This article examines the primary means by which Israeli settler colonialism has appropriated and reconfigured Jerusalem since 1948—discursively no less than physically. It analyzes how the Jewish state, building on the colonial suppositions and discourses of the pre-1948 Zionist movement, has sought to efface Palestinian attachments to and histories in this contested urban realm. This piece foregrounds the life and works of Jewish Israeli philosopher Martin Buber and the binationalist, antistatist politics he sought to build in Palestine with the indigenous Arab populations before the creation of Israel in 1948. However, it also offers a critique of the ways in which even Buber and other Zionist binationalists’ dovish political positions were implicated in settler colonialism and the displacement and erasure of the Palestinians. The article details some of the ways in which the mobilization of presence and absence has been crucial to Israel’s colonization of Jerusalem and how they have been utilized in the service of the state’s drive for exclusive control over this symbolically potent city. This is done, principally, through a reading of the Palestinian house in Jerusalem in which Buber resided during his first four years in the country: the family home of Palestinian scholar and activist Edward Said. This article explores the relationship between the exiled intellectual, Said, and this structure, commandeered by Zionist forces in 1948. This article also explores some of Said’s views on colonial landscapes and binationalist futures for Israelis and Palestinians.
Edward Said’s Home, Martin Buber’s Mailbox: The “Terrible Silences” of Israeli Colonial Jerusalem
Thomas Abowd teaches in the Colonialism Studies and American Studies Programs at Tufts University. He is the author of Colonial Jerusalem: The Spatial Construction of Identity and Difference, 1948–2012 (2014). He is currently working on a book project on neoliberal urban space, states of emergency, and the Flint and Detroit water catastrophes.
Thomas Abowd; Edward Said’s Home, Martin Buber’s Mailbox: The “Terrible Silences” of Israeli Colonial Jerusalem. Social Text 1 September 2019; 37 (3): 73–92. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7585062
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