Tour the Palestinian archipelago

by Yaniv Reich on November 24, 2009

When an image of the West Bank map is invoked, the map that typically comes to mind is the broad double-hump of the Green Line-defined area. This is most people’s reference map: the implicit, assumptive spatial unit that orients prototypical thinking about Israel, Palestine, partition, and two states.

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

If this is your mental map, then partition becomes for you a simple matter of redrawing the the Green Line, with a little squiggly flourish into the West Bank here and a compensatory doodle delving into currently Israeli land.

In 2009, however, this map is a historical fiction, which has been purposefully and continually destroyed since the West Bank came under Israeli military rule in 1967. Whole towns were built directly on top of the line (like Modi’in). Massive suburbs were built by every single Israeli government since then, whether Labor or Likud-led. Today, a bit under 500,000 Jews live across this line, dispersed in government-sanctioned cities and trailer park trash outposts dispersed across the West Bank like smallpox. We know this much.

The point I want to raise here regards the profound effect of these Jewish enclaves and their associated infrastructure on the West Bank as a spatial entity. There is of course an inhumane social/economic/political reality that accompanies the purely geographical point I am trying to make. But what I want to impress upon any readers out there is a new, more realistic mental map, which must be the primary orientating object when we discuss partition.

The real map of the current West Bank is not characterized by the voluptuous bulges depicted earlier. Rather, the West Bank today is a shattered and discontinuity-riddled ensemble better characterized by islands of Palestinian land and life.

One of the most potent images of this disconnected reality was created by Julien Bousac using data from B’tselem. The islands are those parts of the West Bank under partial or total Palestinian control (at least according to Israel’s Area A, B, C scheme), whereas the straits and channels are areas of complete Israeli control.

The Palestinian Archipelago by Julien Bousac

The Palestinian Archipelago by Julien Bousac

Next time you hear discussion of partition and two states, it would be more productive to use this archipelago map as your reference than the historical map made irrelevant over the last 42 years of the settlement project.

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