Fake News Masquerading as Academic Research: The Case of Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian


Editorial Note 

Well before the phenomenon of fake news, that is, the outright falsification of reality which is roundly condemned as detrimental to public discourse in a democracy, pro-Palestinian scholars offered highly derogatory depictions of Israel.  Over time, the view that Israel is a colonial, apartheid, or neo-Nazi state, is made from the works of Neve Gordon, Oren Yiftachel, Ariella Azoulay, and others, to human rights reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.      

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a Professor of Law and Criminology at the Hebrew University, is the latest purveyor of anti-Israel lies.  In her recent co-authored article, “Colonial Necrocapitalism, State Secrecy and the Palestinian Freedom Tunnel,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian, argues that “the very existence of the Palestinian endangers the colonial state” of Israel, “their death is necessary for the survival” of Israel. “Necrocapitalism” is “operationalized through violent policing of Palestinians.”

For Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Necrocapitalism is the “means of accumulating capital and profit from the death” of Palestinians. In Necrocapitalism, “profit flows from visible and invisible violence, as well as the killing of the colonized, as a state of fear generates continuous insecurity, which in turn generates a demand for security goods.” 

Because “Israel is one of the top arms exporters in the world… The territories that Israel occupies are used not only to settle Jewish foreigners but also to turn land into showrooms for weaponry, technology and methods of domination and control. Israel commodifies its security practices within global capitalism and promotes them as goods to be sold to other regimes to be used on other oppressed populations.” 

Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s work made waves in the BDS campaign. For example, in his article “It is our belief that Palestine is a feminist issue….” David Lloyd, Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, published in the academic journal Feminists at Law, in 2014, he argued while promoting BDS that “Palestinian women are without any doubt more oppressed by Israel and Zionism” than by Islamic fundamentalism. He cited Shalhoub-Kevorkian in length.

His allegations are false. Palestinian women are murdered by their fathers and brothers, with their mothers’ consent, performed under the so-called “Honor Killing.” Lloyd based his theory almost exclusively on Shalhoub-Kevorkian while ignoring her earlier research on honor killings that she termed Femicide. 

In another new book bashing Israel, which has been reviewed, Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s chapter states, “how the Zionist paranoia about being invaded or overwhelmed by the Other weaponizes marriage and stigmatizes internally displaced migrants as metaphorical rapists of the nation.” Shalhoub-Kevorkian “associates the ‘politics of fear’ intrinsic to settler-colonial power in the Israeli case with what she names security theology. This is a set of beliefs that welds the biblical injunction of God’s covenant with the Jews to the indisputable stamp of ‘national security’ on any police, military, or confiscatory action the state wishes to take. It brands every single Palestinian or ‘other’ a potential terrorist—even those who are not yet born or are already dead (witness the IOF’s practice of withholding the bodies of Palestinians murdered by Israeli soldiers from their families), while anointing the settlers as God’s ‘chosen.’ Yet, ironically, the Zionist state is tethered to its Palestinian victims.”

According to the reviewer, Shalhoub-Kevorkian “describes a contradictory need to erase or displace the indigenous population but simultaneously to keep them present as a constant threat. Without the Palestinian Other, the entire security apparatus of walls, checkpoints, militarized environments, land appropriations” Like the “master and slave, the master can never fully eliminate the slave; like the master without the slave, Israel without Palestinians would cease to exist.”

Dressed in the fancy critical, neo-Marxist jargon, Shalhoub-Kevorkian legitimizes the long-circulating fallacies claiming Israel has used Palestinian prisoners to research dangerous drugs. Shalhoub Kevorkian referred to an imaginary Knesset committee discussion in 1997 when chairwoman Dalia Itzik “acknowledged” experiments of drugs on Palestinian prisoners.

In 2008, Palestine Media Watch, an NGO that records and translates Palestinian media, reported that the Palestinian Authority intensified its “blood libel campaign against Israel, falsely accusing Israel of conducting horrific Nazi-like medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners. These fabrications have been featured repeatedly in the Palestinian Authority’s official newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, which is under the direct authority of Mahmoud Abbas.”

In response to the allegations, the office of the former Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik responded that “Knesset Speaker Itzik never made the statements attributed to her. Knesset Speaker Itzik is certain that incidents of this kind do not occur in Israel; this is not how Israel conducts itself.” The Ministry of Health responded: “Clinical testing on prisoners in prison was never approved, never performed, and is most certainly not taking place at present. Furthermore, there is no person named Amy Laftat working for the Pharmaceutical Division.”

Vehement official denials did not stop Shalhoub-Kevorkian. At a Columbia University lecture titled “Disturbing Spaces – Violent Technologies in Palestinian Jerusalem,” Shalhoub-Kevorkian said “Palestinian spaces are laboratories… Israel has been experimenting on Palestinian children with new weapons systems in order to boost the sale of international weapons.” Israel’s “invention of products and services of state-sponsored security corporations are fueled by long-term curfews and Palestinian oppression by the Israeli army.” 

Shalhoub-Kevorkian forgets that the Palestinians with their allies have been warmongering since 1948 and that Iran controls the Palestinians by proxy through Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian also presented a paper in Amsterdam on the same topic in early 2019. The invitation described her lecture as providing “the voices and writings of Jerusalemite children who live under Occupation” by Israel, practicing “surveying, imprisoning, torturing, and killing can be used as a laboratory for states, arms companies, and security agencies to market their technologies as ‘combat proven.’” Shalhoub-Kevorkian presented her Hebrew University research project, titled, “Arrested Childhood in Spaces of Indifference: The Criminalized Children of Occupied East Jerusalem,” that was published by the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law, in 2018, co-authored by Shahrazad Odeh, also on the Faculty of Law and Institute of Criminology at the Hebrew University. The authors “demonstrate” how “Israel’s policy of targeting Palestinian children and childhood through the criminal justice system is fundamental to the state’s mechanism of colonial dispossession.” They discuss the critical role that the Israeli legal system plays in the state’s “racist project.” 

In response, the Hebrew University stated, “The views expressed by Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian don’t represent or express in any way the views of the Hebrew University or the university administration, but are her personal opinion that reflect only her views.”

The Hebrew University’s statement is typical of numerous other cases when university authorities refuse to confront purveyors of outrageous, meritless “research.” Shalhoub-Kavorkian’s research is not evidence-based and violates academic standards.  Her work is used to push BDS circles and damage the international legitimacy of Israel.  As IAM documented, universities hide behind an extraordinarily broad definition of academic freedoms.   The Hebrew University is a public institution supported by the taxpayers; therefore, it must address this issue.


Rewarding encounters with ‘Jewish Voice for Peace’ 


MARCH 12, 2022


A collection of personal stories, history, poetry and art
Edited by Esther Farmer, Rosalind Petchesky and Sarah Sills
200 pp. Monthly Review Press. Kindle edition $13, paperback $19, cloth $89.

My path to working with Jewish Voice for Peace began about 15 years ago. Starting in 2007, like several other Palestinians, every time the spirit moved me, I spoke through the Mondoweiss forum because of its open and consistent support of Palestinian human rights, a stand that automatically translated to anti-Zionism. Later on, I shared a couple of forums with my courageous colleague, Dr. Alice Rothchild. Through that experience I was introduced to Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) with its anti-Zionist revolutionary stand in the USA Jewish community.

Here is how the editors of the current book assess the role of their activist forum currently:

“JVP’s approach is no longer a fringe position among progressives, and especially progressive Jews, in the United States and abroad. Polls show a widening gap between older and younger generations of Jewish Americans around Zionism. Support for Israel and the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has markedly declined among the young, who refuse to accept the false equation between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. More and more, young Jews are living and expressing their Jewishness in ways that decouple tradition and spiritual values from political loyalty to the State of Israel.’’COVER OF “A LAND WITH A PEOPLE”

When I realized that the enlightened forum of JVP was open to non-Jews, I joined its Health Advisory Committee. Shortly thereafter, I decided to dedicate my time in retirement to finalizing a project I had started of writing a trilogy of novels that cover my lifespan of events in my region of Palestine/Israel, the Galilee. That led me to freeze my contributions to both of the above forums, Mondoweiss and JVP, spotty as both contributions had been. Now that I have reached the stage in my writing of the trilogy of shopping for a suitable literary agent, I am re-surfacing with this book review of a relevant literary and political contribution edited by three JVP members who have already introduced their book on Mondoweiss while another review had appeared there as well.The impetus of this book comes forcefully across in the two informative opening pieces that shine a light on the need and the historical background for it: here is a sampling of the Palestinian-American lawyer and activist Noura Erakat’s formal Introduction putting the collection of essays in the wider context of the struggle against settler colonialism:

“This book is fundamentally different, tackling power head-on and charting the struggle against Zionism within the Jewish communities that Zionism purportedly serves. Its anti-Zionist Jewish stories are critical to decolonization, as well as for lighting pathways darkened by the punishing hand of imperial expansion.”

And again:

“Any pathway to Palestinian freedom is a decolonial process. It necessitates the confrontation and ultimate shedding of political Zionism as a legitimate ideology as well as our disavowal of historical colonialism and imperialism as legitimate systems of government.”

In her introduction with the title ‘Why tell these stories”, Esther Farmer quotes first from the prominent Palestinian intellectual Edward Said’s The Question of Palestine (New York: Vintage, 1992);

“[T]oday the one issue that electrifies Israel as a society is the problem of the Palestinians, whose negation is the most consistent thread running through Zionism.” 

Then she follows by the assertion that, as the “renowned Jewish philosopher Martin Buber and others foresaw, Zionism was a project that would necessitate endless violence, injustice, and war.’’ And she exemplifies this assertion with the following statement of fact:

British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour’s letter to Lord Rothschild, a Zionist and Britain’s most famous Jewish citizen, in 1917 promising British support for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” was motivated as much by Balfour’s eagerness to rid Britain of its Jews as it was by the British Empire’s colonial interests in having a stronghold in the Middle East. Above all, European and Zionist endorsement of Jewish settler colonialism was laced from the start with the white supremacist elimination or denigration of Palestinian Arabs in favor of honorable, civilized Jewish men.

Farmer then exemplifies the above process of ongoing Nakba with the calamitous Plan-D of 1948 and the resulting seizure of “more than three-quarters of the land of all indigenous Palestinians, a “continuous project [of] expropriation.” In addition, Farmer asserts, we are faced with the inventive current process of dehumanization of the Palestinians including what professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian of the Hebrew University is quoted in describing as

how the Zionist paranoia about being invaded or overwhelmed by the Other weaponizes marriage and stigmatizes internally displaced migrants as metaphorical rapists of the nation. … [and] associates the “politics of fear” intrinsic to settler-colonial power in the Israeli case with what she names security theology. This is a set of beliefs that welds the biblical injunction of God’s covenant with the Jews to the indisputable stamp of “national security” on any police, military, or confiscatory action the state wishes to take. It brands every single Palestinian or “other” a potential terrorist—even those who are not yet born or are already dead (witness the IOF’s practice of withholding the bodies of Palestinians murdered by Israeli soldiers from their families), while anointing the settlers as God’s “chosen.” Yet, ironically, the Zionist state is tethered to its Palestinian victims.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian describes a contradictory need to erase or displace the indigenous population but simultaneously to keep them present as a constant threat. Without the Palestinian Other, the entire security apparatus of walls, checkpoints, militarized environments, land appropriations—to say nothing of billions of dollars a year in U.S. military aid and a global Israeli security and surveillance industry—would lose its rationale. Like Hegel’s dialectic of the master and slave, the master can never fully eliminate the slave; like the master without the slave, Israel without Palestinians would cease to exist.”

Added to all of this, there is also the calamitous imprisonment of Gaza where Zionism’s heinous crimes against humanity are so routine that the place has become unfit for human life as per accepted United Nations’ view. Farmer also covers the special relationship that had developed between the Palestinian activists and the African American activists especially that of Black Lives Matter, a relationship I find worthy of revisiting and of further study and illumination. Suffice it to point out that African American activists had innocently mistaken the poetry of Palestinian Samih el-Qasim as that of their murdered leader George Jackson as related here by Farmer.

Here the editors proceed to offer an equal number of contributions from their Arab and Jewish writer activists, contributions that constitute the central body of the book.  Most of the Jewish participants in this radical project report from the depth of their experience of revolting against their Zionist childhood acculturation. Their contributions are reminiscent of another compendium of accounts of Jewish anti-Zionist converts to the pro-Palestinian and pro-Justice stand that a Jewish psychologist friend of mine, Avigail Abarbanel, edited, crediting them all with emotional resilience. The Palestinian contributions to A Land with a People are mostly of a literary nature whether poetry, short stories or biographical pieces. My judgement is that every individual contribution is worthy of attention and ought be read.

Yet, for the serious researcher and student of Zionism and of the ferment of revolt among its Jewish youth, there are powerful and concise tools appended to the above covered central text, including: JVP’s Approach to Zionism, A Timeline of Zionism, an Abbreviated History of Resistance to Zionism and a Glossary of specific relevant terms.

So, to all friends and, especially, to all opponents: Please read and be educated.


The University of California Humanities Research Institute is a humanities research institute at the University of California headquartered at the UC Irvine campus.

“Said’s Palestine” engaged in an analysis and discussion of contemporary conditions in Palestine through the terms of analysis Edward Said’s corpus of work offers us. The discussion ranged over what Said’s terms enable in analysis and comprehension of the immediate and longer term causes, their limits in accounting for these conditions, and how to think about possible futures. On Tuesday, June 1st at 12:00 pm PDT, UCHRI hosted Said’s Palestine, joined by: Nadia Abu El-Haj (Barnard College and Columbia University), Esmat Elhalaby (UC Davis), Saree Makdisi (UC Los Angeles), Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian (Hebrew University), and Judith Butler (UC Berkeley).

Nadera Shalhoub Kevorkian’s Talk in Said’s Palestine

Let me start my way. Learning about the killing of Raja Abu Al-Awf with her four children, a mental health worker and a friend, in Gaza, hit me really bad. The criminalities against Gaza paralyzed me and my usual remedy is to walk the streets of the old city here in Jerusalem, speak with friends, shop owners and produce sellers, to insist on our liveability, togetherness and maybe open path of hope amidst such loss and wounding, but my walk in Bethlehem I was faced with a group of Israeli mobs singing and dancing on our graveyards in bethlehemic graveyard, so how can I engage with Said intellectual and political engagement with the present condition in Palestine? The political moment and Said’s passionate attachment to the question of Palestine, his analysis of the nature of power, the Palestines and anti-colonial struggle insist on an urgency to rethink the current global politics, the time, the space the fundamental vocabularies of what constitutes a state, the violence, resistance, activism and decolonization, as well as what it means to refuse the terms, the politics, the structures the laws, given to us. I engage with Said to talk about our refusal to accept how and what is knowable and being known about us, our refusal to be narrated but rather to narrate ourselves. I do this to invite you to help us form an epistemic and political disobedience to what is known about our struggle in Palestine. So I’ll draw three points of Said’s work: one, is Zionism and the state, so in his book the Question of Palestine, I quote, he says “it was the word that made the success of Zionism possible and it was Zionism sense of the world as supporter and audience that played a considerable practical role in the struggle for Palestine,” he continues, “to criticize Zionism now then is to criticize not so much an idea or a theory but rather a wall of denials” end of quote. That wall of denial facilitated indifference, where people did not listen and a global complacency to crude as another atrocity. This wall of denial however is currently crumbling I hope. I’m speaking to you from the old city of Jerusalem where daily military occupation, apartheid, dispossession and killability faces off with Palestinians livability, togetherness, joy, love and growing solidarity here and around the world. I want to engage with this new moment that has arisen, as refusal of the wall of denials enacted through the viciousness of killing and caging Palestinians in Gaza, through the militarization and Judaization of Jerusalem in the old city, Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan, Wadi Asul, where ethnic cleansing is going ongoing to Judaize, so Zionism through the state and its multiple mobs had continued to create new strategies for land and land grabbing to penetrate our homes and penetrate our homeland, it invades our everydayness, on the way to school for kids, during birth for women, during funerals, through home evictions and demolitions, to ethnically cleansing, they Judaized spaces, occupy our senses, as I say in my work, arrest our beloved ones and terrorize our communities, so we are at the moment of intense possibilities and intense danger. The global community is breaking the wall of denials as it reacts to Israel’s Palestinian cleansing and elimination, shattering the myth of Israel being the only democracy in the middle east, in Said’s work neither in Orientalism nor is his numerous accredited writing, conception of power diverse from its focus on the state and its hegemony. Instead, he insisted that the central reality of power and authority in western history, at least in the period of the end of feudalism, rests within the state, after all it was the state that allowed certain entities to have sacred rights in there and used the language of the right for self-defense while engaging 73 years of uprooting, Judaization and destruction. Said insisted that we look at the state and its authority, legitimacy, that we engage with the question of responsibility and that the ethics and politics of silence and silencing are part of our analytical tool. Number two, Said’s book Out of Place, I’m speaking again from the old city of Jerusalem and yet in the ultimate, yet I’m out of place while being in our place in our homeland we are exilic subjects exilic at home, it’s almost like a waiting game with the Zionists waiting for us to die or leave Palestine, being in exile at home, not really out of place, reveals also the unending refusal of Palestinians to accept our uprooting as the only mode of maintaining the settler state. When Palestinians refuse and resist, Israel always kills Palestinian civilians, as you’ve just seen, the state’s viciousness now includes startling amount of arrests in the last month in historic Palestine, but it includes threats to revoke residency here in the in occupied east Jerusalem, revoke medical insurance, social security, the viciousness also leads to loss of jobs, loss of income and attacks on Palestinian livability because Palestinians resist, watching the attacks on children alone as my work on unchillding clearly reveals, we see that our children became a political capital in the hands of the state, to further unchild them, arrest them and and kill the and govern their hopes, so Zionist policy to stage Palestinians as present absentees continues, in multiple forms, present as terrorist, dangerous others, absent as humans with rights, so the world needs to recognize that the nakba and the previous and current destructions of Gaza, ethnic and racial erasure in Jerusalem, in the Naqab, Araqib, Yafa and Lyd coupled with state’s legalized dispossession, for example, the nation state law that enshrined the supremacy of Jewish Israelis, are all part of the grand settler colonial Zionist plan to erase Palestinians from their homeland and refusal and resistance challenges this necropolitics. Number three, Said argument in the permission to narrate, and I won’t repeat what Nadia have said, that one can narrate amidst Zionist common sense and how can we narrate amidst Zionist common sense in the midst of killing, uprooting and dispossession how can we narrate against the racial making of the terrorist other born criminal and outsider, how can we narrate amidst the whiteness of global Zionism and its increased securitization of the state, the rushing through, the anti-terror legislation, the development of disciplining mechanism, and and not only of those living, as I say, but also of those maimed and dead. The current moment of smooth, a moment that used the vehicle of social media where Palestinians and non-Palestinians broke the wall of denials by taking to facebook, instagram, twitter and tiktok, showed the global community state brutality. Not surprisingly the Israeli government tried to shut them down. Let me conclude, so what is the problem here, when Edward Said and I look at our situation. The problem that we exist, is the problem that our past and present, our memory and uprooting gloss moods that fascinate our use to narrate, visualize right, and be heard reproduce our existence or no existence, is our existence a provocation to the settler state? and its allies and those who are building more walls of denial? I am worried, as our existence as terrorists others might require a solution from the state and its mobs, the mobs that are chanting ‘Gaza is a graveyard,’ ‘death to the Arabs,’ and ‘we shall burn your villages.’ I’m worried about exterminatory solution, so from here from the old city of Jerusalem, I see the mobs from the window around me and they are here dancing on our graveyards and I think this is a time to really think and wonder why our existence is a major problem for this timeless entity. Thank you


See discussions, stats, and author profiles for this publication at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/357225809
Colonial necrocapitalism, state secrecy and the Palestinian freedom tunnel
Article in African Safety Promotion A Journal of Injury and Violence Prevention · December 2021
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Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Stéphanie Wahab
Portland State University
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Social and Health Sciences
Volume 19 | Number 2 | 2021 | #10488 | 18 pages © Unisa Press 2021
Colonial necrocapitalism, state secrecy and the Palestinian freedom tunnel Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian The Faculty of Law, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Global Chair in Law, Queen Mary University of London nadera.kevorkian@mail.huji.ac.il Stéphanie Wahab
Portland State University, School of Social Work wahabs@pdx.edu
Secrecy and the use of “secret information” as capital in the hands of the state is mobilised by affective racialised machineries, cultivated on “security” grounds. Securitised secrecy is an assemblage of concealed operations juxtaposing various forms of invasions and dispossessions. It is a central strategy in the politico-economic life of the state to increase its scope of domination. Secrecy is used and abused to entrap and penetrate political subjects and entities. This article explores the necrocapitalist utilisation of secrecy embedded in the coloniser’s attempt to distort the mind of the colonised. Built from the voices of those affected by secrecy’s violent psychopolitical entrapment and penetrability, we expose the ways in which secrecy manufactures colonisers’ impunity and immunity. Further, we discuss the ruins that secrecy mislays, arguing as Fanon explained, that psychic ruins are common usage of colonial violence. In fact, Fanon (1963) argued that damaged personhood was central to the colonial order and its making. We conclude by insisting that ruins can also be sites of reflection and counteractions of life against the necrocapitalist violent machinery and ideology of the settler colonial state. Building on previous critical and decolonial theories, this essay argues that the coloniser’s yearning for destruction, coupled with the use of militarised “secret information”, constitutes colonial invisible criminalities to maim (Puar, 2015) and erase (Wolf, 2006). Militarised secrecy’s necrocapitalist assemblage takes us to one of the core dimensions of settler colonial ideology “accumulation by dispossession” (Harvey, 2003), that is, the elimination of the colonised, demolition of life and the psychic in which the colonialist “trades” and “sells” the machineries of elimination as combat proven. Examining secrecy and its eliminatory machineries exposes the colonialist’s brutality and the colonised’s unending capacity for resistance and the power of life. This essay hopes to expose the politics underpinning the way securitized secrecy is imagined, implemented and resisted.
Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Wahab
Keywords: Secrecy, epistemic violence, refusal, settler colonial accumulation, affective colonization
Even after they killed him, I mean after our son became a martyr…they kept invading our house in the middle of the night….claiming they possess secret information about him (the martyr son)…..they arrested his brother and continued to claim they have secret information and his arrest is a matter of securitized crimes…..what they define as terrorism….I lost my temper….they killed him….want to kill us all, as long as they live…and their state continues to kill with their secrecy….(Ahmad, 54 years old, Jerusalem).
Ahmad’s account reveals the obsession with secrecy, security and immunity in the settler colony. He testifies to the ways in which “secret information” is used to intensify the necropolitical (Mbembe, 2003) psychological warfare of the settler state and its systematic engagement in developing new modes of policing colonised others that move beyond Marx’s primitive accumulation into what David Harvey (2003) termed “accumulation by dispossession”.1 Ahmad’s narration reveals secrecy’s power to accumulate dispossession and designate a more rigorous understanding of an ongoing process of dispossession. At the heart of this dispossession lies the anticipation to dominate via ongoing uprooting and dismemberment. From the home walls to walling land and life, and from the psychological to the social body, securitised secrecy reveals the relationality between necropenology and the “accumulation by dispossession” of the necrocapitalist regime of control. Necropenology “is a form of forced confinement of the living and dead colonised entities, in a frozen and freezing temporality and spatiality (confined to their dying presence). It is a form of carcerality masked by a structurally instituted racialised regime, authorised by a colonial legal system, and manifested through marking and conquering the flesh, body, and land. It is a fluid carcerality and an ever-changing penalty that produces an eliminatory social order” (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2020b, p. 286). The necrocapitalist nature of necropenology in the settler colony (Lloyd & Wolfe, 2016) requires engagement with “accumulation by dispossession” and its psychosocial ramifications.
Ahmad concludes:
How else can they live….they can live only if they are killing us all….So, the new fashion claiming to possess secret information….secrets about the dead???? He is dead, no? They killed him???….But their psychological and political game of secrecy continues…..After all, it is their “security” (saying it sarcastically).
1 David Harvey, The New Imperialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 137–82. See also Glen Sean Coulthard’s recent Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minneapolis Press, 2014).
Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Wahab
Thus, to critically analyse secrecy, we invoke necrocapitalism to illustrate a state’s practices of accumulation, practices that “involve dispossession, death, torture, suicide, slavery, destruction of livelihoods, and the general management of violence” (Banerjee, 2008, p. 1548). To illustrate the necrocapitalist nature of the colonialist’s militarised secret penetrabilities, we draw on empirical data collected from 32 Palestinians in Occupied East Jerusalem (OEJ) during 2019-2021, as well as from everyday lived experiences, observations and personal conversations with Palestinians living under occupation. Our Palestinian, indigenous, feminist epistemology guides our meaning-making process such that we position ourselves as co-constructors of knowledge with the individuals who shared personal narratives with us. Given the extremely sensitive nature of the participants’ narratives, coupled with the potential risk that their disclosures pose to them by the state’s security forces and governance, we’ve changed some details about their stories and locations, as well as (re)presented their voices with pseudonyms; moreover, all possible identifying details of the respondents have been deleted. A feminist ethic of care informed every step of the research, including our reflexive and collective meaning-making process. All who contributed to this research and manuscript identify as Palestinian, and all but one contributor live in Palestine. One contributor/author lives as part of the diaspora in the United States of America (USA). This paper discusses only a few of the themes we identified during the analysis.
What follows is a discussion on militarised secrecy, exposing its necrocapitalist and destructive yearnings, which are designed to dispossess and disorganise the colonised. We draw on a range of theoretical bodies of work, including but not limited to decolonial and anticolonial theories, critical race theory, post-structural feminism and psychoanalytic theory, to make meaning of the everyday, lived experiences of Palestinians living under settler colonialism’s violent secrecy regime. The narratives offered in this essay are analysed with a focus on what we term “a trial to subjugate the colonised to affectual colonisation”. We conclude with a discussion of the counterpolitics that decolonise secrecy.
We define “secrecy” as an assemblage of concealed operations, juxtaposing various forms of invasions and dispossessions. Secrecy, within the politico-economic life, constitutes a central strategy for increasing the scope of domination. Secrecy, used and abused by the state securitised apparatus, is skilled concealment of showing, owning or penetrating political subjects and entities. Secrecy, as Ahmad’s narrative indicates, is a site of psychopolitical intimacies where forms of public/sovereign infiltration penetrate and intrude on social life, the body and the psyche. These intrusions facilitate the private/self-disciplining of bodies and affects that can result in physical and psychological death. Furthermore, secrecy is a mode of regulating access to knowledge, as well as a mode of constructing and maintaining individual, collective and national identities. Operating both affectively and politically (Davis & Manderson, 2014; Manderson et al., 2015; Taussig, 1999), secrecy carries the power to regulate social interactions and frame institutional practices with the mere promise of some unspecified knowledge, a mystery that sustains the theatre of the concealed.
Shalhoub-Kevorkian and Wahab
Secrecy and “secret information” obtained violently by the state support, maintain and in some instances increase colonising power, enhancing a political monopoly within global capitalism. As Michael Taussig (1999) argues, the state’s use of secrecy and its revelation increases the power of secrecy. In the Palestinian context, secrecy’s domination facilitates Zionist logic and its policies of elimination (Abu-Laban et al., 2011; Sa’di, 2008; Tawil-Souri, 2016; Zureik, 2001). Secrecy also generates new articulations, a counterpolitics to take on a life against death, a life that is reproduced through a momentum within rhizomic networks in communities.
Impunity as immunity: Settler’s violence
To understand the significance of secrecy as a technology of settler colonial violence, an enactment of epistemic violence (Spivak, 1988), we must understand that settler colonialism is intent and dependent on the erasure of the indigenous people (Tuck & Yang, 2012; Veracini, 2010). This erasure, in the context of Palestine, manifests through destruction, or at least attempts to destroy Palestinian land, culture, crops, resources, body, spirit and psyche.
Secrecy enacts the yearning for destruction of the colonised and it is cultivated and mobilised through the enhancement of exclusionary politics embedded within sacralised and securitised grounds. The month of September 2021 revealed various mobilisations of such yearning.
It was here in the old city of Jerusalem, from the window of my (NSK) house, during the Jewish holiday on 9 September 2021, that I saw a group of young Jewish settlers march past at midnight, chanting “the people of Israel are alive, the people of Israel should not be afraid”, “death to the Arabs” and “may we erase the name Palestine”. This happened as police escorted them along the edges of the streets for “safety” purposes. During this procession, “security” personnel invaded Palestinian homes in the neighborhood of Silwan in Occupied East Jerusalem (OEJ), attempting to “catch” children accused of security offences, namely stone throwing at settlers living in Palestinian neighborhoods. It is in the construction of both the burnt and dead other and the non-fearful sacred Jew that secrecy and security politics intersect to produce the exclusionary politics of colonial necrocapitalism. Describing how necrocapitalism is embedded in the coloniser’s yearning for destruction helps us to understand that when “they catch” the terrorist child with their surveillance, they simultaneously refrain from “catching” the sacred settler, instead mobilising the latter.
Amir shared his rage in the face of the settlers’ continued attacks on his small shop. When he complains to officials, even while using video footage of the attacks on his shop, the Israeli security respond with threats of secret information: “The Mukhabarat [intelligence apparatus] informed us you are hiding weapons.” The Mukhabarat carries secret information, always threatening with “secret information and data”. He explained, while crying:
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I can’t run my shop….a small shop here in the old city, when settlers steal from me, attack my kids, vandalize the area, spray on the wall “Mohammad is Dead”…all this is done under the surveillance cameras, and those settlers are never arrested, while my two sons, one is 14 and one is 12 were arrested over five times…..with the claim that the Mukhabarat informed me about my sons involvement with terrorism…..secret information, Mukhabarat, and terrorism is all we here….what about their crimes?
Another shop owner commented:
See, they burned alive a child…remember Mohammad Abu-Khadir? They burned an entire family in Douma……burned them while asleep….what can I say….they stole our homeland…openly, developed surveillance devices, missiles and weapons…..killed, displaced and uprooted us…..with impunity.
Maybe if it weren’t political or weren’t the Aqsa, not closing a shop, one would be curious… But because it’s related to something political, one is constantly afraid/fretful/frightened and even avoids thinking about it… I escape (bahrob) from thinking…but they return to us with their mukhabarat [intelligence]… They stole a homeland with their mukhabarat and the “secrecy” of their information…because whenever there’s something that’s political, they immediately come to clutch him and lock him/it up… whether it’s yours or not yours (laughs)… It’s never clear why, there’s a lot of people who don’t know why they’re taken.
Amir’s rage is directed equally at the settlers who attacked his shop and the Israeli security that refuse to validate or respond to his complaints, despite having video evidence. The oneness by which Amir analyses the violence inflicted by these joint forces reveals a form of racialised state violence, rooted in race thinking (Razack, 2008), where the Palestinian is excluded from protections of law and justice. This violation of the Palestinian’s rights is represented not as violence but as “the law itself” (Razack, 2008). No wonder Amir’s video evidence was dismissed! Race thinking functions to strip Palestinians bare of their legal rights, such that they can be annihilated with impunity. The threat of having secret information is constantly invoked by Israeli security to terrorise Palestinians. These threats function as a type of affective demolition (Joronen & Griffiths, 2019), facilitating anticipatory affective conditions. Through acts of epistemic violence (Spivak, 1988), Israeli security deny the Palestinians access to legal and civil rights with threats of “secret information”, casting them as impervious to their right to know, effectively erasing them as political subjects. This erasure lays the groundwork for all types of atrocities framed as legitimate measures to protect the lives of Israelis from “terrorists”.
Nehal, a Palestinian psychotherapist, shared the following:
The recent events of the past years confirmed the state of paranoia, so this catastrophizing mode of thinking has gained validation, so in our head we’re constantly on guard in expectation of the next blow.
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Another Palestinian psychotherapist, Anan, states:
Also… people react in a hardhearted manner because they’re always expecting the worse… People are constantly anticipating a catastrophe… Catastrophes rooted in “secret information” wreak havoc on one’s spirit. Then they use our emotions as commodity and trade in us… and this can demolish one’s spirit.
Within a necropolitical framework, the very existence of the Palestinian endangers the colonial state, and it follows that their death is necessary for the survival of the Israeli. Banerjee (2008, p. 1541) defines “necrocapitalism” as “contemporary forms of organizational accumulation that involve dispossession and the subjugation of life to the power of death”. Necrocapitalism, operationalised through violent policing of Palestinians, goes beyond “subjugation of life to the power of death” (Mbembe, 2003, p. 39) by extending necropower as a means of accumulating capital and profit from the death (Banerjee, 2008). This is what David Harvey defines as “accumulation by dispossession”, although the accumulated dispossession is not only from the living, their land, life and death, but also from their psyches. Thus, necrocapitalism and its exclusionary politics are central to understanding secrecy as security, whereby profit flows from visible and invisible violence, as well as the killing of the colonised, as a state of fear generates continuous insecurity, which in turn generates a demand for security goods (Green, 1999) within global capitalism.
As Shalhoub-Kevorkian has proposed in Speaking Life (2020a), Israel is one of the top arms exporters in the world. With the USA’s consistent and inordinate financial allocation to Israel’s military, the latter leads the world in border technology, military occupation and population control. The territories that Israel occupies are used not only to settle Jewish foreigners but also to turn land into showrooms for weaponry, technology and methods of domination and control. Israel commodifies its security practices within global capitalism and promotes them as goods to be sold to other regimes to be used on other oppressed populations (Graham, 2010). We agree with Laleh Khalili’s suggestion that Palestine is a central node and “social laboratory” (Graham, 2010, p. 414) for the transmission of technologies of control and effective ruling practices between colonial metropoles and colonies. Israeli’s economy is thus heavily dependent upon, and continuously sustained by, capitalising on the subjugation of Palestinians to these technologies of containment, power, incarceration and violence.
Following the argument that Israel’s economy depends on the political and economic capital accumulated through its secrecy apparatus to control and erase Palestinians, the settler state reconstructs spaces like OEJ as spaces of death for Palestinians, where harassment, threats, interrogation and possible execution loom amidst everyday activities. The domination of every inch of space that the settler state can lay its hands on aims to sustain the military industrial maker. When industry stakeholders become implicated in moral controversies over their products, like global outrage over “security barriers” (Klein, 2007, p. 438), these corporations embrace negative publicity as free advertising (Klein, 2007, p. 439). In that sense, violence is endorsed within global
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capitalism as a means of advertising Israel’s military merchandise, and spaces like OEJ are turned into structurally operable and ideologically sustainable sites to “battle test” and “showcase” Israeli security products as modern, effective and combat-proven (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2020c).
The settlers’ chants in the streets during September 2021 spoke of the state’s violence: the violence that has military systems kill Gazan civilians without hesitation, with immunity and impunity, and without the need to fact-check targets since those they kill are Palestinian. The killing of Raed Jadallah during September 2020 is a prime example. Raed lit a cigarette to smoke while waiting for his son and friend and was shot dead because Israeli soldiers thought he was a suspect (Levy Libek, 2021). While the immunity, protection and encouragement of necroracist chanting and acting is not secret, its necrocapitalist power is. As Ahmad explained earlier, the economic game of the settler colonial regime of control is focused on killing. To better understand necrocapitalism in militarised zones, we lean on Green’s (1999) suggestion to consider the negative market where secrecy as security is traded by building an everyday state of fear against the colonised –which is precisely what facilitated the execution of Raed. In the following section we develop our understanding of the political work of affects when secrecy functions as economy – what we call “a market of death”.
Affective colonisation
Palestinians experience multiple forms of entrapment because of the occupation. To entrap the colonised, the settler colonial state coordinates across various ministries and entities to wage secret wars that it euphemises as economic, health, legal or intellectual attacks. It does this while claiming to be a liberal democracy. While this is no secret to Palestinians, the state uses its secrecy apparatus to keep Palestinians in a maze of bureaucracies inside an affective state of fear and anxiety – what we termed previously as “affective colonisation”. Drawing together the “secret” work of complementary ministries and state agencies creates a powerful staging tool for the psychological warfare against Palestinians, as described by Farah, 29 years old, below:
There’s no secrecy, your income in its entirety is known to them, what’s coming in and what’s going out is all laid bare Even during the Corona pandemic, my address in Kafr’Aqab is not registered on my ID, nor in the social security (agency) or the Interior (Ministry) or anywhere. Nothing. I mean, I’ve only recently settled here. When they called me from the ministry of health, someone called me on Whatsapp! He said: “Yeah, because you’re in Kafr’Aqab you’re out of phone service”, hahaha, like, how? Hooww? I told him: “You’re calling me in WhatsApp, how can I make sure you’re from the ministry of health?” He replied: “You can be certain that I’m from the ministry of health because I was trying to call you and couldn’t reach you, since your phone is out of service, surely you’re in the area of Kafr’Aqab today then.” But how did you know that I’m in Kafr’Aqab? Maybe they traced my car’s identification number? I don’t know…My car has Ituran (tracking service), yeah, I mean from the Ministry of Interior to the transportation ministry, to the ministry of health, to the ministry of
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communication, to the Sharia court (they know if we get divorced, married, or give birth…) Let alone the police, and the soldiers… All of them use threats of secrecy and “secret information” to suffocate/smother us… and we, we have no privacy, neither secrets.
Farah offers evidence that the various ministries talk to each other to “swarm” (Kosek, 2010) Palestinians with fear, intimidation and anxiety. Swarming, a concept adapted from biology (biological swarms), has been adopted by a range of disciplines, including but not limited to architecture, philosophy, business and the military, as strategy to theorise the use of collective intelligence for the purpose of forming a single emergent intelligence (Kosek, 2010; Metcalf et al., 2006). According to Kosek (2006, p. 665), “military understandings of the swarm are not solely metaphoric, but make possible new assemblages of people and animals, new forms of social relations, and new technologies”. Wilcox (2017, p. 31) argues that “swarms are seen as an evolved stage of networked warfare. The idea behind the drive to harness the material capabilities of the swarm is that bees, ants, and such are not individually intelligent, but can exhibit much more complex behaviour collectively.” Consequently, swarming functions to create a material and psychological web of entrapment, resulting in affectual colonisation, whereby the detailed and intimate is sold as combat proven (Shalhoub-Kevorkian, 2020c) This accumulation through dispossession is sold as knowledge and expertise as a function of global capitalism where security is for sale (Grassiani, 2018; Musleh, 2018). This web of entrapment contributes to the affective conditions of demolition (psychological and material), feeding necrocapitalism’s accumulation through dispossession and subjugation.
Rawan shared with us similar concerns to Farah’s when talking about the small room in her house that she and her family closed off to build a cosier space. This process included several bureaucratic entrapments where “secret” information was used to “demolish” them psychologically, ending up in the actual demolition of the home. She explained:
But… when our house was small, okay? When there was a front yard of the house…Something like a tiny room, dad raised the ceiling and enclosed a part of the yard and it became a room, but they denied him a building permit, of course they wouldn’t give him a permit, but why? What’s the reason? To this day we don’t know the reason. He also was fined, and here he is, still paying for the state, but what’s the reason that prevented them from… the secret information, they can’t share it with us…[maybe the secret is that they gave the settlers all needed permits to build, renovate and expand a home in a Palestinian area?, maybe the plan is to Judaize our spaces? Displace and uproot us from here?]… and this room is basically part of my home and I only enclosed it and it resembles a room now…and above all the land is mine, what’s the reason you’re refusing to give me permit to build this room? None whatsoever. You feel humiliated… I mean, any action I would take will be restrained, as to why, you can never know… they keep you confused and entangled in the net of their mukhabarat.
(Tears filled Rawan’s eyes, yet she didn’t cry.) Give me a reason to convince me…
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Confusion, rage also, you know how it is when something happens to you and you don’t understand what it is, it builds up rage inside of you, it leaves you alone with the confusion inside your head. Dad already built the ceiling and paid for it, but they asked him to choose between demolishing what was already built, or paying the fine and the accumulating Arnona (property tax)… and it was very difficult, I mean dad was hospitalized because of this… he wasn’t convinced that we should demolish and let all our efforts go in vain… so he filed a lawsuit against the housing department folks, for two years he and a lawyer grappled with them, during which he was forced to pay all the property taxes and the fines… Eventually we demolished it…while they also demolished us in “secrecy”.
While Israeli legal-sociologist Yael Barda discusses the “bureaucracies of occupation” (2012), we extend her analyses to discuss the affectual politics of secrecy within such bureaucracies of occupation. Affects, we argue, are important capital in the hands of the state to oppress and control the mind of precarious others (Ahmed, 2014; Athanasiou, 2016). Rawan’s experiences offer a prime example of what Joronen and Griffiths (2019, p. 5) refer to as “affective demolitions”, namely the “embodied dimension of structural precarity induced by the occupation, and the affective conditions of Palestinians living with the continued threat of future demolition and the violence this produces”. Similarly, Farah insists that everything is exposed to the authorities and all is done openly and invoked as “secret information” against Palestinians. Farah also highlights the confusion that results from the mishmash of ministries and other related state apparatuses that move beyond the economic security to Judaise land and life, while maintaining a racialised order. The state, we argue, needs “secrecy” to perpetuate a system of psychological terror that incarcerates bodies and minds.
The sense of entrapment mentioned by Zureik and our interviewees confines individuals and communities psychologically. Secrecy games used to entrap psychologically aren’t simply weapons of the state’s criminal policy; rather, they are explicitly political traps, central to the settler colonial attempt to reorder the Israeli polity and its Jewish sacredness while excluding the inferior profane resisters. Secrecy and its “security threat” ideology build the walls to incarcerate Palestinians psychologically. Using the Mukhabarat to confine land, bodies and minds provides the Mukhabarat with virtually unlimited powers to create a world of secrets that Farah defined as “living in a Mukhabarat state”.
Samia, 24 years old, was arrested and kept in solitary confinement for one month. Her words and writings provide a glimpse into the intrapsychic effect of “secrecy” and the Mukhabarat’s work during her interrogation. She talked about the Mukhabarat’s brutality as they deprived her of water, sleep, light, darkness and sanitary pads, making her lose her sense of time, space, body, self and power. She shared:
I started raising doubt everything in my life… since the beginning… allegedly they’re in possession of secret information that can be used to charge me… they arrested me… and tortured me… and during the interrogation I was lost… even lost from myself… my
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life became… even the small events…my trip to my auntie, my meeting with colleagues and friends… my love… yes my love and marriage… all became a laboratory of their interrogations.
While speaking of her activism with youth in OEJ, Samia mentioned that their activism scared the Mukhabarat, so they “fabricated secret information to make me lose my mind….and I did”. She then paused and said, “Isn’t that the best way to get rid of an entire nation…to turn them crazy?” For Samia, the use of secrecy is central to managing the mind and life of Palestinians, as most of the state’s “operations” to “secure” Jewish citizens involves the exclusion of Palestinians. The invocation of secrecy becomes a major psychological burden, given the claim that its “operations” are responses to Palestinian violence. Secrecy becomes a site of fatal psychopolitical intrusions involving forms of public/sovereign infiltration, penetration and intrusion into social life, the body and psyche, raising the possible consequences for self-disciplining of affects that can result in physical and psychological death.
Samia became very sick with severe dissociative reactions that lasted for over nine months. When interviewed two years after her release from prison, she discussed the power of secrecy on her psychological abilities and the ways it blocked her inner powers and ability to absorb anything. At the end of the interview, she said:
They managed to fully paralyze me with their secret information’s, and lies……and I feared everything in life, and mistrusted everybody….not because I feared their secret information….no….but because I feared for the safety of those I love….so, I stayed silent…..I imprisoned my own fears….to safeguard my loved one’s.
Samia’s insights and analyses remind us of Fanon’s argument (1963, p.249):
“Because it is a systematic negation of the other person and a furious determination to deny the other person all attributes of humanity, colonialism forces the people it dominates to ask themselves the question constantly.”
Samia asked, “In reality, who am I?” She explained her condition as both total loss, a kind of mind misplacement, and an advantage. When asked to explain more, she said:
Losing one’s mind from such state terror freed me psychologically from facing their atrocities.
Her words suggest that the “loss” of her mind allowed her to reside psychologically in a place where the brutality of the state’s secrecy apparatus could not penetrate, nor invade. It was her “freedom tunnel” away from and outside of the psychic carcerality of secrecy. Consequently, even in the face of the state’s psychological warfare, the deliberate attempts to stage Samia’s psychological annihilation failed, as she maintained the ability to conceptualise a freedom that lives in her.
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We argued above that secrecy as a technology of settler colonial violence treats the psyche as an active war zone, a space of psychological warfare geared to impair the colonised and colonise them affectively. In describing the affective experience of psychological warfare, Salma (34 years old) uses the word “ruins” to reference a sense of a demolished self:
When I was released and arrived home from prison, I found myself… I mean psychologically… living in a world of doubts…. they threatened me with secret information… Once about my mother, another time about my brother and my teacher…they did not leave a safe place to trust…or call for when in need… I started living on ruins….I mean living on my demolished self… just like this… they destroyed my home… my inner home, deep from the inside… I felt deranged, disoriented, I was dumbfounded… everything was wrecked… I mean confused… Took me some time to rebuild myself and my spirits/psychology anew.
Stoler (2013, p. 347) theorises ruins largely as physical and material spaces:
“In its common usage, ruins are privileged sites of reflection—of pensive rumination. Portrayed as enchanted, desolate spaces, large-scale monumental structures abandoned and grown over, ruins provide a favored image of a vanished past, what is beyond repair and in decay, thrown into aesthetic relief by nature’s tangled growth.”
Salma’s conceptualisation of a battered self (as a ruin), living in the ruins of her home, describes how ongoing settler colonial violence creates ruins as “privileged sites of reflection,” psychic and material structures “beyond repair and in decay”, (Stoler, 2013, p. 347). Stoler (2013) writes that the word “ruins” functions as both noun and verb. “Imperial projects are themselves processes of ongoing ruination, processes that bring ruin upon exerting material and social force in the present and through their presence.” Much like Fanon wrote about the psychological and material “decay” that follows colonialism, Salma speaks to the affectual colonisation (e.g. Joronen & Griffiths, 2019) of the self, resulting from necrocapitalism’s insatiable yearning and hunger to consume and amass.
While the people who spoke to the secrecy apparatus in this project lend support to Fanon’s (1963) analysis that psychic distress can destroy people’s bodies and distort their minds, creating ruins, a closer look at Salma’s story leads us to consider the role of Palestinian refusal and sumud.
Freedom tunnels: Refusal – Sumud
Maram, an ex-political prisoner, explained her own mode of longing for freedom and resistance to oppression:
…even after a long interrogation session, with all the terror they imposed on me, no information about my family….my home….no water, no rest….. …the threats of their
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secret information…and with the immense exhaustion, I kept dreaming of being around my family, walking the old city’s street with them, planting my home garden with Jasmin….yes…I even smelled the Jasmin flowers around my parents’ house,….in that nasty small room…I did smell the Jasmin…that smell erased their “secret” threats…totally erased it.
Maram’s reflection and her dreams of life, the beauty of her old city, her family activities, her dreams of planting flowers and the imagined joy of being with her family echo Fanon’s theorising: “During the period of colonization, the native never stops achieving his freedom from nine in the evening until six in the morning” (1963, p. 15). Smelling jasmine was Maram’s outlet against the interrogator’s threats. For Fanon, dreaming-actions reveal the strong unabated desire for freedom, and Maram’s enjoyment of jasmine amidst interrogations is imperative in salvaging a dignified self.
This same unabated desire for freedom, even at the risk of sacrificing one’s physical security, can be observed daily by watching youth in an area packed with the state’s secret services in Jerusalem. One of us (NSK) observed a group of children and youth while the Mukhabarat was searching for children to arrest them during a politically violent period involving the state’s police, military, secret services and private security professionals. After more than two hours of the Israeli secret services’ cruising the area and searching for children who threw stones at their military vehicles for the purpose of arresting them, a group of about 20 children and youth started chanting and singing loudly: “Tell the Mukhabarat, we don’t mind their arrests….” In Arabic, this is a rhyming statement: “Qulu Lal Mukhabarat…Ma Bit’himna el E’etiqalat.” This group of youth not only exposed ‘the secret’ of the “secret apparatus” by telling the state’s representatives, “we know your secret, and that the ‘secret services’ are here”, but also insisted on expressing that they don’t fear secrets. The strength of their chanting and singing broke the secrecy shackles, allowing the group to speak ‘the secret’ exposing the Mukhabarat. The temporal cathartic moment of chanting against the secret services serves the larger purpose of resisting the carcerality of secrecy. It first and foremost calls on the coloniser to recognise the colonised’s refusal of colonial violence and it enables the colonised to show their defiant resistance to desperation. The youth’s refusal to subordinate to state violence, even in the face of tremendous risk, echoes Fanon’s writing about Black people’s defiance against slavery: “For the Negro who works on a sugar plantation in Le Robert, there is only one solution: to fight. He will embark on this struggle, and he will pursue it, not as the result of a Marxist or idealistic analysis but quite simply because he cannot conceive of life otherwise than in the form of a battle against exploitation, misery, and hunger” (Fanon & Markmann, 1986, p. 224). According to Fanon (1963), in maintaining their dignity and morality, the colonised break the coloniser’s “spiraling violence” (p. 9); thus the colonised are always ready to change their role “from game to hunter” (p. 16) in order to survive and resist. Maram’s vivid recollection of the jasmine flower’s image and scent and the youth’s defiant chanting refuse the occupiers’ domination through performances that disrupt the structures that render secrecy an acceptable routine of the state. These actions oppose
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the settler colonial use of secrecy and its assumption that secret intimidation and fear might be easily internalised. Amid, one of the youth chanting defiantly, stood up and told the soldiers: “You think your Mukhabarat is scaring us…..come….come….how long is it going to take you to come?” Amid sensed the tension among the soldiers and fear was apparent on his face. When he noticed that the security/military people were aiming to attack his house, he drew on a conviction of undefeatability to distract them as a means of preventing them from reaching his family’s home. Amid was pushed, arrested and beaten while his embodied refusal to accept state control revealed his affective and psychological power.
Similarly, Ahmad, a 14-year-old, spoke of his own mode of dealing with the threats and secrecy:
When they arrested me…the interrogator kept on telling me they have video footage showing me standing on my house roof, taking photos of soldiers, and pouring dirty water on them…..then he said, he collected all my phone calls to my friend Samer….and there I confessed of attacks against the soldiers that are blocking the entrance to my house….then he left me in the room, on that chair for another 3 hours, and it was so cold….and I got so tiered….could not even look at him. When he came back, he started threatening again with his secretly collected information that can result in my father losing his job….and I was so outraged…I started shouting, screaming, hitting my head, pulling my hair……screaming…..you are a liar….liar….I did not do tell Samer anything…….liar…..I don’t fear you……you liar….I screamed maybe for 15 minutes until I passed out…yes…I fainted….did not sign a paper, nor admitted to anything I did not do….just screamed at his “secret” lies.
Ahmad’s refusal to submit to psychological warfare, expressed through his screaming and fainting, presents an affectual anticolonial counteraction against the penetrability of the systematic colonial violence. His body and mind resisted the securitised secrecy and its manipulative accumulative dispossession with what was available to him; his rage and inner-psychic refusal.
The youth’s chants against the soldiers in Jerusalem, Amid’s attempts to distract the soldiers from demolishing his house, Ahmad’s dramatized fainting, Maram’s use of her imagination to smell jasmine and the digging of “the freedom tunnel” in 2021 by six political prisoners all amount to acts of profound rage and refusal, creating material, psychological and imagined realties of decolonisation. Decolonisation implies the urgent need to challenge the colonial state thoroughly (Fanon, 1963). Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2018, p. 248) argues that knowledge is critical to decolonisation efforts through “ways of knowing and validating knowledge that aim to contribute to the refoundation of insurgent policies capable of efficiently confronting the current, insidious, and techno-savage articulations between capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy”.
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Freedom from the necrocapitalist governance of affects, the psychological incapacitation of the ruins of secrecy and the colonised’s refusal to be trapped by its swarming effect were on display for the world to witness when six Palestinian political prisoners dug, with spoons, a freedom tunnel during September 2021. The fact that the prisoners dug a hole for over a year, using a spoon or something even more primitive, to escape prison for only a short period of time before being recaptured attests to their refusal of domination in the most profound way. Their secret tunnel spoke of their yearning for freedom from the coloniser’s penetration, invasion and incapacitation. Keeping their freedom tunnel secret revealed many things, among them their agential power even while incarcerated. These acts enhance the fact that the colonised, whether incarcerated inside prison walls or outside of them, carry a desire, a yearning for freedom amidst necrocapitalism’s dependence on secrecy. The prisoners’ digging of the tunnel while incarcerated constitutes an act of counter-secrecy and expresses a refusal to remain docile. Furthermore, the publication of the prisoners’ escape via the freedom tunnel undermined the Israeli combat-proven technology of surveillance and its reputation for sophisticated tracking. Protesting against the settler state’s securitised secrecy and its glocal necrocapitalism, the prisoners dug a tunnel to uproot their carcerality.
Secrecy always functions as an underlying rationale for political projects: a psychological war here, an exclusion and dissemination of mistrust there; an eviction here, a child arrest or political arrest there; a penetration and fragmentation here and a demolition, killing, or partial “solution” there. Secrecy plays a foundational role within settler colonial violence because it swarms into the lives of those defined as “security threats,” as “internal” enemies that must be eliminated. Utilising secret information as a security measure suggests that the colonised’s life – their intimate, personal and collective domains and their daily routines– is turned into penetrable, politicised zones for accumulating dispossession. Utilising secrecy and activating its swarming effect authorise the settler state to invade spheres of intrapsychic well-being, sexuality, friendship, family connectivity and communal collectivity. Secrecy’s underpinning logic and its security discourse unveil the nature of the political war in the settler colony. It reveals the inherent idea of annihilations by other means, creating new political behaviours and reality. Secret wars are not there to end the war but, rather, to pacify global and local politics and to allow settler colonialism to conduct a war while denying its existence, because it is a “secret.”
Secrecy is granted an existential apparatus such that the exclusion of the colonised as feared other is insufficient. Secrecy is about psychological demoralisation and annihilation, socioeconomic control. Secrecy has become a dominant trope in settler colonial politics, imposing obviousness on issues (Althusser, 1971) and a firm erasure of the humanity of the colonised. Its focus is the killing of the colonised as rooted in the logic of elimination. Secrecy politics carries existential weight because of the meanings
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brought to the political – a political system built on the exclusion and fear of the enemy. Fear is a key feature of fascism (Adorno, 1998; Neocleous, 1997; Neumann, 1953). Secrecy’s fear factor allows the development of a mythical security to become the only measure of political judgement. Hence, secrecy is the great necrocapitalist politic. It needs no justification for its existence since it is always and forever regarded as a state necessity, mainly since the “enemy” is still alive.
Critiquing secrecy is part of the decolonial installation that builds the conditions for refusal. The challenge is political and analytical. We must recognise how the wounding effects of secrecy, its duration, moments of exposure and brutality further ruin the colonised’s mind and life. And it is from those same ruins and against necrocapitalist brutality that freedom tunnels are unlocked and carcerality is uprooted. We wish to thank Nada Yasin and Asrar Kayyal for their assistance, and attentive engagement in preparing the manuscript. Bios Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a Professor and a Palestinian feminist, is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Global Chair in Law- Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on trauma, state crimes and criminology, surveillance, gender violence, law and society and genocide studies. She is the author of numerous academic articles and books among them “Militarization and Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones in the Middle East: The Palestinian Case Study” published in 2010; “Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear”, published in 2015; “Incarcerated Childhood and the Politics of Unchilding”, published in 2019; all by Cambridge University Press. She also co-edited two books, the latest entitled: “When Politics are Sacralized: Comparative Perspectives on Religious Claims and Nationalism”, CUP 2021, and is completing another one with Lila Abu-Lughod and Rema Hammami entitled: The Cunning of Gender Based Violence”, to be published with Duke University Press.
Stéphanie Wahab is a Professor at Portland State University’s School of Social Work. Her body of work, rooted in critical, post structural and feminist studies centers structural violence related to social inequality, sex work and intimate partner violence. She teaches courses focused on social justice, philosophies of science, qualitative inquiry, and intimate partner violence. She is a co-editor of Feminisms in Social Work Research: Promise and possibilities for justice based knowledge with Routledge.
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Israel Authorizes Organ Harvesting, Weapons-Testing on Palestinian Prisoners: Report

Published 26 February 2019
“Palestinian spaces are laboratories,” Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian said in a lecture at Columbia University.

Authorities of the Israeli occupation have permitted large pharmaceutical firms to carry out tests on Palestinian prisoners and has been testing weapons on Palestinian children, a professor with the Israeli Hebrew University said.

Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, a Palestinian feminist activist and the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law, said she collected data while working on a research project for the university.

“Palestinian spaces are laboratories,” she said in her lecture titled, ‘Disturbing Spaces – Violent Technologies in Palestinian Jerusalem’ at Columbia University in New York City. “The invention of products and services of state-sponsored security corporations are fueled by long-term curfews and Palestinian oppression by the Israeli army.”

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem distanced itself from her claims that Israel has been experimenting on Palestinian children with new weapons systems in order to boost the sale of international weapons.

Just weeks ago, Israeli authorities refused to hand over the body of prisoner Fares Baroud, who died in Israeli custody after suffering several illnesses including glaucoma and liver disease. There are concern and speculation from family and activist site, Palestine Libre, that Baroud was a test subject.

In 2015, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour accused Israeli security forces of harvesting organs from the bodies of Palestinians killed.

“After returning the seized bodies of Palestinians killed by the occupying forces through October, and following medical examinations, it has been reported that the bodies were returned with missing corneas and other organs,” Mansour said

The Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon responded by rejecting the allegations, saying that the charges were anti-Semitic.

Danon wrote to the then Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “I call on you to repudiate this sinister accusation and to condemn the ongoing incitement by Palestinian leaders.”

As far back as 1997, the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported on the comments of Dalia Itzik, chairwoman of a parliamentary committee, who acknowledged that the Israeli Ministry of Health granted permits to pharmaceutical companies to test their new drugs on prisoners, and noted that 5,000 tests had been carried out, IMEMC reported.


https://israelpalestinenews.org/israel-weapons-drug-testing-on-palestinians/Israeli prof: Israel tests weapons on Palestinian kids, tests drugs on prisoners


Israeli occupation authorities have permitted large pharmaceutical firms to experiment on Palestinian prisoners, and have been testing weapons on Palestinian children, a Hebrew University professor disclosed in a recent lecture series.

by Kathryn Shihadah

An Israeli professor disclosed in a recent lecture series at Columbia University that Israeli authorities have permitted large pharmaceutical firms to experiment on Palestinian prisoners, and have been testing weapons on Palestinian children.

Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at Israel’s Hebrew University, also presented in Amsterdam in January on the same topic.

Promotional material for the events describe her lecture as illustrating through “the voices and writings of Jerusalemite children who live under Occupation” that Israel’s practices of “surveying, imprisoning, torturing, and killing can be used as a laboratory for states, arms companies, and security agencies to market their technologies as ‘combat proven.’”

Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s presentation was based on data she gathered for a research project for the university. The work, titled Arrested Childhood in Spaces of Indifference: The Criminalized Children of Occupied East Jerusalem, was published in the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law in 2018 and co-authored by Shahrazad Odeh, who is also on the Faculty of Law and Institute of Criminology at Hebrew University.

In the article, the authors demonstrate how Israel’s policy of targeting Palestinian children and childhood through the criminal justice system is fundamental to the state’s mechanism of colonial dispossession. They shed light on the critical role that the Israeli legal system plays in the state’s “racist project.”

Drug experiments on Palestinian prisoners

Shalhoub-Kevorkian revealed in her lecture at Columbia University that Israeli occupation authorities issue permits to large pharmaceutical firms, which then carry out tests on Palestinian prisoners.

Telesur recalls that as far back as July 1997,

Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported remarks for Dalia Itzik, chairman of a parliamentary committee, acknowledged that the Israeli Ministry of Health had given pharmaceutical firms permits to test their new drugs of inmates, noting that 5,000 tests had already been carried out.

The recent, well-publicized incident of the death of an Israeli prison inmate, Palestinian Fares Baroud, raised suspicions that he may have been a test subject. Israeli authorities refused to relinquish the body. Baroud suffered from a number of illnesses.

Weapons testing for profit

Shalhoub-Kevorkian also pointed out that Israeli military firms test weapons on Palestinian children in the Palestinian neighborhoods of occupied East Jerusalem.

“Palestinian spaces are laboratories,” she explained. “The invention of products and services of state-sponsored security corporations are fueled by long-term curfews and Palestinian oppression by the Israeli army,” and “Israeli security industry [is] using them as showcases” to boost security technologies and weapon sales in the global market.

Hebrew University response

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem distanced itself from Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s claims, releasing a statement,

The views expressed by Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian don’t represent or express in any way the views of the Hebrew University or the university administration, but are her personal opinion that reflect only her views.


Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a Global Chair in Law at Queen Mary University of London. Her research focuses on law, society, and crimes of abuse of power.  She studies the crime of femicide and other forms of gendered violence, crimes of abuse of power in settler colonial contexts, surveillance, securitization and social control, and children, trauma, and recovery in militarized and colonized zones. Dr. Shalhoub-Kevorkian is a criminologist and specialist in human rights and women’s rights.

Shalhoub-Kevorkian’s most recent book is entitled: Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear,” published by Cambridge University Press. She also authored “Militarization and Violence Against Women in Conflict Zones in the Middle East: The Palestinian Case Study” published by Cambridge University Press, 2010. She has published articles in multi-disciplinary fields including British Journal of Criminology, International Review of Victimology, Feminism and Psychology, Middle East Law and Governance, International Journal of Lifelong Education, American Behavioral Scientist Journal, Social Service Review, Violence Against Women, Journal of Feminist Family Therapy: An International Forum, Social Identities, Social Science and Medicine, Signs, Law & Society Review, and more. As a resident of the old city of Jerusalem, Shalhoub-Kevorkian is a prominent local activist. She engages in direct actions and critical dialogue to end the inscription of power over Palestinian children’s lives, spaces of death, and women’s birthing bodies and lives.


Kathryn Shihadah is staff writer for If Americans Knew. She blogs at Palestine Home.



PA Libel: Prisoners are used for Nazi-like medical experiments

Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook  | Jul 9, 2008

The Palestinian Authority is intensifying its longstanding blood libel campaign against Israel, falsely accusing Israel of conducting horrific Nazi-like medical experiments on Palestinian prisoners. These fabrications have been featured repeatedly in the Palestinian Authority’s official newspaper, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, which is under the direct authority of Mahmoud Abbas.

In the past week alone there were three new examples of this libel:

“The method employed by the Israeli Occupation in which they [are] instigating slow death … doctors in Israeli prison clinics use the prisoners as guinea pigs for clinical drug testing under the pretense of ‘treatment.'”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 6, 2008]

“Many of the male and female inmates received injections from needles they had not seen before, and which caused their hair and facial hair to fall out permanently … others lost their sanity, or their mental condition is constantly deteriorating… and some are suffering from infertility.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 4, 2008]

“The doctors in these prison clinics are using the prisoners as guinea pigs for clinical testing of drugs and treatment-methods.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 3, 2008] 

Giving voice to blood libels and slandering Israel are essential tools used by the Palestinian Authority to demonize Israel and to inflame hatred against Israel, especially on the highly sensitive subject of Palestinian prisoners. It is therefore not surprising that the Palestinian public places the release of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons as a national cause, and justifies all means — including the abduction of Israeli soldiers – to free the prisoners from their supposed mistreatment. 

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida has attested that reports about such “experiments” performed on Palestinian prisoners serve to “mobilize each and every human-being as such… to actively participate in activities aimed at their release and their return to freedom, properly meant as a return to life… all of us! all of us! all of us! – to confront the enemy in the war it wages.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 3, 2007]

These new accusations build on earlier libels that Israel conducts the same kind of experiments on Palestinian prisoners as the Nazis did in the concentration camps:

“We have many examples of experiments conducted by the Nazis, but we shall bring one example that exhibits a great similarity [to the Israeli experiments]: They would insert poisons into the prisoners’ food in order to study the effect of the poisons on people, with the purpose of performing autopsies on the bodies of those who died from the poison. He mentioned multiple cases of the mass poisoning of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in several Israeli prisons and detention centers. He did not rule out the possibility that the mass poisonings were done deliberately.”

 [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 1, 2007].

Furthermore, the libel adds that Israel is deliberately laboring “to increase the suffering of the prisoners and to murder them slowly, or to render them hollow, fragile and sickly bodies that will be a burden to their families and their nation after their release…”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept.1, 2007].

According to the libel, because Israel views the prisoners as guinea pigs, “the terrible crime, unimaginably horrific, that was committed by the executioner jailers of the occupation forces… demonstrated that the prisoner is treated like a lab -mouse.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 3, 2007].

In an attempt to increase the credibility of the libel about the treatment of prisoners, the Palestinian Authority daily last week repeated a media invention from a previous article. It said that Dalia Itzik, Speaker of the Knesset, said in 1997 that Israel conducts “thousands of medical clinical trials,” and that “experiments with dangerous drugs are performed each year on Palestinian prisoners.” The story also rehashed the fabrication that an Israeli named Amy Laftat, who was presented as Head of the Pharmaceutical Division in the Ministry of Health, reported that “there is a 15% annual increase in the number of permits granted by her office for conducting research on dangerous medications on Palestinians” [Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 4, 2008]. Palestinian Media Watch checked with Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik and the Ministry of Health, and confirmed that these statements were never made, and in fact that there is no one named Amy Laftat working for the Pharmaceutical Division. (The Israeli responses are below). 

Following are more complete texts of the Prisoners Libel, as promoted by the Palestinian Authority’s official daily, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida:

1. “Prisoners lost their eyesight and the functionality of their nervous system.”

“The Occupation forces continue to conduct medical experiments on Palestinian and Arab prisoners in their prisons, in defiance of every international treaty and code of ethics. This is not limited to their policy of medical neglect, but rather the violations even extend to exploitive use of the prisoners as testing subjects for pharmaceutical drugs. Dalia Itzik, then a member of the Israeli Knesset and head of the Science Committee in the Israeli parliament, revealed in July 1997 that thousands of medical clinical trials, experiments with dangerous drugs are performed each year on Palestinian prisoners. At that time, she added that her office held thousands of permits issued by the Israeli Health Ministry for large Israeli pharmaceutical companies permitting the performance of thousands of clinical trials on Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons.

            Additionally, ‘Amy Laftat,’ Head of the Pharmaceutical Division in the Israeli Health Ministry, revealed before the Knesset in that same meeting that there is a 15% annual increase in the number of permits granted by her office for conducting research with dangerous drugs on Palestinians and Arabs in the Israeli prisons.

            It should be mentioned that many of the male and female prisoners were given shots from needles they had not seen beforehand, and which caused their hair and facial hair to fall out permanently, and there were other prisoners who lost their eyesight and the functionality of their nervous system, and others who lost their sanity, or whose mental condition is constantly deteriorating, and still others who suffer from infertility and are unable to bear children, etc.

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 4, 2008]

2. “Doctors in Israel use the prisoners as guinea pigs under the pretense of “treatment.””

“Abu Al-Hajj [Director of the Abu-Jihad Center for Prisoner Affairs in Al-Quds University] referred back to the period of the British Mandate and its usual method of execution – using the hanging noose that is on display in the museum … Fahd Abu Al-Hajj  went on to mention the subsequent method employed by the Israeli Occupation, in which they finish off by instigating slow death, which the prisoners suffer at the hands of the prison authorities. He added that as a result of this method, 226 prisoners have died as shahids (martyrs) in the prisons… Abu Al-Hajj pointed to the fact that… clinic doctors in Israeli prisons are using the prisoners as guinea pigs under the pretense of “treatment.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 6, 2008]

3. “The prisoner is treated like a lab mouse.”

Headline: “Drugs and Lab-Mice”
…”The reports came gushing in… of the terrible crime, unimaginably horrific, that was committed by the executioner jailers of the occupation forces; the occupation forces used several of the freedom prisoners as lab accessories for conducting medical trials. This crime committed by the occupiers demonstrates… that the prisoner is treated like a lab mouse – who will either be killed by an inappropriate drug, or will be hurt by an electrical shock. Otherwise the experiment should inflict a permanent disability or deformity upon him… this is something that mobilizes each and every human-being as such… to actively participate in activities aimed at their release and their return to freedom, properly meant as a return to life… all of us! all of us! all of us! – to confront the enemy in the war it wages against those of us who are alive and those who are dead”…

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 3, 2007]

 4. “Prisoners as guinea pigs for drug and treatment clinical testing.”

Headline: “Reports given by two lawyers after visiting [prisons] indicate an increase in the policy of provoking the prisoners”.
The director of the Center for the Defense of Freedoms and Civil Rights, “Hurriyat”, Hilmi Al-Araj said that the reports given by the two lawyers from the center, Ibtisam Al-Anati and Raed Al-Zabi, clearly point to a documented increase in the Israeli Prison Authority’s policy of provoking the male and female prisoners and of treating them inhumanely; this includes, most notably, a policy requiring the prisoners [to wear] an orange garment, and the use doctors in these prison clinics make of the prisoners as guinea pigs for drug and treatment clinical testing.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, July 3, 2008]

5. “Most suffer infertility problems, others have lost their eyesight.”

Headline“Most suffer infertility problems, others have lost their eyesight and their sanity after the occupation has injected them with unidentified substances and drugs – Israel continues to use prisoners as guinea pigs for pharmaceutical drug-testing.”
“Abd Al-Nasser Piroanah, researcher and head of the Statistical Department in the [Palestinian] Ministry of Prisoner and Released Prisoner Affairs, said in his report that the Occupation Authorities conduct clinical testing on Palestinian and Arab prisoners in prisons, in defiance of every international treaty and code of ethics.  

              The general tragic state of the prisons escapes no one, and the medical situation all the more so… In order to increase the suffering of the prisoners and to murder them slowly, or to render them hollow, fragile and sickly bodies that will be a burden to their families and their nation after their release…

              Further, he stated: This is not limited to their policy of medical neglect, but rather the violations even extend to exploitive use of the prisoners as testing subjects for pharmaceutical drugs.
              Knesset Member Dalia Itzik and former Head of the Science Committee revealed in July 1997 that thousands of medical clinical trials, experiments with dangerous drugs are performed each year on Palestinian prisoners. At that time, she added that her office held thousands of permits issued by the Israeli Health Ministry for large Israeli pharmaceutical companies permitting the performance of thousands of clinical trials on Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israeli prisons. Additionally, ‘Amy Laftat,’ Head of the Pharmaceutical Division in the Israeli Health Ministry, revealed … that there is a 15% annual increase in the number of permits granted by her office for conducting research with dangerous drugs on Palestinians and Arabs in the Israeli prisons.
             The researcher concluded that this crime is only becoming more widespread… under the auspices of the Israeli Health Ministry … These crimes reflect clearly on the degree of racism which abounds in the Israeli system as a whole… He brought many examples of male and female prisoners who were given injections from needles they had not seen before, and which caused their hair and facial hair to fall out permanently, and there were other prisoners who lost their eyesight and the functionality of their nerve system, and others who lost their sanity, or whose mental condition is constantly deteriorating, and still others who suffer from infertility and so forth…

             Piroanah mentioned that the first to use prisoners for medical experiments were the Nazis, who did it in the detention centers of the German army during WWII…
            He added: We have many examples of experiments conducted by the Nazis, but we shall bring one example that exhibits a great similarity [to the Israeli experiments]: They would insert poisons into the prisoners’ food in order to study the effect of the poisons on people and with the purpose of performing autopsies on the bodies of those who died from the poison. He mentioned multiple cases of the mass poisoning of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in several Israeli prisons and detention centers. He did not rule out the possibility that the mass poisonings were done deliberately.
            He said the Ministry of Prisoner Affairs has been conducting activities in the past months… aimed at pressuring international opinion to act urgently and to adhere to its moral and human responsibility to save the prisoners… and to investigate the serious medical circumstances found in Israeli prisons, and to bring the war criminals to international courts.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, Sept. 1, 2007]

6. “Clinics are nothing but open grounds for experimenting with dangerous drugs.”

“Dr. Awda emphasized that health conditions in Israeli prisons are bad and dangerous… She emphasized that the clinics are nothing but open grounds for experimenting with dangerous drugs on the sick prisoners. She proved this with a statement given by the Head of the Knesset Science Committee Dalia Itzik on July 10, 1997, in which she claimed that every year 1000 clinical trials of dangerous pharmaceutical drugs are conducted using Palestinian prisoners as subjects.”

[Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, April 17, 2008]

Israeli Officials Respond
Office of Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik:
 “Knesset Speaker Itzik never made the statements attributed to her. Knesset Speaker Itzik is certain that incidents of this kind do not occur in Israel; this is not how Israel conducts itself.”

Ministry of Health’s Response:
“Clinical testing on prisoners in prison was never approved, never performed, and is most certainly not taking place at present. Furthermore, there is no person named Amy Laftat working for the Pharmaceutical Division.”



Center for Palestine Studies | Columbia University


  • Tuesday, February 12, 2019
  • 12:00 PM  2:00 PM
  • Knox Hall- Room 207, Columbia University606 West 122nd StreetNew York, NY, 10027United States
  • Department of Anthropology
  • Moderated by Prof. Nadia Abu el-Haj
  • Co-Director, Center for Palestine Studies
  • Columbia University

  • Presentations:

– Speaking Life, Speaking Death: Jerusalem’s Children in the “Showroom” of Violent Technologies  
Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, Chair in Global Law, Queen Mary University of London and Lawrence D Biele Chair in Law, The Hebrew University in Jerusalem

Who speaks life and who speaks death in Occupied East Jerusalem? Children’s words and acts provide unique insight into the daily experiences of domination, colonization and occupation that are part of Israel’s “combat proven” politics.  Surveillance, spatial control, imprisonment, torture, and professional training of security personnel have turned the old city into a showroom for states, arms companies, and security agencies to market their technologies as tested, and “combat proven.” From over 600 letters written by children in the old city and observations of their daily walks to school, we can learn about the effects and refusals of these technologies of violence as they speak life. The geostrategic significance of controlling Jerusalem for Israel and the sacralized politics invoked to turn it into a “show room” speak death.

– Settler-Colonial “Displaceability”: Living Behind the Wall in Jerusalem
Nayrouz Abu Hatoum, Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Palestine Studies, Columbia University

Kufr Aqab, a neighborhood in Jerusalem that was cut off from the city after the construction of the Israeli wall in 2003 has been increasingly neglected by the Jerusalem municipality. In administrative and legal limbo, outside the reach of both Israeli state and the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian neighborhoods like Kufr Aqab are frontiers on which the contours of Israeli settler-colonial geography and demography are being drawn. Palestinians live there in a  liminal zone facing the realities of disposability, displaceability, and infrastructural catastrophe. How do Palestinians live and thrive in such grey zones of colonial legality? Does dwelling in-between open up grounds for imagining a new (sovereign) future? 



critical Israelis in the Netherlands


Security Theology, Surveillance and the Politics of Fear

Wednesday 14 September 2016, 20:00 CREA Amsterdam

In her lecture Shalhoub-Kevorkian will speak about her latest book. In it she  examines Palestinian experiences of life and death within the context of Israeli settler colonialism and broadens the analytical horizon to include those who ‘keep on existing’. She explores how Israeli theologies and ideologies of security, surveillance and fear can obscure violence and power dynamics while perpetuating existing power structures. Drawing from everyday aspects of Palestinian victimization, survival, life and death, and moving between the local and the global, Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian introduces and defines her notion of ‘Israeli security theology’ and the politics of fear within Palestine/Israel. She relies on a feminist analysis, invoking the intimate politics of the everyday and centering the Palestinian body, family life, memory and memorialization, birth and death as critical sites from which to examine the settler colonial state’s machineries of surveillance which produce and maintain a political economy of fear that justifies colonial violence.

Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is a longtime anti-violence, native Palestinian feminist activist and scholar.  She is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Shalhoub-Kevorkian is also the director of the Gender Studies Program at Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research in Haifa.  Her research focuses on femicide, state crime, child abuse, and other forms of gendered violence, crimes of abuse of power in settler colonial contexts, surveillance, securitization, and trauma in militarized and colonized zones.

The lecture is part of Securitizing Worlds:  a Critical Look at the Israeli Global Security Industry is organized by gate48 (Critical Israelis in the Netherlands) and made possible with the support of the Leonhard-Woltjer FoundationSECURCIT(European Research Council); NICA (Netherlands Institute for Cultural Analysis), UvAStichting Haella and CREA.



critical Israelis in the Netherlands


Technologies of Violence at Damascus Gate: Jerusalemite Children Write against “Combat Proven” Dispossession. with Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian

Tuesday, 22 January 20:00 2019, in CREA Amsterdam

In her lecture Prof. Shalhoub-Kevorkian will share with us the voices and writings of Jerusalemite children who live under Occupation. Through their letters she will reveal how surveying, imprisoning, torturing and killing can be used as a laboratory for states, arms companies, and security agencies to market their technologies as “combat proven”.

By exploring the politics of power in occupied Jerusalem neighbourhoods with her audience through reading children’s letters, she reveals their detection of such technologies of power and their daily suffering. Through the children’s own voices she will highlight the rights of Palestinian children to safety and security and how Israel’s “security” industry uses their life and bodies to sell power/knowledge. She will discuss how Israel’s “combat proven” politics require heavy weaponisation and “professional” training of “security” people. The production of what she has called a security theology and the existing politics of fear maintain Palestinians in a militarised “show room”. The marking of children’s bodies and lives casts them as unchilded disposable others, whose bodies are used to transfer knowledge and to market technologies of violence.

Prof. Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian is the Lawrence D. Biele Chair in Law at the Faculty of Law-Institute of Criminology and the School of Social Work and Public Welfare at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Chair in Global Law at Queen Mary University of London. 

Her research focuses on law, society and crimes of abuse of power.  She studies the crime of femicide and other forms of gendered violence, crimes of abuse of power in settler colonial contexts, surveillance, securitization and social control, and children, settler colonialism, trauma and recovery in militarized and colonized zones.

The discussion is organized by FFIPP NL– Educational network for human rights in Palestine/Israel, gate48 – critical Israelis in the Netherlands and Palestine Link – An Organisation of Palestinians in the Netherlands.



feminists@law, Vol 4, No 1 (2014)

It is our belief that Palestine is a feminist issue….

David Lloyd*

So long as antiwar activists denounce the U.S. occupation of Iraq, but not Israel’s occupation of Palestine, I will keep drawing the parallels.  So long as Western feminists denounce the oppression of Arab women as a result of Islamic fundamentalism, but not as a result of Israeli occupation, I will raise my voice.  I will explain that Palestinian women are without any doubt more oppressed by Israel and Zionism than they are by their fellow Palestinian men, that a Palestinian woman’s freedom of movement, her right to an education, her right to vote, her right to work, her right to live where she wants, her right to sufficient food, clean water, and medical treatment in her own homeland are denied to her not by her fellow Palestinians but by the illegal occupying power, Israel.(1)

In 1980, when Irish Republican women in Northern Ireland’s Armagh Gaol had gone on a “no-wash or dirty protest” against strip searching that they defined as rape, Irish journalist Nell McCafferty published an article in the Irish Times that opened: “It is my belief that Armagh is a feminist issue.”(2)  The now celebrated article was motivated by the indifference, and sometimes explicit antagonism of most British and Irish feminist organizations to the plight of these female political prisoners because the nature of their political struggle—which had been criminalized by British counter-insurgency policies—was not expressly feminist.  McCafferty argued that the violation of the integrity of women’s bodies that strip-searching inevitably involved constituted an issue that was indubitably a matter of concern to any feminist.  As we might now say, and as feminist sociologists like Mary Corcoran have since shown in considerable detail, the treatment of women political prisoners in Armagh was a manifestation of the structural violence of a political regime which, while it impacted every member of the nationalist minority irrespective of gender, affected with concentrated impact the daily lives of women, political activists or not.(3)

It is time for a similar statement regarding Palestine and the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)(4) which, since it was called for in 2003 by some 170 Palestinian civil society organizations—including virtually every Palestinian women’s organization—has proliferated globally.  It is our belief that the Palestinian struggle and the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is a feminist issue.  It may be, indeed, above all a feminist issue.  Yet, despite the increasingly broad appeal of this non-violent and rights-based movement, its implications for both global feminist solidarity work and for feminist social and political analysis have not become generally appreciated.  While a number of academic associations, in the United States and elsewhere, have endorsed an academic boycott, they have largely done so in the name of anti-racist or anti-colonial solidarity.  To date, apparently, no major Western women’s or feminist organization has declared its solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.  Where this is not symptomatic of explicitly Zionist sympathies on the part of some feminists,(5)  the lack of open feminist solidarity with Palestine may be in large part a consequence of the success of state-driven Israeli messaging that Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian here describes, which depicts Israel as a liberal, democratic society that is exceptional in the Middle East for its openness to women’s emancipation and full participation in social and political spheres.  What is in effect a propaganda or hasbara campaign of “feminist-washing”, akin to the “pink-washing” campaigns whose contradictions Brenna Bhandar discusses in her contribution, is shadowed by its implicit Islamophobia: it always implies the essential incompatibility of Arab and Muslim societies with women’s emancipation, as it argues their incapacity for democracy, while occluding the deeply heteropatriarchal and homonational elements basic to Israeli state formation.  Furthermore, as Shalhoub-Kevorkian argues, the Orientalist assumptions about Arab society that underlie both forms of normalization of Israel actually endorse and exacerbate patriarchal elements within Palestinian society.

To some degree, such attitudes may also still inform some Western feminists’ lack of explicit engagement with the Palestinian struggle, compounded by the long and vexed history of nationalist movements’ frequent marginalization of women as agents and of feminist issues as subsidiary to the national struggle.  Ironically, however, if feminists are leery of giving support to a Palestinian liberation movement often defined in nationalist terms, their reluctance to do so tacitly lends their support to another and more powerful nationalism, that of Zionism.  But to consider Palestine simply in the light of older decolonizing movements is to miss the significance of the new conjuncture within a longer history of colonialism and of heteropatriarchal modes of social control that Israel’s system of domination represents.  As a settler colony, Israel depends on and deploys strategies of domination that, as Rana Sharif and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian show, are deeply structured by the gendered relations of power typical of colonial societies. These modes of domination present a peculiarly urgent field of theorization and of practical reconsideration for feminism, representing as they do a reconfiguration of modes of biopower that draws into the core of the neo-liberal state the colonial operations of processes that both Sharif and Shalhoub-Kevorkian here invoke under the name of necropolitics.  And, much as it has functioned as a laboratory for technologies of militarized repression and surveillance that have found increasingly widespread application in population control and policing from the US border to Brazilian favelas, Israel also offers a telling body of insight into emerging modes of biopolitical practice and necropolitical regimes that intervene in what I would term the expanded sphere of reproduction.(6)

In his indispensable work, Israel’s Occupation, Neve Gordon argues that in the wake of the Second Intifada that broke out in September 2000, Israel’s control over the West Bank shifted “from the principle of colonization to the principle of separation.”(7)  This entailed equally “a radical de-emphasis of disciplinary power and the accentuation of a particular kind of sovereign power, which in many respects disregards the law”:(8) as he puts it, “In place of the politics of life that had characterized the OT (Occupied Territories) until the second intifada, a politics of death slowly emerged.”(9)  Gordon does not examine in any depth, however, the quite exceptional degree to which this shift from the biopolitical mode, in which Israel as a colonizing power still regarded itself as responsible (as under the Geneva Conventions it is in fact obliged to be) for the continuing welfare of the occupied population, to the necropolitical exercise of the sovereign power to take life, which targets the most fundamental forms of reproduction of Palestinian life.

What is implied here, drawing on the work of Marxist theorists like Louis Althusser and materialist feminists like Leopoldina Fortunati, is an expanded conception of reproduction that includes not only the biological reproduction of life—birth, nurture, and the maintenance of health—or of mere labour power, but the reproduction of social and cultural relations of every kind. Althusser refers to this in limited fashion as “the reproduction of the conditions of production”, that is, not only of the “forces of production” (labour power), but also of  “the existing [social] relations of production”.(10) Fortunati in turn points out that this separation of production from reproduction is the foundation of “the sexual division of labor”, within which the work of reproduction performed overwhelmingly by women appears as the “natural force of social labor”.(11)  Insofar as the reproduction of labor takes place through the family, it draws into it the affective as well as the purely economic relations among individuals, those relations in which “nature” takes on the form of the social and the cultural.(12) The conception of reproduction in this expanded sense transforms the sphere of reproduction from a function and space marginal to capital into one of primary contradictions and therefore of struggle.  In the colonial sphere, I would argue, an expanded conception of reproduction designates the whole domain of the social, the cultural and the affective as principal sites of struggle insofar as they bring into play not only the productive capacities of the colonized—those capacities that, as Gordon demonstrates, the Israeli state in the mode of discipline and biopower sought to exploit in the form of Palestinian labor—but their very survival as a “form of living”, precisely that which is targeted by the “sovereign power” of the new Israeli mode of domination.  This is, no less than the capitalist sphere of reproduction, a mode of domination in which—as Shalhoub-Kevorkian here shows in painful detail—those who bear the brunt of its violence and the burden of survival are women.

The transition from a biopolitical state to one of sovereign power, as Gordon describes it, is not an historical accident contingent on an unfolding “conflict”, but is, rather, symptomatic of the fundamental contradictions of Israel’s settler colonial regime, as Bhandar describes it in her contribution.  Even before the institution of the state of Israel in 1948, which entailed the expulsion of three-quarters of a million Palestinians, Zionists had considered the existing Palestinian population a demographic threat to the exclusively Jewish character of the state they imagined.  As David Ben-Gurion saw it, a state that had more than 20% Arab population would be unviable.(13)  Even without the intifadas, Israeli dependence on the exploitation and reproduction of Palestinian labor power would ultimately have been in unsustainable contradiction to the Zionist project precisely because—as the intifadas demonstrated—the Israeli effort to assimilate Palestinians within a colonial state through the normalization of the occupation had failed.(14)  The evident capacity of the Palestinians to reproduce their culture and society—their samoud, or persistence—as a form of living distinct from and oppositional to the Zionist state and society would require their erasure rather than their adjustment to a normalized occupation. 

But the corresponding shift from a biopolitical to a necropolitical state was by no means a radical departure, but rather the intensification of a process that had been continuous, as Shalhoub-Kevorkian maintains, since Israel’s inception in the varying forms of ethnic cleansing (or “transfer”), separation and containment through the fragmentation of Palestinian territory, denial of freedom of movement, including access to basic resources like farmland or schooling, denial of access to fundamental services, from healthcare to adequate housing or water supplies, denial of the right to family unification or to return freely to one’s place of origin, denial on an arbitrary basis of permits of all kinds, including the right to travel or to access healthcare or schooling to which one is formally entitled.  Indeed, as Rana Sharif points out,(15) it is frequently the right of access to fundamental services that are theoretically granted by Israel—and which it holds out as indices of the benevolence of its regime—that is withheld.  As one of her seriously ill interviewees relates of his attempt to obtain routine treatment:

The Palestinian handed the application over to the Israeli [HDCA]. Upon reporting to the Palestinian on the second day, my wife was told that the Israeli side was still examining the issue from a security perspective. Therefore, I lost my appointment. Because an alternative treatment is not available in the West Bank hospitals, my health condition has deteriorated.

For all the aggravating pettiness of such routine denials—and they are innumerable in the experience of Palestinians—their cumulative intent is clear: to make Palestinian life intolerable and unsustainable and resistance accordingly unviable. And, as Sharif’s account here indicates, even where the principal victim may appear to be male, it is a Palestinian woman who confronts and bears Israel’s relentless assault on the Palestinian sphere of reproduction.

Angela Davis has written eloquently of the ways in which the formations both of slavery and of the era of supposed emancipation impacted the social and cultural structures of African American life in ways that had peculiar effect on black women, precisely to the extent to which “unfreedom” shaped the affective and institutional sphere of reproduction or “family-support systems”.(16)  By the same token, the Israeli assault on Palestinian life, on its capacity for reproduction, although it affects every Palestinian regardless of gender or sexuality, falls with particular weight upon women.  Of course, the Israeli regime, predicated as it is on the essentially exclusionary preservation and promotion of the “Jewish character of the state”, is gendered and racialized at every level in ways that do not target Palestinians alone.  Immigration law is profoundly discriminatory not only against Palestinians, but also against migrants whose labor has increasingly displaced that of Palestinian workers since the Second Intifada.  Notoriously, black migrants from North and East Africa have been repelled or interned as “infiltrators”, under the recently amended Prevention of Infiltration Act of 1954,(17) a law originally directed at Palestinians, and that continues to be applied, for example, both to Bedouins in the Naqab or to Palestinians from Gaza who seek to continue their studies in West Bank universities. On the other hand, immigrant workers from, for instance, the Philippines, usually concentrated in health and domestic care, are permitted to come on short term visas, and normally only if they are single and do not have children.  Those who become pregnant while in the country may be expelled, for fear that their non-Jewish children would be able to claim the right of citizenship and “flood the foundation of the Zionist state.”(18) At the same time, Palestinian workers are permitted to enter Israel or its illegal settlements on the West Bank only on condition of being a married father over the age of 35.(19)  Palestinians who are citizens of Israel have, as Bhandar notes, been deprived of the right to family unification under the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003, which bans Palestinians from outside Israel from gaining residency through marriage to an Israeli (a law comparable to one that even the South African Supreme Court balked at accepting). Meanwhile Filipinas who marry Israeli men may become citizens if they convert to Judaism.  A complex network of differential and differentiating laws thus governs the various populations of Israel and its occupied territories.(20)

The effect of Israel’s “low-intensity warfare” against the persisting Palestinian communities in areas targeted for Israeli expansion or for “Judaization” falls, however, with especial weight on women.  Its manifestations range from the very literal destruction of the domestic space through demolition or eviction, usually under discriminatory legal pretexts and even including the demolition of entire villages and areas defined as “unrecognized villages” in the Naqab, to the brutal denial of access to essential and often urgently needed care.(21)  Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian documents in often painful detail the impact on Palestinian women of Israel’s will to contain and reduce the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem in particular (an area currently targeted with particular intensity for settlement expansion, given Israel’s determination to appropriate this historically Palestinian city as part of its “eternal capital”).  Its impact ranges from the extremist “price tag” campaign that targets all Palestinians with vindictive violence,(22) to the eviction of families from homes they have occupied for decades, with deeply traumatic effects on children. As Saree Makdisi explains, citing Amnesty International, “the deliberate demolition of Palestinian homes is a long-standing Israeli policy” and one that is “not justified by military necessity.”(23) These assaults on Palestinian daily and domestic life, which extend to the often fatal denial of essential treatment to pregnant women, as if in an effort to target the literal biological reproduction of Palestinian life, have shaped, Shalhoub-Kevorkian argues, a “death zone” for Palestinians that has peculiar impact on women even if it is one part of a larger, ongoing process of dispossession that Bhandar here sees as continuous with settler colonialism practices elsewhere.(24)  This death zone, the material instance of what Sharif, citing Achille Mbembe,(25) calls the “necropolitical state”, is the space where the biological, material and cultural reproduction of Palestinian social life is put at daily and intimate risk.

Israel’s war against the continuance of Palestinian life targets women in every sphere.  Certainly it targets women as potential or actual agents of the reproduction of life itself, as mothers and as caretakers, but it also targets women as reproducers of social and cultural life, as if the targeting of women—as so often in colonial regimes—were understood to be the royal road to the destruction of indigenous social and political life.(26) Living under Israeli occupation or within the borders of its racial state has been devastating for all Palestinians, but is especially destructive for Palestinian women as the essays collected here all demonstrate. If, as Shalhoub-Kevorkian argues, the analysis of the larger “physics of power” that organizes the settler colonial project of Zionism is essential to any feminist understanding of the condition of Palestinian women and of the nature of their struggle, it is no less the case that the same structures of domination must be analyzed and contested from a feminist standpoint.  This is, in Bhandar’s words, a fundamental task of any “anti-colonial, feminist politics of solidarity”.(27)  Feminism, according to Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “entails understanding the nature and significance of solidarity with the dispossessed, something that global feminism, international law, and Israeli feminism have so far failed to do” in the case of Palestinian women.(28)

Palestinian women’s and feminist groups, including the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) and Palestinian Federation of Women’s Action Committees (PFWAC), have been an integral element of the Palestinian call for BDS against Israel since its inception.  This non-violent and human rights-based campaign makes three basic demands of Israel, calling for broad boycotts and divestment initiatives against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Separation or Apartheid Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.(29)

The guidelines for the implementation of BDS measures are deliberately flexible and context-sensitive, allowing for local solidarity organizations to determine the most effective measures to pursue in any given situation.  Actions have ranged from consumer boycotts of agricultural products grown in settlements on the West Bank, to campaigns against companies like Veolia, which runs transport systems in Occupied East Jerusalem and bus routes and waste disposal facilities in the settlements; from divestment campaigns by churches or universities that target corporations who profit from the occupation, like Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, or Hewlett-Packard, to demands for the suspension of contracts with firms like global security company G4S that runs Israeli political prisons and engages in the torture of prisoners.(30)  One cornerstone of the BDS campaign in recent years has been the boycott of Israeli academic institutions,(31) a specific campaign that has been endorsed by an increasing number of academic associations, from the Teachers’ Union of Ireland(32) to the US American Studies Association,(33) or supported by more specific measures, like the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s passage of a motion urging the International Union of Architects to suspend the Israeli Association of United Architects (IAUA) from the world body of architects, the International Union of Architects (UIA).(34)

Much as the sports and cultural boycott of South Africa had an impact on the apartheid regime out of all proportion to any economic impact it could have, the academic boycott is of particular significance in targeting a core element of Israel’s efforts to normalize its regime of occupation and apartheid by projecting the image of its liberal and democratic institutions and by integrating its intellectual and research agendas with academic institutions in the United States and Europe.  Critics of the academic boycott campaign frequently argue that targeting universities and academics threatens to isolate one principal space where dialogue and the critique of Israeli state practices take place.  They ignore the fact that the boycott does not target individual academics, but specifically academic institutions, which, far from being sites of liberal critique, are deeply complicit in maintaining the technical and research infrastructure of the occupation.(35) Their assertion that the academic boycott undermines the possibility of dialogue is strikingly belied by the fact that in the wake of recent endorsements by academic associations in the United States, public debate on Palestine and Israel has opened up to an unprecedented degree in virtually every medium, from the blogosphere to mainstream media, despite vigorous efforts on the part of the Israeli lobby to censor and stifle debate.(36)  This outcome has been a singular and important effect of BDS, a civil society movement necessitated by the exceptional closure of the public and political spheres in the US and Europe to any critical discussion, let alone sanction of, Israel’s ongoing breaches of international law and human rights conventions.  This is a movement that has begun to correct what Shalhoub-Kevorkian here refers to as the long-standing practice of “invisibilizing Palestine”, evicting it from the public sphere.

It is significant that the first US academic association to endorse the academic boycott was the Association for Asian American Studies, and that those that followed included the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association and the American Studies Association.  All are associations whose members have a long history of analysis and critique of imperialism, settler colonialism and the racial state.  All voted to endorse the boycott as an act of solidarity, recognizing that what they were doing was not singling Israel out, as some argue—a misconception that Bhandar here critiques—but rather recognizing that Israel’s colonial project is continuous with and a crucial model for the ongoing racial domination that characterizes the era of neo-liberalism.  Their solidarity with Palestine did not eclipse their concern with racial oppression in their own colonial or racial-state contexts, but enhanced their analysis and linked their concerns to the global network of power, accumulation by dispossession, hetero-patriarchal and racial domination, and technologies of control within which Israel is a crucial node.  Indeed, many proponents of the boycott at these associations saw in both the debates it occasioned and in the engagement of scholarship with political solidarity a moment of renewal of their faith in intellectual work.(37) The argument made by the participants in this forum is that feminist movements, and feminist scholars within the academy internationally, likewise stand to gain from a commitment to solidarity with the Palestinian struggle.

* Distinguished Professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, and a founding member of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.  Email david.lloyd@ucr.edu. He has published numerous articles on Palestine and Israel, including “In the Long Shadow of the Settler: On Israeli and US Colonialisms”, written with Laura Pulido, in Audrea Lim, ed, The Case for Sanctions Against Israel (London: Verso Press, 2012) and “Settler Colonialism and the State of Exception: The Example of Israel/Palestine” in The Journal of Settler Colonial Studies 2.1 (2012) http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/2201473X.2012.10648826#.U2F5I9xBlCg.  He has also published with Malini Johar Schueller an essay on the rationale for the academic boycott of Israel in the AAUP’s Journal of Academic Freedom http://www.aaup.org/reports-publications/journal-academic-freedom/volume-4#response.  Lloyd works primarily on Irish culture and on postcolonial and cultural theory. His most recent book is Irish Culture and Colonial Modernity: The Transformation of Oral Space (Cambridge University Press, 2011). My thanks to Brenda Bhandar, Nadine Naber and Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian for help in shaping and revising this introduction.

(1) Nada Elia, “The Burden of Representation: When Palestinians Speak Out”, in Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, and Nadine Naber, eds, Arab and Arab-American Feminisms: Gender, Violence, and Belonging (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2011), p. 158.

(2) Nell McCafferty, “It is my belief that Armagh is a feminist issue”, Irish Times, 17 June 1980.

(3) Mary Corcoran, Out of Time: The Political Imprisonment of Women in Northern Ireland, 1972-98 (Portland, OR: Willan Publishing, 2006).

(4) See http://www.bdsmovement.net/ (accessed 26 April 2014).

(5) See Elia, “The Burden of Representation”, pp. 141-58.

(6) For further on Israel’s punitive necropolitical regime, see Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “The Grammar of Rights in Colonial Contexts: The Case of Palestinian Women in Israel”, Middle East Law and Governance 4 (2012), pp. 106-151. For various approaches to Israel’s critical role in the development of technologies of policing and surveillance, and to their global deployment, see, among others, Naomi Klein, “Losing the Peace Incentive: Israel as Warning”, in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (New York: Picador, 2007); Eyal Weizman, interviewed by Philipp Misselwitz, “Military Options as Human Planning”, in Eduardo Cadava and Aaron Levy, eds, Cities Without Citizens (Philadelphia: Slought Books, 2003), pp. 167-99. One of the most recent and most direct connections between US and Israeli technologies is the Israeli corporation Elbit Systems’ large and lucrative contract with the Department of Homeland Security to supply the surveillance infrastructure along the US border with Mexico—a project that will directly affect the lives and movements of both economic migrants and of indigenous peoples who have traditionally moved fluidly across the zone divided by the frontier: see Gabriel Schivone, “How Israel’s war industry profits from violent US immigration ‘reform’”, http://electronicintifada.net/content/how-israels-war-industry-profits-violent-us-immigration-reform/13283 (accessed 26 April 2014).

(7) Neve Gordon, Israel’s Occupation (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008), p. 199

(8) Ibid, p. 201.

(9) Ibid, p. 207.

(10) Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses: Notes Towards an Investigation”, in Lenin and Philosophy and other Essays (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1971), pp. 127-8.

(11) Leopoldina Fortunati, The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and Capital, trans. Hilary Creek (New York: Autonomedia, 1995), pp. 13-14.

(12) Ibid, Chapter 11.

(13) David Ben-Gurion, cited in Ilan Pappé, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oxford: One World Publications, 2006), p. 250.  Pappé’s book gives a detailed history of the planning and execution, of the expulsion of the Palestinians in 1948 and its aftermath.

(14) See Gordon, Israel’s Occupation, p. 151 and Chapter 6, passim.

(15) See Rana Sharif, “Bodies, Buses, and Permits: Palestinians Navigating Care” in this issue.

(16) Angela Davis, Blues Legacies And Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, And Billie Holiday (New York: Vintage Books, 1998), pp. 11 and 84

(17) See http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israel-enacts-law-allowing-authorities-to-detain-illegal-migrants-for-up-to-3-years-1.434127 (accessed 26 April 2014)

(18) Bill Van Esveld and Allie Chen, “Israel should respects rights of migrant workers”, http://www.hrw.org/news/2010/10/08/israel-should-respect-rights-migrant-workers (accessed 26 April 2014).

(19) Alon Aviram, “Palestinian employment: The phantom workers of Israel”, http://972mag.com/palestinian-employment-the-phantom-workers-of-israel/61526/ (accessed 26 April 2014).

(20) For an extended discussion of the impact of Israeli laws on migrant workers, see Allan Isaac, Nadine Naber, and Sarita Echavez See, “Filipino Workers in the Middle East: Frictive Histories and the Possibilities of Solidarity”, Center for Art and Thought (Spring-Fall 2013), http://www.centerforartandthought.org/work/project/dialogues.

(21) For a detailed account of the impact on Bedouin women of such demolition and eviction in the Naqab (or Negev) and of their resistance, see Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “The Grammar of Rights”, passim.

(22) See, eg, http://www.btselem.org/settler_violence (accessed 30 April 2014).

(23) Saree Makdisi, Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (New York: WW Norton, 2008), pp. 109-10.

(24) See also Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “Reexamining Femicide:  Breaking the Silence and Crossing ‘Scientific’ Borders” in Signs, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Winter 2003), pp. 581-608.

(25) Achille Mbembe, “Necropolitics”, in Public Culture, Vol. 15, No. 1 (2003), pp. 11–40.

(26) Cf Frantz Fanon, “Unveiling Algeria”, in A Dying Colonialism, trans. Haakon Chevalier (New York: Grove Press, 1967), pp. 35-67; and Andrea Smith, Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide (Boston: South End Press, 2005).

(27) Brenna Bhandar, “Some Reflections on BDS and Feminist Political Solidarity” in this issue.

(28) Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian, “Palestinian Feminist Critique and the Physics of Power: Feminists Between Thought and Practice” in this issue.

(29) See http://www.bdsmovement.net/call (accessed 26 April 2014).

(30) The organization Who Profits?, http://www.whoprofits.org, maintains regularly updated information on corporations that do business with and profit from the Occupation.

(31) See http://www.pacbi.org/ (accessed 26 April 2014).

(32) See http://www.ipsc.ie/press-releases/teachers-union-of-ireland-calls-for-academic-boycott-of-israel-in-unanimous-vote-first-academic-union-in-europe-to-do-so (accessed 26 April 2014).

(33) See http://www.theasa.net/american_studies_association_resolution_on_academic_boycott_of_israel (accessed 26 April 2014).

(34) See http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=2399&key=Architects (accessed 26 April 2014).

(35) A detailed report on the collaboration of Israeli institutions with the occupation and other apartheid practices is available from the Israeli-Palestinian Alternative Information Center, http://www.alternativenews.org/english/index.php/component/content/article/103-topics/news/980-the-case-for-academic-boycott-against-israel-980. Information on discrimination against Palestinians in Israeli academia is provided by the Academic Watch Project of Al-Rased: http://alrasedproject.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/1/

(36) See Steven Salaita, “Academics should boycott Israel: Growing movement takes next step”, http://www.salon.com/2013/12/04/academics_should_boycott_israel_growing_movement_takes_next_step/ (accessed 26 April 2014).

(37) See David Lloyd, “The Taboo on Boycotting Israel Has Been Broken”, http://electronicintifada.net/content/taboo-boycotting-israel-has-been-broken/12949 (accessed 26 April 2014).

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