 6.00pm

Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS

All Welcome

This lecture is free and there is no need to book.

Tea and biscuits are available from 5.30pm in the Brunei Suite

For further information contact:

The London Middle East Institute at SOAS, University of London, Thornhaugh Street,

Russell Square, London, WC1H OXG, T: 020 7898 4330; F: 020 7898 4329,

E: lmei@soas.ac.uk, W: www.lmei.soas.ac.uk

Participants:

Idith Zertal is an Israeli historian and essayist, professor of contemporary history and senior research fellow at the Institute for Jewish Studies at the University of Basel. Previously she has been teaching at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and the Hebrew University Jerusalem. Her works include From Catastrophe to Power, Holocaust Survivors and the Emergence of Israel (1996, 2000); Lords of the Land: The War Over Israel’s Settlements in the Occupied Territories, 1967-2007 (co-authored with Akiva Eldar, 2005, 2007); and Israel’s Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood (2005, new ed. 2010, original ed. in Hebrew in 2002), which has been published in eight languages. In 2005 she co-edited and co-authored Hannah Arendt: A Half Century of Polemics, a collection of essays by Israeli scholars on Arendt’s political thought.

Nur Masalha is a Palestinian historian, currently Professor of Religion and Politics and Director of the Centre for Religion and History and the Holy Land Research Project at St Mary’s University College, London, and Professorial Research Associate, Department of History, SOAS. He has also taught at Birzeit University, Palestine, and is the editor of Holy Land Studies: A Multidisciplinary Journal. He authored and edited many books, including Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of ‘Transfer’ in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948 (1992); A Land Without a People (1997); Imperial Israel and the Palestinians (2000); The Politics of Denial: Israel and the Palestinian Refugee Problem (2003); Catastrophe Remembered (2005); and The Bible and Zionism: Invented Traditions, Archaeology and Post-Colonialism in Palestine-Israel (2007).

Gilbert Achcar is Professor of Development Studies and International Relations in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS. He grew up in Lebanon and moved to Europe in 1983. Before joining SOAS in 2007, he taught and researched at the University of Paris-VIII and the French-German Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin. His works includeThe Clash of Barbarisms: The Making of the New World Disorder (2002, 2nd ed. 2006), published in 13 languages; The 33-Day War: Israel’s War against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Its Consequences (with Michel Warschawski, 2007); Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy, co-authored with Noam Chomsky (2007, 2nd ed. 2008). His latest book, The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives, came out recently in Beirut, Cairo, London, New York and Paris.

 — 
Gilbert Achcar
Professor of Development Studies & International Relations
University of London – School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS)
Russell Square – Thornhaugh Street
London WC1H 0XG
Phone +44 (0)20 7898 4557
Webpage: http://www.soas.ac.uk/staff/staff30529.php
Latest book: http://us.macmillan.com/thearabsandtheholocaust
http://www.saqibooks.com/saqi/display.asp?isb=9780863566394
Most recent reviews: http://www.economist.com/node/16789290
http://www.laviedesidees.fr/Hitler-the-Arabs-and-the-Jews.html
Forthcoming event: 
http://www.soas.ac.uk/lmei/events/cme/19oct2010-arabs-and-israelis-facing-the-holocaust-and-the-nakba.html

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