Defeating the State of Israel
Individuals identified a strong relationship between Zionist ideology and the State of Israel. In view of their unanimous negativisation of Zionism, most individuals openly emphasised the social and political desirability of dismantling the State of Israel. According to participants' accounts, one means of “defeating” Israel was to deny the Jewish character of the country and to support a political system which would be elected by the “native Palestinians”, namely Muslim and Christian Palestinians and their descendants, and those Jews who could demonstrate an “indigenous” connection to Palestine. This overtly anti-Zionist stance amounted to a desire for the dismantlement of the Jewish State and for the establishment of a state with a clear (non-Jewish) Palestinian majority.
For most individuals, a basic starting-point was unanimous support for an international boycott of Israeli products:
Kalim (male): I don't buy Israeli products and I keep an eye on where stuff is made and where companies, like stores and that, are based. I will not buy an Israeli product because I'm not paying a penny towards what they do to Muslims. Their atrocities [ … ] It just feels wrong, like something is wrong, you know. It doesn't feel right.
Interviewer: What sort of products do you look out for?
Kalim: Dates, like it was Ramadan and we ended up having dates from Israel. We had them but it just didn't feel right. It felt like it wasn't authentic, you know. Ramadan wasn't the same [ … ] I mean mixing Islam and Israeli dates, that's bad taste really.
Not a penny of my money is going into a Jew's pocket so he can kill our people [ … ] It's like Gandhi did. If we don't buy, Israel can't survive. (Kamran, male)
Like Kalim, most participants reported avoiding the purchase of Israeli products because there was a perception that this would indirectly support Israel's “atrocities” against Muslims. Driven by the negativised Zionist ideology, Israel was said to actively persecute Palestinians and Muslims and, thus, Israel was perceived as posing a threat to the ingroup. While some participants invoked solely the State of Israel, others confl Israel and the Jewish people in describing the threat to Muslim
group continuity. Kamram observed that his boycott of Israeli products was intended to avoid his money reaching “a Jew's pocket”. Despite their frequent slippage between the categories “Zionist” and “Jew”, as exemplifi in Kamran's account, participants attempted to emphasise their anti-Zionist, rather than antisemitic, stance. Kamran constructed his stance as socially acceptable by anchoring anti-Zionism to Gandhi's struggle against the British Raj in India, which is positively evaluated in cultural consciousness. Indeed, Gandhi is widely regarded as the personifi of peaceful struggle. Conversely, both Jews (who “kill our people”) and Israel (the objectifi of the Jewish people) were viewed as posing a threat to Muslim group continuity. Kamran and other participants perceived the boycott of Israeli products as a means of defeating the State of Israel, which, in view of the perceived threat, appeared to constitute a reasonable response.
Despite the common assertion that the boycott of Israeli products constitutes opposition to Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people (Corrigan, 2009), participants reproduced the social representation of religious confl between Jews and Muslims, which served as a justifi for boycotting Israeli products. Kalim reported that buying Israeli products “felt like something is wrong”, suggesting that the continuity principle depended upon a continued boycott of Israeli products. Furthermore, he perceived the notion of purchasing Israeli dates for the Muslim festival of Ramadan as threatening for continuity. He reported that Ramadan “just didn't feel right” due to the presence of Israeli dates at a Muslim occasion. The threat to continuity ensued from the perception that Ramadan, a holy occasion in the Islamic calendar, was rendered less “authentic” and “not the same”, due to the presence of Israeli dates. What may appear a trivial phenomenon to some was perceived as jeopardising the link between past and present for Kalim. There was a constructed incompatibility between the two because of the perceived threat of Israel/Zionism/Judaism to Islam, and the perceived Islamic obligation to oppose Israel.
As former or current university students, most participants in the study were acutely aware of the debate concerning the boycott of Israeli universities in the UK (see Chapter 3). Most individuals supported this proposal and indicated that that the exclusion of Israel from education would contribute fruitfully to the dismantlement of the Jewish State:
Saira (female): There is no place for Israel in education, like the university boycott is so important. And there is no place for Israel in the global economy. There is no place for Israel on the map. It needs to just disappear and Muslims will be the ones that make that happen at the end of the day.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Saira: America and Europe is too scared to change anything. The big change will come from Muslims, from within the Muslim world [ … ] The university boycott means they'll lose the intelligence, the educated elite, you know and then they won't be more powerful than Muslims, I think. As exemplified by Saira's account, individuals questioned the legitimacy of the State of Israel, arguing that there was “no place for Israel on the map” and that it needed to be dismantled. Saira was not alone in expressing the social representation that an academic boycott of Israel constituted a means of inducing its dismantlement. For several participants, the boycott of Israeli universities reflected more than just a desire to support the Palestinian cause. Rather, there was an underlying social representation that the Zionist ideology underpinning the State of Israel was inherently evil and destructive to the world. Thus, the boycott of Israeli universities seemed to reflect a desire to singularly exclude the Jewish State from education and from the “global economy”, thereby depriving Israelis of education and economic development. This appeared to reflect a deeprooted aversion to the State of Israel. The desire for and optimism regarding the destruction of the Jewish State may be connected with the self-efficacy principle. As exemplified by Saira's account, there was a perception that an academic boycott would induce a “brain drain” in Israel, leading to a shortage of “intelligence” and “the educated elite”. This in turn would decrease the competence and self-efficacy of the State of Israel, which was perceived as a powerful and threatening state that had defeated its Arab neighbours in a series of armed conflicts (see Chapter 3). Thus, the academic boycott was regarded as an indirect but effective strategy for curtailing outgroup self-efficacy.
In highlighting her avid support for the boycott, Saira expressed her belief that it would be Muslims, rather than “America and Europe”, who would instigate change in relation to Israel. Thus, the Muslim ingroup was, conversely, imbued with competence, control and efficacy to bring about change that would defeat the State of Israel. This seemed to suggest a “competing” sense of self-efficacy between the Muslim ingroup and the Israeli outgroup. Indeed, non-Muslim outgroups were regarded as being incapable of instigating such change:
Us Muslims are the ones you see on the streets protesting and standing up to Israel. Iran. Syria. These are Muslim countries. Not America. (Amir, male)
You go to anti-Israel protests and it's all Muslims. Some White people but it's mainly just Muslims, you know [ … ] We're the only ones that'll really come out for it, I reckon. If push comes to shove. (Hamid, male)
There was a perceived unity among Muslims in their collective stance on Israel. Amir constructed a common agenda unifying diverse Muslim countries such as Iran and Syria by invoking their commitment to anti-Zionism, which he differentiated from the perceived agenda of the US. He regarded Muslim countries as valiantly “standing up to Israel” which suggested unique and distinctive bravery. Moreover, Hamid attributed the “anti-Israel protests” almost exclusively to the Muslim ingroup, although he acknowledged the participation of “some White people” in them. He too attributed a sense of bravery to the Muslim ingroup by arguing that only they would be willing to oppose Israel “if push comes to shove”. The perception of unity
among Muslims seemed to provide participants with feelings of self-esteem and
self-effi , as well as a sense of belonging among like-minded others.
There was a perception that anti-Zionism provided a means of regaining control and of exercising authority against a threatening outgroup:
I'm not going to just stand for the way they treat Palestinians, Muslims. They have got to be taught a lesson at the end of the day, that if you are going to mess with Muslims, then you're going to get shut down [ … ] If us Muslims aren't going to stand up when it's time, then who will? America? (Hamid, male)
Support for the economic and academic boycott of Israel and for affirmative action against Israel seemed to constitute the product of perceived threat against Muslim group continuity. Participants regarded Israel as posing realistic threats to the wellbeing and survival of Muslims and as posing symbolic threats to the norms, values and traditions associated with Islam. Hamid hypothesised that Israel would be “shut down” due to the threats it posed against Muslims. He clearly perceived a need to defeat Israel due to the threat that he believed Israel posed to ingroup continuity. Yet, despite the perceived threat, it appeared that his belief that Muslims would “stand up [to Israel] when it's time” provided him with a sense of empowerment against the Israeli outgroup. This was constructed as a necessity, given the perceived collusion of Israel and the US, but also as natural solidarity among religious ingroup members. Thus, there were clear benefits for the belonging and self-efficacy principles of identity.
Paradoxically, individuals accentuated anti-Zionism because it provided them with an opportunity to re-assert Muslim ingroup self-efficacy:
Iqbal (male): Only then [when Israel is defeated] will we be able to do the things that are important to us, the things that we want to do and things we need to do. While Israel is there, the Muslim world is like in a tight strait-jacket.
Interviewer: Are all Muslims in a strait-jacket?
Iqbal: Well, Palestinians are Muslims too and they can't lift a finger without
Israel. I hate that. I can't describe how angry it makes me.
For some participants, by “defeating” Israel, the Muslim ingroup would be able to realise important actions that were allegedly curtailed by Israel's existence. Iqbal argued that Palestinians, a subgroup within the Islamic Ummah, were unable to govern themselves and to make independent decisions regarding social, economic and religious affairs due to Israeli occupation. Iqbal referred to Israeli occupation and their perceived “control” of Muslims metaphorically as a “tight strait-jacket” which highlighted the perceived severity of Israeli control and reiterated imagery of Zionism (and by extension Israel) as a Nazi, fascist, dictatorial entity. Given the perceived religious solidarity with Palestinians, Iqbal seemed to perceive the lack
of control and competence among Palestinians (fellow Muslims) as threatening for his own sense of self-efficacy. He reported feelings of anger and hatred due to this decreased sense of self-efficacy, which indicated that a threat to ingroup efficacy also constituted a threat to personal self-efficacy. Crucially, participants' accounts suggested that, in order to alleviate and cope with the threat to Muslim ingroup self-efficacy, it would be necessary to defeat the “source” of the threat, namely the State of Israel: “While Israel is there, the Muslim world is like in a tight strait-jacket”. Thus, it was implied that only its destruction would “free” the Muslim world from this strait-jacket.
One means of coping with the threat of Israel was optimism regarding its “imminent” destruction. The Arab Spring was prophesied as the “beginning of the end” for Israel:
With what we're seeing in the Middle East now like the Arab Spring, Muslims are rising up, and it's the beginning of the end for Israel now. (Waqar, male)
The Arab Spring is all about taking control and Muslims are getting back into control, like they're getting their land back, the control of it. Where does that leave Israel? (Saba, female)
I think the whole Arab Spring has shown that defeating the State of Israel isn't going to be hard. It's [Israel] going downhill. People are rising up against dictators and Israel is like a dictator. I think it's just a matter of time before people take control of their own countries and their lives and that so they can start making their own decisions. (Mahnoor, female)
Israel's future was anchored to the Arab Spring in order to construct the Jewish State as being on the brink of destruction. Participants in the study appeared to modify and re-construe the social representation of the Arab Spring in order to construct it as central to Israel's demise (see Chapter 5). Given its conceptualisation as a “rogue state” and Zionist ideology as fascism, individuals appeared to position Israel alongside other authoritarian regimes in the Middle East which were being contested by their local populations in the Arab Spring uprisings. There was little appreciation of the democratic character of the State of Israel. The Arab Spring was viewed as evidence of Israel's downfall and, thus, seemed to provide hope that defeating Israel would be an easy task. Indeed, Saira highlighted that the Arab Spring heralded an uncertain future for Israel by asking “where does that leave Israel?” Israel was clearly perceived as a popularly opposed entity which would be defeated purely because “people are rising up against dictators”. Moreover, Saba anchored the Arab Spring to the notion of re-acquiring land that rightfully belonged to the Palestinian people, thereby anchoring anti-Zionism to a legitimate struggle for one's “own” land. It was implicitly argued that Palestinians too would re-acquire “their” land from Israel (“a dictator”). There was a strong belief among participants that Muslims were gradually regaining their self-efficacy (“control of
their own countries and lives”) and that the destruction of the State of Israel would constitute a natural outcome of their re-acquisition of this important principle of identity. Individuals optimistically anticipated the destruction of Israel, which itself seemed to perform positive functions for identity.
The British Pakistani Muslim individuals who participated in this study clearly perceived Zionism as threatening for identity but they exercised their agency over identity in deploying a strategy for successfully coping with this threat. There was an expectation that the Muslim ingroup would ultimately destroy Israel and replace it with a Palestinian state. There was a tension in participants' accounts between an overt anti-Zionism, which respondents proudly accentuated, and a covert antisemitism, which they attenuated through rhetorical and psychological strategies like compartmentalisation.