’s paper expands on the limited existing academic literature on Haredi Settlements, so called ‘non –ideological’ ultra-orthodox Jews, in the West Bank living in the largest of the settler cities. Israel has long been considered to be unified in the Zionist project of political and colonial objectives, however, this paper explores threats and challenges to this motion. The paper argues that while serving the interests of the state with respect to the expansion of Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank, these settlements form a new kind of Jewish city that is incongruous with an Israeli state that aspires to be modern and Western. While these settlements in the West Bank dispossess the Palestinians of their land, paradoxically they also segregate the Haredim from the Zionist state yet further, highlighting the inherent tensions within Zionism. The paper explores the situation of the Haredim in the context of Israel more broadly, and how these settlements have been a key feature of the political, social and economic changes unfolding as a part of the Zionist project. Thus it argues that the settlements can be understood as firstly as a colonial space of expansion and secondly as a precarious agreement regarding the semi-independent situation place of the Haredim within Israel.
Responding to this was Derek Penslar (University of Oxford) who made various suggestions for developments of the paper. The first being to expand on the effects of the 1967 was a conflict that had quasi-messianic effect on Israeli society. He also proposed a greater consideration of the boarder/Green Line and the different ways this boarder/frontier is conceived of, in the imaginations of different people, how it is presented on maps or where it is absent, and what these different representations signify. A further comment is that Dana expand on the demographic issues faced by Israel and Palestine, which has seen a 13 fold population increase in the past 65 years and what the implications, economic, social and political are for the peoples of such a small area of land.
Lori Allen (University of Cambridge) makes numerous key suggestions in her comments. Firstly, she questions where the Palestinians are situated in this paper? As there are political reasons for including or excluding the Palestinian perspective and warns Dana to be wary of a kind of methodological nationalism that many authors are complicit in, when ideological divisions are assumes between national communities, taking them as give, and is thus replayed in the research itself. Lori questions whether the Palestinians care that the Haredim are non-ideological, and asks for clarification regarding the audience of the discourse. Who is it for? Does it matter who consumes this discourse? Is it only relevant for an Israeli internal audience? A further point Lori makes is what exactly the Israeli state and how is Dana conceiving of it? It is currently not discussed with the heterogeneity and complexity that it should be so this could be developed.
In the discussion that followed there were questions about methodology, which Leticia Sabsay (Open University) suggested elaborating on, specifically with regards to Dana’s use of signifiers in the context of interviews and primary research and the public discourse. She also suggests giving some insight into the diaspora viewpoints on this context which might situate the paper in a broader context. Deena Dajani (Open University) questions the idea of the non-ideological, of whether this isn’t just continuing the colonial project? And Aya Ikegame (Open University) asks about the position of the Haredi in relation to the state, when discussing the sense of alienation that the Haredi communities experience, how do they conceive of the state? Given that Haredi men do not work for the state in a secular sense, but rely heavily on the state. She points for consideration of what appears to be very contradictory given the neoliberal economic/political context, how do they justify this to themselves?
Report by Anna Weedon