"A Girl So Quiet Will Do Everything We Tell Her:" The Authority of Emotions for Zionism in 1940s Iraq

By Chelsie May
Submitted to Session P4910 (Arab, Jewish, and Arab Jewish Critiques of Zionism, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries;
Formative discussions of Zionism in Iraq (Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, Bashkin 2012) focus on how the Zionist establishment in Palestine (specifically its emissaries) and Iraqi authorities shaped Zionist authority among Iraqi Jews. These studies are at times deeply descriptive of Iraqi Jewish action and feeling vis-à-vis Zionism, but with their focus on emissaries and authorities, they also produce a curiosity about what animated those individuals who became Zionist Jews in Iraq. At this juncture, my paper asks, " What do the emotions of love, intimacy and disappointment expressed within letter writing among Hahalutz ("the Pioneer Movement") Jewish women in 1940s Iraq reveal about Zionism's authority?" Love, intimacy and disappointment show themselves to be illustrative through their prevalence in the letters of Hahalutz women. By theorizing these emotions, the paper will show that criticisms of Zionist activities and expressions of intimate bonds among Hahalutz members were defining features for engendering Zionist authority in Iraq. Containing the subjects of my paper to women is done because the production of a binary gender in these letters is of a piece of Zionist authority making.
Based on the influence of the Zionist movement in Palestine, and Iraqi Jews at their first Zionist conference calling the movement, "A socialist pioneering movement (Bashkin, 203)," Zionism is defined in this paper as a movement to establish a Jewish majority, autonomous homeland in Palestine, characterized by a socialist ideology. At its height in 1948, the movement had no more than 2,000 members (Meir-Glitzenstein, 264). Roughly one-third of these members were women (Mei-Glitzenstein 116). Many of its sympathizers were from the educated, lower-middle class (Meir-Glitzenstein 88). While relatively few Iraqis were Zionists and many Iraqi Jews found expression in Iraqi nationalism, Pan-Arabism and Communism, specifying the relationship between individuals and the Movement does less to exceptionalize Zionism than it does to further refine emotions toward this movement.
In working with emotions, this paper draws from Sara Ahmed's "The Cultural Politics of Emotion," which explores the shaping of bodies by emotions in relation to nation-state movements. How exactly movements can be coercive through love is fleshed out with Elizabeth A. Povinelli's "The Empire of Love: Toward a Theory of Intimacy, Genealogy, and Carnality." Within these perimeters, authority is not necessarily engendered negatively, emotions such as disappointment are just as noteworthy as love, and intimacy among HaHalutz members demonstrates the deepest attachments the Zionist movement encouraged in Iraq.