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Architectural Occupation and Israel’s Borders

Thursday, January 6, 2011

An Israeli check point at Qalqiliya. Thousands of workers from the area arrive at the checkpoint before 4am to pass through the checkpoint to go to work in Israel (photo by Richard Wainwright, click for photographers blog).

In a recent interview on “Voices of the Middle East and North Africa,” Israeli professor Eyal Weizman (who wrote the book Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation) argued that Israel’s boarders are not concrete boarders the way many Western Europeans see as boarders.  In reality, Weizaman states, Israel’s boarders are colonial boarders harkening back to the days that Africa and the Middle East which were carved up by European powers.

During this segment of the interview he states:

I think that, at least where I am now, the European imagination of national conflicts, conflicts are about boarders.  We can push the boarder a little bit more here a little bit more there and it seems to people it is a boarder issue, the Israel-Palestine conflict…Whereas in fact we need to think very much in the context of colonial geography of control and subjugation.  Where the separation of “We are here and they are there” is in fact not possible because the entire geographical-military-political system operates by creating that overlap: this is the very system that wherever there would be concentration of populations there would be close to it the Other, they would draw colonization into it.  This is why there is a Jewish-Israeli colonization inside Hebron around the big Palestinian cities, within the Palestinian populated parts of Jerusalem.

It is not as if there is a certain magic line that could be drawn and miraculously separate Palestinians from Israeli by putting these on one side and that on the other.  Colonial geographies have always been mixed, they’ve always been confusing, they’ve always been built more around enclaves, patchworks of territory, that are intermixed rather than solid territorial bodies.  In fact the idea of territorial separation is impossible and this is where the book is both rather pessimistic and rather hopeful.  Because it says, and it shows, it refutes the possibility of partition.  I mean, it is actually kind of a proof by refutation: it kinda shows the complexity of separation that all these issues of overlaps of territory but in fact it kind of creates, or describes the territory as so complex and so intertwined, that would in fact (we can only reach the conclusion) that it would collapse under its own contradictions and intensities because the project of separation is really, territorially, impossible…And I think that if we think about transformation then we can not break [Israel and Palestine] apart.  We can not say “Well let’s look for a solution for the Arab Palestinians in Gaza and another solution for those in Galilee and another solution for those in the Southern West Bank, those in Jerusalem, or those in the North West Bank, etc.”

I think that those designations and the attempts to look for other solutions for these different regions is in itself part of the mechanism of control which seeks to differentiate, to separate, between the different places and different Palestinians that live within that sphere of Israeli control.

The hope, in this, for Weizman is that he is left to the conclusion that the only way forward is a unified Palestinian/Israeli state were equal rights are attributed to everyone.


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