Reiter, “Contested Holy Places in Israel–Palestine”

Next month, Routledge will release “Contested Holy Places in Israel-Palestine: Sharing and Conflict Resolution,” by Yitzhak Reiter (Ashkelon Academic College).  The publisher’s description follows:

Over the last twenty years, there has been a growing understanding that conflicts in or over holy places differ from other territorial conflicts. A holy site has a profound 9781138243514meaning, involving human beliefs, strong emotions, “sacred” values, and core identity self-perceptions; therefore a dispute over such land differs from a “regular” dispute over land. In order to resolve conflicts over holy sites, one must be equipped with an understanding of the cultural, religious, social, and political meaning of the holy place to each of the contesting groups.

This book seeks to understand the many facets of disputes and the triggers for the outbreak of violence in and around holy sites. It analyses fourteen case studies of conflicts over holy sites in Palestine/Israel, including major holy sites such as Al-Haram al-Sharif/the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and the Cave of the Patriarchs/Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron, in addition to disputes over more minor sites. It then compares these conflicts to similar cases from other regions and provides an analysis of effective and ineffective conflict mitigation and resolution tools used for dealing with such disputes. Furthermore, the book sheds light on the role of sacred sites in exacerbating local and regional ethnic conflicts.

By providing a thorough and systematic analysis of the social, economic, and political conditions that fuel conflicts over holy sites and the conditions that create tolerance or conflict, this book will be a key resource for students and scholars of conflict resolution, political science, and religious studies.

Roberts, “Islam Under the Palestine Mandate”

In November, I.B. Tauris will release “Islam Under the Palestine Mandate: Colonialism and the Supreme Muslim Council,” by Nicholas Roberts (Sewanee-The University of the South).  The publisher’s description follows:

Concerns about the place of Islam in Palestinian politics are familiar to those studying the history of the modern Middle East. A vital part of this history is the rise of Islamicfr_logo.gif opposition to the British in Mandate Palestine during the 1920s and 30s. Colonial officials had wrestled with the question of how to rule over a Muslim-majority country and considered traditional Islamic institutions essential for maintaining order. Islam under the Palestine Mandate tells the story of the search for a viable Islamic institution in Palestine and the subsequent invention of the Supreme Muslim Council. As a body with political recognition, institutional autonomy and financial power, the council was intended to act as a counterweight to the growing popularity of nationalism among Palestinians. However, rather than diminishing the revolutionary capacity of the colonized, the council became one of the most significant of the opposition groups to British rule, especially under its highly controversial president, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni. Making extensive use of primary sources from British and Israeli archives, this book offers an account of the establishment of the Supreme Muslim Council and the policing of Arab nationalist sympathizers.

Roberts argues against the view that the council’s creation was an act of appeasement towards Muslim opinion, showing how British actions were guided by techniques of imperial administration used elsewhere in the empire.

Sheldon, “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics”

In October, the Manchester University Press will release “Tragic encounters and ordinary ethics: Palestine-Israel in British universities,” by Ruth Sheldon (University of London).  The publisher’s description follows:

For over four decades, events in Palestine-Israel have provoked raging conflicts within British universities around issues of free speech, ‘extremism’, antisemitism and 9781784993146Islamophobia. But why is this conflict so significant for student activists living at such a geographical distance from the region itself? And what role do emotive, polarised communications around Palestine-Israel play in the life of British academic institutions committed to the ideal of free expression?

This book draws on original ethnographic research with student activists on different sides of this conflict to initiate a conversation with students, academics and members of the public who are concerned with the transnational politics of Palestine-Israel and with the changing role of the public university. It shows how, in an increasingly globalised world that is shaped by entangled histories of European antisemitism and colonial violence, ethnography can open up ethical responses to questions of justice

Friedmann, “The Purse and the Sword”

This month, the Oxford University Press will release “The Purse and the Sword: The Trials of Israel’s Legal Revolution,” by Daniel Friedmann (Minister of Justice in Israel from 2007-2009). The publisher’s description follows:

The Purse and the Sword presents a critical analysis of Israel’s legal system in the context of its politics, history, and the forces that shape its society. This book 9780190278502examines the extensive powers that Israel’s Supreme Court arrogated to itself since the 1980s and traces the history of the transformation of its legal system and the shifts in the balance of power between the branches of government. Centrally, this shift has put unprecedented power in the hands of both the Court and Israel’s attorney general and state prosecution at the expense of Israel’s cabinet, constituting its executive branch, and the Knesset–its parliament. The expansion of judicial power followed the weakening of the political leadership in the wake of the Yom Kippur war of 1973, and the election results in the following years. These developments are detailed in the context of major issues faced by modern Israel, including the war against terror, the conflict with the Palestinians, the Arab minority, settlements in the West Bank, state and religion, immigration, military service, censorship and freedom of expression, appointments to the government and to public office, and government policies. The aggrandizement of power by the legal system led to a backlash against the Supreme Court in the early part of the current century, and to the partial rebalancing of power towards the political branches.

Freas, “Muslim-Christian Relations in Late-Ottoman Palestine”

Last month, Springer released “Muslim-Christian Relations in Late-Ottoman Palestine: Where Nationalism and Religion Intersect,” by Erik Freas (Manhattan Community College, CUNY). The publisher’s description follows:

Numerous factors underlie the dynamic shaping of present day Muslim-Christian Arab relations as well as the formulation of Arab national identity. In Muslim-51mdwlovwcl-_sx322_bo1204203200_ Christian Relations in Late-Ottoman Palestine, Erik Freas argues that paramount among these were three developments that transpired in the late-Ottoman period, of which Palestine provides a microcosm. One is that non-Arabic-speaking Christian communities began to define identity in nationalistic terms on the basis of faith. Second, with their transformation into politically equal Ottoman citizens, Christians were generally more intent on taking advantage of their new rights rather than with fulfilling civil obligations. Finally, for most Muslim Arabs, the transition from identifying primarily as ‘Muslim’ to ‘Arab’ in terms of their broader communal affiliation often entailed little change in how they experienced communal identity in the day-to-day. Taken together, the analysis of these developments provides an in-depth examination of Muslim-Christian Arab relations in Palestine during the nineteenth century as well as the long-term implications of these changes on the manner of Arab national identity’s formulation.

Dumper, “Jerusalem Unbound”

Next month, Columbia University Press will publish Jerusalem Unbound: Geography, History, and the Future of the Holy Citby Michael Dumper jerusalem unbound(University of Exeter).  The publisher’s description follows.

Jerusalem’s formal political borders reveal neither the dynamics of power in the city nor the underlying factors that make an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians so difficult. The lines delineating Israeli authority are frequently different from those delineating segregated housing or areas of uneven service provision or parallel national electoral districts of competing educational jurisdictions. In particular, the city’s large number of holy sites and restricted religious compounds create enclaves that continually threaten to undermine the Israeli state’s authority and control over the city. This lack of congruity between political control and the actual spatial organization and everyday use of the city leaves many areas of occupied East Jerusalem in a kind of twilight zone where citizenship, property rights, and the enforcement of the rule of law are ambiguously applied.

Michael Dumper plots a history of Jerusalem that examines this intersecting and multileveled matrix and in so doing is able to portray the constraints on Israeli control over the city and the resilience of Palestinian enclaves after forty-five years of Israeli occupation. Adding to this complex mix is the role of numerous external influences—religious, political, financial, and cultural—so that the city is also a crucible for broader contestation. While the Palestinians may not return to their previous preeminence in the city, neither will Israel be able to assert a total and irreversible dominance. His conclusion is that the city will not only have to be shared, but that the sharing will be based upon these many borders and the interplay between history, geography, and religion.

Aronoff, “The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers”

Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish The Political Psychology of Israeli Prime Ministers: When Hard-Liners Opt for Peace by Yael S. Aronoff (James Madison College).  PO Psychology The publisher’s description follows.

This book examines leaders of the seemingly intractable conflict between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors. It takes as an intellectual target of opportunity six Israeli prime ministers, asking why some of them have persisted in some hard-line positions but others have opted to become peacemakers. This book argues that some leaders do change, and above all it explains why and how such changes come about. This book goes beyond arguing simply that “leaders matter” by analyzing how their particular belief systems and personalities can ultimately make a difference to their country’s foreign policy, especially toward a long-standing enemy. Although no hard-liner can stand completely still in the face of important changes, only those with ideologies that have specific components that act as obstacles to change and who have an orientation toward the past may need to be replaced for dramatic policy changes to take place.

Next Year in Jerusalem

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Issues of law and religion have always interested CLR Student Fellow Jessica Wright 3L, particularly as they relate to the Middle East. The following is a reflection on her recent trip to Jerusalem, during which she considered the religious, legal, and political issues that continue to divide the region.

Our taxi wound around the outskirts of Jerusalem, the city unfolding slowly before us beneath the dusty haze that had lingered since our arrival two days earlier. The Berlin-esque feel of Tel Aviv with its trendy cafes, beach-front hangouts, and laissez-faire attitude seemed a distant memory as we watched Haredim in their long black coats and black hats hurrying down the streets, weaving in and out of a stream of conservatively-dressed women pushing prams. Traffic ground to a halt somewhere between the entrance to Jerusalem and our hotel near the Old City, and our driver informed us that several streets had been closed because of a mass “ultra-Orthodox” protest against the draft.

The draft protest is indicative of larger issues having to do with community and identity in the region. Israel has been called the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, but it is a democracy with an important condition, one that Prime Minister Netanyahu made clear at the White House as I began my sojourn to the Holy Land. He said the only pathway to peace begins with Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state. Of course, as the New York Times observed earlier this year, “this issue underpins all others [and] is exactly what makes it unacceptable to Palestinians. At its heart, it is a dispute over a historical narrative that each side sees as fundamental to its existence.” The question concerning what it means to describe Israel as a Jewish state is as relevant today and perhaps as vexed as it was in 1948.

The first night in Jerusalem, we found ourselves at the Old Bezalel Art School with Israeli friends. Our conversation eventually turned to the significance of the Israeli state and the importance of community. One friend argued that the land itself is significant because it allows one to experience Judaism as a public way of life. The traditional religious rituals become less important, she said, because identification with Judaism is about living in the state of Israel and being part of that community. But Israeli nationalism, it turns out, is not a wholly secular enterprise for most Israelis. Along with flying the flag, serving in the army, and speaking Hebrew, there is a religious narrative upon which identity is ultimately based. The particularities of the narrative vary widely. While sharing the same religious texts, the various Jewish communities within Israel have different histories and Continue reading

Mirsky, “Rav Kook”

Last month, Yale University Press published Rav Kook: Mystic in a Time of Revolution by Yehudah Mirsky (Brandeis University).  The publisher’s Rav Kookdescription follows.

Rav Abraham Isaac Kook (1865–1935) was one of the most influential—and controversial—rabbis of the twentieth century. A visionary writer and outstanding rabbinic leader, Kook was a philosopher, mystic, poet, jurist, communal leader, and veritable saint. The first chief rabbi of Jewish Palestine and the founding theologian of religious Zionism, he struggled to understand and shape his revolutionary times. His life and writings resonate with the defining tensions of Jewish life and thought.

A powerfully original thinker, Rav Kook combined strict traditionalism and an embrace of modernity, Orthodoxy and tolerance, piety and audacity, scholasticism and ecstasy, and passionate nationalism with profound universalism. Though little known in the English-speaking world, his life and teachings are essential to understanding current Israeli politics, contemporary Jewish spirituality, and modern Jewish thought. This biography, the first in English in more than half a century, offers a rich and insightful portrait of the man and his complex legacy. Yehudah Mirsky clears away widespread misunderstandings of Kook’s ideas and provides fresh insights into his personality and worldview. Mirsky demonstrates how Kook’s richly erudite, dazzlingly poetic writings convey a breathtaking vision in which “the old will become new, and the new will become holy.”

Repairs Begin on Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity

Here’s some good news, for a change, about Christianity in the Middle East. This fall, workers began much-needed repairs to the roof Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional site of the birth of Christ.

The roof of the church has been in a terrible state for some time. Experts warn it could collapse at any moment. Getting agreement on repairs has been exceptionally difficult, however. There were geopolitical issues. To qualify for UN restoration funds, the building had to be added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites. This proved controversial–the US and Israel worried about the implications naming the site would have for Palestinian statehood–but the church was ultimately added to the list last year. (The church has long been a flashpoint for world intrigue. In the nineteenth century, someone stole the star that marks the place of Christ’s birth; the theft led to the Crimean War.)

The most significant hurdle, though, has been getting the agreement of the Christian communions that share the church–Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox, and Roman Catholic. The three share the church under the “Status Quo,” a set of rules and customs that date back centuries to Ottoman times, and which also govern other Christian sites like the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. According to custom, repairing part of the church, or even paying for repairs, is an assertion of ownership. As a result, each communion carefully guards against the possibility that another will undertake repairs in common areas, like the roof, and thereby gain rights by a sort of adverse possession. Fistfights among the monks are not uncommon.

How did the three communions reach agreement on the repairs this time? No one’s saying much, but the AP reports:

A senior church official said the three denominations would never have been able to reach an agreement on their own. But once the Palestinian Authority stepped in, all three churches accepted the decision. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss the matter with the media.

Well, anyway, the point is they did agree and the church will be preserved. And that is wonderful news for Christians and people of good will generally. Congratulations to everyone concerned. And Merry Christmas!

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