مرکزی صفحہ Journal of Israeli History Saharan Zion: state evasion and state-making in modern Jewish and Sahrawi history

Saharan Zion: state evasion and state-making in modern Jewish and Sahrawi history

آپ کو یہ کتاب کتنی پسند ہے؟
فائل کی کوالٹی کیا ہے؟
کوالٹی کا جائزہ لینے کے لیے کتاب ڈاؤن لوڈ کریں
فائل کی کوالٹی کیا ہے؟
زبان:
english
رسالہ:
Journal of Israeli History
DOI:
10.1080/13531042.2019.1645309
Date:
August, 2019
فائل:
PDF, 1.58 MB
0 comments
 

To post a review, please sign in or sign up
آپ کتاب کا معائنہ کر سکتے ہیں اور اپنے تجربات شیئر کرسکتے ہیں۔ دوسرے قارئین کتابوں کے بارے میں آپ کی رائے میں ہمیشہ دلچسپی رکھیں گے۔ چاہے آپ کو کتاب پسند ہے یا نہیں ، اگر آپ اپنے دیانتدار اور تفصیلی خیالات دیںگے تو لوگوں کو نئی کتابیں ملیںگی جو ان کے لئے صحیح ہیں۔
Journal of Israeli History
Politics, Society, Culture

ISSN: 1353-1042 (Print) 1744-0548 (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/fjih20

Saharan Zion: state evasion and state-making in
modern Jewish and Sahrawi history
Johannes Becke
To cite this article: Johannes Becke (2019): Saharan Zion: state evasion and
state-making in modern Jewish and Sahrawi history, Journal of Israeli History, DOI:
10.1080/13531042.2019.1645309
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/13531042.2019.1645309

Published online: 08 Aug 2019.

Submit your article to this journal

Article views: 4

View related articles

View Crossmark data

Full Terms & Conditions of access and use can be found at
https://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?journalCode=fjih20

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY
https://doi.org/10.1080/13531042.2019.1645309

ARTICLE

Saharan Zion: state evasion and state-making in modern
Jewish and Sahrawi history
Johannes Becke
Ben Gurion Chair for Israel and Middle East Studies, Heidelberg Center for Jewish Studies, Heidelberg,
Germany
ABSTRACT

KEYWORDS

Based on a comparison between Jewish and Sahrawi nationalism, the
article introduces James Scott’s theorization of state-evading and
state-making societies to the study of Zionist state formation. Given
the state-evading features of Jewish Diaspora life (physical dispersion, segmentary kinship, acephalous social structure), the article
argues that Zionism might best be compared to the state-making
projects of other state-evading communities (including Kurdish,
Berber, and Sahrawi nationalism). As an example for this comparative
research agenda, the article explores the case of Sahrawi nationalism:
While POLISARIO, the national liberation movement of Western
Sahara, was consciously modelled after Third World insurgencies in
Algeria and Palestine, the Sahrawi proto-state (the Sahrawi Arab
Democratic Republic) applies a model of state-driven nation-building
that corresponds closely to the statism (mamlakhtiyut) of the Zionist
state-in-t; he-making.

State evasion; state-making;
Zionism; Western Sahara

Introduction
In contrast to exceptionalist portrayals of the Zionist project, the comparative research
agenda in the field of Israel Studies has established crucial insights into the shared features
which link the history of Jewish nationalism to other nationalist movements and state
projects.1 Comparative studies have focused on Zionism as a form of Diaspora nationalism,
as a colonization project, as a form of ethnic nationalism or as a theological ideology.2
While Zionism has long been studied in comparison to nationalist movements in Europe,
in recent years an increasing number of scholars has made the case for studying Israel
within its Middle Eastern setting:3 Taking up an earlier tradition of studying Zionist state
formation as a part of the developing world, authors have questioned Israel’s categorization
as a Western nation-state or as a European settler colony.4 Instead, scholars have compared
Israel’s desecularization to Algeria and India, explored parallels between the war financing
of the Yishuv and the Viet Cong, analyzed the creation of Pakistan as a “Muslim Zion,” or
compared Israel’s territorial expansion to Syria, Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey.5
As a contribution to the regionalist school in Israel Studies, this article presents the
case for integrating the Zionist project into the study of “state-evading peoples” in the
CONTACT Johannes Becke
johannes.becke@hfjs.eu
Ben Gurion Chair for Israel and Middle East Studies,
Heidelberg Center for Jewish Studies, Heidelberg, Germany
© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group

2

J. BECKE

Middle East and beyond:6 According to James Scott, state-evading societies are defined
by physical dispersion, segmentary kinship, and an acephalous social structure, all of
which help them evade the grasp of centralized state control. In contrast, state-making
societies feature a densely settled, agricultural population disciplined by taxation,
conscription and centralized religion. Following Durkheim’s understanding of Jewish
diaspora life as a segmented society, this distinction calls for a comparison between
Zionism and other state-making projects in state-evading societies, including the cases
of modern Kurdish, Berber, and Sahrawi nationalism.7 Instead of transferring the
Eurocentric framework of “minorities” or “minority nationalism” to the Middle East,
this comparative approach focuses on a distinct pattern of social organization (state
evasion) and its transformation through the process of nationalization (state-making).8
As a counter-intuitive comparative case study, this article studies the parallels between
Zionism and the “Saharan Zion,” the state-making project of modern Sahrawi nationalism. Bordered by Morocco, Mauritania and Algeria, the contested territory of Western
Sahara is split by massive desert fortifications which separate a Moroccan-administered
(or Moroccan-occupied) part from a much smaller part which is administered by
POLISARIO, the national liberation movement of Western Sahara.9 The Moroccanruled part encompasses all the major cities and the substantial natural resources of the
territory, including phosphate mines and fisheries. The POLISARIO-ruled part consists of
a narrow piece of arid land with the mostly symbolic value of being the “liberated
territories” of a present-future Sahrawi nation-state, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic
Republic (SADR). This proto-state is in charge of maintaining a small guerrilla force
and administering everyday life in the Sahrawi refugee camps in the Algerian desert.
Sahrawi nationalism was consciously modelled after the Algerian-Palestinian model,
and parallels between the Palestinian diaspora and the Sahrawi “refugee nation” have
long been established.10 In contrast, this article argues that both Jewish and Sahrawi
nationalism share typical features of state-making processes in state-evading societies:
POLISARO may have sought to emulate PLO-style armed struggle, but the state-driven
nation-building within the Sahrawi proto-state shows strong parallels to the mamlakhtiyut (statism) of the Zionist state-in-the-making.11 The argument will be presented as
follows: First, the article integrates the theorization of state-evading and state-making
societies into the comparative analysis of Israel-diaspora relations. Second, the article
compares Jewish and Sahrawi nationalism by exploring four crucial dimensions of
state-making in state-evading societies: The centralization of violence (militarization),
authority (hierarchization), culture (nationalization) and space (territorialization).
Third, the article points out the unique features of the Zionist project which set it
apart from other “‘would-be’ states” in the Middle East like the SADR, the Rif Republic
or the Republic of Mahabad. Fourth, the conclusion argues that the comparative focus
on state evasion and state-making might be crucial for exploring the parallels between
the modern Jewish, Kurdish and Berber experience.

Muslim Zion, Saharan Zion: comparative perspectives on Israel-Diaspora
relations
The study of Israel-Diaspora relations frequently emphasizes the idiosyncratic nature of
the Jewish case: To the Zionist eye, the “territorial foundation” (ha-yesod ha-artzi) forms

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

3

one of the unique features of Jewish history while diasporic life represents “political
servitude, which must be abolished completely.”12 In contrast to Zionist Heilsgeschichte
(history of salvation), anti-Zionist Unheilsgeschichte (history of damnation) understands
the same process of diaspora restoration (defined by Anthony Smith as the “return of the
community to its ancestral home from which it had been exiled”) as a catastrophic act of
political violence and cultural disfiguration, resulting in “masquerade colonialism, parodic
mimesis of colonialism, Jews in colonialist drag”.13 Following Zygmunt Bauman’s theorization of Allosemitism, both exceptionalist readings of Israel-Diaspora relations
(whether Zionist or anti-Zionist) can be understood as a form of Allozionism, defined
as “the practice of setting Zionism and the State of Israel apart as a nationalist movement
and a nation-state radically different from all the others, needing separate concepts to
describe and comprehend them and special treatment in all or most social intercourse”.14
In contrast, comparative approaches to the study of Israel-diaspora relations emphasize the parallels between the Zionist project and other forms of diaspora nationalism,
both in Europe (especially in the Greek and the Armenian case) and the Middle East.15
In the field of intellectual history, comparative approaches focus on the diffusion,
translation, and contestation (including outright demonization) of Zionist or protoZionist motifs such as ethnosectarianism, diaspora restoration and minority separatism.
Given the centrality of the Hebrew Bible in Western civilization and the global salience
of the Israeli-Arab conflict throughout the Cold War, Jewish and Palestinian nationalisms have long been turned into projection screens, role models and cultural codes for
numerous national movements: European settler-colonialists fantasized about “promised lands” and “manifest destinies” based on supersessionist Christian readings of
the Hebrew Bible; Irish nationalists first fell in love with Jewish Diaspora restoration
and later identified with the Palestinian struggle; stateless communities throughout the
Middle East (whether Maronites, Kurds or Palestinians) studied Zionist ideology and
Jewish-Israeli history with a mixture of jealousy and amazement.16 Even for committed
Anti-Zionists, the undeniable achievements of the Zionist project turned the State of
Israel into an ambivalent figure of what might be called an enemy-as-role-model.17
In the field of state formation, comparative approaches focus on the commonalities
and differences between state-building projects that are carried out by diaspora-nationalist movements, including affinities between the Zionist project and other attempts at
diaspora restoration (Liberia as the “Black Zion”), minority nationalism in the context
of territorial partition (Pakistan as the “Muslim Zion”) and language revitalization as
the backbone of national revival in cases ranging from Ireland to New Zealand.18 From
a comparative perspective, some elements of Zionist state formation stand out as
unique, for instance the dialectic tension between colonial statecraft and an ethnonationalist claim to indigeneity, which came to produce a “settler-immigrant-indigenous
society.”19 In other cases, the comparative method points to shared features of diaspora
nationalism, like the distinct pattern of irredentist expansionism in modern Greek,
Armenian, and Jewish-Israeli history: In the case of Greece, only catastrophic defeat and
mass ethnic cleansing in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) put an end to the Megali
Idea (Great Idea) of reconquering Constantinople/Istanbul and all of Byzantine Asia
Minor.20 Until today, both Armenia and Israel continue to rule over ethnic exclaves on
contested territories, namely the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and the
Armenian Republic of Artsakh (formerly known as the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic).

4

J. BECKE

This article looks at a special case of homeland-diaspora relations, namely state-making
projects by state-evading societies. In contrast to most homeland-Diaspora relations, which
are shaped by the dynamics of concentration (in the homeland) and dispersal (in the
diaspora), state-evading societies are shaped by a situation of permanent dispersal:
According to James Scott, state-evading societies share the features of physical dispersion,
mobility, segmentary kinship, pliable ethnicity and prophetic leadership, all of which seek
to evade “incorporation into states and to prevent states from springing up among them”.21
In contrast, state-making societies typically feature a densely settled, agricultural population
disciplined by taxation, conscription and centralized religion. While Meyer Fortes and
Edward E. Evans-Pritchard define segmentary societies as “stateless societies” which “lack
centralized authority, administrative machinery, and constituted judicial institutions – in
short which lack government,” Scott’s approach focuses not on the absence of the state, but
on strategies of evading its immediate grasp.22 Consequently, state-evading societies follow
the segmentary logic of “divide that ye need not be ruled”:23 “Their subsistence routines,
their social organization, their physical dispersal, and many elements of their culture, far
from being the archaic traits of a people left behind, are purposefully crafted both to thwart
incorporation into nearby states and to minimize the likelihood that statelike concentrations of power will arise among them.”24
State-making projects in state-evading societies can be described as particularly challenging. For the case of South East Asia, Scott argues that state-evading societies mostly engage
in “imitative state-making,” rarely resulting in more than “‘would-be’ states”:25 “They are
the exceptions that prove the rule. While state-making projects have abounded . . . it is fair
to say that few have come to fruition. Those would-be kingdoms that did manage to defy
the odds did so only for a relatively brief, crisis-strewn period.”26 Indeed, the categorization
of Zionism as state-making project for a state-evading society seeks to highlight the
precarious nature of the early Zionist project at the margins of Middle Eastern state
formation. While state projects by Arab, Turkish and Persian nationalists could build on
centuries of state-making, both Jewish, Kurdish, Berber and Sahrawi nationalists struggled
to overcome the institutional and cultural path dependence of the “nonstate option”:27
Most Middle Eastern statelets established by state-evading societies came to fit into Scott’s
category of short-lived “would-be kingdoms,” sometimes lasting for only a few months (like
the Kurdish Republic of Mahabad in 1946).28
In contrast, the Zionist movement did succeed in overturning the path dependence of state
evasion to build a high-functioning and even highly expansionist state apparatus. To explore
the differences and commonalities of Zionist state formation and other cases of state-making
in state-evading societies, the following sections compare the cases of Jewish and Sahrawi
nationalism. Four different processes of state-making in state-evading societies will be
explored in particular: Militarization describes the centralization of violence, a shift from
dispersed patterns of community defense to a formalized and permanent military apparatus.
Territorialization describes the centralization of space, a shift from geographic dispersion to
rooted, demarcated and interlinked forms of human settlement. Hierarchization describes
the centralization of authority, the shift from a segmented, egalitarian and acephalous society
to a centralized and differentiated form of institutionalized rule enforcement. Lastly, nationalization describes the centralization of culture, a shift from local, dispersed and autonomous forms of cultural expression to a centralized and regulated system of creating,
managing, and interpreting the symbolic meaning of social interaction. While POLISARIO

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

5

sought to emulate the PLO, the comparison between Jewish and Sahrawi nationalism points
to a more ambivalent picture: By combining PLO-style armed struggle and the top-down
nation-building of the Zionist state-in-the-making, the Sahrawi proto-state stands at the
intersection of Jewish and Palestinian diaspora nationalism, or, to paraphrase Sadiq al-Azm,
at the intersection of Zionism and Palestinian Zionism.29

Militarization: creating a “liberated zone”
The militarization of Sahrawi state-making merged tribal groups in Western Sahara into
the military apparatus of a proto-state. Throughout POLISARIO’s guerrilla campaigns, the
Sahrawi national movement applied the same guerrilla strategy as early Palestinian
nationalism – only more successfully: “Polisario did not enjoy the diplomatic support of
the Arab states. But it found it easier than the PLO to liberate territory.”30 In comparison
to the PLO experience of nation-building in exile, since the earliest days of its establishment the SADR had the crucial symbolic advantage of actually controlling parts of the
claimed homeland. Key events of Sahrawi state formation (including the proclamation of
the SADR in 1976) took place on the territory of Western Sahara, or in the language of
Sahrawi nationalism, the “liberated zone”:
The Sahrawi republic sees itself as an independent state under illegal occupation, not as a
government in exile. Polisario officials emphasize that the refugees are in Algeria for
security and humanitarian reasons only . . . The Sahrawi republic attempts to carry out
as many governmental functions in the territory as possible, especially the Polisario
congresses and national celebrations, such as RASD’s anniversary celebrations in
February, normally staged in Tifariti.31

The establishment of this “liberated” zone dates back to the early days of the Sahrawi
insurgency. Based on a combination of traditional forms of nomadic warfare and modern
military technology, POLISARIO guerrilla operations against the partition of Western
Sahara between Morocco and Mauritania reached a remarkable level of military effectiveness, including armed raids deep into Moroccan and Mauritanian territory.32 In fact,
Sahrawi strikes against Mauritania were so powerful that the military and political collapse
of the fragile Mauritanian state could only be prevented by a large-scale intervention of the
French air force (“Operation Lamantin”) against POLISARIO forces, complemented by the
stationing of Moroccan troops inside Mauritania.33 By 1979 POLISARIO guerrilla warfare
had successfully eroded Mauritanian efforts to incorporate the southern part of Western
Sahara (renamed as “Tiris al-Gharbia”): After a coup by military officers who were frustrated
by guerrilla harassment and an increasing Moroccan military presence, Mauritania formally
withdrew any territorial claims to Western Sahara and signed a Sahrawi-Mauritanian peace
accord, the Algiers Agreement, which pledged to transfer the previously annexed part of
Western Sahara to POLISARIO.34
Despite heavy setbacks (including the death in battle of POLISARIO’s first secretarygeneral and first president of the SADR, El Ouali Mustapha Sayed) and the swift occupation
of Tiris al-Gharbia by Moroccan troops, the Algiers Agreement established an important
precedent for the Sahrawi insurgency against the formal incorporation of Western Sahara
into the Moroccan state: While POLISARIO was unable to defeat the Moroccan military in
open battle, guerrilla warfare aimed at slowly eroding the political will of the Moroccan

6

J. BECKE

officer corps and the Moroccan population to shoulder the military and economic burden
of the ongoing “Moroccanization” efforts in Western Sahara.
However, by limiting itself to “hard targets” like Moroccan military and strategic
installations without targeting the obvious “soft targets” of Morocco’s tourism industry,
POLISARIO ultimately failed to overcome Morocco’s classic counterinsurgency strategy
of border interdiction.35 Over time, the construction of a massive network of defensive
desert walls proved highly effective in slowly expanding the territory under Moroccan
control from about one sixth of the entire territory of Western Sahara (1983) to two
thirds (1987). In its final stage, this desert wall (“berm”) reached a length of 2,400 km,
protected by regular garrisons of Moroccan soldiers.36
The failure of POLISARIO’s strategy of state-making by militarization might not be
particularly surprising: In contrast to the Israeli-Arab conflict, in the Moroccan-Sahrawi
confrontation only one side enjoyed the privileges of great power patronage. While
Morocco was able to leverage its ties to Arab monarchies, the Western world and the
Soviet Union, the Sahrawi state project found itself limited to patronage from Algeria
and, to varying degrees, Cuba, Libya and Syria.37

Territorialization: indigenization and third world colonialism
Sahrawi state-making was closely connected to the process of territorialization, which
reframed an uprising of tribal groups into a confrontation between an indigenous nation
against foreign colonizers: By framing the nation’s social identity as being engaged in a
struggle against foreign colonialism, any attempt by Moroccan state authorities to present
historical or legal claims to the contested territory could be portrayed as fundamentally
illegitimate. Similar to Palestinian nationalism, different shades of Sahrawi national identity
were accentuated according to the target audience: The Sahrawi state project was presented
to external patrons either as a form of revolutionary Third Worldism (Algeria), grassroots
democracy carried out by popular committees (Libya), anti-Zionist pan-Arabism (Syria), or
a “kind of indigenous socialism” espousing progressive forms of gender equality (Western
and especially Spanish support networks) – all of which could be brought under the
umbrella of fighting against the Third World settler-colonialism of the Moroccan state.38
Similar to other “comparable, but somewhat different kinds of anti-colonial struggles
in those countries more recently occupied” such as Eritrea and East Timor, Sahrawi
nationalism aimed at resisting a policy of coercive incorporation.39 In sharp contrast to
Israel’s strategy of non-incorporation vis-à-vis the inhabitants of the West Bank for
instance, Morocco systematically aimed at converting the population of Western Sahara
into loyal Moroccans, by force if necessary, to bolster its claim to the territory:40 If
Sahrawi nationalism could be crushed militarily and the Sahrawi population under
Moroccan occupation could be transformed into royal “subjects of the Sahara” who
differed from their “brethren from the North” in a few local customs only, Morocco’s
territorial conquest would not be a violation of the international law of decolonization
since there would be no Sahrawi nation to begin with.41
In this context, POLISARIO routinely describes Morocco’s military invasion of Western
Sahara in 1975 as “a colonial war,” Moroccan rule over Western Sahara as “a colonial
policy” and the Sahrawi population as “a people subjected to colonial occupation”.42 This

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

7

depiction of Morocco as a colonial power goes back to the early days of POLISARIO’s
Third Worldism like the proclamation of the first SADR government in March 1976:
A new page has been opened in the struggle of our people which today defies the colonialism of
our allegedly ‘brotherly’ neighbors – after having closed the page of colonialism by the faraway enemy through its heroic struggle.43

This routine depiction, by Sahrawi propaganda, of Moroccan rule over Western Sahara as
“colonialism, Moroccan style” even provoked, at one point, a response by Hassan II:44
Peace and quiet . . . reign in La’ayoune, Smara, Boujdour, Dakhla and all around. . . . There
are schools and hospitals for everyone. Furthermore, which is unprecedented in both
ancient and contemporary history . . . not a single armed soldier is patrolling the cities and
villages of the Sahara. Those who pretend that Morocco is acting there as a colonizer have
lived through the colonial period themselves. How can they delude themselves to this
extent? How is it conceivable to compare their life under colonialism and the current life
of the Sahrawis allegedly under Moroccan colonialism? Thank God, in the Sahara, the
trader, the student, the craftsman and the farmer can work in peace.45

In 1991, the end of the Cold War transformed the Moroccan-Sahrawi confrontation from
a desert war into a diplomatic quagmire: Under the auspices of a UN peacekeeping
mission (MINURSO, Mission des Nations Unies pour l’Organisation d’un Référendum
au Sahara Occidental), the territorial conflict was supposed to be decided in the framework
of a referendum on self-determination, thereby complying with the international law of
decolonization. The referendum was subverted by Moroccan attempts to manipulate the
electorate by flooding the voter lists with pro-Moroccan loyalists.46 In line with the Third
Worldist jargon of its founding philosophy, Sahrawi propaganda described this Moroccan
practice of demographic engineering in the territory as a form of “settler-colonialism” –
even if many “Moroccan settlers” were ethnic Sahrawis from Southern Morocco who
might be sympathetic to an independent Sahrawi republic.47 For instance, in his critique
against the 2003 Baker II peace plan (see below), the Secretary-General of POLISARIO
described the suggested inclusion of “the bona fide residents of Western Sahara” as
follows:
Accepting the Moroccan flag, currency and stamps in the Western Sahara is tantamount to
giving in to the colonizer’s claim that it has sovereignty over the Territory. [. . .] [The]
composition of the electorate envisaged under the proposal is both unfair and fatal to the
Saharan people [. . .] because the fate of the colonized Saharan Territory would be
determined through a referendum in which 86,425 Saharans and [. . .] Moroccan settlers
four to five times that number would participate.48

Hierarchization: Sahrawi Mamlakhtiyut
In terms of militarization (centralization of violence) and territorialization (centralization
of space), the Sahrawi state closely followed the Algerian-Palestinian paradigm of armed
national liberation. However, the hierarchization (centralization of authority) of the
Sahrawi state project differed markedly from the Palestinian model of deferred state
formation (liberation into the state) and came much closer to the Zionist paradigm of
immediate state formation (liberation by the state):49 Unlike the PLO (or the FLN, for that
matter), Sahrawi nationalists engaged in a vigorous campaign of rapid nationalization, for

8

J. BECKE

instance by proclaiming the establishment of a nation-state (not just a nationalist movement), establishing a national army (not just a guerrilla movement), building a national Red
Crescent organization (not just a medical emergency service) and observing national
holidays (not just special occasions of a nationalist movement).
This pattern of Sahrawi mamlakhtiyut aimed first and foremost at subverting the
Moroccanization of Western Sahara. As a systematic violation of the international law of
decolonization and the 1975 ruling of the International Court of Justice on Western Sahara,
Morocco’s rule over the contested territory was based on a triple denial:50 First, Morocco
denied the existence of a Sahrawi territory by strategically splitting Western Sahara into four
provinces, some of them stretching across the pre-1975 border in order to blur Morocco’s
international boundaries and renamed the territory first as Morocco’s “Saharan provinces”
and later as its “Southern provinces.”51 Second, Morocco denied the existence of a Sahrawi
nation, only recognized by the Moroccan king Hassan II as a “so-called people” led by a “socalled” nationalist movement.52 As Hassan II explained, there could be no such thing as a
Sahrawi nation that would be limited to Western Sahara:
[We] speak of a Sahrawi people, as you say, the term comes from the word Sahara, so every
inhabitant of the Sahara is a Sahrawi . . . There is the Moroccan Sahara, the Mauritanian,
the Algerian, the Malian [. . .] In that sense we can speak of a Sahrawi people. But [a
Sahrawi people] ranging from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, not merely 75.000 people.53

Third, Morocco denied the existence of a Sahrawi state apparatus by mocking the
SADR as an Algerian “puppet state,” an inauthentic pseudo-state deserving ridicule
even on the level of typography.54
The Sahrawi Republic thus represented a crucial strategic tool against the formalization
of Morocco’s incorporation attempt: Given Morocco’s clear violation of the international
law of decolonization, the abstract notion of “the inalienable right of the people of Western
Sahara to self-determination” was annually confirmed in declarations of the UN General
Assembly based on reports of the UN Special Committee on Decolonization. As a Sahrawi
quasi-state, however, the SADR operated as a very tangible fulfilment of this abstract right
to self-determination – after all, recognition of the SADR (at one point extending to over 80
states) meant recognizing its de jure sovereignty over the entire territory of Western Sahara,
including those areas under de facto Moroccan occupation.55 In response to Morocco’s
unlawful annexation of the territory, large numbers of former colonies throughout
the Third World recognized the SADR which was even granted full membership in the
Organization of African Unity in 1984 (followed by Morocco’s withdrawal from the
organization until 2017).56
To this day, the question of Sahrawi statehood continues to shape the territorial conflict:
After failing in its attempt to successfully subvert the referendum on the self-determination
of Western Sahara, Morocco simply abandoned the process in 2000 with substantial Western
backing.57 In an attempt to find a political solution below the threshold of statehood,
American diplomats suggested to transfer the Oslo paradigm from Israel/Palestine to the
Maghreb: The 2003 “Baker II” peace plan foresaw the creation of a “transitional” administration under full Moroccan control, the “Western Sahara Authority” (WSA). While elections for its quasi-state organs (a legislative assembly, a supreme court, a chief executive)
would have been based on an all-Sahrawi electorate, a new referendum on self-determination

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

9

would have included “the bona fide residents of Western Sahara”58 – in other words, the
majority population of Moroccan settler-immigrants.59
Under Algerian pressure, the POLISARIO leadership agreed to the Baker II plan –
even if the plan would have transformed them from leaders of a diaspora-nationalist
proto-state in exile (SADR) to agents of a Moroccan satellite non-state (WSA):60 While
the “Western Sahara Authority” would have been responsible for law enforcement,
fisheries and industry, Morocco would have remained in charge of foreign relations,
defense and (tellingly) “the preservation of territorial integrity against secessionist
attempts, whether from within or outside the Territory”.61
Morocco rejected the peace deal – in sharp contrast to the Palestinian fate of being stuck
in a semi-functional satellite state, the Sahrawi proto-state therefore continues to operate
somewhere between the diasporic “miniature state” of pre-assimilation European Jewry (as
described by Jakob Klatzkin) and the mamlakhtiyut (statism) of the New Yishuv.62 Claude
Bontems describes the paradox of a proto-state that is both fully diasporic and fully
nationalized as follows: “The Tindouf [location of the refugee camps] is seen not as a
totally foreign land, but as a miniature of Western Sahara, a temporary substitute for the
homeland”.63 Consequently, in a striking parallel to the Zionist project, both national
salvation history and the national territory remain suspended between diasporic longing
and nationalist fulfilment.

Nationalization: more than a tribe with a flag
In parallel to the centralization of authority, the Sahrawi state project also carried out a topdown policy of transformational nationalization (centralization of culture). Ostentatious
displays of Sahrawiness sought to resist the logic of cultural Moroccanization: As a project
of denationalization, Morocco’s rule aimed at reconverting the term Sahrawi (i.e., Saharan)
from a category of national self-characterization (implying a right of self-determination) to
a purely geographic description – in the same way that politicidal Arab anti-Zionism aimed
at converting Judaism back to a purely religious description.64 In defiance of this policy of
incorporation, Sahrawi nationalism accentuated the qualitative distinction between
“Sahrawiness” and “Moroccanness” by confronting Morocco’s incorporation efforts with
the notion of a fundamentally un-incorporable Sahrawi nation. The triple Moroccan denial
of a Sahrawi nation, territory and state apparatus was systematically confronted by vigorous
nation-building inside the Sahrawi proto-state in the Algerian refugee camps.
The observance of national holidays aptly encapsulates the subversive logic of building a
Sahrawi nation diametrically opposed to the Moroccan incorporation project: Within
Morocco and Moroccan-administered Western Sahara, irredentist nationalism became
integrated into the liturgical year of national holidays – the “Saharan Consensus” of
Moroccan unity on the question of Western Sahara was not only celebrated on the
anniversary of the “Green March” (November 6), but also on the anniversary of
Morocco’s capture of Tiras el-Gharbia (Oued ed-Dahab Day, August 14).65 In contrast,
within the proto-state of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, national holidays celebrate the chronology of Sahrawi state formation: Pre-POLISARIO Sahrawi nationalism
(June 17, Day of Insurrection), the foundation of POLISARIO (May 10), the first guerrilla
attack against Spanish forces (May 20), the establishment of supra-tribal national unity
(October 12, Day of National Unity), the proclamation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic

10

J. BECKE

Republic (27 February) and the guerrilla war against Morocco and Mauritania (June 9,
Martyrs’ Day).66 Even the settlement pattern of Sahrawi refugees in the Algerian desert
established a precise mirror image of a diasporic Western Sahara that could not be
incorporated by Morocco – each administrative area was named after a Western Saharan
locality:
In the early days of exile, the refugees used this geographical reference to re-assemble on
the basis of their native areas, hence preserving former social links and encouraging
continued mutual cooperation. This process was designed to make the reintegration of
the population easier once independence had been achieved.67

In addition, in the Moroccan-administered parts of Western Sahara, Sahrawi nationalism
took a distinctly ethnic turn by distinguishing between Sahrawis as nomadic Arabs and
Moroccan settlers as sedentary Berbers invading the territory primarily based on economic
opportunism. The Sahrawi vocabulary for Moroccan settler-immigrants (despite their
frequent tribal ties to Sahrawis) deploys terms that might be translated as “little Berbers”
(ch’lihat), “coolies” (hammal) or simply “eaters” (wakkala).68 This ethnic turn also found
its expression in an increasingly pan-Sahrawi nationalism: While POLISARIO’s official
“Western Saharan” nationalism was strictly limited to claiming the territory of Western
Sahara for its former inhabitants (in accordance with the international law of decolonization), the pan-Sahrawi appeal of this state project founds its expression in the migration of
ethnic Sahrawis from northern Mauritania and southern Morocco to the refugee camps.69
Within the Tindouf camps, the SADR engaged in a project of structural nationalization based on its strict control over both the education system and the media apparatus:
Various folkloric elements of Moorish nomadic pastoralism in Western Sahara were
merged into a distinct national culture which allegedly separated Sahrawi nomadism
from sedentary Moroccan culture, based on the hassaniya dialect of Arabic, different
religious practices and social structures (including gender norms) as well as the impact
of Spanish culture in contrast to French-influenced Morocco.70 In this effort to shape a
supra-tribal national consciousness, the SADR consequently engaged in a campaign to
combat tribalism – or, given the relatively obvious dominance of the Reguibat tribe
within the POLISARIO leadership, simply to deny it.71
Yet despite these efforts at top-down nationalization, the “Saharan Zion” of the
Sahrawi state project competes with ongoing patterns of Sahrawi statelessness, including some cases of Sahrawi loyalism to the Moroccan state apparatus. In contrast to early
defections from the Moroccan-administered areas to the refugee camps (including two
of the four initial Sahrawi representatives in Morocco’s parliament), recent years have
seen active Moroccan efforts to recruit former POLISARIO activists into its patronage
network of loyalist “palace Sahrawis”.72 After the failure of the referendum process,
both tribal elders and ex-POLISARIO functionaries were deployed by the Moroccan
monarchy to make the case for regional autonomy instead of self-determination within
the Saharan advisory council (CORCAS, Conseil royal consultatif pour les affaires
sahariennes).73 As a symbol of Sahrawi loyalism, the Moroccan-administered town of
La’ayoune (claimed by the SADR as its future capital) even houses a somewhat rundown “Museum of Saharan Arts” celebrating the artistic contribution “of our Southern
provinces . . . to the preservation of our identity.”74 However, while some Sahrawi
businessmen and tribal leaders could be coopted by the Moroccan state, overall

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

11

Sahrawi loyalism seems limited. In late 2010, just weeks before the outbreak of the
“Arab Spring,” Sahrawis in Moroccan-administered Western Sahara organized the
Gdeim Izik protest camp outside of La’ayoune: By moving from the Moroccanized
city into a tent camp in the desert, Sahrawi activists symbolically reenacted the escape
from the Moroccan-Mauritanian invasion in 1975 which stands at the origin of the
Sahrawi state project.75

Israel as a post-segmentary society
The Sahrawi state project remains at the margins of Middle Eastern politics, and its
precarious status points to the challenges of state-making in state-evading societies.
Segmentary societies which have gone through the transformational process of statemaking continue to be shaped by the historical legacy of heavily dispersed patterns of
social authority, cultural practices and settlement: In post-segmentary societies, the
fission/fusion dialects of segmentary politics or ʿasabiyya (Ibn Khaldun) persist, and
_
both the state option and the non-state option continue to coexist side by side –
76
whether in modern Jewish or Sahrawi history.
Instead of categorizing the Zionist project among other state-making societies (whether
in Europe or the Middle East), the comparison with segmentary and post-segmentary
societies emphasizes the fragile nature of Jewish-Israeli nationalization: Most projects of
state-making by state-evading societies in the modern Middle East were doomed to failure,
including the Rif Republic (1921–1926), the Druze State and the Alawite State (1920–1936),
Maronite-dominated Lebanon (until the Lebanese civil war), and two short-lived Kurdish
statelets (the Republic of Ararat, 1927–1930, and the Mahabad Republic in 1946).77 In
contrast to Israel, which emerged successfully from the dysfunctional “Arab-Jewish composite state” of Mandatory Palestine, all other state-making projects by state-evading
societies were either crushed by colonial authorities (the Rif Republic), dismantled by
Turkish, Persian and Arab nationalists (the Druze State, the Alawite State, the Republic
of Ararat and the Mahabad Republic) or condemned to the status of a ghostly proto-state
(the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic).78
This comparison points to significant differences in the case of Zionist state formation.
First, the Balfour Declaration resembled the colonial minority policy of “divide and
conquer,” but it produced a solid legal title to self-determination which anchored the
Zionist project in international law. In all other cases, favoritism towards state-evading
communities (Berber tribes in Morocco, Sahrawi tribes in Spanish Sahara, the compact
minorities of Greater Syria) produced patterns of secessionism and semi-functional statemaking, but never a formal agreement and international diplomatic backing.79 In contrast,
even highly restrictive British policies against Jewish immigration and land purchases (like
the White Paper of 1930 and even more so the White Paper of 1939) could not subvert the
“establishment of the Jewish National Home” enshrined in the League of Nations
Mandate:80 The British understanding of a “Jewish National Home” shifted repeatedly,
but the outright dismantling of Zionist institution-building in Mandatory Palestine was
never an option.
Second, in contrast to the short-lived Republic of Mahabad and other “would-be kingdoms,” the robustness of the Zionist project consisted in its institutional hybridity which
combined the dynamic ethno-separatism of the Rif Republic with the colonial projection of

12

J. BECKE

European power, populations and institutions to Aotearoa (New Zealand).81 In sharp
contrast to European settler-colonialism, Zionism aimed at Diaspora restoration instead
of imperial expansion; nonetheless, Zionist statecraft systematically emulated European
patterns of colonization, both in terms of planning, financing, and execution. Of course,
Israel would not remain the only Middle Eastern state to combine ethno-nationalism with
Western technology: Both Israel’s settlement project in the occupied territories and
Morocco’s incorporation of Western Sahara would have been impossible without the
military and tacit diplomatic support of major Western powers. As a result, Israel’s policies
in the occupied territories look significantly less like the fragile Sahrawi proto-state and
considerably more like the expansionist megalomania of Allal al-Fassi’s “Greater Morocco”,
reaching all the way from the Rif to the Senegal River.82

Conclusion
The “Saharan Zion” of a future Sahrawi republic transformed the tribal groups of
Western Sahara from a state-evading society into a state-making society. Throughout
this process, POLISARIO unsuccessfully sought to emulate the Algerian-Palestinian
role model of armed struggle: Sahrawi guerrilla warfare collapsed against an elaborate
Moroccan strategy of counterinsurgency, and given the almost total failure of Sahrawi
nationalists to reach out to audiences beyond Spanish-speaking solidarity movements,
the alleged fight against “Moroccan colonialism” is almost as unknown as the issue of
Western Sahara itself. In contrast, Sahrawi mamlakhtiyut rapidly constructed a protostate and a post-segmentary national identity from scratch, a relative success story
despite the current deadlock in the Moroccan-Sahrawi confrontation.
What can be learned from comparing Israel to state-making processes outside of the
world of established nation-states in the Middle East? First, the approach by James Scott
represents an innovative alternative to the settler-colonial paradigm: While the Zionist
project undoubtedly deployed colonial techniques for the settling of Jews in the Land of
Israel/Palestine, at its core Zionism represented a revolution of the relationship between the
Jews and the state which finds its parallels in modern Kurdish, Berber, and Sahrawi history.
Under the conditions of intrusive modern statehood, Zionists were not the only nationalists
who thought about a state option for a non-state community. In many societies, both in the
Middle East and beyond, state-making practices came to replace state-evading patterns of
community life: The premodern ideal of state evasion increasingly competed with the
modern vision of an evasion state, a political Zion which could perform the function of
community protection more effectively than the non-state option.
Second, the comparison explores the historical impact of the non-state option on
post-segmentary societies. This aspect emphasizes the fragility of early Zionist state
formation: The contemporary State of Israel may look very different from the Sahrawi
Arab Democratic Republic, but throughout the first decades of Zionism, a Jewish state
seemed as unlikely as a Druze state or an Alawite state. In addition, the non-state
option never disappeared from the memory and the politics of the modern Jewish and
Sahrawi experience: Segmentary dynamics continue to shape the power structure within
POLISARIO and the politics of Moroccan co-optation within Western Sahara. In the
case of Jewish nationalism, the long history of Jewish statelessness left a significant mark
on the mentality, culture and institutional set-up of the Zionist project: The tribalism of

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

13

the ancient Israelites formed the basis for cultural practices of indigenization, the
Diasporic architecture of (self-)segregation resonated in the pioneering outpost, and
the mistrust in governmental agencies shaped a distinctly anarchic style in Zionist
politics, both in settlement activities and in the emerging militias.
Third, the comparison underlines the special appeal of statehood for post-segmentary societies: Only the State of Israel turned Jews into Israelis, and only the Sahrawi
Republic turned Saharan tribal groups into Sahrawis. In this context, the framework
may be particularly productive for comparative research on Jewish, Kurdish and Berber
nationalism:83 In contrast to the dogmatic Third Worldism of POLISARIO, Berber and
Kurdish activists are more open to recognizing the historical parallels between their
own projects of territorialization, nationalization or language codification and the
legacy of the Zionist movement.
Of course, given the old anti-Semitic trope of the “Wandering Jew” as an urban nomad,
the inclusion of Israel into the analysis of state-making projects by state-evading societies is
not entirely unproblematic. Werner Sombart famously depicted Jewish “Saharism” as a
desert-dwelling, nomadic culture, very much unlike the “Silvanism” of forest-dwelling
Teutonic peoples; a stereotype categorically rejected by Ruth Wisse who argued that
“Jews . . . were nothing like nomads in their habits, social organization or cultural
inclination.”84 However, the comparison between Jews and other state-evading societies
does not aim at equating the World Zionist Congress and the World Amazigh Congress, or
MAPAI and POLISARIO, for that matter: Clearly Jews, Kurds, Berbers and Sahrawis
represent very different varieties of the non-state option – nonetheless, the history of
Jewish state evasion and state-making deserves to be inscribed into to the “global history
of populations trying to avoid, or having been extruded by, the state”.85

Notes
1. Barnett, “The Politics of Uniqueness,” 3–25; and Becke, “Beyond Allozionism,” 168–93.
2. On Zionism as a form of Diaspora nationalism, see Smith, “Diasporas and Homelands in
History,” 3–26. On Zionism as a colonization project, see Penslar, “Is Zionism a Colonial
Movement?,” 90–111; Becke, “Historicizing the Settler-Colonial Paradigm.” On Zionism as
a form of ethnic nationalism see Smooha, “Ethnic Democracy: Israel as an Archetype,”
198–241. On Zionism as a theological ideology see Ohana, Nationalizing Judaism.
3. For a comparison between Zionism and European nationalism, see Ben-Israel, “Zionism
and European Nationalisms,” 91–104. For integrating the study of Israel into its Middle
Eastern setting, Podeh, “Israel in the Middle East,” 93–113.
4. For early comparisons between Israel and developing countries, see Migdal, Strong
Societies and Weak States; Barnett, Confronting the Costs of War. For a critique of
Israel’s categorization as “Western” or a settler-colonial society, see Bareli, “Forgetting
Europe,” 99–120; Smooha, “Is Israel Western?” 413–42; and Becke, “Dismantling the Villa
in the Jungle,” 874–91.
5. Walzer, The Paradox of Liberation; Penslar, “Rebels Without a Patron State,” 171–91;
Devji, Muslim Zion; Haklai and Loizides, eds., Settlers in Contested Lands; and Barak, State
Expansion and Conflict; Becke, “Varieties of Expansionism,” 64–75.
6. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 174.
7. Durkheim, The Division of Labor, 128.
8. For a critique of the “minority” framing, see Elie Kedourie, “Minorities and Majorities,”
276–82.

14

J. BECKE

9. The acronym POLISARIO stands for the organization’s Spanish name Frente Popular de
Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y Río de Oro (Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia elHamra and Río de Oro) and refers to the two territories which formed the colony of
Spanish Sahara after 1969: see Mundy and Zunes, Western Sahara, 104.
10. Farah, “Refugee Camps in the Palestinian and Sahrawi,” 76–93; Martín, Western Sahara;
Khoury, “Western Sahara and Palestine”; and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, The Ideal Refugees.
11. Kedar, “Ben-Gurion’s Mamlakhtiyut ,” 117–33.
12. Dinur, “Yechuda shel ha-historia ha-yehudit ‘al yesodotav ve-retsifuto [The
Exceptionalism of Jewish History, Its Origins and Continuity]”, 3–16, 10; and Baer,
Galut, 118.
13. Smith, “Chosen Peoples,” 436–56, 448; and Boyarin, Unheroic Conduct, 309.
14. Bauman, “Allosemitism,” 143–56; and Becke, “Beyond Allozionism,” 168–93, 169.
15. Roshwald, Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires; Smith, “Diasporas and Homelands
in History”; and Sheffer, “Middle Eastern Diasporas,” 195–218.
16. Akenson, God’s Peoples; Bornstein, The Colors of Zion; and Gribetz, “When the Zionist
Idea Came to Beirut,” 243–66.
17. Shavit and Winter, Zionism in Arab Discourses.
18. Bornstein, The Colors of Zion; Devji, Muslim Zion; Ó Laoire, “An Historical Perspective of
the Revival of Irish,” 51–63; and Spolsky, “Maori Lost and Regained,” 67–85, 175.
19. Becke, “Beyond Allozionism,” 175.
20. Pentzopoulos, The Balkan Exchange of Minorities.
21. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, x.
22. Fortes and Evans-Pritchard, “Introduction,” 1–23, 13.
23. Gellner, Saints of the Atlas, 41.
24. Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 8.
25. Ibid., 114, 115.
26. Ibid., 119.
27. Ibid, 328.
28. Roosevelt, “The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad,” 247–69.
29. Al-Azm, “Palestinian Zionism,” 90–8.
30. Pennell, Morocco since 1830, 342.
31. Mundy and Zunes, Western Sahara, 123.
32. For an analysis of POLISARIO guerrilla tactics, see for instance Tamari, “The Military
Balance,” 259–339, 323.
33. Hodges, Western Sahara; “On May 13, 1977, the government of [Mauritanian president]
Ould Daddah signed a defence pact with Morocco under which 9,000 Moroccan troops
were to be deployed in Tiris el Gharbia and Mauritania over the following year. Early in in
1978 there were at least 6,000 Moroccans in Mauritania,”; and Seddon, “Morocco at War,”
98–136, 101.
34. Hodges, Western Sahara, 275.
35. While this strategic choice can probably be traced back to Algerian attempts to contain the
conflict, POLISARIO tends to insists that refraining from terrorism was a principled
decision. see Bhatia, “Interview with Brahim Bedileh,” 298–301, 298.
36. Bäschlin and Sidati, “Western Sahara – Territoriality,” 549–68.
37. On Western support for Moroccan rule over Western Sahara see Taylor, “Spain, France,
and the Western Sahara,” 17–51; Zunes, “The United States in the Saharan War,” 53–92.
Moroccan control over the natural resources of Western Sahara might have played a role
in the rapprochement with the Soviet Union: In 1977, Hassan II “signed with the Soviet
Union what he later described as ‘the contract of the century’. This was an agreement that
bartered a fishery deal and the supply of phosphates against a hard currency loan of $2
billion and technical assistance for the phosphate industry. It was the largest commercial
deal ever signed between the Soviet Union and a developing country,” Pennell, Morocco
Since 1830, 344.

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

15

38. Hodges, Western Sahara, 344–5; Shelley, Endgame in the Western Sahara, 46; Zunes,
“Nationalism and Non-Alignment,” 33–46, 38; and Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, The Ideal Refugees.
39. Young, Postcolonialism, 3.
40. Raz, The Bride and the Dowry.
41. In a 1981 speech on the occasion of the annual celebration of the Green March which took
place before the Consultative Council of the Saharan Provinces (a forum of loyalist
Sahrawi tribal leaders), Hassan II described their task as follows: “Your work will not be
finished after the referendum, but it will go on until – God willing – it is established that
our subjects of the Sahara are living happily and are satisfied, that they have taken up some
costums from their brothers from the North while keeping some of theirs which do are not
an obstacle to the unity of the nation. Anything which is not opposed to this unity should
not only be preserved but also developed,” Madani, “Discours de Hassan II,” 98–178, 115
(all translations by the author).
42. Omar, “The Position of the Frente Polisario,” 37–41.
43. Proclamation du gouvernement de la République Arabe Sahraouie Démocratique du 4
mars 1976, Centre national de la recherche scientifique, “Documents – Sahara Occidental,”
915–944, 917.
44. Geldenhuys, Contested States in World Politics, 199.
45. From the 1987 speech on the occasion of the annual celebration of the Green March,
Madani, “Discours de Hassan II,” 142.
46. Dunbar, “Stasis,” 522–45.
47. Mundy, “Moroccan Settlers in Western Sahara?” 95–126.
48. United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General, 10; letter dated March
8, 2003 from the Secretary-General of the Frente POLISARIO to the Secretary-General of
the United Nations, United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General, 38
and 41.
49. Baumgarten, Palästina, Befreiung in Den Staat.
50. Franck, “The Stealing of the Sahara,” 694–721.
51. Bäschlin and Sidati, “Western Sahara – Territoriality, Border Conceptions and Border
Realities.”; in the words of Hassan II: “Today will have to engage in a reflection on the
topic of our brothers in the Southern Provinces – I will not say ‘Saharan provinces’, since
Morocco is united, it has its North, its center and its South. In the past, by ‘South’ we
referred to Guelmim and the region south of it. Today, the “South” means La’ayoune and
beyond; therefore, in the future I will no more use the expression ‘Saharan Provinces’”;
from the 1997 speech on the occasion of the annual celebration of the Green March,
Madani, “Discours de Hassan II,” 172.
52. “Le Sahara fera toujours l’objet de convoitises et de complots qui se manifesteront sous
forme de ‘Polisario’ ou de people sahraoui, ou de ce que l’on nomme ainsi,” from the 1978
speech on the occasion of the annual celebration of the Green March, ibid., 106.
53. In a 1979 TV interview with French television, quoted after Zahra, “L’identité Sahraouie
En Questions,” 131–237, 193.
54. Centre d’Études Internationales, Maroc-Algerie; Julien quotes the practice of Moroccan
newspapers to print the abbreviation of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)
only in lower case by adding quotation marks (i.e., “sadr”), Julien, “L’identité Sahraouie En
Questions,” 168.
55. This number captures the zenith of SADR recognition in the 1980s; after a targeted
Moroccan campaign, several countries (most prominently India in 2000) withdrew their
recognition of SADR, Mundy and Zunes, Western Sahara, 123.
56. Ruf, “The Role of World Powers,” 65–97, 72–5.
57. Zunes and Mundy cite three main geopolitical reasons for the Western abandonment of
the referendum: Hopes for a Moroccan-Algerian rapprochement after the election of
Abdelaziz Bouteflika to the Algerian presidency in 1999, fears that a referendum might
endanger Mohammed IV’s 1999 ascension to the Moroccan throne and a lack of political
will to actually enforce the results of a referendum given the precedent of Indonesian

16

J. BECKE

58.
59.
60.
61.

62.
63.
64.

65.
66.

67.
68.
69.
70.
71.

72.

73.
74.
75.
76.
77.
78.
79.
80.
81.

massacres following a similar referendum in East Timor in 1999, Mundy and Zunes,
Western Sahara, 213–8.
United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General, 10.
United Nations Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General, 10. For the text of the
“peace plan for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara” see ibid., Annex II.
“[The] flag, currency, customs, postal and telecommunication systems of Morocco shall be
the same for Western Sahara,” ibid., article 8b.
The peace plan qualified this right to the preservation of territorial integrity by pointing
out that Morocco was not authorized to take “any action whatsoever that would prevent,
suppress, or stifle peaceful public debate, discourse or campaign activity during any
election or referendum period,” ibid.
For an analysis of the Palestinian Authority as a “client-state,” see Khan, “Evaluating the
Emerging Palestinian State,” 13–62; Klatzkin, Tchumim, 45–59.
Bontems, “The Government of the Saharawi Arab,” 168–86, 177.
The term goes back to Harkabi, who coined the concept as a deliberate contrast to
genocide. However, Harkabi emphasizes that the two categories are necessarily intertwined: “As there is no commonly accepted term for the ‘liquidation of a State’, I have
proposed calling it ‘politicide’ – the murder of the politeia, the political entity. . . . Where
the Arab-Israeli conflict is concerned, there may be no absolute distinction between
politicide and genocide, at least from the practical point of view. It may be assumed that
the Arabs are well aware that the Israelis, who know what would await them if defeated in
war, would fight to the death, and that their overthrow and the liquidation of their State
would, therefore, involve a massacre,” Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel, 37. On the term
“politicide,” see Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel, 83–92.
Zerubavel, “Calendars and History,” 315–38, 328.
The list is based on article 129 of the SADR’s constitution, see ould Ismaïl ould Es-Sweyih,
La République Sahraouie, 226. For a discussion of Sahrawi national holidays see also
Martín, Western Sahara, 138.
See note above 63, 177.
Bennani, “Sahara.”
Hodges, Western Sahara, 337.
Bäschlin and Sidati, “Western Sahara,” 549–68, 561.
For a discussion of “anti-tribalism” as part of POLISARIO’s effort to shape a “new society,”
see ould Ismaïl ould Es-Sweyih, La République Sahraouie, 54–7; for a discussion of
Reguibat dominance within the POLISARIO see Mundy and Zunes, Western Sahara,
118–9.
Hodges, Western Sahara, 280; for instance, in 1992 the SADR’s ambassador in Algiers
defected to the Moroccan side. “Even with the highly lucrative enticements offered by the
Moroccan regime, however, the only major crossover since then was the unexpected 2002
defection of one of the movement’s founding members, Ayoub Ould Lahbib, then serving
as the RASD’s minister of occupied territories. After pledging allegiance to Mohammed
VI, he claimed that his disenchantment stemmed from the Algerian intelligence agencies’
alleged control over Polisario,” Mundy and Zunes, Western Sahara, 120.
Jacob Mundy, “Out with the Old, in with the New?” 115–22, 118.
“Musée des arts Sahariens, Laayoune” (brochure), Kingdom of Morocco, Ministry of
Culture and Communication.
Yara, “La Résistance Des Sahraouis,” 61–102.
Cox, “Towards a Post-Hegemonic Conceptualization of World Order,” 132–59.
Pennell, A Country with a Government and a Flag; Kawtharani, “Le Grand-Liban,” 46–61;
and Roosevelt, “The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad.”
Shepherd, Ploughing Sand, 6.
Rabinovich, “The Compact Minorities,” 693–712.
See Rabinovich and Reinharz, Israel in the Middle East, 48–53.
Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 119.

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

82.
83.
84.
85.

17

Hodges, Western Sahara, 86.
Bengio and Maddy-Weitzman, “Mobilised Diasporas,” 65–90.
Sombart, Die Juden Und Das Wirtschaftsleben, 426; Wisse, Jews and Power, 29.
Scott, The Art of Not Being Governed, 328.

Acknowledgments
The author would like to thank Anna Sunik, Derek Penslar, Michael Brenner, Shelley Harten and
the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the author.

Notes on contributor
Johannes Becke is an Assistant Professor for Israel and Middle East Studies at the Heidelberg
Center for Jewish Studies. His research focuses on comparative perspectives on Jewish nationalism and Israeli state formation. His most recent publications include Israel Studies: History,
Methods, Paradigms [German] (co-edited with Michael Brenner and Daniel Mahla, Wallstein,
forthcoming in 2019) as well as articles in Political Geography, Interventions: The International
Journal of Postcolonial Studies and Jewish Studies Quarterly.

Bibliography
Akenson, D. H. God’s Peoples. Covenant and Land in South Africa, Israel, and Ulster. Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 1992.
Al-Azm, S. J. “Palestinian Zionism.” Die Welt Des Islams 28, no. 1 (1988): 90–98. doi:10.1163/
157006088X00096.
Baer, Y. F. Galut. New York: Schocken Books, 1947.
Barak, O. State Expansion and Conflict: In and between Israel/Palestine and Lebanon. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2017.
Bareli, A. “Forgetting Europe: Perspectives on the Debate about Zionism and Colonialism.”
Journal of Israeli History no. 2–3 (20 June 2001): 99–120. doi:10.1080/13531040108576162.
Barnett, M. N. Confronting the Costs of War. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.
Barnett, M. N. “The Politics of Uniqueness: The Status of the Israeli Case.” In Israel in
Comparative Perspective. Challenging the Conventional Wisdom, edited by M. N. Barnett,
3–25. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.
Bäschlin, E., and M. Sidati. “Western Sahara - Territoriality, Border Conceptions and Border
Realities.” In The Ashgate Research Companion to Border Studies, edited by D. Wastl-Walter,
549–568. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011.
Bauman, Z. “Allosemitism: Premodern, Modern, Postmodern.” In Modernity, Culture and “the
Jew,” edited by B. Cheyette and L. Marcus, 143–156, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998.
Baumgarten, H. P. Befreiung in Den Staat: Die Palästinensische Nationalbewegung Seit 1948.
Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1991.
Becke, J. “Beyond Allozionism: Exceptionalizing and De-Exceptionalizing the Zionist Project.”
Israel Studies 23, no. 2 (2018): 168–193. doi:10.2979/israelstudies.23.2.08.
Becke, J. “Historicizing the Settler-Colonial Paradigm.” Medaon - Magazin Für Jüdisches Leben in
Forschung Und Bildung 12 (2018): 22.

18

J. BECKE

Becke, J. “Dismantling the Villa in the Jungle: Matzpen, Zochrot, and the Whitening of Israel.”
Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 21, no. 6 (2019): 874–891.
doi:10.1080/1369801X.2018.1558095.
Becke, J. “Varieties of Expansionism: A Comparative-Historical Approach to the Study of State
Expansion and State Contraction.” Political Geography 72 (2019): 64–75. doi:10.1016/j.
polgeo.2019.04.002.
Bengio, O., and B. Maddy-Weitzman. “Mobilised Diasporas: Kurdish and Berber Movements in
Comparative Perspective.” Kurdish Studies 1, no. 1 (2013): 65–90. doi:10.33182/ks.v1i1.386.
Ben-Israel, H. “Zionism and European Nationalisms: Comparative Aspects.” Israel Studies 8, no.
1 (2003): 91–104. doi:10.2979/isr.2003.8.issue-1.
Bennani, D. “Sahara. La Bombe à Retardement.” TelQuel, November 5, 2011. http://telquel.ma/
2012/02/29/sahara-la-bombe-a-retardement_539 (accessed June 21, 2017).
Bhatia, M. “Interview with Brahim Bedileh, Commander, 2nd Military Region (tifariti),
POLISARIO Front.” Review of African Political Economy 28, no. 88 (2001): 298–301.
doi:10.1080/03056240108704537.
Bontems, C. “The Government of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic.” Third World
Quarterly 9, no. 1 (1987): 168–186. doi:10.1080/01436598708419967.
Bornstein, G. The Colors of Zion: Blacks, Jews, and Irish from 1845 to 1945. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2011.
Boyarin, D. Unheroic Conduct. The Rise of Heterosexuality and the Invention of the Jewish Man.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.
Centre d’Études Internationales. Maroc-Algerie. Analyses Croisées d’un Voisinage Hostile. Paris:
Éditions Karthala, 2011.
Centre national de la recherche scientifique. “Documents - Sahara Occidental.” Edited by Centre
national de la recherche scientifique. Annuaire de l’Afrique Du Nord 16, (1977): 915–944.
Cox, R. W. “Towards a Post-Hegemonic Conceptualization of World Order: Reflections on the
Relevancy of Ibn Khaldun.” In Governance without Government. Order and Change in World
Politics, edited by J. N. Rosenau and E.-O. Czempiel, 132–159. New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1992.
Devji, F. Muslim Zion. Pakistan as a Political Idea. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
2013.
Dinur, B.-Z. “Yichuda Shel Ha-Historia Ha-Yehudit. Al Yesodotav ve-Retsifuto” [the
Exceptionalism of Jewish History. On Its Origins and Continuity]. In Dorot Ve-Reshumot
[generations and Records], 3–16. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1978.
Dunbar, C. “Stasis: Status and Future Prospects of the Western Sahara Conflict.” The Middle East
Journal 54, no. 4 (2000): 522–545.
Durkheim, E. The Division of Labor in Society. London: Macmillan, 1984.
Farah, R. “Refugee Camps in the Palestinian and Sahrawi National Liberation Movements.”
Journal of Palestine Studies 38, no. 2 (2009): 76–93. doi:10.1525/jps.2009.38.2.76.
Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, E. The Ideal Refugees: Gender, Islam and the Sahrawi Politics of Survival.
Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2013.
Fortes, M., and E. E. Evans-Pritchard. “Introduction.” In African Political Systems, edited by M.
Fortes and E. E. Evans-Pritchard, 1–23. London: Oxford University Press, 1970.
Franck, T. M. “The Stealing of the Sahara.” The American Journal of International Law 70, no. 4
(1976): 694–721. doi:10.2307/2200382.
Geldenhuys, D. Contested States in World Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.
Gellner, E. Saints of the Atlas. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969.
Gribetz, J. “When the Zionist Idea Came to Beirut: Judaism, Christianity, and the Palestine
Liberation Organization’s Translation of Zionism.” International Journal of Middle East
Studies 48, no. 2 (2016): 243–266. doi:10.1017/S0020743816000015.
Haklai, O., and N. Loizides, eds. Settlers in Contested Lands. Territorial Disputes and Ethnic
Conflicts. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2015.

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

19

Harkabi, Y. Arab Attitudes to Israel. Jerusalem: Israel Universities Press, 1972.
Hodges, T. Western Sahara: The Roots of a Desert War. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, 1983.
Julien, Z. “L’identité Sahraouie En Questions.” In Sahraouis. Exils - Identité. Collection L’Ouest
Saharien, Hors Série No. 3, edited by P. Boilley, E. Martinoli, and A. O. Yara, 131–237. Paris:
L’Harmattan, 2003.
Kawtharani, W. “Le Grand-Liban et Le Projet de La Confédération Syrienne d’après Des
Documents Français.” In State and Society in Syria and Lebanon, edited by Y. M. Choueiri,
46–61. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1993.
Kedar, N. “Ben-Gurion’s Mamlakhtiyut: Etymological and Theoretical Roots.” Israel Studies 7,
no. 3 (2002): 117–133.
Kedourie, E. “Minorities and Majorities in the Middle East.” European Journal of Sociology 25,
no. 2 (1984): 276–282. doi:10.1017/S0003975600004264.
Khan, M. H. “Evaluating the Emerging Palestinian State: Good Governance versus ‘transformation Potential.” In State Formation in Palestine: Viability and Governance during a Social
Transformation, edited by M. H. Khan, G. Giacaman, and I. Amundsen, 13–62. London:
Routledge, 2004.
Khoury, R. B. “Western Sahara and Palestine: A Comparative Study of Colonialisms,
Occupations, and Nationalisms.” New Middle Eastern Studies 1, (2011): 1–20.
Klatzkin, Y. Tchumim. Berlin: Dvir, 1925.
Madani, M. B. “Discours de Hassan II à l’occasion de La Marche-Verte 1976-1979, 1981-1998.”
The Maghreb Review 25, no. 1–2 (2000): 98–178.
Martín, S. Pablo. Western Sahara. The Refugee Nation. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2010.
Migdal, J. S. Strong Societies and Weak States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1988.
Mundy, J. “Out with the Old, in with the New: Western Sahara Back to Square One?”
Mediterranean Politics 14, no. 1, March (2009): 115–122. doi:10.1080/13629390902747525.
Mundy, J. “Moroccan Settlers in Western Sahara: Colonists or Fifth Column?” The Arab World
Geographer 15, no. 2 (2012): 95–126.
Mundy, J., and S. Zunes. Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution. Syracuse,
NY: Syracuse University Press, 2010.
Ó Laoire, M. “An Historical Perspective of the Revival of Irish outside the Gaeltacht, 18801930, with Reference to the Revitalization of Hebrew.” In Language and the State:
Revitalization and Revival in Israel and Eire, edited by S. Wright, 51–63. Clevedon:
Multilingual Matters, 1996.
Ohana, D. Nationalizing Judaism: Zionism as Theological Ideology. London: Lexington Books,
2017.
Omar, S. M. “The Position of the Frente Polisario.” In International Law and the Question of
Western Sahara, edited by K. Arts and P. P. Leite, 37–41. Leiden: International Platform of
Jurists for East Timor, 2007.
Ould Ismaïl Ould Es-Sweyih, M.-F. La République Sahraouie. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2001.
Pennell, C. R. A Country with A Government and A Flag: The Rif War in Morocco 1921-1926.
Wisbech: Middle East and North African Studies Press, 1986.
Pennell, C. R. Morocco since 1830. A History. London: C. Hurst & Co, 2000.
Penslar, D. J. “Is Zionism a Colonial Movement?” In Israel in History. The Jewish State in
Comparative Perspective, 90–111. London and New York: Routledge, 2007.
Penslar, D. J. “Rebels without a Patron State: How Israel Financed the 1948 War.” In Purchasing
Power. The Economics of Modern Jewish History, edited by R. Kobrin and A. Teller, 171–191.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
Pentzopoulos, D. The Balkan Exchange of Minorities and Its Impact upon Greece. Paris: Mouton
& Co, 1962.
Podeh, E. “Israel in the Middle East or Israel and the Middle East: A Reappraisal.” In Arab-Jewish
Relations. From Conflict to Resolution? Essays in Honour of Professor Moshe Ma’oz, edited by E.
Podeh and A. Kaufman, 93–113. Brighton and Portland: Sussex Academic Press, 2006.

20

J. BECKE

Rabinovich, I. “The Compact Minorities and the Syrian State, 1918-45.” Journal of Contemporary
History 14, no. 4 (1979): 693–712. doi:10.1177/002200947901400407.
Raz, A. The Bride and the Dowry. Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians in the Aftermath of the June
1967 War. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012.
Roosevelt, A. “The Kurdish Republic of Mahabad.” Middle East Journal 1, no. 3 (1947): 247–269.
Roshwald, A. Ethnic Nationalism and the Fall of Empires: Central Europe, Russia and the Middle
East, 1914-1923. New York: Routledge, 2001.
Ruf, W. “The Role of World Powers: Colonialist Transformation and King Hassan’s Rule.” In
War and Refugees. The Western Sahara Conflict, edited by R. Lawless and L. Monahan, 65–97.
London and New York: Pinter Publishers, 1987.
Scott, J. C. The Art of Not Being Governed: An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia. New
Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2009.
Seddon, D. “Morocco at War.” In War and Refugees. The Western Sahara Conflict, edited by R.
Lawless and L. Monahan, 98–136. London and New York: Pinter Publishers, 1987.
Shavit, U., and O. Winter. Zionism in Arab Discourses. Manchester: Manchester University Press,
2016.
Sheffer, G. “Middle Eastern Diasporas - An Overview.” In Middle Eastern Minorities and
Diasporas, edited by M. Ma’oz and G. Sheffer, 195–218. Brighton and Portland: Sussex
Academic Press, 2002.
Shelley, T. Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa’s Last Colony? London: Zed
Books, 2004.
Shepherd, N. Ploughing Sand. British Rule in Palestine 1917-1948. London: John Murray, 1999.
Smith, A. D. “Chosen Peoples: Why Ethnic Groups Survive.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 15, no. 3
(1992): 436–456. doi:10.1080/01419870.1992.9993756.
Smith, A. D. “Diasporas and Homelands in History: The Case of the Classic Diasporas.” In The
Call of the Homeland: Diaspora Nationalisms, past and Present, edited by A. Gal, A. S. Leoussi,
and A. D. Smith, 3–26. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010.
Smooha, S. “Ethnic Democracy: Israel as an Archetype.” Israel Studies 2, no. 2 (1997): 198–241.
doi:10.2979/isr.1997.2.issue-2.
Smooha, S. “Is Israel Western?” In Comparing Modernities. Pluralism versus Homogenity, edited
by E. Ben-Rafael and Y. Sternberg, 413–442. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2005.
Sombart, W. Die Juden Und Das Wirtschaftsleben. Leipzig: Verlag von Duncker & Humblot,
1911.
Spolsky, B. “Maori Lost and Regained.” In Languages of New Zealand, edited by A. Bell, R.
Harlow, and D. Starks, 67–85. Wellington: Victoria University Press, 2005.
Tamari, D. “The Military Balance in the Middle East.” In The Middle East Military Balance,
edited by M. Heller, D. Tamari, and Z. Eytan, 259–339. Tel Aviv: Jaffee Center for Strategic
Studies (Tel Aviv University), 1983.
Taylor, P. C. “Spain, France, and the Western Sahara: A Historical Narrative and Study of
National Transformation.” In International Dimensions of the Western Sahara Conflict, edited
by Y. H. Zoubir and D. Volman, 17–51. Westport and: Praeger, 1993.
United Nations Security Council. Report of the Secretary-General on the Situation Concerning
Western Sahara (S/2003/565), 2003. https://minurso.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/unsg_
report_23_may_2003.pdf
Walzer, M. The Paradox of Liberation. Secular Revolutions and Religious Counterrevolution. New
Haven: Yale University Press, 2015.
Wisse, R. R. Jews and Power. New York: Schocken Books, 2007.
Yara, A. O. “La Résistance Des Sahraouis - ‘Ceux de Gdaïm Izig’ (Novembre 2010 - Novembre
2011).” L’Ouest Saharien 8 (2012): 61–102.
Young, R. J. C. Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

JOURNAL OF ISRAELI HISTORY

21

Zerubavel, E. “Calendars and History: A Comparative Study of the Social Organization of
Memory.” In States of Memory. Continuities, Conflicts and Transformations in National
Retrospection, edited by J. K. Olick, 315–338. Durham: Duke University Press, 2003.
Zunes, S. “Nationalism and Non-Alignment: The Non-Ideology of the Polisario.” Africa Today
34, no. 3 (1987): 33–46.
Zunes, S. “The United States in the Saharan War: A Case of Low-Intensity Intervention.” In
International Dimensions of the Western Sahara Conflict, edited by Y. H. Zoubir and D.
Volman, 53–92. Westport and: Praeger, 1993.