Israel Bio-Power Bio-Politics (Deleuze-Foucault)

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When did Israeli politics turn into bio-politics? A bio-poltics or bio-power of “populations, controlling and administering life, it is indeed life that emerges as the new object of power.” The new Israeli politics is organized around, if not race, than identity, “precious space, conditions of life and the survival of a population that believes itself to be better than its enemy, which it now treats not as the juridical enemy of the old sovereign but as a toxic or infectious agent, a sort of ‘biological danger’” (Deleuze, Foucault 76).

You see it in the new Israel identity politics of Yisrael Beitunu (Our Home Israel), Yesh Atid (There’s A Future), and Bayit Ha’Yehudi (The Jewish Home), the collapse of the Labor Party and the semi-hostile takeover of the Likud by super rightwing religious elements from the West Bank.

The new Israeli bio-politics are evidenced by the arguments about demographics and populations, anti-democratic legislation seeking to fix and advance the Jewish identity of “the State” and to secure a “people,” physically and politically, the construction of the Separation Barrier alongside and inside Palestinian territories in the wake of the Second Intifada (2001), the violent and garden variety forms of racism and segregation, the land grabbing and space utilization on both sides of the Green Line, the environmental pressures put upon a small place with disappearing green spaces, the construction of highways and strip malls, economic privatization, biometrics, and other high tech proliferations.

It’s something new. Rooted back into the 1920s and 1930s, the old politics in Israel into the 1970s was based not on identity per se, not on bare identity and bare life, but on ideology, such as socialism and nationalism. Identity was always a part of the picture and drove agendas, but identity was more stable and object-like, an internal and cohesive core background that could be taken for granted. And the scale of the country and its pace or tempo remained slower, more human. With the collapse of ideology in the 1980s and the intensification of populations, populations alien to the secular, Ashkenazi mainstream, identity becomes more elusive, forcing the politics of the place to turn more and more openly around the politics of place and the politics of population-identity.

Religion and technology are critical levers to bio-power, bio-politics in Israel. Human beings have nothing to do with it, just identities.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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