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
Such a right is of course flouted for Palestinians on a daily basis. There is the wall, but also the multitude of checkpoints that one has to necessarily pass when leaving a city to another and in an even more global way, there is the administrative areas that condemns the West Bank to be only a Palestinian Archipelago in which it is difficult and dangerous to go from one island to another whichever mean you might use. Movement is one of the very first object of control for the Israeli occupier. Controlling movement is controlling freedom, controlling economy, controlling emotions and affects, but more importantly, by its very implementation, it asserts a power over a given territory in the form of a claim of the latter.
In the case of the Right to Movement Palestine Marathon, there is no direct resistance to this control as the whole race was taking place within Area A in which the Palestinian Authority can exercise (theoretically) its sovereignty (we will not talk of the absence of recent elections here). There is therefore no disobedience to the colonial law, nor a sort of discovery of the forbidden territory like in Raja Shehadeh’s walks (see the interview I did with him) in Ramallah’s hills on which the Israeli army has full power. No direct resistance as such. Nevertheless, the celebration of movement that this marathon incarnates is not only a strong symbol for a people whose movement is limited by another one, but it is also an opportunity for Palestinian women and men to experience a long distance run and through it, a very different way to experience the well known environment of their daily lives. It also gives an opportunity to envision their bodies in a way that is certainly not the one they live with ordinarily. The occupation, and that is how is is eminently architectural, is all about the organization of the bodies’ location (not there, here, behind bars, surrounded by walls, in the narrow corridors of the checkpoints, stuck within your own house…); the potentiality for young (and less young) Palestinians to choose their own level of speed and to fully unfolds the physical capacity of their bodies in another context than a violent one: that is the true political resistance that is hosted by this Marathon.