chapter  15
Babies from Behind Bars: Stratified Assisted Reproduction in Palestine/Israel
BySIGRID VERTOMMEN
Pages 12

It was easy to congratulate the mother, who was sitting on the hospital bed, beaming with pride. Majd’s father, however, was only present through his absence. Twelve years ago, Abdul Kareem Al-Rimawi was sentenced to 25 years in prison for shooting at Israeli soldiers. Being denied conjugal visits, the only contact he and his wife have had over the last 12 years has been through a glass window. Although the Holy Land is famous for its miraculous conceptions, Majd’s case was particularly astounding. He was conceived through IVF after his father successfully smuggled his sperm out of the Israeli prison where he is being detained. The Rimawis are not the first couple to undertake this spectacular reproductive endeavor. In 2006, Yigal Amir, the convicted murderer of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was caught smuggling his sperm out of jail before being officially granted the right by the Israeli Supreme Court to conjugal visits with his wife Larissa Trembovler, which resulted in the birth of their son in 2007. This rather sensational story raises fundamental questions about the right to give birth and the right to be born in Palestine/Israel. Drawing on Shellee Colen’s (1995) concept of stratified reproduction to indicate that the capacity to control one’s reproductive abilities is stratified along gendered, sexualized, racialized, and classed fault lines, Michelle Murphy (2011) introduced the term distributed reproduction as a way to upscale the analysis of reproduction beyond

the strict microbiological space of the female body to more extensive macroinfrastructures such as state, military, agricultural, and economic infrastructures, which are often unevenly distributed in time and space and accordingly assist, rearrange, foreclose, or harm one’s reproductive capacities. This is particularly true for hyper-divided settler colonial societies such as Palestine/Israel, which was founded on the structural removal and replacement of the Palestinian population through the arrival of a new Jewish settler body (Wolfe 2007). My main argument is that Israel’s (in)famously pronatalist assisted reproductive policies have been co-produced within a Zionist demographic logic of elimination which aims to create and consolidate a “Jewish majority in a Jewish state” by containing Palestinian fertility. This argument will be gradually developed. First, I will contextualize Yigal Amir’s right to father a child within Israel’s pronatalist reproductive-demographic climate. Second, I will elucidate the stratified character of Israel’s pronatalism by illustrating how its ART policies have been imagined and deployed to promote Jewish fertility, while simultaneously attempting to control Palestinian fertility. In the final part, I argue that assisted reproduction has not only emerged as a biopolitical site for settler colonial control, but has also been appropriated as a tool of contestation by Palestinians. Drawing on Begoñia Artexaga’s work on the embodied resistance of Irish political prisoners, I will compare Yigal Amir’s quest for parenthood with that of Palestinian political prisoners.