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  • Natalia Gutkowski (a1)

Social scientists commonly know that time is a social construct and a tool for governing by those holding power. Yet, how exactly is time used for governing? This article examines how timescape (embodiment of approaches to time) works in practice as a tool of power by considering multiple networks of time that manifest in al-Batuf/Beit Netofa Valley planning policy. This valley's agriculture, mostly owned by Palestinian-Arab citizens of Israel, is considered by ecologists and officials a unique traditional agriculture landscape and wetland habitat that has become scarce in Israel due to its development and wetland drainage. Assembling separate modes of anthropological inquiry that attend to time as a technique, I show that knowledge, ethics, and time management are not separate spheres of governance but rather interwoven as one timescape tool of governing. Thus, the case of al-Batuf/Beit Netofa elucidates the ways in which time is used for governing in the context of an agricultural-environmental development policy and plan.

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Author's Note: I am grateful to the anonymous IJMES reviewers and to IJMES editors Akram Khater and Jeffrey Culang for their invaluable comments. I am deeply grateful to Andrew S. Mathews, Dan Rabinowitz, Steve Caton, Ajantha Subramanian, Tamar Novick, Liron Shani, Rafi Grosglik, Talia Fried, and Shula Goulden for their feedback as this article evolved. I am also indebted to Laithi Ghanaim, Abed Kanaaneh, Hussein Tarabeih, Hanadi Hijris, Ali Waked, Iftah Sinai, Didi Kaplan, Ramez Eid, and other interlocutors for sharing their time and knowledge of al-Batuf. I thank the Political Ecology/Political Anthropology Workshop at Harvard University for useful feedback on an earlier version of this article. I also thank the PhD Program Transformations in European Societies at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, and the Anthropology Department's Seminar at the University of California, Santa Cruz for offering useful suggestions in the development of this work. Research for this article was supported by generous grants from the Israel Science Foundation (ISF 932/12), the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University, and the Edmond J. Safra Centers for Ethics at Harvard University and Tel Aviv University.

1 The agrarian policy in Israel is undergoing a process of transformation affected by global factors; the main factor is Israel's acceptance into the intergovernmental Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and its demand to decrease governmental subsidies in agriculture. Additionally, sustainability change is taking place as a result of internal affairs. Following a thirty-year decay of the agricultural sector, policy is adapting to global trends of best practices of agricultural management that include societal-environmental considerations. Hence, the agrarian sector and its political representatives are hoping to relegitimize the national agrarian ethos in the eyes of Israel's population. Moreover, the increasing environmental regulatory demands of European export markets play an important role in the incorporation of sustainable agriculture measures. See Liron Shani, “Liquid Distinctions: Negotiating Boundaries between Agriculture and the Environment in the Israeli Desert,” Anthropological Quarterly (forthcoming).

2 Although Sahl al-Batuf is the Arabic name of the site, the place is referred to in policy documents and on maps by its Hebrew name, Bikat Beit Netofa. The Hebrew name refers to the terrain as a valley, while the Arabic name refers to it as a plateau. I will be moving between al-Batuf and Beit Netofa to emphasize the political dynamic between the official Hebrew name and the Arabic local name.

3 Ofer Steinitz, Ministry of Agriculture, interview with the author, Beit Dagan, Israel, 12 June 2012. Steinitz had only a one-year appointment at the Ministry of Agriculture, but he has become emblematic of the ecological hiring trend that was created ever since his hire.

4 Davis, Diana K. and Burke, Edmund III, eds., Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa (Athens: Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2011), 3.

5 Li, Tania Murray, “Rendering Land Investible: Five Notes on Time,” Geoforum 82 (2017): 276–78; Ingold, Tim, “The Temporality of the Landscape,” World archaeology 25 (1993): 152–74.

6 I use both “ethno-national” and “colonial” because Israel has continuously maintained various forms of colonial relations with the Palestinians both in Israel and in the West Bank, from the settler colonial project of the State of Israel, to the military regime period inside Israel in 1949–66, to the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, to the current carceral colonial form prevailing in Gaza and the West Bank. While it became a dominant trend in scholarship on Israel/Palestine to describe Israeli rule within the context of settler-colonialism, it is my view that this definition does not encompass other forms of colonialism that are part of this historical context and does not explain the unique ideological and national origins of Zionism and Israel. Therefore, I use both “colonial” and “ethno-national,” and at times “settler colonial.” For further discussion of these terms, see Penslar, Derek, Israel in History: The Jewish State in Comparative Perspective (New York: Routledge, 2007); Veracini, Lorenzo, “The Other Shift: Settler Colonialism, Israel, and the Occupation,” Journal of Palestine Studies 42 (2013): 2642; and Rouhana, Nadim N. and Sabbagh-Khoury, Areej, “Settler-Colonial Citizenship: Conceptualizing the Relationship between Israel and Its Palestinian Citizens,” Settler Colonial Studies 5 (2015): 205–25.

7 Elazari-Volkani, Itzhak, “Modernizing the Fellah's Farm,” Palestine and Near East Economic Magazine 8 (1930): 268–70; Arnon, Itzhak and Raviv, Michael, “From Fellah to Farmer: A Study on Change in Arab Villages,” Publications on Problems of Regional Development 31 (1980): 370; Sa'di, Ahmad H., “Modernization as an Explanatory Discourse of Zionist-Palestinian Relations,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 24 (1997): 2548.

8 Gupta, Akhil, Postcolonial Developments: Agriculture in the Making of Modern India (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998); Mitchell, Timothy, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-politics, Modernity (Berkley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2002).

9 Adam, Barbara, Timescapes of Modernity: The Environment and Invisible Hazards (London: Psychology Press, 1998); Massey, Doreen, “Politics and Space/time,” New Left Review 196 (1992): 6584.

10 Samimian-Darash, Limor, “Governing through Time: Preparing for Future Threats to Health and Security,” Sociology of Health & Illness 33 (2011): 930–45.

11 Mathur, Nayanika, “The Reign of Terror of the Big Cat: Bureaucracy and the Mediation of Social Times in the Indian Himalaya,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20, no. S1 (2014): 148–65; Barkey, Karen, “In Different Times: Scheduling and Social Control in the Ottoman Empire, 1550 to 1650,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 38 (1996): 460–83.

12 Ringel, Felix, “Can Time Be Tricked?: A Theoretical Introduction,” The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology 34 (2016): 2231.

13 Adam, Timescapes of Modernity, 11–22.

14 Geographers, sociologists, anthropologists, and feminist scholars of science refer to the interrelated character of space and time through terms such as “timescape,” “time-space,” and “spacetime.” I use the first of these. See Massey, Doreen, Space, Place, Gender (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1994); Barad, Karen, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2007); Elias, Norbert, Time: An Essay, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1992), 99100; and Munn, Nancy D., “The Cultural Anthropology of Time: A Critical Essay,” Annual Review of Anthropology 21 (1992): 93123.

15 May, Jon and Thrift, Nigel, eds., Timespace: Geographies of Temporality (New York: Routledge, 2003), 65.

16 The book On Time well illustrates how temporality produces a specific geography through technologies of transportation and communication; Barak, On, On Time: Technology and Temporality in Modern Egypt (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2013).

17 Bear, Laura, “Time as Technique,” Annual Review of Anthropology 45 (2016): 487502.

18 Yiftachel, Oren, “Planning and Social Control: Exploring the Dark Side,” Journal of Planning Literature 12 (1998): 395406.

19 This has been a major aspect of the work of Diana K. Davis. See Davis and Burke, Environmental Imaginaries. This edited collection contests the narrative of decline with evidence from multiple locations in the MENA region. See also Davis, Diana K., The Arid Lands: History, Power, Knowledge (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2016); Mikhail, Alan, ed., Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013); and Mitchell, Rule of Experts, 128–36.

20 Place names, maps, and terms are especially contested in Israel/Palestine, and naming makes an intervention and asserts power. I write “Israel/Palestine” to indicate the multiple perspectives on or contested views of the land, or to refer to the geographic space between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. I write “Palestine/Israel” when referring to the history of this space prior to the establishment of Israel. For an example of the declensionist narrative, see Orenstein, Daniel E., Miller, Char, and Tal, Alon, eds., Between Ruin and Restoration: An Environmental History of Israel (Pittsburgh: Pa.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013). The only chapter in this volume that does not adhere to the declensionist narrative is that by Noam Seligman on the environmental legacy of the Bedouins and the Fellahin. Alon Tal, although trying to avoid framing his work as purely declensionist and attributing destruction to the native population, repeats the narrative that European powers repaired the region. See also Tal, Alon, Pollution in a Promised Land: An Environmental History of Israel (Berkley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2002); Tal, , All the Trees of the Forest: Israel's Woodlands from the Bible to the Present (New Haven: Conn.: Yale University Press, 2013).

21 A phenomenal challenge to that narrative is Tamar Novick, “Milk & Honey: Technologies of Plenty in the Making of a Holy Land, 1880–1960” (PhD diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2014).

22 James, Wendy and Mills, David, eds., The Qualities of Time: Anthropological Approaches (Oxford: Berg, 2005).

23 Zionism did not invent swamp drainage. The latter was a prevalent scientific paradigm at the beginning of the 20th century that affected many other swamps. Ogden, Laura A., Swamplife: People, Gators, and Mangroves Entangled in the Everglades (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 2011).

24 Auyero, Javier, Patients of the State: The Politics of Waiting in Argentina (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2012); Lavie, Smadar, Wrapped in the Flag of Israel: Mizrahi Single Mothers and Bureaucratic Torture (New York: Berghahn Books, 2014).

25 Hammoudi, Abdellah, A Season in Mecca: Narrative of a Pilgrimage (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006).

26 Mathur, “The Reign of Terror of the Big Cat.”

27 Berda, Yael, Living Emergency: Israel's Permit Regime in the Occupied West Bank (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2018); Kotef, Hagar and Amir, Merav, “Between Imaginary Lines: Violence and its Justifications at the Military Checkpoints in Occupied Palestine,” Theory, Culture & Society 28 (2011): 5580; Abourahme, Nasser, “Spatial Collisions and Discordant Temporalities: Everyday Life Between Camp and Checkpoint,” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 35 (2011): 453–61.

28 Shengav, Yehouda and Berda, Yael, “The Colonial Foundations of the State of Exception: Juxtaposing the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinian Territories with Colonial Bureaucratic History,” in The Power of Inclusive Exclusion: Anatomy of Israeli Rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, ed. Ophir, Adi, Givoni, Michal, and Hanafi, Sari (Brooklyn, N.Y.: Zone Books, 2009).

29 Ferry, Elizabeth Emma and Limbert, Mandana E., eds., Timely Assets: The Politics of Resources and Their Temporalities (Santa Fe, N.M.: New Mexico School for Advanced Research Press, 2008).

30 Abram, Simone, “The Time It Takes: Temporalities of Planning,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 20, no. S1 (2014): 129–47.

31 Yiftachel, “Planning and Social Control”; Yiftachel, “‘Ethnocracy’ and Its Discontents: Minorities, Protests, and the Israeli Polity,” Critical Inquiry 26 (2000): 725–56.

32 Abram, “The Time It Takes: Temporalities of Planning.”

33 Baxstrom, Richard, “Even Governmentality Begins as an Image: Institutional planning in Kuala Lumpur,” Focaal (2011): 6172.

34 Lakoff, Andrew, “Preparing for the Next Emergency,” Public Culture 19 (2007): 247; Samimian-Darash, Limor, “The Re-forming State: Actions and Repercussions in Preparing for Future Biological Events,” Anthropological Theory 11 (2011): 283307.

35 Petryna, Adriana, “What Is a Horizon? Navigating Thresholds in Climate Change Uncertainty,” in Modes of Uncertainty: Anthropological Cases, ed. Samimian-Darash, Limor and Rabinow, Paul (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015): 147–64; Mathews, Andrew S. and Barnes, Jessica, “Prognosis: Visions of Environmental Futures,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 22, no. S1 (2016): 926.

36 Mathur, “The Reign of Terror of the Big Cat”; Frederic Keck, “Sentinel Devices: Managing Uncertainty in Species Barrier Zones,” in Modes of Uncertainty, 165.

37 Paul Nadasdy, “Wildlife as Renewable Resource: Competing Conceptions of Wildlife, Time, and Management in the Yukon,” in Timely Assets, 75–106; Limbert, Mandana, In the Time of Oil: Piety, Memory, and Social Life in an Omani Town (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2010).

38 Mathews and Barnes, “Prognosis: Visions of Environmental Futures,” 10.

39 Doumani, Beshara, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700–1900 (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1995); Rosenfeld, Henry, “From Peasantry to Wage Labor and Residual Peasantry: The Transformation of an Arab Village in Israel,” in Process and Pattern in Culture: Essays in Honor of Julian H. Steward, ed. Manners, Robert Alan and Steward, Julian Haynes (New Brunswick, N.J.: Aldine Publishers, 1964), 211–34.

40 Bäuml, Yair, “Shiʾabud ha-Kalkala ha-ʿAravit be-Yisraʾel le-Tovat ha-Migzar ha-Yehudi,” Hamizrah Hahadash MH (2009): 101–29.

41 Most of the Palestinian villages surrounding al-Batuf were listed as “surrendering” by the IDF forces in the aftermath of the Israeli operation Hiram of October 1948 that conquered the central-upper Galilee. Populations in surrendering villages were not uprooted. Villages such as Eilabun that resisted during the war were partially depopulated—by flight and expulsion. In Eilabun the inhabitants were allowed back. The only village that was completely destructed in the area, with its inhabitants fleeing to Lebanon or remaining in the neighboring al-Batuf villages, was Miʾar, which was conquered in July 1948. See references in Morris, Benny, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 475.

42 Forman, Geremy and Kedar, Alexandre, “From Arab Land to ‘Israel Lands’: The Legal Dispossession of the Palestinians Displaced by Israel in the Wake of 1948,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 22 (2004): 809–30; Forman, “Law and the Historical Geography of the Galilee: Israel's Litigatory Advantages during the Special Operation of Land Settlement,” Journal of Historical Geography 32 (2006): 796– 817.

43 Falah, Ghazi, “Israeli ‘Judaization’ Policy in Galilee and Its Impact on Local Arab Urbanization,” Political Geography Quarterly 8 (1989): 229–53.

44 The Arab Center of Alternative Planning provides this data in a study published on their website:, accessed 10 September 2017.

45 There are many more agricultural cooperatives in Palestinian society, including Fair-Trade olive oil cooperatives in the West Bank. Historically cooperatives were not a prominent way of organization in the agricultural sector. The extended family supported the household's agrarian production.

46 Dallasheh, Leena, “Troubled Waters: Citizenship and Colonial Zionism in Nazareth,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47 (2015): 467–87; Yoav Kislev, “Meshek ha-Maim shel Yisra'el” (policy paper for the Taub Center for Social Research, Jerusalem, 2011).

47 Mitchell, Timothy, “Society, Economy, and the State Effect,” in State/Culture: State Formation after the Cultural Turn, ed. Steinmetz, G. (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1999), 7697; Gupta, Akhil, “Blurred Boundaries: The Discourse of Corruption, the Culture of Politics, and the Imagined State,” in The Anthropology of the State: A Reader, ed. Sharma, Aradhana and Gupta, Akhil (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2006).

48 Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway, 223–25.

49 Didi Kaplan, Ecologist, interview with the author, Bikat Yad Hanadiv, 27 November 2014.

50 Ministry of Interior Northern District Committee Minutes, 9 July 2009.

51 Kaplan, interview with the author.

52 Furthermore, the NPA has been significantly involved with Palestinian dispossession through the creation of national parks and nature reserves both in Israel and in the West Bank.

53 Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nature and Park Authority, Minutes – 12 January 2012.

54 Ali Shawahna, interview with the author, Sakhnin, 22 June 2014.

55 Hammoudi, A Season in Mecca; Lavie, Wrapped in the Flag of Israel.

56 Iftah Sinai, Nature and Parks Authority, interview with the author, Haifa, 1 October 2014.

57 Legg, Stephen, “Beyond the European Province: Foucault and Postcolonialism,” in Space, Knowledge and Power: Foucault and Geography, ed. Crampton, Jeremy W. and Elden, Stuart (New York: Routledge, 2007), 265–89.

58 Handelman, Don, Nationalism and the Israeli State: Bureaucratic Logic in Public Events (Oxford: Berg, 2004).

59 Hoag, Colin, “Assembling Partial Perspectives: Thoughts on the Anthropology of Bureaucracy,” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 34 (2011): 8194; Hull, Matthew S., “The File: Agency, Authority, and Autography in an Islamabad Bureaucracy,” Language & Communication 23 (2003): 287314.

60 Jasanoff, Sheila, Science and Public Reason (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2012).

61 Collaborative Policy Document of the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Ministry for Beit Netofa, 11 January 2012 and 13 March 2014.

62 Tal, Pollution in a Promised Land, 152.

63 Furthermore, it is one of the founding moments of the Israeli environmental movement. In response to the Huleh drainage and its habitat loss, activists established the Society of Protection of Nature in Israel; Tal, Pollution in a Promised Land, 115–18.

64 Bishara, Amahl, “Driving while Palestinian in Israel and the West Bank: The Politics of Disorientation and the Routes of a Subaltern Knowledge,” American Ethnologist 42 (2015): 3354; Shamir, Ronen, Current Flow: The Electrification of Palestine (Stanford: Calif.: Stanford University Press: 2013).

65 Sufian, Sandra M., Healing the Land and the Nation: Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine, 1920–1947 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).

66 Samer Alatout, “Bringing Abundance into Environmental Politics,” 363–94.

67 This is similar to other infrastructural projects that differentiated populations. See Shamir, Current Flow; and Dallasheh, “Troubled Waters: Citizenship and Colonial Zionism in Nazareth.”

68 Alatout, “Bringing Abundance into Environmental Politics.”

69 Munir Hamudi, testimony to the Israeli parliament's Economy Committee on the al-Batuf flood, 30 April 2013.

70 Eghbariah, Rabea, “Maʾvak ʿAkub Mezaʾatar: Al Tsimhei ha-Makhal shel ha-Mitbah ha-Falastini ve-Hukei Haganat Hatsomeah Badin ha-Yisra'eli,” in Lehem Hok: Eiunim be-Mishpat ve-Okhel, ed. Gross, Aeyal and Tirosh, Yofi (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Press, 2017), 497533.

71 Mastnak, Tomaz, Elyachar, Julia, and Boellstorff, Tom, “Botanical Decolonization: Rethinking Native Plants,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 32 (2014): 363–80.

72 Iftah Sinai and Mimi Ron, “Seker Tsmahim Nedirim be-Vikat Beit Netofah (unpublished survey, 2006), 2–3; Iftah Sinai, Mimi Ron, and Shai Koren, “Seker Tsmahim Nedirim Bevikat Beit Netofah” (unpublished survey, 2012), 5.

73 Foucault, Michel, Power/knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972–1977 (New York: Pantheon, 1980); Jasanoff, Science and Public Reason; Mathews, Andrew S., Instituting Nature: Authority, Expertise, and Power in Mexican Forests (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2011).

74 Berkes, Fikret, Colding, Johan, and Folke, Carl, “Rediscovery of Traditional Ecological Knowledge as Adaptive Management,” Ecological Applications 10 (2000): 1251–62; Nazarea, Virginia D., “Local Knowledge and Memory in Biodiversity Conservation,” Annual Review of Anthropology 35 (2006): 317–35.

75 Fabian, Johannes, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 2014).

76 Ibid.

77 Racheli Einav, “Haim ʿal pi Govah ha-Mayim,” Ynet, 26 August 2009, accessed 7 September 2017,,7340,L-3767471,00.html.

78 Said, Edward W., Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 2003).

79 Furani, Khaled and Rabinowitz, Dan, “The Ethnographic Arriving of Palestine,” Annual Review of Anthropology 40 (2011): 475–91; Deeb, Lara and Winegar, Jessica, Anthropology's Politics: Disciplining the Middle East (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2015).

80 Tradition as an explanatory tool obscures political explanations in anthropological writings as well. See, for example, Asad, Talal, “Anthropological Texts and Ideological Problems: An Analysis of Cohen on Arab Villages in Israel,” Economy and Society 4 (1975): 251–82; and Rabinowitz, Dan, “Oriental Othering and National Identity: A Review of Early Israeli Anthropological Studies of Palestinians,” Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power 9 (2002): 305–25.

81 Amir Pearlberg, Liron Amdur, and Uri Ramon, “ʿIbudim Bnei Kayma shel Karmei Zeitim ba-Galil ha-Maʾaravi be-Hinat Mishtanim Kalkalim, Hevratim ve-Ecologim, Do”h Sofi” (Pearlberg Report, Kibbutz Ein Karmel, Nekudat Hen, 2012).

82 Wesley, David A., State Practices and Zionist Images: Shaping Economic Development in Arab Towns in Israel (New York: Berghahn Books, 2006).

83 Dobson, Andrew and Bell, Derek, eds., Environmental Citizenship (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005).

84 Davis, The Arid Lands.

85 Prior to the final completion of this article, I was informed that the updated regional sustainable development plan for al-Batuf/Beit Netofa approved by the Northern District Committee in December 2017 has indeed extended the borders of its predecessor. The new plan goes beyond the agrarian fields of al-Batuf, and incorporates a wider socio-economic perspective that better addresses the needs of Palestinian-Arab stakeholders. It only took five years of discussion to reach this point. Moreover, in order to reach the implementation stage, the government needs to approve and allocate funds for this plan, which will involve much red tape. Between the approval of the plan in December 2017 and May 2018, it has not advanced in any bureaucratic channel.

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