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Rooting diaspora, reviving nation: Zionist landscapes of Palestine–Israel

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Abstract

This paper explores the politics of landscape and nature within the process of nation-building. In it I examine how landscapes can operate in multiple, intersecting ways in the service of an ideological discourse and how the politics of nature, specifically trees, can contribute to the shaping of a new national space and subjectivity. Focusing on the multiple renditions of Palestine promulgated by the Jewish National Fund (JNF), I discuss how landscapes can entangle diaspora and homeland, aesthetics and embodiment, antiquity and modernity, with both conceptual and material consequences. Drawing on histories of the JNF and on a selection of historic newspaper articles and children's literature, I explore the circulation of aesthetic renderings of Palestine and the performance of embodied landscapes during the children's tree-planting holiday, Tu B'Shvat. I argue that the centrality of trees to the JNF, and the imagery of roots, renewal, family and innocence that they conjure, legitimised Zionist colonisation and naturalised the Israeli nation state and body politic. I also demonstrate how JNF landscapes and afforestation work assisted in the demarcation of Israeli nation-space and therefore in the material dispossession of the Palestinians.

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