Territory as the Kernel of the nation: Space, time and nationalism in Israel/Palestine

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The article deals with the relations between time and space in the making of modern nations, focusing on conditions of territorial conflicts in general, and on expansionist 'ethnocratic' societies in particular. Under such conditions, it is argued, territory (the 'where' of the nation) becomes a most vital 'kernel' of national mobilisation, while the history of national origins (the 'when') tends to become mythical and homogenous, used chiefly to boost the territorial struggle. A geographical critique of dominant theories of nationalism is presented, focusing on their 'spatial blindness' and analytical fusion of nation and state. These deficiencies are conspicuous in ethnocratic societies, where the 'national project' does not aspire to merge nation and state, but on the contrary, to essentialise and segregate group identities. While the 'when' and the 'where' of the nation are still intimately intertwined, it is the latter that provides the core of nation-building. The claim is substantiated through a detailed account of Zionist and Palestinian nationalisms. In recent decades, the struggle over land has shaped the two national cultures as intensely territorial, with a wide range of symbols, values and practices intimately attached to settlement and land control, pitting Jewish hitnahalut (settlement) verses Palestinian sumud (steadfastness). Territorial issues, however, remain the 'kernel' of Zionist and Palestinian national mobilisation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-248
Number of pages34
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2002


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