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The Israeli military courts and the compounds in which they are located exemplify how architecture can provide for control and surveillance. The space itself operates as a technology of power to facilitate or impede visibility and to regulate movement and interactions. The physical design and management of the courts reinforce the disciplinary potential of the space, as people internalize the possibilities and limits of their own position. Power relations are visible in the military courts and provide a stark reXection of power relations in the broader context of Israel/Palestine. In the courtroom, although the judges’ bench and the prisoners’ dock are only feet apart, a wide gulf separates them. Each represents more than a mere location in the room. The bench is on an elevated dais, enabling judges to survey the room over which they preside. It requires little stretch of imagination to read the position of judges as analogous to that of the Israeli state that they represent, or the courtroom as a synecdoche of Israeli surveillance and control over the occupied territories. Defendants see the courtroom through the bars of a fenced enclosure that surrounds the dock. This, too, is analogous to the constraints and punitive dimensions of life under occupation. Palestinians are simultaneously present and excluded in an Israeli-controlled environment. But their large numbers also suggest a pervasive will to resist and the costs of doing so. C h a p t e r 3 Going to Court It is ugly to be punishable, but there is no glory in punishing. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish1 79 80 ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE MILITARY COURT SYSTEM The space of the courts can be read as a reXection of the broader context in other ways as well. As I explain in Chapter 1, Israel/Palestine is governmentally integrated, and Israelis and Palestinians reside in rather close geographic proximity. The court system brings together members of the multiple “publics” who inhabit this area. As settings, the courts are spaces shared by Israeli citizens and Palestinian residents of the territories. But being “together” in the courtroom tends to reinforce collective diVerences and national divisions. No one I spoke with claimed to Wnd the interpersonal proximity in the courts as an occasion to forget diVerences, as a humanizing experience of identifying with the “other.” Rather, for most people, the proximity was experienced as an occasion in which diVerences became more heightened, obvious, and fraught. In this regard, the courts, like Israel/Palestine, are simultaneously shared and divided. Allen Feldman, whose work on the conXict in Northern Ireland suggests striking similarities with the situation in Israel/Palestine, describes such “bifurcated space” as “a component of a shared material culture that reproduces ideological and ethnic polarities.”2 Between this chapter and the ones to follow, I want to tease out a contrast between that which is visible in the courtrooms, often unsubtle spectacles of power and powerlessness, and that which confounds such polarities . In this chapter, I focus mainly on the surface, on what is literally visible. In subsequent chapters, I probe into the functioning of the system to reveal Wssures in national consensuses and insurgent actions by individuals who resist the prevailing order and/or their positions within in it. The contrast I raise for consideration is not categorical, nor is the surface of the courts “separate” from the system. But the power of law, legalism, and legalistic agency resists the kinds of explanations that do apply to the visual displays of power and subordination that mark the surface of the courts. In this vein, Feldman writes: “The historiographic surface is a place for reenactments, for the simulation of power and for making power tangible as a material force. These surfaces are frequently located at the edge of social order. Yet they fabricate an ediWce of centralized and authorized domination.”3 On the surface, the military courts epitomize an Israeli-Palestinian nationalist dichotomy. Regardless of how one would interpret what is “see-able,” there is no ignoring the blatancy of national diVerence, the imbalances of national power, or the polarizing dimensions of national conXict. The most obvious manifestation of diVerence is the military-civilian distinction, which translates loosely into an Israeli-Palestinian distinction . Most of the Israelis in the courts, with the notable exception of Israeli defense lawyers, are there as soldiers. All of the Palestinians are civilians . In court, these diVerences are visibly marked by military uniforms GOING TO COURT 81 and weapons. But the diVerences also are visible in sharply...


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