Driving while Palestinian in Israel and the West Bank: The politics of disorientation and the routes of a subaltern knowledge

by Amahl Bishara

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By Amahl BisharaFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12114/abstract


(image:
http://americanethnologist.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/01/bishara-figure-1-600px-300x200.jpg alt: Israeli authorities have posted warning signs like this one at the entrances to Palestinian Authority–administered areas of the West Bank. Photographed in October 2014, it states in three languages, “This Road leads To Area ‘A’ Under The Palestinian Authority The Entrance For Israeli Citizens Is Forbidden, Dangerous To Your Lives And Is Against The Israeli Law.” While this sign is posted at a military base, the Beit Jala District Coordination Office in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, one also sees these signs at highway turnoffs leading to Palestinian villages. Photo: Rana Bishara

Israeli authorities have posted warning signs like this one at the entrances to Palestinian Authority–administered areas of the West Bank. Photographed in October 2014, it states in three languages, “This Road leads To Area ‘A’ Under The Palestinian Authority The Entrance For Israeli Citizens Is Forbidden, Dangerous To Your Lives And Is Against The Israeli Law.” While this sign is posted at a military base, the Beit Jala District Coordination Office in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, one also sees these signs at highway turnoffs leading to Palestinian villages. Photo: Rana Bishara

) Israeli authorities have posted warning signs like this one at the entrances to Palestinian Authority–administered areas of the West Bank. Photographed in October 2014, it states in three languages, “This Road leads To Area ‘A’ Under The Palestinian Authority The Entrance For Israeli Citizens Is Forbidden, Dangerous To Your Lives And Is Against The Israeli Law.” While this sign is posted at a military base, the Beit Jala District Coordination Office in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, one also sees these signs at highway turnoffs leading to Palestinian villages. Photo: Rana BisharaIsrael’s system of closure divides Palestinian citizens of Israel from Palestinians of the West Bank. For members of both categories, road journeys spur political analysis, explicitly stated or implicitly packed into jokes or offhand comments. If, in liberal traditions, political knowledge is idealized as disembodied, abstract, and dispassionate, Palestinian knowledge gained while driving is none of these things. Yet it can provide important insights into the operations of Israeli power less easily represented in more formal outlets. Because the road system is an everyday site at which its users come into contact with the work of the state, driving is an important practice through which to examine popular conceptions of politics. Still, these two communities of Palestinians face obstacles in communicating about shared understandings of space and politics. In examining everyday political knowledge of subaltern people, we must attend to varieties of subalterneity to examine how these differences can perpetuate marginalization.