Last month Palestinians marked the 70th anniversary of the Nakba by exploring the historical foundations of the events that transpired in 1948 when nearly 750,000 Palestinians were driven from their homes and never allowed to return. Far from a singular historical event that ended with the establishment of the State of Israel, the Nakba is part of a deliberate process of dispossession and displacement that continues today as Palestinians mark 51 years of occupation since the 1967 War, known as the Naksa.
In this Special Focus – Occupation Becomes Permanent, we have selected articles from the Journal of Palestine Studies that examine how the Israeli occupation contains and controls Palestinians; for those who remained in Israel and for those who live within the Occupied Territories. Whereas much of the discourse surrounding Israel and Palestine focuses on politics and negotiations, these articles do not lose sight of the barriers that hamper Palestinian life. And, while the occupation has indeed become increasingly emboldened, the rich culture of Palestine continues to flourish and persevere as its own form of resistance.
In the first article, “Encystation: Containment and Control in Israeli Ideology and Practice,” Glenn Bowman focuses on the siege of Gaza and how the overarching Israeli logic of ‘security’ leads to the wholesale dehumanization of Palestinians. Bowman deftly uses the concept of encystation, the “radical isolation of diseased elements and that of protecting the fetus within the womb,” to frame the implications of Israeli policies that bifurcate life for Palestinians and Israeli Jews. Bowman also argues that the Oslo Accords may in fact have laid the groundwork that could eventually replicate a similar siege for the West Bank. According to Bowman, “the facts on the ground reveal that the region is itself shattered into a multitude of discontinuous Palestinian cysts encompassed by Israeli territory under the sovereignty of a combination of Israeli state, military, and armed settlers.”
Also observing the siege of Gaza, Trude Strand’s “Tightening the Noose: The Institutionalized Impoverishment of Gaza, 2005-2010” looks at the collective punishment imposed upon Gaza after the evacuation of the Israeli settlements from there in 2005. Strand relies on testimony from Israeli officials, media reports, and official Israeli and American documents to show that while the declared goal was to disengage from Gaza, the official policy amounted to essentially treating the entirety of the Gaza Strip as a hostile entity and to impoverish its population. Strand’s analysis shows that while American and Israeli officials frame Gaza’s population as wholesale victims of Hamas, “The well-being of Gaza’s population…continues to be a lever in political maneuvers, both domestic and regional, by all the key actors.”
Adam Hanieh’s “Development as Struggle: Confronting the Reality of Power in Palestine,” presents a critical but astute analysis of development and aid in the Occupied Territories. By analyzing aid and development through the lens of power, Hanieh uncovers how the approaches towards development in Palestine in fact obscure and de-historicize the reality of Zionism as a form of settler colonialism and how occupation has been made permanent through the current modes and processes of aid distribution. The author keenly notes that while empowerment is often a primary goal of development aid by NGOs and international aid organizations, it is purposefully limited in the Palestinian context by focusing on empowerment within the local level and not at the greater state level. In addition, as development aid is distributed in spatial contexts that treat Palestinians in Gaza separately from those in the West Bank or Israel, current development practices further perpetuate the fracturing of Palestinian land and society.
The final selection, “Taking the Land Without the People: The 1967 Story as Told by the Law” by Noura Erekat, takes an interdisciplinary approach to show how power inequities stack the deck against Palestinians in the realm of international politics and law, thereby enabling Israel to occupy more Palestinian territories. While many think of international law as an even playing field, Erekat’s in-depth analysis shows how “the elision of Palestinian peoplehood remains central to the ongoing conflict as well as to Israel’s settler-colonial mechanisms of dispossession, removal, and concentration of the native population.” It is from the sheer manipulation of the norms of international law and “the fiction of Palestinian nonexistence that Israel has been able to construct a legal argument denying the de jure occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip,” which is largely facilitated through the support of the United States in bodies like the United Nations. Erekat’s article is a must-read in order to understand the mechanisms that allow Israel’s territorial ambitions to continue.
Each of these featured articles from the Journal of Palestine Studies presents an important approach to understanding how the occupation of Palestine has been made permanent over the last 70 years. These selections also represent the type of important, relevant articles the Journal continues to produce. As the struggle for self-determination becomes more challenging, the Journal of Palestine Studies remains committed to documenting and preserving the integrity of the historical record and issues of importance on Palestine.
Encystation Containment and Control in Israeli Ideology and Practice
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 44 No. 3, Spring 2015; (pp. 6-16)
Development as Struggle: Confronting the Reality of Power in Palestine
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 45 No. 4, Summer 2016; (pp. 32-47)
Tightening the Noose: The Institutionalized Impoverishment of Gaza, 2005–2010
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 43 No. 2, Winter 2014; (pp. 6-23)
Taking the Land without the People: The 1967 Story as Told by the Law
Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 47 No. 1, Autumn 2017; (pp. 18-38)