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In the Israeli military court system, the “defendant” category includes Palestinians from all walks of life. All Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza are potential defendants, since all are subject to the jurisdiction of this court system. And hundreds of thousands have been actual defendants, among a population that now numbers 3.6 million.2 There are no Wrm Wgures of the number of people who have been prosecuted in the military courts since 1967.3 But according to a widely acknowledged rule of thumb, approximately 50 percent of Palestinians who are arrested are released or administratively detained without charges, and the other 50 percent are charged with crimes and prosecuted. Approximately 813,000 Palestinians were arrested between 1967 and 1993.4 Within that period, during the Wrst intifada (1987–93), at least 20,000 to 25,000 were arrested every year, the highest per capita incarC h a p t e r 7 Political Subjects, Legal Objects Defendants The military court system is a part of our lives as Palestinians. The Israelis have been successful in shifting our struggle from the political arena to the courts. A former prisoner Prison will bring us together. Raymonda Tawil, Women Prisoners in the Prison Country1 185 186 ETHNOGRAPHY OF THE MILITARY COURT SYSTEM ceration rate in the world at that time.5 In 1994 and 1995, the start of the Oslo Accords, arrest rates declined to approximately 6,000 per year. Between 1996 and September 2000, the annual average varied from 1,200 to 3,600.6 Between September 29, 2000 (the start of the second intifada) and September 2002, approximately 15,000 were arrested.7 Hence, applying the rule of thumb, the estimated number of prosecutions since 1967 would be in the neighborhood of half a million. The magnitude of these numbers in relation to the size of the population illuminates the carceral nature of Israeli military rule in the West Bank and Gaza. The kinds of activities that have been criminalized by the military and emergency laws used to govern Palestinians include not only violence but anything the authorities deem menacing to security or disruptive of order. Even the most basic aspirations and “normal” activities—education, marriage, work, health care, movement—have been regulated by punitive laws that impose criminal sanctions for breaches and violations. As Uri Savir, a leading Israeli political Wgure, observes: “In the course of the . . . occupation almost every third Palestinian in the territories had at some time or another been imprisoned or detained, and the population as a whole had suVered great humiliation at our hands.”8 Carceralism is the term I use to describe Israeli rule over Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza because it captures the fact that they are treated collectively as suspect and punishable and are imprisoned, literally in that thousands or tens of thousands are in prison at any given time, and equally literally in that, like prisoners, they are “unfree.”9 The military court system is an institutional centerpiece of this carceralism, part of a broader array of governing institutions and practices in which Palestinians are enmeshed and tracked in grids of surveillance, subjected to restrictive codes of conduct and interaction, physically immobilized through the use of permits, closures, curfews, checkpoints, and walls, and incarcerated in huge numbers.10 This chapter addresses the carceral nature of government in the West Bank and Gaza as it aVects and is perceived by Palestinians who are prosecuted in the military court system. However, it is impossible to understand Palestinian defendants’ perspectives on the court system without extending the scope of analysis to consider the impact of military occupation on Palestinian society at large and resistance against it. Palestinian resistance has a history and takes many forms, but it has been and remains a valorized as well as dangerous endeavor to contest protracted military occupation and statelessness. The Structural Violence of Occupation The concept of structural violence connotes the institutionalization of conditions in which deprivations, injuries, restrictions, and losses are sustained , routinized, and pervasive. Structural violence has diVerent and uneven impacts on individuals (e.g., by gender, age, class, locale, and so on) but nevertheless generates common and collective experiences that can be described as “social suVering.” Arthur Kleinman explains, “SuVering, in this anthropological perspective, is the eVect of the social violence that social orders—local, national, global—bring to bear on people .”11 For Palestinians living under military occupation, like other communities subjected to repressive and discriminatory rule, both structural...


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MARC Record
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