Israeli settlement of Rimmonim on the road from Ramallah to Jericho
I am not quite sure to know the reasons that made me take so much time to write this article, three years after my last trip in Palestine; better late than never as one says so here it is: a majority of the photographs (see below) I took when I was there of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. It seemed important here that I include only my own photographs in order to reduce the “degree of separation” between the readers and them.
Those photographs are important to me as they give another approach to the multitude of maps that have been traced to ‘cartograph’ the situation in Palestinian territories. The latter are effectively fundamental to understand the legal implications of the occupation but it also tends to desincarnate any discourse one might have about it. It is therefore extremely important to add to them a more subjective approach, not so much for emotion to emerge, but rather to trigger a clear understanding of the physicality of the occupation on the field. Without this understanding, everything remains abstract and in the realms of territories, thus forgetting that these territories are actually physical and host physical bodies on it.
I want to stress the fact that approaching the problem in a more incarnate and subjective way does not mean in any way that we should focus on the ‘news items’ however tragic they may be. What I mean by that is that what requires all our attention is what systematize the colonial organization of space and the bodies, what affects them on a daily basis. That might be less spectacular than the “news items” I was just evoking; however, there lies the real and durable condition of occupation. In this regard, I would like to link this article with another I wrote a bit more than a year ago entitled The Ordinary Violence of the Colonial Apparatuses in the West Bank that was addressing a similar dimension of the occupation through the various devices that control and hurt the Palestinian bodies on a daily basis.
Photograph by Leyland Cecco/Al Jazeera
Two days ago, about 650 runners participated to the Right to Movement Palestine Marathon. This race, open to both genders and both local and international participants, was taking place in Bethlehem (see the map of the race below), along what the city has the most precious in terms of building heritage (the Church of the Nativity) and what it unfortunately has of the most violent (the separation wall). The race was also crossing the two refugee camps of Al Ayda and Ad Dheisheh where many people have been living in poverty since 1949. It is important to recall here that this poverty is both created by the occupation that makes sure to maintain a very high rate of unemployment in the West Bank (it is even worse in Gaza) but also by the strong will of refugee to continuously affirm their situation as being temporary; their families should be able to go back to live in their villages and towns which are now on Israeli territory (see previous article).
The very name of the Marathon clearly expresses the extra-sportive motivations that animate the race. On its official website, we are reminded of what the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights precises in terms of right to movement:
Running is a means of terrestrial locomotion allowing humans and other animals to move rapidly on foot. The Right to movement, means that you have right to move from A to B. Even taking the decision on where you want to be when and why. It is also one of the most basic human rights; Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state.
Article 13 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights
I apologize to those of my readers who would reasonably see this article as a form of self-promotion, this will be the first and only post about this book. Following the research I undertook in 2010 and the architectural project that emerged from it in 2011, My good friends Ethel and Cesar from DPR-Barcelona and I have worked together to come out with a book, Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence that would be available for all. This is now the case and you can find the book on any national franchise of amazon and (preferably!) in some bookstores in various countries. For a presentation of this work, you can see the small lecture I was lucky to be able to do at the school of architecture of Lund (Sweden) in September 2012. One particularity of the book that is also worth noting, was developed by dpr-barcelona is the introduction of a dose of augmented reality through smart phones and tablets that allow a second layer of multimedia information for each chapter.
More information after the break.
3d reconstitution of Israeli intelligence data from The Gatekeepers (2012)
I recently watched the documentary The Gatekeepers by Dror Moreh (2012), which gathers six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic secret service agency in a sort of reconstitution of Israel’s military operations in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967. Remarkably enough, the six of them are extremely critical of the policies they had to implement as they evidently constitute punctual tactics rather than long term strategies. The interesting twisting moment in this regard since to be Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination in 1995 when it became clear that an important part of Israelis were not open to any form of compromise vis a vis the Zionist colonialist dream.
However satisfactory and probably helpful it is to listen to those six gentlemen who embodied one of the most powerful position in the realms of Israeli military operations from 1980 to 2011 (only one director is missing in the film within this period), it is actually tragic to observe that such opinions from them come after their retirement or worse, that they do not have any impact on the government’s policy when they were in office. From here, what seems to be a hopeful message of mind evolution can be interpreted, in the contrary, as a tragic perpetuation of an unacceptable situation regardless of the protagonists’ opinion on it.
Interpreting the problem based on opinions, polls, compromises, efforts etc. as it is usually considered (especially in Europe where people keeps considering this conflict in a very strict symmetry) might therefore be the wrong way to look at things. Similarly, getting indignation from videos or news of IDF soldiers punching a Western activist or a Palestinian kid being beaten up by some Israeli bullies in East Jerusalem and other various unjust punctual events is simply not enough as this same indignation did not nothing to change the status quo of the last forty-five years. What we need to understand and act upon is the system that makes those events possible if not encouraged.
Earlier this week, a group of about 250 Palestinians gathered in East Jerusalem in the E1 Area where the Israeli government announced the construction of 3,000 new housing units after the recent UN vote granting Palestine a status of observer member at the General Assembly. This group of people established a small village made out of tents on what is being stated as Palestinian owned private land. The photograph above shows the tents being set-up with the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank in the background, Ma’ale Adummim (see previous article). Since then, the encampment got evicted by the Israeli army under the reason that it represented “a danger for the security of the area.”
You can read more about this story on +972 Magazine website but beyond this event, I would like to insist on the legal status tackled here. The opposition of the two settlements in one image allows us to question their relationship to the law. In both cases, there is a clear will to go against a legal system. As we know the Israeli settlements are in violation of the article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (see previous article) and therefore constitute a disobedience to the International Law. The Palestinian tent village, on the other hand, affirms a disobedience to another law, the colonial one, which was designed in a clear spirit of domination from one people on another. Of course, international law is not to be unquestionned as it has been, as always, thought and implemented by “the winners of history”, in that case, the winning countries of the Second World War. However, it does not seem irrational to consider that a law established after the horror of the war and designed in the abstraction of future conflict needs to prevail over another one which was designed unilaterally by a state with a clear self-centered agenda. After all, the state of Israel itself was implemented around the same time than the Geneva Convention and its very existence should not be reconsidered in my opinion.
In both cases, the disobedience is territorial and architectural. In that matter, the very ‘language’ of architecture used here is far from innocent. The fragile, precarious and manually built tents are a response to the various fences, walls and watch towers of the Israeli settlements. Such a dichotomy indicates the asymmetric forces involved between a state organized militarized operations of claiming a land and an immanent encampment in which the determination is affirmed through the very presence of their bodies. As I have been writing earlier (in the context of the Occupy movement), we have only one body and it can be only in one place at a time; therefore, the place we choose to be cannot be innocent and this choice can be said to be political in its very essence.
Inspired by a recent conversation I had with my good friend Nora (see her text for the funambulist) about the recent UN vote in favor of the Palestinian Authority, I came to think about the notions of idealism and imagination. In substance, Nora was explaining that the idealist she is could not possibly be satisfied by such decision. As we all know, this vote crystallizes the post-1967 borders (which is a tremendous issue as far as East Jerusalem is concerned for example) eludes the problem introduced by the territorial separation between Gaza and the West Bank, abandons the right to return for refugees as well as judiciary prosecutions, and re-affirms a support to the Palestinian Authority which does not have any electoral legitimacy since it ended its term in 2009. What Nora pointed out however, is her disappointment to see extraordinary issues ‘solved’ with hyper-ordinary solutions, problems that have no real equivalent in history addressed through responses that had been already applied in the past. There was room for imagination, she claims, to invent a new form of democracy for a post-apartheid country whichever its future name might be.
Being a supporter of this thesis myself (although I am not quite able to articulate it that well), it reminded me of the recurrent answers we get when affirming an ideal. “This is unachievable”, they say or, “that will never happen.” The point they are missing is that being an idealist does not really mean that one believes that this ideal will be reached; rather it consists in the engagement in the continuous struggle that ‘walk’ towards this ideal, in the same way that one has to aim at the horizon in order to move forward.
Imagination is the thing that cynics lack of. It is important to differentiate here creative imagination from the imagination communicated through the advertising/Hollywood industry’s slogans which, undercover of messages like “nothing is impossible”, reiterate the same limited version of a certain vision of the possible. Slavoj Zizek often argues that capitalism succeeded in making us believe that it would be easier for us to live on Mars than to find an alternative to itself. Imagining living on Mars is not really hard indeed if we simply transpose our life on earth to a red background settings with the astronauts suits added. What is really hard to imagine and therefore deserve to be the object of much efforts, is to think of other societal models that would radically change from the one we have known and we still know.
Imagination has been captured by capitalism, not in the way that dictatorial regimes censored and prevented it but, by making us think that what we see every day is the product of imagination when, really, it all comes from the very same system of production of ideas. The end of the 20th century consecrated the fear of utopia as the latter seemed to be the motor of this same century’s atrocities, but again this is false inasmuch that imagination had been captured as well by the various dominant forces that were trying desperately to reach the horizon (we can think of the Nazi autodafe and the Sovietic censorship for example). We must, of course, refrain ourselves from any form of suppression just as much we must stay away from the ambient cynicism of an era that delusionally declared itself “post-ideological”. Imagination is the creative fuel for struggle, let’s not take it for granted.
Israeli Settlement of Kokhav Ya’akov / New Palestinian Housing Complex (both near Ramallah) /// Photographs by Léopold Lambert
I wrote many times about the numerous Israeli settlements in the West Bank (I will repeat once again that they violate the article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention), but I never dedicated a whole article about what I call here an Architectural Stockholm Syndrome that is symptomatic of a problem within the Palestinian society. This syndrome that you can observe in the two pictures above lies in the quasi-imitation of those settlements’ architecture and planning for new groups of Palestinian buildings.
It has been shown many times that colonization defines itself by an absolute intrusion of a nation into another’s collective life and imaginary. One has to understand that the docile policies of the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank for almost two decades had for result to allow the bourgeoisie to develop within the Palestinian society. This bourgeoisie, in addition of strongly contrasting with the 25% unemployed people of the West Bank, is mostly depoliticized and, for part of it, silently accommodates itself of the status quo of the conflict. The architectural consequence of this class struggle within a broader geopolitical struggle is the development of those somehow luxurious groups of housing buildings, built in what must be a more or less aware reproduction of the newest and most luxurious examples of the region: the Israeli settlements.
The political consequence of such ambiguity between the colonized and the colon, in addition of the well understood internal class issues it creates, consists in the dismantlement of the creative collective imaginary that ties a nation together when it is oppressed by another one. It also participates to the ratification of the current situation as it introduces various forms of comfort which are in complete contradiction with the participation to the struggle. This contradiction has been perfectly understood by the Palestinian refugees in this regard. When offered to improve their life conditions in the numerous camps of the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, they have been consistently refusing for three generations, as such improvement would be a form of acceptance of their current situation as a definitive one. On the contrary, their rudimentary conditions of life keep them in a wakefulness position that can easily serve a political participation.
IDF Soldiers in front of a ‘flock’ of militarized Bulldozers Caterpillar D9
I apologize to those of my readers who would like to come back to a bigger diversity of articles but, to be honest, I can not yet feel comfortable writing about something else than the situation in Gaza right now, as upset and infuriated I am. Again, I don’t want to count those who died, neither publishing pictures of wounded kids, we all have access to information that insist on the ‘spectacular’ aspect of this tragedy. On the contrary, I would like to balance my anger with a deeper analysis of the daily situation in Gaza for the last decade.
After my map of the Manhattan strip (see previous post), I would like to ask my readers for another imaginative effort to put their eyes in the ones of a Gaza kid who have never been able to leave the 140 square mile piece of territory (approximately half of the area of New York City) that he lives in. What is the representation of the otherness that (s)he might have from this situation. Of course, there is always her (his) brief encounter with various foreigners working for NGOs or other aid/activist organizations; but this representation is extremely likely to be mostly influenced by the various Israeli killing machines that obviously trigger an absolute terror in this kid’s imaginary. Nothing that (s)he has seen in books or on television about other people and countries can surpass the reality of these extremely violent intrusions of deshumanized machines that vowed to destroy her (his) direct environment. In “normal” times, these are the remote controlled machine guns towers that prevent any movement in a 1,500 meter zone from the territory’s border (see previous article), there are also the frightening sound of the F-16 aircrafts and other drones over the Gaza sky, every now and then and on a regular basis, the bulldozers caterpillar D9 (see previous article) that have been so ‘efficiently’ customized by the IDF that even the US army feels obliged to buy some ‘back’ (caterpillar is an American brand) for their own use. Of course, in times of heavy conflict like the ones we powerlessly observe those days, those weapons are complemented by tanks and battleships and they all participate to bomb the Gaza strip from the outside.
Map of the Gaza Strip (Dec 2011) /// United Nations Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs in Occupied Palestinian Territory
I think that many of us are infuriated in front of the unfolding new siege over Gaza by the Israeli army. As horrifying as those images of children and entire families being struck by the bombs sent by aircraft, battleships, drones or other remote controlled machine guns, it is extremely important to also insist on the daily oppression that the people of the Gaza strip have to face even when they are not being bombed. Since 2006 and the Israeli disengagement of its settlement within the strip, the situation is different from the one in the West Bank -which I have to say, I am more familiar with. When the West Bank has to suffer from multiple colonial apparatuses, Gaza functions pretty much as a gigantic prison from which, it is almost impossible to escape -even the Egyptian border remains close to most people. Most of the needs of its people (water, food, electricity, phone & internet networks etc.) is provided directly by Israel (for most of it, see the last map of this article) who has been, along the years, quite literally experimenting how little it could provide without provoking a severe humanitarian crisis in the eyes of the International Community. The access to the sea itself is heavily restricted – and enforced with real rockets – by the IDF to keep Gaza fishermen’s boats within a limit of three nautical miles. Needless to say, fishing cannot be a strong economy in this context.
The strip is thus a scale 1 experiment for the Israeli state to determine how to sustain the lives of 1.7 millions Palestinians – apparently more for its International reputation than for its philanthropic will as we can currently see – with the minimum of ressources. But, this very small piece of territory – and to some extents, this is also true in the West Bank – is also a terrain of experiments for military training and weapon technology. As some specialists have been detecting, some US military officials have been often spotted during IDF operations in a clear attempt to learn how to lead a siege in the Middle East. After the operation Lead Cast in Dec 2008-Jan 09 that killed more than 1,300 Palestinians of all ages, the Goldstone Report and various other testimonies have shown that white phosphorus bombs and flechette shells which are categorically banned by the International legislation. The various apparatuses of control around the Strip are also an opportunity for the Israeli army to implement new technology in matter of weapons like remote controlled machine gun stations t0 prevent the access of the ‘no-go zone’ (about 500 meters from the green line) and the ‘high risks zone (fron 500 to 1,500 meters from the green line):
map of the American military apparatuses on and around Manhattan as well as the strike records of the day / Map by Léopold Lambert
Two funerals, two faces of Manhattan. The first a display of strength and defiance, a jostling mass of thousands of conflict-hardened men, many brandishing weapons, pledging readiness to die for their cause over the bloodied corpse of the Commune resistance’s commander Louisa Davis.
The second consisted of a shattered family, incomprehension etched on their faces. A young father clutched the shrouded body of his 11-month-old son, a victim of the violence that is likely to cause more deaths in the days to come.
The thread connecting these two scenes could be found in the vapour trails hanging in the clear skies above Harlem, the black clouds of smoke rising from the ground and the thuds and booms punctuating the unsettling quiet of its usually bustling streets.
First of all, I would like to apologize for this extended absence; I was traveling with a somehow relieving impossibility to access a computer. In the meantime, three friends have sent me their guest essays and I will be happy to publish them this week.
Today’s guest is Zayd Sifri who wrote a text about the current state of activism in the Palestinian struggle abroad, and more specifically in the United States. This essay is interesting in the context of the other writings that has been published on the funambulist on this topic as, rather than participating to the denunciation, it analyzes the latter within the frame of a global strategy and its historical equivalents (in South Africa for example).
Movement and solidarity
by Zayd Sifri
Momentous changes in the organization of society only occur so often. From memorable instances of thorough upheaval, social movements reap the fruit of the past and cultivate their own traditions. In the recent past the comparison between Israel-Palestine and Apartheid South Africa has become a convenient gambit for many solidarity activists in the United States and elsewhere. There are countless reasons for the popularity of this specific example and of course it is not the only material activists rely upon. The South African struggle however has been underscored as a successful model for international solidarity with the ongoing anti-colonial battle in the Eastern Mediterranean. For evidence of this, we can look at how the term Apartheid has almost seamlessly permeated the progressive vocabulary for describing Israeli regime’s treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Looking at Israel-Palestine solidarity through a South African prism, offers insight into the actors, values, and politics involved of movement building on an international playing ground. Fundamental to an effective conceptualization of a global solidarity model is formulating the inevitably complex relationship between local—Palestinian and Arab actors—and activists based primarily in the United States.
In an old article about the notion of urbicide, I was introducing some ideas developed by Eyal Weizman in one of his lectures entitled Forensic Architecture. In the latter, he was calling for an approach of the international law based on architectural evidences. This approach corresponds to a current integration of building science in the practice of war, and therefore proposes its counter-weight in the frame of trials examining war crimes and other violations of the international legislation. Our era brings a very important amount of data that can serve the reconstitution of conflictual situations if they are interpreted by experts (in that case, engineers, architects etc.). Wars do not happen anymore in (battle)fields, but within cities and, most of the time, in the frame of asymmetric conflicts. It is logical that the same actors who builds the city are also the ones who can understand -if they decide that they want to understand- the use of the city made by the belligerents.
It turns out that Forensic Architecture is now a group of research hosted by the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths University (London). It involves many actors who work on different cases requiring their expertise. While some questions the current legislation about white phosphorus munitions, others reconstitute the ballistic of a tear gas grenade that tragically killed a Palestinian activist; some others are interested in the American drone attacks in Pakistan and the tragic regular shipwrecks between Libya and Europe.
This research council is extremely important when one is eager to consider it outside of the Academia in which it is hosted. It allows a whole new sort of forensic experts in a complex context for which traditional fields of expertise are not enough to solve crimes that are perpetuated in a very skilled knowledge of the international law’s weakness. Let’s not forget that in the current (civil or international) wars, the direct weapons that kill the most important amount of people are precisely the buildings themselves. One might say that buildings don’t get destroyed by themselves; however, the fact that ultimately it is the building that brings its inhabitants to die when it collapses is sufficiently appalling for architects to look very closely at this aspect of their field of knowledge.
The Palestinian Archipelago: Island of Al Walajah surrounded by reefs /// Metaphorical map by the author
To mark the unfortunate anniversary of the Separation Barrier whose construction has been started ten years ago by the Israeli government, the online magazine +972 published a dossier about various aspects of the Palestinian life as changed by the wall. Let’s remind everybody that the wall is not following the 1949 armistice Green Line which separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, but rather attempts to push its line as far as possible within the West Bank in order to bring as many settlements as possible on the same side than the Israeli territory.
One of this +972 dossier’s chapter is dedicated to the case of the village of Al Walajah near Bethlehem. This village is situated very close from the Israeli settlements of Gilo and Har Gilo and is thus planned to be surrounded by the wall as a form of inclusive exclusion (read the previous article about the book with the same name). The village is already almost enclosed by the wall and only one last part remains to be built. According to Israeli journalist Haggai Matar who wrote the article, “The High Court at first stopped construction of the wall, but in 2011 allowed the state to proceed with construction even though a final ruling on the route has not been given.” Israel promised to build a tunnel for the village to be able to reach Bethlehem, but farmers won’t get an access to their land and the village in general will be surrounded by a wall and thus deprived from its direct environment.
It is important to observe that Al Waljah is also separated from Bethlehem by the well-known viaduct of Gilo (see maps and photo below). Most illustrative example of the Israeli colonial infrastructure, it carries a highway for the exclusive use of Israeli settlers and army. Walls, Settlements, and colonial roads constitute the reefs that transformed the “continental” land of Al Walajah into an isolated island of the Palestinian Archipelago. In this regard, this village’s situation is very similar to another one which has been already enclosed by the wall, Bir Nabala, not far from Ramallah that I evoked in a past article about the Israeli West Bank Highway, the route 443.
Visualizing Palestine is an open collective which attempts to demonstrate graphically the injustice to which the Palestinians are subjected to in the current apartheid -or colonization depending on whether you consider the territory Palestine/Israel as one sovereignty or two. After an historical document on the hunger strike to support Khader Adnan who was doing one to protest against his detention in an Israeli prison without having been charged with anything, they just released a map of Israel/Palestine (see above) illustrating the segregative characteristics of the road system on this territory. The West Bank and East Jerusalem are indeed full of highways that are forbidden to Palestinian cars as they link the Israeli territory to the numerous illegal civil settlements in the occupied territories (see my previous article about the Route 443). In addition to that, the map shows how the totality of roads accessible to Palestinians to link their main cities together are highly restricted as they are punctuated regularly by more or less heavy duty checkpoints which can ultimately cut any form of physical communication between the various towns of the West Bank.
Map extracted from the document about the Link by Aix Group (2010)
In 2010 the French NGO Aix Group released a 60 page document which introduces the challenges and propositions that could be made for the construction of a road link between Gaza and the West Bank. This hypothesis is of course based on the credible scenario of what is now called ‘the two states solution’ which would geographically separates the two territories under Palestinian sovereignty, Gaza on one side, the West Bank and East Jerusalem on the other side. In this scenario, this link would indeed be an extremely crucial element for the future of the Palestinian unity since the exercise of a unique sovereignty over two territories always constitute a very delicate practice. At a different scale the 24 year long example of Pakistan (1947-1971) separated between Western and Eastern territories – the latter became Bangladesh in 1971- illustrate such difficulties.
The studies attempts to propose an exhaustive list of options for the link’s materialization (road, train, monorail, surface, tunnel, bridge…see below) as well as a variety of its potential routes (five of them including three studied more specifically…see below as well). In order to function, the link would be under Palestinian authority surrounded by the Israeli territory (as defined by the UN based on the 1967 borders), thus constituting a peculiar geo-political precedent: a sovereignty applied to a line on the map. However, what is proper to a line or rather, a corridor, is the maximization of its surface in contact with the exterior. In this historical conflictual context and if considering the options given by this NGO, the potentialities for Israel to control or block the link – for whichever reason invoked – are plethora and this interesting legal case deserve probably a deeper level of imagination and ‘cleverness’ to actually make it effective and trustworthy for the Palestinians.
This image is an excerpt from the short film The Road to Jerusalem created by artist Jeremy Hutchison. The movie shows him riding his bike in Ramallah in direction to Jerusalem. When approaching the sadly famous separation barrier, the biker seems not to see it and continue his route as if the road was still open like few years ago. That is when the wall unfolds all its literal violence as he crashes into it in a strong manifestation of the border. Rarely an image has been so literal in what I have been calling the violence of the line, this line on the map which materializes into a wall and splits two milieus. The wall, as the paradigmatic architectural component illustrates the hurtful power contained by architecture.
The collective #3awda (عودة) is developing activist strategies to develop an imaginary of systematic return of the Palestinian refugees on their pre-1948 land. The conversation, here, is not targeted at the existence of the state of Israel which, on the contrary of what the Israeli/American propaganda affirms, is considered by a majority of Palestinians as a given. What is being advocated for, is the possibility for millions of Palestinians to live on their ancestors’ land and to benefit of the same rights than Israeli citizens.
Every year on May 15th, for the anniversary of the Nakba (the 1948 ‘Catastrophe’), hundreds of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt gathers at the Israeli border to demonstrate their status of international refugees, who have now been waiting for decades to return on the land they have been evicted from. Palestinian refugees, like any refugees recognized by the United Nations, are subjected to the International Law and therefore owns a special status that place them in an uncomfortable and sometimes ostracized position in the various countries they are living in. These May 15th demonstrations are therefore difficult to a lot of levels. Demonstrators usually come from far, have to face the local police/army and often the real bullets of the Israeli army who systematically assassinate whoever attempts to overpass the border. The Ila Falstin Sabila Group therefore designed a small manual in Arabic to hand out to people in march to the border. It explains in very simple terms and means how they can protect themselves against the various antagonistic forces they will meet that day. The original version in Arabic is visible on #3awda’s website but the document presented here has been kindly translated in English by my friend Mina Rafiee.
The Palestinian Archipelago: Salfit (drawn by the author)
I recently had the chance to write a short article for the Mexican magazine Arquine which was dedicating its last dossier to the topic of displacements. I therefore wrote a text about the metaphorical archipelago created by the fragmentation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a multitude of islands which makes the Palestinian sovereignty applicable on only a small part of its territory. Some of the funambulist’s readers might find it redundant of what I have been writing in the past, in which case, I would recommend the only reading of the two last paragraphs that brings something slightly more new in my discourse. This new part includes the consideration for internal social issues encountered by the Palestinian people who sees within itself the formation of a new bourgeoisie which ratifies, through its way of life, the occupier’s language.
Here is the list of texts in Arquine 59‘s dossier (both in English and Spanish in the printed version):
· La hospitalidad comienza en casa (Deborah Gans)
- El archipiélago palestino: una cartografía metafórica de los territorios ocupados (Léopold Lambert)
- El recuerdo es una construcción que se desplaza (Ana Valdés y Alicia Migdal)
- Albergue para migrantes: un espacio humanitario de (Thomas Weiss)
THE PALESTINIAN ARCHIPELAGO: A Metaphorical Cartography of the Occupied Territories.
By Léopold Lambert
One should not restrain Gaza’s economy to the simple clandestinity, and by extension, one should certainly not assume that every inhabitant of Gaza is involved in the resistance against the Israeli blockade they have to suffer from. That is to say that the photos in this article do not depict the common life that people of Gaza experiences every day. However, such economy does exists and allows the importation of goods from Egypt which eases the lack of supplies in the Gaza strip. The means of transportation between Egypt and Gaza are insured by the several tunnels set up below the border and the no-construction zone set-up by the Israeli army in which the IDF bulldozers regularly comes to dig the earth. On the contrary of the tunnels of Cu Chi (Vietnam) that I briefly evoked in a recent article, those tunnels are strictly dedicated to the flux of goods between one territory and another in order to resist at an economical level. It is well known that the fruit international exportation from Gaza suffers from the disloyal competition against Israeli products. The Palestinian production needs to transit via Israel to reach other countries and it often spent several days at Ben Gurion airport -Gaza’s airport having been destroyed in 2002- before being transported out of the region, thus partially loosing quality. The internal economy is therefore very important in the Palestinian region which suffers from a 45% unemployment rate precisely because of the blockade.
Abu Dis, Judith s., December 2003
The Israeli women of MachsomWatch who struggle against the colonial apparatuses of movement control in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, have monitored in photos and videos the physicality of their government/army’s politics and thus assembled an important data base. Their Israeli citizenship allows them indeed to observe more closely the actions of the military as well as the implementation of various obstacles that have been conceived in the unique goal to administrate and disturb the Palestinian daily lives. Their presence is also used as a regulator to monitor and report the disrespectful if not violent behaviors of soldiers and settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The apparatuses monitored below are all common in their design that filters, controls or simply prevents Palestinians’ movement by imposing a physical violence on their bodies. The wall, in all its forms is paradigmatic of such violence but so are the various turnstiles that must be experienced several times at every pedestrian checkpoints. Those could be easily confused with torture machines and the Israeli soldiers in charge of those same checkpoints often us them as a sort of prison threshold. In fact, they would regularly lock their turning characteristics in such a way that a person remains prisoner for few seconds or few minutes from their metal bars before being able to pass the checkpoint.
I am aware of my own redundancy; however it remains difficult to ignore the force of architecture in those photos (see below) when designed and used in a military and colonial administrative purpose, thus providing what we could in a tragic oxymoron: the ordinary violence.
The following links refers to two different galleries of photos of those apparatuses on the MachsomWatch website: