“A colonized people is not alone. In spite of all that colonialism can do, its frontiers remain open to new ideas and echoes from the world outside. It discovers that violence is in the atmosphere, that it here and there bursts out, and here and there sweeps away the colonial regime.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
This paper will be an exercise in thinking both specifically, and more broadly about the pervasive climate of catastrophe in Palestine as an atmosphere of violence. This atmosphere is characterized by Israel’s formidable attempts to control and occupy the skies. Under a settler colonial regime of total spatial, temporal, corporeal, political, and ecological violence, in cordoned off and perforated slivers of shrinking enclaves of “unliveable” life, in the scattered diaspora, in an atmosphere of indigenous elimination, how are Palestinians mediating survivance? The question of Palestine is largely understood through the occupation of the land, but this paper asks how the unruly element of air can offer different material and epistemological opportunities for exit.
I will closely engage with Emily Jacir’s film Letter to a Friend (2019), and Rozeen Bisharat’s not yet released film about the hijacking of the Belgian Sabena airlines flight to Tel Aviv by four Palestinian resistance fighters and her role re-enacting this highjacking in Sabena Hijacking: My Version (2015). Both films gesture towards Israel’s formidable attempts to control and occupy the skies, whether it is through the land, air, and sea blockade and air raids on Gaza, the networked surveillance infrastructures and drone technologies deployed against the Palestinian population both within and beyond Israel’s expanding borders, the American sponsored Iron Dome, or the use of tear gas to poison, suppress, and incapacitate uprisings. Nevertheless, as demonstrated in Jacir’s and Bisharat’s speculative film projects, these militarized borders are more easily subverted and transgressed in the atmospheric unruliness of the (non)terrain of air.
Alongside Denise Ferreira da Silva, I will posit environmental and human crises in Palestine as entangled catastrophes in a planetary “accumulation of atmospheric gases” equivalent to “the extent of expropriation…of lands and labour facilitated by coloniality and raciality.” This paper attempts to tether back together the concomitant effects of racialized settler colonial violence and climate catastrophe by reading closely Palestinian atmospheric interventions in Jacir and Bisharat’s films.