Politics and Materiality of ID Cards in Palestine/Israel
blue ID card between his teeth like an oversize toothpick; and I imagine his ID, too, is eyed with some jealousy or suspicion by those around us.
Sana, who is from Jenin and lives in Ramallah, is thumbing her green ID card nervously. In her case, suspicious gazes would be radiating from the
soldiers. Our friend Mazen, born in Gaza and living in the West Bank since the early 1990s, doesn’t dare come with us — he avoids all check-points, whether those to enter Israel or the hundreds that separate one Palestinian area from another — for fear of being evicted to Gaza with his orange ID card in hand. Sana, Hani, and Mazen’s ID colors do not denote a fashion preference, but a color- coded bureaucracy which issues Palestinians in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, and Israel dif-ferent cards. The cards themselves, issued by Israeli authorities, are all off- white but referred to in Arabic as colored, denoting the plastic sleeve they are obliged to be carried in.Palestinians claim that the state of Israel simultaneously attempts to thwart, isolate, fragment, transfer, and erase them. Slowly kill them; send them to neighboring Arab countries; strangle them geographically, politically, economically, and militarily until they accept their subordina-tion. This is not a chimerical claim of ethnic cleansing
but a reality that can be analyzed as a technical problem of the geopolitical conditions of Palestinians’ status. The Israeli state practices, and arguably perfects, a logic of territorial and population control and monitoring. One form is high- tech: unmanned aerial drones, X- ray machines, remote- controlled
cameras, radars, and surveillance techniques that instill fear and awe;
another form is physically and geographically violent: walls, fences, check-
points, turnstiles, settlements, bypass roads, ﬁghter jets, bulldozers, and machine guns.
Moreover, it is no secret that, as Nils A. Butenschon, Uri Davis, and Manuel Hassassian state, “the mere existence of the Palestin-ian people is a major strategic impediment to the realization of classical Zionist ambitions”; and thus, exclusion “forms the logical background of
a segregational policy that erects defensive walls of legal, institutional, and
physical kinds to prevent Palestinians access to land, institutions, or other rights that could threaten Jewish hegemony.”
These realities seem to form a cognitive dissonance: the Israeli state is accused of trying to eradicate Palestinians, and yet the state institutes an impressive infrastructure of control based on Palestinians’ continued
presence in Palestine/Israel. Against the background of transfer, fragmen-
tation, and erasure exists a bureaucratic system of keeping Palestinians where they are: subjects of sustained, if changing, forms of colonialism, occupation, and oppression. In other words, there may very well be a practice of fragmenting, isolating, transferring, and erasing Palestinians, but they need to be counted, documented, monitored, and controlled ﬁrst.
The clearest way to grapple with this disconnect is to consider the peculiar