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2 presidential sessions at the upcoming AHA convention will tackle the Israeli-Palestinian controversy

At last year's annual convention of the American Historical Association Vicki L. Ruiz -- the incoming president -- announced that she would make sure the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was well-covered at the 2016 meeting.  We know now what she had in mind. Two of the sessions she is sponsoring as president deal directly with the hot topic, which last year split the organization when activists sponsored two resolutions critical of Israel. A vote to shelve the resolutions was approved after opponents objected that the issue had been sprung on the AHA without sufficient advance notice.  After the vote Ruiz indicated she would use her authority as the incoming president to devote several sessions to the issue, which elicited a few groans from the audience. (The AHA will again consider the controversy at the upcoming convention.)

The first of the two presidential sessions takes place on the afternoon of Friday January 8:   “Forced Migrations in Comparative Context.”

Chair: Anita Shapira, University of Tel Aviv


● Forced Migration Resulting from and in the Wake of World War II Omer Bartov, Brown University

● The Flight of North African and Middle Eastern Jews to Israel  Daniel J. Schroeter, University of Minnesota Twin Cities

● 1948: Palestinian Narratives and the Missing Archive Salim Tamari, Institute for Palestine Studies

● Population Exchange after World War II Eric D. Weitz, City College of New York

Session Abstract

The question of forced migrations lies at the heart of many of the bloodiest modern histories, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Yet studies of forced migrations are typically treated as singular cases, rather than through comparison.  This panel places the Palestinian-Israeli case in broader context through a discussion of four case studies: the Greek-Turkish “population exchange” following the Great War; displaced persons following the Second World War; the expulsion and flight of Palestinians during the 1948 War; and the mass flight of Iraqi Jews to Israel in the early 1950s.  Underlying questions of this panel include: how do we define “forced migration”? What is the relationship between force and fear? Must a “forced migration” be the result of a conscious plan on the part of the evictors? What political ends have forced migrations served?

The second session, "Religion and Secularism in Nationalist Politics in the 20th Century," takes place on the morning of Saturday January 9.

Chair: David A. Hollinger, University of California, Berkeley


● Religious Reaction and the Rhetoric of Generational Danger Philip Jenkins, Baylor University

● Two Case Studies in South Asian Religions: History, Nationalism, and the Rivalry of Representation Laurie Patton, Middlebury College

● Islam and Palestinian Nationalism: From Mobilization to Identity Meir Litvak, Tel Aviv University

● Mishnah Impossible: Zionism and the Transformation of Jewish Identity Donna Robinson Divine, Smith College

Session Abstract

As nationalist movements around the world have taken on a religious character—whether Hindu nationalism in India, Islamic nationalism in the Arab world, religiously informed Zionism in Israel, or the political mobilization of evangelical Christians in the United States—what global patterns or differences can we discern? This panel takes up the seemingly newfound centrality of religious belief to nationalist ideologies to ask about the prospects for the resolution of conflicts among ethnic, religious, and political groups.