Glenna Anton

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Department:
Geography
Term:
Fall 2010

My research investigates the changing political geography of Israel as understood through everyday practices and struggles over water pipes, and their part in the construction of hydraulic infrastructure in the Galilee, Israel’s contested northern frontier. Struggles over hydraulic infrastructure, homely as they may seem, are redefining the relations between citizenship and nation among both Jews and Arabs. My proposed research project is designed to trace the shifts and larger political implications of struggles over access to municipal water infrastructure over time. I plan to undertake research in the Galilee because unlike the rest of Israel, the Galilee is rich in water and has a large engaged population of Arab citizens. Historically, therefore, the Israeli state’s justification for dispossessing Arab communities and making way for Jewish settlement in the Galilee could not rely on the notion of an empty, barren and derelict land. Instead, selective implementation of municipal infrastructure in Arab villages became a means of “Judaization” and dispossession. The new forms of politics that privileged water infrastructure required ideological and practical work in order to comprehend and deal with the reality and resistance to disconnection from municipal infrastructure in the Galilee. Such resistance and methods of dispossession are today being reworked just as they continue to play a crucial role in the organization of governance and geography in Israel. My research examines the role played by the long history of struggle over access to municipal water infrastructure in the Galilee together with the role of the host of NGOs that have cropped up since the mid-1980s to struggle for access to basic services in Arab villages in the politics that is now coalescing around laying water pipes. Indeed, since the outbreak of the second Intifada in 2000, Arab NGOs’ efforts to use the law to gain access to municipal water infrastructure has faced mounting bureaucratic obstacles. New forms of resistance among Palestinian and Bedouin groups in Israel are emerging. The issues involved in struggles over water pipes cut to the contradictions at the heart of Israel’s current legitimation crisis - namely the tensions between the values and institutions of liberal egalitarianism on the one hand, and the ongoing realities of racialized dispossession, exclusion, segregation and violence on the other. The “bottom-up” approach that I use is grounded in practices rather than in the dynamics of international negotiations over water resources. Thus, the study will advance understanding of the deeper issues at stake in Arab-Israeli struggles over water.