- Mediating Feminist Homes and Exiles:Gendering Racial Formations during the Al-Aqsa Intifada
Du-kiyyum in Hebrew means co-existence. It has become shorthand for a phenomenon describing an idiosyncratic genre of Palestinian and Israeli 'get togethers' to process old grievances and possibilities for a long hoped-for peace. Often, a professionally trained group facilitator aids the process. Usually, the Israelis likely to participate come from the Ashkenazi upper middle classes. The likely meeting grounds are wonderland retreats planted amid magnificent nature that is to supply the relaxed atmosphere to allow for the genies of the past to emerge safely and heal. If outside Israel, this du-kiyyum is discussed in English. This further limits the composition of participants, since in the non-English speaking world, upper class cosmopolitanism and English proficiency go hand in hand. If in Israel, the temporally and spatially bounded exercise in du-kiyyum is habitually performed in Hebrew, the colonisers' language. Subaltern Palestinians speak it fluently. The Israeli participants are not likely to speak Arabic. In an era where the public sphere has gone through NGO-isation, du-kiyyum is a magic key, the surest road for NGO funding of local projects. In late 2002, the whole peace'n'dialogue industry rolled in about 9 million dollars of US and EU tax deductible donations a year.1 Yet the relationships between Palestinians and Israelis have not [End Page 217] equalised. The state of Israel is yet to undo its structural apartheid. The state of Palestine is yet to be independent, free, and with its own Law of Return. No wonder some Palestinians have dubbed du-kiyyum with the sardonic affectionate nickname 'dukki'.
When I lived in Berkeley, California, way before the 2000 al-Aqsa Intifada broke out, I, too, used to do dukki. Those were the days before the professionalisation of NGOs and the dot-com revolution. The whole San Francisco Bay Area was one big progressive to radical wonderland retreat with affordable rents. Far removed from the vicissitudes of life in the Middle East, the Israeli-Palestinian hierarchy of privilege and oppression lost its urgent immediacy and allowed us, community and scholarly activists, whether exiles from the Arab World or Arab-Americans and American Jews, to use our process groups to radicalise our political action. Multiply positioned, we tried to avoid the simplistic Israel-Palestine dualism in favour of in-depth understanding of the class-afflicted Palestinian society, on the one hand, and Israel's Ashkenazi hegemony and its resultant anti-Arab racism, on the other. In this context, Arabs were Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
A family tragedy brought me back to Israel in 1999. Those were the wagging days of the Oslo peace festival's tail end, when no one seemed to notice the Oslo by-products: unemployment and hunger in Mizrahi and Palestinian communities. I could not but notice the incongruence between the dukki bash of the elites and the vicissitudes of post-Oslo life for the women whose production line jobs were outsourced from Palestine and Israel into cheaper labour spheres due to the so-called peace dividend. As the Ashkenazi and Palestinian BCBGs enjoyed the foreign capital, I became quite grim as I tried to chart those dukki's horizons. I recoiled from my activism for Palestine and turned to my own Mizrahi, Arab-Jewish community. Empowering Mizrahi women to resist the Oslo peace process and the patriotism and benevolence of the so-called Israeli Left, I concurrently tried to deconstruct the home these women thought they had found in the Greater Eretz Israeli Right. In the many teach-ins, workshops and lectures I participated in the last seven years, I hoped for a learning process in which the women in my community would unearth the historical conjuncture between the Arab and Jewish components of who they are on the one hand, and the political and economic consequences of this conjuncture within apartheid-Israel, on the other. Only then would we be able to de-Ashkenazify as...