Space and Mobility in Palestine

Space and Mobility in Palestine

Space and Mobility in Palestine

Space and Mobility in Palestine

Synopsis

Professor Julie Peteet believes that the concept of mobility is key to understanding how place and space act as forms of power, identity, and meaning among Palestinians in Israel today. In Space and Mobility in Palestine, she investigates how Israeli policies of closure and separation influence Palestinian concerns about constructing identity, the ability to give meaning to place, and how Palestinians comprehend, experience, narrate, and respond to Israeli settler-colonialism. Peteet's work sheds new light on everyday life in the Occupied Territories and helps explain why regional peace may be difficult to achieve in the foreseeable future.

Excerpt

Perched on a large boulder, on the dry, hilly edge of the West Bank Palestinian village of Bil’in, Ahmad and I are observing the weekly Friday protest unfolding in the surrounding olive groves. Prevented from entering Israel to work by its policy of closure, Ahmad has been working in his family’s olive grove, and we are watching the olive trees being uprooted by weaponized bulldozers flanked by Israeli soldiers and police. They are carving out the route for Israel’s separation wall and for the expansion of the colony on once well-cultivated, now confiscated, village lands, and Ahmad’s family is one of those losing substantial tracts of land to this effort. We can see the occupation forces throwing tear-gas canisters at the unarmed villagers as they, and their Israeli and international supporters, protest peacefully. This sends the protestors running through the fields, and Ahmad turns to me and says glumly, “This is the third stage in our dispossession.” His words capture the spatiality, temporality, and topography of the nationalist settler-colonial project in Palestine, yet they are uttered amid a protest against this very progression of history, an attempt to disrupt the continuity of past, present, and future.

As anthropologist Patrick Wolfe (2006, 388) reminds us, “Invasion is a structure not an event.” Ahmad’s life trajectory illustrates particular moments in a logical and sequential, rather than disconnected, set of displacing actions that have unfolded in the context of settler colonialism. Born under occupation, he has known no other way of life. Domination by and the expected show of deference to the Israeli settlers and military are routine, as is imprisonment for political activism. Ahmad was formerly employed in a Tel Aviv restaurant, without benefits or the right to live or sleep overnight in Israel. Ahmad began working his family’s olive grove when Israel reduced its reliance on Palestinian labor. the expansion of the Israeli colony next to Bil’in has left Ahmad’s family in precarious economic straits.

I had my first sight of the behemoth separation wall in spring 2004, when I traveled to the West Bank to attend a conference. Apart from its visual impact, the wall separates and immobilizes, engenders economic chaos, imposes discipline and punishment, appropriates Palestinian resources, and, by ostensibly quelling resistance, gives the Israelis a sense of security. in Palestine, violence has . . .

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