- Space and Mobility in Palestine by Julie Peteet
Julie Peteet has worked for years with Palestinians over a large geographical and social expanse—from the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), through Jordan, to Lebanon and its refugee camps. She has now published a book dealing with the political and personal consequences of restrictions placed on movement in the West Bank. In it, she analyzes the most striking aspect of the Palestinian natural and human landscape: the closure which divides the land into small spaces chopped up by checkpoints, barriers, a system of unequal identity cards, the Wall, permits, and other bureaucratic and physical impediments to people's mobility. Her writing is the product of fieldwork conducted between 2004 and 2008, a time of continuing severe closure and repetitive clashes in villages near the Wall.
In the introduction, she identifies her theoretical framework for studying Palestine as "a modern settler colonial context" (2). In the oPt, access to space, and therefore mobility, derives from racialized categories of ethnicity, religion, nationality, place of origin, and residency, as well as an expanding/contracting expanse (the former for newly installed Israelis, the latter for indigenous Palestinians). Zionism, she points out, is now ever more commonly seen as a form of settler colonialism in which land and water resources are expropriated for the use of the colonials while the indigenous population is either expelled or contained rather than, in classical colonial fashion, incorporated as a labor force. Indeed, the publication of this book and others in the field illustrates the shift in political and conceptual understandings of Palestine/Israel in the world academy from a "conflict" to a "settler colonial" focus. Endowed since 2011 with its own scholarly journal (Settler Colonial Studies), this classical field has [End Page 283] increasingly concentrated on contemporary examples, among which Israel/Palestine figures prominently.
But what kinds of processes does the framework of settler colonialism make visible? This is the question Peteet endeavors to answer in her ethnography of mobility, for which she interviewed numerous local actors and Palestinian as well as foreign observers. She argues that her role as an anthropologist in the colonial present is, first, to compile an ethnographic archive of life under settler-colonial occupation and, second, to analyze the ever-changing spatial parameters and rules of contemporary forms of colonial power. Her goal is thus not simply to document the disciplinary effects of closure in a Foucauldian manner, but, perhaps like Michel de Certeau, to watch people in their everyday, as they actually move through the maze of obstacles.
The first chapter, "'Permission to Breathe': Closure and the Wall," analyzes the regime of closures and the ever-present Wall as forms of immobilization, an escalation in the Israeli tactics of monitoring and entrapping the Palestinian population. In this form of segregation, the people are assigned particular spaces and constrained in their access to others. She traces segregation between Arabs and Jews to the beginnings of the Zionist agricultural projects in Palestine, through the policies of the Israeli state after its creation in 1948 and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967. The issuing of identity cards, color-coded for quick assessment of the holder's rights to mobility and residency, distinguishes between Arab and Jew but also between Palestinians' places of origin. The hierarchy of identity cards is multiple: the right to mobility (i.e., to cross checkpoints and visit various parts of Israel and the oPt) differs for holders of Israeli citizenship, Jerusalem IDs, West Bank IDs, Gaza IDs, and those with Jordanian passports.
The sequence of chapters following: "Mobility: Legibility, Permits, and Roads" (Chapter 2); "Geography of Anticipation and Risk: Checkpoints, Filters, and Funnels" (Chapter 3); and "Waiting and 'Stealing Time': Closure's Temporality" (Chapter 4) document the all-pervasiveness of a process of enclavization, with reduced space and expanded time. In Chapter 2, she shows how each Palestinian enclave (Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron, Gaza, Jenin, and so on) is granted a specific status, entailing its own particular right to mobility, whose parameters vary from day to day. These numerous enclaves, Peteet...