Professor of Medieval History, Tel Aviv University
No analysis of colonialism can dispense with the issues of the division of the spoils and its specific profit-generating mechanisms. The complex questions involved have seldom been addressed in Israel’s case. The paper focuses on Israel’s first decade (1948–1958) and, given the current state of research, offers a preliminary sketch of some mechanisms of enrichment and appropriation and of the social groups who owe their wealth to the military rule imposed on Palestinians in Israel. It is based on my current research on dispossession, eviction and resettlement in the early 1950s, studied at the local level; I shall use examples from the Beer Sheba district, and offer some glimpses of analogous processes in the Galilee and the Triangle. This has significant implications, I believe, for our understanding of class formation under settler colonialism, and at the time, of the conditions of Palestinian survival within the newly established state.
In terms of the production of evidence, the paper began with oral accounts of Bedouin deportation and dispossession, originally encountered in the context of my political work. It led, however, to Israel’s military archive, state archive, the archives of the Supreme Court and several kibbutzim. Their intricate articulation of these heterogeneous sites and the specific constraints on the production of historical knowledge arise in this case not simply from the legacy of past colonial violence and unequal access to modes of transmission, but from the fact that this is very much not history as passé, a finished story, but part of the present.
Gadi Algazi is a historian and social activist. He is professor of medieval history at the Department of History at Tel Aviv University, and associate research fellow at the International Research on the history of labor in its global context at Humboldt University, Berlin. He is member of the editorial board of Past & Present and previously served as senior editor of the journal History & Memory (2001–2012). He was fellow at the Max Planck Institute of History (Göttingen), the Max Planck Institute of the History of Science (Berlin) and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, and visiting professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris) and the Free University (Berlin). Research interests include late medieval and early modern social and cultural history; historical anthropology; the history and theory of the social sciences; settler colonialism and frontier societies.