Rebecca L. Stein

Bir Zeit University

The students in Birzeit University’s Israel Studies program are “trying to produce Palestinian knowledge of Israeli society” through critical engagement with Israeli culture, politics and society. In the process, they are fundamentally remaking the dominant paradigm of Israel Studies as it has been configured in the United States and increasingly in Great Britain, with its proud “advocacy” mandate on behalf of the Israeli state. Birzeit’s program turns this paradigm inside out, providing students with a radical alternative.

Among the numerous ideological affinities and governing styles shared by Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a commitment to the rhetoric of “fake news.” In the last year, Netanyahu has increasingly borrowed this Trumpian formulation in an attempt to quell dissent and undercut critical Israeli and international media scrutiny.

Rebecca L. Stein talks with Rela Mazali, a founding member of the Israeli feminist organization Gun Free Kitchen Table which is working to decrease small arms proliferation in the Israeli public sphere and to eliminate the violence facilitated by easy access to firearms. In March the organization issued the report “Loose Guns: Israeli Controlled Small Arms in the Civil Sphere,” which finds that Israeli civil sphere is dangerously over-armed and that this condition has been normalized within mainstream Jewish Israeli society.

Rela Mazali is one of the founders of the Israeli feminist organization New Profile, Movement for the Demilitarization of Israeli Society. Founded in 1988, the activist organization is committed to educating the Israeli public about the centrality of war culture within Israeli society, to advancing demilitarization, and to supporting Israeli youth who refuse their compulsory service in the Israeli army. In Mazali’s words: “We’ve become an army with a state, instead of a state with an army. We need to reduce the hold of the military, and of militarized thinking, on the moves of our country and the courses of our lives.” Rebecca L. Stein recently spoke to Mazali in Tel Aviv.