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As some of you know, my PhD research centred on the concept of belonging. We all feel the need to belong – whether to our families, our social groups, our sports clubs, our towns or our countries. Belonging is, amongst other things, to do with place – the role that place plays in our identity. My decision to move to Israel, for example, had a lot to do with my search for belonging. One of the conclusions of my research was that threats to belonging induce hostile reactions, and therefore that recognizing the belonging of the Other would help to reduce the level of violence in this or any other region. Belonging is about narrative – about the collective stories that we weave into our own personal stories. I am fairly certain that I will be returning to the theme of belonging fairly regularly in this blog, both because it remains of considerable interest to me even after completing my doctorate, and because I believe it to be of great significance in our ongoing conflict.

An article in yesterday’s edition of Haaretz newspaper suggested that between 1967 and 1994 Israel canceled the residency rights of around 140,000 Palestinians from the West Bank. Palestinians who travelled abroad and stayed out of the country for a period exceeding six years, without extending their permits, found themselves stripped of the right to return to their homes. A similar procedure is still in place, apparently, for Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. As opposed toIsrael’s approach to Israeli Jews who have moved abroad, to whom Israel grants generous financial incentives in an attempt to persuade them to return, Israel quietly but effectively forced thousands of Palestinians out of the country.

Israel regularly demands that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state – in effect a demand to recognize the Jewish narrative of belonging. Yet Israel also consistently denies the Palestinian narrative of belonging. Recognizing each other’s rights to belong would be a good place to start a process towards building a viable peace agreement.



2 thoughts on “Belonging

  1. Your last paragraph needs to be repeated and repeated and repeated.

    This requires people (on all sides) with a strong need to belong being able to recognise that accepting someone else’s rights to belong should in no way weaken their own claims to belong. I don’t know how you move the discourse away from security, and perception of threats to a discourse about belonging. This ought to allow the idea of overlapping or parallel claims to belong that do not have to be competitive. Belonging is not a zero-sum game.

    Posted by Simon | May 12, 2011, 2:33 pm
  2. Thank you, Simon.
    One of the reasons that I think belonging is an important yet under-utilised concept is precisely because it is not a zero-sum game. I believe that all sides can recognize the belonging of the Other – and once we recognize that, we will be able to move forward. Belonging to this place is actually something we have in common – and something we could use as a building block in the attempt to build lasting peace.

    Posted by jerusalempeaceseeker | May 13, 2011, 12:42 pm

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