When the Body Politic Ceases To Be an Idea

Ariella Azoulay

Civil awakening at this time / sheds a new light on the great revolutions of the eighteenth century / exposes the fact that they are the revolutions of ruling powers / which, on behalf of the nation’s right to self- determination / expel entire populations / And in the name of the capital they covet / recruit all who are allowed to remain or enter / as the nation’s sentries.

For every horror / that today might seem a novelty / a precedent is found in regimes that rose, inspired by those great revolutions / revolutions that created / an ongoing regime-made disaster / A disaster for the mere fact that based / on religion, nationality, gender or race / not all governed are recognized as citizens / A regime-made disaster in which / the body politic is abstracted from all who are governed / and becomes an idea / A product of a ruling power / that by brute force decrees: these—yes, those—no.

Those who were distanced from the body politic / created in the great revolutions of the eighteenth century / women, blacks, the poor, and children / are the ones whose civil awakening moved revolution
/ But the civil revolution was immediately replaced by governmental power revolution / and instead of partnership among members of the body politic / they became ruled.

Since then, when sometimes against all chances / Opportunity appears on the horizon / Citizens have not given up / The possibility of imagining another life / Once in a while they re-emerge and declare: / Without
us there is no body politic; only an idea on paper.

Here they are in the pictures / sweating, shouting, putting up tents / surrounding policemen, holding fishing rods as well as pots and pans / with ropes and in underwear, sharing the space and claiming
a re-partitioning / Determined to be, and not to be evicted / They transform time and again / Turn civil language into a spoken one / A language learnt in the body / and written in pictures / spoken in the plural / together with others / Anyone who speaks it is present as a living reminder / of the fact that she is not a resource / neither she nor the world in which she lives / That rule is merely a temporary deposit / and when it does not enable being-together / it must be re-constituted.

Civil language is not new / It is being revived today / because all over the world / simultaneously / more and more women and men speak to each other in civil language / The broad expansion of this language creates an opportunity to rethink Palestine / To suspend, ad hoc, solutions proposed by oppressive politics / of which nationality, capital and war are its syntactic foundations / To reconstruct possibilities of being-together in which Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies / To recognize refugees as an ongoing “occupy” movement / to claim a civil state to which refugees return and shape their destiny as full citizens for all purposes / To realize the potential of the world’s political map, showing that / of all places, Palestine, whose people were expelled and oppressed for decades / has been spared the “award” entitled “nation-state” and the lie of self-determination / To contest the conformist idea that a nation needs self- determination and a nation-state / No state better demonstrates how the nation-state oppresses than the State of Israel / All those who do not belong to its people / Fortification of borders / Refusal of refuge to those who seek it within its area / and Use of the force vested in it by its citizens to intimidate them / and in the name of their security / Expel those marked as its enemies.

To reconstruct a civil link among sense data, what people do and experience and the system of words and notions that serves them as they exist and act / To deconstruct ruling language and its Justifications which will appear as acts of violence towards all those governed / To deepen civil syntax / While the various expressions of this language / serving citizens the world over / appear in one sequence / Revolution is revealed as a civil language / a form of partnership that renews itself / no one can claim to be its sole author / and deny it to others / and no ruling power is entitled or capable of killing it / Out of civil revolution one can begin to imagine a being together that is not subject to the sovereign power of capital and nation.

A huge number of civil language speakers in places far and wide / are learning and using it nowadays, simultaneously / The revival of civil language on a global scale / is a golden opportunity to reconstruct / rich repertoires of past civil actions / and to re-weave all its performances / that have been consistently oppressed by sovereign national regimes.

For the first time in history / civil awakening has managed to break through the shackles of the nation- state / Today in Bahrain, tomorrow in Montréal / yesterday in Ramallah / next week in Tel Aviv / in June in Seoul / and in October in San’ah.

The hour of Palestine has come / the time to revive Palestine / as a beacon for all nations—state in which / Palestinians and Jews will live together as citizens.

Information with which to complete the list of photographers is welcome.

London, Trafalgar Square, January 23, 2010
Photographers strike in protest of a new regulation that allows policemen to arrest photographers as terror suspects when caught pointing a camera towards a photographic object that is not typically aesthetic or touristic.
© Photograph Oli Scarff / Getty Images

Seoul, South Korea, June 29, 2008
Fifteen thousand demonstrators filled the streets in protest of lifting the ban on American beef importation. They reached public space equipped with ropes and pipes fearing that the police would prevent their protest. Demonstrators surrounded by policemen are a common sight. When it reverses and the policemen are surrounded, one may begin to ask poignant questions about the right to public space. One might also ask if the answer for the question of why the policemen turn their backs to the mass of protesters that circle them cannot be found in this image of one particular protestor whom they have surrounded.
All rights reserved. Source: www.chinadaily.com.cn

London, July 27, 2012
One hundred policemen surround a small encampment that has remained in the square after a night of “settlement” in protest of pension payment reforms. Some of the protesters wore masks and sunglasses to protect themselves against policemen whose helmets imply that their setup in public space is ominous.
Photographer: Pete Hendrick. © Photograph Pete Hendrick

Bil’in, July 12, 2012
In this act, too, Palestinians are the ones who will be arrested. This time, however, they force the Israeli soldiers to chase them as if they were chasing (Jewish) prisoners under the Nazi regime. The soldiers can insist that these are only Palestinians, but the photographic act preserves the meaning with which Palestinians wanted to imbue the situation.
© Photograph Haitham Khatib / Haitham Khatib Photography

Bil’in, February 12, 2012
Palestinians, Israelis and internationals in Nabi tribe costume fight imperialism, turning the film “Avatar” into an allegory of Palestinian existence. Whoever does not support their struggle against the regime that subjugates them is assigned a rather dubitable role in the plot.
© Photograph Oren Ziv / Activestills.org

Tel Aviv, Rabin Square, June 30, 2012
An armored vehicle installed with state-of-the-art combat equipment—“Raccoon” (“Stalker”) intelligence-gathering system. The “Raccoon”, which has so far been used against Palestinians in the West Bank, has begun to roam Tel Aviv-Jaffa freely, illegally gathering information on citizens and their political views.
© Photograph Ariella Azoulay

Cairo, January 28, 2011
The presence of a military armored vehicle in the city center is nearly as outrageous as the statue of a tyrant. The lack of reaction by the policemen in its turret to a garbage bag thrown at its windshield is another omen of the turnabout in the position policemen would adopt shortly after, in the civil awakening of Cairo.
© Photograph Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Madrid, July 18, 2012
As a sign of their support of the demonstrators, policemen remove the riot helmets they wear when suppressing protest. The Spanish firefighters went a step further and initiated their own protests, expressing their participation in the civil struggle, crying: “We save people, not banks!”
All rights reserved

Tel Aviv, August 2011
The bank is secured and an armed guard stands in front of it. Facing him, along the sidewalk, are members of Public Movement. Wearing white uniforms, and with their fists clenched, they stand as guards of their own accord, as reminder or warning that the public has a part in the capital invested in the bank, and that keeping the public distant from the bank’s management and profit-making is the outcome of free-marked violence that should be challenged.
© Photograph Oz Mualem / Public Movement

Napels, June 30, 2012
Demonstrators use their bodies to depict the common expression of their impoverishment—“We were left with barely our underwear”—and demand the return of economic and banking discussions from the abstract sphere in which they have traditionally taken place. This, through the concrete manifestation of the violence they inflict upon the body (politic).
© Photograph Zero 81. All rights reserved

Anata, July 12, 2012
Palestinian and international volunteers rebuild the home of Selim and Arabiya Shawamrah without permission of the authorities. In doing so, however, they risk its repeated demolition by the Israeli regime.
© Photograph Ryan Rodrick Beiler / www.activestills.org

London, November 18, 1910
In response to violence exerted against them (including sexual violence) for having contested the parliamentary illegality of excluding rightful citizens from elections, the Suffragettes smashed several shop windows. They claimed that the government was more concerned about protecting private property than about protecting the lives of women.

Montréal, May 1, 2012
Policemen patrolling the sidewalk, equipped as though they anticipated violent combat, are received by a line of demonstrators with “warning rods” against the donut temptations offered to cops for free in various eateries, and making them forget that they have no fewer reasons than the demonstrators for getting out on the street and claiming their share.
© Photograph Dario Ayala / The Montréal Gazette

New York, September 30, 2012
The human microphone is a simple and effective mode of action. It enables people to bypass bans on citizens’s use of megaphones in public space and serves as a way to learn the syntax of a new—civil—language. The speaker calls out, “Mic: Check” and waits for the echo of listeners, invited to express their position with gestures while speaking.
© Photograph Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Madrid, July 10, 2012
The miners’s march on Madrid received the support of a million citizens throughout Spain. In numerous localities, supporters wore helmets and lanterns, not merely in an effort to say, “We are all miners!” but in an effort to signal their actual presence to the mainstream media that so frequently ignored them—even when the police exerted violence against them.
All rights reserved

Tel Aviv Jaffa, January 2, 2009
Demonstrators wear overalls recalling those of fighter pilots. The blood shed by pilots at the touch of a button in the cockpit is foregrounded here by large red stains and signs that leave no doubt—“The blood of children is on your hands”. The demonstrators are on their way to block the entry gate of the air-field from which lethal assaults on Gaza took off.
© Photograph Oren Ziv / www.activestills.org

Jerusalem, September 28, 2000
In the existing world of political categories, this photograph symbolizes the outbreak of the Second Intifada. Palestinians protest against Ariel Sharon’s visit at Temple Mount. If it reads within the continuum of ongoing Palestinian protest, it is actually a part of the “Occupy” movement that has operated for decades now without being recognized as such. When they are not being cruelly suppressed as “terrorists”, it is far more convenient to depict them as the subjects of a nonexistent authority that is expected to represent them one day with a territorial agreement, thereby denying their having been subjugated by the Israeli regime for decades and having a variety of claims that cannot be reduced and certainly cannot be solved solely by national self-determination. However, the Palestinians, as all other governed peoples the world over, do not only protest in the terms accorded to them by the regime to which they are subjugated. Israeli citizens are subjugated to the same regime. The separation of these two groups contributes to the naturalization of enmity between them, preventing their possible recognition that they are actually struggling against the same regime. Splitting their struggles is an oppressive technique for the preservation of power.
All rights reserved. Source: www.aljazeera.com

Bethlehem, September 2012
For decades, the Israeli regime has nurtured the “national conflict”, causing the governed—both Jews and Arabs—to perceive their lives only through its perspective. Without any symmetry in the two populations, enslavement to “the conflict” took over life in both: the Jews entrusted their life to the “security forces” that dominate every aspect of their civil life, while the Palestinians devoted their life to the struggle against occupation, integrated with national longing for liberation and self-determination. The Palestinian civil uprising—beginning towards the end of this summer and directed against the Palestinian Authority and its failing economic policy as protection for the Israeli regime—was a further step towards liberation from the burden of “the conflict”, as that which the regime can exploit its subjects in its name, denying them the means for a reasonable life. The photo shows the protest of taxi drivers who shaped the word “STRIKE” as an image to be seen only from above, as if wishing to make the global protest movement recognize the civil nature of their own protest and their demands to be extricated from the national deal that the international community has been backing.
© Photograph Ahmed Masoud. All rights reserved

Nabi Saleh, Summer 2011
The tent in which Israel has forced Palestinians to dwell ever since 1948 (every time their homes were demolished or expropriated) finally became a symbol of civil awakening in summer 2011. State citizens—Arabs and Jews—put up tents in cities, and in the West Bank, Palestinians carried them, covered with “social justice” slogans as a major cry in demonstrations.
© Photograph Oren Ziv / www.activestills.org

Calcutta, National Library, 1947
The partition plans promoted by the UN in the late 1940s, which led to the partitioning of Pakistan and India, created not only states with differential body politics, but also an ideology that enabled the existence of long-standing differential political bodies. The argument was that since they had each belonged to a separate history, history could be partitioned. The librarian in the photograph is required to separate the knowledge accordingly: one part to these peoples, and another to those.
© Photograph David Douglas Duncan. Harry Ransom Center. Source: Life Magazine, August 18, 1947

July 15, 2011
Map of the world prepared by the UN which presents the spread of the nation-state concept to every corner of the globe. One persistent red stain stands out in the map: a small territory called Palestine. The state by which it is ruled—Israel—has both prevented the inhabitants from founding a nation-state and has refused to naturalize them as its own citizens. Thus this little stain has become nearly the only place in the world where aside from the obvious possibility of another nation-state being founded with all its disabilities, the reciprocal possibility of becoming a state-of-all-its-citizens is also open to consideration. Perhaps from here, as a beacon to all nations, the idea would spread throughout the world and civil language might turn things about.
All rights reserved

Maroun al-Ras, Northern border of Israel, May 15, 2010
Palestinians expelled from their land over sixty years ago in a non-violent procession on Nakba Day. They insistently refuse to let nation-state logic obliterate their civil claims, and they non-violently advocate the obvious—their wish to return to and live in the places from which they were expelled, thereby participating in shaping their own political future.
All rights reserved. Source: www.uprootedpalestinians.blogspot.nl

Jerusalem, Mamila Street, November 1947
The UN’s newly unveiled partition plan is contrary to the wishes of most of the country’s inhabitants. Palestinians took to the streets in protest. This was the last time Palestinian protest was perceived as a civil movement. Since then they have been doomed to expulsion and have been viewed as mere assailants from without.
Courtesy of Central Zionist Archive

Tel Aviv Jaffa, June 30, 2012
The necessary condition for the persistence and expansion of the new civil awakening movement in Israel lies in its possibility to recognize itself as a fraction of a civil movement that preceded it for several decades and was led by Palestinians. No civil movement can exist on the basis of ethnic or national differentiation, especially under a political regime that uses the separation of populations as a self- preservation weapon of its older apartheid regime. The signs in the picture, which are carried by both Jews and Palestinians, re-draw the territorial continuity between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as a space whose definition the regime must change. The condition for this is to do away with military occupation: Un-occupy Palestine.
© Photograph Oren Ziv / Active Stills