Environmentalism has been central to the construction of Israel as a modern nation and society, yet despite its prominent role in shaping national identities, spaces, and meanings, the complex interactions involved in Israeli environmentalism are rarely explored. Both public and academic representations of environmentalism regard it in an abstract way, as detached from Israel’s most important dynamics and tensions. As a consequence, the workings of the Israeli political economy, nationalism, and ethnic politics in and through environmentalism, as well as the rise of new forms of environmentalism (Palestinian, urban “neo liberal”) remain occluded, and much of the power embedded in environmentalism is depoliticized and overlooked.
This talk addresses environmentalism in Israel by considering the relationship between micro and macro politics, with the much-debated solitary farms project in the Negev desert as a model. Looking into the environmental histories that are at play in this Negev debate, and their political utilization, offers a more complex way to analyze conflicts over nature (land, water, landscapes) and the role environmentalism plays throughout the country.
Miri Lavi-Neeman is a doctoral candidate at the Geography Department at UC Berkeley, and a research fellow at the Institute for international Studies, UC Berkeley. She previously studied Philosophy and Philosophy of Education at Tel Aviv University.
Born and raised in Israel, she worked for many years in Israel leading environmental organization. Prior to arriving to Berkeley she was a fellow at the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership and founding editor of “Hakadur Beyadenu,” [“the Ball is in Our Court”], the Israeli journal for social-environmental education. Her talk reports on a 14-month study for which she was a visiting scholar at the Blaustein Institute for Desert Research of the Ben -Gurion University.