From the pergonal project to Kadimastem: A genealogy of Israel’s reproductive-industrial complex
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In the Israeli ‘start-up nation’ biotechnology has emerged as one of the most thriving knowledge-intensive industries. Particularly the med-tech and repro-tech sector are widely regarded as world class in their ability to develop experimental therapies and medicines based on topnotch ‘pioneering’ biomedical research. These developments have rightly been attributed to the neoliberal turn of the late seventies when Israel started to position itself as significant player in the global health and research market. By exploring the (dis)continuities between Pergonal, a fertility drug developed in the late 1950s by the Israeli scientist Bruno Lunenfeld and the Swiss-Italian pharmaceutical company Serono, and the experimental stem cell therapies that are currently being developed by the Israeli biotech company Kadimastem, this article argues, however, that a much older, but still ongoing history of Zionist settler colonial warfare in Palestine/Israel also lies behind the emergence of Israel’s flourishing reproductive-embryonic industry. A Zionist demographic logic that aims to consolidate a Jewish majority in a Jewish state has created fertile conditions for the emergence of a reproductive-industrial complex in which the interests of a pronatalist Jewish state and a biomedical establishment – consisting of academic entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, biotech companies and pharmaceutical giants – have coalesced. The bodies of Israeli women play a pivotal role in this process, not only as reproducers of the settler nation but also as providers of the raw biological materials that are needed to produce experimental research results and to generate surplus bio-value.
KeywordsPalestine/Israel reproductive-industrial complex bio-capitalism zionism settler colonialism demography
The author would like to thank Hedva Eyal, Sahera Dirbas, Bilal Dirbas, Tamar Novick and Lana Khaskia for helping with the translation of archival and policy documents, and Michal Nahman, Leila Stockmarr, Adam Hanieh, Koen Bogaert, Annemie Vermaelen, Sami Zemni and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback and comments.
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