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Alternative Title

How activists create a third space around Israel/Palestine on the American Jewish left

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School for Social Work


Jews-United States-Psychology, Jews-Political activity-United States, Social justice-Israel, Social justice-Palestine, Zionism-Psychological aspects, Arab-Israeli conflict-Psychological aspects


This research explores how psychoanalytic concepts of the “third space” provide insight into the possibilities and limits of contemporary social justice activism. It focuses on the organizing efforts of young American Jewish activists mobilized in antioccupation organizing related to Israel/Palestine through the IfNotNow network. June 2017, the date of the publication of this thesis, marks the 50th anniversary of the 1967 war during which the Israeli state seized military control of the West Bank and Gaza.

The data for this study consisted of qualitative interviews with 7 activists in the San Francisco Bay Area engaged with the IfNotNow movement, and with anti-occupation activism more broadly. Research participants also embodied a range of gender identities, racial/ethnic identifications, and Jewish heritages. Findings indicated that participants’ motivations for involvement with IfNotNow and social justice activism were linked to personal and biographical factors. Consistent with the “negotiation of incommensurable differences” that characterizes the third space, inherent contradictions in the project of anti-occupation organizing were revealed to be alternately fruitful and challenging for participants. Findings of this research outline areas of inquiry for further research, particularly the role of the “collective superego” in advancing social change, tensions between unlearning internalized white supremacy and the specter of martyrdom, and the centrality of embracing unknowing in the process of advancing social change.




iii, 43 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 31-33)