Social Issues

Samer Alatout on achieving peace in Gaza and Israel

UW-Madison sociology professor Samer Alatout, a native of Palestine, shares thoughts about nationalism, the historical relationship between Palestinians and Israelis, and building a democratic state.

By Aditi Debnath | Here & Now

November 21, 2023

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Samer Alatout:
What is really important to acknowledge is that we need to move away from ideas that are tired and failed that come to us from the 19th and 20th centuries. Ideas like nationalism, right? You cannot build a democratic state between the river and the sea if you hold on to the idea of the nation. If you think as a Jew, you can only identify with the Jew, and if you're Palestinian, you can only identify with the Palestinian. Those notions of a nation were built precisely because elites wanted to control the place. So they propagate the notion that, "Oh, we are all French, we are all English." in order to mobilize people for war, for expansion, for settlement, for colonialism, any number of things, right? So the idea of a nation itself is a stupid idea, or at least that's what I think. I mean, people will disagree with me, probably everybody will be. But what we need to do is to try to figure out a way to think outside the box and understand how to generate and celebrate relations that go beyond the nation, right? And that bring a very human kind of element to the discussion that is happening. So, you know, I mean, Jews and Palestinians, for example, within Palestine, there were Jews, right? Always and so many in my hometown actually, because like before 1948, they were married to Jewish women. I mean, they lived in, I know them, right? In some families. So it's not like people before, before this Israeli war of elimination, this genocidal war against the Palestinians, it's not like people didn't interact, right? I mean, they probably had their own understanding of each other and like some stereotyping and stuff like that but they interacted all the time and is it possible to build a society that's actually empty of nationalism and national rhetoric, right? And to understand that the connections between Palestinians and Israelis are much more than what divides them.

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