Book Review:

Israel’s Architecture of Occupation
by Eyal Weizman
Verso Books, 2007

We believe we know the basics of the central conflict in the Middle East: the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians, that is to say, the conflict over the partition of Palestine. Even before the Israeli “War of Independence,” or the Palestinian “Catastrophe,” depending upon your viewpoint (either way it took place between 15 May 1948 to 20 July 1949), no one could propose a partition that would be satisfactory to both sides. Jewish and Arab areas were either intermixed and far too close to separate out, or they virtually overlapped. In 1947, for example, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) was unable to carve out a contiguous Israeli state out of Palestine, and so had to content itself with proposing the creation of two politically separate but geographically overlapping and interconnected states, one Israeli, the other Palestinian. Over the course of the creation of the “Green Line,” which marked the separation between the new State of Israel and its neighbors at the moment of the 1949 Armistice, more than 700,000 Palestinians were either displaced from or forced out of their homes in Israel “proper.”

A great many of the refugees took up “temporary” residence in camps in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, which were, unfortunately but not unexpectedly, among the precise territories that Israel would seize and begin occupying in the aftermath of the June 1967 war. Starting in late 1967, and in clear violation of both international law and its own laws—battles have been fought in the Israeli High Court of Justice ever since—Israel began to systematically “settle,” that is to say, colonize the West Bank (especially “Greater Jerusalem”) and the Gaza Strip. Though the Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt by 1982, illegal settlements continued to proliferate throughout the Occupied Territories. There have been two Intifadas (rebellions) against Israel’s on-going occupation and colonization: the first was fought between 1987 and 1993, when the first Oslo Peace Accords were signed; the second began in September 2000 and is still going on. In 2003, supposedly as a result of the second Intifada, Israel began the construction of a massive “West Bank Wall,” which—though still incomplete—now winds a complicated, highly controversial (totally illegal) path, separating (illegal) “settlements” from a patchwork made up of hundreds of parcels of land under the partial sovereignty of the Palestinian people, but actually remote-controlled, if not directly occupied, by Israel.

Yes, we know all this, and yet—despite the fact that this conflict is 60 years old—we have very few widely available maps of the Occupied Territories. I mean good maps; accurate, informative and useful maps; ones that actually show what’s “happening on the ground.” This makes one wonder: Is it even possible to make a map of the West Bank? Is the West Bank a political geography that is so intensely complicated that it cannot be mapped?

In Chicago (Stiedl, 2006), their book about a mock-Palestinian town in the middle of the Negev Desert created for war games by the Israeli military, photographers and authors Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin note that “maps, land deeds, names, and documentary evidence [of Palestinian life before 1948] have been systematically erased.” The only maps that have been available are Israeli maps, that is, maps created and/or approved by the Israeli Defense Forces (the IDF), and not everyone has had access to—or even realized the importance of—these maps. As Edward Said reported in “Palestinians under Siege” (London Review of Books, Dec. 24 2000), the Palestinian negotiators “had no detailed maps of their own at Oslo; nor, unbelievably, were there any individuals on the negotiating team familiar enough with the geography of the Occupied Territories to contest decisions or to provide alternative plans… [I]n none of the many dozens of news reports published or broadcast since the present crisis began has a map been provided to help explain why the conflict has reached such a pitch.” One must remember that, across the table from the mapless Palestinians at Oslo weren’t civilian Israeli negotiators, but military men who certainly knew “the lay of the land” very, very well: they were precisely the ones who had shaped it.

Remarkably, virtually anyone can confirm this maplessness. Go online, call up the much-celebrated Google Maps, and search for either “Israel” or “the Occupied Territories.” In either case—the blurring between the two is highly significant—you will find that, in the “Map” setting, absolutely none of the major highways, cities and towns are indicated, nor are any of these basic facts presented by the “Satellite” and “Terrain” settings. (As per normal, such basic information is indicated in the corresponding displays for Lebanon, Syria or Egypt). And so, strictly speaking, Google Maps does not have a map of either Israel or the Occupied Territories. Yes, it is true that there are satellite pictures of the highways, cities, towns, streets and houses in these areas, but pictures do not make a map, which must be read as well as simply looked at, questioned as well as simply appreciated for existing. It is also true that the “Terrain” setting works perfectly well, but such topographical information is completely useless if it can’t be combined with a map of the areas under consideration, especially in Israel and the West Bank, where the terrain changes, as one moves from west to east, from beaches to mountains within the space of just a few miles, and where, especially in the West Bank, the illegal Israeli settlements (and other “security” installations) are up on the hilltops and the Palestinian towns and refugee camps are down in the valleys. It is for this precise reason that a picture of an Israeli settlement taken from above is likely to be pleasing, while a picture taken from ground level—where the disparity is clear between hill and valley, Israeli and Palestinian, rich and poor—is likely to be disturbing. Only the latter could reveal the presence of houses permanently divided between floors, houses with “roads” constructed upon their roofs, or true “highways” that connect hilltop enclaves together via lengthy elevated platforms. Finally, in all three of Google Maps’ settings, one is prevented from zooming in close to the ground or, rather, as vertiginously close as one can when viewing, say, Beirut, Damascus or Cairo. Especially in East Jerusalem, “clouds” (intentional distortions of the images?) prevent one from seeing certain buildings and streets clearly.

Odd things, certainly. But mysteries? No: the answer is simple. Google Maps, which gets all of its satellite imagery as declassified feeds from the US Department of Defense (which of course has close ties with the Israeli military), has agreed to make the deletions mentioned above in the name of protecting the “security” of Israel against its enemies: “We do not use our satellites against our allies.” (Quoted in Weizman, p. 270) Like any other enemy, whether they be state-conscripted armies, volunteer armies, mercenaries, or groups of “terrorists,” Israel’s enemies require maps, which furnish crucial information about Israel (“The company [Google Earth] estimates that 80 percent of the world’s information can be plotted on a map in some way,” Associated Press, April 8, 2008). Because these enemies might be anywhere in the world, the IDF has decreed that the whole world cannot have a map of Israel or the territories that it is occupying. In a way, these limits set upon the world’s perception and knowledge of itself (these limits to “globalization,” if you like) also help Israel to assert absolute sovereignty over both its own territory and the territories it occupies: a sovereignty that exists over both airspace and “outer space.” (And this at a time when both the national sovereignty and the sovereign airspace of such nations as Afghanistan and Iraq has been violated, captured and occupied by the United States and its allies!)

And so it was a major event when the Israeli architect Eyal Weizman published the world’s first comprehensive map of the Occupied Territories in May 2002. In the “postscript” to his remarkable book Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, Weizman notes:

Establishing its perspective with the triangulations of high points of the terrain, later with aerial photography and satellite imagery, mapping has until recently been almost exclusively associated with the mechanisms of colonial power. However, since the start of the [second] Intifada, it has increasingly become more commonly associated with attempts to oppose and disrupt it… In 2001 Yehezkel Lein, a researcher from [Israeli human rights group] B’Tselem, invited me to collaborate on the production of a comprehensive report, Land Grab, which aimed to demonstrate violations of Palestinian rights through the built environment, especially in the planning of Israeli settlements. Analysing [many] series of drawings, regulations, policies and plans, undertaking a number of on-site measurements and oversite flights, we identified human rights violations and breaches of international law in the most mundane expressions of architecture and planning… The crime was undertaken by architects and planners in the way they drafted their lines in development plans. The proof was in the drawings. Collecting evidence for this claim against the complicity of architecture in the occupation, we synthesized all drawings and collated all the masterplans onto a single map. [Pages 261 and 262]

Entitled “Map of Jewish settlements in the West Bank,” Weizman’s map is still available on-line at B’Tselem and was reprinted in Hollow Land, which also includes Weizman’s map of Gaza, which he completed in 2005. Both maps are professionally designed, very detailed and color-coded. They are “difficult.” But the thing that makes them “difficult” is in fact not their method of presentation, but the super-complexity of the spatial arrangements and practices that they depict. For example, Weizman’s map of the West Bank carefully and legibly reveals the presence of ten different types of areas (three kinds of Israeli settlements, Israeli military bases, and six kinds of Palestinian lands, including two classifications for Hebron). It turns out that to map the Occupied Territories, Weizman did not need to develop a new method of mapping: he needed to work in and through new conceptions of space, spatial practice and the built environment.

In Weizman’s words, his map quickly “became one of the geographical tools for advocacy actions against the Israeli government”; it caused “a ‘spatial turn’ in the discourse surrounding the occupation,” which “has helped extend our political understanding of the conflict to a physical, geographical reality, and led to the production of a wide range of maps, drawn and distributed by a multiplicity of political and human rights groups.” In a footnote to these lines, Weizman proudly reports that his map (plus the accompanying research) was “produced as evidence by the Palestinian legal team at the International Court of Justice in the Hague in its rulings on the Wall in the winter of 2003.” He also frankly declares that “Lein and I were later alarmed to learn that the Israeli Ministry of Defence planners had themselves made use of it for their own purposes.”

Though he makes no claims to be a revolutionary, Weizman’s map was a revolutionary accomplishment, a revolutionary endeavor that was specifically intended to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, not “reform” or humanize it. He rather modestly likens his work to the efforts of such independent Palestinian organizations as the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ) and Bimkom (Planners for Planning Rights), and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD), all of which, he says, engage in “acts of advocacy aiming to put pressure on the Israeli government to end the occupation.” Weizman contrasts the work of these groups to the efforts of “other architects, [who] operating especially through humanitarian organizations and different UN agencies, help in the designing and improvement of Palestinian refugee camps, in the reconstruction of destroyed homes and public institutions, and with the relocation of clinics and schools cut apart from their communities by the West Bank Wall.” These efforts do not intend to end the occupation, but to “make somewhat more bearable the lives of Palestinians under Israel’s regime of occupation.” As a result, they are open to the following critique:

Poorly considered direct intervention, however well intentioned, may become complicit with the very aims of power itself. Interventions of this kind often undertake tasks that are the legal—though neglected—responsibility of the military in control, thus relieving it of its responsibilities, and allowing it to divert resources elsewhere. Furthermore, by moderating the actions of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] they may even make the occupation appear more tolerable and efficient, and thus may even help, by some accounts, to extend it. This problem is at the heart of what came to be known as the “humanitarian paradox.”

In a footnote to this passage, Weizman refers his readers to Giorgio Agamben’s Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life (1995; translated from the Italian 1998): “This is one of the reasons… Agamben observed that humanitarians ‘maintain a secret solidarity with the powers they ought to fight.’ For him, both concentrate on the ‘human’ rather than on the ‘political’ aspect of being. Agamben further warned that ‘there are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian problems.'” Elsewhere in his book, Weizman gives a concrete example of the “process by which the military incorporates into its operations the logic of, and even seeks to cooperate directly with, the very humanitarian and human rights organizations that oppose it”—the IDF’s cynical “Another Life” program (summer 2003), which was supposedly intended to “minimize the damage to the Palestinian life fabric in order to avoid the humanitarian crisis that will necessitate the IDF to completely take over the provision of food and services to the Palestinian people.”

It is important to note that Weizman’s reference to Giorgio Agamben is uncharacteristic of his book as a whole. With the exception of the works of Michel Foucault—in particular, the 2003 collection entitled Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the College de France, 1975-1976, to which Agamben himself often refers—Weizman doesn’t mention, re-present or “borrow from” any critical theorist other than himself. (One might especially question the complete absence from Hollow Land of Gaston Bachelard and Henri Lefebvre, two pioneering theorists of space and spatial practices.) Generally speaking, Weizman discusses well-known contemporary critical theorists—Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari mostly, but also Guy Debord and Georges Bataille—because parts of the IDF have taken such a strong interest in the military applications of their work. Though Weizman’s self-sufficiency hurts him a bit when he comes up with boxy phrases and sentences such as “optical-political camouflage” and “like a theatrical set, the panorama [of the Israeli settlement at Shiloh] is seen as an edited landscape put together by invisible stagehands who must get off the set as the lights come on”—why not just refer to Debord’s theory of the society of the spectacle?—it helps him in the overall effect of his book, which is very impressive indeed.

Hollow Land concentrates on the post-1967 period: “It looks at the ways in which the different forms of Israeli rule inscribe themselves in space, analysing the geographical, territorial, urban and architectural conceptions and the interrelated practices that form and sustain them.” To organize his material, Weizman has neatly superimposed topography and chronology:

Starting in the deep aquifers of the West Bank, it progresses through its buried archaeology and then across its folded topographical surface to the militarized airspace above. Each chapter, describing different spatial practices and technologies of control and separation, focuses on a particular period in the history of the occupation.

But this method is not an academic or self-interested exercise, i.e, not the use of the “example” of Israel to demonstrate a certain theoretical approach to spatial practice. This is a reckoning. If the occupation has indeed been a “laboratory of the extreme,” a laboratory that has acted “as an accelerator and an acceleration of other global political processes, a worst-case scenario of capitalist globalization and its spatial fall-out”, then its experiments have produced definitive results. “In this way, the succession of episodes following the development of Israel’s technologies of domination and Palestinian resistance to them also charts a tragic process of cumulatively radicalizing violence,” Weizman writes. “However, with the technology and infrastructure deemed necessary for the physical separation of Israelis from Palestinians, it appears that the vertical politics of separation and the logic of partition have been fully exhausted.” The “human/humanitarian solution” (the demographic separation of populations) has failed; it must be abandoned and replaced by a “political solution” (perhaps the unification of all of Palestine into a single nation that brings the populations together as equals).

Though Weizman refers to “the traditional perception of political space”, which “is no longer relevant” because “a new way of imagining space has emerged”, he does not adequately define or illustrate what it is, which deprives his readers of a full understanding of the nature and significance of this “new way of imaging space.” He only gives us the following (quite useful, but not sufficient) distinction between borders and frontiers.

Against the geography of stable, static places, and the balance across linear and fixed sovereign borders, frontiers are deep, shifting, fragmented and elastic territories. Temporary lines of engagement, marked by makeshift boundaries, are not limited to the edges of political space but exist throughout its depth. Distinctions between the “inside” and the “outside” cannot be clearly marked. In fact, the straighter, more geometrical and more abstract official colonial borders across the ‘New Worlds’ tended to be, the more the territories of effective control were fragmented and dynamic and thus unchartable by any conventional mapping technique. The Occupied Palestinian Territories [can] be seen as such a frontier zone… The frontiers of the Occupied Territories are not rigid and fixed at all; rather they are elastic, and in constant formation. The linear border, a cartographic imaginary inherited from the military and political spatiality of the nation state has splintered into a multitude of temporary, transportable, deployable and removable border-synonyms—”separation walls”, “barriers”, “blockades”, “closures”, “road blocks”, “checkpoints”, “sterile areas”, “special security zones”, “closed military areas” and “killing zones”—that shrink and expand the territory at will… Elastic territories could thus not be understood as benign environments: highly elastic political space is often more dangerous and deadly than a static, rigid one.

And so, we offer the following sketch, not to make any definitive definitions, but to help fill in the background that Weizman has left blank. In the traditional perception of political space, such as it has been defined by Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (or at least our understanding of it):

1) Space is a pre-existing given; it is available, naturally, like a raw material; it is not socially “produced” or “refined” in any way before it is claimed and put to use.

2) Space itself is either empty or (partially or completely) filled: it is likened to a container of some kind (a sphere or a cube).

3) Empty space is “neutral” space; space is only “political” or “political space” when it is partially or completely filled, that is, put to use.

4) In this apparently pre-political geometrical space, the key feature is the boundaries or borders that clearly separate inside from outside, and outside from inside. They are fixed and rigid, and cannot be bent, compressed, stretched or broken (even temporarily).

5) Internal space (within the sphere or cube) is homogenous; it is external space that is varied, diverse or fragmented. Thus, “power” originates in internal space, and is exerted upon the external.

6) Internal space can thus be divided or multiplied “cleanly” (concentric spheres or smaller cubes fitting snugly within larger cubes to follow the examples in #2 above).

7) In part due to #3 and in part due to other factors, social or political space is understood to be a simple three-dimensional embodiment, transference or materialization of two-dimensional, geometrical space.

This perception/conception of space cannot see or understand such “conceptual” or “theoretical” phenomena as frontiers; temporary interruptions or suspensions of the law (states of exception); trans-boundary flows; interstitial space(s); “elastic” or “pliant” lines, or even optical-political camouflage. But when it is confronted with the built environment in the Occupied Territories—that is to say, with such apparently arcane, extraneous, irrelevant or insignificant phenomena as “cladding and roofing details, stone quarries, street and highway illumination schemes, the ambiguous architecture of housing, the form of settlements, the construction of fortifications and means of enclosure, the spatial mechanisms of circulation control and flow management, mapping techniques and methods of observations, legal tactics for land annexation, the physical organization of crisis and disaster zones, highly developed weapons technologies and complex theories of military manoeuvres”—the traditional perception of space becomes a hindrance to seeing what is actually happening, and why. It keeps looking in the wrong direction. As the IDF showed in its March 2002 raid into the Balata refugee camp near Nablus—during which its commando units completely avoided the major intersections, streets, building exteriors and entrances (all of which were barricaded and booby-trapped), and burrowed into and through the walls of civilian homes, instead, thus completely surprising their adversaries, despite the high degrees of their vigilance and preparation—such oversights can be fatal.

When one compares the map (“Starting in the deep aquifers of the West Bank, it progresses through its buried archaeology and then across its folded topographical surface to the militarized airspace above”) to the territory, one finds that Weizman’s book primarily concerns the region’s “folded topographical surface.” The aquifers (and sewage disposal) are discussed in a single chapter (“Interlude—1967,” which is a kind of second introduction to the book as a whole). Archeology (and the government-mandated use of stone as a building material and/or cladding) are also discussed in a single chapter (“Jerusalem: Petrifying the Holy City”) Also discussed in single chapters are the central role played by Ariel Sharon, who served in a variety of key government and military positions over the course of his 40-year-long career (“Fortifications: The Architecture of Ariel Sharon”), and “militarized airspace” (“Targeted Assassinations: The Airborne Occupation,” which is the last chapter). The remaining six chapters are devoted to the Occupation’s “folded topographical surface.” This arrangement gives the book as a whole the topography of a plateau: a quick rise, a long leveling out, followed by a steep incline.

“One of the most crucial battlegrounds of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is below the surface,” Weizman writes in the “Interlude—1967.”

About 80 percent of the mountain aquifer is located under the West Bank… The erosion of the principles of Palestinian sovereignty in its subsoil is carried out by a process so bureaucratically complex that it is almost invisible. Although the aquifer is the sole water source for residents of the West Bank, Israel uses 83 per cent of its annually available water for the benefit of Israeli cities and its settlements, while West Bank Palestinians use the remaining 17 percent. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and virtually all Palestinians in Gaza thus receive water irregularly and in limited amounts. Israel’s “politics of verticality” is also manifested in the depth to which water pumps are allowed to reach. Israeli pumps may reach down to the waters of the common aquifers, whilst Palestinian pumps are usually restricted to a considerably shorter reach, only as far down as seasonal wells trapped with shallow rock formations, which, from a hydrological perspective, are detached from the fundamental lower layers of “ancient waters.”

And yet both lower and upper water tables are being contaminated by raw sewage.

The Israeli authorities failed to provide the minimum necessary sewage infrastructure for Palestinians throughout the period of direct opposition although this is the legal duty of an occupying force [under international law]. The sanitary conditions of West Bank Palestinians were aggravated by Israel’s segregation politics that isolated Palestinian towns and villages behind barriers of all kinds. This policy generated more than 300 pirate dumping sites where truckloads of waste were poured into the valleys beside towns and villages. Paradoxically, the restrictions on the flow of people [in the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel “proper”] accelerated the trans-boundary flow of their refuse. Furthermore, Israeli companies have themselves used sites in the West Bank for their own waste disposal… In the wild frontier of the West Bank, Israel’s planning chaos means Jewish neighborhoods and settlements are often [hastily] constructed without permits, and populated before and regardless of sewerage systems being installed and connected. This sewage runs from the hills to the valleys, simply following the force of gravity and topography, through and across any of the boundaries that may be put in front of it… Mixing with Palestinian sewage, traveling along the same open valleys, [Israeli sewage] will eventually end up in Israeli territory. Instead of fresh water flowing [from underground aquifers] in the specially conceived water pipes installed under the Wall, Israel absorbs large quantities of raw sewage from all across the West Bank. The enclosures and barriers of the recent [counter-measures against the] Intifada thus created the very condition against which they sought to fortify. [Emphasis added]

“Planning chaos” should not be simply taken to mean that Israeli planning is chaotically organized, but also that the chaos that results from it is not completely accidental and has to some extent been planned. “The spatial organization of the Occupied Territories is a reflection not only of an ordered process of planning and implementation, but, and increasingly so, of ‘structured chaos’, in which the—often deliberate—selective absence of government intervention promotes an unregulated process of violent dispossession.” And so, the very thing that is feared (contamination by “dirty” Palestinians) is brought about by the measures taken against it. But instead of seeing the stupidity of its intelligence, the Israeli government asserted that this breakdown in fact confirmed its hygienic (xeno)phobia. “By inducing dirt and raw sewage, Israel could go on demanding the further application of its hygienic practices of separation and segregation,” Weizman writes. “The result is an ever-radicalizing feedback loop.”

Archeology has also been a crucial battleground in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Weizman reminds his readers that:

On 27 June 1967, twenty days after the Israeli Army completed the occupation of the [formerly Jordanian] eastern part of Jerusalem, the unity government of Levi Eshkol annexed almost 70 square kilometers of land and incorporated almost 70,000 Palestinians within the newly expanded boundaries of the previously western Israeli municipality of Jerusalem… The new boundaries sought to “unite” within a single metropolitan area the western Israeli city, the Old City, the rest of the previously-administered city, 28 Palestinian villages, their fields, orchards, and tracts of desert, into a single “holy”, “eternal” and “indivisible” Jewish capital.

The problem, of course, was the unwanted presence of those 70,000 Palestinians. And so, “following [the urban] masterplan [of 1968] and a series of subsequent masterplans, amendments and updates during the forty years of Israeli occupation, twelve remote and homogenous Jewish ‘neighborhoods’ were established in the occupied areas incorporated into the city,” Weizman reports. “They were laid out to complete a belt of built fabric that enveloped and bisected the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages annexed to the city… An outer, second circle of settlements—termed by Israeli planners the ‘organic’ or ‘second wall,’ composed of a string of dormitory suburbs—was established beyond the municipal boundaries, extending the city’s metropolitan reach even further. An ever-expanding network of roads and infrastructure was constructed to weave together the disparate shards of this dispersed urban geography.” In 2007, when Hollow Land was published, “Greater Jerusalem” included 200,000 Israeli settlers, which was approximately the same number as all of the other settlers in the West Bank combined.

To ensure that this “land grab” remained permanent, that is, capable of surviving any future attempts to partition the City in a different way, the very soil underneath, adjacent to and surrounding these settlements had to be secured, and done so “legitimately.” And so: “On 27 June 1967, the same day that Arab Jerusalem and the area around it was annexed to Israel, the Israeli government declared the archaeological and historical sites in the West Bank, primarily those of Jewish or Israeli cultural relevance, to be the state’s ‘national and cultural property,’ amounting to a de facto annexation of the ground beneath the Occupied Territories, making it the first zone to be colonized.”

In an attempt to naturalize and standardize the unification and on-going expansion of Greater Jerusalem, Mayor Kollek Teddy inaugurated the biennial Jerusalem Committee, the Advisory Committee of which included prominent urban planners, architects, architectural critics, historians, theologians and biblical scholars. As Weizman bitterly notes, these people “never challenged the political dimension of the municipal plan and Israel’s right or wisdom in colonizing and ‘uniting’ the city under its rule, nor did it discuss the dispossession of Palestinians that it brought about.” In addition to calling for the systematic excavation and exact reconstruction of archaeological finds, and their incorporation into the overall urban design scheme—as the architect Louis Kahn did for the 18th century Hurva Synagogue—these advisors insisted upon tightening a bylaw from the British Mandate circa 1918 that required the use of certain kinds of limestone as the only material allowed on the exteriors of the city’s buildings and streets, and extending the bylaw’s reach to the entire area annexed to the city. “Stone cladding was used to authenticate new construction on sites remote from the historical centre, giving the disparate new urban shards a unified character, helping them appear as organic parts of the city.” (Emphasis added) We can say that, because these new buildings strove to reject modernism and to look old (biblical era), rooted in archaeological sites (which in fact were not beneath them), and yet genuinely “authentic,” they can be identified as simulacra (copies of things that never existed). And because the “unified character” of Greater Jerusalem was in fact produced according to plan rather than restored according to discovery, we can call stone-clad Jerusalem a spectacular city, that is, unified in appearance only.

For Weizman, the “folded, topographic space” of the Occupation is dominated by four spatial practices (all of them spectacular):

1) the Israeli settlements in the hills, which are “intensely illuminated… visible as brilliant white streaks of light that contrast with the yellowish tint of the light in the Arab villages and towns” in the valleys. Weizman calls this spatial practice “optical urbanism.”

2) the West Bank Wall, which, “although none of the maps released by the media or independent [human] right[s] organization[s] actually show it, and all photographs of it depict a linear object resembling a border (and which all foreigners from territorially defined nation states will immediately understand as such)… has in fact become discontinuous and fragmented series of self-enclosed barriers that can be better understood as a prevalent ‘condition’ of segregation—a shifting frontier—rather than one continuous line neatly cutting the territory in two.”

3) the spectacle of surveillance, which not only is staged at the hilltop settlements (“During the [second] Intifada, the military finally ruled that settlements be surrounded by several layers of fencing systems, cameras equipped with night-vision capability and even motion detectors placed on the perimeter fence, further extending the function of the naked eye”), but also at terminal checkpoints (“the architecture of the Allenby Bridge terminal incorporated within the scale of a building the [same] principle of surveillance that [had] dictated the distribution of settlements and military bases [on the hilltops] across the Occupied Territories”) and along the aforementioned West Bank Wall (“The main component of the barrier is a touch-sensitive, ‘smart’, three-metre-high electronic fence… It also has day/night vision video cameras and small radars”).

(Note well that surveillance is also the central element in the “militarized airspace” above the Occupied Territories: Since 2004, “with the development and proliferation of drone technology,” Weizman explains, most targeted assassinations of Palestinian “militants” and “terrorists” are carried out by remote-controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles [“drones”] that were originally designed to engage in video surveillance and have been freshly equipped with laser-guided, anti-tank “Spike” missiles.)

4) the IDF’s methods of conducting urban warfare.

(Because this particular spatial practice is so closely associated with “complex theories of military manoeuvres,” including the theories of space elaborated by several bellicose critics of what Weizman calls “the capitalist city” [Deleuze & Guattari, Debord, Bataille, et. al], it warrants being treated at some length.)

Weizman reports that, “following global trends, in recent years the IDF has established several institutes and think-tanks at different levels of its command and has asked them to reconceptualize strategic, tactical and organizational responses to the brutal policing…in the Occupied Territories known as ‘dirty’ or ‘low intensity’ wars.” One of these institutions was the Operational Theory Research Institute (OTRI), which instructed all high-ranking Israeli officers—as well as some members of the US Marine Corps—between early 1996 to May 2006, under the co-directorship of Shimon Naveh and Dov Tamari, both retired brigadier generals. One avid disciple of the OTRI was Brigadier General Aviv Kochavi, who was the commander of the IDF’s March-April 2002 attacks on the Balata refuge camp in Nablus and several Palestinian cities in the West Bank. In an interview with Weizman, Kochavi explained that “the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner,” that is to say, “the alley [is] a place forbidden to walk through and the door [is] a place forbidden to pass through, and the window [is] a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors.” It is precisely this potentially deadly situation that has prevented urban warfare from being widely or frequently conducted by “traditional,” state-conscripted armies. In the situation sketched out by Kochavi, the Palestinians’ defensive position is far too strong for any attacking force to be successful, that is to say, any attacking force that feels itself bound by the constraints of international law and therefore would not, for example, simply drop a bomb on the entire neighborhood and kill everyone. But the IDF under the command of Kochavi did not feel itself bound by any law.

I do not want to obey this interpretation [of space, but also international law] and fall into his [the enemy’s] traps. Not only do I not want to fall into his traps, I want to surprise him. This is the essence of war. I need to win. I need to emerge from an unexpected place. And this is what we tried to do. [Kochavi, quoted in Weizman, p. 198]

And so, the IDF “won” in Balata and elsewhere by committing war crimes: it penetrated into, occupied, fought from within and eventually destroyed the domiciles of the civilian population in a zone “temporarily” occupied after a war.

This is why opted for the method of walking through walls… We took this micro-tactical practice and turned it into a method, and thanks to this method, we were able to interpret the whole space differently. [Kochavi, quoted in Weizman, page 199]

As Weizman notes, “the reference to the need to interpret space, and even to re-interpret it, as the condition of success in urban war, makes apparent the influence of post-modern, post-structuralist theoretical language.” Kochavi was indeed introduced to “theory” while at the OTRI, which used theory to help the IDF understand “urban fighting as a spatial problem.” (Shimon Naveh, quoted in Weizman, p. 200). According to Weizman, Naveh gave a presentation on military and guerrilla operations in 2004 that “employed the language of French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari,” whose books, Weizman says, “draw a distinction between two kinds of territoriality: a hierarchical, Cartesian, geometric, solid, hegemonic and spatially rigid state system; and the other, flexible, shifting, smooth, matrix-like ‘nomadic spaces.'” Weizman goes on to explain that, “within these nomadic spaces,” Deleuze and Guattari “foresaw social organizations in a variety of polymorphous and diffuse operational networks,” and “organizations composed of a multiplicity of small groups that can split up or merge with one another depending on contingency and circumstances and are characterized by their capacity for adaptation and metamorphosis.” Naveh concurs:

Several of the concepts in [Deleuze & Guattari’s] A Thousand Plateau became instrumental for us [if the IDF]…allowing us to explain contemporary situations in a way that we could not have otherwise explained… Most important was the distinction Deleuze & Guattari have pointed out between the concepts of ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space [which accordingly reflected] the organizational concepts of the ‘war machine’ and the ‘state apparatus’. In the IDF we now often use the term ‘to smooth out space’ when we want to refer to operation in a space in such a manner that borders do not affect us. Palestinian areas could indeed be thought of as ‘striated’, in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, road blocks and so on… We want to confront the ‘striated’ space of traditional, old-fashioned military practice with smoothness that allows for movement through space that crosses any borders and barriers. Rather than contain and organize our forces according to existing borders, we want to move through them (quoted in Weizman, 200-201, emphasis added).

As Weizman points out, “the Israeli military hardly needed Deleuze to attack Nablus.” Good thing, too, because Naveh clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It is nonsensical to pair “striated space” with the “state apparatus” on the Palestinian side, and “smooth space” with the “war machine” on the Israeli side. First and foremost, the Palestinians haven’t created or chosen their “striated space”: all of the “fences, walls, ditches, road blocks and so on” were built and imposed upon them by the Israelis. Second, Israeli space (that is to say, space in Israel “proper”) is in fact not “smooth,” but striated (like the typical capitalist city), and its architecture and urban design is, as we have seen, closely controlled by the “state apparatus” and not the nomadic tendencies of the “war machine.” Third and last, the precise thing that the Palestinians lack is a “state apparatus”: they have no homeland of their own and only partial autonomy in the Occupied Territories.

Indeed, if you are going to systematically commit crimes against humanity, you “need” nothing other than a reckless disregard for human life. Shimon Naveh reports that, during the March-April 2002 raids, “the [Israeli] military started thinking like criminals….like serial killers…like professional killers.” So why refer to Deleuze at all? Recall that Naveh said theory allowed the IDF to explain contemporary situations. Theory didn’t allow the IDF to fight, or to fight better, but to explain, to talk about fighting. Explain it to whom? To the IDF’s Palestinian victims? As in: “We can terrorize or kill you whenever and wherever we like”? Or perhaps to future war-crimes tribunals? As in: “The IDF wasn’t breaking the law, but merely borders and barriers”?

In any event, Eyal Weizman wasn’t fooled. On the one hand, he knows that 1) “theory” is “an instrument in the power struggles within the military itself,” “a new language with which it can challenge existing military doctrines, break apart ossified doxas and invert institutional hierarchies,” and a means for “the critique of the existing system, to argue for transformations and to call for further reorganizations”; 2) this “language” need not be expressed properly nor even understood by those who claim to speak it; this “language” need only be wholeheartedly embraced so as to exclude those who cannot or will not (allow themselves to) understand even little bits of it; and 3) “theory”—even if a great deal of it is enunciated from a Marxist perspective—can be used to sell the Occupation as the work of a “smart” military (smart bombs, smart theories), that is to say, a surgically precise and thus “more humane” military machine.

On the other hand, Weizman knows that 1) “claims for the ‘non-linearity’ and the ‘breakdown of vertical hierarchies’ in contemporary warfare are…largely exaggerated… Military networks are still largely nested within traditional institutional hierarchies, units are still given orders [from a central command], and follow plans and timelines”; 2) the “theory” cadre in the IDF was dealt a fatal set-back in spring 2006, when OTRI graduate Brigadier General Gal Hirsh was unable to defeat Hizbollah in Lebanon, which quickly led to the de-commissioning of the OTRI itself; and 3) the only measure of success in military operations is victory, and neither “theory,” “intelligence” reports, nor magic spells can guarantee it.


This story first appeared (with footnotes) April 15 on the NOT BORED! website. NOT BORED! is an anarchist, Situationist-inspired xeroxed magazine from New York.


Palestinians under Siege
London Review of Books, Dec. 14, 2000

Applied Research Institute—Jerusalem (ARIJ)

Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

Planners for Planning Rights (Bimkom)


PDF of Weizman’s map

From our daily report:

Israel plans Egypt border “fence”
WW4 Report, Feb. 6, 2008

Separation walls and the new security state: our readers write
WW4 Report, Oct. 28, 2007

Archaeology wars rage on at Temple Mount
WW4 Report, July 17, 2007

From our archive:

Israel bars new Palestinian wells in West Bank
WW4 Report, Nov. 4, 2002


Reprinted by World War 4 Report, May 1, 2008
Reprinting permissible with attribution