This article addresses a critical inflection point in the history of the long War on Terror: Israel’s 1992 deportation of over four hundred Palestinians to the “no-man’s-land” between Israel and Lebanon, and the camp that the deportees fashioned for the better part of one year to contest the legitimacy of Israeli colonialism and demand their return. The deportation—meant to incapacitate Islamic militant resistance to the US-brokered peace process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization—paradoxically provided the conditions of possibility for conversation and collaboration among attorneys, doctors, professors, university students, and imams, which had heretofore been highly restricted and regulated by Israel’s carceral practices in the West Bank and Gaza. The deportees—those who in Giorgio Agamben’s estimation had been literally abandoned in a zone of indistinction—engaged in a political practice of “habitational resistance,” refusing their conversion into homines sacri by performing instead a mode of life that rendered multiple lines of transterritorial affiliation, self-assertion, and continuity. The deportees’ published archive—poetry, photobooks, autoethnographies—is understood as a technology of mediation that operates beyond the bounds of the prevailing Islamophobic and orientalist frames while also addressing Palestinians in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The case of the deportees thus illuminates the articulation of race, religion, and war as it rubs against the linkage between settler colonial dispossession and the Westphalian trinity of nation, state, and territory.
We Deportees: Race, Religion, and War on Palestine’s No-Man’s-Land
Emily Drumsta is assistant professor of comparative literature at Brown University, specializing in modern Arabic and Francophone literatures. She has articles published or forthcoming in Middle East Literatures and The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Translation and is cofounder of Tahrir Documents, an online archive of translated materials from Tahrir Square.
Keith P. Feldman is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of A Shadow over Palestine: The Imperial Life of Race in America (2015) and most recently curated a forum on blackness and relationality for Comparative Literature (June 2016).