Noam Zadoff (Chair of the panel)

Ideology and State: Visible and Invisible Borders in Modern Israel


Until 1948 the Zionist Jewish community in Palestine (the Yishuv) lived without clear geographical borders, since the land was one geopolitical unit. During this period the Yishuv forged its national identity in opposition to Diaspora Jewry and against both British Imperialism and Arab national aspirations. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 and the realization of the Zionist utopia, Israeli society lived within internationally recognized boundaries. During these years the challenges of Israel were securing these visible borders and, simultaneously, drawing invisible borders within society itself, through the creation of an Israeli “consensus”. This “consensus” defined who belongs to the young society and who is defined as the “other” against whom the Israeli National sentiment is being forged. The Six-Day War created a new situation, and since 1967 Israel exists without internationally recognized borders. This situation enhanced the need within society for setting invisible borders by excluding from the “consensus” individuals and groups who questioned the Zionist national narrative. At the same time the invisible ideological borders reflect, influence and even design the political borders of the land, as the example of the separation wall in the West Bank illustrates. The aim of this panel is to explore different forms of definition and representations of invisible borders, to analyze their role in defining Israeli society from within and to reflect on their relation to the visible borders of the Land and the State of Israel.

Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (Berlin)
Rebekka Grossmann (Berkeley, CA)
Side-Seeing: International Photography and Local Identity in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War

In the late 1940s, borders between Israel and an emerging Palestinian entity were more fluid than ever before or after. This paper discusses the stories of international photojournalists crossing borders between the growing sides. It explores their works as markers of the international perception of local dynamics and nuances assertations about the partisan role of photography in warfare. It claims that studying 1940s Mandate Palestine from the global angle of circulating images taken by photographers whose biographies were themselves marked by mobility and migration can grant us insights into the histories both of the emerging State of Israel and Diaspora Jewry following its fate from afar.

Noam Zadoff (Innsbruck)
The Borders of Consensus: The "Semitic Action Committee" and the idea of an Arab-Israeli Confederation

“The Semitic Action Committee” (SAC) was active in Israel from 1956-1968. The members of this group were prominent Israeli intellectuals such as Uri Avnery, Amos Kenan, and other former members of the Jewish right-wing underground group LEHI. After the Suez Crisis of 1956, the members of the circle pleaded for creating an Arab-Jewish confederation in the Middle East. By that they suggested to extend both Israel’s visible and invisible borders and include the Arab population in the Jewish Zionist aspirations. This paper argues that the inclusiveness towards the Arab population brought to the erasure of SAC from the Israeli collective memory and from its historiography.

Lutz Fiedler (Berlin)
Matzpen: Israel's Dissident Left, the Palestine Question and the Invention of a Hebrew Nation

Matzpen, the Hebrew word for compass, was the name of the radical Israeli Left, that kept Israeli society in suspense after the Six Day War. With their call for an immediate ending of the occupation and their solidarity with the Palestinians, Matzpen had become a symbol for national treason and Jewish self-hatred. This paper will present a short history of the Matzpen group. Whilst I firstly historicize Matzpen’s struggle for a socialist solution of the Palestinian question, I show furthermore, how their utopian insistence on a de-Zionization of Israel collided with a new Jewish self-conception, which regarded the Jewish state as the ultimate guarantor of Jewish existence after the Holocaust.