“Facts on the ground” is the expression used to characterize the Israeli colonial strategy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which consists of creating conditions “on the ground” that would make the settlement process irreversible. Today, more than half a million Jewish settlers live beyond the “green line” in more than 100 official settlements and as many outposts which are not officially recognized but are effectively tolerated, if not subsidised, by the Israeli Government.
I went to Palestine for the first time in 2010 to document the consequences of the Israeli occupation on the Territories and on the Palestinian population. I returned a number of times and was able to observe a real “normalization” of the conflict, not in terms of a reduction in violence, but of an acceptance of its chronic nature. While in the Gaza Strip, the conflict continues to lead to situations of war in the most real sense, in the West Bank, the violence has assumed a less spectacular but therefore more insidious and more easily assimilated character. Checkpoints, forced detours and indiscriminate arrests are now part of a daily life of domination, not of a temporary precariousness of war.
Driven by the need to recount this everyday domination, I decided to base myself in the West Bank. For three years, I sought to explore the reality of the settlements from the inside, trying to cross the gates and defensive barriers in order to describe the life and landscape of these places. I travelled the West Bank from north to south, visiting many locations, from official settlements which really are small residential towns, to outposts consisting of just a few caravans or small prefabricated houses. I met settlers from the USA, Russia and the former Soviet Republics, from Europe, Ethiopia and Yemen. I noticed that only a small percentage of these settlers belong to ultra-nationalistic, violent and extremist fringes. On the contrary, most of them are part of a middle class in search of a house at an affordable price and the chance to live “in peace” far from the frenetic pace of the city. But can we look at these thousands of people without considering the context of ordinary violence inside which they can guarantee themselves a quiet life? Beyond the military exercises, the cameras and the electric fences, can we really imagine peace?