Ambiguous citizenship: the civic status of the Palestinian citizens of Israel
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This dissertation examines the ambiguous status of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. It focuses on three events: the 1956 Kafar Qasem massacre, the 1976 Land Day events, and the October 2000 shootings. It argues that neither a civic-republican nor a liberal-democratic understanding of the concept of "citizenship" provide an adequate account of the status of this minority. The interplay between these conceptions of citizenship exemplifies the constant tension between Israel's two defining characteristics -- as the Jewish homeland and a liberal-democratic state. The dissertation argues that the political theories of Hannah Arendt and Carl Schmitt offer a more promising articulation of this status. While the state-official responses to these cases vary, they do share one common aspect -- the shooting and killing of Palestinian citizens by state security forces. These point to a clear course taken by the state of setting the lives of its Palestinian inhabitants in constant political and civil unpredictability. The tension between the civic-republican and the liberal-democratic conceptions of citizenship is sufficient to explain some of the inequality endured by the Palestinian minority. Nevertheless, the dissertation will argue that these watershed events in Israeli history point not simply to the inequality of the Palestinian citizens, but raise the troubling question of whether, in effect, Palestinians are treated as citizens at all. The second part of the dissertation draws on the work of Hannah Arendt and Carl Schmitt to explore two alternative ways of analyzing the status of the Palestinian minority. Arendt's understanding of power and violence clarifies the varied outcomes of the cases, and her account of the condition of "statelessness" suggests that the Palestinians' status is better understood as that of stateless-citizens. Carl Schmitt's notion of the "state of exception" provides a troubling articulation of the state's use of a constant sense of emergency. His distinction between "friend" and "enemy" suggests the treatment of the Palestinian citizens is best understood as that of internal enemies. Taken together, these approaches shed light on the reality in which the Palestinians live as citizens, a reality of uncertainty, unpredictability and animosity.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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