BOOK REVIEW: Thorough Surveillance

Departing from the contradiction which mainstream narratives have assimilated into normalised recurrences, Ahmed Sa’di’s excellent treatise commences with a reminder that Israel has extended the existence of colonialism far beyond its alleged demise. Surveillance methods, historically implemented to control populations of colonised territories, have been adopted by Israel to consolidate the desired demographic changes aimed, thus emphasising the exclusive nature of the Jewish state assembled upon the devastation of Palestine.

Thorough Surveillance: the genesis of Israeli policies of population management, surveillance and political control towards the Palestinian minority (Manchester University Press, 2014) analyses the methods of population control applied by Israel to Palestinians living in the settler-colonial state between 1948 and 1970. The tactics, denied by Israel, were incorporated into Zionist colonial expansionist plans prior to the atrocities of the Nakba in 1948. Reliance upon surveillance, therefore, was rooted within the colonial ideology that deconstructed the history of Palestinians as the indigenous population into a travesty of identity. Defining Palestinians became mired in complicity between Israel and the international community in order to assert the destabilisation of the people and embark upon categorisation with the aim of fragmenting the population to achieve coordinated surveillance.

Sa’di states that the alleged lack of surveillance guidelines and policy, disseminated by allies of Israel, contradicts settler-colonialism and Zionism. The absence of freedom was characterised by Israel’s political control, exerted through complicity, legal and institutional frameworks, deconstruction of Palestinian identity, state control and surveillance at local level, educational policy which strived to cultivate “the captive mind” and the restriction of political rights under military government. Political rights as a tool to control Palestinians was best illustrated by a quote from Ben Gurion: “We cannot start national discrimination while the whole world is discussing the problem with Israel and the rest of Palestine.”

With the existence of Palestinians constantly debated through the Zionist framework, expulsion became the ultimate aim of the settler-colonial state’s insistence upon surveillance and control. Normalised through the external regular ambiguity defined as discourse; a reference which Sa’di borrows from Edward Said, political rights granted to the Palestinian minority within the Zionist state constituted the pretext for a continuous refinement of security concerns based upon the intention of permanent exclusion. With the expulsion of Palestinians perceived as the ultimate aim, Israel retaliated against Palestinian resistance by imposing fragmentation of identity, encouraging forced transfer and embarking upon assimilating younger generations of Palestinians with the aim of fostering permanent dependency over freedom.

Israel utilised European strategies of marginalisation, establishing three objectives of control and surveillance that were synchronised with the earlier international support received prior to the establishment of the settler-colonial state. The prevention of return, relocation of Palestinians, as well as political control and segregation required collaboration in order to enforce the hegemonic order. The exertion of political control through alliances with infiltrators, the building of settlements in Palestinian territory to implement geophysical fragmentation and restrictions upon Palestinian political representation ensured absolute dependency upon the settler-colonial state. Read more.

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