About the piece: These images were taken by the author in 2022, and are accompanied by text that explores themes of surveillance, freedom of movement, and borders. Click the title of each piece to read more.

Whatever settlers may say...the primary motive for elimination is not race (or religion, ethnicity, grade of civilization, etc.) but access to territory. Territoriality is settler colonialism’s specific, irreducible element.

-Patrick Wolfe, quoting Deborah Bird Rose (in "Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native." Journal of Genocide Research, 8:4, 2006: 387-409, DOI: 10.1080/14623520601056240)

الحمامة / the dove

The dove has long been a symbol of Palestinian resistance. Along with the key, the keffiyeh, the cartoon boy Hanzala, the watermelon slice, the olive branch, and more recently, the spoon, it offers a message of hope, an affirmation of resistance. A promise. Here, a dove sits atop the separation wall. She is not controlled by these walls. She can fly over when she pleases, land where she wishes. She can build her nest in the holes in the wall, made so that cranes can lower the concrete slabs into place.

Article 13 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights states:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.

  2. Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.

But the freedom of movement is something deeper than a right—it is a feeling that digs at the core of what it is to be alive. To move and migrate is part of who we are—as humans, but also as beings on this ancient earth, which came from the stars and will one day return to them. This identity is felt by all of us—when you see the great expanse of ocean, or the horizon line where mountains touch the sun, or the night sky and its mystery—there is a feeling, a question, a wondering. A promise. Tell me you haven't felt it.

A surveillance camera in Jerusalem

Since its conception, the surveillance of Palestinians has been key to Israel's colonial project. In a Panopticonic approach, the state of Israel relies on watchtowers, identification cards, distinct license plates and entry permits, CCTV, biometric data collection (like facial recognition surveillance cameras), intensive digital surveillance, and elite and vastly funded intelligence agencies, which collectively, in the name of security, function to extend and strengthen borders—the tangible and intangible—perpetuating "othering" practices that restrict the movement and freedom of Palestinians.

The surveillance strategies and technologies developed in Israel are tested on Palestinians, and exported for profit all over the world. Per capita, there are more surveillance companies in Israel than any other country in the world. Under the guise of "security," the collection of private data on Palestinian civilians can be used as "leverage" for extortion, according to the testimony of a veteran of Unit 8200, an elite Israeli army intelligence agency. According to 43 other whistleblowers from the agency, gay Palestinians have been particularly targeted: "If you’re a homosexual who knows someone who knows a wanted man – Israel will turn your life into a misery."

Barbed Wire Prayers

Before the creation of the state of Israel, Palestinian Christians were the second largest religious group in Palestine. Their share of the population has been dwindling ever since, due to both Christian emigration out of the region, and the rising population from waves of Jewish settlers. Like Muslims, Palestinian Christians have been relegated to second and third class citizenship status. They are particularly targeted during holy days, when their movement, pilgrimage to holy sites, and ability to congregate is heavily restricted by Israeli Occupation Forces.

The Kairos Document, a publication released by Palestinian Christian leaders, preaches a message "of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering" and calls for the end of Israeli occupation. Selected excerpts from the document follow.

1.1.8 Jerusalem is the heart of our reality. It is, at the same time, symbol of peace and sign of conflict. While the separation wall divides Palestinian neighbourhoods, Jerusalem continues to be emptied of its Palestinian citizens, Christians and Muslims. Their identity cards are confiscated, which means the loss of their right to reside in Jerusalem. Their homes are demolished or expropriated. Jerusalem, city of reconciliation, has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, a source of struggle rather than peace.

1.4 In the face of this reality, Israel justifies its actions as self-defence, including occupation, collective punishment and all other forms of reprisals against the Palestinians. In our opinion, this vision is a reversal of reality. Yes, there is Palestinian resistance to the occupation. However, if there were no occupation, there would be no resistance, no fear and no insecurity. This is our understanding of the situation. Therefore, we call on the Israelis to end the occupation. Then they will see a new world in which there is no fear, no threat but rather security, justice and peace.

Sorry my tax dollars paid for this

A stencil on the occupation's border wall, in Aida refugee camp, 2km north of Bethlehem. Between 2019 and 2028, US taxpayers will give $38 billion to Israel, specifically in military funding. This year alone, North Carolina tax payers will pay about $84 million toward this cause.

According to a Palestinian man I met, who was born and raised in the camp (as was his mother, and his daughter), the presence of art on the border wall has been met with mixed reactions by the local Palestinian population—refugees who have lived in the camp for generations. On the one hand, he told me, the art has the effect of beautifying the wall, distracting from the realities of occupation and making the wall seem less oppressive than it is—an insult to those who live in its shadow day in and day out. The art turns the wall into a "trauma tourism" destination. But, he added, making the wall a destination also had the effect of turning more eyes on the occupation. Banksy's numerous pieces along the wall also attracted considerable attention. Now, the man told me, Palestinians in Aida refugee camp tend to look more favorably on the artwork. I asked him if he has seen changes in the type or number of people who come to learn about the occupation, and he told me that although the US has yet to end its complicity in Israeli occupation, more people are waking up. They know more now. When they finally see the wall in person, it is less of a shock and more of a confirmation of what they already knew to be true.

Route 4370

A 26-foot concrete and metal wall runs down the center of route 4370, a road designed to connect Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Israelis, and anyone with a permit (issued by Israeli authorities) to enter Jerusalem can drive on the eastern side. The western side of the wall, pictured here, is designed for Palestinians, although it available for anyone to use. It circumvents Jerusalem. The driver of this vehicle comes from a Jerusalemite family that was displaced from their home decades ago, during Israel's annexation and occupation of the city. Although his family lived there for generations, he is forbidden from returning to Jerusalem. He does not have a permit.

In a summary of its 2021 report, Human Rights Watch said that "in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians...In certain areas... these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution." A team of United Nations experts echoed this diagnosis in a press release, saying that "Israel’s housing policies in occupied Palestinian territory amount to racial segregation."

At the student's request, this piece has been published anonymously.

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