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The Materiality of Resistance: Israel's Apartheid Wall in an Age of Globalization


Abstract and Figures

This essay examines the graffiti that covers the portion of the West Bank’s segregation wall that traverses Bethlehem. That the majority of the representations covering the wall are intended for international rather than local consumption complicates the prevalent tendency in the literature on this wall to align these representations homogenously with resistance. More than resisting a specific regime, many of these images enter into global conversations about the circulation of power. Images of resistance scripted and consumed by those who observe suffering from afar are juxtaposed to Palestinian engagements with the wall, which is frequently represented allegorically or not represented at all.
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Social Text 118 Vol. 32, No. 1 Spr ing 2 014
DOI 10.1215 /016 42472-2391315 © 2014 Duke Universit y Press
“Existence is resistance,” says a Palestinian translator at the Balata refu-
gee camp near Nablus. “Education and restoration,” he adds, take prior-
ity in his life over everything else.1 For this young Palestinian, education
is the surest means of resisting the totalistic “overcoding of social life”
that accompanies the occupation.2 Arguably the most potent emblem of
the occupation in recent years is the “wall of racial separation” ( jidar
al- fasl al-
unsuri ) called in Hebrew the “separation fence” (Geder
HaHafrada) that is rapidly enclosing the West Bank on itself. A Pal-
estinian retiree from Abu Dis, a town that borders on Jerusalem and is
located on the wrong side of the wall, states in concrete terms this over-
coding of social life that the wall has inaugurated. “It’s so depressing that
I can’t stay at home anymore,” he says, while standing under the wall’s
shadow. “Even deep in [reading] a book, I can’t forget about it. [The wall]
changed everything, even the quality of the light.”3
As René Backmann notes, the question of what to call the wall, as
with so many other taxonomies used to describe the occupation, is deeply
embedded in the politics of linguistic representation: “According to offi-
cial Israeli documents and the military, it is a ‘security barrier.’ To the
Palestinians, it’s an ‘annexation wall.’ Israeli organizations who oppose its
construction call it a ‘separation barrier.’ 4 Meanwhile, Arabic- language
commentaries call it alternately a wall of “apartheid” (al-
.u r ı¯ ), “annexa-
tion” (al- d
.amm), and “separation” (al-
a¯ z i l ).
Rather than attempting
to homogenize these densely loaded semantic calibrations into a single
seamless whole, this essay looks beyond the impossibility of representing
suffering and resistance by turning to the material artifacts that mediate
their expression. That which cannot be represented is nonetheless know-
The Materiality of Resistance
Israel’s Apartheid Wall in an Age of Globalization
Rebecca Gould
2 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel ’s Apartheid Wall
able through the images it generates. Rather than representing resistance,
I engage with its materiality through the apartheid wall, currently the
penultimate symbol of occupation.
The imagery that follows was gathered from 2011 to 2012 from the
section of the 760- kilometer wall that cuts through Bethlehem, a West
Bank town close to Jerusalem. As occupied towns go, Bethlehem has
historically been one of the world’s most hospitable spaces. The city is
enriched and even sustained by tourism, which made up at least 60 percent
of its economy before the wall.6 But, in a regime dominated by the apart-
heid wall, those very qualities that in normal times would prove a boon to
a tourist- driven economy are a burden and a source of economic strain.
Intended to be 830 kilometers on its completion, the wall will divide
over three hundred thousand Palestinians from their land and prevent the
free movement of millions more. This process of division is already well
under way in Bethlehem and neighboring Beit Jala, two of the most urban-
ized areas of the West Bank and two of the first to suffer the effects of the
wall. The material substance of the wall varies according to the territories
it intersects. In some places, it is a series of electric fences, and in others
a configuration of wires and cameras topped by a watchtower, which is,
however, only rarely staffed by a guard. For most of its length, the wall is
a tall concrete slab fronted by wires and surveillance mechanisms aimed
at preventing anyone from touching it. The wall in Bethlehem affords
something of an exception to this pattern, in that large swathes of gray
cement are left unprotected by barbed wire, making it easier to approach
and to turn into a work of art.
Many have noted that at least 85 percent of the wall cuts directly into
Palestinian territory, thereby calling into question the rationale provided
by the Israeli state that the wall is necessary to protect Israel’s borders.7
By virtue of its overreaching architecture, as well as by the wide semantic
range that is employed to describe as well as to engage with the wall, this
structure offers several valuable lessons in the politics of scale and loca-
tion. As an international symbol of occupation, the wall circulates through
aestheticized international circuits of political activism. As a material
and symbolic intrusion into Palestinians’ everyday lives, the wall is also
intimately entailed in the experience of occupation. Bisecting houses and
backyards, dividing families from each other, and radically restricting
Palestinians’ freedom of movement, the wall ends by cutting through the
self as powerfully as it bisects Palestinian land. This radical bisection, of
self/other, Israel/Palestine, and freedom/occupation that the wall brings
about as well as enforces, is one that this essay seeks both to explore and
to dismantle.
The first- time viewer of the apartheid wall will naturally wonder
why it is necessary to bisect Palestinian territory with concrete. Far from
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
promoting peace, the most palpable effect of the wall, which runs through
rather than around the West Bank, is to separate Palestinians from Pales-
tinians. As Avinoam Shalem notes, far from guaranteeing safety, the wall
segregates by protecting those outside “through a total blockade of the one
located inside.”
Inasmuch as it remakes the world through representation,
the wall’s primary function is to intimidate. It answers to the regime of
representation Heidegger identified in pre World War II Germany as the
“world picture.” In his 1938 lecture, Heidegger discerned an intimate rela-
tion between the rise of the “world picture” (Weltbild) and the concomitant
rise of the “world view” (Weltanschauung) as an analytic through which
technological modernity comes to power. Half a century later, Timothy
Mitchell temporally extended Heidegger’s analogy to mark the world under
the sign of colonialism, whereby the East had to be invented in order for the
West to make sense.9 Just as the events of 1938 laid the foundations for one
of the most massive genocides in world history, Gilbert Achcar reminds us
that “the ‘state of Jews’ owes its creation to the Holocaust.”10 It should not
therefore occasion surprise that the epistemic and political consequences
of the Heideggerian world- as- world picture resonate in Israel’s apartheid
wall, and particularly in an age of globalization.
Resistance as Capital
The multifarious and multilingual graffiti on Palestine’s segregation wall
are often seen to unilaterally express resistance.11 The language of much
of the wall’s graffiti is English, a linguistic medium that presupposes an
audience residing outside the Occupied Territories. When not written in
English, protest is rendered in other languages of Europe and the Ameri-
cas: Spanish, French, Italian. Unlike the graffiti of the first intifada, Arabic
rarely punctuates this literature of resistance.12 Even though a great deal of
scholarly and political literature dealing with the wall is in Arabic, where
Arabic occurs in the wall’s surface, its function is largely decorative.13
What is the audience for the graffiti, and how does that constitu-
ency impact its form and content? Figure 1 displays arms raised and
hands clenched in search of “freedom,” the word etched in the bottom
right-hand corner. A young boy squats at the frame’s bottom, seemingly
oblivious to the spectacle stirring behind him. These representations link-
ing existence to resistance are clearly intended for an audience far away
from the scene of the conflict. The boy is merely background; or, rather,
the picture is background for his imagination, while the world he con-
fronts is entirely obscured from the viewer. Also note how the slogan on
this wall “quotes” prophetically, perhaps, since we cannot know which
came first the words of the young Palestinian translator from the Balata
refugee camp.
4 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel ’s Apartheid Wall
Another mural repeats the mantra voiced in figure 1 (“To exist is to
resist” ), while supplementing it with clenched fists and a Spanish slogan: “Viva
Palestina Libre/Abajo el Muro Facsista (Live Free Palestine/Down with the
Fascist Wall).” These slogans are decorated with a flower and the palm of a
hand in red, hollowed out in the middle. Is it a bullet wound or simply a hole?
Regardless of which reading is chosen, the two tableaux are in dialogue with
each other, offering a message to the world that is as grounded in a universal-
ist ontology of freedom as much or even more than in Palestinian suffering.
Together with adopting international languages such as English
and Spanish, many insignia transplant allusions to European history onto
Palestinian territory. Turning to Germany as the ever- present compara-
tive foil for Palestine, figure 2 alludes to John F. Kennedy’s 1963 visit to
West Berlin to offer US solidarity with the free world in the face of the
Communist threat. During this visit, Kennedy famously defined the city
on the western side of the Berlin Wall as an outpost of freedom facing a
Communist border zone. “All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens
of Berlin,” Kennedy declared, “and therefore as a free man I am proud to
declare ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’ 14 As numerous commentators have noted,
the parallels between the two walls are prescient. The author of the most
important journalistic account of the Palestinian apartheid wall states that
he was moved to write his book because he believed that “what the entire
world saw fall down yesterday in Berlin could be a solution tomorrow in
Figure 1. Wall i n Palest ine Flickr Collec tive, To Exist Is to Resist. Creative Commons
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
Jerusalem.” On the ground in Abu Dis, a German volunteer who had come
to help the Palestinians also referred to his personal memory of the events
in Berlin when he noted that the newer structure “broke ground on the
night of August 13, 2002, forty- one years to the day after the sealing of
the first perpend [layer] of the Berlin Wall.”15
Analyzing the inscription of Kennedy’s words by the Israeli multi-
media artist Joy van Erven on a portion of the wall that encircles one of
the few houses left on the Palestinian side, Gerhard Wolf argues that it
“compares the Israeli government with that of the GDR and declares the
West Bank as a new West Berlin.”16 By recalling America’s most beloved
president, the “Ich bin ein Berliner” inscription appeals to “the American
government to recognize its responsibility for Palestine.” Shalem by con-
trast reads the allusion to Kennedy’s speech as “a visual manifestation of
the machinations of politics . . . stand[ing] in front of us like Agnus Dei
[Lamb of God], a sufferer, a manifestation for agony and pain.”
In either
reading, the disjuncture between the global audience evoked through the
historical allusions and (still largely unrendered) Palestinian suffering
and resistance is as striking as the image with which it is associated. Must
suffering always evade representation?
In another figure, Abu Dis is equated with the Warsaw ghetto. Both
this message and the “Ich bin ein Berliner” inscription are more obviously
rooted in German than in Palestinian pasts. While such graffiti attest to the
interconnectedness of a world in the age of the world picture, they also call
into question the tendency to incorporate the insignia into a homogenous
narrative of local resistance. Collectively, these images show how European
history is redeemed and avenged on Palestinian territory, often without
the knowledge, consent, or participation of local actors.
Figure 2. Wall in Palestine Fli ckr Collective, Ich Bin Ein Berli ner. Creative Commons
6 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel ’s Apartheid Wall
While the majority of graffiti on Bethlehem’s wall is anonymous,
there are exceptions, the best known of which is the UK- based graffiti
artist Banksy, whose reputation was already well established when he
arrived in Palestine in 2002 to paint the wall.18 Banksy’s distinctive style
has aroused considerable controversy among the local Palestinian popu-
lation. By contrast, the international reaction has been more uniformly
positive. As Shalem noted in 2007, partly through the murals of Banksy
and his cohorts, Bethlehem was transformed into a new tourist destina-
tion: “Every day, Palestinian minibuses of organized tour companies bring
small groups of tourists to specific parts of the wall on which international
graffiti artists left their mark.”19 By 2011, touristic interest in the graffiti
on the wall seems to have faded. The tours Shalem describes are no longer
in evidence, and the “Ich bin ein Berliner” inscription has disappeared.
The attention span of the international community has in this instance
proven characteristically brief, while the long- term political effect of the
international activist community’s rendering up of the segregation wall as
a global canvas has yet to be ascertained.
When Banksy painted murals on the wall during a tour of the West
Bank, he encountered negative reactions from local Palestinians who
were displeased by his aestheticization of their suffering. “We don’t want
beautiful,” complained one man. “We hate this wall. Go home.”
self- implicating voyeurism calls to mind graphic artist Joe Sacco’s deft
representation of his ambivalent position as a journalist in pursuit of
stories that will bolster his narration of Palestinian suffering.21 Ban ksy’s
representations are provocations that are as likely to disturb local Pales-
tinians through their trivialization of the wall and thereby of Palestinian
suffering as to awaken the political sensibilities of his Western audience.
To the artist’s credit, Banksy occasionally foregrounds in his art the ethi-
cal ambiguities intrinsic to his aestheticization of the wall and does not
sentimentalize his politically comprised intervention. However, the fact
that the artist registers these ambiguities does not relieve the viewer of the
imperative to confront the political limitations of such forms of artistic
expression. “Because they are more removed from the daily struggles that
the West Bank Wall imposes,” Talia H. Moscovitz suggests of the palimp-
sests transposed onto this global canvas, artists outside Palestine are more
prone to treat the wall as “a metaphor and symbol of disconnection and
oppressive politics” than those forced to live with the wall and with the
occupation on a daily basis.22
The globalization of representation is of course nothing new in the
age of the world picture. Reflecting on the European travelers who entered
the Orient during the mid- nineteenth century, Mitchell noted that they
came from places where “ordinary people were beginning to live as tourists
or anthropologists, addressing an object- world as the endless representa-
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
tion of some further meaning or reality, and experiencing personhood as
the playing of a cultural stage part or the implementation of a plan.”23 At
this late juncture in the history of the world as exhibition, one also finds
that normative representations of what is recognized and represented as
resistance in occupied Palestine cater to tourists and spectators from afar.
With respect to the related context of NGO discourses about Palestine,
Laleh Khalili outlines a trend that parallels the circuits of communication
that I have discerned in the graffiti on the apartheid wall. According to
Khalili, the “universalization of the trauma drama in the human rights and
humanitarian discourse [concerning contemporary Palestine lives] focuses
on victims of injustice in such a way that suffering and tragedy are made
immanent to their being, sometimes to the exclusion of their political struggle for
justice.24 While suffering and tragedy are explicitly foregrounded in con-
temporary NGO discourse, they evade representation in the apartheid wall.
However, in both cases, audience is key: a global public overdetermines
the content, form, and substance of what is recognized as representable.
If we wish to take seriously Khalili’s critique of the “universalization
of the trauma drama” with respect to postintifada Palestine, how should
the wall’s predominantly Anglophone graffiti inform our attempts to make
sense of Palestinian suffering and resistance? Is there any way of exiting the
hermeneutic circle that dictates that even our critiques of representations
are necessarily directed outward, intrinsically meta discursive, and there-
fore unable to adequately engage with the facts on the ground? Reflecting
on the almost exclusively Arabic- language graffiti of the first intifada
(1987 1993), anthropologist Julie Peteet noted how, on the rare occasions
when graffiti was inscribed on Palestinian walls in English rather than
Arabic, it was deployed to speak to the West. In keeping with its intended
audience, the frequency of English- language graffiti increased with the
arrival of foreign delegations. “In press accounts of the intifada,” recol-
lected Peteet, “the accompanying photo often contained a graffiti- covered
wall.” The visually skewed media accounts that this graffiti stimulated
enabled Palestinian narratives to circulate in the “global information
network and media.” By encoding themselves as globalized testimonies,
Palestinian graffiti, Peteet argues, “took their place among other forms of
resistance” and came to constitute “a voice for those who felt voiceless in
the international arena.25 Such graffiti also anticipated the postintifada
West Bank wall as a global canvas.
Due to the complications of language choice and the historical allu-
sions described above, the graffiti adorning the segregation wall today
cannot be rendered so transparently in terms of a lexicon of resistance.
One cannot claim, as Jeffrey Sluka has of the political murals in the Catho-
lic districts of Northern Ireland, that “arising from powerlessness, the
murals represent a form of informal political power in their own right” by
8 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel ’s Apartheid Wall
counter ing “the image of stability and acceptance generated by the ‘nor-
mal’ appearance” of Belfast’s urban landscape.26 Nor can it be stated, as
Laleh Khalili claims more generally of the Palestinian verbal narratives of
.umd (steadfastness), that the graffiti on the apartheid wall wholeheartedly
personifies the “infrapolitics of the dispossessed.”27 Narratives of dispos-
session are inscribed on the wall, but these visual renderings are heavily
interpolated by the perceived expectations of a globalized public sphere.
That, on Sluka’s reading, Belfast’s murals have “evolved into the
well- developed form of political power that they represent today” sug-
gests a major difference between the political painting on the walls of
Belfast and the graffiti of Bethlehem’s wall: Bethlehem’s canvas has been
superimposed against the will of local inhabitants. As if in response to the
coercive imposition of a massively politicized structure, the images on the
wall pursue different representative strategies. They evoke domesticity
and daily life while often if not always avoiding the paraphernalia of
conflict. They work through metaphors and historical allusions above all
to both pre and post World War II Germany while avoiding incendi-
ary calls to arms. The graffiti on the apartheid wall too are the graffiti of
resistance, but the resistance they narrate is mediated by a constellation of
audience expectations more globally implicated than that which informs
other graffiti elsewhere in the world.
At the same time, this representational difference, which is funda-
mentally a difference in reception, attests to the many transformations
undergone by the Palestinian resistance, together with its objects and
subjects, since the first intifada. As has been shown, the apartheid wall’s
graffiti consists largely of anarchist slogans, deliberately ironic depictions
of domestic bliss, and learned allusions to the speeches of John F. Kennedy.
For the most part, it would seem to include everything other than what one
might expect to find on Palestinian territory: the local voices of resistance.
Instead of resisting in the stereotyped sense, Palestinians are often
most concerned with simply getting by. For this reason, Bethlehem’s
ingenious local entrepreneurs have turned to the wall as a space for post-
ing advertisements. With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2001 and
the subsequent stranglehold that followed on Bethlehem’s economy, local
resident Joseph Hazboun shut the doors of his restaurant, which he imagi-
natively called Bahamas Seafood Restaurant, thereby himself evoking the
global circulation of meanings that is Bethlehem’s forte. As his restaurant
directly fronted the wall at one of its highest points, Hazboun tempo-
rarily lost his entire customer base. Unable to keep his restaurant afloat
financially, he shut its doors and relocated to the United States. Hazboun
returned to Bethlehem in 2008. As he explains in a brief narrative posted
directly onto the wall facing his restaurant, Hazboun decided to make the
most out of a bad situation and painted his restaurant’s menu over the blank
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
concrete surface. Hazboun’s entrepreneurship has extended to using the
wall as a screen to project the World Cup games for the viewing pleasure
of his customers.
After posting the Bahamas Seafood Restaurant’s menu
to the wall, Hazboun rebaptized the southern extension of his restaurant
as the “Wall Lounge.” He used this newly conceived space to showcase
vistas of the barrier, fulfilling the principle that the death of a natural
view encourages its artificial recreation, whether as an act of resistance or
through sheer necessity.29 Hazboun’s initiatives inspired other local busi-
ness owners, such as Claire Anastas, a local craftswoman and gift shop
owner, to do the same.30 Other businesses, such as the Palestine Souvenir
Shop, Karawan Restaurant, and Bethlehem Hotel, soon followed suit.
Complementing local endeavors to use the wall to stimulate rather
than to destroy their businesses, the wall is replete with commercial slogans
that draw on the tropology of American capitalism. Highlighting the fab-
ricated nature of the wall, visiting graffiti artists have added slogans such
as Made in America and Made in Korea beneath their designs. Another
commercial slogan concealing a deeper message is an oversized prize rib-
bon painted by the Brooklyn- based artists’ collaborative Faile. The ribbon
is emblazoned with the inscription With Love and Care: Nothing Lasts
Forever, formed to shape a heart. The message suggests that, as a foreign
imposition, the wall is destined to fall. Such artifacts underscore the
paradoxical death wish driving most art on this wall. Such murals, which
are political in intent if not always in execution, fulfill their mission most
thoroughly when they help to bring about their destruction.
Abstraction and Allegory
By contrast with the proliferation of the insignia of resistance in English
and other European languages, only in rare instances are Arabic- language
graffiti inscribed on Bethlehem’s apartheid wall. This linguistic shift from
the Arabic graffiti of the first intifada to the English graffiti of the post-
intifada apartheid wall attests to the reconfiguration of the demograph-
ics of the graffiti artist and of the graffiti’s intended audience. Beyond
the obvious linguistic shift, the representations of resistance diverge
in other ways as well. Whereas English- language graffiti is configured
as a didactic discourse, bent on improving international relations, the
Arabic- language graffiti that adorn the segregation wall adopt the repre-
sentational strategy of allegory. Mired in the immanence of unmediated
experience, they suggest no concrete solution, and promulgate no mes-
sage of hope. Not unlike the Arabic graffiti of past centuries, including
the fascinating specimens collected in the Book of Strangers (K i t b a d a b
al- ghuraba¯’ ) attributed to the prolific litterateur Abu¯ al- Faraj al- Is
.f a h n ı¯
(d. 967), contemporary Arabic- language graffiti is less concerned with
10 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel ’s Apartheid Wall
making sensational claims and more interested in representing everyday
Among the many mediations through which Palestinian suffering is
represented, allegory, the representational mode best suited for injustices
that cannot be rendered transparently, plays a prominent role.
The year 2005, three years after the beginning of the wall’s construc-
tion, saw the first major exhibit of art about the wall. Comprised of the
work of artists from Ramallah, Tel Aviv, and New York, the exhibit called
itself “Three Cities against the Wall” (Thala¯ th mudun d
.idda al- jida¯ r).32
Echoing the contrasts adduced here between globalized Anglophone graf-
fiti and localized graffiti in Arabic, one of the exhibit’s organizers remarked
on the different emphases evident in the contributions of Palestinian as
compared to American artists. The contributions of the American artists
were as a rule “straightforward” and laden with “clear statements against
the wall” to the extent that “several pieces appeared to be demonstrat-
ing the artist’s duty to convince the viewer that the wall really exists.”
“Seen through Middle Eastern eyes,” these didactic artifacts appeared
“almost banal.”
By contrast, Palestinian artists avoided representing
the wall as such: “most of their works were abstract and expressionist . . .
and expressed Palestinian culture [rather than making] a direct political
st atement.”34 If history repeats itself as tragedy for tourists who come to
gaze on the apartheid wall, it repeats itself as satire, farce, and allegory for
the local Palestinian population.
Those who simultaneously occupy internal and external cognitive
spaces, for example, Palestinian- American artists, are most skillful at
blending the invasive textures of military rule with the everyday aspects
of the occupation. In an essay prefacing her creative work in connection
with the wall, Palestinian- American artist Da¯na¯ cA¯qa¯t recalls observing
a mother waiting at a checkpoint in Jericho as she cuddled her infant to
her chest. Turning away from the political illusions fostered by George W.
Bush’s ill- fated “road map for peace,” cArı¯qa¯t writes, “at a time when the
Road Map [kharı¯t
.eh al- sala¯ m] is being redefined by walls, barriers, and
destruction, the human body and mind is made to adapt to the various
borders crossing through it.”
The interface between a global political con-
sciousness and Palestinian everyday life is here focalized by the artist’s eye.
Decades before the construction of the wall began, a Palestinian
cartoonist created a figure who would later come to epitomize its meaning.
Assassinated in London in 1987 due to the controversy stirred by his art,
N j ı ¯ a l -
cAlı¯ is most famous for creating the cartoon character Handhala,
a boy whose name references a bitter gourd with deep roots.36 Never
allowed to age by his creator, Handhala remained an icon of the author’s
childhood self. Handhala is frozen in time at the age of ten, the same age
when his creator was forcibly relocated to a refugee camp in Lebanon.
Handhala’s hands are “always clasped behind his back,” Na¯jı¯ al-
A l ı¯
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
explains, “as a sign of rejection at a time when solutions are presented to
us the American way.”37 “Omnipresent in the camps during the intifada,
drawn by students in their notebooks, spray- painted on walls and worn as
necklaces or carried as key chains,” Handhala is repeatedly mobilized as
a symbol of resistance in Arabic graffiti.38 Echoing Peteet’s observations
regarding the paraphernalia of resistance during the first intifada, Laleh
Khalili notes that Handhala joined “the keffiyeh, photographs of archetypal
martyrs, [and] the forbidden colors of the flag worn in defiance” as one of
the “everyday acts of resistance whose accumulation shaped the contours
of the Intifada alongside more visible acts of collective mobilization such
as demonstrations or strikes.”39 More recently, the Egyptian artist Fawzia
Reda turned to Handhala for her contribution to the “Three Cities against
the Wall” exhibition. Commenting on her own art, Reda reflected on the
significance of Na¯¯ al-
cAlı¯’s brainchild, Handhala, who stood “as a quiet
witness to the suffering and dignity of the Palestinian people.” For Reda,
Handhala reflects “the persistence of a political conscience” by giving “the
Wall and the figure, both, binding value and consequence.”40
Handhala is represented twice on the section of the Bethlehem wall
that begins with Hazboun’s Bahamas Seafood Restaurant and ends on the
edge of Bethlehem’s city limits. (One of the most heavily polluted stretches
of the wall and beset with barbed wire, the section also offers one of the
richest canvases in all of Bethlehem.) The first carries an English caption
that ironically compares the gentle Handhala with a militant army: “Naji
cAli brigade 2010.” The second even more striking image (figure 3)
Figure 3. Matthew DeMaio, Handala and the Statue of Liberty, Bethlehem Wall.
Courtesy of the photographer
12 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel’s Apartheid Wall
consists of a postmodern Pietà, featuring Handhala as Jesus and Mary as a
pale- green Statue of Liberty, an obvious symbol of a foreclosed American
dream. The Statue of Liberty embraces her suffering son, who wears a
crown of thorns. Handhala’s back as always faces the viewer. While these
images are globally implicated through their Christian and American
symbolism, they nonetheless succeed in powerfully evoking the Palestinian
experience of occupation.
Inscribing Silence, Resisting Translation
The contrast adduced so far has been primarily between English graffiti
that, while radiating a simulacrum of transparency, is overdetermined by
its many layers of reception, and Arabic graffiti that, while enmeshed in
the language of allegory, intimately renders the experience of Palestin-
ian suffering. This distinction, which exists in the form of a continuum
rather than as an absolute opposition, generates a paradox: graffiti in
English tend to be more overtly politicized than graffiti in Arabic, which
utilizes the arts of indirection. It is as though the intifada has become
tired of itself, weary of mobilization, and skeptical of the very possibility
of change. Meanwhile, Palestine’s international supporters have taken to
addressing constituencies far removed from the theaters of Palestinian
suffering for the sake of building transnational solidarity.
Reflecting bleakly on the aestheticization of Palestinian suffering
enacted by foreign artists who incorporate the wall into their art, Roneh
Eidelman observes that the wall can only be “attractive for artists who do
not have to live with its results.” When they aestheticize the wall that cuts
through their daily lives, Palestinian artists do not fetishize it in the way
that foreigners do, because, according to Eidelman, “the reality of the wall
can only be sexy for artists not affected.”41 Even though the distinctions
between participant/observer and insider/outsider often dissolve when the
art on the wall is absorbed and recontextualized in unpredictable ways
by Palestinian observers, the aesthetics of international activism was fre-
quently contrasted to the aesthetics of everyday life in my conversations
with local Palestinians. “You are one of the lucky ones,” a resident from
the neighboring village of Beit Jala said to me one day toward the end
of my Bethlehem sojourn in 2012, “you can come and go as you please,
observing how we live, and then leave. You see the wall, but you do not
have to live with it every day.”
The politically oriented Arabic graffiti of the first intifada existed
in the same relation to the Palestinian walls examined by Peteet as global
English today does to the apartheid wall that bisects Palestinian land,
bearing the unmistakable imprint of a foreign occupying power. Whereas
Palestinian- built walls inspired Arabic graffiti during the first intifada,
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
Israeli- built barriers are more likely today to evoke only silence in Pal-
estinians or, alternately, exasperation. The vast majority of canvases
that cover the apartheid wall are the work of foreign artists and activists
from outside Palestine, who address their slogans to an international
arena wherein Palestine figures as only one theater among many global
injustices. Thus has representation the rendering up of the world as a
picture of itself complicated the ascription of agency within the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict. As Heidegger already predicted in his diagnosis of
Germany on the brink of the Shoah, representation in the age of the
world picture follows the circuits of global capital. The form if not the
substance of images is controlled by the state that provides the media for
their inscription. Writing in the mid- 1990s and spurred by the example
of Northern Ireland, Peteet forecasted the intifada’s success. It appeared
at the time to her that fate had decreed the intifada’s eventual victory. By
contrast, the graffiti of the postintifada apartheid wall, erected in the wake
of the intifada’s defeat, is fraught with silence and allegory, as it mutely
bears witness to what exceeds representation. This is not to say that the
graffiti of resistance have vanished any more than have the political move-
ments that underwrote political mobilization, but merely that these art
forms have gone underground, to spaces where English is not spoken and
where local idioms resist translation. Taking translation as a general para-
digm for the representation of suffering, the inscriptions on Palestine’s
apartheid wall suggest that resistance is that which evades representation.
To rephrase this point in terms put forth by Bruno Latour and also to
explain the hold of the unrepresentable on our imaginations “whatever
resists is real.42 Latour’s apothegm is kindred in spirit to the “existence
is resistance” mantra that resonates in so many Palestinian spaces as well
as in many Palestinian imaginations (the translator in the Balata refugee
camp being a case in point).
Theorists of translation have long studied how the rendering of
foreign texts deepens our epistemic and ethical capacities. At its most
effective, writes Antoine Berman, translation “makes fecund what is one’s
own through the mediation of the foreign.”43 Via the route of alienation,
translation offers a trip back into oneself under the sign of a foreign tongue.
Berman also notes that all cultures resist translation when they grapple with
the exigencies of communication. When studying the idioms of resistance
in Palestine, it is important to attend to the untranslated, the untranslat-
able, and to everything that resists translation. Resistance to translation
is in fact the surest indicator of a perspective that needs to be heard.
Although the many idioms of the graffiti on the apartheid wall originate
in different ways and for different reasons, one of their collateral effects is
to assimilate Palestinian resistance into global English. Inevitably, failures
in translations proliferate. Allusions to the Warsaw Ghetto and the Berlin
14 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel’s Apartheid Wall
wall are mistranslations in many respects, and their relevance to everyday
aspects of the Israeli occupation is at best opaque for many Palestinians.
When it comes to the apartheid wall, to translate is all too often to
be coopted by a global English that conditions political as well as linguis-
tic possibilities. When symbols of local oppression are rendered in this
universalist idiom, they tend to be homogenized under an international
message that often fails to connect with local realities. For the residents of
Bethlehem, the wall is more than a political symbol; it is first and foremost
an obstacle to daily life, and even to survival. A resident of Abu Dis recalls
how the wall limits Palestinians’ access to emergency medical care, which
inevitably results in the loss of lives. “Before the wall,” she states, “when-
ever we had a serious case, we called an ambulance, and fifteen minutes
later at worst the patient was at Makassed or at Augusta Victoria, the two
big Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem. Today, these two hospitals are
on the other side of the wall. Inaccessible.”44
Back at the Balata refugee camp, Faisal the same young man who
affirmed that “existence is resistance” explains that “if a woman is hav-
ing a baby, she has to obtain a pass to go to a hospital outside the camp.
Same if someone is mortally ill.”45 With the construction of the apartheid
wall, the situation in the refugee camp extends to the entire West Bank,
cutting off even residents of Abu Dis, Bethlehem, and Beit Jala, who, due
to their proximity to Jerusalem, had, prior to the construction of the wall,
excited the envy of other, more remotely located Palestinians, because of
their access to basic medical care. Such brutal realities are not registered
on the wall’s global canvas. When, unlike the European graffiti artists
and activists who address a global Anglophone audience, Palestinian art-
ists face in their engagements with the wall the daily consequences of the
occupation, their observations are allegorical and opaque by comparison
and are therefore less attractive to the international media. This may help
to explain why the graffiti of Palestinian resistance has been inventoried
less frequently than that of foreign artists such as Banksy.
If the Palestinians are not already terrorists, so the logic driving the
construction of the wall and of other “defensive” measures seems to run,
they have to be invented as terrorists. As the head of Shin Bet (Israel’s
security agency) explained by way of justifying the construction of the
wall, “we could no longer combat terrorism with patrols and ambushes.
[We] needed to think about the number of illegal Palestinian workers who
were coming into Israel from the West Bank, even through closed- off areas.
Ninety- nine percent of them were coming only to work, but one percent
could be terrorists.”
That ephemeral 1 percent of the Palestinian popula-
tion who are regarded by the Israeli administration as terrorists serves as a
direct justification for building an apartheid wall on Palestinian territory.
Another figure ironizes the Israeli administration’s cognitive need to
1 5
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
construct the Palestinians as terrorists in order to legitimate their archi-
tectural ambitions. This is a recreation of a photograph of the Palestin-
ian political activist Leila Khaled, who became famous for hijacking an
airplane in 1969 while a member of the Palestinian Liberation Army.47
The original photograph was taken by the American photographer Eddie
Adams in the 1970s.
As Gerhard Wolf deftly notes, Leila’s image and the inscription that
accompanies it localizes the universal icon of a famous American photo-
graph. Tellingly, the gun that Leila carried in the photograph is cropped
off in this recreation, while the epicenter of violence is focalized near the
armed Israeli soldiers who surround the wall.
The ambiguity of this
recreation is discomforting in that, while Leila, staring squarely at the
viewer, rejects the terrorist label, she does not dispel the mystery surround-
ing her personality.49 While affirming the inadequacy of dominant repre-
sentations, Leila gives no clear instructions concerning how she should be
represented. As was shown to be the case earlier, the Palestinian graffiti
of the postintifada resistance is most at home in the language of allegory,
and allegory is opaque with respect to its own representation. Edward Said
famously began his Orientalism (1978) by citing from Marx’s Eighteenth
Brumaire (1852): “They cannot represent themselves; they must be rep-
resented.”50 Slightly turning Marx’s formulation on its head, we might say
that, when it comes to the apartheid wall, “They cannot be represented;
so they refuse representation.”
Figure 4. Jimmy Hemp hill, Leila Khaled. Courtesy of the photographer
16 GouldMateriality of Resistan ce: Israel’s Apartheid Wall
Before it can become a political statement, the wall is an obstacle,
a barrier, a threat to medical health, an eyesore, a drag on the Palestin-
ian economy, and a narrower of passageways. One of the more concrete
expressions of the wall’s work on the ground is afforded by the changing
habitations of Bethlehem’s feline population. Whereas before the wall was
built, cats roamed the city freely at the darkest hours, insensible of the
dangers of late- night drivers, now they proceed with caution everywhere
they go. The roads intersected by the wall are half as wide as they used to
be, and there is less room for cars to maneuver away from black cats poised
unexpectedly in the middle of the road.
I said farewell to the wall a goodbye few Palestinians have the
option of offering on an early Sunday morning in the summer of 2012
when the town was asleep. When I reached the narrowest portion near the
Anastas gift shop, which brought me to a stretch of the road so constructed
that few cars could pass through with ease, I nearly stumbled over one of
the wall’s unseen casualities: an aged black cat who had not yet adjusted
to, and perhaps had not even cognized, this latest development in the
Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Evidently, the old cat had strode proudly onto
the pavement in the middle of the night, oblivious to the new precautions
mandated by the postintifada age. By the time the driver realized that an
animal was standing in front of him on the road, frozen in the car’s head-
lights, it was too late. There was no place to swerve. The wall had blocked
off all extra space in the formerly capacious street. There the cat lay, on an
early Sunday dawn, her glistening black fur merging with the asphalt, and
stained with dried blood. I do not know if the driver left the cat’s body on
the road because he had been careless perhaps he didn’t even notice what
he killed or because his heart was too full of grief over the changes that
had reduced his homeland to collateral damage in Israel’s war on terror.
Heidegger diagnosed technological modernity’s world- as- picture in
a society that was preparing to annihilate large portions of its population.
His arguments have yet to be fully understood, let alone unpacked with
respect to Palestine. It may be that representation before modernity pos-
sessed the capacity to intervene in and to alter reality even in the absence
of modern technology, but it is clear that the globalization of representa-
tion entails new political forms and new ways of managing populations.
It is also clear that the world Heidegger foretold over half a century ago,
and for which he was in certain respects the architect, is being realized in
the West Bank and Gaza, where Palestinians are being made to suffer for
Europe’s genocide of the Jewish people.
Notwithstanding the need for a deep history of the politics of rep-
resentation, the analysis offered by Khalili and others as well as my own
encounter with the apartheid wall demonstrate that suffering is nowhere
as globally implicated or heavily interpolated into the global public sphere
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
as it is in Palestine today. The internationalization of Palestine is attested
on multiple fronts, in citations from the speeches of Kennedy, parodies of
American capitalism, and in the photographs by the Belgian photographer
Karl Deckers, which cover the easternmost portion of the wall. These pho-
tographs of children from around the world accompanied by statements in
their native languages aim to promote the artist’s belief that his pictures
demonstrate the “unity, resemblance and the richness of diversity.
Deckers could not have selected a more globally visible space on which to
showcase his art. The internationalization of the Israel- Palestine conflict is
deeply etched into the spaces that are made available for the representation
of Palestinian suffering and resistance. These forms of globalization tempt
the uninformed to conflate touristic commentary with lifetimes of suffer-
ing and displacement and to merge the minor discomforts encountered by
transnational activists with Palestinians’ uprooted lives. Minimally, the
graffiti on the apartheid walls shows us that contemporary technologies
of representation have forever altered the nature of global resistance, in
Palestine, as elsewhere around the world.
At most stages in its journey through the occupied territories, the wall
is more in the nature of a fence. This security barrier enters the fingerprints
of whoever touches it into a vast archive of biometric data maintained by
the Israeli state. This technological function places the wall within the same
military- intelligence apparatus as the machines posted at each checkpoint
on the Israel- Palestine border, where all Palestinians are required to place
their hands before being allowed to pass into Israeli territories, in order
to ensure that the machine can correlate it with the information on their
IDs.52 This requirement is not extended to persons of other nationalities,
including Americans, which gave me the opportunity to observe lengthy
exchanges between Israeli Defense Force soldiers and Palestinian civil-
ians who had to place their hands in the machine many times before they
yielded a satisfactory image of their fingerprints.53
With the apartheid wall now serving as a global canvas on which
passersby of all backgrounds inscribe their impressions, and with these
impressions now symbolizing “Palestine resistance” to an international
audience, one wonders what will become of the spaces between the walls,
the spaces uncontrolled by the advanced technology of the colonial state. If,
as John Collins puts it, we inhabit a “globe that is becoming Palestinized,”
even as Palestine is becoming globalized, one hopes that the cooptation of
the Palestinian narrative by international constituencies does not end by
silencing voices that evade representation.54 Were that to happen, it is not
only the Palestinians who would suffer; the history of Europe too would be
short- circuited, inasmuch as European history continues to be played out
in the politics of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which are in turn shaped
by Europe’s collective guilt surrounding the Shoah. Opaque to the global
18 GouldMateriality of Resistance: Israel’s Apartheid Wall
imagination, the spaces between the walls, beneath the cracks, and on
the other side of the border resist representation even when they refuse to
comment on or otherwise allegorize occupation. Rather than critiquing the
globalization of Palestine and of activism on behalf of the Palestinians, I
have sought here to suggest that we would do well to attend to representa-
tions that resist representation, so as to prevent technological modernity
from silencing our consciences.
I would like to extend my gratitude to Joshua Javier Guzmán, Tariq Jazeel, Nadia
Abu El- Haj, and the other editors of So c ial Te xt for their excellent work on this essay,
as well as to t he photographers who furnished illustrations. Many thanks also to
Beth, Kate, and Brenda Gould for reading earlier drafts of this work.
1. Bidisha, Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path through Palestine (Calcutta, India:
Seagull Books, 2012), 39.
2. For this phrase, see Lori Allen, “Getting by the Occupation: How Violence
Became Normal during the Second Palestinian Intifada,” Cultural Anthropology 23,
no. 3 (2008): 471.
3. René Backmann, A Wall in Palestine, trans. A. Kaiser (London: Picador,
2010), 15.
4. Backmann, Wall in Palestine, 3.
5. A sense of the diversity of semantic usages in Arabic for the wall is sug-
gested by recent relevant titles, such as
Abd Alla¯ h Ash
al, Qad
.ı¯yat al- jida¯ r al-
ca¯ z i l : a m a¯ m a M a h.kamat al-
cAdl al- Duwalı¯yah (The Issue of the Separation Wall: In
Front of the International Court of Justice) (Cairo: Da¯r Nas
.r lil- T
.i b a¯ cah wa- al- Nashr,
2006); Yu¯ suf Ka¯mil Ibra¯¯m, J i d r a l - d.amm wa- al- fas
.l al-
.urı¯ wa- al- dawlah
al- Filast
.ı¯ n ı¯ y a h a l -
atı¯dah!: dira¯sah jughra¯ fı¯yah fı¯ al- a¯ tha¯ r al- siya¯ ¯yah wa- al- iqtis
. d ı ¯ y a h
wa- al- ijtima¯cı¯ y a h (The Wall of Annexation and Apartheid and the Future Palestinian
State ! A Geographical Study of Political, Economic, and Social Effects) (Beirut: Ba¯h
l i l - D i r s a¯ t , 2 0 0 5 ) ; A h.mad Mah
.mu¯ d Muh
.ammad Qa¯sim, J i d r a l - f a s.l al-
.u r ı¯ w a -
.m al- ara¯ d
.ı¯: arqa¯ m wa- h
.a q a¯ ’ i q (The Apartheid Wall and Land Usurpation: Figures
and Facts) (Ramallah: Da¯ r al- Sacı¯d, 2004).
6. Land Research Center and Applied Research Institute–Jerusalem, “The
Wall in Jerusalem and Bethlehem,” in The Wall in Palestine: Facts, Testimonies, Analy -
sis and Call to Action, ed. Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (Jerusalem,
Apartheid Wall Campaign, 2003), 72–73. The publication offers an excellent if not
entirely up- to- date overview of the impact of the wall on Bethlehem’s topography.
For a recent study of the role of tourism in Bethlehem’s experience of occupation, see
Jackie Feldman, “Abraham the Settler, Jesus the Refugee: Contemporary Conflict and
Christianity on the Road to Bethlehem,” History & Memory 23, no. 1 (2011): 62 95.
7. For this statistic, see Human Rights Watch, “World Report 2012: Israel/
Occupied Palestinian Territories,” report- 2012/world- report- 2012
- israeloccupied- palestinian- territories. The two most thorough and analytically
ambitious discussions of the wall to date, respectively, are Eyal Weizman, Hollow
Land : Israel’s Architecture of Occupation (London: Verso, 2007); and Wendy Brown,
Walled States, Waning Sovereignty (New York: Zone Books, 2010).
8. Avinoam Shalem, Gerhard Wolf, and Dror Maayan, Facing the Wall: The
Israeli- Palestinian Barrier (Köln: Walther König, 2011), 173.
1 9
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
9. Timothy Mitchell, “The World as Exhibition,” Comparative Studies in Soci-
ety and History 31, no. 2 (1989): 217 36.
10. Gilbert Achcar, The Arabs and the Holocaust, trans. G. M. Goshgarian
(New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 11 (translation modified). Compare Tom
Segev’s statement that “the rise of the Nazis thus proved advantageous for the
Zionist movement”; see Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs under
the British Mandate (New York: Henry Holt, 2001), 377. For a preliminary account
of the ways in which the legacy of Nazi Germany is being enacted on Palestinian
territory, see Rebecca Gould, “Beyond Anti- Semitism,” Counterpunch 18, no. 19
(2011): 1 – 3.
11. The vast majority of literature on the wall is inclined to regard all mark-
ings on it on the Palestinian side as evidence for “resistance.” See, for example,
Zia Krohn and Joyce Lagerweij, eds., Concrete Messages: Street Art on the Israeli-
Palestinian Separation Barrier (Arsta, Sweden: Dokument Press, 2010), and William
Parry, Against the Wall: T he Art of Resistance in Palestine (London: Pluto Press, 2010).
Such works devote inadequate attention to the fact that the majority of their source
material was produced by outside artists. As I argue here, the majority of graffiti on
the wall cannot be read as an unmediated expression of Palestinian resistance.
12. For the cont rary case of Palestinian graffiti written primarily in Arabic
during the first intifada (1987 1993), see Julie Peteet, “The Writing on the Walls:
The Graffiti of the Intifada,” Cultural Anthropology 11, no. 2 (1996): 139 59, espe-
cia lly 150.
13. For scholarly literature written about the wall in Arabic, see note 5 above.
14. John F. Kennedy, speech, West Berlin, 26 June 1963.
15. Backmann, Wall in Palestine, 3, 17.
16. Shalem, Wolf, and Maayan, Facing the Wall, 18 4.
17. I bid ., 171.
18. For a detailed overview of Banksy’s murals on the apartheid wall, see
Parry’s revealingly titled Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestine.
19. Shalem, Wolf, and Maayan, Facing the Wall, 174 .
20. Parry, Against the Wall, 10.
21. See Joe Sacco, Palestine (Seattle: Fantagraphic Books, 2007) and Footnotes
in Gaza (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009).
22. Talia H. Moscovitz, “Through the Wall: The West Bank Wall as Global
Canvas” (BA thesis, Northeastern University, 2007), 22.
23. Mitchell, “World as Exhibition,” 232.
24. Laleh Khalili, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine: The Politics of National Com-
memoration (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 35 (emphasis added).
25. Peteet, “Writing on the Walls,” 145.
26. Jeffrey Sluka, “The Politics of Painting: Political Murals in Northern
Ireland,” in The Paths to Domination, Resistance, and Terror, ed. Carolyn Nordstrom
and J. Martin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992), 214.
27. Khalili, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine, 111.
28. The Bahamas Seafood Restaurant in Bethlehem was profiled by both the
BBC and L ebanon Wire. See “Menu Written on West Bank Barrier,BBC News, 25
September 2008,, and “The Writ-
ing on the Wall Is West Bank Restaurant Menu,” Lebanon Wire, 6 November 2008, For footage of Hazboun’s customers
watching the World Cup on the Bethlehem wall, see “Opening Weekend World Cup,”
The Big Picture, 14 June 2010, 06/opening_weekend
_- _2010 _world _c.htm l.
20 GouldMateriality of Resistance : Israel’s Apartheid Wall
29. See Shalem, Wolf, and Maayan, Facing the Wall, 176 .
30. The impact of the wall on Anastas’s business and her attempts to sur-
mount these difficulties may be read at “The House with Seven Walls,” Palestine
Monitor, /?p=44863 (accessed 18 December 2013).”
31. See the recent translation of this work by Patricia Crone and Shmuel
Moreh under the title The Book of Strangers: Mediaeval Arabic Graf fiti on the Theme
of Nostalgia (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2000). Because the author
of the text states that he was a young man on the year of Abu¯ al- Faraj’s death, the
editors regard the attribution to Abu¯ al- Faraj as mistaken and note that the author
“was a stranger, and so he will remain” (8).
32. See the exhibit catalog, T hree Cities against the Wall Thala¯th mudun d
a l - j i d r (New York: Voxpop Publishing, 2005). For the most thorough discussion
of Palestinian abstract art to date, see Kamal Boullata, Palestinian Art: From 1850
to the Present (London: Saqi, 2009). Although t his work is concerned with art that
precedes t he wall, it offers many fascinating precedents for the work discussed here.
33. Roneh Eidelman, “The Separation Wall in Palestine: Artists Love to Hate
it,” in Cultural Activism: Practices, Dilemmas, and Possibilities, ed. Begüm Özden Firat
and Aylin Kuryel (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2011), 110.
34. Eidelman, “Separation Wall in Palestine,” 111.
3 5 . D n
A r ı¯ q t , H.udu¯ d tajta¯ z al- jisa¯d,” in Al- jida¯r wa- al- h
.awa¯ jiz (The Wa ll
and the Checkpoints) (Amman: Da¯rat al- Funu¯ n, 2006), 24. For an incisive and pre-
scient critique of “Bush’s Roadmap,” see Tanya Reinhart, The Road Map to Nowhere :
Israel/Palestine since 2003 (London: Verso, 2006).
36. While the circumstances of Na¯¯ al-
cAlı¯’s assassination remain unclear,
evidence had been adduced for the involvement of Arafat’s Force 17 by Yezid Y.
Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement,
19491993 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 602; and of Israel’s Mossad by
Patrick Seale, Abu Nidal: A G un for Hire (New York: Random House, 1992), 5. For
general introductions to Na¯¯ al-
cAlı¯’s art, see A Child in Palestine: The Cartoons of
Naji al- Ali (New York: Verso Books, 2009), and Ah
.mad cAnbu¯ ¯, Al- mawd
.c wa- al-
ada¯ h fı¯ fann Na¯ jı¯ al-
cA l ı¯ (Amman: Da¯r Wa¯il lil- T
.iba¯‘ah wa- al- Nashr, 2001).
37. “Who Is Handala?,” Through the Eyes of a Palestinian Refugee (website), (accessed 18 December 2013).
38. Dina Matar, What It Means to Be Palestinian : Stories of Palestinian People-
hood (London: I. B. Tauris, 2011), 162.
39. Khalili, Heroes and Martyrs of Palestine, 134.
40. Fawzia Reda, quoted in “Artists,” in Three Cities against the Wall, 75
41. Eidelman, “Separation Wall in Palestine,” 111.
42. Bruno Latour, The Pasteurization of France, trans. Alan Sheridan and John
Law (Cambridge, M A: Harvard University Press, 1988), 227 (also cf. 166, 174,
and 184).
43. Antoine Berman, L’épreuve de l’étranger: Culture et traduction dans
l’Allemagne romantique (Paris: Gallimard, 2007), 16.
44. Backmann, Wall in Palestine, 21.
45. Bidisha, Beyond the Wall, 39.
46. Backmann, Wall in Palestine, 43.
47. For an overview of Leila Khaled’s life and activities, see Sarah Irving, Leila
Khaled: Fighting for Palestine (London: Pluto Press, 2012).
48. Shalem, Wolf, and Maayan, Facing the Wall, 184. Another section of the
wall, close to Hazboun’s restaurant, depicts Khaled with a gun, as in the original
2 1
Social Text 118 Spr in g 20 14
49. This programmatic denial of being a terrorist attributed to Leila Khaled
bears interesting comparison with a similar slogan on a shirt worn by the Chechen
insurgent Shamil Basayev (1965 2006), whose life was similarly shrouded in mys-
tery, prior to his assassination by the Russian military. For an analysis of the latter,
see Rebecca Gould, “Jim Crow in the Soviet Union,” Callaloo: A Journal of African
Diaspora Arts and Letters 36, no. 1 (2013): 133.
50. Karl Marx, quoted in Edward Said, Orientalism ( New York: Pantheon
Books, 1978), xii (epigraph).
51. Karl Deckers (photographer), “5 + 4 = 1” (“Five Continents, Four Cor-
ners of the Compass, One World”),
/startpaginaengels.htm#what (accessed 18 December 2013).
52. On the Israeli state’s use of biometric data, see Laleh K halili, Time in the
Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford, CA: Stanford University
Press, 2012), 200; Yehudit Kirstein Keshet, Checkpoint Watch: Testimonies from Occu-
pied Palestine (London: Zed, 2005), 24; and generally Elia Zureik, David Lyon, and
Yasmeen Abu- Laban, eds., Surveillance and Control in Israel/Palestine: Population ,
Territory and Power (London: Routledge, 2010). For the varieties of Palestinian ID
cards, see Helga Tawil- Souri, “Colored Identity: Politics and Materiality of ID Cards
in Palestine /Israel,” Soc i al Te xt 107 (2011): 67 97.
53. As of late 2011, it was also common practice for Israeli soldiers to demand
that Palestinians remove their shoes when passing through the metal detectors at
checkpoints. Characteristically, this requirement was only arbitrarily enforced; the
only discernible logic to its t iming had to do with Jewish and Muslim holidays. Also
characterist ically, this requirement was not extended to foreigners. The officially
mandated treatment of Palestinians at checkpoints was therefore openly and explic-
itly racist, wit h non- Palestinians held to different standards.
54. John Collins, Global Palestine (New York: Columbia University Press,
2011), x.
... Palestinians from their lands, bisects homes and squares, divides families from one another and restricts the freedom of movement of millions of others (Gould, 2014). See Figures 1 & 3. ...
Full-text available
Talking about human rights in the absence of development is nonsense. Therefore, Palestinian human rights are deficient due to the disruption of development in the occupied Palestinian territories. The purpose of this study is principally to analyze the obstacles to the development process in Palestine, examine the scope of the role of the United Nations in supporting development in Palestine under Israeli occupation, and compare that with its role in Rakhine. The methodology refers to a comparative analytical study and a statutory and conceptual approach, revealing that the existence of the Israeli occupation is considered the main obstacle to development in Palestine; and the role of the United Nations has been ineffective to date in ending this occupation; therefore, the role of the United Nations in protecting the Palestinians' right to development is very limited, as the realization of the right to development is linked to the realization of the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people. Development requires the unification of regions and the optimal exploitation of natural resources, but this is not possible in Palestine because of the policies of the Israeli occupation in building settlements, imposing a complete blockade on the Gaza Strip and separating it from the West Bank, and dividing the West Bank into areas of influence, as well as imposing complete control over the natural resources and preventing the Palestinians from benefiting from them, with the aim of keeping the Palestinian economy weak and under Israeli control, thereby keeping the Palestinian decision under the influence of Israel. In conclusion, the role of the United Nations is ineffective in supporting development in Palestine and Rakhine, due to the inability of the Security Council to take any effective action due to the disagreement of the permanent members.
Full-text available
Resistance can take many forms. In Palestine, to exist is to resist. For the last fifty-four years Palestinians have found many inventive and innovative ways to resist the Israeli occupation, and one of those ways, but certainly not the only, is art. Palestinian art and the Israeli occupation walk hand in hand insomuch that and the historical and political encounters of the conflict have influenced the Palestinian cultural scene and vice versa. This article aims to explore how art, in its various forms, is part of the arsenal of everyday resistance techniques employed by the Palestinian. It addresses not only how art has challenged the outcomes of the conflict, but also how the conflict has impacted the Palestinian artistic scene. To this end, it explores the case of contemporary Palestinian graffiti as a relevant tool of resistance that provides an insight into the nature of Palestinian resistance but also into the evolution of the conflict itself.
Unraveling the entanglements of fetish and secrecy bound up in the graffiti on the Palestinian face of the Israeli Separation Wall, this article analyzes the proliferation of defacements of the Australian street artist LushSux’s meme-graffiti on that wall in Bethlehem. In visually tracing and analyzing these successive moments of defacement, this article ethnographically captures a popular performance of collective Palestinian sovereignty within the borderlands of the Israeli Separation Wall. Celebrating defacement’s generative power to create a new face, this article demonstrates how defacement was an assertive act of unmasking the raw power of Israel’s colonial project.
The central idea of this essay is that nonindigenous vernacular image-making by protest tourists on the Palestinian side of the Israeli separation barrier and elsewhere holds little meaning for the permanent residents beyond a relatively minor revenue stream. Prior to making this argument, I provide a short historical background about the use of vernacular messages in the occupied Palestinian territory known as the West Bank. I then focus on images of martyrs or shaheed and then on separation barrier images by protest tourists mostly in Bethlehem. The final sections are about two artists from the Dheisheh Palestinian Refugee Camp and the images they create within the camp. A coda of sorts discusses a mural within the camp that is venerated by the residents as opposed to the overpainting and defacement that takes place on the separation barrier. Within this final section and elsewhere within this essay, the meaning of sumood is explicated. As a note, protest tourists are defined here not as anti-tourism protesters but rather as tourists whose intent is protest Israeli policies regarding Palestinians.
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This manuscript aims to assess Palestinian street art’s effectiveness as a resistance tool and political instrument in the struggle waged against Israel. It concludes by employing Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic power that Palestinian street art is an effective instrument on account of its ability to instill in Palestinian collective consciousness a sense of resistance. By utilizing Mouffe’s definition of politics as being a constant struggle between hegemonic and counterhegemonic forces, this work also holds that street art serves Palestinians as a means to reaffirm their political existence and develop an alternative political imagination against the Israeli-imposed reality. This manuscript also broaches the oft-discussed issue of visual diversity in Palestinian street art scene and concludes that eclectic content may serve as a contributive force, if the counterhegemonic character of Palestinian street art is adhered to.
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The local and transnational dimensions of the role that street art and graffiti play in challenging the apartheid conditions within the West Bank (Palestine) are an important piece of what is happening today in Palestine. By analyzing tensions in the Apartheid Wall as both an object to resist and a subject made to ‘speak’ through graffiti, social spaces and structures of social relations are revealed to be both enabled and constrained via this wall of separation. Based on interviews I conducted with Palestinians living within the Occupied Territories, as well as others among the Palestinian diasporic community living in exile, this thesis identifies and illustrates the significance of sumud, a distinct form of Palestinian cultural resistance, and graffiti’s place within it. Through research and first-hand experience, I find that spaces for Palestinian dissent, independent representation, and democratic politics taking place inside the Apartheid Wall are becoming increasingly circumscribed by the Israeli State’s methods of surveillance and censorship, which have been undermining Palestinian human security in the name of advancing Israel’s national security. Nevertheless, I argue that graffiti inside the Apartheid Wall continues to serve both to contest the meaning of space, and as a powerful, public practice, for reclaiming contested space. Furthermore, it serves as a potential resource (e.g., through what is often called conflict tourism) for Palestinian efforts to raise awareness within, and forge transnational ties of solidarity to, new audiences who are not directly embedded in the conflict.
This article explores the relationship between soccer and diasporic resistance through an examination of Club Deportivo Palestino, a professional football club based in Santiago de Chile. The first ‘Club Sportivo Palestina’ was founded by Palestinian immigrants in the Chilean capital in 1916. Currently, Palestino plays in the Chilean first division and is among the top teams in the country. Meanwhile, the club is often claimed to represent the Palestinian people and has been a foundational pillar of a diasporic community to which the Palestinian struggle is a central mobilizing force. In this article, which is based on long-term fieldwork, I seek to show that the political potential in this kind of diaspora club lies first and foremost in representation, and, furthermore, that notions of resistance in this case are closely tied to a wider struggle for an enduring Palestinian presence.
To date, the academic discussion of graffiti culture in Greater China borrows a set of theoretical assumptions or preoccupations based on Euro-American graffiti subculture practices, focusing on the artistic dimensions of graffiti. This article, based on an ethnography in Macau, tries to re-examine two forms of local graffiti culture – the one influenced by hip hop culture, the other by the Chinese writing tradition – and endeavours to analyse the logic of their different spatial strategies and embodied practices.
By examining tour brochures, practices of landscape display, posters and tour guiding narrations, I seek to understand how Bethlehem and the "separation wall" between Jerusalem and Bethlehem are integrated into the experience of Western Christian pilgrims of a variety of theological orientations. I argue that current practices of display and narration promote particular political views of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, and lend them authority by saturating them with particular Christian meanings and associations. The study contributes to our understanding of pilgrimage as a site of contested discourses in which local actors sacralize the landscape while making their understandings of the conflict seem self-evident and divinely justified.
The Egyptian delegation to the Eighth International Congress of Orientalists, held in Stockholm during the summer of 1889, traveled to Sweden via Paris and paused there to visit the World Exhibition. The four Egyptians spent several days in the French capital, climbing twice the height (they were told) of the Great Pyramid in Alexandre Eiffel's new tower, and exploring the city and exhibition laid out beneath. Only one thing disturbed them. The Egyptian exhibit had been built by the French to represent a street of medieval Cairo, made of houses with overhanging upper stories and a mosque like that of Qaitbay. “It was intended,” one of the Egyptians wrote, “to resemble the old aspect of Cairo.” So carefully was this done, he noted, that “even the naivt nn the bildings was made dirty.”
The second Palestinian intifada against Israeli occupation, which began in September 2000, saw Palestinian areas repeatedly invaded and shelled by Israeli forces. A long history of war and targeted cities is told along the thoroughfares of Palestinian towns; memories of past battles and defeats inscribed in street signs recall massacres in places like Tel Al-Za'atar and Deir Yasin. But recent events were more important than any official marker and formed the most relevant base by which Palestinians organized their lives. Commemorative cultural production and basic acts of physically getting around that became central to the spatial and social practices by which reorientation and adaptation to violence occurred in the occupied Palestinian territories. This article analyzes the spaciotemporal, embodied, and symbolic aspects of the experience of violence, and the political significance of cultural practices whereby violence is routinized. Such an approach provides a lens onto the power of violence in Israel's colonial project in the occupied territories that neither necessitates an assumption that violence is all determining of Palestinian experience, nor a championing of every act of Palestinian survival as heroic resistance. Memorialization that occurs in storytelling, in visual culture, in the naming of places and moving through spaces is one way in which this happens. The concept of “getting by” captures the many spatial and commemorative forms by which Palestinians manage everyday survival. The kind of agency that is entailed in practices whereby people manage, get by, adapt, and the social significance of getting used to it may be somewhat nebulous and unobtrusive as it develops in the shadow of spectacular battles and bloodshed. I demonstrate that this routinization of violence in and of itself, the fact of getting by, just existing in an everyday way, is socially and politically significant in Palestine.
Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path through Palestine
  • Bidisha
Bidisha, Beyond the Wall: Writing a Path through Palestine (Calcutta, India: Seagull Books, 2012), 39.
Facing the Wall: The Israeli-Palestinian Barrier
  • Avinoam Shalem
  • Gerhard Wolf
  • Dror Maayan
Avinoam Shalem, Gerhard Wolf, and Dror Maayan, Facing the Wall: The Israeli-Palestinian Barrier (Köln: Walther König, 2011), 173.
17. Ibid., 171. 18. For a detailed overview of Banksy's murals on the apartheid wall, see Parry's revealingly titled Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestine
  • John F Kennedy
  • West Speech
  • Berlin
John F. Kennedy, speech, West Berlin, 26 June 1963. 15. Backmann, Wall in Palestine, 3, 17. 16. Shalem, Wolf, and Maayan, Facing the Wall, 184. 17. Ibid., 171. 18. For a detailed overview of Banksy's murals on the apartheid wall, see Parry's revealingly titled Against the Wall: The Art of Resistance in Palestine. 19. Shalem, Wolf, and Maayan, Facing the Wall, 174. 20. Parry, Against the Wall, 10.
Fantagraphic Books, 2007) and Footnotes in Gaza
  • See Joe Sacco
See Joe Sacco, Palestine (Seattle: Fantagraphic Books, 2007) and Footnotes in Gaza (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009).