Poster created for the French newspaper L’Humanité and its daily series “Affiches pour Gaza” – Original version in French (my translation) / Download the high-quality version here
I started writing this article when the ceasefire in Gaza was still active and that, for the first time in 4 weeks, no one was killed for three days. As argued in a recent article, we need to put as much energy in critiquing the ordinary violence of the blockade on Gaza and the occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank than the one we have spent in our outrage to the recent massacre. The language we use for our political struggles informs the degree of resistance that it offers to the dominant narrative as Mimi Thi Nguyen have been arguing in the determining of figures of innocence (see past article and conversation on Archipelago). The Palestinian narrative for the future therefore needs to be carefully constructed depending on the vision at which it is aiming. Such prospects are always problematic, as they touch the delicate realms of “solutions,” which should be thought not as “ends of history,” but rather, within their own reconfiguration of relations of power. Since I already presented a speculative map of what the future of the region could (should?) be like, I would like to complement it now by proposing an inventory of terms we would need to use (i.e. the narrative we would need to convey) if we were to move towards such a future.
As said in the article to which I just referred, I am convinced that what is now known as “the two-state solution,” even if including the decolonization of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, would perpetuate most of the issues from which the Palestinians currently suffer and will even create some more: crystallization of borders, separation of the West Bank and Gaza, refusal to the right of return, sub-citizenship for Palestinians living in what would have became “the Jewish state,” immunity of war criminals. The fact that the Israeli government currently wants to categorize the Gaza strip as “enemy territory” in order to avoid paying reparations and guarantees its army from most complaints made, give us an idea of their will to absolutely separate from the Palestinian territory. If we refuse this speculative future for Palestine, we therefore need to adapt our language to convey a narrative that orient us towards an alternative. The following list is thus a lexicon informing the narrative for one state (or no state at all, as Sophia Azeb argues) and that we should repeatedly use if we want to aim toward this specific speculative future:
- PALESTINE: Palestine being a historical region, we should refrain from using this term to speak only of the West Bank and Gaza as many Western ‘liberal’ media have been doing recently. Considering it in its totality is not a call for expelling the Israeli population from it; on the contrary, it reinforces this narrative of a single nation on a single land.
- APARTHEID: I am now convinced that we should insist strongly on this term of apartheid rather than on another that I have been using many times: colonization. Although the behaviors and policies implemented by the State of Israel certainly carries all the mechanisms of a colonial state, insisting on this term reinforces a supposed essential separation between Israelis and Palestinians. The term of apartheid was conceived by the Afrikaners in South Africa in 1948 — ironically the same year than the State of Israel was created — to administrate the strict separation (apartheid means apart-hood in Afrikaans) of black and white bodies in the country. This separation did not go without a hierarchy of citizenship between both part of the population, the black population not being able to vote. The apartheid legislation was dismantled between 1990 and 1993 following years of internal resistance by the African National Congress (Nelson Mandela’s party) helped in the last years by a worldwide mobilization. I read a few articles in the past from black South Africans who refused to see the term of apartheid associated to Palestine; yet, in March 2014, Desmond Tutu, one of the most instrumental member of the anti-apartheid struggle, called the Israeli treatment of Palestinians as being legitimately called apartheid (source).
- SEGREGATION: The notion of segregation is concomitant to the one of apartheid. The way we usually think of it in the context of Palestine relate to the Israeli Palestinians, Bedouins, and East African immigrants who do not always have access to the same schools or the same buses.
However, we can extend this notion of segregation to other aspects of the territorial and administrative organization of Palestine. We can look at the multitude of settlements built by Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that currently host about 500,000 Israeli settlers, as segregated and militarized towns/neighborhoods where only Jewish Israelis can live. Interpreting them this way does not change anything to the violence that their construction and existence required: land expropriation, Palestinian home demolitions, olive trees uprooted, fences/walls construction, militarization of space, impunity of the settler population in their attacks on the locals. Similarly, the roads that access these settlements are mostly segregated in their exclusive use by the Israeli settlers and army.
The army itself is segregated as Israeli Palestinians cannot take part in it. It is easy to understand why since the primary targets of this army are Palestinians themselves. These three parts of the population find themselves constraint to take their segregative part in the army: the Jewish Israelis as its soldiers, the Palestinian Israelis as its refused, and the Palestinians as its targets.
The largest segregation is spatial of course. The entire population of Gaza and most of the population of the West Bank are highly restricted in their movements. These restrictions are implemented by the walls that surrounds Gaza for one and ‘dives’ from the 1949 Green line to far inside the West Bank for the other, in order to include as many Israeli settlements on its Western side. However, the walls are only one apparatus of restraint of Palestinian movement; as explained through the metaphor of the “Palestinian Archipelago” in Weaponized Architecture, as well as in an essay for Arquine, movements are also controlled and potentially stopped by the militarized checkpoints situated between the areas A and B in which the Palestinian authority has a relative autonomy, and the embracing area C where the army has full control since the 1993 Oslo Accords.
- RACISM: Racism, rather than xenophobia (another issue also at work), is what allows the Israeli government and army to continue its apartheid policies and dreadful militarized operations. Racism operates through the creation and perpetuation of an imaginary for which there is a refusal, as Glissant and Chamoiseau write, to “think the other, think itself with the others, think the other within itself” (they wrote this text when French president Nicolas Sarkozy created a “Minister of Immigration and National Identity”). Racism is the only strong enough thing to allow the apartheid and massacres to be perpetuated. In the recent weeks, we read and heard call for concentration or plain genocide of the population of Gaza. Of course, such discourses remain marginal and should be considered as such, however, they establish extreme poles that allow all other hate speech to be considered as more moderate. It reinforces the binary categorization of “us” and “them,” which is manifested in the overwhelming amount of sentences starting by “those people.” Palestinian Israelis are particularly subjected to this racism as they live as a minority surrounded by Jewish Israelis. This is how they can be stopped in the street and judged based on their accent when speaking Hebrew, or that posters have been seen in Jerusalem recommending to Palestinians “not to think about touching” Israeli women as Alex Shams reported in his latest article about the increase of sexualized violence in Israeli speeches.
- STATE OF EMERGENCY: If we attempt to think of Palestine as one, we need to think of the military occupation of the West Bank as a 47-year long state of emergency where any form of policing is directly operated by the army itself. Each demonstration is immediately suppressed with teargas, rubber bullets, and sometimes live ammunition, each planned arrest is executed at nighttime by overly armed commandos that point their weapons at all members of the concerned family, each trial occurs within a military court (except for Israeli settlers who are judged by civil courts when they are). It is a place where curfews can be regularly enforced, where agricultural land can be seized by soldiers, where movement can be stopped between cities, where entire homes are demolished as retaliation (see past article): it is a place where the law is simultaneously created by the military and implemented by them (see past article).
This short text is only an attempt to start such a lexicon that would construct a consistent narrative for the future of Palestine in that the words used for the critique of the current state of things would simultaneously imply a vision for a future manifesto. In this regard, the five terms introduced above inform a vision of a single state where they would have been dismantled and their authors would have been prosecuted. Nothing less could possibly be thought as acceptable.