Performing Rootedness in the Negev/Naqab: Possibilities and Perils of Competitive Planting


  • Emily McKee

    Corresponding author
    1. Schusterman Center for Israel Studies and Department of Anthropology, Brandeis University, MA, USA
    2. Department of Anthropology and Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy, Northern Illinois University, IL, USA
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Through ethnographic and historical analysis of the Negev region of Israel, this article examines competitive planting as a common tool in land conflicts. In a context of disputed land ownership, some Bedouin Arab residents plant crops in defiance of government policy. Government enforcers of land-use regulations destroy many of these crops and engage in counterinsurgent tree-planting. I suggest that planting is such a potent tactic because it draws on “environmental idioms” of agricultural labor, the rootedness of trees, and a fundamental Jewish-Arab opposition that have been central to the development of both Israeli and Palestinian nationalisms. For Bedouin Arabs, whose relationship to both nationalisms has long been contested, the multivalent symbolism of planting makes it a particularly promising tactic for asserting land claims. Further, I contend that these plantings demonstrate both the power of environmental idioms to structure land claims along ethnic lines and the creative potential of participants to challenge dominant environmental discourses by adding new connotations.