Itineraries in Conflict: Israelis, Palestinians and the Political Live of Tourism

Rebecca L. Stein

In Itineraries in Conflict, Rebecca L. Stein argues that through tourist practices—acts of cultural consumption, routes and imaginary voyages to neighboring Arab countries, culinary desires—Israeli citizens are negotiating Israel’s changing place in the contemporary Middle East. Drawing on ethnographic and archival research conducted throughout the last decade, Stein analyzes the divergent meanings that Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel have attached to tourist cultures, and she considers their resonance with histories of travel in Israel, its Occupied Territories, and pre-1948 Palestine. Stein argues that tourism’s cultural performances, spaces, souvenirs, and maps have provided Israelis in varying social locations with a set of malleable tools to contend with the political changes of the last decade: the rise and fall of a Middle East Peace Process (the Oslo Process), globalization and neoliberal reform, and a second Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Combining vivid ethnographic detail, postcolonial theory, and readings of Israeli and Palestinian popular texts, Stein considers a broad range of Israeli leisure cultures of the Oslo period with a focus on the Jewish desires for Arab things, landscapes, and people that regional diplomacy catalyzed. Moving beyond conventional accounts, she situates tourism within a broader field of “discrepant mobility,” foregrounding the relationship between histories of mobility and immobility, leisure and exile, consumption and militarism. She contends that the study of Israeli tourism must open into broader interrogations of the Israeli occupation, the history of Palestinian dispossession, and Israel’s future in the Arab Middle East. Itineraries in Conflict is both a cultural history of the Oslo process and a call to fellow scholars to rethink the contours of the Arab-Israeli conflict by considering the politics of popular culture in everyday Israeli and Palestinian lives.