By Afro Middle-East Centre

Expectations were low for US President Barack Obama’s first visit to Palestine-Israel. In light of a frosting of relations between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, especially after Netanyahu endorsed Obama’s presidential rival Mitt Romney in last year’s US presidential election, and a tacit acknowledgement that the so-called ‘peace process’ had stalled, the trip was more an affirmation of the avowed support of the USA for Israel than a hope for anything more significant.

By Juan Cole

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said last week in Toronto that, in the wake of the G20 conference, Turkey will no longer routinely give Israeli military aircraft permission to fly in Turkish airspace. The announcement came as Turkey forbade an Israeli military air-plane (taking officers on a visit to the sites of Nazi death camps for Jews in Poland) to fly over its territory. The Turkish press denies that the destination of the plane influenced the decision. Future Israeli military overflight permission will be granted on an ad hoc basis.

From the Guardian: 'Israel's Ynet news website reported that other military flights had also been quietly cancelled. "Turkey is continuing to downgrade its relations with Israel," an unnamed official told Ynet. "This is a long-term process and not something that began just after the flotilla incident. We are very concerned." '

The Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) will convene an international conference to explore the place of Israel, as a Jewish state, within today’s cosmopolitan world, as a case study for the question of the place of ethnic states within a cosmopolitan world. The conference will interrogate the key concepts of nationalism, nation-state, ethnic nationalism and Jewish nationalism. It will, furthermore, explore the myths and invented traditions that shape Jewish nationalism, as well as the discourse that legitimates it. The conference will attempt to grapple with the question of whether Jewish nationalism and the notion of an ethnic Jewish state have a legitimate place in a modern cosmopolitan world which seeks to recognise multiple identities beyond simply ethnicity, and which seeks to define statehood, citizenship and human rights in inclusive rather than exclusive terms. Can an ethnic and ethnocentric state, and the nationalist ideology which undergirds it, persist within a strengthening culture of individual human rights and inclusivity, or is it an unworkable fallacy?

The idea of “the nation” is not new. Some of the earliest written accounts of differentiated human communities can be traced back to Hindu scriptures and the Hebrew bible, where links between land, language and kinship have strong resonance. The concept of “the nation-state” is, however, relatively novel, and has its roots in eighteenth century Europe. The nation-state came internationally to be recognised as a political entity with its own sovereignty within a system of similar states; with control over a definite geographical territory; with an independent, domestically generated, and relatively centralised administrative apparatus; having a distinct political structure, legal code, economy, currency, division of labour and educational system; and being characterised by a culture, defined by language, arts, customs, religion and / or ethnicity, that may be enormously varied but which generally has a dominant hegemonic strain that is adopted by urban elites. The last aspect of this characterisation is, arguably, the most important since, implicitly, it refers to contestation. Thus, the bureaucratic composition of the nation-state must, of necessity, be differentiated from the ideology that legitimates it; this ideology that is generally referred to as nationalism.

Nationalism has had diverse expressions but can also be generally characterised in terms of a universal struggle between cultures of exclusion and inclusion. Exclusion is marked by authoritarianism, militarism and the evasion of law; racism, discrimination and injustice; and marked asymmetries in access to livelihoods and resources. Inclusion demands pluralism, diversity, democracy, freedom, participation, justice, and tolerance. With specific reference to the state of Israel – which defines itself as a “Jewish State” – these normative antinomies have become the source of conflict that separates Israelis from Palestinians.

In exploring these questions with regards to Israel, the conference will also seek to address the issue of what lies in store for an ethnic Jewish state in the future, in terms of prevailing and emerging global political cultures.


The Afro-Middle East Centre invites you to a seminar entitled Israeli society and prospects for change in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Presented by internationally renowned Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, and moderated by Prof Ran Greenstein.

The Afro-Middle East Centre  invites you to a speaking tour of Johannesburg and Cape Town by Awad Abdel Fattah, Palestinian politician from Israel. Fattah will be in South Africa talking about the façade of 'Israeli Democracy' at the University of Cape Town and the University of Johannesburg in April 2013.


Outsourcing Repression

September 26, 2019

Outsourcing Repression is a collection of analyses and essays on the roots, manifestations and consequences of...

The Battle for Justice in Palestine

December 22, 2015

Buy your copy now Winner of the 2014 Palestine Book Award Efforts to achieve a “two-state solution” have fin...

Lineages of Revolt: Issues of Contemporary Capitalism in the Middle East

October 29, 2015

Buy your copy now While the outcomes of the tumultuous uprisings that continue to transfix the Arab world rem...

Tomorrow's Battlefield: US Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa

October 13, 2015

Buy your copy now You won’t see segments about it on the nightly news or read about it on the front page of A...

What is AMEC?

What is AMEC?

Established in 1998, the Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) aims to foster, produce and disseminate the highest quality of research on the Middle East, to maintain public discussion and to help shape the public discourse on issues related to the Middle East. Amec's research includes relations between Africa and the Middle East.

Read More

Follow Us On Twitter

Like us on facebook

Like on Facebook