Please join us for an informal, at home talk by Eyal Weizman, and a following discussion and dinner. He will speak to us about his ongoing project, “Erasure,” the first volume of which, The Conflict Shoreline, appeared last year.
The “shoreline” metaphor refers to the “aridity line,” the boundary between cultivation and desert, which he understands as also marking a patterned “conflict zone,” in the Israel-Palestine region and elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. He argues that although conventionally indicated in rainfall amounts the aridity line is not stationary but shifts with the impacts of cultivation, colonial projects, urbanization and, in recent times, climate change. The specific study detailed in the book concerns the Bedouin village of al-ʿArāqīb, in the Naqab (Negev), which is located inside Israel proper. The village has been the site of the repeated bulldozing (over 100 times) of Bedouin housing structures by the Israeli state as it has sought to displace the inhabitants in favor of a new Jewish town. Weizman and his team used Sheikh’s aerial photos as a central piece of data to document the sedentary existences, and thus regular property relations, among the local Bedouin, noting, for example, the visible deep stains of defecation in animal pens. His team also collected testimonies from local people and utilized historical studies of the same region. He noted, however, that related litigation to uphold Bedouin property rights repeatedly failed. Asked about the role of his research materials after such losses in court, he replied, “We publish.”
Weizman also offered notes on parallel circumstances in the Occupied Territories, where he described the occupation strategies as ranging from institutional over-complexity to general neglect and the promotion of chaos. In the West Bank, a partial equivalent to the Israeli state’s position in the Naqab that sedentary cultivation, and thus regular property holding, is not possible beyond the desert aridity line, is that settlements and outposts are placed on crests and elevations, that is, above the crop line, and thus beyond the limit of direct Palestinian field ownership claims. However, Neta Patrick’s Sept. 29 analysis of the three rings of legal-security structures that surround West Bank settlements had shown how Palestinians were kept from their nearby properties, which were then seized as “uncultivated” lands.