In 1948, the creation of the State of Israel was, in part, made possible through the calibration of the indigenous Palestinian population in relation to the Jewish, colonizer population. This focus on the number of physical Palestinian bodies in comparison to physical Jewish bodies worked to establish the symbolic framework which would come to define both the Zionist project and the Palestinian liberation struggle. Palestinians were transferred using land acquisition measures and through the immigration of a critical mass of Jewish people to Palestine. Immigration between 1918 and 1947 was so drastic that the ratio of Jewish settlers to Palestinians increased from one in ten to one in two. The 1948 war saw the expulsion of 725,000 Palestinians. Their expulsion was achieved at the hands of Jewish attackers who targeted Arab centers and was part of a larger project whose goal was to deliberately expel the majority of Palestinians from what is now known as Israel. The intentionality behind this plan is undergirded by statements made by the Ben-Gurion appointed transfer committee, which issued a recommendation that “Arabs’ should make up no more than 15 percent of Israel’s total population.” Today, the percentage of Palestinian Citizens of Israel has remained close to this initial prescription and stands at around 20 percent.
In addition to this demographic regulation, Israel, through its laws and national documents, has codified its national character as one that is concerned and defined by a Jewish versus non-Jewish dichotomy. Its 1948 Declaration of Independence defined Israel as the Jewish state established by and for the Jewish people . The intricacies of this proclamation manifested themselves in a series of laws. The Law of Return, which states that any Jewish person, only by the virtue of being Jewish, is entitled to Israeli citizenship. The Nationality Law, on the other hand, asserts that non-Jewish individuals, even if they are born in the state of Israel (unless they are the children of non-Jewish Israeli citizens) are not entitled to Israeli citizenship. More recently, the Nation-State law, passed in July of 2018 declared that the only group of people with a right to self-determination in Israel are Jews. It also removed Arabic as an official language of the state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stood in defense of the law asserting its necessity in order to “fend off Palestinian challenges to Jewish self-determination.”
This panel will be centered on this weaponization of identity by the Israelis and the focus on physical bodies and demographics in creating the State of Israel and maintaining its character as a Jewish state. Specifically, it hopes, through a legal, activist, and academic perspective, to interrogate identity through the experiences of Palestinians Citizens of Israel and the ways in which they have come to understand their Palestinian identity and their place in the Palestinian liberation struggle.