Nadim Khoury is a lecturer in the Peace and Conflict Program at Bjorknes College, Oslo, Norway. Between 2012 and 2014, he was assistant professor and program head at the political science program at Al-Quds Bard Honors College in Palestine. In this commentary, he potently critiques the ways in which the ‘shrinking’ of Palestinian history works in tandem with the occupation and destruction of Palestinian geography.
Settler colonialism, like other forms of domination, divides as it conquers. The further it penetrates into a territory it has appropriated, the deeper it manages a people it has subjugated, the more it partitions, segments, and breaks apart. In Israel/Palestine, this fragmentation is most visible in the landscape of the so-called future Palestinian state where settler roads and apartheid walls strangle autonomous enclaves that are themselves receding. The hundreds of checkpoints that currently divide the West Bank turn short distances into long ones, reconfiguring the nexus between time and space for an entire population.
The legal division of Palestinians is just as pernicious as its geographic fragmentation. Recently, the Israeli Knesset passed a law that recognizes Palestinian Christians living in the Galilee as a separate minority, one that no longer counts as Arab. In one day, Christian Palestinian families scattered across the West Bank and the Galilee were divided by geographic borders and an administrative abyss. Not only did they possess different legal identities—West Bank Palestinian and Israeli—they now belonged to different peoples—Arab and non-Arab. They were pigeonholed into a new and arbitrary category, one amongst the many Israel has created for Palestinians: Arab Israeli, West Bank Palestinian, Palestinian from Gaza, East Jerusalemite, internally displaced, refugee… As physical and legal walls close in, one people imposes its rule and the other becomes claustrophobic. Along the way, many lose sight of the larger picture.
With the latest war on Gaza, it is not only Palestinian geography, but Palestinian chronology that has receded. It is a whole history of dispossession that was divided into shorter and separate narratives.
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