In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Atalia Omer of the University of Notre Dame discusses the role of cultural and religious identity in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Atalia Omer is an assistant professor of religion, conflict, and peace studies at the University of Notre Dame. Her research interests include the interrelation between religion and nationalism; religion, nationalism, and peace building; and multiculturalism as a framework for conflict transformation and as a theory of justice. She recently published her first book, When Peace is Not Enough: How the Israeli Peace Camp Thinks about Religion, Nationalism, and Justice.
Dr. Atalia Omer - Israeli and Palestinian Identity
The study of the Israeli case underscores a broader objective, namely to engage cultural sociology, religious studies, political and cultural theory in direct conversation with the questions of peace, justice, and conflict transformation that have preoccupied peace studies.
The complexities of the case illuminate the relevance of reimagining religion and nationalism in relation to peacebuilding. Specifically, a focus on the perceptions and histories of marginalized groups and hybrid identities that defined rigidly by exclusionary thresholds of citizenship demonstrates how such voices potentially provide both counter-hegemonic critiques as well as creative resources for conflict analysis. The book engages three such groups: the Mizrahim or Arab-Jews (Israeli-Jews who trace their ancestry to Arab and/or Muslim contexts), Palestinian-Israelis, and non-Israeli Jews. Attending to marginal communities illustrates how a radical critique exposes the boundaries of the justice discourse in Israel, boundaries demarcated by particular perceptions of Jewish-Israeli identity.
It also, however, gestures toward why undertaking a shift from critique to a constructive reframing of questions of identity is central for processes of peacebuilding. Put simply: interrogating the subjective boundaries of “who we are” —boundaries which are pivotally challenged by the others’ narratives of injustice—transforms our imagining of justice and our perceptions of what may be negotiable or nonnegotiable.