[Palestinians continue to return to the border. The weekly
marches, which began nearly three months ago as part of the Great
March of Return, were intended to build until Nakba Day on May 15th,
yet Palestinians continue their March...] [https://portside.org/] 

 WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO RETURN, AND RETURN, AND RETURN?  
[https://portside.org/2018-07-03/what-does-it-mean-return-and-return-and-return]


 

 Ayah Abdelhaleem 
 June 28, 2018
Jadaliya
[http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/37704/What-does-it-mean-to-return,-and-return,-and-return]


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 _ Palestinians continue to return to the border. The weekly marches,
which began nearly three months ago as part of the Great March of
Return, were intended to build until Nakba Day on May 15th, yet
Palestinians continue their March... _ 

 A man waving the Palestinian flag,, Wikimedia Commons 

 

Even as Israeli snipers shoot at unarmed Palestinians, killing more
than 135 Palestinians and wounding more than 13,000 since March 30th;
Even as injured marchers continue to succumb to bullet wounds while
waiting
[https://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2018/06/wounded-palestinians-punished-protesting-gaza-180617200214726.html]
for medical treatment and exit permits, Palestinians continue to
return to the border. Return, upon return, upon return. The weekly
marches, which began nearly three months agoas part of the Great March
of Return, were intended to build until Nakba Day on May 15th, marking
the 70th anniversary of the establishing of the state of Israel upon
the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. The day prior marked the
deadliest day of the demonstrations, with Israel killing 62 people and
wounding at least 2,700 on May 14th alone. Yet Palestinians continued
their March beyond Nakba day in defiance, returning again and again to
the border. 

During the past three months, we’ve seen scores of images of
Palestinians pushing their bodies up against their confinement,
building on so many more images
[http://www.jadaliyya.com/Details/37567/Return,-Fail,-Repeat]
circulated over the years. When I first began coming across these
photos, I was overwhelmed, in the way images can swell inside of us:
wheelchairs, and tennis rackets, and kites
[http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/fishing-drones-kite-fliers-take-israel-nets-skies-over-gaza-1807247514],
amid a densely packed string of protesters marching defiantly towards
a border that wires itself into their bodies and everyday; endless
barbed wire representing an 11-year-siege, through which Israel has
amputated Gaza from its own fishing shores and agricultural resources,
limiting access to medical supplies and construction materials for
rebuilding. Perpetual darkness in the absence of electricity and clean
water is compounded by a 58 percent unemployment rate, growing housing
insecurity, and dire health conditions.

“People are being shot in the legs,” journalist Sharif Abdel
Kouddos reported
[https://www.democracynow.org/2018/5/14/gaza_israeli_soldiers_kill_30_palestinians]
on May 14, during the sixth week of marching. “One doctor told me
that they’re creating a new generation of cripples. There have been
almost 30 amputations.” Another doctor was shot
[http://mondoweiss.net/2018/05/canadian-soldiers-protesters/] in both
legs while treating the injured. As I listened to the news, I could
almost hear the sound of crutches hitting the ground in Dheisheh
Refugee Camp in the West Bank, where I carried out my fieldwork two
summers ago. Knee-capping is how the Badil Resource Center
[http://badil.org/en/publication/press-releases/77-2016/4629-pr-en-230816-37.html]
began referring to the form of violence deployed by the Israeli
military against predominantly youthful bodies in the camp back then,
and again more recently. “I will cripple half of you and let the
other half push your wheelchairs,” was the infamous threat that
summer from the Israeli commander for camps in the Bethlehem area,
known by Dheisheh residents as “Captain Nidal.” At least 17 young
people (between 14 and 27 years old) from the camp were shot in the
legs that July-August, eight of them directly in the knee, and some in
both legs.

How many ways are there to shoot a bullet? Israel boasts it perfects a
variety of ways to harm, whether in the West bank, or on a much larger
scale in its occupation of Gaza. Through security trainings, Israel
exports [http://stopurbanshield.org/] the tactics it experiments on
the bodies of Palestinians around the world. I imagine Captain Nidal
prepping the snipers heading to Gaza’s peaceful March of Return with
a PowerPoint; flipping between slides titled “shoot to disable”
and “shoot to kill,” explaining it with the same calm impunity as
Jared Kushner, who was all smiles at the embassy celebration
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/13/ivanka-trump-in-jerusalem-for-embassy-opening-as-gaza-braces-for-bloodshed],
as snipers carefully fired
[http://mondoweiss.net/2018/05/military-palestinians-protests/], as
they had been taught, through the legs, chests, and heads of children
and doctors and journalists. “Kill, and kill, and kill
[https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/05/16/kill-and-kill-and-kill/],”
the presentation soundtrack would loop, repeating the demographer
Arnon Soffer’s prescription to Ariel Sharon’s government in 2004
on how to isolate Gaza.
 

GAZA-FICATION OF THE OCCUPATION 

Sofer, who teaches security officials at the University of Haifa,
played a significant role in developing the plan to disengage from
Gaza, proposed by Sharon in 2003, and enacted since 2005. Concerned
with maintaining a Jewish majority state at all costs, Soffer advised
Israel to violently police it, shooting anyone attempting to break
out. The plan included vesting the Palestinian Authority (PA) with the
responsibility to govern the West Bank and the entire Gaza Strip, and
handing responsibility for the Gaza-Egypt border to Egyptian
authorities
[https://www.madamasr.com/ar/2018/05/18/feature/%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%A9/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B3%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%B5%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%AF%D8%A3-%D8%A8%D9%81%D8%B5%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B9/].

The disengagement plan is key to understanding Israel’s means of
governmentality after Oslo. As Hani Sayed (2014)  argues
[https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2593312], with
the signing of the accords, Israel inscribed its future disengagement
— not only from Gaza, but also from the West Bank. The
disengagement, therefore, is not separate from its wider strategy for
controlling the occupied territories, or what Sayed (2014, p. 87) 
terms the “Gaza-fication” of the occupation. This mode of
governing, in which the PA is a key player, absolves Israel of the
legal responsibilities as an occupying power, for managing civilian
affairs in the occupied territories (as inscribed in Article 43
[https://madamirror.appspot.com/ihl-databases.icrc.org/applic/ihl/ihl.nsf/Article.xsp?action=/www.madamasr.com/en/2018/05/24/opinion/u/what-does-it-mean-to-return-and-return-and-return/openDocument&documentId=3741EAB8E36E9274C12563CD00516894]
of the Hague Conventions). Instead, Oslo relegates civilian affairs to
the PA, while placing incredible constraints on the PA’s ability to
accumulate characteristics of formal sovereignty over Gaza and the
West Bank, and allowing Israel to maintain its ability to exert
military control (Sayed, 2014, p. 119).

The bottom line of this governmentality, as Budour Hassan reported
[///localhost/Users/ayahabo-basha/Google%20Drive/post%20auc/otherprojects/thesis%20/need%20hyperlink],
is a belief that all Palestinians are disposable, including those in
Jerusalem, and those with Israeli citizenship. Yet, as Hassan
continues, “there is a hierarchy of disposability, and the people of
Gaza are treated as the most disposable.” 

Israel has evidenced this through the division of Gaza and the West
Bank after the 2006 elections, and its disengaged containment of Gaza.
Access to the most basic of needs, like reliable electricity and
medical equipment is heavily restricting over  1.9 million
Palestinians in what the United Nations predicted
[https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/sep/02/gaza-becoming-uninhabitable-as-society-can-no-longer-support-itself-report]
in 2015 would be completely uninhabitable territory by 2020.  The
blockade is exacerbated by the PA’s imposition of sanctions
[http://www.palestinechronicle.com/palestinians-in-ramallah-protest-against-government-sanctions-on-gaza-videos/]
following the 2007 elections,  which protesters in Ramallah and other
West Bank cities have been demanding
[http://www.palestinechronicle.com/palestinians-in-ramallah-protest-against-government-sanctions-on-gaza-videos/]
an end to. 

Palestinians in the West Bank have been mounting
[http://www.palestinechronicle.com/palestinians-march-in-ramallah-to-protest-security-coordination-with-israel/]
their opposition to PA policies in past years, calling out its role in
the contemporary arrangement of power structures. Sayed refers to the
latter as the “Gaza-fication of the West Bank,” which facilitated
Israel’s ability to isolate cities into heavily populated areas that
are cut off from one another, after annexing most of the land possible
through massive settlements. The Oslo Accords enshrined such
interventions through an excess rather than absence of law,
solidifying, with the help of the PA, the death of the two-state
solution.

The “peace negotiations” that are often spoken about, are
therefore an end and not a means. Disengagement is predicated on
Israel’s imposing of a particular temporality that seeks to empty
the notion of return and replace it with waiting and more waiting;
with waiting to wait.
 

WAITING TO WAIT  

The imposing of a temporality that is meant to discipline subjects
into endless waiting is evident in other forms of governance practiced
by Israel. It was concretized by Israel’s building of the separation
wall along the West Bank during the Second Intifada in June of 2002,
with its network of checkpoints and their accompanying
unpredictability, described by Irene Calis (2017, p. 66) as “between
routine and rupture,” drawing on anthropologist Michael Taussig’s
(1992, p. 18) notion of the “doubleness of social being”, where
“one moves in bursts between somehow accepting the situation as
normal only to be thrown into a panic or shocked into disorientation
at any moment,’), . . . living under constant threat of consistent
yet unpredictable disruption.” Such uncertainty is, of course,
deliberate, and meant to provoke a sense of resignation to the waiting
on bureaucratic and administrative practices (Auyero, 2012); to
produce waiting subjects who are normalized to routine rupture.

Another practice that serves this purpose is administrative detention.
Unlike time-bound prison sentences, this policy allows Israel to
detain Palestinians without charge or trial for six months at a time,
which can be renewed without legal justification, leaving detainees
and their families in a constant state of the unknown. "We waited the
six months, and they were renewed. We waited again, and they were
renewed again -- until when will we continue to wait?” the wife of a
detainee said in an interview
[http://www.addameer.org/content/life-hold-policy-administrative-detention]
to Addameer in 2016.

It’s not a coincidence that in a conversation with me about
administrative detention in August 2016, detainee Mohamed* described
the temporality of waiting to wait in a way that seemed to summarize
the concept  of disengagement:

So, [administrative detention] is like walking into a kitchen and
seeing that it is such a mess with so many problems and so what do you
do? You close the kitchen door and go home. . . and as such, even if
[the intelligence officer] hasn’t been surveying someone
extensively, if they want, they can simply arrest and throw him into
detention. Why? So that the officer doesn’t have to think or tire
himself. [Israel] is saying, I don’t want to tire myself to put him
in jail [by finding a charge]. Let me just arrest him. This is
administrative detention. It is a lazy and stupid, temperament [of
Israel] that nonetheless very much pressures the region. 

Closing the kitchen door is an apt metaphor for the everyday realities
of disengaged Gaza-fication, which has absolved itself of
responsibility for civilian governance, while maintaining effective
military control. Mohamed’s reflections reiterate how disengagement
and containment, and detention and discipline as intertwined in
Israel’s mode of governmentality post-Oslo, and how Israel is
attempting to place the occupied territories themselves under
administrative detention. 

REFUSING TO WAIT

When a hunger striker declares, “I do not want to wait,” in
response to their administrative detention, as Mohamed and hundreds of
other
[http://www.addameer.org/publications/palestinian-hunger-strikes-get-facts]
Palestinian detainees have since 2011, such a refusal challenges the
larger temporal politics of disengagement in Israel’s post-Oslo mode
of governing. My conversations with former and recurring Palestinian
prisoners, as part of my fieldwork research, iterated how hungering
one’s body can also be an offering of it –in this case, against
the imposition of waiting. It reconfigures how freedom from this
waiting is imagined, in a similar way to the self-immolation of
Tibetans refusing the imposition of Chinese citizenship. It “compels
witnesses to receive and then to transform in some way” as Carol
McGranahan writes (2016, p. 355).

Palestinians protesting along Gaza’s eastern border, though
confronting a different face of the occupation, are also offering
their bodies in an effort to forge new political terrains beyond their
incarcerated lives and beyond the absence of negotiations, which the
PA has evacuated. The very act of marching to Gaza’s border, to be
met by snipers and mass killings, highlights the unbearable living
conditions Israel’s siege has produced. But marching one’s body to
a heavily militarized border over, and over, and over, using tennis
rackets to bounce back teargas canisters, and sending blazing kites
into the sky—all of this invites more than just desperation. It
provokes a much stronger message about the possibility of imagining
un-bordered lives. Speaking to the Washington Post, human rights
lawyer  Noura Erakat adds:

“This resistance is not about returning to the 1947 borders, or some
notion of the past, but about laying claim to a better future, in
which Palestinians and their children can live in freedom and
equality, rather than being subjugated as second-class citizens or
worse.”

 Palestinians have been demanding the right to return since
Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. Their repeated call
ever since is far from rote repetition. Rather, it is constantly
affirming alternative and reconfigured possibilities for the future.
What does it mean to seek freedom out of the temporality of
administrative detention? — To demand return in an era of
Gaza-fication?

Palestinians inflect these imaginaries during their repeated march of
return to bordered lands. But there are also the skies. The same skies
that Israel lit up with bombing and destruction in 2008, 2012, 2014
and wars prior to this. On May 14, Israel filled these skies with tear
gas that it dropped from drones. As the black clouds emerged,
Palestinians returned the canisters with tennis rackets like
boomerangs, deepening their call for return as one that expels
militarization in the direction of Israel’s borders—which are its
legacy—and imagines freedom and unbordered lives beyond them.  

Perhaps we do not yet have a vocabulary for what this kind of
state-of-being looks like, of what it means to articulate a notion of
“return” beyond the nation-state that reproduces the oppressive
borders marchers are protesting. But the Great March of Return is
leaving us with images of bodily offerings that open up a notion of
return in which new alternatives of relating to time and space can be
carved out, into the realm of the possible. 

_[This article
[https://www.madamasr.com/en/2018/05/24/opinion/u/what-does-it-mean-to-return-and-return-and-return/]
was originally published on Mada Masr
[https://www.madamasr.com/en/] on 24 May 2018 and was updated to
include current events.]_

_*Note: Upon their request, the author used pseudonyms for some
interviewees._

Auyero, J. (2012_). Patients of the state: The politics of waiting in
Argentina_. Durham: _Duke University Press _

Calis, I. (2017). “Routine and rupture: The everyday workings of
abyssal (dis)order in the Palestinian food basket.” _American
Ethnologist_: 44(1): 65-76.  

McGranahan, C. (2016). “Refusal and the gift of citizenship.”
_Cultural Anthropology._ 31(3):334-341.

Sayed, H (2014). “The fictions of the ‘illegal’ occupation in
the West Bank.” _Oregon Review of International Law 16_, no. 1
(2014) 79-126.

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