Palestinian Studies

2015 Workshop

Ala Alazzeh

Birzeit University ─ West Bank, Palestine

State, Hegemony and Re-Signification: Framing Resistance

This paper aims to problematize on the one hand the discourse on post-second Intifada confrontational politics that have been framed through the binary of violence/nonviolence; and on the other ethnographically reflect on Palestinian confrontational practices in response to the logic of settler colonialism.

Toward the end of the second intifada the label of ‘nonviolence’ became a major discursive category and dominant signifier in any discussion on resistance in Palestine. This label in Palestine is a product of interconnected interfaces of power dynamics within a global world system. The category of nonviolence was hardly used throughout the history of the Palestinian national narrative, despite the fact that Palestinians practiced numerous forms of unarmed civil resistance to protest Israeli colonial policies throughout the decades. I identify multiple components that play in the making of the category and how several entangled processes enabled the discourse of nonviolence to flourish. I argue that processes of refashioning the Palestinian Authority (PA) under the banner of a ‘state’ through intensive structural reforms with particular emphasis on the notion of ‘security’ and the marker of political modernity, the PA’s illusion of having the centralized use of legitimate violence, the dominant liberal hegemonic understanding of morality/legality, and the phenomenon of NGO-ization in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPTs) as a force of re-politicization all worked together to construct a new paradigm of re-signification and of narration of the Palestinian history of struggle. The new paradigm is part and parcel of a hegemonic framing and pedagogical process of re-politicization that adheres to a “discursive regime of truth” that “structures the possible field of action.”

In the second part of the paper I demonstrate how contemporary confrontation politics in the OPTs function in opposition to the logic of settler colonialism, where the primary focus of colonial subjugation is located in the land, on the body, and in political consciousness. I argue that confrontational politics (including demonstrations against the wall and settlements, mobilizations around the issues of prisoners, and BDS activism) mobilize around these same sites through the notion of dignity and the primacy of the land, the popular perception of the hunger strike as negating the body and the law’s ability to exercise its power thus challenging the state’s ‘sovereignty,’ and the relationship between individual acts and collective political consciousness. I contextualize these fragmented sites within the dynamic of individualization and institutionalization of political activism.