Between Imaginary Lines: Violence and its Justifications at the Military Checkpoints in Occupied Palestine

Hagar Kotef, Merav Amir

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    28 Citations (Scopus)


    Looking at one site, the Israeli checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territory, this article seeks to understand the mechanisms by which violence can present itself as justifiable (or justified), even when it materializes within frames presumably set to annul it. We look at the checkpoints as a condensed microcosmos operating within two such frames. One is the prolonged IsraeliPalestinian ‘peace process’ (the checkpoints became a primary technology of control in the period following the beginning of the peace process), and the other is regulatory power (disciplinary and biopower), which in the Foucauldian framework presumably sidelines the violent form which sovereign power takes. We argue that the checkpoints, which dissect the Palestinian occupied territories into dozens of enclaves and which are one of the most effective and destructive means of control within the current stage of occupation, can be seen as more than obstacles in the way of Palestinian movement; we suggest that they also function as corrective technologies that are meant to fail. It is with this failure that violence can appear as justified. In order to show the operation of this embedded failure, we examine one mechanism operating within the checkpoints: ‘the imaginary line’. The imaginary line is both a component within, and an emblem of a mode of control that constantly undoes itself in order to summon violence. Since it is never visibly marked in the physical space, the imaginary line is bound to be unintentionally crossed, thereby randomly rendering Palestinians as ‘transgressors’ of the rule and thus facilitating eruptions of violence by the soldiers stationed at the checkpoints. This article proposes an analysis of this hidden demarcation of space in order to question the different relations between subjects and power which it both assumes and constitutes.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-80
    Number of pages26
    JournalTheory, Culture and Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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