The Jewish Question Again: Palestine, Europe, and the Elementary Structures of Expulsion

Important roundtable discussion with:

Nadia Abu-El Haj, Gil Anidjar, Jonathan Boyarin, Joyce Dalsheim, Virginia Dominguez, Irene Silverblatt, and Gregory Starrett.

At the Denver 2015 AAA annual meeting: Wednesday, November 18 at 4:00pm 

Contemporary debates about Jewish settler-colonialism in Israel/Palestine, Palestinian aspirations to statehood, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Europe, and the divisive politics surrounding these issues owe much to deep histories of racialized thinking and the production of theological and political enemies of “Europe”. Some of the processes that helped produce the chauvinistic nationalisms of the nineteenth century also underpinned the establishment by the broader “international community” of the state of Israel, which is now derided for being precisely what it was set up to be: an ethno-national state proposed as the solution to the acute problem of ethno-nationalism. Solving “the Jewish problem” participated in the removal of indigenous Jews from Europe and elsewhere, and helped create the categories of Jew and Arab as enemies.

While none of this is news, these deeper histories seem to have dropped out of many of the current debates in the academy, which counsel practical political engagements while disregarding many of the theoretical resources developed by the human sciences over the last half century. This roundtable explores the dilemma of approaching justice through the recognition of political difference in the absence of recognizing the historical structures through which that difference has been generated. Focusing on the continuities and contradictions between the legacy of the Jewish Question in Europe and contemporary debates about Israel and Palestine, we will discuss some of the ways in which the intellectual frameworks of theology, along with racism and ethno-nationalism as objective structures, reproduce patterns of exclusion and violence. Despite decades of theorization, these patterns are consistently reproduced in the very conceptual frameworks and practical activities that appear to be their solution.


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