Movement as/and Non-movement in Palestine

By Maryam Griffin
Submitted to Session P3919 (Palestinian Resistance: Spaces and Standpoints, 2014 Annual Meeting
West Bank;
Arab-Israeli Conflict;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Considerable scholarly attention has been paid to coordinated and explicitly political protest actions in Palestine. Less has been written about quotidian resistance, although it is equally central to Palestinian strategy, as is reflected in the axiom, “to exist is to resist.” In this paper, I argue that Palestinian public transit usage is one form of everyday anti-occupation politics, posing an implied protest against the Israeli military’s systematic restrictions of movement in the West Bank. I draw from Middle East Sociologist Asef Bayat, who complicates mainstream understandings of social movements in his studies of “everyday life as politics.” Analyzing various case studies in the Middle East, Bayat draws attention to the “non-movements” of the dispossessed – the shared though uncoordinated practices of the public that pose an implied, collective challenge to the state policies of which they run afoul. In the context of Palestine, Bayat only acknowledges the more traditional, concerted social movement politics against which he is contrasting non-movements, but I argue that Palestinian non-movements are, in fact, an increasingly effective threat to the Israeli occupation. Against a backdrop of strict limitations and hindrances to movement created by the Israeli system of checkpoints, travel permits, road restrictions, and more, public movement throughout the West Bank becomes an unequivocal protest, though not undertaken or articulated for that purpose. Palestinian transit, then, enables what Bayat calls “the quiet encroachment of the ordinary,” the essence of the non-movement, and forces the Israeli military to deal with the moving presence of the subject population it seeks to immobilize. In other words, against the Israeli goal to impose a condition of non-movement on Palestinians in the West Bank, they resist through their own “non-movement” of moving about on public transportation.