"They go to get a gun": Hidden histories of violence and the politics of rumour in Israel

By Una McGahern
Submitted to Session P4413 (Religion and Secularism in Palestine and Israel, 2016 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
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In October 2012, a government-initiated forum took place in the Arab city of Nazareth to promote, in collaboration with local church representatives, the enlistment of Palestinian Christians. Although Christians have, together with Muslims, been historically exempt from the draft since it was first introduced in 1950, some young men have joined up on a voluntary basis. “Why”, as Rhoda Ann Kanaaneh (2003: 6) put it, “have these men elected to engage in behavior widely condemned in their communities? Why have they chosen to serve in the army of a state that colonized them and that is occupying and fighting other Palestinians only a few miles away?” Couched in nationalist language and tropes of “model citizens” or “traitors”, “opportunists” or “dupes”, the absence of statistical data on the number and ethno-religious breakdown of volunteers, has fed rumours and stereotypes about the alleged proclivities of certain communities towards military service. This paper examines the role, and significance, of rumours in these debates and in wider processes of securitization on the margins of a deeply divided society. Focusing on the rumour that Christians “go to get a gun”, this paper seeks to reveal the issues and challenges in framing, and analysing, the complex material realities and political subjectivities of ethno-national minorities living in a highly militarised context.