A liminal territory: Gaza, executive discretion, and sanctions turned humanitarian
In September 2007 Israel’s security cabinet approved a ‘hostile entity’ classification for the Gaza Strip and intensified its economic and diplomatic blockade of this Hamas-controlled region. Taking the ‘hostile entity’ classification as a point of entry, this paper examines the construction of Gaza as an insurgent zone, a liminal space within which Israel’s executive discretion has authorizing force. Central to this process, it argues, is a blurring of lines between the civilian and combatant—the elimination of a purely civilian space. This paper begins with an analysis of the discursive strategies employed to collapse the space between the civilian body and battlefield in Gaza. It then turns to an examination of socio-spatial practices mobilized around the ‘hostile entity’ classification, foremost Israel’s sanctions policy, and argues this counter-insurgency strategy entails regulation and management of the Palestinian body combined with the active subjugation of Palestinian life to the power of death. Centrally, this paper attends to the relationship between geopolitics and violence at the scale of the (Palestinian) body.
KeywordsCritical geopolitics International law Sovereignty Palestine-Israel
Sincere thanks go to Jennifer Hyndman, Alison Mountz and Don Mitchell for leading engaging graduate seminars at Syracuse University, each of which inspired ideas for this paper in different ways. Additional gratitude goes to Jennifer Hyndman for comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. Lastly, thanks to three anonymous reviewers for their feedback. All opinions, conclusions, errors and omissions are those solely of the author.
- Agamben, G. (1998). Homo sacer: Sovereign power and bare life (D. Heller-Roazen, Trans.). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
- Agnew, J. (2003). Geopolitics: Re-envisioning world politics (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Arendt, H. (1958). The human condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Barnett, T. (2003). The Pentagon’s new map. Esquire, 139(3), 174–175. 227–228.Google Scholar
- Bronner, S. (2002). Us and them: The state of the union and the axis of evil. Logos, 1(2), 42–52.Google Scholar
- Bull, M. (2007). Vectors of the biopolitical. New Left Review, 45, 7–25.Google Scholar
- Butler, J. (2004). Precarious life. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Cheney, R (2008, March 22). Remarks by Vice President Cheney and Prime Minister Olmert of Israel in Press Availability. Jerusalem: United States Office of the Vice President. Retrieved March 23 , 2008, from http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/03/20080322-5.html.
- Dershowitz, A. (2006). Arithmetic of pain. Wall Street Journal, July 19, A.12.Google Scholar
- Dinstein, Y. (1995). International colloquium of the right to humanitarian assistance, January 25–27. Paris: UNESCO House. Retrieved December 15, 2007, from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001124/112481Eo.pdf.
- Egypt ‘won’t force Gazans Back. (2008). BBC News, January 23. Retrieved January 26, 2008, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7205668.stm.
- Ek, R. (2006). Giorgio Agamben and the Spatialities of the camp: An introduction. Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography, 88(4), 363–386.Google Scholar
- Eldar, A. (2007). Gaza’s bleak reality. Haaretz, November 27. Retrieved December 11, 2007, from http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/spages/928363.html.
- Farish, M. (2008). Panic, civility and the homeland. Spaces of exception and unexpectability. In D. Cowen & E. Gilbert (Eds.), War, citizenship territory (pp. 97–118). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1990). The history of sexuality, Vol I: An introduction (R. Hurley, Trans.). New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
- Foucault, M. (1997). ‘Society must be defended’: Lectures at the College de France 1975–1976 (D. Macey, Trans.). New York: Picador.Google Scholar
- Gaza Conditions at ‘40-year low’ (2008). BBC, March 6. Retrieved March 12, 2008, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7280026.stm.
- Graham, S. (2003). Lessons in Urbicide. New Left Review, 19, 63–77.Google Scholar
- Gregory, D. (2004). The colonial present, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq. Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
- Gregory, D. (2007). Vanishing points: Law violence and exception in the global war prison. In D. Gregory & A. Pred (Eds.), Violent geographies (pp. 205–236). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Harel, A., & Issacharoff, A. (2007). Israel’s real intention behind sanctions on Gaza Strip. Haaretz, October 26. Retrieved October 30, 2007, from http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/917385.html.
- Huntington, S. (1993). The clash of civilizations? Foreign Affairs, 72(3), 22–49.Google Scholar
- International Crisis Group. (2008). Ruling Palestine I: Gaza under Hamas, March 19. Retrieved March 20, 2008, from http://www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=5341.
- Israelis declare Gaza ‘hostile. (2007). BBC, September 19. Retrieved September 20, 2007, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7002576.stm.
- Issacharoff, A., Barak, R., & Shamir, S. (2007). Cabinet declares Gaza ‘hostile Territory’. Haaretz, September 20. Retrieved October 14, 2007, from http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/905561.html.
- Li, D. (2008). Disengagement and the frontiers of Zionism. Middle East Report, February 16. Retrieved February 18, 2008, from http://www.merip.org/mero/mero021608.html.
- Ó Tuathail, G. (1996b). Critical geopolitics. Minnesota: University of Minnesota.Google Scholar
- Ó Tuathail, G. (2006). Introduction: Thinking critically about geopolitics. In G. O. Tuathail, S. Dalby, & P. Routledge (Eds.), Geopolitics reader (pp. 1–32). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- OXFAM. (2008) Gaza Strip: A humanitarian implosion, March 6. Retrieved March 24, 2008, from http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/downloads/oxfam_gaza_lowres.pdf.
- Puar, J. K. (2007). Terrorist assemblages: Homonationalism in queer times. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
- Ranciere, J. (1999). Disagreement: Politics and philosophy. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Reynolds, P. (2007). Gaza sanctions: The legal argument. BBC, October 30. Retrieved October 30, 2007, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/7069203.stm.
- Roy, S. (2007). Falling peace Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
- Said, E. (1978). Orientalism. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
- Said, E. (2001). The clash of ignorance. The Nation, 273(12), 11–13.Google Scholar
- Schmitt, C. (2007). Concept of the political (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Shamir, S., & Yoazm, Y. (2007). EU urges Israel to reconsider cuts in energy supply to Gaza. Haaretz, October 30. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/918171.html.
- Sharpe, J. (2000). Condensing the cold war. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
- Siddique, H. (2008). Israel suspends Gaza air strikes. Guardian, March 10. Retrieved March 12, 2008, from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/10/israelandthepalestinians.
- Tamimi, A. (2007). Hamas: Unwritten chapters. London: Hurst and Company.Google Scholar
- Uhler, O. (1958). Geneva convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in times of war. Geneva: International Committee of the Red Cross.Google Scholar
- Weizman, E. (2007). Hollow ground: Israel’s architecture of occupation. London: Verso.Google Scholar
- Zizek, S. (2002). Welcome the desert of the real! Five essays on September 11 and related dates. London: Verso.Google Scholar