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A Conversation with Raef Zreik: “What’s in the Apartheid Analogy? Palestine/Israel Refracted”

February 13 @ 10:30 am - 12:00 pm

In this conversation I will probe the political imaginary that frames and nurtures the increasingly used analogy of present-day Palestine/Israel to apartheid South Africa. This inquires as to why the analogy has gained momentum only in the last two decades and seeks to explain the circumstances of its emergence. First, I discuss the construction of the apartheid regime in South Africa, and give an account of the historico-political conditions that made it both “necessary” and possible. Then I suggest four key factors that were crucial to the manufacturing of apartheid as a structure of social life as well as a lens through which one conceives and organizes the experience thereof: labor relations; political theology; geo-political unit(s); and role and function of language(s). These factors created a background of unity within which the fact of separation became apprehensible. As such, I conceive of apartheid as a regime of separation(s) within a unifying frame, real or imaginable. Then I demonstrate how in Palestine/Israel, despite realizing similar objectives of separation and domination, these very factors have resulted in dissimilar political dynamics. Taken together, these dynamics have impeded the emergence of a common imaginary of politics within which separation organizes experience. The image that has prevailed in Palestine/Israel is one of two communities living apart, but not of blatant “apartheid.”

Raef Zreik (SJD, Harvard Law School) is the academic co-director of the Minerva Center for the humanities at Tel Aviv University. His fields of expertise include legal and political theory, citizenship and identity, and legal interpretation.

Co-sponsored by the UF International Center and the Center for Global Islam

The event is open for faculty and students.


February 13
10:30 am - 12:00 pm


Turlington Hall, Room 3302