Monday 13 November 2023

Links: 13/11/23

[...] in the wake of September 11, the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon has taken advantage of the so-called "war on terror" to ratchet up the colonial dispossession of the Palestinian people. What is novel about this, I argue, is that it has taken place (literally so) through what Achille Mbembe calls a "necropolitics" - "a generalized instrumentalization of human existence and the material destruction of human bodies and populations" - whose performances of space seek to rationalize and radicalize colonial aggression. These performances assault not only politically qualified life - the space within which a Palestinian state is possible - but also "bare life" itself. 
Israel's offensive operations were designed to turn the Palestinian people not only into enemies but into aliens, and in placing them outside the modern, figuratively and physically, they were constructed as what Giorgio Agamben calls homines sacri. Homo sacer was a subject-position established under Roman law to identify those whose death had no sacrificial value but whose killing did not constitute a crime: they inhabited a zone of abandonment within which sovereign power had suspended its own law. The prosecution of this necropolitics, as Mbembe calls it, was a radicalization of existing Israeli policies that required the performance of two spacings. On one side, a strategy of consolidation and containment continued to bind Israel to its illegal settlements in Gaza and the West Bank and to separate both from the remainder of the occupied territories; on the other side, a strategy of cantonization institutionalized the siege of Palestinian towns and villages.

Gregory, Derek. "Palestine and the "War on Terror"." Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, vol. 24 no. 1, 2004, p. 183-195. Project MUSE

The article cited above is from 2004, almost ten years ago. I've been waking up the last few days watching and reading about the suffering at the Al-Nasr Children's Hospital, which has been damaged in repeated attacked, and Al-Rantisi Children's Hospital, which was evacuated after being surrounded by Israeli troops. Reuters quotes doctors working in these hospitals who describe a situation on the ground that makes medical care, which includes the care for infants in incubators, impossible. This "zone of abandonment within which sovereign power had suspended its own law" translates to horrible pictures of broken bodies and pleas for support, supplies, a ceasefire. 

One of the books I've read since the beginning of the bombings of Gaza is Gershom Gorenberg's The Accidental Empire, which was originally published in 2006 and chronicles the birth of the settler movement after Six-Day War in 1967 - especially the idea of creating "facts on the ground" (the UN Security Council ruled that settlement activity in occupied Palestinian territories is a violation of international law). Isaac Chotiner, in the New Yorker, interviewed a member of the settler movement and her statements make it clear that the goal, for this faction in Israeli politics, is a "Jewish nation" that comprises a territory including not just Palestine but "the territory of multiple Middle Eastern countries". She talks about withholding the right to vote from Palestinians who live in Israel, and appears to argue that the intended outcome of the bombing campaign on Gaza is for Gazans to flee to other countries, so that the territory can be taken over by the settler movement. Netanyahu's coalition of right-wing parties includes parties affiliated with the settler movement, which has successfully negotiated a commitment to expand settlements in the West Bank (Israel's Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu was suspended after suggesting that dropping a nuclear bomb on the Gaza Strip was “one of the possibilities").

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