- Security Theology, Surveillance, and the Politics of Fear by Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015
208 pages. isbn 9781107097353
In the summer of 2014 Israel waged a fifty-day military assault on Gaza that claimed the lives of 2,205 Palestinians, leaving in its wake a scale of destruction and displacement human rights groups deemed unprecedented since the beginning of Israel’s 1967 occupation. Israel rationalized its assault on the occupied territory as a matter of national security. Yet how could such a scale of human devastation against a captive population (under siege, no less) be justified in the name of security? Completed in the midst of the assault, the renowned Palestinian feminist scholar and activist Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s Security Theology, Surveillance, and the Politics of Fear provides an urgently needed analysis of Israel’s security paradigm embedded in a settler colonial logic. Of central concern to the author are the ways matters of security for the “Jewish state” enable deployment of a violent, quotidian surveillance over racialized bodies and lives, producing Israel’s “political economy of fear” (10) — an ideology that obscures and perpetuates violence and power inequities between colonizer and colonized, settler and native, sacred and profane.
Shalhoub-Kevorkian pursues her theorization not through a distant analysis of the discourse and structures of those in power (though she attentively historicizes a number of contemporary surveillance policies in relation to the structure of colonial dispossession) or through attention to the hypervisible aspects of Israeli violence. Rather, she follows the expansive tentacles of Israeli governance as they reach into the intimate domains of Palestinian life and death in the settler colony, where the terrorizing effects of what she terms the state’s “security theology” (14-15) creep into the veins and capillaries of the everyday. “It is the obsession of the occupiers and their bureaucracies,” she writes, “with the intimate details of who is sleeping with whom, who is marrying whom, who is giving birth, and whose children are to be recognized” (155). By examining the Tag Mehir (Price [End Page 261] Tag) movement’s violent writings on the walls of Palestinian communities, state control over Palestinians’ legal status and restrictions on family reunification, home demolitions, violation of pregnant women’s bodily safety, and denial of a right to a dignified burial for the dead, Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s feminist analytics centers the “intimate politics of the everyday” (2), drawing the reader’s attention to mundane and private sites where settler colonial power is both reproduced and contested, among them the Palestinian body, psyche, home space, familial relationships, birth, and death.
In the chapter “Israel in the Bedroom” the author examines Israel’s biopolitical governance of Palestinian family life and marital and sexual relations through the Citizenship and Entry Law, which she posits as a racializing technology of colonial power. The law prohibits the Palestinian spouses or children of Israeli citizens (approximately 20 percent of whom are Palestinian) from obtaining permanent residency status or citizenship and grants the state power to strip spouses of temporary status based on perceived national security concerns, effectively depriving Palestinian citizens of their right to have a family in Israel based solely on the race or ethnicity of their spouses (52). Barring Palestinians from a path to citizenship, the author argues, is but one of the legal mechanisms employed by the state to “transfer” Palestinians from their native lands and maintain a Jewish racial majority (52). Native eviction, she illustrates, is accomplished not simply through overtly violent means of the state and its military apparatus but also through the state’s ability to “keep individuals in a state of uncertainty, sitting in an eternal waiting room in a Kafkaesque labyrinth of administrative processes” (65), where Palestinians are forced to live as illegal entities, permanent refugees “in fear of Israel’s surveillance and threat of deportation” in their own native lands (65). In “Hunted Homeplaces” Shalhoub-Kevorkian centers the connection between dispossessions of the home space and memory of home, paying particular attention to gendered effects of Israeli attacks on the Palestinian home/land and its policy of...