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.
This notion of ordinary violence, in opposition to the more spectacular/news one, is fundamental here as it involves a coldly thought strategy of power registered within the colonial organization of life. Of course, this ordinary violence is also the one that architecture takes care to provide thanks to its weight and non-penetrability. The settlements, in their own way, participate actively to this ordinary violence at several levels. The level of their very illegal existence of course, but also in the way they redirect the (restricted) flows of movement (by their location, but also by the private roads that link them to Israel) in the West Bank and finally in the sheltering of a population that sometimes – it is not true for all settlements – storm out of their base to attack the local population before storming back in immediately after.
The following documents allow to a certain extent to comprehend this ordinary violence. The map indicates where the photographed settlements are located in relation to the Area A & B on which the Palestinian Authority has a relative power. Further, each settlement is illustrated with its aerial view and my own photographs on the field.
Location of the Settlements on the Palestinian Archipelago Map: (all map and photographs except google earth are by the author 2010)