Ambivalence, Amity, and Enmity in Israel/Palestine

  • Derek Jonathan Penslar (Author)


Israel/Palestine is often read through the lens of protracted and violent conflict. In contrast, this contribution takes a closer look at the emotional history of Jewish-Arab relations in the twentieth century, which was shaped by both resentment and mutual fascination. Based on a combination of primary sources (books, speeches, diaries), the article argues that both Jewish-Israeli and Arab-Palestinian perspectives on the respective other (or the respective “enemy”) are profoundly shaped by ambivalence. Arab enmity towards Zionism and Israel often has the appearance of open hostility, but bears a degree of subterranean admiration, not least in the context of “learning from the enemy.” By contrast, the Zionist movement and state of Israel have often displayed public sympathy and regard for what are officially known as “Israeli Arabs” (who will sometimes identify as Palestinian Arabs with Israeli citizenship). However, these positive emotions have been undergirded by negative feelings such as fear and scorn. Israeli discursive ambivalence towards Palestinians is particularly interesting for the circumstances under which the patina of amity thickens, thins, or is shattered altogether. This article argues that our understanding of ambivalence and enmity needs to be linked to relations of power and privilege: While the more powerful side can allow itself to portray its antagonist with greater complexity, the weaker side will invariably tend towards zero-sum depictions of itself and the political conflict.


How to Cite
Penslar, D. J. (2024). Ambivalence, Amity, and Enmity in Israel/Palestine. The Journal of Transcultural Studies, 14(1-2), 27–44.