Securitised Peace in Palestine/Israel: Criminalizing Resistance, Entrenching Authoritarianism

By Alaa Tartir
Submitted to Session P5005 (Criminalizing Resistance: Producing Palestinian (in)Security, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
West Bank;
Arab-Israeli Conflict;
LCD Projector without Audio;
The 1993 Oslo Accords aimed to achieve two objectives: institutionalise security arrangements and launch a securitised peace process. Security collaboration between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) represents the best illustration that operationalises these objectives. Consequently, the PA adopted donor-driven security sector reform (SSR) as the lynchpin to its post-2007 state-building project. As SSR proceeded, the occupied West Bank became a securitized space and the theater for PA security campaigns whose ostensible purpose was to establish law and order. Security campaigns in Balata and Jenin refugee camps are considered the showcases of the PA to testify its abilities to govern and implement the mantra of ‘one authority, one law, one gun’. Balata and Jenin were celebrated for transforming from places that ‘export terror’ to stable camps operating under the rule of law. However, a representative voice from these camps argues that ‘the security campaigns are like giving someone paracetamol to cure cancer’; a statement that summarizes the gap between the claims of authorities and the reality experienced by the people. This paper tackles the consequences of the PA’s security campaigns in both camps from the people’s perspective through a bottom-up ethnographic methodological approach based on sixty in-depth interviews. These voices from below problematize and examine the security campaigns, illustrating how and why resistance against Israel has been criminalized. The emerging tensions of the securitised processes of Oslo framework vis-à-vis the Palestinian state-building project manifested in authoritarian transformations, and therefore the security reform project constituted another form of institutionalised insecurity, but framed in a state-building and good governance framework. This manifests itself in the excessive use of arbitrary detention and torture in the PA’s prisons, as well as the minimal space for opposition voices in the Palestinian polity. These unorganized, incomplete, and ineffective security campaigns employed informal mechanisms to induce formality to the PA security forces in governing these camps. The ethnographic evidence suggests that the interaction between the securitised peace model of Oslo Accords and the PA’s state-building project aimed to silence, marginalize, and criminalize resistance against the Israeli occupation and its colonial dominance. The paper concludes by arguing that conducting security reform to ensure stability within the context of colonial occupation and without addressing the imbalances of power can only ever have two outcomes: “better” collaboration with the occupying power and a violation of Palestinians’ security and national rights by their own security forces.