Looking forward to politicide

Merav Amir (Assistant Professor of Human Geography at Queen’s University Belfast)

21 February 2018, 17:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been haunted for decades by the prospect, real or imagined, of political annihilation. The current talk claims that to understand the unfolding of the discursive formations, as well as the spatial dimensions of conflict and control in Israel/Palestine, we should explicate the workings of this prospect of annihilation through the concept of politicide. Despite its broad potential applicability, politicide as a concept within political thought has not received much scholarly attention thus far. This talk therefore aims to revisit this concept, following its definition by Uradyn Bulag (2010). For Bulag, who elaborates on the use of this concept by Baruch Kimmerling (2003), politicide denotes a wide spectrum of processes, ranging from the social and cultural to the military, which are intended to deny national communities the possibility of realizing their aspirations for self-determination, and sabotaging the prospects of their existence as a polity.

Despite the prevalence of visions of a bi-national existence prior to the 1948 war, the establishment of the State of Israel has construed the conditions of enmity between Israelis and Palestinians as a zero-sum game, hinged on the logic of non-recognition. Both sides repudiated the national rights for statehood of their counterpart, and defined their own territorial aspirations as conflicting the other nation’s demands. This changed in 1988 when the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) declared itself reconciled with the existence of the State of Israel, a recognition which was reciprocated with an Israeli recognition of the Palestinians’ rights for statehood in the Oslo Accords of 1993. Thus, for all intents and purposes, the Oslo Accords were a game-changer in this regard and should have rendered the question of the annihilation of the rights for statehood for both nations obsolete. Yet, as the historical existential threat to the existence of the State of Israel increasingly plagues Israeli politics, and the actual establishment of the Palestinian state is perpetually deferred, the spectacle of politicide still dominates regional politics. Focusing on the role of politicide within Israeli politics, this analysis suggests that the insistence that the State of Israel is under threat of extinction should be understood as a speech act, a performative reiteration, which serves to validate national Israeli aspirations. The assertion of Israeli nationalism in this manner is increasingly gaining centre-stage as the ongoing actual politicide of the Palestinians leads Israel towards a de-facto be-national future.


Benoit Vaillot

Doctorant en histoire (EHESS, Paris) / Arche EA 3400 (Université de Strasbourg). PhD Researcher (European University Institute, Florence). Coordinateur du séminaire doctoral "Nationalism Working Group" hébergé à l'Institut Universitaire Européen.

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