Settler-Colonial Israel Is A Shitty Country

And here is proof from our very own Hebrew University of Jerusalem! Two faculty members at Hebrew U. got together to write an article about how Israel commits child abuse toward the Palestinian Arab children living under what they call the “settler-colonial regime”. This article is nothing more than a vehicle for promoting anti-Israel propaganda while taking a salary from an Israeli institute of higher learning that until recently had my high esteem.

Entitled, “Child arrest, settler colonialism, and the Israeli juvenile system: A case study of Occupied East Jerusalem“, this article found a home within the covers of the British Journal of Criminology (BJC). With a high impact factor, it is curious to me that they accepted this paper for publication given the problems I note below. It makes me wonder if they purposefully selected biased reviewers, those who go over manuscripts and either recommend them for publication with or without changes, or reject them. The problem is that, once published, this article can serve as a resource for other antisemites to cite as they churn out fake academic papers in the service of the demonization of Israel.

Elder of Ziyon commented on the abstract and I want to go into the substance of the article itself and critique what it says in full. That is what I want to do; but I do not think I can. There is so much that is wrong about this article that it would take a very long article to do it justice. I hope that within the scope of a blog post I can present enough evidence to show why this is fake academia, fake scholarship, and why the BJC should be ashamed to have accepted it for publication.

Occupied East Jerusalem

While it has become quite fashionable to refer to East Jerusalem as being occupied by Israel, this is not the true legal status of the area but, rather, a political label. When academic journals allow slanted political terminology to be used without explanation, they are transforming themselves from conduits of academic scholarship to promoters of one-sided propaganda. If the issue is one of racist treatment of Arab kids, does it matter if East Jerusalem is considered legally occupied or not? If it was called East Jerusalem of disputed political status, would that make the racism, if it exists, any less heinous? Let the authors discuss that issue as well, if the political status is salient to their study.

Theoretical Bases for Academic Vilification of Israeli

The authors, Bella Kovner and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, make a valiant attempt at appearing to conduct a legitimate academic study of the issue concerning violation of children’s rights, i.e., regarding the detention of minors who allegedly committed or were about to commit acts of terror, and the incarceration of those found guilty in a court of law. They argue that the racist Zionist colonial project ignores stipulations governing children’s rights, and that they have solid theoretical foundations upon which to make such an accusation:

. . . the study’s theoretical underpinnings are three major critical analyses in criminology. The first is based on structural and institutional racism within the juvenile justice system …; the second examines the role that the criminal justice system plays in the settler-colonial states’ subjugation of indigenous peoples …; and the third looks at juvenile justice under the mixture of colonialism and securitized theologies. … We argue that only by invoking the three frameworks can we understand child arrest in OEJ [Occupied East Jerusalem]. [page 2]

Let us look at how they use these “three major critical analyses in criminology” when examining how Israel treats kids who hold knives or throw rocks at Jews — allegedly, of course.

A. Structural and Institutional Racism

In this section, the authors do not talk about Israel at all. They review studies of race and criminality from two perspectives: (a) why people of certain races (Black in the USA or Asian Muslims in the UK) commit more crimes; and (b) police racism. I briefly looked at the references they cited and they seem largely irrelevant for the situation regarding Israel’s treatment of Arab youth from East Jerusalem. Most of these papers talk about criminal activity as opposed to terrorism, and there is a difference between the two. Their attempt to pretend that the detained Arab kids (kids, for them, being anyone under 18 years of age) should be treated as common criminals, allegedly, as opposed to terrorists, allegedly, is misleading, for one thing because criminal and terrorist matters are handled by different court systems. They also do not consider how some Western countries try murderers as young as 12 or 14 as adults, regardless of their race.

They did cite one paper that relates to ethical issues regarding the racial profiling resulting from fears of terrorism in London; however, it suffers from a major limitation re application to the situation in Israel: that paper was written in 2011, and between 1994 and 2011 the great majority of terror attacks in the UK were committed by the IRA with only 4 committed by Muslims of varying origins; in contrast, there were over 300 completed terror attacks committed by Muslims in Israel between 2000 and 2011 alone, and many more that were successfully foiled before they could be carried out. In the UK, there was an Islamist terror attack in 2013, another in 2015 and 4 more in 2017. If this number continues to rise, then it will be interesting to observe if there will be a change in the nature of the debate in British academia.

In fact, the BJC published a paper in 2016 that reported the results of a study conducted in Australia that examined the willingness of Muslims to cooperate with the police force in preventing acts of terrorism. Even thought this paper was available online a year before Kovner and Shalhoub-Kevorkian published theirs, they did not refer to it, or anything similar. A serious scholarly paper dealing with racial issues would include discussion of studies such as this one and show their relevance or lack thereof to the situation between the Jews and the Arabs in Jerusalem. The difference between Muslims in Australia and Muslims in East Jerusalem is that the former are mainly recent immigrants trying to make a better life there for their families than was possible in the places from which they came, and the latter seek to eliminate the State of Israel itself.

I am sure that Kovner and Shalhoub-Kevorkian neglect to mention this latter point because it becomes obvious, then, that ethical treatment of Arab kids holding knives or rocks or driving cars as part of the attempt to annihilate Israel becomes a more complicated debate. A simple accusation of racism — when survival is at stake for those targeted by the knife, rock or car — is clearly not tenable. And anyone who thinks otherwise is racist – the kind of racist that falls under the label of antisemitism.

They would counter that it is racist Israel that is seeking to annihilate the Palestinian Arabs and to that I respond – include the facts to prove that, then, in your article, or at least cite an earlier article that considers that issue in depth and base your contention on that. No, your own previous articles using the same terminology as if it is fact does not count. In a scholarly work, in order to use specific terminology, you need to base that use on substantiation that the terminology reflects the truth, or at least includes a reasonable discussion of the pertinent debate.

B. The Justice System in a Settler-Colonial Context

This section describes the way in which colonialist societies criminalize indigenous peoples in order to take over their lands. The implication here is that the Arabs are indigenous to the land and the Jews are foreign implants, settler-colonialists. I wonder if any of the reviewers who examined this paper before recommending its acceptance for publication in the BJC challenged this assumption at all.

There is no question that the First Nations of Canada and the Inuit are indigenous populations of what is now Canada, nor that the Maori are the indigenous people of what is now New Zealand. However, not to question whether or not the Jews are the indigenous people of the modern State of Israel that has been re-established in the very place that it existed as an ancient kingdom is to be less than honest, at least.

I accept that many Arabs do not want Israel to exist. I suppose that that includes the authors of the paper under discussion here. But this is a scholarly paper in what is supposed to be an academic journal. Bias needs to be acknowledged and dealt with in order to provide enough information for readers to intelligently reflect on the material before them. Honesty would have required the authors to at least identify that the issue of indigenous status of the Arabs versus the Jews may be subject to debate. Without such balance, this is merely a propaganda piece and the BJC is allowing itself to be exploited for political purposes.

C. Juvenile Justice Under Colonialism and Securitized Theologies

They begin this section with reference to Frantz Fanon:

Fanon (1963; 1967) explains that colonized people are not allowed to lead fully human lives, while colonizers live under constant fear that natives will replace them. In the Palestinian context, one of the most predominant ways the settler-colonial logic of elimination is to formulate Palestinian children as politically dangerous security threats, perceiving them in zoological terms and situating them as unwanted others (Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2015a; 2015b; 2015c). [emphasis added]

This idea expressed by Fanon triggered some of my own reflections regarding the Jewish people and I expounded on these here. But now let us look at how the authors apply Fanon to Palestinian kids: they claim that we turn them into politically dangerous security threats and perceive them in zoological terms and situate them as unwanted others?  I checked out their citations regarding this point to see upon what they base this stunning accusation. They rely on a paper by Patrick Wolfe to label Israel a settler-colonialist state (and I will devote a separate article to critiquing Wolfe’s paper). And they cite four of Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s own papers in which she regurgitates her claims that Israel deliberately targets children (meaning teenagers), using security issues as an excuse, in the attempt to get rid of the Palestinian Arabs (ignoring, of course, the fact that the Arab population in the PA has been increasing at a greater rate since 1967 than before, and therefore, no genocide can be claimed).

In one of her earlier papers, cited by the current one under examination here, Shalhoub-Kevorkian writes:

With a focus on Jerusalem, I trace state policies that mark the Palestinian child for eviction and violence, from the time that they are unborn and in the womb (through demographic policies) to their youth (through arrest and detention policies), to reveal the unique temporalities of the settler colonial project. [2016: Stolen childhood: Palestinian children and the structure of genocidal dispossession, page 143]

The demographic policies to which she refers is the change by which the government decided, in 2013, to no longer issue birth certificates to babies of foreigners born in Israel. This includes children born to legal and illegal workers, to diplomats and to non-citizen Palestinian Arabs. The issue of citizenship versus residency status of Arabs in East Jerusalem is one that generates vigorous debate and I cannot claim to understand all the permutations of the relevant laws and policies. I can certainly understand the indignation and offense experienced by  Arabs who apply for citizenship and wait years, only to be rejected in many cases. While I am certain there is a degree of injustice here, I cannot say what degree, nor can I confidently say that in all cases the rejections were not justified. What I am protesting here is the authors’ presentation of the issues as if Israel is single-mindedly and viciously seeking to rid at least East Jerusalem, if not the entire PA, of its Arab residents.

In this section, the authors introduce the term “securitized theologies,” a term coined by Shalhoub-Kevorkian in her paper, Palestinian Women and the Politics of Invisibility: Towards a Feminist Methodology (2010):

“Securing Israel” from the Palestinians, at any cost, and even if it violates international codes of moralities and laws, has become a new religion, a new theology that is above questioning and challenge. Israeli state security, as defined by the Israeli military leadership and political elite, creates a spiral of insecurities and attacks that impinge upon every moment of the lives of Palestinian civilians. [page 9]

It all sounds so convincing: Israel “violates international codes of moralities and laws”, “Israel impinges upon every moment of the lives of Palestinian civilians”, etc. But where is delineation of the international codes of moralities and the laws Israel is supposed to be violating? Where is an analysis, a true analysis, as opposed to a series of anecdotes that supposedly prove the authors’ point that Israel is a shitty country?

I looked for serious analysis in Shalhoub’s previous papers and in those of other authors she cited, and I did not find them. That should be required in a scholarly article in an academic journal. At most, anecdotes in academic articles can be used to suggest theories that need to be examined rigorously in future empirical papers and a comment to that effect is expected in the conclusions section of the paper. I have not found any statement to that effect in any of Shalhoub’s previous articles.

Where Do They Go from Here?

Kovner and Shalhoub-Kevorkian do, after this theoretical introduction, provide a deeper study of legislative and legal processes they claim support their contentions. However, this critique is getting too long and I fear I would lose your attention were I to continue to examine the next part of their article here. Let me, therefore, continue this critique in a second post. It will take me some time, however, because I will need to review the laws and the court proceedings to which they refer.

Some might say that I need not critique the rest of the article, given that the premises upon which they base it are so faulty. In principle I agree, but since future academic writers may rely on later parts of the paper regardless, I want to respond to that as well. Let us see, then, how our shitty little country, that for some reason treats teenagers throwing rocks or Molotov cocktails, stabbing people or running them over with cars as if they are terrorists, fares after an examination of its laws and court proceedings.

This article first appeared on Israel Diaries.

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