- Mo(ve)ments of Resistance: Politics, Economy and Society in Israel/Palestine 1931–2013 by Lev Luis Grinberg
Lev Luis Grinberg’s Mo(ve)ments of Resistance provides a comprehensive analysis of Israeli society, which focuses on conflict, change, and stability in power structures. Despite its title, this is not a traditional book on social movements in the sense that it does not discuss and analyze in great detail movements’ strategy, tactics, leadership, and culture. In fact, at times the discussion of the movement itself takes no more than a few pages. Instead, as the subtitle suggests, the book offers a political and economic analysis of Israel/Palestine, told through the lens of seven contentious “mo(ve)ments” of resistance and rebellion. As the book argues, these mo(ve)ments of resistance had the potential to open up political space for greater representation of subjugated populations such as Mizrahi Jews (of Middle Eastern and North African origin), Palestinians, and the working class. The strength of the book is in its scope and ability to cover ground that goes beyond these moments of resistance. Each chapter contextualizes one moment of resistance, connecting the participating movement to broader structural, economic, and political processes, and highlighting the countermobilization of established political actors. With breadth and depth, the book details a history of stable structural forces, moments of resistance and (some) change, and the counterforces that attempt to curtail or at least limit change to the existing structure of the state and the economy. Ultimately, the book provides a nuanced analysis of political evolution in Israeli society.
In theoretical terms, the book uses the concept of political space to analyze the strength and substance of democratic regimes. Political space is a dynamic space that at its best serves to contain social conflicts by means of recognition and representation. Yet, the space can be closed by power holders through subtle acts of domination, particularly nonrecognition and mis-recognition of dominated groups, and thus rendering the democratic arrangement hollow, empty of meaning, and essentially imagined. Analyzing Israel, the author convincingly concludes that Israel is an “imagined” or “illusionary” democracy, which consistently closes the political space to subordinated groups such as the working class, Mizrahi Jews, and Palestinians.
One of the mo(ve)ments of resistance on which the analysis focuses is a little known Arab-Jewish anticolonial strike in 1931 that was based on joint class interests, and which, despite its success, was short-lived and soon thereafter replaced with separate nationalist, segregationist, hegemonic mobilizations of Jews and Arabs in Palestine. Other movements the book details are the Wadi Salib riots (1959) and the Black Panthers’ ethnic mobilization (1971) against discrimination of Mizrahi Jews. As Grinberg illustrates, these protests were ultimately repressed and co-opted, even when their claims gained traction and legitimacy (especially in 1971). These protests of Mizrahi Jews were effectively channeled and manipulated by existing political actors, blocking the budding Mizrahi leadership from establishing their own political platforms. The book also discusses various workers’ mobilizations and provides a fascinating analysis of the first Palestinian national uprising (intifada). In Grinberg’s analysis, the First Intifada created an opening of the political space to recognition of and negotiation with the Palestinians. The opening was facilitated by the Israeli military and economic [End Page 151] elites’ demand to find a political solution to the Palestinian uprising, and was manifested by the election to power of the Labor Party and Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister. This led to negotiations with Palestinian leadership, in the secret Oslo Accords, and in Washington. Despite these gains in opening the political space and recognizing Palestinian collective identity, the Intifada was not successful in generating an Israeli response that would effectively address the Palestinian concerns and needs. The signing of the Oslo Declaration of Principles (DOP) provided symbolic recognition of the Palestinians, without conceding any of Israel’s privileges in the Occupied Territories. While the continued negotiations had the potential to further open the political space, the assassination of Rabin and the...