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  • More than a Mere “Welcome” – The Linguistic Landscape of Welcome Signs in Palestinian Localities in Israel

    The article offers a critical reading of the linguistic landscape of welcome signs in localities of the Palestinian minority in Israel. It examines the formal visual aspects of the languages Arabic, Hebrew, and English, their placement on the signs, and the signs’ content—including the normative messages, translation, transliteration, and place-names. These analyses shed light on the links between the linguistic landscape and the sociopolitical and socioeconomic status of the Palestinian minority, as well as on the perceptions of Palestinian citizens regarding their relationship with the Jewish majority. The study reveals that despite the official status of welcome signs, their linguistic landscape presents an array of attitudes toward coping with the Israeli reality and its injustices. The study shows how the local Arab political leadership in Israel mobilizes linguistic authority as a platform for negotiation with the Jewish majority and represents a sociolinguistic strategy of highlighting a complex history while minimizing the potential for friction inherent in that space. The contents of the welcome signs to Arab localities reflect and reproduce the power structures in the State of Israel. The article demonstrates that the dichotomous division of top-down and bottom-up signs is not unequivocal and that there is room that for semiofficial space and an intermediate category between the hegemony and the subaltern.

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  • Cloak and Dagger Exposé: Ars Poetica in the Halls of Justice

    Yehouda Shenhav-Shahrabani’s text describes two bizarre scenes from the courtoom during the trial of Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who lives in the village of Reineh ( الرينة ), near Nazareth. The Israeli police arrested Tatour in October 2015, and in November 2015 an indictment was filed against her for incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization. At the center of the indictment appears a poem that was published on YouTube and Facebook under the title “Qawem Ya Shaabi Qawemahum” (Resist, my people, resist them). A full—and distorted—translation of the poem as made by a police officer is cited in the indictment document. Tatour remained in detention for three months, then spent eighteen months under house arrest at her parents’ home in Reineh. She was convicted on May 3, 2018, and on July 31, 2018, she was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment. She was released in September 2018.

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  • Islamic Law as Indigenous Law: The Shari‘a Courts in Israel from a Postcolonial Perspective

    The article argues that to better understand the shari‘a court system in Israel, these courts should be examined from a postcolonial perspective. The resemblance between Islamic law, as applied in Israeli shari‘a courts, and “customary” laws, which were applied by “indigenous” courts in diverse colonial settings, is discussed, and the similarities and differences are highlighted. Specifically, the article illustrates that the shari‘a courts in Israel—like other “indigenous” courts working in colonial settings—constitute, at one and the same time, sites of co-optation and of resistance. On the one hand, the shari‘a courts are state courts—governed and controlled by state institutions—and as such they are used by state authorities for the purpose of controlling and subjugating the Muslim minority in Israel; on the other hand, these courts also constitute a sociolegal space where Israeli Muslims may forge their identity and may negotiate their position toward the state. In other words, they constitute an arena of autonomous agency. This argument, which draws on the postcolonial literature, is illustrated in the article with empirical examples from the shari‘a courts in Beersheba and Jerusalem.

  • Skin Color Stratification in Israel Revisited

    Colorism refers to social stratification systems based on skin color. Colorism in Israel is significant because Israel is very ethnically stratified, a fact confirmed by the few scholarly works that have examined the subject. These works, however, do not employ the interests, methods, or key issues of colorism as a distinct academic field. The present study critically analyzes these works through the lenses of colorism scholarship in other national and cultural contexts. We found that existing studies focus on three themes: Jews of Ethiopian descent, with little attention to other groups; processes of attaching values to color categories, rather than the construction of the categories themselves; and the stigmatization by skin color of some marginalized groups.

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  • The Challenge of Administering Justice to an Islamic Minority living in a Non-Muslim State: the Shari‘a Courts in Israel

    Iyad Zahalka

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  • Between Israel and the Holy Land, between the Global and the Local: The Role of African Initiated Churches within African Transnational Migration to Israel

    In this paper I examine, in the context of transnational migration, the role of African churches that were initiated and operated by African labor migrants in Israel between the late 1990s and 2008. The focus is on the expanding sociopolitical arena of the churches, paying special attention to the bridges they tried to create between their members and Christianity in the Holy Land, sister churches back home, and similar churches in other, non-African countries (mainly in Europe and North America). On a more theoretical level, I show how focusing on the expanding role of the churches—an expansion that was both inward, to satisfy the ever-increasing needs of the churches’ members, and outward, to the “world”—offers a unique contribution to our understanding of transnational diasporic Christianity. It also enables us to better understand African labor migrants as active agents in the complex processes of shaping their own religious identity, thus creating what I term “transnational mobile Christianity,” or “transnational Christianity in motion.” The paper is based on qualitative ethnography, including over two hundred open-ended, in-depth interviews held in Israel, Europe, and West Africa, conducted mostly in English, as well as over a thousand hours of observations of different church-related activities.

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  • Theology of Migration: Toward a Comparative Conceptualization

    This article introduces the concept of “theology of migration” in a comparative analysis of texts by religious leaderships that portray migration as the fulfillment of a religious call. Based on a reading of primary sources and field studies, five cases are examined: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem, the Islamic wasati approach, the Jewish Hasidic Chabad movement, and African Independent Churches built by labor migrants in Israel. The article distinguishes between “proactive-adaptive” and “retrospective-adaptive” theologies of migration. The former constitute repeatedly modified theological calls for religious communities to move from one land to another, while the latter constitute legitimizations of already existing migrations that were motivated by temporal considerations and that challenged religious norms. Analysis reveals theologies to be dynamic, evolving corpuses and suggests that the potential of migrating religious groups to endure physical setbacks and moral challenges is dependent on the ability of their leaderships to accommodate their theological narratives to changing circumstances.

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  • We Are Fragments of Rhymes: The Poetry of Erez Biton between East and West

    The poetry of Erez Biton, as it found expression in his first book Minha Marokait (1967), was a landmark in Hebrew literature. The starting point for the author—the founding father of Mizrahi poetry in Israel—is his immigration to Israel from North Africa. The article follows the literary structure of the trauma of immigration in Biton’s poetry. Biton contests the attempts at entrapment and domestication that are part of the trauma of immigration and develops a critical stance toward the Ashkenazi hegemony. In this way he develops a poetic voice that opposes the Israeli sovereign, who relates to Biton as an Arab-Jew excluded from the sovereign’s narrative. For Biton’s testimony about his trauma to be accepted, he needed to crack the walls erected by the ruling universal subject of Israeli sovereignty to maintain stability of identity in the face of Biton’s trauma as a Mizrahi immigrant. These walls, which removed the “Arabness” of the Mizrahi immigrant, did not assign a place for him and thus did not allow the testimony about his trauma to be heard. The method Biton proposes to the Mizrahi for simultaneously retaining and not retaining the hyphen in “Arab-Jewish” is to carry on a pretense and use defiant language. Biton is of the opinion that the failure of the Mizrahi to penetrate the walls of Israeli sovereignty’s poetry is predictable and brought on by the attempt to form a cohesive identity. However, he suggests turning this failure into an advantage by using pretense.
    This slide toward the “other,” this redundancy at the core of the process of mimicking the Ashkenazi, creates a critical effect. Biton is in fact suggesting that his readers—you, the Mizrahi—be like the Ashkenazi, but not completely like him; in this way you will undermine the Ashkenazi’s subjective self as well as his authority. This rejection provides the time required to cope with the trauma of immigration. The ambivalence of the mimicry that Homi Bhabha writes of not only disrupts the discourse but also transforms it into complete uncertainty, fixing the colonial, sovereign, and oppressing subject as only a partial presence. In other words, it undermines the sovereign subject, and does not give it authority.
    Erez Biton recreates the Mizrahi stereotype, thus challenging the coherence of the stereotype and the coherence of the identity of the oppressor who uses this stereotype—the same stereotype Biton uses to undermine the oppressor. Biton, who suggests mimicking the Ashkenazi, is in effect also mimicking the Mizrahi and in doing so reveals the mimicking nature of his poetry—a structure with which he expresses the absence of a stable source for and the contingency of all ethnic identities in Israel.
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  • Islamic Legal Hybridity and Patriarchal Liberalism in the Shari’a Courts in Israel

    The civil judicial family law system and the shari‘a courts in Israel are a fascinating site for the study of legal hybridity, particularly with regard to cases involving the legal and religious rights of women. Legal hybridity is found both in the shari‘a courts, even when ruling on cases that are under their exclusive jurisdiction, and in the family courts that apply provisions of Islamic and Israeli law. In this article, I examine as a case study of the problem of appointing a woman as arbitrator between quarelling spouses in the shari‘a court arbitration process. This example shows how a shari‘a court operates under pressure from the secular civil judicial system. It is discernible how a system of legal hybridity gives rise to multiple discourses deriving from different normative systems and various players—such as human rights organizations, Islamic feminist movements, secular feminist movements, and the Israel Supreme Court—seeking to navigate the discourse in pursuit of their interests. My central thesis is that this system of legal hybridity is enhancing a patriarchal liberalism that is filled with obstacles and hurdles preventing full equality.

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  • The Imagined Christian Ecumene and the Quest for Return: Christian IDPs in Israel and the 2009 Visit of Benedict XVI

    Soliciting transnational Christian authorities, such as the Holy See in Rome, and reaching out to an imagined global Christian ecumene are conventional strategies among Christians in the Middle East in their struggle to obtain benefits and negotiate their minority status at the local level. However, in the case of an internally displaced Greek Catholic village community in Israel—the people of Iqrith—when the quest for return to their destroyed 1948 village brought them into direct contact with the embodied representative of the Catholic ecumene—the pope—the practical goal of return became entangled with a more abstract and perhaps less conspicuous objective. The Christian ecumene became a field of imagination from which the people of Iqrith could challenge the restrictions experienced by Palestinian citizens of Israel and strive for global visibility. In May 2009, Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Israel provided an opportune occasion for the materialization of an imagined Christian ecumene. This opening field of the imagination offered the people of Iqrith a way of short-circuiting the national, of inscribing the local within the global, and of “re-placing” their village on the imagined map of the world. Expressed from within the Christian ecumene, the quest for return became a means of circumventing Israeli policy and denial regarding their communal past, present, and future and of penetrating what Jean-Loup Amselle has called the “global market of identities.”

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  • The Hybrid Women of the Arab Spring Revolutions: Islamization of Feminism, Feminization of Islam

    Arab and Muslim women who led the Arab Spring revolutions in their countries were often characterized as secular and liberal. According to this binary approach, religious women are identified with a conservative world view, a traditional education, and a medium to low socioeconomic status. The norms of honor and modesty governing these women are assumed to oblige them to confine themselves exclusively to their roles as wives and mothers and limit their presence in the public sphere. Furthermore, this binary approach stigmatizes those who wrap their heads in the hijab and cover their faces with the niqab as women who are forced by their fathers and husbands to accept traditional norms. Secular women, however, are portrayed as those who have liberated themselves from the shackles of religion and tradition. They are assumed to be highly educated, liberal in their world view, socially and politically engaged, and aspiring to build careers as competent professionals with the goal of becoming economically independent. To achieve this, they are prepared to struggle for their rightful place as equals in both family and society.
    However, the revolutionary Tunisian, Egyptian, and Yemeni women’s life stories, their world views, and their sociopolitical agenda and outer appearance indicate that their prototype is an amalgamation of a faith-motivated religiosity and a liberal, pluralistic world view. These women join their sisters who, since the last decades of the ninetieth century, have taken part in social- and gender-oriented struggles in the Middle East and North Africa. Their retention of their cultural authenticity, religious beliefs, and moral values clearly highlights the fact that for these hybrid women—to borrow Homi Bhabhi’s concept of hybridity—Islamic religious belief and a liberal world view are intertwined.
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  • “The Mediterranean Option”: On the Politics of Regional Affiliation in Current Israeli Cultural Imagination

    The growing appeal of Mediterraneanism or “the Mediterranean option” (ha-opt’sia ha-yam tikhonit) as it is often referred to in Israel, can be at least partially understood in relation to the Oslo peace negotiations and their  promise of replacing Israel’s isolated position in the region with a model of economic, political, and cultural integration. Perhaps it was the apparent difficulties involved in reaching a peace agreement, rather than the promise of peace itself, that drove many Israelis, including key public figures and intellectuals, to embrace the “Mediterranean option.”

    This paper closely examines the ideological stakes involved in the intellectual and cultural endeavors of making Israel “Mediterranean.” What, I ask, is the appeal of Mediterraneanism for Israelis at this particular time and juncture? How is it that an ethno-national culture, which for the most part has until recently rejected or ignored the Mediterranean (as both “sea” and “region”) as a site of cultural identification, negating it in favor of ethno-national territorial centrality, has suddenly so embraced the sea and its regional promise? And more precisely, what does this promise entail? How does the Israeli-Palestinian conflict prefigure within it? Finally, and most central to my investigation, is the relationship between yam tikhoniyut as a geo-cultural regional affiliation, and mizrachiyut as an ethnic Israeli-Jewish classification. How are we to understand these different articulations of Israeli/Jewish locality and collective identity, and how are we to further understand their distinct rendition of politics vis-à-vis the Zionist national project?

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