Professor Nabil Matar added as keynote speaker at ‘Remembering Jerusalem’ conference

We are delighted to announce that Professor Nabil Matar, of the University of Minnesota, will join us at ‘Remembering Jerusalem: Imagination, Memory, and the City’ on 6-7 November, to deliver a keynote lecture.

Professor Matar is renowned for his research on relations between early modern Britain, Western Europe, and the Islamic Mediterranean. His many book projects include the recently published British Captives in the Mediterranean and the Atlantic: 1563-1760 (Brill, Leiden, 2014), Through the Eyes of the Beholder: The Holy Land, 1517-1713 (Brill, Leiden, 2013),  with Judy Hayden, and a forthcoming abridged, translated and introduced edition of An Arab Ambassador in the Mediterranean: Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Miknasi, 1779-1788 (Routledge, 2015).

In recognition of his “pioneering scholarship on the relationship between Islamic civilisation and early modern Europe,” Professor Matar was given the Building Bridges award at the University of Cambridge in 2012.

Professor Matar’s lecture will be entitled “Sufi Jerusalem in Arabic Pilgrimage Accounts, 13th-18th Centuries”. We will share more details in an abstract in the near future, and are very much looking forward to welcoming Professor Matar to King’s College London.

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3,000 photos of Middle East from 1867-1914 now online

Stereoscopic view of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem.

Stereoscopic view of Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem.

The British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) has recently digitised 3,000 photographs of the Middle East from the Maison Bonfils collection, dating from 1867-1914.

The collection includes many images of Jerusalem and Palestine, including the photograph of Al-Aqsa Mosque featured above.

As the project overview explains, these photographs are a small selection from a vast archive of 40,000 photographs produced by the French Bonfils family, who in 1867 established the first photographic studio in Beirut, which they named ‘Maison Bonfils’.

The archive is currently under threat, given that it is not housed in an institution which will secure its future, while its contents are not catalogued, and difficult to navigate.

The creation of a database of the photographs by the EAP will provide a useful resource for scholars, while preserving this valuable heritage from the Ottoman Middle East. It’s also a fascinating archive to browse through, for a glimpse of a familiar region at a very different time.

Via Cathy Collins of the EAP, on Twitter.

Accommodation, registration, travel grants for ‘Remembering Jerusalem’ London conference

This post contains practical information for delegates to our conference ‘Remembering Jerusalem: Imagination, Memory, which will be taking place at King’s College London on 6-7 November 2014.

Travel

The conference will take place on the Strand Campus of King’s College London. Travel information for arriving at the campus from around London can be found on the University website.

If you are flying to one of London’s airports for the conference, details about how to get from there to the conference location by train can be found on the appropriate airport websites: Heathrow, Luton, Stansted.

The nearest tube stops to the conference hotels are London Euston and Russell Square. A tube map is here.

Accommodation

We have reserved a number of rooms for delegates at three hotels close to the conference venue. These are the Tavistock Hotel, the President Hotel, and the Royal National Hotel.

The rates (per night) are as follows:

Tavistock Hotel
Single @ £91.00
Twin( or twin sole use) @ £117.00

President Hotel
Single @ £96.00
Twin ( or twin sole use) @ £125.00

Royal National Hotel
Single @ £96.00
Twin ( or twin sole use) @ £121.00

These prices include a full English breakfast, and VAT.

The hotels are managed by one company, so to make a booking, please contact the Central Reservation Office, on 0207 278 7871, or info@imperialhotels.co.uk, quoting the reference ‘King’s College London’. Slightly discounted rates are available if you book online: http://www.imperialhotels.co.uk/.

The number of these rooms is limited, and we would encourage you to book as soon as you can.

Registration

Fees for the conference are as follows:

Waged: £30 one day; £45 both days
Unwaged: £15 one day; £25 both days

Registration will be possible soon via the University of York Online Store.

Travel Grants

Delegates are assumed to attend in an individual capacity, rather than as representatives of their universities or other institutions.

Limited funds are available to support conference travel for presenters from outside the UK who cannot or would prefer not to rely on funding from their own institution. Applications to this fund are due by 30 September. Update: moved forward to 15th September.

Please send your name, affiliation (if applicable), paper title, and a breakdown of costs requested, to the network coordinator, Hannah Boast, at imagining-jerusalem[at]york.ac.uk.

If you have further questions about these topics, or others not mentioned here, please get in touch on the above address.

Free access to Society and Space virtual theme issue on Israel-Palestine

The editors of the journal Society and Space have made available a collection of articles from their archives on the topic of Israel-Palestine, as part of a virtual theme issue.

As they write in the accompanying blog post, the articles cover topics including ‘geopolitics, sovereignty, citizenship, nationalism, environmental issues, urbanism, and more’, and ‘demonstrate the power of incorporating a spatial analysis into analyses of Israel-Palestine.’

The issue is free to access online until November 13 2014.

Sayed Kashua has left Jerusalem

Photo: Aviram Valdman/The Tower

Sayed Kashua, until recently one of Jerusalem’s best-known resident contemporary writers, has left the city for good, with his wife and children. He has moved to the town of Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, two hours from the nearest big city, Chicago.

While Kashua is not as famous outside Israel as other Hebrew-language novelists such as Amos Oz or David Grossman, his books have been translated into fifteen languages, and he is a popular writer within Israel, as well as being a well-known public figure.

Kashua has written four series of the television show ‘Arab Labor’, an acclaimed sitcom about a Palestinian family living in Israel and their attempts to assimilate, in an echo of Kashua’s own background as a Palestinian citizen from the predominantly Arab Israeli town of Tira, who moved to Jerusalem in his early teens. Kashua also has a regular column for the left-wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz, and for the Jerusalem magazine Kol Hair.

Following the murder of the 16-year-old Palestinian Mohammed Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem in July, an attack which was widely seen as a revenge killing for the kidnap and murder in June of three teenage Israeli settlers hitchhiking in the West Bank, and the upsurge of anti-Arab violence and demonstrations in the city at this time, Kashua made his decision to leave.

He elaborated on his decision in his Haaretz column, which was reprinted by The Observer two weeks into the recent Israeli assaults on Gaza, which at the time of writing have paused in a temporary ceasefire.

Kashua stated that his hopes of Arab-Jewish coexistence, which he attempted to contribute to through writing about Palestinian experiences in Hebrew for an Israeli audience, had been crushed. As he records in the article:

‘Twenty-five years of writing in Hebrew, and nothing has changed. Twenty-five years clutching at the hope, believing it is not possible that people can be so blind. Twenty-five years during which I had few reasons to be optimistic but continued to believe that one day this place in which both Jews and Arabs live together would be the one story where the story of the other is not denied. That one day the Israelis would stop denying the Nakba, the Occupation, and the suffering of the Palestinian people. That one day the Palestinians would be willing to forgive and together we would build a place that was worth living in.

Twenty-five years that I am writing and knowing bitter criticism from both sides, but last week I gave up.’

Michelle Campos article for Middle East Research Information Project provides a longer historical view of segregation and discrimination in Jerusalem, and an insightful reading of the changing position of Palestinians in Israel depicted in Kashua’s TV series, from its first season in 2007, to the most recent, in 2013.

As she notes, and has been discussed in accounts of the Ottoman period, Jerusalem’s neighbourhoods were mostly mixed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Their gradual segregation began around the time of the 1930s, introducing a continuing move towards division that was consolidated in the war of 1948, and again in 1967.

Kashua’s decision came not just in response to recent violence, then, but was also the result of practices intended to squeeze out Israel’s Palestinian population with a longer history, which, as Kashua has sadly concluded, his attempts to bridge communities as a Palestinian writing in Hebrew cannot overcome.

In his latest column for Haaretz, Kashua recounts the banal irritations of his family’s new life in America and his attempts to navigate a complicated university bureaucracy.

He also describes his children’s requests to go home, to which, he tells us, he responds: ‘We are home, sweetie’.

Hannah Boast

‘…they would fire into her stomach’. How tourguides narrate Palestinians in The City of David, East Jerusalem.

By Dr David Landy, Trinity College Dublin.

The ‘City of David’ is an illegal Jewish settlement in Silwan in East Jerusalem. As such it is a place of violence and tension, with local Palestinian resistance to their colonisation met with brutality by settlers and the Israeli authorities.

landy1

David Be’eri, settler leader, drives his car into a stone-throwing Palestinian child in Silwan October 8, 2010. Photo by: AFP

Strangely, it is also a popular tourist spot with hundreds of thousands coming to see the archaeological dig there, as this was the original site of Jerusalem. I visited the site in order to find out how tours of the site portray local Palestinians. It has been claimed that Palestinians are erased in these tourist narratives, mirroring the de facto erasure practiced by the Israeli settlers who guide tourists around.

While this was one way Palestinians were dealt with, there were times when tours could not elide over their presence. For instance, when tours pass this ‘look-out point’, we were offered a panoramic view of part of Silwan. Row upon row of Palestinian houses were laid out before us, and it was impossible to ignore them.

How then were they dealt with?

The ‘look-out point’ in the City of David. Note the military terminology the site uses.

The ‘look-out point’ in the City of David. Note the military terminology the site uses.

Below is an anecdote from a tour I took. It illustrates one way Palestinians are narrated. On this tour, the Israeli tourguide used the place to tell us about the walls surrounding ancient Jerusalem. She chose a girl of about 12 or 13 from the mostly Jewish audience as a ‘volunteer’ and said ‘meet the hill on which we will build the City of David’.

Pointing to the girl she asked us, ‘If you are to defend your city, where would you build the walls?’ When someone correctly answered ‘high up’, she instructed the girl to raise her hands over her head as ‘walls’, something which made her look even more vulnerable, in need of protecting.

The guide then explained that we also need to protect the water source of our city, at the bottom of the hill, around the girl’s legs. Then she added, ‘we can’t build the walls low down around her legs because if we did, then the enemy on the other hill…’ – and here she pointed to where the Palestinian houses on the other hill were crowding along the slopes, and everyone’s gaze followed her finger and they nodded in understanding. ‘Then the enemy on the other hill, they would fire into her stomach’.

At the time, I was shocked by the visceral atavistic images this narrative evoked, the young woman on whom we build our Jewish city, the need to defend our vulnerable young (Jewish) women, and the casual relegation of un-named Palestinians to the role of the inevitable enemy threatening our citadel. It was a narrative which both elided over Palestinian presence and treated it as a threat.

The imagined ancient ‘City of David’.

The imagined ancient ‘City of David’.

In retrospect, the fact that nobody else was shocked was of equal interest. For key to narrating Palestinians as the enemy is doing so in a non-political, naturalised way which all could accept. And key to the naturalisation process is the sublimation of this enmity.

After all, the tourguides (and while on the lookout point I observed several guides doing the same thing, pointing to the Palestinian houses to illustrate the need to and the ways of defending the City of David) were only discussing ancient history. Palestinians were not named, were not mentioned. This rhetorical trick reminds me of how two of racism’s main carriers are the joke and the rumour, both modes of expression that allow the speaker to disavow the racism they are enunciating, as well as representing it as a commonsensical way of understanding of the world.

In like form, in this tourist site, such stories of ancient city walls protecting the citadel from enemies on neighbouring hills were used to make sense of the confusing ruins we were walking around in. But they had another purpose: these past stories of militarised history served to sublimate the present-day violence against the Palestinians in Silwan. Palestinians themselves were treated as ghosts, absent presences who were faintly threatening, from whom we, in our Jewish citadel, were presently safe.