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Jews, Arabs, and Government Officials: Power Relations Inside Israel

A lecture by Dr. David Wesley

Dr. David A. Wesley Writes About Himself

Born in the US, I came to Israel in 1955, motivated by a personally felt commitment to Jewish history and the rebirth of the Jewish people. As a kibbutz member, I worked for many years in agriculture and in kibbutz management and public service. Gradually, I became aware of issues of land expropriation and exclusion shaping the experience of the Palestinian Arab population in Israel.

I began my studies at age 45, receiving a B.A. in Economics in 1981, and then an M.A. in Sociology and Anthropology, and finally a PhD in 2002, all at Tel Aviv University. My doctoral research, spanning an entire decade and using anthropological research methods, focused on relations between Arab towns in Israel, their Jewish neighbors, and government officials.

It is probably well recognized that all research has a political dimension, sometimes only implicitly, in the choice of problem to be investigated and in the kind of explanations that are entertained as legitimate. My own connection to the questions I raised in my doctoral research was indeed political and, at the same time, very personal, shaped over the long period of time I had spent as a citrus grower in the orchards of the kibbutz where I lived for thirty years of my adult life. The former Palestinian owners of the land, displaced by the 1948 war and dispersed in remaining Arab towns in the area, found employment picking the fruit in the kibbutz orchards, while I supervised their work. Over the years, the questions I was asking myself became generalized, but they always retained a kernel of personal identification and experience at their core. Issues of land ownership, access to resources, and narrative were encapsulated in that experience.

My book State Practices and Zionist Images: Shaping Economic Development in Arab Towns in Israel, based on and expanded from my doctoral research, was published by Berghahn Books in New York and Oxford in 2006. A paperback edition is due out in November 2008. I am proud to say that the book has a Foreword by Emanuel Marx, preeminent Israeli anthropologist.

My book, and the research on which it is based, are the gift that I would like to give back to my world, in return for the gift of life that I have enjoyed. I have come to feel – over the years and in the course of the research I pursued – that it is necessary to challenge conventional thinking and action in order to secure outcomes that will be more advantageous for all the citizens of Israel, Jews and Arabs alike. I believe that my work resonates well with principles calling for change that will bring about social and political equality for all, and shared economic development, “an Israel in which every individual is part of an inclusive society with a positive shared future.”

 


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