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Temporalities and perceptions of the separation between Israelis and Palestinians*

Temporalités et perceptions de la séparation entre Israéliens et Palestiniens
Cédric Parizot


La politique de séparation mise en place par Israël depuis les années 1990 n’a pas créé de division territoriale entre Israéliens et Palestiniens. En revanche, elle a réorganisé leurs trajectoires et assujetti ces populations à des régimes de temps distincts. Partant d’une étude ethnographique des pratiques spatiales de Juifs israéliens, de Palestiniens de Cisjordanie et de Palestiniens de citoyenneté israélienne, cet article montre comment ces régimes de temps contribuent à modeler chez ces groupes des perceptions radicalement distinctes de l’espace. Dans un processus de feuilletage, ces constructions se superposent comme autant d’espaces/temps anthropologiques sur un même lieu ou sur les mêmes parcours. Ce feuilletage montre que le régime de séparation ne vient donc pas simplement renforcer les écarts entre Israéliens et Palestiniens en créant une asymétrie au niveau de l’usage et de l’expérience de l’espace/temps, mais qu’il vient également accentuer ou introduire des divisions au sein de ces populations. L’étude des subjectivités souligne par ailleurs les processus par lesquels ces acteurs contribuent eux aussi à construire la discontinuité et la distinction entre leurs espaces respectifs dans un contexte où ils restent pourtant fortement interconnectés et imbriqués. La mise en perspective de ce feuilletage est enfin significative dans la mesure où elle permet de reconsidérer les conditions dans lesquelles se construisent les représentations, les discours et les analyses du conflit israélo-palestinien. À travers leurs pratiques quotidiennes, les Israéliens, les Palestiniens, ainsi que les acteurs et les observateurs internationaux élaborent et construisent des perceptions des limites, de l’Autre et du conflit radicalement décalées, dans la mesure où celles-ci sont conditionnées par des expériences spécifiques de l’espace/temps.

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  • *  This article was written in the framework of research conducted in the working group “Approaching (...)
  • 1  The term “security barrier” (gader bitahon) is, together with the term “separation barrier” (gader (...)

1At the end of the 2000s, the separation between Israelis and Palestinians was considered complete. In Gaza, the Israeli withdrawal of 2005 and the sealing off of the coastal strip brought an end to movement between this area and Israel. In the West Bank, the Israelis consider the construction of the “security barrier”1, begun in 2002, a definitive means of enabling the erection of a rampart against Palestinian suicide attacks and the marking of a border between the two populations (Rabinowitz 2003, Parizot 2009). The Palestinians, for their part, stress the confinement imposed on them in the West Bank enclaves and the impossibility of entering Israel without a permit. Everything leads us to believe that an impenetrable border now separates two distinct spaces, one Israeli and one Palestinian.

2This view has, however, been qualified by studies conducted on the policy of separation and the way it operates on the ground. Researchers have stressed that this policy has not led to the emergence of a Westphalian border between the Israeli and the Palestinian space, such as those which separate modern states. In respect of the West Bank, these studies demonstrate that the inter-connection between Palestinian and Israeli zones is so strong that a geographic separation between two contiguous territories is today impossible (Azulay and Ophir 2008). In this context, the restrictions of movement imposed on the Palestinians of the West Bank, the construction of the wall and the deployment of obstacles and control mechanisms help to compensate for the degree of inter-connection between these zones, while reinforcing the Israeli occupation.

3Therefore the policy of separation, instituted by Israel in the years 1990 and 2000, has created complex territorial configurations. It has created a reality where cohabit two types of spaces: on the one hand, a continuous, fluid Israeli space, in which it is possible to travel quickly and, on the other hand, a fragmented Palestinian space, lined with obstacles, in which movement is slow and where routes are unpredictable (Weizman 2007, Petti 2008). By rendering the movement of Israelis fluid, while slowing down that of the Palestinians, the Israeli control mechanisms are subjecting the two populations to two distinct time regimes. In this context, the space/time relationships and practices of the two populations are radically asymmetric (Collins 2009, Handel 2009, Petti 2008). Ariel Handel suggests viewing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no longer solely as a territorial conflict, but as a conflict structured around the use of space (Handel 2009). These approaches are particularly interesting in that they underline not only the spatial dimension, but also the temporal dimension of the separation between Israelis and Palestinians.

  • 2  I use the term “Palestinians of Israel” to designate the Palestinian populations who remained with (...)

4These studies, however, were anchored in a too binary approach towards Israeli-Palestinian spaces and temporalities. Hence, they tend to re-introduce the idea of a completed separation between two realities. A binary approach to space and to space/time practices cancels or prevents the analysis of an ensemble of intermediary situations. For example, in the West Bank, while the restrictions of movement aim to separate the spaces of movement between Israelis and Palestinians, they are not completely successful. They leave numerous intermediary zones where the two populations cross each other on a daily basis. In addition, this binary model does not take into account the experiences and space/time practices of populations who possess a status that differs from Israeli Jews and from the Palestinians of the West Bank. This is the case of the Palestinians of Israel2, who due to their citizenship can move around like other Israelis, but because of their ethnic affiliation, are subjected to a different treatment at checkpoints and therefore find themselves incorporated within another time flow. This is also the case of the Palestinians of Jerusalem.

5I attempt, through an ethnographic study of the practices of three populations (Israeli Jews, Palestinians of Israel and Palestinians of the West Bank), to reconsider the role of the policy of separation and the temporal dimensions of this mechanism. I analyze the way in which the policy of separation has distinctly affected the space/time practices of these groups in the course of the 2000s and thus contributed to readjusting their perceptions of the separation and of the Other. The study of the subjectivities created by space practices is unavoidable in order to understand the way the policy of separation operates and the spaces it has generated. First of all, as emphasized by Michel de Certeau (1990, 173), there is no space unless one “takes into account vectors of direction, quantities of speed and the time variable […], [space] is in a way animated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it. […] Space is a lived-in place. Thus a street which is geometrically defined by urbanism is transformed into space by pedestrians.” In this sense, the territorial configurations defined by the policy of separation can only emerge as spaces if we take into account the practices of ordinary actors.

6The analysis of the subjectivities, created by these practices, will then enable us to understand how, at the end of the 2000s, Israelis and Palestinians view and comprehend the separation. I shall strive, in particular, to identify the mechanisms by which these populations construct the image of a discreet separation. Like Akhil Gupta and James Ferguson (1992), I shall try to understand the processes by which these ordinary actors construct the discontinuity and differentiation between their respective spaces in a context in which they remain, nonetheless, greatly interconnected. Finally, an examination of these subjectivities is essential in order to put into perspective the differences that prevail in the representations of space between one population and another. In order to avoid the trap of a binary approach, I have abandoned the concept of space/time “asymmetry” and substituted instead that of “foliation.” (feuilletage).

7I shall show how, by superimposing themselves, these perceptions favor a “foliation” of representations of space which corresponds to the hierarchies produced by the subjection of the different populations to different time regimes. Finally, this foliation demonstrates the need to surpass the compartmentation that prevails between research on Israel and research on Palestine. An approach limited to one or the other side would not have enabled the identification of this process. To do so, one must view these spaces as an integral part of an Israeli-Palestinian whole.

8The data, on which my research is based, was collected between 1996 and 2009 and does not derive from systematic interviews. It proceeds more from observation and a flowing form of listening suitable to the ethnography, and from the repeated experience of crossing Israeli-Palestinian spaces. The interview technique alone would not have been sufficient to gather the necessary data for the formulation of this study. The study of perceptions of space/time is based both on narratives collected from a sample of actors, and on practices which these actors are not always conscious of. It also aims to evaluate and document the rapid transformations of space which these people forget or reconstruct often according to current contexts. This form of flowing listening and observation was deployed in the course of my journey which led me to immerse myself among the different populations whose patterns of movement I present: first of all, in the course of my research with the Bedouins of the Negev in the Hûra and Rahat areas (1996-1999), then while residing in Tel Aviv (1999-2002) and in Beer Sheva (20002-2004) in the heart of Jewish Israeli populations and, finally, through my research in the field among the Palestinian populations of the Southern West Bank (2005, 2006, then 2007-2009).

9It is this multi-site fieldwork which enabled me to measure the extent of the differences in perception regarding the separation and the conflict. This article does not pretend to provide an exhaustive description of the different perceptions of space, nor of the different levels of foliation which they produce. The aim is rather to show how the policy of separation has not formalized a pre-existent separation line between the two populations; instead, it has re-organized, through different time-regimes, the rupture lines between the numerous groups within the Israeli-Palestinian space and, in so doing, it has re-organized the boundaries between the groups and communities.

10This article consists of three parts. First, I show that, since the 1990s, the separation policy generated complex spatial configurations and subjected the Israeli and Palestinian populations to distinct time regimes. Based on the study of one checkpoint, I then describe how these time regimes objectively affect the paths and movements of these populations within the same area. Finally, by analyzing the distinct subjectivities produced by these experiences, I show how these time regimes, combined with the subjectivities of the actors, create a foliation of anthropological spaces. This foliation then enables a better understanding of the differences in perception, between the different populations, of the Israeli-Palestinian space, the self, the Other and, finally, of recent developments in the conflict.

The spatial boundaries of the separation between Israel and the West Bank

11Instituted since 2002, with the construction of the Wall around the West Bank, the Israeli policy of separation has not generated two distinct spaces separated by a Westphalian type of border. The security measures further re-organized the movements and paths of these two populations within the same space. By facilitating movement between the Israeli zones and limiting exchanges between the Palestinian and Israeli zones, these measures attempt to compensate for the proximity and interconnection of these spaces in order to ensure the security of Israelis during a period of escalation of violence. The legal mechanisms and infrastructures, which enabled the implementation of this policy of separation, have led to the emergence of a mobility regime. As we shall see, in the first place, this regime filters the entry of Palestinians into Israel and regulates their movements within the West Bank. In the second place, I shall show that this policy not only creates complex territorial configurations, it also imposes on the Palestinians a time regime different from that of Israelis.

Regime of mobility

12The first restrictions of movement imposed on the Palestinians were introduced during the first Intifada (1987-1993). They consisted, initially, of ad hoc security measures and collective sanctions aimed at repressing the first Palestinian uprising. Subsequently, they were aimed at preventing Palestinian suicide attacks in Israel during the Oslo process (1993-2000) (Hass 2002). Finally, they contributed to the application of a systematic policy of separation between Israelis and Palestinians. Launched by Yitzhak Rabin, this policy was pursued by succeeding governments (Arieli and Sfard 2008). Neve Gordon (2008) sees, in this policy which was initiated even before the Oslo process, a desire to reorganize the Israeli modes of occupation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

13In the period 1988-1991, the Israeli Civil Administration, in charge of the occupied Palestinian territories, instituted a system of individual permits to select Palestinian workers authorized to come and work in Israel (Abu Zahra 2007, Azulay and Ophir 2008, Hanieh 2006). These measures marked a break with the preceding period (1967-1988), during which the Palestinians were able to freely cross the Green Line. The allocation of permits now depended on the individual’s personal profile. In the first years, the Civil Administration differentiated between people according to their political activities and security profile. For example, former prisoners who had been incarcerated in Israel or those considered a threat, were given special identity cards which prohibited their entry into Israel (Hanieh 2006). Subsequently, the allocation of permits was determined according to a bio-social profile (age, profession, matrimonial status, etc.) (Abu Zahra 2007). This profile became particularly restrictive during the second Intifada (2000-2005). Since the allocation criteria are a constant function of a particular period, it is often difficult for the Palestinians to know the reasons for an allocation or refusal of a permit (Ophir and Azulay 2008).  

14Nevertheless, these measures have not stopped the entry of the Palestinians of the West Bank into Israel. They aim to filter the undesirables and to regulate the intensity of the flow. The management of this flow lies at the heart of the mechanism of Israeli control, since it has enabled, since the 1990s, the application of collective sanctions or pressure on the Palestinian Authority (Raijman and Kemp 2008).

15It has also contributed to a constant fluctuation in the number of Palestinians entering Israel. In the period 1992-1996, the number of Palestinian workers in Israel or in the settlements was reduced by 50 %. On the eve of the second Intifada, the number stood at 145,100. In contrast, during the second Palestinian uprising (2000-2005), following the proliferation of suicide attacks in Israel, the tightening of restrictions of movement led to a new reduction in the number of workers, which fell to 43,000 in 2003 (OCHA 2008).

16It was, in particular, these restrictions of movement and not the construction of the Wall which contributed to the fall in the number of Palestinian workers in Israel at the beginning of the 2000s. In 2003, the construction of the wall was still in its inception and could not really function as an efficient barrier. Subsequently, one notes that the progression of its construction, two thirds of which was completed by 2009 (OCHA 2009), was not accompanied by a reduction in the number of workers employed in Israel, but by an increase. The number increased progressively from 2003, reaching between 63,000 and 67,000 in 2007 (PCBS 2008, OCHA 2008).

17However, since this date, only the Palestinians of the West Bank are authorized to enter Israel and the settlements. During the 1990s, the number of workers from Gaza fell sharply in comparison to that from the West Bank. In 2007, following the siege of Gaza imposed by Israel after Hamas came to power, their entry was categorically prohibited. The evolution in the flux of workers shows that while a clear separation was instituted between Israel and the Gaza Strip, this was not the case between Israel and the West Bank (Farsakh 2005).

18During the second Intifada (2000-2005), viewed as a central mechanism in the fight against suicide attacks and as a means of repressing the uprising in Palestinian enclaves, the restrictions of movement were strengthened and extended right into the heart of the West Bank. The Israeli army deployed numerous checkpoints and new obstacles (trenches, road barriers, earth mounds, blocks of concrete, watchtowers, etc.), which are still in use today. In June 2009, in the West Bank, the United Nations identified 698 obstacles of this type including 76 permanent checkpoints and 23 partial check points (OCHA 2009). In addition to these, the army kept on deploying dozens of “flying check points” whose location changes constantly. Like the restrictions of movement, the localization of these control devices and the boundaries they draw have not ceased evolving, since the beginning of the second Intifada. Only some of the obstacles and checkpoints remain fixed (Handel 2009).   

19This system aims, primarily, to maintain the isolation of the Palestinian enclaves from each other. Some Israeli military experts (Amidror 2007) explain that this isolation reduces the ability of armed groups to exchange information, arms and act in a coordinated manner. It equally aims to strengthen the army’s capability of action. By slowing down the movement of the Palestinians, the checkpoints and obstacles give the military more time to intercept a kamikaze or a wanted individual (Ben Ari et al. 2004). At the same time, the rapid arteries (by pass roads) put into place by the Israelis accelerate the army’s movements.

20The changing character of the restrictions of movement and infrastructures aims to destabilize the Palestinian space and render more difficult the planning of the trajectory of an attack. Of course, the change in the rules and in the localization of obstacles is equally due to the fact that Israeli policies, linked to the occupation, are often the product of tactical decisions, rather than the fruit of any long-term plan. Nonetheless, the blurred and arbitrary situation created by these constant evolutions, has been extensively re-appropriated by the Israeli authorities as a means of control (Azulay and Ophir 2008). In this context, from the point of view of a Palestinian, if an authorization of movement does not always allow him to move, in practice, the absence of a permit does not always signify that movement is impossible.  

21Finally, the separation of paths of the Israeli settlers and the Palestinians is considered a way of strengthening the security of the former. By prohibiting access to or distancing the Palestinians from by-pass roads and the settlements, the Israeli authorities have tried to limit the number of Palestinian attacks against Israeli vehicles and settlements.

22Less covered in the press than the Wall, these measures have strengthened the Israeli presence in the West Bank, both in the West and East of this edifice (Parizot 2009). The increase in the number of Palestinians working in Israel, since its construction and the tightening of military measures to the East of the barrier, show that it has not achieved some of the objectives aimed at: to clearly separate Israeli spaces from Palestinian spaces, on the one hand and, on the other hand, to end the entry of Palestinians into Israel. In this context of strong interconnection between Israeli and Palestinian spaces, this edifice only succeeds in superimposing another limitation on those defined during the Oslo period (1994-2000) and later. It has created Israeli enclaves on the Palestinian side and Palestinian enclaves on the Israeli side. In 2007, 72 settlements remained to the East of the wall, populated by 65,246 Israelis (FMEP 2008), while around 35,000 Palestinians live in enclaves on the Israeli side. Finally, the route of the wall further fragments the Palestinian zones in the West Bank. Approximately 125,000 Palestinians are encircled by this barrier on three sides and 26,000 are completely encircled (OCHA 2009).

Territorial configurations and time regimes

23The policy of separation has generated not only complex territorial configurations, it has especially subjected the Palestinians and the Israelis to radically different conditions of mobility and time regimes.

24According to Eyal Weizman (2007), the construction of by-pass roads, tunnels and bridges to connect and ease movement between the Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Israel has created a fluid Israeli “hyper-space” detached from a highly fragmented Palestinian “infra-space.” Weizman claims that this system has dissociated Israeli spaces from Palestinian spaces. The border no longer just separates zones on a two-dimensional map, it also separates levels (Israeli and Palestinian) on a three-dimensional map. Alessandro Petti (2008), for his part, perceives a territorial regime where an archipel system, on the one hand, cohabits with a system of enclaves, on the other. The archipel consists of connected islands, which represent the Israeli settlements linked to Israel, between which movement is fluid and rapid. The enclaves consist of the Palestinian zones isolated one from the other. Elisha Efrat (2003) demonstrates that, at the beginning of the 2000s, in the West Bank, while zones C, which are under Israeli control, constitute a continuous space, zones A and B are divided into 190 enclaves.

Map 1: Palestinian and Israeli areas, and main roads in the West Bank (2009)

Map 1: Palestinian and Israeli areas, and main roads in the West Bank (2009)

Map by Marjolaine Barazani (CRFJ), from OCHA (2009)

  • 3  A recent ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the army to open this highway beginning May 2 (...)

25Israeli and Palestinian spaces, nevertheless, are not totally separated (Map 1). Since the Oslo period, the policy of separation has created a proliferation of spaces with different statuses. Within these spaces, the rules of access vary according to the populations considered. These statuses partially reproduce those defined by the Oslo accords. They delineate zones A, B and C (1994-2000). In zones A and B, under Palestinian autonomy, the Palestinians can move around relatively freely, while since the beginning of the 2000s, Israeli citizens no longer have the right to enter these zones. In zones C, under Israeli control, the Palestinians have been subjected, since 2000, to increasing restrictions, while Israelis can move around freely. Access to by-pass roads linking the settlements to Israel has been progressively regulated for the Palestinians (Btselem 2004). In 2009, some of these roads were still completely prohibited to Palestinians. This is the case of route 443, linking Jerusalem to Modi’in3.  Since 2003, access by Palestinians to the enclaves situated between the separation Wall and the Green Line requires a special permit from the Israeli Civil Administration. Finally, since 2005, access to the Jordan Valley is also subject to restrictions (Btselem 2007, Handel 2009b).

  • 4  “The built Jewish area in the West Bank is 1.7 percent of the total land, while the community area (...)

26The policy of separation thus creates more or less homogenous spaces next to intermediary spaces, which are more or less heterogeneous. Zones A and B are populated and used almost exclusively by Palestinians (approximately 40 % of the West Bank), while the zones under the jurisdiction of Israeli settlements (42 % of the West Bank, see Handel 20094) are populated almost exclusively by Israelis. The rest of zone C is more heterogeneous in the sense that, here, the two populations cross each other on a daily basis on roads and at checkpoints.

27Between 2007 and 2009, most of the by-pass roads were used both by Israeli and Palestinian drivers. This was the case for most of the sections of route 60, the main road that connects the Southern West Bank to the Northern West Bank (Map 1). This is also the case in Gush Etzion, where Israeli cars travel next to Palestinian cars and pedestrians (Photo 1). To the South of this region, in the governorship of Hebron, cartographic representations (Map 2) show that the Israeli by-pass road avoids or contours the Palestinian enclaves. But, when driving on this road, travelers often pass right through Palestinian villages, as in the case of Beit Ummar (Photo 2) and the al-Arrub refugee camp. The East segment of route no. 1, the main artery linking Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, which is used by many tourists and Israeli travelers, is also used by Palestinians.  At its Eastern (‘Azariya-Maale Adumim) and Western tips (the Dead Sea), Palestinian merchants greet the Israeli settlers and tourists who visit their establishments. Even on roads strictly prohibited to the Palestinians, such as route 443, linking Jerusalem to Modi’in and to Tel Aviv, one finds similar crossing points. Israeli drivers, traveling in the direction of Tel Aviv and passing by the Maccabim checkpoint, must take note of Palestinians using this road at the level of this point of passage. In view of the number of Israelis, from West Jerusalem or the center of the country, who use this road as well as other by-pass roads, these crossings and encounters with the “Other” involve both settlers and people living within the limits of the 1967 border. Finally, many check points situated in the West Bank are aimed both at Palestinians and Israelis.

Photo 1: View of Road 60, Gush Etzion

Photo 1: View of Road 60, Gush Etzion

Israeli cars driving next to Palestinian cars.

Photo P. Renno, 2008

Map 2: Isreali cartographic representation of Road 60

Map 2: Isreali cartographic representation of Road 60

Road 60 (south of Jerusalem/north of Hebron), passing between Palestinian enclaves, without entering them.

From Israel : Road Atlas, Tel Aviv, Mapa, 2009

Photo 2: Landscape on Road 60

Photo 2: Landscape on Road 60

Road 60 passing through Beit Ummar.

Photo C. Parizot, 2008

28In this context of an increase in limits and zones, the policy of separation does not really separate spaces. On the other hand, it imposes different regimes of control and mobility on populations in the same spaces. In order to understand how it operates, it is necessary to consider the different regimes of mobility and regimes of time to which these populations are subjected. Such an approach is all the more necessary in light of the fact that, since the 1990s, the security measures have created a distortion or asymmetry of space/time. The movement of the Palestinians has been considerably impeded while Israelis are moving around more and more rapidly. In this context, the confinement of the Palestinians is both special and temporal (Collins 2009, Handel 2009, Peteet 2009).    

29Furthermore, as underlined by Ariel Handel (2009), this asymmetry is strengthened by the different uses of space imposed by the mobility regime. While Israelis benefit from a predictable, fluid space, as in a modern, cartographic territorial system, the space of the Palestinians is, in contrast, maintained in a “pre-modern” subjective position: given the fragmentation of the enclaves, the unpredictability of the Israeli restrictions and obstacles (flying checkpoints, closures, contradictory orders varying from one patrol to another), cartography, in terms of modern knowledge, is of no use to them (Havkin 2008). The geography, in which they move around, consists of itineraries evaluated according to the length of time of a journey and the location of random obstacles, not according to distance or predefined routes. Ariel Handel (ibid.), moreover, suggests perceiving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict no longer solely as a territorial conflict, but also as a structured conflict around the control of the use of space.

Regime of time and mobility experiences

30In order to show how these regimes of time structure, in practice, different uses of space/time in the same places, I shall present the ethnographic observations which I made regarding three types of crossings at the checkpoint was that of Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil. Located in the Southern West Bank, on the Hebron-Beer Sheva artery, it is crossed by Israeli Jews, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship (the Bedouins of the Negev) and West Bank Palestinians. The structure and control measures are similar to those prevailing at other checkpoints situated around the West Bank. Hence, they offer an example which can be generalized.

31Through the three types of crossings, which I highlight here, I demonstrate, here, that the restrictions of movement condition a multitude of relationships to space/time. Hence, I stress the need to surpass the binary approach, which governs most research on the effects of the separation policy and that tend to be re-introduced by the very concept of spatial “asymmetry”.

The Wadi al-Khalil/Meitar Checkpoint

32In 2008, the Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint was the daily crossing point for around 1000 Palestinian workers and merchants doted with an entry permit into Israel. Located at the Southern tip of route 60, it was also used by 2500 Israeli settlers who live in South of the Hebron mountains and who travel daily to their places of work in Israel. In addition, it was used by a minority of Israeli Jews from the Negev region in order to travel to Jerusalem. At the end of the 2000s, apart from the settlers, few Israeli Jews residing in Israel use this road, which passes through the West Bank. Palestinian attacks on cars and travelers using this road during the first Intifada (1987-1993) and the second Intifada (2000-2005) dissuaded many people from using it.  Finally, the checkpoint is frequently crossed by Bedouins of the Negev as they make their way to the markets of Hebron or the cities of the Southern West Bank: Dhahriyya, Samû‘, Yatta and Dûra (Map 3).

Map 3: South of Hebron Hills, and Beer Sheva area

Map 3: South of Hebron Hills, and Beer Sheva area

Map by Marjolaine Barazani (CRFJ), from OCHA (2009)

33However, in the course of the last thirteen years, the movement modalities of these populations have changed as a result of changes in the roadblock. Initially practically identical, they became, over the years, more and more discriminatory. These changes were similar to those observed at other crossing points situated on the Green Line or along the separation Wall. They testify, first, to the increase in material and human means invested in the implementation of this security policy. Secondly, they demonstrate the means deployed in order to organize and separate the paths of the populations in question. Finally, the materialization and consolidation of these measures represent the enduring consolidation of the policy of separation (Havkin 2008).

34In 1996, when I began my initial research in the region, the point of control consisted of a simple roadblock (mahsom [Hebrew]), which took the form of a temporary, improvised structure made up of concrete blocks and sometimes a look-out tower from which a soldier would survey the surroundings. At this time, Israelis and Palestinians passed through the same type of identity control conducted by a few soldiers. Israeli Jews, residing in the settlements or in Israel, could however avoid the long lines by overtaking the queue of Palestinian cars and greeting the soldiers. The roadblock was removed for a short period, then re-installed at the beginning of the second Intifada (September 2000).  

35Towards the middle of the 2000s, parallel to the construction of the separation Barrier, its structure took on a more permanent form. The checkpoint was, then, intended to become one of many “terminals” or “crossing points” (ma’avar [Hebrew]) responsible for screening the movements of Israelis and Palestinians between the two sides of the Barrier. In 2007, its construction was almost completed. The new terminal is divided into two sections. The first consists of three parallel lines reserved for private vehicles and trucks registered in Israel. These lines are flanked by sentry boxes where the soldiers stand. The second is reserved for Palestinians and can only be traversed on foot. A parking is allocated for their vehicles. Finally, offices have been constructed to house the personnel and a concrete look-out tower has been erected to defend the installation (Photo 3).

36On January 1, 2008, management of the checkpoint was delegated by the Israeli army to the security company “White Snow” (sheleg lavan [Hebrew]). Since then, sixty employees work at this checkpoint: thirty armed guards (me’avtekhim [Hebrew]) and thirty “selectors” or controllers (selectorim or bodkin [Hebrew]) responsible for checking the identity of travelers. These employees are supervised by a representative of the Ministry of Defense. Like other checkpoints run by private companies, the Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint is equipped with very sophisticated equipment: individual scanners, biometric systems and scanners for transported merchandise. The mediation by machines is based on a logic of sophistication, standardization, and bureaucratization of control, as well as on the desire to protect the personnel of the checkpoint against potential attacks by armed Palestinian groups (Havkin 2008).

Photo 3: Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint

Photo 3: Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint

View from the Israeli side.

Photo C. Parizot, 2007

37The objective of the armed guards is to defend the installation. The “selectors” or “controllers” (selectorim, bodkim) implement distinct, adequate procedures of control according to the identity and status of the travelers. The checkpoint operates a double-screening process: on the one hand, screening of people aimed at avoiding the entry of undesirables into Israel and, on the other, screening of travelers in order to subject them to distinct regimes of control and time.

One place, three temporalities, three crossings

38Thus, since the mid 2000s, Israeli Jews, Bedouins and West Bank Palestinians crossing the checkpoint, are treated differently and experience a different level and form of mobility. Israeli Jews, settlers or otherwise, who cross the crossing point by car are rarely controlled or questioned by the personnel. The structure of the checkpoint, the specialization of tasks between guards and selectors make the crossing more formal than when it was controlled by the army. Nonetheless, since they are known to the personnel, many Israeli settlers exchange greetings with the employees before the barrier is opened at the point of the sentry box. Their crossing resembles more that of a motorway tollgate than that of a border terminal. One of the guards explained to me that, for Jews, the checkpoint functions primarily as an “internal crossing point” (ma’avar pnimi [Hebrew]).

39The Bedouins, who travel from Beer Sheva to the West Bank via the Wadi al-Khalil/Meitar checkpoint, experience a different form of mobility from that of Israeli Jews. They possess Israeli citizenship and can therefore go through the crossing point by car. But they are treated differently by the personnel of the checkpoint and engage therefore in a different form of interaction. In 2008, the personnel was ordered by the Ministry of Defense to systematically control “the Arabs and the Bedouins.” The distinction made by the guards between Arabs and Bedouins is revealing. It underlines to what extent the ethnicization process of the Bedouins, since the creation of the State of Israel, has reinforced the notion that, while Arab, this population is considered by many Israelis, as a distinct ethnic group, such as the Druze (Parizot 2001, 2006). And it, especially, demonstrates how such distinctions are reproduced and validated by the administrative apparatus and, notably, by the policy of separation.

40Applied in the course of 2008, this systematic control was experienced negatively by the Bedouins of the environs. Sâlim, a lawyer from Hûra, who travels regularly to the West Bank for business, told me of his discontent at this differential treatment, which he perceived as flagrant discrimination. In his view, the control of identities and merchandise, carried out by the private company, was even more strict and rigorous that that previously carried out by the soldiers. According to Sâlim and many others in the region, during the 2000s, Israeli soldiers frequently prohibited passage to drivers who said they wished to travel to Palestinian villages in the area: Dhariyya, Samû‘, Yatta or the city of Hebron. In order to avoid being turned back, the drivers pretended that they were traveling to Jerusalem. Their declaration appeared sufficiently convincing in the eyes of the soldiers, and they were let through without further ado. Other interlocutors informed me that it was sometimes easy to come to an arrangement with the soldiers so that they would shut their eyes regarding certain products of popular consumption being brought into Israel.   

41After a year of more stringent control than that of the army, the security company changed its policy. In 2009, the control of Bedouin travelers was gradually alleviated. Ahmad at-Ta‘âmre, from Rahat, explained to me that, now, when people cross the Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint, they are no longer interrogated or searched as previously: people bringing back fruit and vegetables from Palestinian markets are no longer bothered. In accordance with the regulations posted on billboards at the entrance to the checkpoint, the security company prohibits the entry of meat, eggs and milk from the Palestinian Territories. The change in attitude of the security company at Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil, as from mid 2009, is part of a general policy aimed at easing the movement of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship between Israel and the West Bank. It was put into effect following the election of the Netanyahu government (Marteu 2009). Nevertheless, in spite of the alleviation of the control procedures, the Bedouins still perceive the mahsum (arabization of the Hebrew term mahsom, meaning roadblock) as an obstacle and cross this point with some apprehension.

42Finally, the Palestinians of the West Bank, experience a form of mobility which differs from that of the Israeli Jews and the Bedouins. The crossing takes longer time. Of course, the management by the security company and the installation of a more extensive structure appear to have accelerated the crossing, which takes less time than prior to 2008, when the checkpoint was managed by the army. In the morning, at rush hour, travelers sometimes had to wait up to two hours to cross over. In 2008, the time needed to cross varied according to the day of the week and the time of arrival at the checkpoint. Sometimes, the process could be very uncomfortable and humiliating. In April, soon after opening time (4.00-4.30), workers could cross over in approximately twenty minutes. In contrast, at around 5.00, the queue could lengthen and comprise up to 500 or 600 people, making the procedure much longer for the workers. The length of time for crossing the check point remains therefore very uncertain5. Some users, such as Za‘al Abu Turiyya, informed me that, when they are late, they often prefer to circumvent the checkpoint via smuggling routes, even when they possess an entry permit into Israel.

43The process for Palestinians crossing the checkpoint differs from that of the Bedouins and Israeli Jews. They do not pass through the central lines designated for vehicles, but on the side, via a complex set-up. Everything evokes an intensity of control and passage from one space to another: the organization of the set-up, the architecture of the control mechanism, made up of turnstiles, counters, sophisticated electronic and biometric equipment and, finally, the inspection by the armed guards and the interactions with them and the selectors.

The limits of asymmetry

44This quick comparison of the forms of crossing of these three populations and their evolution shows to what extent the policy of separation has progressively imposed, during the 2000s, different regimes of time on each population. These regimes of time create gaps between the experiences felt by these populations in the same places. In this context, it is difficult to talk of “asymmetry” since the term evokes too much a binary opposition. Indeed, the control procedures at the Wadi al-Khalil/Meitar checkpoint define several regimes of control and time. The case of the Bedouins, Arab citizens of Israel, demonstrates that, by reproducing certain Israeli classifications, such as those that distinguish “Bedouins” from “Arabs”, the treatment of each group reintroduces divisions even within the Arab population of Israel.

45An analysis of the trajectories of the Palestinians of Jerusalem would support this argument as it would underline other distinctions created by the policy of mobility. The Palestinians of Jerusalem are residents of Israel but not citizens. They therefore possess a special status, which subjects them to other limitations than those of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Not being officially prohibited from entering zones A under Palestinian autonomy, the Palestinians of Jerusalem would be able to pass through the Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint while pretending that they are entering a Palestinian zone and not be turned back. International agents working with diplomatic organizations or within certain NGOs enjoy mobility privileges which are not accorded either to Israelis or to Palestinians. Their treatment at the checkpoint is therefore different from others and creates additional experiences of movement.

Time, space and perceptions of the separation

46I now wish to show that these radically distinct experiences of places, according to the time regimes which the different populations are subjected to, plays a determinant role in the manner in which the populations perceive their spaces of movement. It is important to take into account the role of subjectivities. As Michel de Certeau points out (1990, 173-4) “space is a place that is used.” Quoting Merleau Ponty, he adds “there are as many spaces as distinct spatial experiences.” I demonstrate, here, that the distinct experiences of the Wadi al-Khalil/Meitar checkpoint create various “anthropological spaces.” In particular, I emphasize the perception of the length of the crossing and how it connects with that of the other daily activities of each group. In order to do this, I borrow the concept of “temporal pollution” defined by Ulli Zeitler (1999), which evokes “an undesired [time], a means to [achieve] an end, [a moment] without intrinsic value” and which contrasts with a structured time informed with meaning.

47Based on this, I stress to what extent the construction of these anthropological spaces/times enables us to understand the way the populations of the Israeli-Palestinian space perceive, in a distinct manner, the localization of limits and the concept of separation.  Finally, I show that the separation creates a foliation (feuilletage) of “anthropological spaces/time” which places the groups in a hierarchy and redraws the lines of separation between the populations of the Israeli-Palestinian space, beyond the mere opposition between Israelis and Palestinians.

Temporality and the extension of Israeli spaces

48The rapidity and ease with which Israeli Jews cross the Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint turns the length of the crossing into a “temporal pollution,” that is, a waste of time which ones strives to reduce to a minimum. This length of time, without any intrinsic value, is part of a steady, limited, predictable journey, integrated within more meaningful social and professional activities. This construction of time, combined with the absence of interaction with the Palestinians in this place and along the roads leading to the terminal, greatly condition the importance accorded to the encounter. The Israeli Jews, who cross the terminal in the morning, inevitably note the presence of workers standing in line as well as their cars parked in the parking. However, the length of time during which they face these workers is relatively short, compared to the time invested in the rest of their daily activities. Furthermore, constructed as a “temporal pollution,” the crossing is not informed with meaning or emotion as are their other daily activities. Thus, from a qualitative and quantitative view, the length of time during which the Israeli Jews pass by Palestinians is not sufficiently significant in relation to that of their other daily activities to highlight their presence within the landscape.

49The insignificant nature taken by the Palestinian presence, in the context of the mobility of Israeli Jews traveling in the West Bank, also plays a determinant role in the perception of their space of movement. I noted the same mechanisms in my observation of the paths of Israeli Jews traveling on route 443 and on route 1, which connects Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The people who travel on these roads accord so little importance to the presence of Palestinian cars and pedestrians that, when one asks them whether they already entered the occupied Palestinian Territories, “ha-shtakhim”, they usually answer in the negative. When questioned, the answers of these people show that they are convinced that the construction of the wall has created two distinct spaces in a discreet manner. Echoing the expression of Yitzhak Rabin, some even go so far as to say: “Now we are here and they are there.”

50The rapidity of their movement, the construction of their movement as a “temporal pollution,” and the manner in which these factors reduce the presence of the Palestinians to a non-event, practically efface the latter from the landscape of Israeli Jewish travelers or relegates them to a special status. This is a determining process in that it tends to “Israelize” the space that is being crossed and to strengthen the feeling that the Wall separates.   

51However, the rapidity of movement and the form of mobility are not always enough to “Israelize” a space. The proliferation of checkpoints and security mechanisms in the West Bank, since the 1990s, exercise a reverse effect to these mobility-connected processes (Parizot 2009). In the first place, the materialization and perpetuation of the separation reintroduce new limits. Some Israeli settlers complain that the checkpoints and the Wall have created a discontinuity between Israel and the West Bank settlements or have set a boundary between a space of legitimate residence (West of the wall) and illegitimate residence (East of the wall). Moshe Bar Tov, from Bet El, a settlement near Ramallah, informed me that these security measures have distanced his family socially from their parents and their friends residing in Israel. The checkpoints have slowed down movement on the roads, since they sometimes create traffic jams during rush hours.  And they have made the security atmosphere in the West Bank tenser and indirectly reintroduced the threat of the Palestinians.

52As a result, the security measures tend to dissuade people living in Israel from visiting friends or families living in the West Bank. They have helped nurture a geography of fear. Many Israeli Jews, who live on the boundaries of the 1967 Israeli border, view these security measures as real obstacles. Tamar, whom I interviewed in the city of Meitar (Negev), views the checkpoint as a door which opens onto a dangerous world, that of the shtakhim. She, therefore, avoids crossing it or even coming close to it. In 2005, Sima, a resident of Tel Aviv, refused to visit her cousins in Alfei Menashe, a settlement situated, nonetheless, to the West of the wall. Crossing a checkpoint located prior to the settlement represented, in her eyes, entry into the occupied Territories (shtakhim).

53In 2007, Shai, an Israeli architect residing in Israel, South-West of Jerusalem, expressed similar concerns regarding the security measures. From Srigim a place situated in Israel, south of Bet Shemesh, he drives, several times a week, through the “tunnels’ road” that pass through Gush Etzion, in order to get to Jerusalem. He told me that the security measures, and particularly the big slanting concrete walls, which separate the Israeli by-pass road from the Palestinian city of Beit Jâla, made the Palestinians, in his eyes, more and more threatening. He added: “These walls were not placed there by chance!” When taking this road, he has the real impression of going through occupied territories. But the feeling of being threatened had not led him to change routes. On the contrary, in 2009, he continued to take this route in order to attend business meetings or shop at a supermarket. The fact of taking this route regularly tends to gradually give him the feeling of security and integrates the “tunnels’ road” in his daily routine.      

54As Michel de Certeau (1990) explains, routine makes things secure and favors the appropriation of spaces. Thus, the routinization of journeys on by-pass roads, in the context of relative calm since the end of the second Intifada, and the facilitation of mobility is gradually changing the perspectives of the Israeli population regarding spaces crossed and the separation. For some, these factors have progressively re-integrated, within what is considered sovereign Israeli space, West Bank spaces which the uprising had rendered dangerous and hardly used. One should note that this process of progressive re-integration via ordinary spatial practices includes spaces situated beyond the separation wall, such as the road leading from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea and route 443 (Modi’in-Jerusalem).

55This re-integration of West Bank spaces is a progressive process and is not uniformly shared by the Israeli Jewish population. If it is highly conditioned by the separation policy, it can only truly be achieved through the routinization of spatial practices, which is itself a function of the journeys of the actors. Like Shai, they view certain by-pass roads as intermediary spaces between Israel and the shtakhim.

56Nonetheless, observation of the general evolution of Israeli movement, during the last five years, shows to what extent this process of re-integration of certain West Bank zones within sovereign Israeli space seems to have developed. Since 2005, more cars are using these arteries. Since 2007, I have observed more and more motorcyclists and cyclists traveling on route 443, route 90 (Jordan Valley) and particularly route 60 in Gush Etzion,  in order to go to work, or as a part of a leisure activity on Fridays or Saturdays. The presence of cyclists shows to what extent these spaces are seen as safe spaces by some Israelis, while during the Intifada, even car drivers feared attacks by lone Palestinian snipers.

Temporality and alienation of Palestinian spaces

57The Palestinians of the West Bank construct radically different anthropological spaces/times from those of Israeli Jews, when they cross checkpoints or drive along by-pass roads. The process of passing through Israeli zones and the organization it demands implies so much effort that these activities have become central to their daily lives (Abu Zahra 2007, Handel 2008, Peteet 2009). In order to enter Israel, or certain zones within the West Bank (Jordan Valley, enclaves between the Wall and the Green Line, East Jerusalem), they need to obtain a permit. The acquisition and renewal of such a document necessitates a long, random bureaucratic process. Furthermore, the policy of separation and the fragmentation of enclaves have considerably lengthened the time needed to travel from their homes to their workplaces. In addition to the time spent at a checkpoint, there is also the discontinuity in the means of transport in order to reach transfer points and then proceed to their workplaces.  The workers have to invest several hours travel, to and fro, for journeys which took less than an hour in the 1990s. The time invested on these trips affects as much their moments of sociability as their rest time, once at home.

58In contrast to Israeli Jews, the process of crossing a checkpoint is not perceived as a “temporal pollution.”  Of course, the crossing constitutes a considerable waste of time, but it is also an extremely significant and structuring moment. It is a period of time which concentrates all the attention and energy of the actors. First of all, it is a moment of uncertainty. While the Palestinians depend on the crossing to ensure their livelihood, the crossing is always uncertain. This feeling derives in part from past and present experiences of movement and from the manner in which the Israeli authorities impose the restrictions of movement. The regulations and obstacles are viewed as very unpredictable and arbitrary, in the sense that they operate according to a logic which Palestinians do not understand or master. The standardization of procedures at checkpoints, such as Wadi al-Khalil/Meitar, in 2008, has not lifted this arbitrary dimension. On the contrary, the biometric systems and electronic equipment have introduced new uncertainties. In many terminals, on a regular basis, the security equipment fails to function. Thus, the demagnetization of certain magnetic cards has led to some Palestinians being turned back.

59The crossing of checkpoints is all the more significant in that it also implies a degree of latent violence. It is associated with danger. In spite of the architecture of the terminal which, according to the Israeli Minister of Defense, was designed to regulate and channel, in the “best conditions.” the passage of Palestinian workers, the latter continue to associate the place with potential physical danger. Hisham, a worker from the city of Samû‘, often remembers incidents at the checkpoints. Like others, he remembers that one of his colleagues had his arm broken, in 2007, when he was pushed by the crowd in one of the steel turnstiles. Furthermore, while the Israeli army considers that the delegation of the management of checkpoints to private companies depoliticizes this space, the Palestinians continue to view the process of crossing a checkpoint as a confrontation and exposure to the power of the occupier.  The feelings of vulnerability and lack of control over the uncertain element of violence that accompanies the crossing reinforces the experience of humiliation on a daily basis (Bornstein 2002). In other words, the treatment experienced at checkpoints and the manner in which the Palestinians perceive the crossing transform this space into a central marker between the space they come from and “juwwa” (the interior), namely Israel.

60In short, while the insignificant temporality of passage of Israeli Jews crossing the checkpoints tends to attenuate the presence of boundaries, that experienced by the Palestinians anchors and underlines these boundaries in their space. In the first instance, this process enables a re-appropriation and re-Israelization of certain spaces in the West Bank and, in the second place, it leads to an alienation of spaces for the Palestinians. In addition, for many of them it is no longer the Green Line which operates as the significant marker, as it partially did throughout the 1990s, but it is the new boundaries defined by checkpoints erected throughout the West Bank.

61However, it is important to stress that, for the Palestinians, the new markers created by  checkpoints, sometimes located within the Green Line, do not separate a Palestinian space from an Israeli space. Palestinians, who travel from their cities or villages to reach the Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint, must cross different types of spaces in which they are subjected to different forms of authority and restrictions. Those, who come from the cities of Samû‘ or Yatta, leave zones controlled by the Palestinian Authority, to travel on one of the roads leading to the checkpoint, route 60 or route 317 (Map 3). Since they are located in zone C, these two routes are controlled exclusively by the Israeli army and police. The process of crossing these different spaces is very significant since it implies different modes of transport and experiences.

62Ahmad aj-Jakâkse, a construction worker, resident of Samû‘, takes his car at around 3.00 a.m. to travel to the center of town. His car is a “mashtuba”, an old Israeli car originally slated for the scrap yard for car parts, but used by individuals. He bought it from a garage owner in Samû‘ who imports this unlicensed cars from Israel. These cars cost less than new or second-hand cars registered with the Palestinian Authority, particularly since the owner does not need to pay to have them registered. In the region of Samû‘ and Yatta, one in three cars is a mashtuba. These vehicles can be driven in this enclave since the Palestinian police, under pressure from Yatta’s influential families, does not book their drivers. But, since they do not have an official Israeli or Palestinian number plate, these cars do not have the right to travel on Israeli-controlled roads. Thus, Ahmad is forced to leave his car in Samû‘ and take a minibus in order to reach the checkpoint. Movement on Israeli-controlled roads implies a certain level of uncertainty. In 2008-2009, the constantly changing location of barriers and obstacles around the Samû‘ and Yatta enclave (heaps of earth, concrete blocks, road barriers, etc.) erected by the army, forced the drivers of Palestinian minibuses to frequently modify their itineraries within the same week or month.  The sudden erection of a flying checkpoint and the unpredictable conduct of the military or police patrols on the road never guaranteed the length of a journey or its outcome. The checkpoints are, therefore, viewed by the Palestinians as another phase of control in a journey that covers several spaces, and in the course of which they may be exposed to different obstacles or regulating authorities.

63Thus, while the Palestinians associate the notion of separation with an increase in the restrictions of movement and closures, they do not perceive it as a splitting off from Israel. On the contrary, in their eyes, the policy of separation has consistently reinforced the presence and diffuse violence of the Israeli occupation. The mobility conditions of Israeli Jews, their practices and perceptions of space tend to efface or render insignificant the presence of the Palestinians on the by-pass roads and at the level of the checkpoints. In contrast, the restrictions of movement imposed on the Palestinians, their practices and their perceptions of space, render them hypersensitive to the presence of the Israelis on these spaces, and beyond these spaces. The confrontation with the occupier affects not only their movement, but also their free time once at home, since their social and rest time is itself structured by these restrictions of movement. Finally, the daily crossings over, on the one hand, boundaries separating zones A, B and C and, on the other hand, boundaries separating checkpoints from Israel, operate as social rituals which favor the interiorization or incorporation of these boundaries.  This process of interiorization is so strong that it dissuades many Palestinians from taking certain by-pass roads or entering certain spaces where prohibition of access has been lifted by the Israelis. In short, while the routinization of the paths of Israeli Jews tends, since the end of the second Intifada, to extend Israeli spaces and efface former boundaries, for the Palestinians, this routinization has produced further alienation.

Foliation of space/time

64The example of the Bedouins of the Negev enables us to highlight a third form of construction of space/time. The Bedouins undergo a different experience of mobility and crossing at the Wadi al-Khalil/Meitar checkpoint, which distances them both from Israelis and Palestinians. Systematically checked by the guards, they perceive the checkpoint as a potential obstacle. The majority know that the guards of the White Snow security company cannot legally prevent them from going through, since, in crossing the checkpoint, they remain in a territory controlled by Israel (zone C) and one authorized to Israeli citizens. However, the questions posed by the guards, the treatment and distinct time regime they are subjected to, in contrast to Israeli Jews, constantly reminds them of the suspicion with which they are regarded in Israel and thus of their marginality within Israeli society. The controls and the time regime underline ipso facto the fact that they are crossing a space in order to enter another, two spaces between which people and merchandise cannot pass freely. Similarly, the difference between the treatment they undergo and that of their West Bank Palestinian relatives or neighbors validates and emphasizes the distinction in status between these two populations.  

65Thus, the checkpoint and the boundaries it produces do not simply create a different use of space/time but also place the populations in a hierarchy according to their ability of movement. The fact of possessing this or that status has direct practical implications on the structuring of daily life and on the relationships between the populations. This point underlines the temporal dimension of the borders created by the policy of separation between the communities and the manner in which the latter integrate them within differentiation processes.

  • 6  I owe this metaphor to Delphine Mercier (CEMCA, CNRS)

66These three examples demonstrate, once again, that the concept of the asymmetry of space/time is deceptive in the sense that the differences in the perception of space/time observed between these populations cannot be viewed in a binary manner. It is more pertinent to speak of a “foliation”6 of space/time in the sense of a superposition of anthropological spaces on a same geographic space, a foliation which reinforces the fissures between the groups as much at the level of their status as of their perception.

67The inclusion of other examples such as that of the Palestinians of Jerusalem or the Palestinians of other regions would highlight other levels of this foliation of anthropological spaces and show the extent to which this process contributes to dividing and ranking groups within Palestinian society according to their freedom of movement. For the gradation of space, which emerged in the 2000s in the West Bank, did not only fragmentize the space of the Palestinians, it also increased the number of statuses and the conditions of mobility. The Palestinians of villages hemmed in between the Wall and the Green Line do not have the same status, or the same conditions of mobility, as their neighbors situated to the East of the Wall. In consequence, their perceptions of space are very different. Furthermore, the mechanism of separation is not applied in a uniform manner between regions of the same status, notably because of the gradual evolution in the construction of the Wall and other separation measures. The region of the North West Bank was enclosed more rapidly by the Wall than the South, and movement towards Israel was less lined with obstacles. Moreover, in view of the level of confrontation between the Israeli army and the Palestinians, certain regions were subjected to tighter restrictions of movement than others in the course of the last ten years. Finally, it is possible to differentiate between the experiences of the Palestinians, according to whether they possess a permit or not, or whether they have access to networks which facilitate movement, such as contraband networks.

68The numerous levels of foliation demonstrate that the implementation of the policy of separation has created divisions which, in turn, are delineating new lines of separation within the Israeli and Palestinian populations. Within the Israeli population, by imposing different regimes of time based on ethnic affiliation, it is reinforcing splits between Jews and Arabs. One should also take into consideration the different levels of movement between Israeli Jews. Within the Palestinian population, these splits are brought into effect both through the differences in status among the Palestinians, according to the spaces in which they live, and the differences connected to the evolution of the policy of closures.


69The policy of separation implemented by Israel since the 1990s and strengthened in the course of the 2000s dissociates movement more than spaces. It subjects the various populations of the Israeli-Palestinian space to distinct time regimes. Instead of strengthening the separation lines between the two groups, Israeli and Palestinian, it tends to reinforce or introduce new divisions within these populations. Certain distinctions reproduce differences in status or ethnic classifications which prevailed previously. This is the case of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship or of the Palestinians of Jerusalem. Others, in contrast, such as those related to a person’s bio-social profile or the status of the enclave in which a Palestinian resides, have been introduced by the policy of separation. Through the time regime which it imposes on the different populations, the separation mechanism is therefore redrawing the contours of the statutory and community borders of the groups within the Israeli-Palestinian space.   

70This form of hierarchy, however, only takes on meaning through the subjectivities it creates and with which it is informed. By impacting on the use of space, the different regimes of time contribute to shaping radically different perceptions according to the populations. In a process of “foliation”, these perceptions superimpose on each other, as “anthropological spaces/time”. The practices of the actors play a central role in this process. Through their daily practices, the populations of the Israeli-Palestinian space develop and construct distinct anthropological spaces/time which condition their perceptions of the boundaries, the Other and the conflict.

71This foliation has direct political implications, not only because it redefines the contours of the groups, but particularly because it greatly conditions the expectations of the populations with regard to the separation mechanism and the evolution of the conflict. The daily journeys of the Israeli Jewish travelers along by-pass roads and through checkpoints have progressively effaced the boundaries created by the second Intifada between Israel and the West Bank.  By rendering these spaces secure, the routinization of these journeys has reincorporated them within sovereign Israeli space and pushed back the border with the occupied Territories (shtakhim). This process helps to reinforce the illusion that a clear separation has been created by the construction of a separation wall and that the conflict has been pushed over to “the other side” of the Wall. Widely shared by the Israeli Jewish population, this feeling has transformed the status quo into a viable situation and helps postpone the need to find a solution. Conversely, the daily movements of the Palestinians along the by-pass roads have led them to interiorize the boundaries set by the policy of separation and thus to reduce their spaces. In their eyes, the separation does not really correspond to a split with Israel but more to a reinforcement of the presence and violence of the occupation, and therefore to a deterioration of the conflict.

  • 7  Of course, one should take into consideration the statutory inequalities between internationals. D (...)

72The influence of space/time practices is all the more significant in that it also affects international observers. Members of diplomatic bodies or NGOs, researchers and journalists develop their own perceptions of the separation and of the spaces. Falling under different time regimes, their perceptions differ from both those of Israelis and of Palestinians. International representatives who keep to the Israeli space and by-pass roads of the West Bank, and do not enter Palestinian enclaves, tend to develop perceptions of a continuous Israeli space, separated from a Palestinian space which is also continuous. Those who work on the Palestinian side take more into consideration the fragmentation of Palestinian enclaves and the obstacle it constitute for the Palestinian nation building project. However, the regimes of time to which they are subjected differ from those of the Palestinians. Their ability to routinize their journeys across the ensemble of enclaves enables them to preserve a global vision of the Palestinian space extending between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, a spatial perspective which has no tangible basis in the daily lives of the Palestinians7.

73It would be particularly interesting to evaluate to what degree the perceptions of space of international representatives working or visiting the region play a role in maintaining the illusion of a discreet, completed separation between Israelis and Palestinians. This question is pertinent both at the political level and at the research level. From a political point of view, it would enable researchers to explain how, in spite of the level of interconnection between these spaces, the political horizon for the emergence of two States in two continuous, separated territories, still remains a possible solution in the eyes of many external observers. At the research level, the study of this question would enable researchers to rethink the heuristic value of the present compartmentalization between studies on Israel and on Palestine, a compartmentalization which, in my view, contributes to imprisoning the production of knowledge, not in distinct political positions, but more so in specific perceptions of the separation and conflict resulting from specific space/time practices.

I wish to thank the friends and colleagues who assisted me, in the course of writing this article, with their recommendations, comments and criticisms: Arnaud Garcette (IREMAN), Delphine Mercier (LEST, CEMCA), Dganit Manor and Jackie Feldman of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva, Ariel Handel (Tel Aviv University), Thomas Rid (John Hopkins University, Washington), and Benoît Laborde and François Lafon of the Centre de recherche francais à Jérusalem.

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*  This article was written in the framework of research conducted in the working group “Approaching the Israeli Palestinian Conflict through cross border mobilities” financed by the European network, Ramses². In order to guard the anonymity of the people cited, all names appearing in this text are pseudonyms.

1  The term “security barrier” (gader bitahon) is, together with the term “separation barrier” (gader hafrada), one of the terms used by Israelis to designate this separation entity. In this article, I shall use alternatively the terms “barrier” and “wall” since this construction consists, depending on the location, of a network of concrete walls or electronic fences, and patrol routes.  

2  I use the term “Palestinians of Israel” to designate the Palestinian populations who remained within Israeli borders following the first Israeli-Arab war (1947-1948). These populations acquired Israeli citizenship at the beginning of the 1950s. I use this term because it highlights the common history between this population and that of the Occupied Territories. It also takes into account the familial, social and economic ties that persist between these populations till today (Forte 2001, Marteu 2009, Parizot 2001, 2006, 2008). The term “Israeli Arabs,” as opposed to “Palestinians” (which designates the populations of the occupied Territories) is problematic in the sense that not only is it an Israeli term (‘arviei Israel), but also because it introduces a sociological and political break between these two populations (Sa’di 2000).

3  A recent ruling by the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the army to open this highway beginning May 2010 (Levinson 2010).

4  “The built Jewish area in the West Bank is 1.7 percent of the total land, while the community areas are four times that size. An additional 35.1 percent (nearly 500,000 acres) has been put under the jurisdiction of the regional councils. Thus, the settlements directly control 41.9 percent of the West Bank.” (Handel 2009, 202-203).

5  See report by the Machsom Watch. %5Bfield_daily_time_of_day-formatted %5D/4785
posted on April 13, 2008, consulted on April 20, 2008.

6  I owe this metaphor to Delphine Mercier (CEMCA, CNRS)

7  Of course, one should take into consideration the statutory inequalities between internationals. Diplomats and authorized journalists can circulate more or less freely throughout the whole Israeli-Palestinian space, including the Gaza Strip. Conversely, given recent hardening of visas allocation procedures by the Israeli Authorities, local and international NGO employees have had to restrict their movement to the sole Palestinian enclaves (see Hass 2010).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Map 1: Palestinian and Israeli areas, and main roads in the West Bank (2009)
Crédits Map by Marjolaine Barazani (CRFJ), from OCHA (2009)
Fichier image/png, 579k
Titre Photo 1: View of Road 60, Gush Etzion
Légende Israeli cars driving next to Palestinian cars.
Crédits Photo P. Renno, 2008
Fichier image/jpeg, 96k
Titre Map 2: Isreali cartographic representation of Road 60
Légende Road 60 (south of Jerusalem/north of Hebron), passing between Palestinian enclaves, without entering them.
Crédits From Israel : Road Atlas, Tel Aviv, Mapa, 2009
Fichier image/jpeg, 208k
Titre Photo 2: Landscape on Road 60
Légende Road 60 passing through Beit Ummar.
Crédits Photo C. Parizot, 2008
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre Map 3: South of Hebron Hills, and Beer Sheva area
Crédits Map by Marjolaine Barazani (CRFJ), from OCHA (2009)
Fichier image/png, 217k
Titre Photo 3: Meitar/Wadi al-Khalil checkpoint
Légende View from the Israeli side.
Crédits Photo C. Parizot, 2007
Fichier image/jpeg, 202k
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Cédric Parizot, « Temporalities and perceptions of the separation between Israelis and Palestinians »Bulletin du Centre de recherche français à Jérusalem [En ligne], 20 | 2009, mis en ligne le 10 mars 2010, consulté le 25 septembre 2022. URL :

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Cédric Parizot

Cédric Parizot is a researcher at the CNRS. An anthropologist of politics, he is also an associate researcher with the Centre de recherche francais in Jerusalem. He is currently piloting the program “Border mobilities and conflicts in the Israeli-Palestinian space” sponsored by the ANR/Région PACA (2007-2011) and the Ramses2 work package, “Approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through cross-border mobilities” (2008-2010). His research focuses on mobilities and exchanges between, on the one hand, the Palestinian populations residing in the Southern part of the West Bank (Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron) and, on the other hand, the Jewish and Arab populations residing in Israel. Based on these mobilities, he examines the re-adjustments in the relations between these populations, the forms of territoriality engendered by the modes of separation and the mechanisms of power that evolve in these spaces.

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