Israeli Spatial Hegemony and Palestinian Semi-Nomadic Women’s Counter Spaces of Eco-Social Resistance

Masafer Yatta, in the south of the occupied West Bank, has been classified as a closed military area known as Firing Zone 918 by the Israeli colonial authorities since the 1970s. Bordering the Green Line, the Armistice Line demarcating the borders of Israel, Masafer Yatta has been a target of Israeli colonization since the birth of Israel in 1948. In the eyes of their colonizers, the semi-nomadic Palestinian communities living in Masafer Yatta represent an obstacle to the territorial continuity of Israeli illegal settlements in the area with Israeli settlements within Israeli borders. The logic of elimination of Palestinian communities embedded within Israel’s settler colonial structure takes the form of forced sedentarization or urbanization of Masafer Yatta’s herding communities.
The decimation of the semi-nomadic lifestyle of Palestinians inhabiting Masafer Yatta has been a violent onslaught on their eco-social structure of existence in relation to land. Despite Israel’s alien restructuring of space through the construction of illegal settlements, bypass roads, walls, and afforestation projects, Palestinian communities have been able to carve out a cultural, social, ecological, and political space in which they problematize Israel’s re/configuration of the spatial negation of Palestinian existence and heritage. The eco-sumud (eco-steadfastness) daily practices of Palestinian women embedded in the domestic domain have played a central role in disrupting the functioning of Israel’s settler colonial dispossession, intertwined with patriarchy and capitalism. Drawing on the findings of ethnographic work as part of my PhD research, the proposed paper treats eco-sumud as a repertoire of land-based knowledge, cultural values, tools, and tactics developed by women in the area. Eco-sumud as a non-violent means of resistance, which has enabled women in Masafer Yatta to re/produce Palestinian communities as a space of counter power to Israeli spaces of hegemony and sovereignty over the land of Palestine.