Making the Illegal Legal


Slavoj Zizek on the bureaucracy of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, in In These Times:

In Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, Saree Makdis describes how, while the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is ultimately enforced by the armed forces, it is an “occupation by bureaucracy”: Its primary forms are application forms, title deeds, residency papers and other permits. It is with this micro-management of daily life that Israel secures its slow but steadfast expansion. One has to ask for a permit in order to live with one’s family, to farm one’s land, to dig a well, to go to work, to school, to a hospital.

Though it has been largely ignored by the media, Israel is clearly engaged in a slow, invisible process—a kind of underground digging of the mole—gradually undermining the basis of Palestinian livelihood so that, one day, the world will awaken and realize that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-free, and that all we can do is accept it.

The story has been going on since 1949: While Israel accepts the peace conditions proposed by the international community, it anticipates that the peace plan will fail. While condemning the openly violent excesses of “illegal” settlements, the State of Israel promotes new “legal” West Bank settlements. A look at the changing map of East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians have been gradually encircled and their space sliced, tells it all. The map of the Palestinian West Bank already looks like a fragmented archipelago.

The condemnation of unsanctioned anti-Palestinian violence obfuscates the true problem of state violence; the condemnation of illegal settlements obfuscates the illegality of the “legal” ones.