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beyond security Arrow vol 6 no 2 contents
About borderlands Volume 6 number 2, 2007


Beyond Security in the Middle-East: An Ethics for (Co)Existence

Anthony Burke
University of New South Wales



Since the beginning of the second Palestinian Intifada in mid-2000, violence and alienation between Palestinians and Israelis has steadily gotten worse and is now symbolised—in literally concrete terms—in the vast 'separation wall' snaking its way through the occupied territories. This essay interrogates the political, historical and conceptual dimensions of this process through a critical analysis of the idea and practice of security in Israel and in western political thought. Refracted through the settler-colonial experience, security is premised on effacing the dramatic internal divisions and conflicts within Israel, in magnifying hostility and difference with Palestinians and Arabs, and in performing and entrenching such divisions with vast instrumental exercises of strategic violence. This essay—an abridged version of a chapter in my Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence—challenges such visions of security and, via a critical engagement with the philosophy and political writings of Emmanuel Levinas and Martin Buber, imagines an alternative ethics that can acknowledge the tangled web of interdependence between Jews and Palestinians, and might form a platform for a more sustainable and decent political vision of co-existence in the same land. Written before the Israeli war on Lebanon of July 2006, and published here a few weeks prior to mooted peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the United States, it argues that sustainable peace requires a move beyond diplomacy and tactics to a deeper renegotiation of each group's identity and relationship with the Other.



1. How does security connect with life? In 1979, in an article about the first wave of settlers into the ancient Palestinian town of Hebron, the Israeli writer Amos Elon quoted one of them explaining his commitment to forcibly enacting the vision of 'greater Israel' on land seized in the 1967 Six Day War. The man, a former Tel Aviv lawyer named Eliakim Haetzini, explained: 'Sovereignty is like a woman. Do you share your wife with someone else?' (Elon, 2001: 63). I first read these words in Jerusalem in 2004, a day after two terrible suicide bombings in Be'er Sheva that killed 16 people and wounded a hundred. The bombers had come from a Hamas cell based in Hebron, and the press was saying that they had in part been successful because Be'er Sheva was an 'easy target' given that the formidable security wall under construction since 2003 had not yet extended that far south. Indeed the foreign minister stated that the bombing 'proves the necessity of speeding up the separation barrier's construction' (Schiff, 2004). I had seen this wall a few days before, in 'Arab' East Jerusalem, from the other side: eight metres of ugly prefab concrete slabs slicing across a roadway, dividing neighborhoods and shops, before vaulting the next hill and disappearing into the landscape. Young Palestinians had painted its lower part white, then sprayed it with graffiti in Arabic and English, like a Middle-Eastern echo of Cold War Berlin. Here and there, impressionistic screen-printed portraits of Yasser Arafat appeared, symbolizing both the undimmed force of Palestinian nationalism and a darker—more organized and selfish—political force in their lives.

2. The wall has many purposes, and means many things. One understandable purpose is to provide Israelis with better security against the deeply immoral, politically misguided and strategically disastrous Palestinian campaign of suicide attacks waged inside the pre-1967 borders of Israel—attacks that most often strike the innocent, even the sympathetic, and that have done so much to set back the Palestinian campaign for self-determination and hand the agenda to Israeli conservatives who wish to hang on to the territories forever. These conservatives have in turn sought to re-route the wall deep into Palestine, separating farmers from their land, workers from employment, families from hospitals, and communities from each other, while seeking to use the wall to achieve the virtual annexation of conquered land now host to extensive Jewish settlements. Even more profoundly, the wall separates peoples—Jewish and Palestinian—in a way that the 'two-state solution' imagined in the Oslo or Geneva accords would not have (given the accords' provisions for ongoing cooperation and longer-term reconciliation) (see Beilin, 2004: 326-62). This is a wall of separation as much existential as physical, mirroring and solidifying the mutual hostility and alienation that has deepened since the Al-Aqsa Intifada began in September 2000. Ironically the wall, which is supported by a large majority of Israelis, may provide them with greater short-term security only to undermine it over the long-term—by emboldening the champions of the occupation and further embittering Palestinians for whom its meaning is utterly different, yet another fact of colonisation and control. How does security connect with life?

3. Security appears and disappears, like a desert mirage; it is simultaneously desired and warned away. It stands in for other things, dark and unsettling to speak of; it takes on rich and terrible meaning. Twenty-five years—but little else—separated Haetzini from the violent impasse of 2004; the same towns, the same earth is in dispute, and the same attitudes hold the day. The same concepts and dreams arise to trouble us—security, sovereignty, being—their meanings violent and increasingly untenable. In a place where security is an overwhelming obsession and a very real problem we are witness to its simultaneous failure and dissolution, not merely as an existential state but as a meaningful concept. Hence the question that frames and opens this essay. If life is at stake, and existence is in question, what is security, and how can it meaningfully secure us? What visions of life and existence does it imply, and for whom? Can they be sustained? And if it has failed us, can we move beyond security, or to a more viable vision of security, to a practice of politics and life that is durable and humane?

4. What follows is thus an exercise in thinking that challenges the continuing power of political ontologies (forms of truth and being) that connect security, sovereignty, belonging, otherness and violence in ways that for many appear like enduring political facts, inevitable and irrefutable. Conflict, violence and alienation then arise not merely from individual or collective acts whose conditions might be understood and policed; they condition politics as such, forming a permanent ground, a dark substrata underpinning the very possibility of the present. Conflict and alienation seem inevitable because of the way in which the modern political imagination has conceived and thought security, sovereignty and ethics. Israel/Palestine is chosen here as a particularly urgent and complex example of this problem, but it is a problem with much wider significance.

5. The essay pursues this inquiry in two stages. The first outlines the historic strength and effective redundancy of such an exclusivist vision of security in Israel, wherein Israel not only confronts military and political antagonists with an 'iron wall' of armed force but maps this onto a profound clash of existential narratives, a problem with resonances in the West's confrontation with radical Islamism in the war on terror. The second then explores a series of potential resources in continental philosophy and political theory that might help us to think our way out of a security grounded in violence and alienation. Through a critical engagement with this thought, I aim to construct a political ethics based not in relations between insecure and separated identities mapped solely onto nation-states, but in relations of responsibility and interconnection that can negotiate and recognise both distinct and intertwined histories, identities and needs; an ethics that might underpin a vision of interdependent (national and non-national) existence proper to an integrated world traversed by endless flows of people, commerce, ideas, violence and future potential.

A Better Reality?

6. The problem of security that we confront is starkly visible in Haetzini's words, and those of the other Hebron settlers, for whom sovereignty, the land, is 'like a woman'—a wife, a possession who cannot be shared with other men. Writing of the settlers, Amos Elon commented how 'many of those who come to worship their God on these dead stones [at Hebron's 'Tomb of the Patriarchs'] speak of faith but actually mean power. They constantly say "this place is ours, not theirs", "we conquered it", "we won the war, not they" (Elon, 2001: 63).' Conquest precludes the need to think about the presence or claims of the Other; it brings rights to exclude and dominate, sexually, physically, ontologically, because 'we won the war, not they'. Perhaps, after those six fateful days in 1967, this seemed true, but now the war continues without conclusion. The Others now violently remind them of their presence and claims, refuting the static language of victory; and in the absence of victory the separation wall becomes the ultimate physical metaphor, and only possible means, for a security that could secure their colonizing project. Sovereignty is like a woman: nothing can be divided, and if it must be divided, it is because it cannot be shared.

7. Security itself cannot be shared—as the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim has argued, commenting on the systematic military campaign waged by Israel against the Palestinians since September 2000:

The Israeli concept of security is counterproductive, because Israel wants 100 per cent security for itself. That translates into zero security for the other side. Israel's concept of security is so inflated that it denies any security for the Arabs or for the Palestinians—and this means that they have no incentive to co-operate. A much more sensible concept of security for Israel would be to recognise legitimate Palestinian interests, because what matters is not just where the border lies, but the motivation of the country, the person on the other side of the border (Shlaim, 2004).

This discourse of absolute security has such force because it builds upon a deeper sense of existential insecurity that preceded the establishment of Israel, was strengthened immeasurably by the Holocaust, and for which Zionism conceived a militarily powerful state of Israel as an answer: that insecurity Martin Buber in 1934 ascribed to a Jewish people 'hurled into the abyss of the world...always living on ground that might at any moment give way beneath its feet' (Buber, 1963: 167).

8. Such a coercive, zero-sum vision of security was never more visible than in March 2002, when the Sharon Government launched 'Operation Defensive Shield', a military invasion of Palestinian autonomous areas in the West Bank and Gaza that represented the largest Israeli Defense Force (IDF) operation since the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. As if to underline the parallel, the operation was launched by the same man who master-minded the Lebanon policy, and had much in common with its vision of destroying any possibility of meaningful Palestinian self-determination. In a chilling echo of Sharon's 1982 ambitious plans to drive the PLO from Beirut, absorb the West Bank into Greater Israel and create a Palestinian 'state' in Jordan, Operation Defensive Shield was launched, wrote Tanya Reinhart, as the centrepiece of a pre-meditated plan to 'smash the Palestinian authority, force out leader Yasser Arafat and kill or detain its army.'(Shlaim, 200: 396; Reinhart, 2003: 138) The operation, which killed 497 Palestinians and injured 1447, many of them civilians, and destroyed US$465 million in property and infrastructure (including 870 homes), represented a policy that not only destroys the lives, livelihoods and security of Palestinians, but also of Jews (Hamzeh and May, 2003: 110-5). In her book Israel/Palestine, Reinhart discusses how a number of Israeli operations during the second Intifada were designed to provoke Palestinian counterattacks, and sets out how plans for Operation Defensive Shield—presented to the Government in early July 2001—'called for an assault to be launched after a large bombing takes place in Israel, and called for citing the bloodshed and defense against terrorism as a justification'. She concluded that 'it is not just Palestinian life that does not count in Israel; those in the military sect have no reservations about sacrificing their own people' (Reinhart, 2003: 138-9). How does security connect with life?

9. If the exercise of conventional military power manifestly fails to provide security, and yet is still exercised in the name of security, what is it that we are in the presence of? How could this security be at all meaningful? What kind of life does it secure? The answer lies in the peculiar, tragic contours of Israeli-Palestinian history and politics, but also in the conceptual foundations Israel shares with other states—with the modern ontology of the secure nation-state. What is being secured, then, is that political abstraction of life we know as the body-politic, the sovereign state.

10. The immediate politics at work in March-April 2002, which the settlers exemplify, was to secure the ambitious project of extending the control—and, for some, borders—of Israel to Egypt, Jordan and Syria (including the Golan), taking up as much of the 'biblical' land of Israel as strategically possible. To this end the Oslo Accords were perverted by the Netanyahu and Barak governments into a mechanism of postponing final agreement while building more settlements and entrenching the occupation. Whatever criticisms can be made of the Palestinian resort to violence at the outset of the second, 'Al-Aqsa' Intifada, and the terrible failures of leadership and vision this represented, it was Palestinian frustration at the ongoing colonisation of their land under the guise of 'peace' that led to the explosion (see Hass, 2004: 110-5; Sayigh, 2001: 47-60; Beilin, 2004: 133-9).

11. After the election of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister in 2001, the Oslo process was abandoned, replaced by the so-called Quartet's 'performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution' (which has been in effect a way of marginalising Europe and allowing the Israeli and US governments an effective veto over progress). Sharon's plans for 'disengagement' from the Gaza Strip, announced in 2004, saw the unilateral evacuation of settlements there but was cynically designed to relieve the Israelis from political pressure to give up territory in the West Bank and Jerusalem. As Sharon's advisor Dov Weisglass told Ha'aretz in October 2004, 'the disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians' (Weisglass, 2005: 203). He went on to say:

The disengagement plan makes it possible for Israel to park conveniently in an interim situation that distances us as far as possible from political pressure. It legitimizes our contention that there is no negotiating with the Palestinians. There is a decision here to do the minimum possible in order to maintain our political situation. The decision is proving itself. It is making it possible for the Americans to go to the seething and simmering international community and say to them, "What do you want?" It also transfers the initiative to our hands. It compels the world to deal with our idea, with the scenario we wrote (Weisglass, 2005: 203).

Weisglass' remarks were confirmed by the text Sharon released explaining the Plan, that stated that 'in any future permanent arrangement, there will be no Israeli presence in the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, it is clear that some parts of Judea and Samaria (including key concentrations of Jewish settlements, civilian communities, security zones and areas in which Israel has a vested interest) will remain part of the State of Israel.' The statement explained that the Plan's aim was 'to bring about a better security, diplomatic, economic and demographic reality' (Ha'aretz, 2004).

History, Security and Identity: Narratives

12. This is indeed a disturbing (and I think untenable) vision of security and life, one with deep roots in revisionist Zionism but one also opposed by those sections of the Israeli population and intelligentsia who support some kind of territorial settlement with the Palestinians—two rather different visions of the Israeli security project. However it can be argued that their far more ethical vision of a 'two-state' solution that preserves the 'Jewish and democratic' nature of Israel shares a deeper ontology with the settlers and offers its own barriers to peace. Underlying both positions is the exclusivist ontology of the secure nation-state, one based originally upon a primal alienation from the Other. Such ontologies of national being view such Others as threatening an idealist unity of individual, state and nation, a unity naturally based on a restrictive community of moral obligation and privilege. There are many versions of this ontology in Israel, from the settlers at one end, to, at the other, the peacemakers who want to end alienation and violence but ultimately dictate peace on terms that preserve Israeli power and prerogative.

13. In Israel's case, this ontology is complicated by its history as a settler-colonial nation—a history it shares with states like Canada, South Africa, the USA and Australia (Kimmerling, 1983). To this colonial project is added the tragic complications of the Holocaust and the refusal of the world to provide Jewish refugees with sanctuary (facts that, notwithstanding the beginnings of organised Zionist emigration from the 1920s, give the Jewish settlement of Palestine a legitimacy not available to these earlier examples). In such histories, the indigenous peoples displaced from or incorporated into the new nation-states often constituted, in complex and varying ways, threats to both their physical and ontological security; they constituted a threat both to the members and concept of the new nations (Burke, 2008; Day, 1996; Moses, 2004). Conflict, violence and security thus become performances (or defences) of dangerously incommensurable narratives of history, legitimacy, purpose and being. Demands for peace, reconciliation and justice in such cases involve not merely pragmatic compromises over territory and interests but create inevitable pressures for the transformation of national narratives and the grand existential projects they represent.

14. In the Israeli-Palestinian case, this dilemma was underlined for me by the comments of Yossi Alpher, a member of the Council for Peace and Security (an influential grouping of former security and defense officials), an editor of the joint Palestinian-Israeli website, and a committed supporter of the two-state solution (of substantive territorial compromise and peaceful coexistence such as that outlined in the Geneva Accords) (see Alpher, 2004a). [1] In comments that combined both personal conviction and broader societal analysis, he outlined the deeper clash of narratives that stood as a barrier to peace.

15. Two issues in particular, Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees, he marked out as profound sources of existential friction. The provisions in the Geneva Accords for a (very limited) 'right of return' and Palestinian sovereignty over the al-Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount (the Muslim holy places in the old city) evinced, in his view, 'a refusal to come to terms with Israel's legitimate existence as a Jewish state'. He argued that at the 2000 Camp David negotiations it became clear that 'the Palestinians have no feeling whatever for our history on the Temple Mount [where the first and second Jewish temples were built]; from their standpoint the history of the Temple Mount begins with Islam'. Refugees raised even deeper problems for Israel:

The problem is not how many refugees come back...the problem is the right of return—the 'right'—when they say, 'You have to recognise our right of return', they are saying to us: 'You have to admit your country was born in sin. It is an illegitimate country that stole our land and therefore we have the right to return.' Because what does our narrative say? 'We're a legitimate country. We were legitimised by the United Nations. We fought a terrible war in 1948—you attacked us—and in the course of that war many refugees were created.' You cannot ask us to admit we were born in sin; we will not do it (Alpher, 2004b).

Alpher argued that, in consequence, making peace with the Palestinians and 'making peace with Egypt or Jordan and eventually Syria and Lebanon' represent profoundly different challenges. 'While most Arabs don't recognise Israel's legitimacy,' he said, 'they have a pragmatic acceptance of the material fact of its existence...we can live with that, but not [in the case of] the Palestinians because we're here amongst one another, were dividing up the same land. We have to recognise their legitimacy and they have to recognise ours and this is why the peace with them is so difficult.' (Alpher, 2004b)

16. When asked why it made sense to allow seemingly symbolic issues to hold up a peace agreement that was urgently needed for all kinds of practical reasons—especially security and economic reasons—he responded by saying that the territorial issues can be resolved:

but this is not what holds up an agreement...the 'symbolic' issues are far more than symbolic issues, they're really existential issues. I think we have to recognise that, perhaps even back off for a few more generations...we can find de facto ways to coexist in which neither side gives up its narrative (Alpher, 2004b).

17. It is perhaps too glib to remark that all national narratives are in effect historical constructs, when they are put with such force and represent convictions running deeply through an entire society, animating its entire modern history. Yet it is important to consider the political implications of all such national-cultural narratives, however deeply felt and legitimate, and to consider how they can founder on uncomfortable facts. Critics of the occupation easily acknowledge how it undermines the moral legitimacy of Israel yet sometimes speak as if a single month—June 1967—divides a period of purity from a fall from grace; a date that similarly cordons off moral and ethical obligations. Likewise the idea that its birth should be free from sin is an unbearable burden for any nation, because no nation has been created or built in circumstances free from tragedy and moral ambiguity. However—and in this way we perpetuate tragedy—our narratives of secure sovereign being not only tend to avoid or efface such tragic national histories but incorporate and transform them, silently and pathologically, into rigid forms of existential antagonism; into projects of security in which the security of some Other is always sacrificed.

18. Alpher's pragmatic conclusion that such issues should be postponed given the difficulty of Palestinians and Jews 'giving up' their narratives is understandable, but its resignation is countered by his profound demand for a mutual recognition of history and legitimacy. Such a recognition implies both narrative preservation and transformation, to allow for a recognition of the claims of the other, a recognition of distinct and intertwined histories, and a commitment to joint survival based on principles of justice. Thus just as there is pressure on the Israeli narrative, there is an ethical pressure on the Palestinian one, as Edward Said has acknowledged on a number of occasions. Like Alpher, he believed that 'a major problem in all discussions of this terrible conflict has been the irreconcilability of the Zionist/Israeli official narrative and the Palestinian one', and he began to explore how this incommensurability—this clash of two mutually unrecognisable realities in the same land—could be transformed into narratives softened by genuine communication and recognition. 'What is desired,' he wrote in 1997, 'is a notion of coexistence that is true to the differences between Jew and Palestinian, but true also of the common history of different struggle and unequal survival that links them.' (Said, 2000: 208)

19. In terms of the founding of Israel, Said was concerned neither to salvage some purity from 1948, nor assert that it was fundamentally illegitimate and must somehow—even if only in rhetoric and declaration—be reversed. Rather he argued that the consequences of the Holocaust, for the world and Palestine/Israel, need to be acknowledged together with the moral and historical consequences of the Palestinian dispossession—both as it occurred in 1948 and continues to occur during the occupation, as land is expropriated for new roads and settlements, homes are demolished, olive groves uprooted, and Arab Jerusalemites are stripped of their identity cards.

20. Said has written eloquently of the Holocaust, of its distinctive and terrible place in the history of human suffering and evil, and of the need for Arabs to acknowledge its impact on Jews at both an individual and societal level. Notwithstanding the often crass politicisation of the tragedy, he argues that 'for any decent human being the slaughter of so many millions of innocents must, and indeed should, weigh heavily on subsequent generations...there can be little doubt that the tragedy's collective memory and the burden of fear it places on all Jews today is not to be minimized.' (Said, 2000: 206) Hence he argued that 'we must think our histories together...for there is a link to be made between what happened to the Jews in World War II and the catastrophe of the Palestinian people':

But it cannot be made only rhetorically, or as an argument to demolish or diminish the true content both of the Holocaust and of 1948. Neither is equal to the other; similarly, neither one nor the other excuses present violence; and finally, neither one nor the other must be minimized. There is suffering and injustice enough for everyone. But unless the connection is made by which the Jewish tragedy is seen to have led directly to the Palestinian catastrophe, by, let us call it "necessity" (rather than pure will) we cannot coexist as two communities of detached and uncommunicatingly separate suffering...the only way of rising beyond the endless back and forth violence and dehumanization is to admit the universality and integrity of the other's experience and begin to plan a common life together (Said, 2000: 207-8).

21. What flows from this process are deeper forms of recognition and compromise on each side; one directed both within and without (toward the Self and the Other). Looking within, Said suggested a need for a 'self-critical' exercise by Arabs and Palestinians to 'explore our own histories, myths and patriarchal ideas of the nation...we have a duty to look at our history, the history of our leaderships and institutions with a new eye' (Said, 2003: 201). Looking without, Palestinians would need to acknowledge the existence and legitimacy of the Jews in Palestine—however difficult and unfair this seems—including their historical links to holy sites, such as Hebron and Jerusalem, where religious and cultural histories are hopelessly overlapping and intertwined. For their part, Israelis could acknowledge how this represents a profound and painful acceptance of injustice by Palestinians, who not only lost land in 1948 but whose representatives (at Taba in 2001, and in the Geneva Accords) appear willing in principle to cede to Israel the most heavily settled parts of the West Bank in Jerusalem and west of Ramallah and Nablus.) At the same time, mutual recognition requires that Israel abandon its impossible desire to have a pure and sinless founding—which is neither to deny that Israel's founding had no heroic or tragically necessary qualities. In the present, this requires accepting both the necessities and the injustices of the past and the ethical claims they make on us today—most importantly, to accept some responsibility for the refugees created during the war of independence and open the Israeli identity to their (at least partial) return and restitution.

Security, Sovereignty and the Time of Terror

22. Absolutist, right-wing images of Israeli security and identity trace their roots back to the 'revisionist Zionist' views of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, who in the 1920s outlined his vision of an integral land of "Eretz Israel" on both sides of the Jordan river over which a Jewish state should have absolute sovereignty. This 'maximalist' territorial vision—to which the settlers are the modern heirs—was combined with a sharp, and unapologetic, settler-colonial awareness: the Arab population of Palestine, wrote Jabotinsky, would never accept a Jewish state because 'they are not a rabble but a living people...every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement.' The only solution, he argued, was either to give up Zionism or continue settlement 'under the protection of a force which is not dependent on the local population, behind an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down' (Shlaim, 2000: 13).

23. In Avi Shlaim's view, all Israeli governments have followed this reasoning in regard to the Palestinians, forestalling the need for negotiation and compromise with 'an iron wall of Jewish military force' (2000: 14). Such convictions underpin the strategic overconfidence underpinning the absolutist vision of security, one in which a maximalist territorial vision of the Israeli nation is allied to a permanent state of coercion, violence and fear. This paradigm was starkly visible in the comments of Lieutenant General Moshe Ya'alon upon his retirement as Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Force in 2005 . Ya'alon had helped to conceive and direct the war against the Palestinians over the previous two years, and he was remarkably pessimistic about peace, even after a final settlement. He described his strategy as being to 'create a wall in the face of the Palestinians. To prove to them that terrorism does not burn that into their consciousness'. However he lamented that he had not been successful in 'building a wall in the political sphere', because the Palestinians are still talking about a refugee right of return 'in concrete terms' (Shavit, 2005).

24. Eight decades later the separation wall, the military operations and the endless diplomatic evasions stand as testament to the practical and ethical bankruptcy both of this policy and the ontological vision it aims to protect and extend. Yet at least Jabotinsky acknowledged the Palestinians' status as a people, that Israel was a settler-colonial project; however any ethical responsibilities this implied were brushed aside in favour of an unapologetically realist vision of military dominance. Notwithstanding the important dispute over its boundaries, the ontology of the settler-colonial society thus rests on an idealist unity of nation, people and territory, one that by virtue of its history stands as perpetually vulnerable and aporetic; a vulnerability in turn managed by violence and coercion. A body-politic craving security yet existentially insecure, to the core of its being. Can such a claustrophobic, exclusivist image of the body-politic be rethought, and what could security look and feel like once it has been?

After Security: Theoretical and Practical Reflections

25. In the face of the dreadful strategic and existential stalemate of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the manifest failures of a US-directed 'war on terror' that has seen both state and non-state terror only stimulated and emboldened, there is an undeniable need to think beyond current policy paradigms and their underlying conceptual and ontological frameworks. This means enacting a paradox: if security, in a genuinely universal, holistic and humanistic sense, is be achieved, we must think beyond security. This task requires reimagining the ethical and ontological structure of the community—the nation-state—that is being violently secured, especially in its relation to others, to lives, to modes and spheres of responsibility.

26. What remains of this essay explores some theoretical resources that might work as a guide to thinking security after security, with a particular focus on Emmanuel Levinas and Martin Buber. (The longer version of this essay (Burke, 2007: 66-97) also discusses Martin Heidegger, Michel Foucault and William E. Connolly.) These thinkers are not dealt with as objects of analysis, in the mode of some political theory, but as conceptual resources for a new kind of politics: one that could re-imagine the nation-state and its relationship to violence and difference. The aim is not to see their thought as if it were a fully worked out template for politics, but as a series of potential routes towards it. (This is especially true for Levinas, who seemed virtually unable to extend his critique of ontology to nation-state ontologies, especially Israel's.)

27. The critique of ontology and exclusivist identity that Buber and Levinas develop provides a very powerful tool for deconstructing the existential estrangement between Palestinians and Israelis—along with the broader structure of alienation central to the ontology of the insecure nation-state—and then imagining a new ethics of interrelationship, reciprocity, and responsibility. Both of these thinkers, along with Heidegger, also challenge those images of modern being and life that see it as a form of technological (and hence geopolitical) mastery that reduces nature and people to objects from which the self is distinct, distant, related only through utilitarian calculations of self-interest, domination and power. (As Fred Dallmayr argues, Heidegger spent much of his career after 1933 steadily building a body of work that critiqued the 'totalising and totalitarian' features of Nazism and its roots in 'modernity's infatuation with "making" and domineering fabrication', while trying to imagine 'a more generously open mode of co-being among humans, and between humans and the world' (2004: 108).) At the same time, all three thinkers are painfully aware that power cannot be escaped: it resonates through societies and relationships, and hence abstract ethical principles will be mediated through institutions and conflict. Their comments in this regard are however sparse and impressionistic. Connolly is of significance here, because while he echoes their critique of instrumental reason and nationalist ontology, and mobilises a similar ethics (of 'democratic pluralisation'), he does so aware of the unavoidability of antagonism, conflict and power in a contemporary time of globalised uncertainty (Connolly, 1995).

You, It, Other

28. In order to think security differently we must rethink the form and structure of being it secures. Martin Buber's and Emmanuel Levinas's work is especially valuable to this enterprise because of the way it breaks up the self-enclosure and certainty of identity and turns it—ethically, sympathetically, and existentially—towards the Other. Their ethics is in turn combined with a critique of those ways of thinking being through an objectivising knowledge that makes the other into an object that can be reduced to control and use. Levinas poses a fundamental question for existence: 'Do I have the right to be?' In Time and the Other he points out that 'we never exist in the singular. We are surrounded by beings and things with which we maintain relations. Through sight, touch, sympathy and common work we are with others. All these relations are transitive.' Hence we must put into question this with: 'Does existing represent a veritable sharing of existence? How is this sharing realised? Or again (for the word 'sharing' would signify that existence is in the order of having): Is there a participation in being which makes us escape from solitude?' He goes on to argue, even more radically than Heidegger, that existence cannot be thought on the basis of an enclosed and self-sufficient ontology, because existence is based in relation: 'The social is beyond ontology.' (Levinas, 1985: 57-8) Hence Buber and Levinas provide us with a profound normative intuition that can help us to think a secure existence with others, even if their work needs refinement and supplementation in order to grapple with the nature and operation of institutions, or with relationships that are antagonistic and violent.

29. The significance of both thinkers resides in the way in which they emphasise not merely the relatedness of people (hatred, domination and violence are still modes of relation after all), but normatively insist on the right mode of relation: 'responsibility' for Levinas and 'reciprocity' for Buber. However these modes of relation are not ethical choices as portrayed in much international policy, wherein a primordially self-interested subject or state can choose to act ethically or support a policy of cosmopolitan generosity or 'good international citizenship' (Linklater, 1992: 21-41). Whatever the value in this, such policies are always optional; secondary to government's primary responsibility to the national interest and security. In contrast, for Buber and Levinas ethics is existence; the norm is not a choice layered altruistically over the real.

30. In their visions of identity and existence the Other is neither a threat, nor an alienated ground for identity, nor a moral object we can choose to assist. Rather the Other is the very purpose and condition of existence. This is the profound argument of Levinas' Otherwise Than Being or Beyond Essence, where he writes of 'responsibility as the essential, primary and fundamental structure of subjectivity...Ethics here, does not supplement a preceding existential base; the very node of the subjective is knotted in ethics understood as responsibility...for the other.' (Levinas, 1985: 95) Buber makes a similar argument for not merely the ethical superiority but the factual superiority of the reciprocal 'I-You' relation over the objectivising 'I-It' relation. In I and Thou he writes that while entering into the world of things and processes (I-It) is necessary and in many ways unavoidable, a person for whom everything is a thing is simply 'not human'. However important for the 'improvement of man's capacity for experience and use' modern powers of technique and rationalisation are, they bring with them a spiritual degradation, because they

generally involve a decrease in man's power to relate—that power which alone can enable man to live in the spirit'. Spirit, he explains, 'is not in the I but between I and You. It is not like the blood that circulates in you but like the air you breathe. Man lives in the spirit when he is able to respond to his You. He is able to do that when he enters into this relation with his whole being.' (Buber, 1970: 85, 89)

Only when the I-You relation is set free in the world are we truly alive; and hence we can begin to understand how security can truly connect with life.

31. The relation to the You, or the vision of identity as based upon a primal responsibility to the Other: these speak to us in a context of violent conflict and insecurity, because so many contemporary discourses of nation and threat refuse to acknowledge either the fact of interconnection or the obligation of responsibility that should naturally arise out of it. Certainly Levinas' vision of primally indebted being may seem utopian, for it stands as a refusal of the real as it has been hegemonically defined; however it provides a profound normative intuition for living according to the facts of interrelationship and interconnection which we deny at our peril. This is true for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for a world linked through processes and structures of globalisation (however atemporal and assymetrical) and for a world whose security dynamics interweave through the imperial footprints of global powers and networks of terrorist activity, propaganda and global media and communications.

32. In this light, the separation wall is a perverse attempt to deny both the fact of the dense and troubled web of interconnection between Palestinians and Israelis—historical, economic, political and territorial—and the ethical implications that flow from this fact: the practice of responsibility it necessitates if the conflict is ever to be resolved. The wall, the 'separation barrier' as it is so often called, is simultaneously an effect of previous policies and national discourses—Palestinian violence, Israeli occupation—and a renewed politics that seeks to both entrench colonisation and ward off and break down interconnection. It stands, in literally concrete form, as both a tool and symbol of that politics that has systematically sought, in a more detailed and haphazard way, to break up or besmirch ethical relationships between Palestinians and Israelis. Here we can cite the many Israeli police efforts to prevent joint demonstrations and actions between Jews and Palestinians in the territories, and the Palestinian woman who used an internet chatroom to lure a 16 year old Jewish boy to a Tanzim ambush in January 2001 (UN Security Council A/55/742/s/2001/71; BBC News Online, 25 February 2001).

33. The structure of primally interconnected identity and responsibility that is activated in the thought of Buber and Levinas, and the need to privilege it over instrumental and coercive visions of existence, provide important principles for understanding and resolving such conflicts. Moreover, they implicitly critique the forms of politics, diplomacy and violence that have been used to manage and prolong them. This is especially true for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the so-called 'peace processes', 'Oslo' and the 'road map'. On the one hand, these processes' tactic of deferring key 'final status' issues—settlements, water, Jerusalem, refugees—was portrayed as a way of managing the profound incommensurabilities of narrative and expectation in the course of a genuine search for peace. On the other hand, such incommensurabilities were never resolved or addressed in any significant way, and no kind of dialogue based in a mutual sense of interconnection and responsibility—one that would see compromise made in the service of the other rather than the self—ever took place.

34. Following the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, successive Israeli governments used the Oslo process as a way of limiting progress so as to entrench their hold over the territories and continue colonisation. This strategy was pursued at the same time at the Palestinian authority, in exchange for minor grants of administrative autonomy, was tasked with securing Israel using its new 'preventive security force' against militants organising attacks. This led to a bizarre proliferation of security forces, dangerous new divisions in Palestinian society, and an appalling pattern of Palestinian human rights abuses (Khan, 2004: 84-87). So much of Israeli policy during this period was based on a tactical obsession with power and control; a control of the Other and their lands that could only end in new violence and an eventual loss of control. Sharon's disengagement plan, and his advisor Weisglass's characterisation of it as 'compel[ling] the world to deal with our idea, with the scenario we wrote' is merely the latest in this practice of coercive power, one built on dangerous political illusions. In short, the You was never addressed; diplomacy substituted for dialogue; strategy for reciprocity.

Barriers to Responsibility

35. Nevertheless, as much as such a politics might be politically bankrupt and inimical to genuine security, it is enormously powerful, embedded in hegemonic discourses and institutions that are deeply and vigilantly entrenched. Hence we face a sobering obstacle to Levinas and Buber's utopian images of relationship and responsibility. We have to ask whether their ethics can grapple with, and account for, the difficult realities that stand in its way. Two challenges in particular stand out. Firstly, how can their ethics address the realities and necessities of power , political and economic, of institutions, government, exchanges and machines? And secondly, how can it address the realities of societies , which aggregate individuals into larger formations, define and codify subjectivities, and force relations between groups mediated not by immediate encounters but by abstractions: relations of representation and power like law, media reporting, political rhetoric, institutional actions, and word of mouth? (Consider the tragedy inherent in how the most ubiquitous face of Israel for Palestinians in the territories are IDF soldiers and their machinery. Amira Hass writes that 'Al-Yahoud [the Jews] for most children and many adults means soldiers and army. 'Dad', asked the three year old Damir, 'Are the Jews born like us, little babies, or are they born already big with uniforms and guns?'' (Hass, 2004: 140).)

36. While both thinkers question the egoistic, separate vision of identity and underline its fundamental indebtedness to and relation with others, they write as if encounters occur between two people, in person, virtually unmediated. Yet, as David Campbell writes of Levinas, there is a need to interrogate how such an ethics based on the 'one-to-one or face-to-face relationship can function in circumstances marked by a multiplicity of a world populated by others in struggle' (Buber, 1970: 62; Campbell, 1998: 177). Regardless, Buber insists that

The relation to the You is unmediated. Nothing conceptual intervenes between I and You, no prior knowledge and no imagination, and memory itself is changed as it plunges from particularity into wholeness. No purpose intervenes between I and You, no greed and no anticipation; and longing itself is changed as it plunges from the dream into appearance. Every means is an obstacle. Only where all means have disintegrated encounters occur (Buber, 1970: 62-3).

37. I think Buber is half-right, especially at a spiritual and ethical level. Encounters, dialogue and friendship can produce surprises and challenge existing prejudices and beliefs (these could even be mediated encounters such as films or texts that richly describe the lives and experience of the Other), and his injunction to transcend means and ends in relationships is a profound one. However, this is hard to do; it rarely occurs purely and the mediation of both prior subjectivities and roles, and institutional powers, will always affect and potentially spoil the encounter. Addressing the You will always be a striving, not an achieved state. Geopolitics will always be in the background.

38. Levinas' work is especially troubling in the face of this problem. He has an inexplicable difficulty in translating his profound critique of modern subjectivity at an individual level to the societal level, especially when it must address the question of the nation-state and politico-juridical systems of justice. This problem is recognised by Zygmunt Bauman, who remarks upon 'the obsessive, almost compulsive urgency with which [Levinas] returns in his late writings and interviews to 'the problem of the Third' and the possibility of salvaging the validity of his life-long description of the ethical relationship in the presence of the Third Party—that is, under the conditions of ordinary mundane life' (Bauman, 1997: 47). Likewise David Campbell analyses the inherent tensions in Levinas's (laudable) argument that, on the one hand, 'the commitment to the other to the third party calls for control, a search for justice, society and the State' yet on the other 'not even in politics or warfare can the relationship to the Other, the relationship of primary responsibility and the demand it imposes, be eradicated.' (Campbell, 1998: 179) The tension, rightly raised but poorly resolved by Levinas, is between the inescapable permanency of politics and power and the ethical demand that must never be reduced to a self-regarding ontology that yields to the instrumental. Systems of justice, as I have been arguing here, impose forms of channelling and mediation upon encounters and relationships; they supply them with meaning and, while potentially giving them an enabling form, too often see them congeal into rigid systems of power that entrench dominance and exclusivity. The modern security state is exactly such a technology, and it perpetually haunts Levinas' ethics—both as practical power of deterrence and a dangerous weakness in his thinking.

39. In a short essay "The State of Israel and the Religion of Israel" Levinas writes almost in the vein of Hegel's Philosophy of Right that 'the State is not an idol because it permits full self-consciousness...Leisure, security, democracy: these mark the return of a condition, the beginning of a free being. This is why man recognises his spiritual nature in the dignity he achieves as a citizen or, even more so, when acting in the service of the State.' He even seeks to rescue Israel from being a merely secular idol by merging Jewish 'religious genius' with Israel's national existence, 'the living ladder that reaches up to the sky' (Levinas, 1990: 216-7). While 'acting in the service of the state' can certainly be honourable, it often is not, and in such passages Levinas bizarrely enacts and sanctifies the very national security ontology I am at pains to dismantle. We have to look to obscure references in texts like "From the rise of Nihilism to the Carnal Jew" for hints of a critique and a reassertion of his ethics (one that, however, never calls the Palestinians by name). There he admits Israel's builders 'found themselves abruptly on the side of the colonialists. Israel's independence was called imperialism, the oppression of native peoples, racism. Fact became separate from the Ideal.' He goes on with tentative efforts to re-imagine the idea of Israel as a 'chosen' nation that already belongs 'to a supranational order'; being 'chosen' expresses 'the responsibility a nation cannot shirk'. In this cause he argues that the Jewish experience of persecution is 'the obverse of a universal responsibility—a responsibility for the Other [but which other, where?]—that is more ancient than any sin.' (Levinas, 1990: 224-5)

40. Buber, in contrast, opposed the creation of separate Jewish and Arab states in the land of Israel, which he saw as evidence of the creeping 'evil' of a 'politicisation' of life that seeks 'to achieve more than what it truly needs'; he supported instead a 'bi-national socio-political entity...with complete equality of rights between the two partners [and] joint sovereignty founded upon those principles', and during the 1948 war supported public calls for a cessation of inter-ethnic violence (Buber, 1983a: 194-202). Years earlier, in a profound critique, he had warned that modern nationalism is 'in constant danger of slipping into power hysteria' and that Judaism should not be reduced to nationality or 'sanction [such] a group-egoism that disclaims responsibility'. Rather it must 'point to a supernational sphere' of peoples all subject to God, 'the Sovereign of the World' (Buber, 1983b: 50, 56-7).

41. Most controversial were Levinas' remarks to an interviewer in the wake of the Sabra and Shatila massacres, which combined a strongly felt revulsion at the murders with a new category that sharply attenuated his vision of infinite responsibility. When asked if the Palestinians were not 'above all' the other for Israel he asserted, in an almost Schmittean way: 'My definition of the other is completely different. The other is a neighbour, who is not necessarily a neighbour, but who can be...but if your neighbour attacks another neighbour or treats him unjustly, what can you do? Then alterity takes on another character, in alterity we can find an enemy.' (Levinas, 1999: 294)

42. The danger here is two-fold. First, is his introduction of a boundary to responsibility that risks undermining his entire ethics, whatever the understandable need to seek legal or ethical redress for acts of injustice. Second, is the way that once a group (rather than particular violent individuals) is signified as an 'enemy' the basic fact of interconnection and responsibility, even it is occasionally expressed through violence, is denied. In a case like Israel and Palestine (and countless other conflicts) the need for dialogue and reconciliation, however difficult, and however coloured by grief and resentment, means that dialogue must occur with the enemy, who must be recognised as human; the enemy who is also a neighbour, a life, a fellow life in a common humanity that exceeds the nation. (In fact, Judith Butler argues that being able to incorporate the violent other into a common understanding of the human 'precisely when we think that others have taken themselves out of the human community as we know it, is a test of our very humanity' (Butler, 2004: 89-90).) It is particularly important not to label an entire people as an enemy, even if some of their members commit acts which can be legitimately construed as those of an enemy (their reasoning and motive cannot be dismissed out of hand, but must be brought into the dialogic process). Hence the need for the ethical demand to permeate, mediate and transform institutions.

43. Geopolitics is always in the background. Buber too seems to sense something like this, when he writes of the 'fate' of 'the relational event...the more powerful the response, the more powerfully it ties down the You and as by a spell binds it into an object...All response binds the You into the It-world. That is the melancholy of man, and that is his greatness. For thus knowledge, thus works, thus image and example come into the world of the living.' (Buber, 1970: 89-90) This tension runs through the entire second part of the book, and is never resolved. (He has an imaginary interlocutor ask: 'Consider the two chambers of this life, the economy and the state: are they even thinkable in their present dimensions and ramifications, except on a superior renunciation of all "immediacy"?) Nonetheless Buber, like Heidegger and Levinas, strongly challenges the dominance of 'the It-form of conceptual knowledge' that fixes all things into a stable utilitarian matrix and system of belonging: 'What has become an It is then taken as an It, experienced and used as an It, employed along with other things for the project of finding one's way in the world, eventually for the project of "conquering" the world.' (As the settlers told Elon, 'We won the war, not they'.) The You relation still must have priority and condition the It-relation: 'Man's will to profit and will to power are natural and legitimate as long as they are tied to the will of human relations and carried by it' (Buber, 1970: 96-97, 91, 97; Elon, 2001: 63) .

44. But can this balance be struck so easily? Is the lure of violence and control, the temptation to preserve unjust and exploitative structures through coercive means, too great? The necessity then is not merely to encourage relationship and reciprocity, but to continually critique and transform the institutional structures, technologies and powers of mediation that shape and condition encounters, and that limit and channel the possibilities for life—especially when they do so violently and coercively. Patriotism, identity, social role and the desire for acquisition are such powerful technologies of being that the conditions under which it is made possible to exist and relate must always be subject to critique. A politics that can enable a more creative and ethical exercise of individual and social agency must be combined with one that ethically transforms the overarching structures of power and political enclosure, corporate, administrative and social, within which life takes form. If security is a 'political double-bind' that works at simultaneously individualising and totalising levels, it must be undone and transformed at both.

Security After Security

45. This essay has sought to think and negotiate two fundamental paradoxes in modern inter-national life. While the nation-state—as the normative and legal core of the global system and an entrenched form of social organisation and governance—is not going to disappear, and may well constitute a source of hope for oppressed and marginalised communities like the East Timorese or the Palestinians, it is fundamentally janus-faced and ambivalent (Nimni, 2003: 120). In the face of globalisation and proliferating transnational problems such as refugees, terrorism, economic crisis or climate change its function as an exclusive container for identity and moral community is becoming ever more ethically suspect and practically ineffective. It is becoming just as clear that the dual basis of modern security—the indivisibly sovereign body-politic and the 'rational' exercise of coercion and violence against its others—fails to eliminate threats but tends, in practice, to constitute and worsen them; to wager national identity and survival on the permanence of insecurity and violence.

46. Such is the contemporary global politics of being. It is neither natural, inevitable nor bearable, especially for those who are its daily victims. Against this I have sought to illuminate a path beyond our current politics of security, by combining a series of theoretical arguments that advance the need to challenge and rethink the ways we are made into subjects, to reject images of being based on separation and mastery, and to privilege relations of reciprocity and responsibility over instrumental forms of life that reduce humans to things and politics to an endless struggle for hierarchy and control. In short, I have sought to outline a set of normative, ethical and political intuitions that can assist in building a new politics—if not exhaustively prescribe its forms. I am suggesting transformation at both the local and trans-national levels: transformations in the meaning and practice of 'statecraft' and strategic policy, in narratives and practices of identity, and in the way trans-national movements of 'democratic citizens' organise and act to support and negotiate the diversity of identities at stake in the path to peace. Ultimately, I hope that such a model of trans-national responsibility, ethics and agency will work as a profound subversion of the modern architectonic of security that might—and this is no paradox—in turn hold out a promise of genuine and sustainable security in which no one is sacrificed, and in which there are no permanent victims.

47. It is important to restate that such an ethics does not mean a totalising rejection of the state, but it does demand its transformation. Such a transformation needs to address both the nation-state's fundamental ontologies—its structures and practices of identity, meaning, exclusion and violence—and its political and administrative architecture. The desire for identity and sovereignty is not per se illegitimate—such an ethics could plausibly aim to advance the achievement of Palestinian self-determination and make the Israeli state more just and tenable—but it must be matched with a reflexive critical ethos that puts the dignity and call of the human, in all its alienness and diversity, before the abstract being of the nation. Nor can such a politics ever seek to efface the injustices and aporias that fissure its history and its claims—which is why the question of narrative and incommensurability at the heart of this conflict, and so many others, is of such significance. It might be to agree with one of Jacques Derrida's many intuitions about his 'democracy to come':

an extension of the democratic beyond nation-state sovereignty, beyond citizenship...[that would] come about through the creation of an international juridico-political space that without doing away every reference to sovereignty, never stops innovating and inventing new distributions and forms of sharing, new divisions of sovereignty. (Derrida, 2005: 87)

In every new context, the ethical test might be Buber's: have we addressed the You?

48. This is the ultimate tragedy of the conflict in the Holy Land, which since 1989 has seen no end of 'dialogue' and negotiation but little hope of peace. In this sense the ethical resources I have outlined here constitute an important challenge to existing conceptions of strategy and diplomacy. As shown in authoritative accounts of the Oslo and Road Map processes and the discussions at Camp David, Taba and Sharm El-Sheikh, laudable experiences of genuine dialogue have been overshadowed by endless tactical and strategic manoeuvring compounded by mutual incomprehension. Prior to the Al-Aqsa Intifada, Israelis may have been understandably angered by the Palestinian failure to acknowledge the significance of the Temple Mount to Jews, but ought likewise to acknowledge the unfairness of the territorial proposals offered by Barak for the West Bank that were still based on a desire for division and control (see Beilin, 2004; Pundak, 2001: 31-46; Reinhart, 2005; Carey and Shainin, 1-9, 27-44).

49. Not only does this ethics, and the deeper critique of security to which I have offered it as a partial solution, form a challenge to our concepts of strategy and diplomacy. It also asks questions of the ways we combine sovereignty, territory, identity, history, culture and faith into the apparently unproblematic and tenable whole we think of as security. The dispute over the old city of Jerusalem, especially the site of the ancient Temple Mount/al-Haram-al-Sharif and Western Wall, highlights this problem. It was in retrospect one of the most sensitive issues and profound obstacles to a final agreement prior to the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada (named for the mosque at one end of the compound) which as we know was sparked by Sharon's inflammatory visit in September 2000 intended, so he claimed, 'to actualise Israel's sovereignty over it' (Beilin, 2004: 189). In the model settlement offered by the Geneva Accords sovereignty is shared, with Israel gaining the Western Wall and the Palestinian state the upper levels of the compound where the mosques are; the Israeli right vehemently objects to any relinquishing of Israel's sovereignty claim; while some Palestinian negotiators in 2000 suggested placing the area under the 'sovereignty' of the UN Security Council (Beilin, 2004: 186-192, 345). Only this last proposal perhaps incorporated a discomfort with the extraordinary hubris inherent in any state establishing 'sovereignty' over an area sacred to three ancient religions, where the prophets walked and the faithful daily pray. However, while sovereignty remains modern international society's ultimate mark and measure of being, conflict over this area can only continue.

50. Those genuinely searching for peace must overcome the deepening alienation between Israelis and Palestinians, an alienation that the violence of the last seven years has only entrenched and the separation wall now symbolises. At the same time, there are many courageous efforts at cooperation and communication that both highlight disagreement and difference, but enact in quite tangible ways (and in the face of active opposition) the ethics of reciprocity and responsibility I have explored here. Examples include the activists working jointly with Palestinians in organisations like Gush Shalom, Women in Black and Ta'ayush; the joint Jewish and Palestinian governance of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam with its School For Peace (Butler, 2004: 116); and internet publishing experiments like More ambiguous is the peace politics of the Israeli centre, which while having great value and importance, retains traces of the instrumental strategy of peace as separation and control. We may rightly fear that it is what Zvi Bar'el—after surveying the new party positions revealed by the late-2005 split in Likud and the election of new Labour leader Amir Peretz—sardonically called 'a peace without Palestinians' (Ba'rel, 2005). The recognition of compromise shown on the centre and right is valuable, but it must be transformed into a politics and diplomacy that acknowledges interconnection and interdependence; that might genuinely pluralise and transform the identities, narratives and relations within and between each society.

51. Can this ethics be made real? Can it not be the basis for a security after security, a security that genuinely nurtures, rather than destroys, life? For such a difficult, traumatic, and ultimately hopeful project, the words of Levinas could act like a terrestrial guiding star: 'A person is more holy than a land, even a holy land, since, faced with an affront made to a person, this holy land appears in its nakedness to be but stone and wood' (1999: 297).


Anthony Burke is the author of Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence: War Against The Other (Routledge, 2007), and Fear of Security: Australia's Invasion Anxiety (2nd edn. Cambridge University Press, 2008), and co-editor of Critical Security in the Asia-Pacific (Manchester University Press, 2007). He has also recently published articles on biopolitics, sovereignty and war in Theory & Event (10:2, June 2007), Griffith Review (18, February 2008), and Suvendrini Perera ed. Our Patch: Enactments of Australian Sovereignty Post-2001 (Network Books, 2007). He is Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations in the School of Social Sciences and International Studies (and from February 2008 at the Australian Defence Force Academy), UNSW. Email:


My deep thanks to Vijay Devadas, Chris Prentice and Simone Drichel for their invitation to deliver this essay as a keynote address to the University of Otago's "Post-Colonial Politics" conference. This essay is a substantially abridged version of Chapter 3 of the book Beyond Security, Ethics and Violence, and I am grateful to Routledge for permission to publish it here.

[1] The Geneva Accords were published in October 2003, and were the product of bilateral negotiations between Israeli politicians and former security officials led by former Labour MK Yossi Beilin and a Palestinian group led by Yasser Abed Rabbo. They followed the inconclusive late negotiations between the PLO and Barak government at Taba in January 2001, and built upon concepts discussed at Camp David that year and upon a series of principles (or 'parameters') set out by President Clinton. Copies are available at and in Beilin, The Path to Geneva, pp 326-362.


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