Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Making of a Void Sovereignty: Political Implications of the Military Checkpoints in the West Bank

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

The Making of a Void Sovereignty: Political Implications of the Military Checkpoints in the West Bank

Article excerpt

Management of movement and organization of space have become key issues to understanding Israeli control over Palestinian occupied territory, especially as it manifests itself in the West Bank. A simple representation of the space as divided between the Palestinian and the Israeli is inadequate for the understanding of the politico-spatial dimension of Israeli domination over the entire area. The fragmentation of Palestinian space in the West Bank, through the extensive use of a wide variety of movement restriction elements, has been well documented in prior reports of political, human rights, and humanitarian organizations. Similarly, prior scholarly efforts have provided extensive analysis of these restrictions, both as forms of ruling a space and its inhabitants, and in relation to the implications of these restrictions as they affect the lives of the Palestinians living in the West Bank. Additionally, the devastating effects of these same elements, combined with their accompanying bureaucratic mechanisms, have also received much scholarly attention. (1)

The aim of this paper is not to dispute any of this previous research--quite the contrary. What this paper aims to do is provide an analysis of these means of control, and claim that one facet of their operation, and a significant one at that, has been overlooked by prior research and analysis. When we examine, through the concepts of governmentality and sovereignty, the operation, in all its complexity, of the movement restrictions exercised by Israeli rule over the Palestinians in the West Bank, a seemingly contradictory picture appears. On the level of population management the regime of movement operates to actively inhibit the establishment and sustenance of a viable Palestinian political entity in the West Bank. A close examination from a purely sovereign perspective, however, will expose what seems to be a discrepancy, since, at least on the face of it, these same mechanisms operate to sustain and sponsor that same political entity. Thus, the politico-spatial examination of Israeli forms of control and the integrated analysis of sovereign and governmentalizing aspects set out below aim to portray a form of rule which operates as a pincer movement in relation to Palestinian self-rule.

In the first part of this paper I will examine the operation of the Israeli checkpoints and other elements through which Israeli rule controls Palestinian movement in the West Bank as a means of population management, and analyze the ways in which they thwart a Palestinian political existence. My claim in the first part is that the excessiveness of the implementation of these means is the central factor through which their operation should be understood. It is this excessiveness that enables the Israeli forces to ensure a grip over any and all aspects of the lives of West Bank Palestinians while throttling the ability of any other governing entity to gain political potency through the management of this same population. I claim that this excessive governmentality renders the productive potential of this population redundant and wastes it as a resource: while not making use of it for its own needs, it also eliminates the possibility for any other governing power to harness it. The second part is an analysis of the operation of the same mechanisms on the level of sovereignty, emphasizing their role in the fabrication of a Palestinian sovereignty, and claiming that the construction of this sovereignty is an organizing factor in their operation. My claim is that the fabrication of a Palestinian sovereignty is necessary to sustain the particular form of rule that Israel exercises over the Palestinians. This rule should be understood as an aberrant form of governmentality, one which enables a split between the management of a given population and the responsibility for this same population that this management entails. The shedding of this responsibility is enabled through the fabrication of Palestinian sovereignty, since, presumably, this Palestinian sovereignty should be the bearer of these responsibilities. …

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