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Our Sisters' Promised Land

Women, Politics, and Israeli-Palestinian Coexistence

Ayala Emmett

Publication Year: 1996

In this powerful and timely book, Ayala H. Emmett examines the political roles of women in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Emmett's insights come from numerous trips to the region that included in-depth interviews with many of the participants. Excerpts from the interviews give voice to the women who played vitally important yet often overlooked roles in the political transformations of the contemporary Middle East. Emmett's observations on women's actions in political venues have global implications, transcending the specific political and social contexts of the region and shedding light on both the strengths of female activism and the resistances of male political institutions. Emmett investigates the successes and failures of women in the Israeli political landscape, particularly the harassment experienced during the leadership of Right and ultra-Right groups before the ascension to office of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Her account of women's activism in Israel provides a rich backdrop for viewing the compelling events that have taken place in the Middle East throughout the 1990s and offer insights into the future of women's political activism, both in the ever-changing Israeli political climate and in the broader world of women in politics. "Brilliant in conception and theory, based on superb fieldwork, and clearly written for both specialist and non-specialist reader." --Maurie Sacks, Montclair State University "A groundbreaking study. . . .Ayala Emmett brings an unusual voice of clarity into the muddled politics of the Middle East. Where most studies ignore or marginalize women's role in the peace process, Emmett highlights women as political actors and shows their capacity to bridge the chasm between two hostile peoples." --Cynthia Saltzman, Rutgers University, Camden Ayala Emmett is Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Rochester.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Women and Culture Series

Title Page

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pp. iii

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pp. v-xviii

For most Americans, violence, anger, and revenge have become the daily face of the Middle East on their television screens. The Promised Land, in national and local newspapers, has become synonymous with severe occupation and horrific suicide bombings...

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Author's Note

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pp. xix

Yitzhak Rabin, Israel's prime minister, was assassinated on November 4, 1995, at a public event, a peace rally, in Tel Aviv. He was killed by an ultraRight Israeli Jew who opposed Rabin's peace politics. As prime minister since 1992, Rabin was a key leader in changing the state's official policy...

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pp. xxi

I am most grateful to all the women peace activists in Israel and in the Occupied Territories who made this book possible. I want to thank the Department of Anthropology at the University of Manchester and Marilyn Strathern, the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at...


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pp. xxiii

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pp. 1-17

In 1990, when I went to Israel to do an ethnographic project on women's peace activism, words like peace, coexistence, and Palestinians were silenced in official public discourse. Three years later, after the display of two internationally legitimated Middle East peace agreements, it was hard to...

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1. Citizens of the State and Political Women

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pp. 19-41

Friday afternoon is a time in Israel when the public domain, stores, businesses, and offices, close down in preparation for the Sabbath, and roads teem with cars heading home, making their way through narrow streets and overcrowded highways. The Women in Black-Nashim Beshahor, as they...

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2. On the Borders of Nations: Sororal Transnational Territory

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pp. 43-96

On November 18,1991, the newspaper Hadashot published a striking photograph of an exuberant group of Israeli-Jewish women peace activists holding hands with Hannan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestinian delegation to the 1991 Middle East peace talks in Madrid, where she had been...

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3. A Socialist God of Justice: Between Fundamentalism and the Secular Left

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pp. 97-131

On an evening in June 1990, in a hotel in Jerusalem that is frequented by religious Jews, four women panelists were sitting at a long table facing an audience of about a hundred people, mostly women. The panelists were addressing a conference entitled "Religious Women for Peace"...

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4. East Confronts West: What the Left Eye of Israel Does Not See

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pp. 133-170

In July 1990 about 130 women for peace and 5 men from the Peace Camp gathered in Tel Aviv to participate in a conference entitled "Peace and Identities in Israeli Society: The Place of Mizrahi Women in Political Activities." This conference, jointly sponsored by Reshet Nashim Leshalom and a...

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5. A Political Upheaval: Meanings of Peace and Coexistence

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pp. 171-209

In June 1992 a public event of profound significance took place in Israel: after fifteen years in power, the Likud Party lost the elections, and the Labor Party, together with Meretz, formed an essentially Left government, including its position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. State politics had been...

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6. When Locals Meet the Global

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pp. 211-227

Women's peace activism in Israel illuminates more than the various contours of Israel's political life. The spread of the Israeli Women in Black to places around the globe and the employment of Western feminism by women peace activists offer critical insights to the riveting recent phenomenon...

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Conclusion: The Margins Illuminating Politics

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pp. 229-240

Ethnographic projects such as this book on women's peace activism in Israel involve two stages. They begin with fieldwork, the gathering of material away from home, over "there"; the projects expand into the writing phase, which usually takes place "here," when anthropologists return home. Yet, as...


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pp. 241-254


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pp. 255-263

Glossary of Hebrew Terms

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pp. 265-266


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pp. 267-278

E-ISBN-13: 9780472024971
E-ISBN-10: 0472024973
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472089307
Print-ISBN-10: 0472089307

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 1996

Series Title: Women and Culture Series