The proliferation of voluntary and grassroots relief initiatives during the recent ‘refugee crisis’ in Europe brought renewed attention to the feelings, desires, and motivations that prompt aid workers and volunteers to engage in humanitarian actions. The article expands on this interest in ‘the need to help’ and in the care of the self that humanitarian engagements involve by looking at another layer of humanitarian affectivity–the need to hope–that bears on the helpers and on their aid activities in an intimate and yet impersonal way. I demonstrate how the helpers’ experience of living in an impasse and their tentative coping with political stuckness and paralysis find expression in their humanitarian subjectivities and relief programs, and how their humanitarian encounters and the affects they trigger are entangled with the crisis of the future that their own political communities face. The analysis focuses on two refugee relief projects that were carried out by civil society organizations from Israel in Europe since 2015, in which the resonance between the refugees’ predicament and the crisis of hope that the Jewish helpers from Israel confronted was mobilized as an affective and an operational resource. I show that the normalization of the Israeli occupation and its view as an intractable condition had contrasting effects upon the helpers’ political and humanitarian expectations, fostering both a minor humanitarianism that reaffirmed resilience as a prime political virtue, and a visionary humanitarianism that sought to leverage the humanitarian exception as a platform for practical utopianism.
- Israeli politics
- crisis ordinariness