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In Spite of Partition

In Spite of Partition: Jews, Arabs, and the Limits of Separatist Imagination

Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    In Spite of Partition
    Book Description:

    Partition--the idea of separating Jews and Arabs along ethnic or national lines--is a legacy at least as old as the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. Challenging the widespread "separatist imagination" behind partition, Gil Hochberg demonstrates the ways in which works of contemporary Jewish and Arab literature reject simple notions of separatism and instead display complex configurations of identity that emphasize the presence of alterity within the self--the Jew within the Arab, and the Arab within the Jew.In Spite of Partitionexamines Hebrew, Arabic, and French works that are largely unknown to English readers to reveal how, far from being independent, the signifiers "Jew" and "Arab" are inseparable.

    In a series of original close readings, Hochberg analyzes fascinating examples of such inseparability. In the Palestinian writer Anton Shammas's Hebrew novelArabesques, the Israeli and Palestinian protagonists are a "schizophrenic pair" who "have not yet decided who is the ventriloquist of whom." And in the Moroccan Jewish writer Albert Swissa's Hebrew novelAqud, the Moroccan-Israeli main character's identity is uneasily located between the "Moroccan Muslim boy he could have been" and the "Jewish Israeli boy he has become." Other examples draw attention to the intricate linguistic proximity of Hebrew and Arabic, the historical link between the traumatic memories of the Jewish Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakbah, and the libidinal ties that bind Jews and Arabs despite, or even because of, their current animosity.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2793-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION Between “Jew” and “Arab”: Probing the Borders of the Orient
    (pp. 1-19)

    In a short story entitled “Ummi fi Shughl” [Arabic for “My Mother Is at Work”], the Israeli writer Orly Castel-Bloom follows her protagonist—a self-identified paranoiac—as she leaves her apartment to sit down on a nearby bench and “reflect.”² The protagonist’s stream of thoughts is suddenly interrupted when she feels a sharp sting on her leg. Terrified, she jumps and looks under the bench, expecting to find a spider or a scorpion. Instead, she discovers an old Arab woman who claims to be her mother. The two women quarrel for a while, the protagonist insisting that this is impossible...

  6. 1 History, Memory, Identity: From the Arab Jew “We Were” to the Arab Jew “We May Become”
    (pp. 20-43)

    In his book dedicated to the relationship between Jews and Arabs,Juifs et Arabes(1974), Albert Memmi devotes one chapter to the figure of the Arab Jew. The chapter entitled “Who Is an Arab Jew?” suggests—somewhat surprisingly, in light of the fact that Memmi himself was born and raised in Tunisia—that, truly speaking, the Arab Jew does not exist.¹ “One should remember,” Memmi writes, “that the term ‘Arab Jew’ is itself not a good one,” for it hides the fact that “the termArabis not a happy one when applied to [a non Moslem] population, including even...

  7. 2 The Legacy of Levantinism: Against National Normality
    (pp. 44-72)

    In a brief essay published in 2003, the independent scholar David Shasha, a Syrian Jew currently residing in New York, encourages Jews and Arabs to embrace “the Levantine option,” which he defines as “a radically new perspective based on a very old way of seeing things.” This new-old way of seeing things draws on the memory of Arab Jewish coexistence and cultural collaboration in previous historical times (Andalusia, Ottoman Empire, etc.), but it can be reconstructed so as to directly engage the current political situation in Israel, Palestine, and elsewhere in the Middle East. “The promotion of the Levantine option,”...

  8. 3 Bringing Hebrew Back to Its (Semitic) Place: On the Deterritorialization of Language
    (pp. 73-93)

    In their highly influential essay “What Is a Minor Literature?” Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari (1986, 18) assert that “the deterritorialization of language” is one of the three characteristics of minor literature.¹ For the critics, Kafka is an example of a writer who chose to deterritorialize German (the hegemonic language of his time and place) rather than territorialize other languages by writing, for example, “in his Czech language or using popular, oral Yiddish” (25–26).²

    For Deleuze and Guattari, writing in a hegemonic language is a precondition of minor literature. Others have already engaged this and other assertions made by...

  9. 4 Too Jewish and Too Arab or Who Is the (Israeli) Subject?
    (pp. 94-115)

    If Shammas’s novel threatens to destabilize or Levantinize Israeli culture by un-Jewing the Hebrew language—“making it less Jewish and more Israeli,” Albert Swissa’sAqud[Bound],¹ published in 1990, presents the opposite threat, that of un-Israelizing Hebrew by making it both “too Arab” and “too Jewish.”² Focusing on the figure of the Jewish-Moroccan as a failed immigrant, indeed as Israel’s prominent “foreign within” (Lowe, 1996, 5),Aqudexplores the manner by which this figure functions as a national marker of alterity, against and through which the “legitimate” Israeli subject who is secular, Westernized, not-Arab, and not “too” Jewish is constructed.³...

  10. 5 Memory, Forgetting, Love: The Limits of National Memory
    (pp. 116-138)

    In an essay published a few years after he left Israel in 1969, the acclaimed Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1973, 64) argues that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while focused on the question of territory or ownership over the land, is best understood in terms of a “battle of memories:” a battle between the Israeli-Jewish memory, which establishes the relationship to the land of Israel on texts and archaeology, and the Palestinian memory, which, he suggest, preserves an organic connection to the land by a people who “know the time of the rain from the smell of the stone.” The articulation of...

  11. AFTERWORD Going Beyond the Borders of Our Times
    (pp. 139-142)

    Mourning the loss of past Arab-Jewish coexistence, the Moroccan writer Abdelkebir Khatibi draws attention to the ghosts, phantoms, and ravages through which he hopes the lost “Semitic bond” might be re-created. Like Castel-Bloom, Khatibi mobilizes the figure of the ghost, a figure that collapses the clear distinctions between reality and fiction, presence and absence, past and present, in order to introduce the bond between the Arab and the Jew in historical terms, but also as part of a futuristic social constellation. In a similar manner, my own investment in the forgotten memory of the bond between “Arab” and “Jew” or...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 143-166)
    (pp. 167-184)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 185-192)