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Asymmetrical Itineraries: Militarism, Tourism, and Solidarity in Occupied Palestine
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Asymmetrical Itineraries:
Militarism, Tourism, and Solidarity in Occupied Palestine

In 2009, French artist Julien Bousac designed a map of the West Bank titled “L’archipel de Palestine orientale,” or “The Archipelago of Eastern Palestine” (see fig. 1).1 With a nautical anchor affixed in the upper left corner, the map transforms West Bank cities and villages into islands depicted in different shades of green to signify different levels of Palestinian autonomy. In the bottom right corner of the map, Bousac explains that all areas in Israeli hands—aux mains d’Israel—were transformed into the sea, and white space representing Israeli settlements blends almost seamlessly into the sea-foam backdrop.2 Jericho is its own island far off to the east; Ramallah is an island in the center of the archipelago; and Bethlehem is severed from Ramallah, with the Canal de Jérusalem and the islands of ’Anata and Ar-Ram peppering the waters in between. Israeli nature reserves, designated by green stripes, take up the space of some of the otherwise Palestinian landmasses, and Israeli military roads, signified by dotted shipping lines, function as the only connecting thoroughfares between the islands.

Bousac’s map is based entirely on data from B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organization. It is part utopia, populated by names like the Isle of Olive Trees and Honey Island. It is part dystopia, with dotted lines signifying shipping links that connect all the Israeli ports to one another. It is part maritime war-craft imagery, as tiny blue Israeli warships—zone sous surveillance—are positioned everywhere that there were permanent checkpoints in 2009. It also is part a mockery of the existing regulatory regime of the West Bank, with tiny palm trees signifying protected beaches and highlighting how Israel uses the discourse of protected land to secure its own space.3 Bousac’s map illustrates—via a military and a tourist imaginary—how the US-brokered Oslo Accords fragmented the West Bank into enclaves separated by checkpoints and settlements that maintain Israeli control over the West Bank and circumscribe the majority of the Palestinian population to shrinking Palestinian city and [End Page 723]

Figure 1. Julien Bousac, “L’archipel de Palestine orientale” (2009). © Julien Bousaca
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Figure 1.

Julien Bousac, “L’archipel de Palestine orientale” (2009). © Julien Bousaca

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village centers. His map details the impossibilities of both movement and any semblance of conventional tourism in the West Bank, demonstrating how settler colonial state practice can create island formations without water, using checkpoints, walls, fences, and military outposts to disrupt any contiguity between Palestinian space.

I begin with Bousac’s map because it asks us to consider the fragmented archipelago that the West Bank has become. Like Bousac’s map, I too want to chart out the post-Oslo fragmentation of the West Bank and ask when and how those landmasses in between seas of checkpoints and military roads become navigable, and for whom. In this essay, I explore what happens when subjects under occupation attempt to circumvent the archipelagic logic that divides them. What possibilities are both made available and made impossible when tourism, militarism, and anti-occupation activism occupy the same space? In what follows, I show how, in the context of ever-shrinking Palestinian access to their land, Palestinian tour guides and organizers are using tourism, despite its limitations, to expose the fragmented terrain they have inherited and to attempt to stay anchored to the land they still have. I trace how the Oslo I and II Accords, and the attendant establishment of the Palestinian Authority and its Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, both changed the parameters of what was possible in terms of Palestinian-led tourism in the West Bank and also fragmented Palestinian land, ushered in a period of expanding settlements, and entrenched an aid-based Palestinian economy. Drawing from interviews with Palestinian tour guides, many of whom have been organizing tours of occupied Palestine since the first intifada, I detail how what began as informal, impromptu tours of the West Bank to supporters of the Palestinian struggle has mushroomed into an income-generating, if somewhat provisional, enterprise. I also focus on the deeply and, I argue, deliberately asymmetrical nature...