The Geography Of Power: Subverting Colonial Landscapes In Palestine
In the broiling climate that is the landscape of Palestine-Israel the familiar discourse is one of international relations and political science. Concentrating on the primary political actors and their rhetorical game of ping-pong often ignores and is even irrelevant to the details of lived existence in the geography of the place. While data on the current environmental status is collected by Palestinian, Israeli and international NGOs, analysis of much depth is sadly lacking. Thus 70% of the United States cannot locate “Israel” on a map. U.S. based media sources tend to portray the conflict within a very tight scale. Close-up portraits of people in various states of anger or celebration often seem to exist in a context-less vacuum. Where are these people, in a city or a village or a refugee camp? Where do they live, how do they eat, where do their children play? More recently architects and scholars examining the role of infrastructure and planning in Israel’s occupation of Palestine have countered this economy of scale. They write about the Wall and the larger grid of control that involves roads, water wells, airspace, building permits, gates, checkpoints and travel documents.
Quite tangibly the heart of the spiraling conflict is land, as the settlements cut swaths through the West Bank, eating up land in Areas A, B and C of the Oslo Accords. Palestinians live in an ever-shrinking “Palestine”. By examining the case study of Oush Grab in Beit Sahour, located in the Bethlehem Governant, this paper is able to analyze the details of one landscape as it relates to the unexpectedly rich ecological history of Palestine. The specific story of Oush Grab opens the conversation to include Palestine in the frame of classical colonial occupations, decolonization and environmental justice. This paper seeks to explain and document the process of decolonization at Oush Grab, from military to public space. More exactly, is it possible to decolonize a colonial space while the colonial power is still in place? The findings of this paper were interrupted by the attempted settlement of Oush Grab by militant and privately armed Israeli settlers. The future of Oush Grab is unknown, but the findings in the paper can be valuable to the continuing struggle for public space in Palestine. If Oush Grab succeeds then the implication for other areas and for the environmental and public health of Beit Sahour are hopeful. If the settlers succeed and build an outpost in Beit Sahour then the implications of this paper cease to be relevant and one more hilltop will be decimated and destroyed beyond recognition.