Nandi Macalou by Ester Grass Vergara
Generally, the grievously injured bodies shown in published photographs are from Asia or Africa. This journalistic custom inherits the centuries-old practice of exhibiting exotic—that is, colonized—human beings: Africans and denizens of remote Asian countries were displayed like zoo animals in ethnological exhibitions mounted in London, Paris, and other European capitals from the sixteen until the early twentieth century. In The Tempest, Trinculo’s first thought upon coming across Caliban is that he could be put on exhibit in England: ‘not a holiday fool there but would give a piece of silver…When they will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian’. The exhibition in photographs of cruelties inflicted on those with darker complexions in “exotic” countries continues this offering, oblivious to the considerations that deter such displays of our own victims of violence; for the other, even when not an enemy is regarded only as someone to be seen, not someone (like us) who also sees.
The killing of women and children is horrific—but in the reiteration of these disturbing facts there is something missing: the public mourning of Palestinian men killed by Israel’s war machine. In 1990 Cynthia Enloe coined the term “womenandchildren” in order to think about the operationalization of gendered discourses to justify the first Gulf War. Today, we should be aware of how the trope of “womenandchildren” is circulating in relation to Gaza and to Palestine more broadly. This trope accomplishes many discursive feats, two of which are most prominent: The massifying of women and children into an undistinguishable group brought together by the “sameness” of gender and sex, and the reproduction of the male Palestinian body (and the male Arab body more generally) as always already dangerous. Thus the status of male Palestinians (a designation that includes boys aged fifteen and up, and sometimes boys as young as thirteen) as “civilians” is always circumspect.
This gendering of Israel’s war on Gaza is conversant with discourses of the War on Terror and, as Laleh Khalili has argued persuasively, counter-insurgency strategy and war-making more broadly. In this framework, the killing of women and girls and pre-teen and under boys is to be marked, but boys and men are presumed guilty of what they might do if allowed to live their lives. Furthermore, these boys and men are potentially dangerous not only to the militaries that occupy them, but to those womenandchildren who actually are civilians. The young boys, after all, may grow up to be violent extremists. Thus, kill the flesh—extinguish the potential.
The Israeli war machine, much like the US war machine in Afghanistan or Iraq, does not protect Palestinian queers and women and children. It kills them, maims them, and dispossesses them alongside their loved ones—for the simple reason that they are Palestinian, and thus able to be killed with impunity while the world watches. Today, the difference between Palestinian womenandchildren and Palestinian men is not in the production of corpses, but rather in the circulation of those corpses within dominant and mainstream discursive frames that determine who can be publicly mourned as true “victims” of Israel’s war machine. Thus the sheer number of womenandchildren dead are enough to mobilize the US president and the UN to make statements “condemning” the violence—but the killing, imprisonment, and maiming of Palestinian men and boys in times of war and ceasefire goes uncited. In Israel men, settlers, and even soldiers are framed as victims of Palestinian terrorism and aggression. All are publicly mourned. In an almost direct reversal, while Palestinian boys and men have been the primary target of Israel, as evidenced by the population of political prisoners and targeted assassinations, are not seen by western based mainstream media as victims of Israeli terrorism and aggression. Palestinians are put in the self-defeating position of having to fight to be recognized as human, to be recognized in death and in life as victims of Israeli policies and actions.
—Maya Mikdashi, Can Palestinian Men be Victims? Gendering Israel’s War on Gaza (via globalwarmist)
I have tried to show you how the individual is not the primary datum on which discipline is exercised. Discipline only exists insofar as there is a multiplicity and an end, or an objective or result to be obtained on the basis of this multiplicity. School and military discipline, as well as penal discipline, workshop discipline, worker discipline, are all particular ways of managing and organizing a multiplicity, of fixing its points of implantation, its lateral or horizontal, vertical and pyramidal trajectories, its hierarchy, and so on. The individual is much more a particular way of dividing up the multiplicity for a discipline than the raw material from which it is constructed. Discipline is a mode of individualization of multiplicities rather than something that constructs an edifice of multiple elements on the basis of individuals who are worked on as, first of all, individuals. So sovereignty and discipline, as well as security, can only be concerned with multiplicities.
This rhetoric of “both sides” implies that pain and fault belong equally to Palestinians and Israelis. It erases manifold, unmistakable, qualitative and quantitative differences at play in Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip and the political-historical context in which this is taking place — most centrally, that what is occurring is part of a settler-colonial invasion.
“Both sides” rhetoric refuses to make even the easiest, most obvious judgment, to which any honest evaluation of the information points: that Israel is massacring Palestinian adults and children, 77% of whom are civilians, and subjecting them to collective punishment; that Israel evidently claims for itself a right to extra-judicially execute anyone who it says is a Hamas member, a practice too few among even Palestine’s allies have denounced; that Israel is bombarding what is essentially a giant refugee camp home to an imprisoned population of a people Israel has ethnically cleansed, occupied, subjected to apartheid, and repeatedly slaughtered; that international law does not grant Israel a “right to defend itself” against the Gaza Strip. And that international law does grant Palestinians a right to resist using armed struggle.
To employ “both sides” rhetoric completely misrepresents the situation. It is not “both sides” who take thousands of political prisoners. Both sides do not systematically torture each other. Both sides do not control each other’s freedom of movement, or access to the sea, drinking water, and education.
We must see our rituals for what they are: completely arbitrary things, tied to our bourgeois way of life; it is good—and that is the real theater—to transcend them in the manner of play, by means of tired games and irony; it is good to be dirty and bearded, to have long hair, to look like a girl when one is a boy (and vice versa); one must put ‘in play,’ show up, transform, and reverse the systems which quietly order us about. As far as I am concerned, that is what I try to do in my work.
marion cotillard by tim walker, december 2012