The Moral Triangle

Germans, Israelis, Palestinians

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 35 illustrations Published: May 2020

Anthropology, European Studies, Middle East Studies

Berlin is home to Europe’s largest Palestinian diaspora community and one of the world’s largest Israeli diaspora communities. Germany’s guilt about the Nazi Holocaust has led to a public disavowal of anti-Semitism and strong support for the Israeli state. Meanwhile, Palestinians in Berlin report experiencing increasing levels of racism and Islamophobia. In The Moral Triangle Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor draw on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews with Israelis, Palestinians, and Germans in Berlin to explore these asymmetric relationships in the context of official German policies, public discourse, and the private sphere. They show how these relationships stem from narratives surrounding moral responsibility, the Holocaust, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and Germany’s recent welcoming of Middle Eastern refugees. They also point to spaces for activism and solidarity among Germans, Israelis, and Palestinians in Berlin that can help foster restorative justice and account for multiple forms of trauma. Highlighting their interlocutors’ experiences, memories, and hopes, Atshan and Galor demonstrate the myriad ways in which migration, trauma, and contemporary state politics are inextricably linked.


“Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor are engaged in rich and rare dialogues—with each other and their informants—that redefine the ‘moral triangle’ between Palestinians, Jews, and Germans as they act, react, interact, resist, and reconcile in Berlin. In a spirit of affective affiliation they draw on psychic compulsions and political circumstances that haunt the histories of cohabitation. Survival, trauma, grace, forgiveness, desperation, and hospitality are issues that stir the conscience and consciousness of this remarkable book. The Moral Triangle exceeds its geometry to provide a many-sided, plural perspective on living together in difference with dignity.” — Homi K. Bhabha, Anne F Rothenberg Professor of the Humanities, Harvard University

The Moral Triangle takes up one of the most complex topics in the contemporary world: the ethically fraught relationships between Germans, Israelis, and Palestinians. But Sa’ed Atshan and Katharina Galor's book is also much more than an original and urgently needed study; it is itself an ethical document that exemplifies how scholarship can confront thorny moral and political problems with generosity, nuance, and a strong sense of restorative justice. This uniquely powerful book will make a significant and salutary intervention for both academic and general readerships.” — Michael Rothberg, author of The Implicated Subject: Beyond Victims and Perpetrators


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sa’ed Atshan is Assistant Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College. He is the author of Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique.

Katharina Galor is Hirschfeld Visiting Associate Professor of Judaic Studies and Urban Studies at Brown University. She is the author of Finding Jerusalem: Archaeology between Science and Ideology.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Prologue  ix
Introduction: The Triangle  1
1 Trauma, Holocaust, Nakba  11
2 Victim and Perpetrator  25
3 Germany and Israel/Palestine  34
4 Germany and Migration  41
5 Elusive Demography  53
6 Neue Heimat Berlin?  59
7 Moral Responsibility  81
8 Racism, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia  91
9 Urban Spaces and Voices  116
10 Points of Intersection  138
11 Between Guilt and Censorship  149
Conclusion: Restorative Justice  169
Postscript  175
Notes  187
Bibliography  213
Index  231
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