Martine DERAIN 

In Palestine, there is no minor resistance
Dalila Mahdjoub/Martine Derain | 1998-1999

It was in July 1998 that the French General Consulate in Jerusalem – the representative of France in ‘Palestinian Territories’ - invited us to conceive a project for public space. There were no specific restrictions as to the medium, but sites were suggested, for instance a cultural centre on the edge of the green line.
During our first visit in August, we discovered the incredible fragmentation of the territory, arising from the Oslo peace agreements, which rendered possible the violent and continual control of the movement of the Palestinians – the enclosing of Gaza and the oppressing encircling of the Israeli settlements which isolate the towns of the Westbank from each other – the occupation right up into the centre of the towns – the stolen lands – the economic domination... and the strength of the Palestinians: still fighting, always inventing. On our return, we conceived our project: a series of tickets for a Palestinian transport company.  Instead of a ‘fixed’ piece of work, which would only have been accessible to those in possession of the ‘right’ papers, we proposed a mobile form, in itself resistant: it was the only paper to pass the checkpoints that was not checked by the Israeli army – a tiny shred of liberty.

The second stay took place in February 1999: we collected the images and texts that appeared on tickets. A form of logic, a common thread, determined their selection: we used the Israeli military orders that had controlled Gaza and the Westbank since 1967, many of which were still in operation. «Corner stone of the occupation, the military orders transformed into legal acts every illegal act committed in the Territories : even the occupation itself, the violations of civil, social, political, economic and the cultural rights of the Palestinians. It became possible to confiscate land and for the occupiers to exploit all natural resources exclusively for themselves, they governed each and every aspect of the life of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories»[1] To a hundred or so of these orders we presented Palestinian responces, the poetic guile and inventive tactics of the ‘weak’ within the order established by the ‘strong’. Some of the images we created ourselves, others were entrusted to us. The texts arose from our encounters; desires and fights are freely evoked. We assembled the stories and images that came from throughout Palestine: if freedom of movement was forbidden to all Palestinians, we, total strangers, could go wherever we wanted.
During our stay we met the owners of bus companies – our project could not have existed without a single one of them. The owner of the Jerusalem-Al Bireh-Ramallah Bus Company accepted our proposition. Maher Taweel is a Palestinian from Jerusalem: his bus carries yellow licence plates, as do all Israeli vehicles. Thus they can enter and leave the town, under strict and permanent control since the peace agreements. The company regularly works with the Maison d’Orient or the Alternative Information Center and organises ‘tourist’ trips into the colonies encircling Jerusalem. The N°18 bus route goes from Ramallah to the annexed east of Jerusalem across zones A (under Palestinian authority), B (only civilians are under Palestinian authority), C (occupied territory). The bus crosses the checkpoint at Ar Ram where the Israeli army checks the Palestinians' entry permits both on the outward and return journeys. Our only restriction was not to provide any reason for repression and never to endanger either the passengers or driver of the bus. Some tickets caused debates: the poster of the children of the Intifada evoked the right of refugees to return, there is Jerusalem and the desire never to leave it, one saw Israeli flags on two occasions... but they were all accepted: «This is part of our Palestinian reality », said Maher. The tickets are the same format as those issued by the company, our proposition was simply to introduce them among the existing ones. 30,000 tickets were printed in Marseilles and then introduced into Palestine via a diplomatic bag. Numbered to be officially recorded in the companies accounts, assembled into bundles of one hundred ticket books (by hand, ticket by ticket and book by book, so that each of the travellers had a different story), they were put in circulation during July 1999.

With our project, the owners of the company enacted their militant activities in a different manner, each as one of our guests. For us, this experience was essential, engrossing and very disturbing: to be beside the Palestinians, on the Palestinians side.

When this project was realised there was room for both the game and the art. Today there is a 9-metre high, concrete wall enclosing the Westbank as built previously for Gaza. The Israeli army however, crosses walls, destroys houses, schools, hospitals, fields, shops, factories and roads with total immunity. More than two-thirds of the Palestinian population lives below the poverty line. The inhabitants of Gaza must now dig tunnels into Egypt to buy food – today, 28th December 2008, they continue to die under the bombs. No foreign power has intervened – all are however present for humanitarian reasons – to put an end to the Israeli occupation and crimes.

1- Ghassan al-Khatib, Israeli Military Orders in the occupied palestinian Westbank, 1967-1992. Jerusalem media and communication center, 1995.

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