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Thorough surveillance: The genesis of Israeli policies of population management, surveillance and political control

May 6, 2014 at 5:03 pm

  • Book Author(s): Ahmad H. Sa'di
  • Published Date: 2013-11-30 00:00:00
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Hardback: 224 pages
  • ISBN-13: 9780719090585

Departing from the contradiction which mainstream narratives have assimilated into normalised recurrences, Ahmed Sa’di’s excellent treatise commences with a reminder that Israel has extended the existence of colonialism far beyond its alleged demise. Surveillance methods, historically implemented to control populations of colonised territories, have been adopted by Israel to consolidate the desired demographic changes aimed, thus emphasising the exclusive nature of the Jewish state assembled upon the devastation of Palestine.

Thorough Surveillance: the genesis of Israeli policies of population management, surveillance and political control towards the Palestinian minority (Manchester University Press, 2014) analyses the methods of population control applied by Israel to Palestinians living in the settler-colonial state between 1948 and 1970. The tactics, denied by Israel, were incorporated into Zionist colonial expansionist plans prior to the atrocities of the Nakba in 1948. Reliance upon surveillance, therefore, was rooted within the colonial ideology that deconstructed the history of Palestinians as the indigenous population into a travesty of identity. Defining Palestinians became mired in complicity between Israel and the international community in order to assert the destabilisation of the people and embark upon categorisation with the aim of fragmenting the population to achieve coordinated surveillance.

Sa’di states that the alleged lack of surveillance guidelines and policy, disseminated by allies of Israel, contradicts settler-colonialism and Zionism. The absence of freedom was characterised by Israel’s political control, exerted through complicity, legal and institutional frameworks, deconstruction of Palestinian identity, state control and surveillance at local level, educational policy which strived to cultivate “the captive mind” and the restriction of political rights under military government. Political rights as a tool to control Palestinians was best illustrated by a quote from Ben Gurion: “We cannot start national discrimination while the whole world is discussing the problem with Israel and the rest of Palestine.”

With the existence of Palestinians constantly debated through the Zionist framework, expulsion became the ultimate aim of the settler-colonial state’s insistence upon surveillance and control. Normalised through the external regular ambiguity defined as discourse; a reference which Sa’di borrows from Edward Said, political rights granted to the Palestinian minority within the Zionist state constituted the pretext for a continuous refinement of security concerns based upon the intention of permanent exclusion. With the expulsion of Palestinians perceived as the ultimate aim, Israel retaliated against Palestinian resistance by imposing fragmentation of identity, encouraging forced transfer and embarking upon assimilating younger generations of Palestinians with the aim of fostering permanent dependency over freedom.

Israel utilised European strategies of marginalisation, establishing three objectives of control and surveillance that were synchronised with the earlier international support received prior to the establishment of the settler-colonial state. The prevention of return, relocation of Palestinians, as well as political control and segregation required collaboration in order to enforce the hegemonic order. The exertion of political control through alliances with infiltrators, the building of settlements in Palestinian territory to implement geophysical fragmentation and restrictions upon Palestinian political representation ensured absolute dependency upon the settler-colonial state.

The emphasis placed upon surveillance and control indicated the Zionist insistence that the ethnic cleansing embarked upon in 1948 is considered incomplete, hence the extension of the “state of emergency” to safeguard settler-colonialism. After 1958, control over the Palestinian population became an orchestrated effort on behalf of Shin Bet, the military government and the police, through which any form of resistance would be upheld by the Zionist state as an excuse to perpetrate further abuse.

Using tactics of the panopticon, a system whereby surveillance is facilitated by central monitoring of populations in fixed areas, Israel’s fomenting of differences within the indigenous population expanded deliberately to include the construction of Palestinians as non-Jews while emphasising the homogenisation of the Jewish population, as well as the Judaisation of spaces. Sa’di explores the dynamics of social categorisation which Israel embarked upon. “Social categorisation is frequently the end result of arduous socio-political sorting processes that not only construct the way in which citizens conceive themselves and others but also the way in which ethnic relations are structured.” With a few documented exceptions at local level, such as the National Communist Coalition, Palestinian representatives traded loyalty for prestige, setting the scene for pronounced differences between the people and representation.

Within education, control was practiced on various levels, primarily through asserting the hegemonic narrative and ensuring that the education of Palestinians contributes to colonised thinking. Surveillance of students and staff with regard to political affiliations resulted in further categorisation which hindered educational progress and achievements. The politics of surveillance throughout educational institutions is reminiscent of the disparity between Zionist expectations and Palestinian resistance, reflected also in the contradiction of rights for Palestinians under military law.

Sa’di stresses the importance of deconstructing the issue of political rights within the politics of surveillance and control. The alleged rights granted to Palestinians living inside Israel restrict fundamental freedoms through explicit denial sanctioned by the state. As a result of political repression and misrepresentation, Sa’di describes Palestinian resistance as taking place through three distinct frameworks: opting out, which entailed fleeing to neighbouring countries despite the associated risks of assassination, social protest and autonomous organisation.

The dispelling of Israel’s normalisation of surveillance techniques and control is clearly portrayed through historical proof prior to the establishment of the settler-colonial state and also as a continuation of evolving practices that continue to exacerbate Palestinians’ lives as Israel grapples with the realisation that the authentic, indigenous claims to land shapes the Palestinian minority into the embodiment of a tenacious nation. Normalising violations is strengthened by the dominating Zionist narrative that advocates population management as a permanent practice in the aftermath of the Nakba. In synchronisation with eliminating Palestinian claims to land, surveillance served to perfect restriction and foment divisions with the aim of furthering expulsion as a perfected method of cleansing and permanent destruction. However, its continuation is also an affirmation of the Zionist realisation that the indigenous population will not cede the right of resistance.