Emotionalising national security, depoliticising the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

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Amalia Sa’ar University of Haifa, Israel

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Sarai B. Aharoni Ben Gurion University, Israel

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Alisa Lewin University of Haifa, Israel

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This study explores the growing presence of emotional terminology within Israeli popular discourses on national security, as reflected in the daily talk of Israelis living on the border with the Gaza Strip. It is based on ethnography conducted in 2016–18 as part of a multi-site, multidisciplinary study on articulations of security in frontier communities. Findings reveal that the grassroots discourse of national security is saturated with emotional language, and that this, in turn, is interlaced with relationships terminology. Residents report high levels of insecurity (fear, trauma, and constant disquiet), alongside pride in their families’ and communities’ strong care and solidarity, which they perceive as a great source of resilience. Parenthetically, the state and the military, too, are made concrete through relational emotions. We argue that the language of emotional-relationality frames national security and resilience as mental dispositions, and that this subsequently renders the robust power apparatuses that maintain their semi-transparency.

The analysis dwells on the political implications of the phenomenon. We note an association between residents’ preoccupations with the conflict’s emotional effects on their lives and their consistent avoidance from criticising the state’s policies regarding its management or potential transformation. This transposition of the political with the emotional, we argue, offers a distinct insight into Israelis’ familiar tendency to avoid criticising Israel’s aggressions against the Palestinians: the embeddedness of national security in emotional relationships implicitly constructs political criticism as betrayal of intimate relations.

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Amalia Sa’ar University of Haifa, Israel

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Sarai B. Aharoni Ben Gurion University, Israel

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Alisa Lewin University of Haifa, Israel

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