Radars & Fences III
On Friday March 12th 2010 I will be participating at NYU’s Media Culture & Communications’ Radars & Fences III: Borders, Affect, Space (please RSVP and come). My friend Laila El-Haddad and I will present You Are Not Here – A Tour of Gaza Through the Streets of Tel Aviv, and we’ll discuss the way geography and the concept of the border is shaping the mediated experience of the conflict. We will also discuss some of our recent initiatives to disrupt the theater of conflict resolution.
I am posting an essay Laila and I wrote for the catalog of the Unrecorded exhibition in Istanbul, March 2008, curated by Basak Senova. At the end of the essay I embedded the videos of Laila & Saeed’s Al Jazeera documentary Tunnel Trade that have inspired this text.
The Gaza Tunnel Trade: Interpretations of Occupied Space
by Laila El-Haddad and Mushon Zer-Aviv
When Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982, the city of Rafah was suddenly split between Egypt and Gaza by an Israeli wall. Families found themselves divided by a high-security international border, though their houses often lay less than 100m apart. Before long, influential families who once controlled trade through Rafah moved their business underground through dozens of secret tunnels burrowed below the border, connecting family houses on either side.
With Israel’s military withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the number of tunnels mushroomed. The Israeli military used the tunnels as a pretext for stepping up demolitions of houses to make way for a buffer zone along the border. Israel’s main concern is the smuggling of weapons to armed Palestinian groups. But for the smugglers themselves there is far more to the tunnel trade than politics and arms smuggling. Everything moves through Rafah’s tunnels: from cigarettes and drugs to cash and people. It is a vast enterprise, and pays five times an average annual Gaza salary in one month. It is a family business, passed on from father to son and always – for reasons of security as well as economics – kept in the family. Continue reading “Radars & Fences / You Are Not Here / The Gaza Tunnel Trade”