Professor Yaron Ezrahi, a political scientist from the Hebrew University is scheduled to speak on the following issue as part of a series of lectures organized by Humboldt University in Berlin. Professor Ezrahi has misrepresented the legal issues surrounding the property in Sheikh Jarrah to fit the ideological framework of the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement that he supports. Before 1948 Sheikh Jarrah was a mixed neighborhood of Muslims, Christians and Jews; Jewish presence was especially strong in the Shimon Hatzadik quarter. After more than two decades of litigation, in 2008 the Supreme Court ruled that several properties in Sheikh Jarrah belong to the Sephardi Community Committee but, as protected tenants, the Arab families could live there as long as they pay rent. Three families refused and were subsequently evicted.
Whatever reservations one may have with regard to the courts rulings, it is wrong to argue that the radical nationalists settlers are overtaking the neighborhood under a flag that is a symbol of “domination and dispossession,” of “regression an brutal coercion.” It is equally wrong to overstate the alleged human harmony in Jerusalem. As a long- term resident of the city, Professor Ezrahi does not need to be reminded that Jerusalem has been the site of bloody suicide bombing in which hundreds were killed and wounded. It is the same police which Ezrahi describes as the “fist of the state” lined up in “perfect assembly” that has protected the population from such attacks. Even if the police is “stern-faced,” as he puts it, it has not prevented the Sheikh Jarraah Solidarity protestors to discharge their democratic rights.
It is especially wrong for Professor Ezrahi to use misrepresentations, insinuations and semi-truths while speaking at Humbold University. Some six decades ago, SS burnt books on the plaza in front of the university. In no small measure, the Nazi regime paved its road to power with the same type of rhetoric.
Monday, August 29 2011
Summer Semester 2011
Winter Semester 2011/12
Legal, social, cultural, and political limits
Citizenship and Citoyenneté were a promise of the emerging revolutionary and democrat-ic nation states. How can such ideas and values be kept alive today under the conditions of globalization, migration and cultural difference? In the present debates feelings of uncertainty and anxiety arise in the attempt to defend the consent of citizenship against the dynamics of migration and the aspirations of cultural and ethnic minorities. A grey area has developed between citizenship granted by the constitution and the process of socialization beyond the limits of ethnic, religious, social, and political communities. State power and civilian violence – on the Indian subcontinent under the BJP government, but also within the European community – endanger civil society and its rights of the constitution. Facing these realities, what measures are necessary to make the general public aware of the rights and wrongs of granting citizenship, balancing the commitment of equality, religious freedom, political participation and cultural diversity on the one hand, and the different claims of identity from a world not conforming with western standards on the other? How should we conceive of a European citizenship and its rights, and imagine a »citizenship of the world«?
PROGRAMME (changes possible)
November 10, 2011
Dieter Gosewinkel (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin / University of Oxford)
Staatsbürgerschaft. Kämpfe um Zugehörigkeit in der europäischen Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts
Moderation: Jürgen Kocka (WZB)
UdL 6, Senatssaal
November 24, 2011
Yaron Ezrahi (Hebrew University Jerusalem)
Radical Nationalism against Democratic Citizenship in Israel
Respondenz: Moshe Zimmermann
UdL 6, Senatssaal
December 01, 2011
Ayelet Shachar (University of Toronto)
The Birthright Lottery: Citizenship and Global Inequality
UdL 6, Senatssaal
December 8, 2011
Shalini Randeria (Universität Zürich)
Enteignen und Entrechten. Verarmung und Staatsbürgerschaftsrechte im neoliberalen Indien
Dor. 24, HS 1.101
February 7, 2012
Norbert Lammert (Präsident des Deutschen Bundestages)
Demokratischer Rechtsstaat und multikulturelle Bürgergesellschaft
UdL 6, Senatssaal
February 16, 2012 (bitte Termin vorher prüfen)
Okwui Enwezor (New York, Direktor Haus der Kunst München)
Topic will be announced soon
UdL 6, Senatssaal
Arab Spring 2011
In the last few weeks humanity simultaneously witnessed a terrifying earthquake measuring nine points on the Richter scale that devastated parts of Japan and an elating wondrous earthquake measuring ten points on the political scale as millions of fearless Arabs flocked into the streets and squares of Cairo, Tripoli, Tunis and other Arab capitals risking their own lives in the effort to liberate themselves from corrupt autocratic leaders and overcome the armed guards of their dictators.
The earthquake in Japan commands humility before the overwhelming destructive forces of nature and the limits of human powers. By contrast the Arab revolts, an unexpected awesome eruption of the formidable power of the human passion for freedom and dignity, can only evoke pride and exhilaration.
The success of mass popular demonstrations in undermining authoritarian regimes does not in itself guarantee, of course, the emergence of democracy. In the beginning it was just the forceful stirring articulation of an alternative collective imagination of order propelled by freedom and the release of political energy. That energy can be easily misdirected. It must be properly channeled in order to retrospectively justify the massive breaking of laws, the frequent use of violence, and the disruption of a highly valued, if forced, stability. Following a democratic revolution, it took the French many decades to produce a democracy, and at the end of the last century the breakdown of the totalitarian USSR has yet to produce a viable democracy.
As a system of government democracy requires multiple constraints on the arbitrary use of power: the rise of the individual as a deliberate, self-‐restrained, political agency and the development of civic ethos, the evolution of a rule of law, the creation of a host of political institutions that reciprocally check and balance each other, a political culture that combines trust and criticism, respect and skepticism, and the expectations that power be both transparent and effective. Most of all it requires a wide commitment to the value and protection of human life and a bill of civil and social rights.
Following decades, if not centuries, in which the subjugation of the Arab peoples was secured by docility induced by fear and habit, the current wave of uprisings opens the gate to the long arduous way to establishing a political order based on liberty. If, during the authoritarian Arab regimes, the people have depended on their rulers, successful democratic revolutions will reverse that pattern, making the rulers depend on their peoples. Both must recognize that to found a political order on freedom is to learn to live with the uncertainties and tensions of continual instability, open clashes of ideas and interests, and an institutionalized political conflict.
The passion for freedom that produces a democratic revolution is profoundly different from the self disciplined freedom that enables a self governed polity. Such waves of protests against authoritarian governments in a region where they have been least expected demonstrate again that the quest for freedom is inherent in humanity and that in our time the idea of democracy has been globalized as the universal theory and norm of legitimate political power.
Every person who walks to his or her square of freedom to protest political coercion and overcome the fear of being arrested, tortured, and even killed by the guardians of the autocrat must be driven by the feeling that a person who concedes his freedom is an individual who lost his humanity. Rousseau thought that human slavery was the rule rather than the exception, famously stating that although “men are born free, they are everywhere in chains.” Of course, people have been in chains for many reasons.
One of them, highlighted by recent events, has been that, until recently, they did not have access to the kind of contemporary technologies of horizontal communication that have enabled the use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to share subversive political ideas, feelings, and plans for horizontal political coordination that could more easily escape hierarchical control. Obviously this development actually tilted the unbalanced power relation between people and their rulers in favor of the former.
Millions of individuals who internally and informally harbored the ideal of a democratic order needed the internet to discover that it is a growing collective political imaginary in order to begin believing that a revolution beyond the risky defiance of a few politically conscious individuals or the resistance of small groups is feasible. A risk shared by a large number of people is likely to diminish for each individual and enable a new kind of defiant political action. Paraphrasing Emerson's observation, I would say that insofar as a collective action is the publication of internal thoughts and aspirations, the revolutionary Arab uprising, regardless of its immediate effects, has for the first time in modern Arab political history elevated and partly institutionalized the commitment to a collective imaginary of an Arab democracy as a compelling living standard for legitimating a regime.
Why was it such a shocking surprise for western public opinion? Partly because of the influence of entrenched Orientalists—in Edward Said's sense—an influential community of Middle East experts who could not entertain alternative imaginaries of the Arab world without undermining the very presuppositions that have underlain their professional authority as well as their status as advisers to governments that seek at all costs to enhance stability and protect their interests.
Their general approach has been that the two principal actors in the Arab world today are Islamic fundamentalists, which produce politically ineffective terrorists who can hardly disrupt the established order, and largely illegitimate, western-‐supported autocrats, which at least effectively deliver much valued stability.
They could hardly imagine the sudden dramatic emergence of a new Arab hero that captured the imagination of the Arab masses and eclipsed the heroism of the suicide bomber: the unarmed Arab freedom fighter determined to end Arab dictatorship. In my country, Israel, in addition to reactionary Orientalists, the growing influence of the political right and the relentless propaganda of the Settlers made the imagination of a potential Arab democracy even less likely. When Netanyahu declared some years ago that he would be ready to sign peace treaties only with Arab states that have become democratic, his statement was widely construed as another rhetorical ploy to indirectly say that peace treaties with Syria, the Palestinians, and other Arab states should be delayed until the coming of the Messiah.
Now that a wave of democratization has been suddenly conquering the Arab Middle East, the same Prime minister is unable to spontaneously nod towards the awesome explosion of democratic spirit across the Arab world on behalf of the “only” democracy in the Middle East. He seems only capable of focusing on the blown up danger of a Muslim brotherhood's takeover.
It has apparently been politically impossible for this extreme right wing politician to switch from fear to hope as a means to win votes. But if the 9/11 terrorist act proved at the time that a mere thirty or so fanatical terrorists with a strong logistical support can produce the effect of a grand war, the recent Arab revolt, especially in Egypt, demonstrates that hundreds of thousands of determined unarmed citizens can march into freedom by toppling repressive systems of subjugation. No western army could dare today to stop such a march by live fire. It is fair to assume that a possibility of a mass nonviolent Palestinian uprising has not escaped the minds of many Arab and Jewish seekers of peace.
Perhaps the future holds for us, as an alternative to an imminent war that will result from Netanyahu's deliberate policy of paralyzing substantive peace negotiations with the Palestinians, a hopeful chapter of a nonviolent progress towards the liberation of the Palestinian people from Israeli occupation in the West Bank and from Hamas' dictatorship in Gaza. The end of Israeli occupation would also be more compatible with the founding democratic principles of Israel inscribed in Israel's Declaration of Independence.
Sheikh Jarrah, Jerusalem, on a Friday afternoon
by Yaron Ezrahi
11 February 2010
JERUSALEM - Sheikh Jarrah, an Arab neighbourhood, is gradually becoming a symbol of the struggle over the character and future of Jerusalem as a city of diverse neighbourhoods, religions and communities who strive to live side by side in dignity and peace.
Recently a group of right-wing nationalist Jews effectively exploited legal documents in a bid to start taking over this neighbourhood, evict its residents and raise the Israeli flag over its houses.
Their Israeli flag isn’t our Israeli flag – the flag of the Declaration of Independence that extends an open hand to our Arab neighbours. Instead, it is a flag of domination, dispossession and humiliation; not a symbol of identification with the wonderful human mosaic of our unique city – but a symbol of regression and a destructive coercion.
I have been a citizen of this city for 50 years. During this time, Jerusalem has known good times and hard times. Today, the future of this city depends on whether or not we begin to understand that Sheikh Jarrah represents a problem which is, in the words of outgoing Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, “not a legal one”. It is, rather, a moral and political problem and has therefore become our responsibility as citizens of the capital and the state. Yes, it is true that the settlers also have an ideal of Jerusalem. But it is not possible to realise their ideal without undermining all the precious assets that make up this city.
The solution depends on how determined we are to prevent the destruction of the unique experience that characterises Jerusalem – the daily human encounter between Jews, Muslims, Christians and others – an encounter that takes place under the auspices of this glowing city, in the rare beauty of its skies, its buildings and its houses of prayer.
There is nothing that threatens this city more than the weakness of the government and citizens vis-à-vis this group of settlers’ determination to shrink the grand human dimensions of Jerusalem to the narrow confines of their reclusive world, a world which is blind to the Other. We must safeguard Jerusalem as the place where one day the angel of peace will be born and perhaps even the place from where the Messiah – patiently awaited by my grandfathers in their graves on the Mount of Olives – will one day emerge.
A zealous Jerusalem which lacks compassion, an occupied city which banishes everything that is sacred (as one of the slogans in the demonstration read), such a city in which the residents are becoming enemies to one another, will deteriorate before long to bloodshed. And if this is indeed what will happen, if Jerusalem is a lost city which this generation will not succeed to rescue, build and glorify – it will become a another sad layer of ruins for future archaeologists.
I am standing here amongst about 400 demonstrators. The police prevents us from walking to the houses that have been “conquered” by the settlers. Across the way, the police, the fist of the state, line up in perfect assembly. This is the fist which is meant to safeguard freedom of expression within the framework of law and order and not order and law at the expense of freedom of expression, something that the judges from the Jerusalem Magistrate’s court no doubt understood when they ruled that the weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah were not unconstitutional as the police has claimed.
Are the soldiers of the police’s special reconnaissance unit aware that we the citizens are the ones who have given them the powers that they now hold? Are they aware that we are not the enemy and that as an arm of the government they are our emissaries? Does the tough looking officer with the stern face who leads them recognise that it is our duty and obligation as citizens to protect the moral and social fabric of our city? That we are the ultimate source of legitimacy for the power that he wields? And beyond this, will the Israeli public begin to understand who is really dividing Jerusalem and tearing it apart?
The demonstrators are lit by the dappled sunlight of a wintery Friday afternoon. Amidst the crowd, Palestinian children walk around carrying trays of coffee cups and biscuits. Perhaps they understand that those congregated here are demanding the chance to make a choice about the kind of city we will live in – all of us, with our children and grandchildren. Next to me are a group of student drummers creating a circle of rising percussion beats in a rhythm which focuses but also purifies the anger.
Jewish and Arab drivers slow down as they pass us so that they can read our signs and listen to the sounds. Are these the first signs of an awakening of the dormant civic conscience or an illusion and another disappointment? Is this a bitter cry or a ray of hope that the few who have congregated here will become many?
* Professor Yaron Ezrahi is a political philosopher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews)