DAAR’s methodology seeks to find and utilize cracks and loopholes within existing colonial systems of separation and control. As such it deals with the stuff of “real existing colonialism” and the trash it leaves behind. These equally include built structures, infrastructure, land ownerships and legal systems. Each of these elements enforces separations of different natures and by different means. We seek to profane rather than reject the material conditions of this real existing colonialism, and for this reason we do not start from a utopian reality, or a romantic tabula rasa, but rather from what lies in front of our eyes and in the reach of our hands.
In this project we deal with a potential slippage within the colonizer’s own laws of separation and seek to find within it a space of great potentiality. Our call is thus simultaneously architectural and political—we call for a common assembly—and find this common to lie within the abyss of the most horrific and ridiculous of elements—the border itself.
Case 01: Eitan Kramer vs. The State of Israel
The Land without Law
The small kibbutz-village of Neve Shalom (Wahat Al-Salam) was built under the guise of coexistence and was used to employ many Palestinian workers from the neighbouring villages, who sometimes stayed the night in a simple house on the premises. Although the workers, according to Israeli law, required permits to work there, some had them and others did not. The kibbutz is situated in an area of historical Palestine where the Green Line, the cartographic division created by Israel and Jordan after the 1949 Armistice Agreement splits into two. The two lines, one green and one red, were marked out on the bonnet of a military jeep by the two commanders who agreed on their positioning—Moshe Dayan and Abdallah Al Tal. The lines enclose an in-between space, a no man’s land, where people and soldiers were prevented from entering. One of these lines, the red one, crosses right through Neve Shalom past an ancient olive tree.
In 2003, at the end of the second intifada, the founder of Neve Shalom, a man named Eitan Kramer, was arrested by the Israeli Border Police and accused of transporting a Palestinian worker from the West Bank through the kibbutz. He of course did this regularly, taking workers with or without permit, through the village and the surrounding areas. Although the Palestinian worker was released after a few hours, Eitan was taken for a lengthy interrogation and eventually arrested. He was accused of violating the Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (2003)2 by hosting and transporting a Palestinian worker, allowing him to travel to Israeli coastal cities where the majority of the Palestinian “illegal” workers find temporary employment on the
A few months later, Eitan was called to appear in the District Court of Bet Shemesh to face the accusations of the state prosecutor. He was advised by his lawyer, who was employed by the kibbutz, to confess to the presumed crime for a plea bargain that would reduce the fine and waive the prison sentence. But Eitan decided not to follow this advice as he realized that Neve Shalom was situated in a territory with a very special status within the Israeli territorial regime. He devised his own legal strategy, which resulted in the most improbable of arguments. Instead of negotiating within the framework of the law, he argued for the inapplicability of the law, referring to the legal void created by the two lines marked out in 1949. Using this apparently absurd argument, Eitan Kramer was finally acquitted.
1 In the Rhodes Agreement (1949) Israel and Jordan defined an area, between the lines traced by the Armistice military cartographers as a demilitarized zone.
2 Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (2003) governs citizenship rights to Israel. It prohibits the inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza from gaining citizenship and residency permits through the usual channels available to Israelis such as family reunification.
Case 02: The Bardens vs. National Insurance Institute
The Bifurcated House and the Line of Exileness
A Palestinian couple, the Bardans, lived in a house in the village of Akab, which is one of the urban centres located at the periphery of Jerusalem. As residents of Israel (one result of the illegal annexation of East Jerusalem was that the couple were given a temporary Jerusalem ID) they were entitled to receive disability pension payments. But the location of the house was problematic. Unknown to the family, the house was situated very close to the unilaterally imposed municipality boundary of Jerusalem. When the time came for them to receive their payments, the National Insurance Institute claimed that they did not live in Israel. But, paradoxically, Israel has never issued a univocal map of the boundaries of Jerusalem, only describing it as scattered points in the landscape. When the Labor Court of Jerusalem asked the Jerusalem surveyor to draw the specific section of the line in reference to the Akab village, it happened to pass over its roof, splitting it in two. The bifurcated house sat in limbo, half in Jerusalem, half out.
The job of declaring what is in Jerusalem and what is out is that of the District Surveyor. But rather than drawing once and for all the final path of the whole Jerusalem line, he traces sections of the line case-by-case, situation-by-situation. The final result of this process was an algebraic calculation of the status of the house: 54.20% of the property was decreed outside of the Jerusalem jurisdiction area; 48.80% of the property inside the Jerusalem jurisdiction area.
If in the other cases of lines of separation, the line clearly presented a specific thickness, in this case the surveyor, through his sovereign and arbitrary act of tracing the line, did not attribute a thickness to it. It was instead the Bardans family who tried to defend their rights by thickening the line. However, theirs was not a cartographic thickness but one of everyday life that could nevertheless, according to their legal strategy, be considered as a juridical space: the thickness of the space of residence, or the private space of the home.
The Bardans tried to calculate the amount of time spent in the rooms considered to be part of Jerusalem. Their sleeping activities were carried out in the 48.80 % thickness of the house and that was enough to demonstrate that their residency was in Jerusalem. The National Insurance Institute rejected this claim, reaffirming the sacrality of the surveyor and the line. They argued that how the house was used, and the fact that the basic biological activity at the foundation of the concept of residency was carried out in the 48.80% of the house decreed to be part of Jerusalem, was not a legitimate object of discussion. They claimed that a person could easily change the configuration of rooms inside the house to suit their purposes.
Finally, the Bardans lost the case, and as the court itself stated, any border will always leave some people out. Yet, it was the attribution of a (private) thickness to the line that in this case was rejected. By insisting on the line as geometry, a pure vector that had nothing to do with the spaces of everyday life, the court re-affirmed the violence of expulsion and the production of exile that is the usual function of such lines. Perhaps it is by affirming the commonality of the legal void of the line, the common condition of Palestineity it embodies, that these kinds of spaces can become the starting point for re-assembling all those living a condition of exile and for the
diffusion of colonial and other forms of territoriality.