Checkpoint Knowledge: Navigating the Tunnels and Al Walaja Checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

A.M. Rijke*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


When Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967, restrictions on Palestinian movement were gradually put in place. Today an intricate ‘architecture of occupation’ has been established – made up of numerous material barriers, the continuous expansion of illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank, and the establishment of an elaborate checkpoint system. For most inhabitants of the West Bank, passing through an Israeli checkpoint is a daily ritual they cannot avoid. In this article, I analyse two car checkpoints in the Bethlehem area: The Tunnels and Al Walaja, and the experiences of the Palestinian and Jewish Israeli commuters subjected to them. I argue that these checkpoints are spaces where two different, but inherently connected, mobility regimes meet: providing Jewish settlers swift and seamless passage, while controlling and hindering Palestinian commuters. I indicate how the existence of these two mobility regimes is only possible due to the low-tech design of the checkpoints, as well as the implementation of numerous biopolitical categories by the checkpoints managers. The implementation of these biopolitical categories was experienced by my interviewees as highly arbitrary as it allows the Israeli soldiers to act ‘biopolitically on the spot’, reinstating over and over again the asymmetrical relationship between the occupier and occupied. Moreover, I analyse how Palestinian commuters employ their ‘checkpoint knowledge’ in response to this arbitrariness to try to positively influence their passages: incorporating the rules and regulations as much as possible or trying to manipulate and twist the checkpoints’ practices and biopolitical categories.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1586-1607
Issue number5
Early online date11 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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