Since its foundation in 1948, Israel has drawn on Zionism, the movement behind its creation, to provide a sense of self and political direction. In this groundbreaking new work, Ilan Pappe looks at the continued role of Zionist ideology. The Idea of Israel considers the way Zionism operates outside of the government and military in areas such as the country’s education system, media, and cinema, and the uses that are made of the Holocaust in supporting the state’s ideological structure.
In particular, Pappe examines the way successive generations of historians have framed the 1948 conflict as a liberation campaign, creating a foundation myth that went unquestioned in Israeli society until the 1990s. Pappe himself was part of the post-Zionist movement that arose then. He was attacked and received death threats as he exposed the truth about how Palestinians have been treated and the gruesome structure that links the production of knowledge to the exercise of power. The Idea of Israel is a powerful and urgent intervention in the war of ideas concerning the past, and the future, of the Palestinian–Israeli conflict.
I want to share this account* as a small intervention to re-frame ideas and experiences of violence and terror.
I was an ambulance volunteer during Israel's Operation Cast Lead. It was a 22 day war on the Gaza Strip in 2008-2009 that killed 1409 Palestinians and 13 Israelis. It was the heaviest Israeli attack on Palestinian territory since 1967. The 2014 Gaza War has since eclipsed this in terms of deaths, injury and destruction in Gaza.
On the afternoon of Friday the 16th of January we picked up the body of a man who had just been decapitated by an Israeli air strike.
Dominant cultural narratives on violence in the global north now only see beheading as a terrorist act by ISIS or Al Qaeda or similar groups. The perpetrator is a Muslim. The colonial fantasy of the savage is coming back in to focus.
The role of the state, armed with heavy aerial power – drones, F16s, Apache Helicopters, MIG jets – is not part of the story of beheading. I think it's important to bring the role of states back in to the story, all the more so given that UK air strikes on Syria could be about to intensify.
Nathan Witt reflects on the origins of Campus in Camps, an experimental, community-based educational initiative in Dheisheh Camp, Bethlehem. Read up on, support, or donate to Campus in Camps here, and the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency here.
By Nathan Witt, July 2015
Campus in Camps in Dheisheh Camp, Bethlehem, was first set up by Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal from Decolonizing Architecture (DAAR) in 2012. It is an experimental educational programme run by local and visiting volunteers from various backgrounds. The focus of the programme is on the production of alternative methods of shared knowledge, seeking to empower both the volunteers and the community through the sharing of lived experience. This way, Campus in Camps affords opportunities to negotiate what is too seldom understood as a site of permanent and normalised exile.