בית-بيت A CARTOGRAPHIC MANIFESTO AGAINST PARTITIONS AND BORDERS / 2014
“בית-بيت A Cartographic Manifesto Against Partitions and Borders,” on The Funambulist (July 28, 2014)
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Before starting this article, I would like to confess that I have been ready to write it for the last three weeks, and that I have been hesitating as the presentation of an imaginative prospect for the future of Palestine carries a part of obscenity when the people of Gaza have been living and continue to live in absolute terror for the last weeks, and when the people of the West Bank cannot demonstrate without fearing for their life. Let it be clear that the present text calls for no judicial forgiveness nor forgetfulness for the crimes that have been committed since 1947. What finally pushed me to write this article is my intuition that such a prospect is more frightening for the authors of these crimes, than it might be inappropriate for their victims. Furthermore, it does not present itself as a “solution” in the messianic sense of the “end of history” (see past article) that the usual rhetoric of one or two state solutions usually convey, it simply means to work in the realms of the imaginaries.
This present text, as well as the map associated to it, is inspired by five visions that have been already introduced on the Funambulist: Raja Shehadeh’s 2037: Le grand bouleversement (Galaade, 2011), Sophia Azeb’s “No-State Solution” (Archipelago, 2014), Sabine Réthoré’s map of a “Méditerranée sans frontières” (Borderless Mediterranean Sea, 2013), Nora Akawi‘s affirmed will of “extraordinary solutions for an extraordinary situation,” as well as the work of various thinkers and activists I met in the recent past, who dedicate all their efforts to fight for statutes and rights for the migrants of the world. I hope not to betray their inspiration with the following:
In the recent years, what has been called “the two-state solution” has been defended by the Palestinian Authority, as well as by many Israelis of radically different opinions. One can even say that much of the Israeli army strategy seems to act while already foreseeing that for each renouncement to the Palestinians, something else will be negotiated for Israel in exchange. For each settlement evicted for example, Palestinians will have to give-up something in a twisted game where one can manufacture and dramatize its renouncement as negotiative weight.
Two states will crystallize the borders and walls against which we have been fighting for years.
Two states will mean the partition of the Palestinian one, between the West Bank/East Jerusalem and Gaza (see past article about a hypothetical road to link them).
Two states will allow Israel to self-proclaim as “Jewish state” thus condemning Palestinians who live on Israeli territory to either leave it or remain the subcitizens they currently are.
Two states will also prevent the Palestinians displaced after the Nakbah to come back to the land from which they have been expelled.
Two states will allow the immunity of war and apartheid criminals to be preserved.
This cannot be acceptable: the borders and walls have to fall, Palestinians have to be able to go from the West Bank to Gaza and vice versa, Palestinians Israelis have to be able to stay, refugees have to be able to return, and war and apartheid criminals have to be prosecuted.
One state then? Which state? Palestine being historically recognized as a region, it could perhaps have more claim to be the name of this state. The Jewish diaspora could continue to be granted citizens of this state, and so would the Palestinian refugees, finally going back to the land from which they were expelled. There are currently as many Jews as there are Arabs in Palestine (6 millions each); one could therefore expect a relative electoral balance in the first series of elections, but soon after that, one can hope that belonging to an ethnic group would not systematically carry an electoral correspondence.
But why stop here? If such a revolutionary change is to be called, why not fully revolutionizing and form a larger territory without partitions nor borders? Why not considering the Bedouins, the Eritrean and other African migrants, who are all currently the targets of administrative and generalized racism? Why not considering the region as a whole, and integrate the Syrian revolution and the population massacred by the Assad regime within this prospect? Why not transforming the lines on the map from walls to roads, from separation to links? The map presented above attempt to present this prospect.
In our conversation for Archipelago, Sophia Azeb advocates for a form of sovereignty that no longer applies onto a territory as a whole, but rather that is being exercised between bodies situationally. I had something similar in mind when calling for an ‘archipelic’ sovereignty last year. This cartographic manifesto attempts to convey such a mode of existence. This region is described fictitiously by Raja Shehadeh in 2037, where he describes high-speed trains going from from Istanbul to Damascus, Jerusalem or Jericho in only a couple of hours. All these propositions can appear as disconnected from historical reality — although Shehadeh does introduce the historical conditions that led to his fictitious vision as the result of a nuclear accident, whose dreadful consequences were shared by all inhabitants of the region. Admittedly this prospect has less to do with a technocratic report on implementable scenarios than with the will to enlarge imaginaries, systematically stuck in narrow visions.
The imagined “solution” that envisions a similar agenda to a certain degree is the idea of confederation. One can find exemplary drafts of Constitutions of the Israeli Palestinian Confederation and the Israel-Palestine-Jordan Confederation online. Somewhere else, Chibli Mallat, in a 2010 article for the Lebanese Daily Star, and John Bell in a more recent article for Aljazeera, both describe the Palestinian-Israeli confederation:
Palestinian refugees can have the right of return to the Israeli-Palestinian confederation while residing in the Palestinian state. Jewish settlers in the West Bank would have the option of being resident in the Palestinian side of the confederation, given they are already there. Political franchise would be separate: Israelis vote in Israel and Palestinians in Palestine, but there would be free movement between the two sides of the entity. This would encourage economic links, but also free refugees to visit their ancestral homes, settlers to go to Israel fluidly, and Palestinians today blocked by the wall to go to the beach that is only 40km away. (John Bell, “Israel and Palestine: Two states and the extra step,” Aljazeera (May 2014))
In this excerpt, Bell preserves the national essences of Israeli and Palestinians within the electoral scheme. We can challenge this idea because it forgets the other ethnicities of the territories (migrants and Bedouins) and recognize instead a consideration of the place where one lives however temporarily. Because of its fragmentation of the electoral map into small-scale territories, the idea of a confederation does not know any theoretical limits and can extend broadly in the region. The map presented above imagine the prospect of such a mode of collective existence. It is named בית-بيت (pronounced “bayt”) in acknowledgement of the common word to both Arabic and Hebrew to signify “house.” As Shehadeh takes great care of doing in his novella, we should refrain from any temptation to think of our prospects as “ends of history.” The very term of “solution,” as pointed out above, is problematic for that matter, and our prospective manifestos are only as strong as their ability to foresee the new problems they will generate.
I would like to end this text as I started it, with the absolute necessity to acknowledge the massacre that continues to occur in Gaza and the bridge between this horrifying situation and the brief breathing time of an imaginative prospect is given to us by Ilan Pappé, who pledged “to the family of the one thousandth victim of Israel’s genocidal slaughter in Gaza” (Electronic Intifada, July 2014) that he will continue the efforts for a generalized boycott of Israel until the occupation will end. We should thus continue to join these efforts, but in order for Palestinians to truly overcome the conditions of oppression, we also need to simultaneously use our imaginative power to draw what could come next.