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The Strategies and Dynamics of Israeli Occupation in Palestine

Panel IX-25, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 3:00 pm

Panel Description
  • Over the past decades, the share of agriculture in the Palestinian occupied West Bank (oWB) – once at the core of its economy – has declined dramatically. This shift has increased the territory's dependency on Israel and foreign aid for food imports and threatened Palestinian farmers' rural communities and rural identity tied to farming the land. Using Palestinian agriculture – arguably the most political sector – as a case study, this paper examines the sector's decline from the Oslo Accords until the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (1993-2020). It employs primary and secondary data in English and Arabic (including policy strategy papers by the World Bank, various United Nations agencies and the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) as indicators for their intentions for agricultural (de-)development, as well as economic indicators) in order to demonstrate how Israeli settler colonialism and neoliberalism, championed by the Western international donor community and the PNA, have altered the sector. Thus far, studies on the political economy of agriculture in the oWB have focused on Israel's land grabs or neoliberal development efforts in general, failing to point out the processes' mutual reinforcement in agriculture. Instead, this paper argues that both sets of actors have deliberately 'de-developed' Palestinian agriculture because it did not align with their political agendas and respective visions for the occupied West Bank. The paper demonstrates this by using a Marxist political economy framework, showcasing how settler colonialism and neoliberalism revolve around accumulation by dispossession, subsequently resulting in 1) small-holder farmers' proletarianization, 2) the territory's dependency on Israel and foreign aid for food imports, and 3) threatening Palestinian farmers' rural communities and rural identity tied to farming the land. In showcasing the impact of this “colonialism-neoliberalism nexus” on agriculture that has also been at play elsewhere, the paper challenges notions of Palestinian 'exceptionalism' often employed to justify Israel's violence and ineffective development efforts in the oWB. In addition, its results allow reflections on decolonizing international development efforts in Palestine and elsewhere by strengthening bottom-up initiatives, rural communities through cooperatives and transnational developments such as La Vía Campesina. They also point towards the role of Palestinian-led cooperatives in resisting the neoliberalism-colonialism nexus as an avenue for future field research.
  • Cora Enterline
    This paper uses a foundation of theory on food studies and religious identity, readings from the Bible, and a look at winemaking as part of the Zionist project to show how wineries in Israeli settlements use religious terroir to justify their presence in the West Bank. This research has important implications in the field of food studies and in studies of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Few scholars have examined wineries and terroir as tools of settlement in the West Bank. By focusing on wine as a product and mechanism of settlement, we can be more critical of claims about the history of Jewish winemaking, its connections to contemporary winemaking in Israel, the return to Israel as biblical necessity, and the political rhetoric of settlers. Terroir is the set of conditions that make wine unique: soil content, climate, elevation, winemaking philosophy, local traditions, and, I argue, religion. This paper is unique because it adds another understanding of terroir to wine scholarship. I build on theories of wine, terroir, and food myths from authors like Matt Harvey, Marion Demossier, and Kaori O’Connor. If, as scholarship suggests, terroir connects people to the land whence wine comes and people who have consumed from the land before, and if the dominant national identity overtly deploys religious symbolism, then, I propose, religion is part of terroir and the connections made between contemporary consumers and the mythic history of wine. To demonstrate the important role that religion plays in the construction of terroir, I look at two wineries in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The first is Itamar, which I toured in person. I analyze what I saw alongside the online presence of another settlement, Psagot, with help from work by Anshel Pfeffer, Ian McGonigle, Charles Selengut, and a report by Who Profits. My research shows that religion is part of what defines terroir and settlers are using religious terroir to justify their presence in the West Bank. They claim that their religious call to winemaking is more important than the international laws they are breaking. And because of the nature of terroir, wine production offers them a unique and seemingly timeless and apolitical connection to the land.
  • Nur Arafeh
    The goal of this paper is to critically examine two Trade Facilitation Programs (TFPs) (the ‘known trader’ and the ‘door-to-door’), which were advanced by the U.S. at the Tarqumiya checkpoint in Hebron in the West Bank. Despite the abundance of scholarship on donor aid in the OPT, up to now, far too little attention has been paid to these programs, and to the effects of donor projects on indigenous businesses and the structure of the private sector more generally. Drawing on data collected from Wikileaks documents, media reports, and in-depth interviews with donors and Hebron’s businessmen who benefitted from TFPs, this paper interrogates donors’ official discourse on these programs. It highlights how TFPs, which are presented in technical terms as benefitting the Palestinian private sector, are emblematic of a spider web of deeper control within the OPT and are part of a larger nexus of power that aims at further pacifying and co-opting Hebron’s business elite to ensure stabilization. More specifically, the paper makes two arguments: Firstly, it shows how TFPs have represented a new form of privilege that is embedded in and further reinforces dependency relations with Israel. Secondly, building on counterinsurgency theory, the study frames TFPs as a technology of counterinsurgency that has wedded Israeli colonial priorities with U.S. counterinsurgency practices, by seeking to achieve stabilization and conflict management through the employment of pacification techniques that co-opt domestic elites and coerce their political quiescence. The paper also reveals for the first time that through TFPs, the U.S. has introduced a new condition for business growth by requiring beneficiary businessmen from the elite to become counterinsurgency actors managing an ‘anti-terror’ infrastructure and a self-surveillance regime under Israel’s control. The research also shows how TFPs have added another layer of colonial control, by extending Israel’s counterinsurgency practices and disciplinary mechanisms into the industries of Hebron’s elite, thus reconfiguring Israel’s regime of colonial governance and surveillance while strengthening dependency relations with Israel. This research contributes to the counterinsurgency literature by providing new empirical evidence of local agency in counterinsurgency and by highlighting the convergence of interests among western and local elites in stabilization. The research also offers insights into the latest development in Israeli and American counterinsurgency strategy in the OPT, which now emphasizes the role of local business elite in policing their own population to ensure stabilization.