Monday, January 02, 2006

Architectural Debate in Israel on "The Wall"

Very useful article by Nicolai Ouroussoff in the Sunday New York Times on the wall and the architectural debate over it in Israel. A key figure in the debate is architect Eyal Weizman, who has published a report that "essentially accused Israeli architects of being collaborators in the colonization of the West Bank." Says Weizman, "We examined these architectural drawings in a clinical manner...We showed that the crime was in the making of the line - in the drawing itself - not only in the principle of building a settlement."

Shimon Navez, a retired brigadier general and director of the Israeli Defense Forces' Operational Theory Research Institute, is also a critic of the wall, but from a position that endorses, rather than critiques, Israeli colonialism. Navez deploys the theories of Deleuze, Bataille and the Situationists, claiming that the West Bank is already a "smooth space," and the wall (the "barrier," in his parlance) a kind of ineffective anachronism, representative of "striated space." Navez cites Gaza as an example of how Israeli forces are effectively using "smooth space" as a mechanism of control, "saying that as long as Israel controls the air space, what happens on the ground is essentially irrelevant from a security standpoint. 'The main idea is that we can see and do what we please,' [Navez] said."

According to Weizman, General Navez "is simply trying to replace one form of control with another that is less visible."

Ouroussoff proceeds to give a very useful description of the wall, and he concludes (very surprisingly, for a NYT article):

The consequences extend beyond the ghettoization of Palestinians and Israelis. The wall destroys the space for those who once occupied the middle ground: those who refuse to divide the world into good and bad, civilization and barbarity. It threatens to sever the threads, already fragile, that might one day be woven into a more tolerant image of coexistence.

(My only complaint about the article: no Palestinian voices! Why not talk to Palestinian architects like Suad Amiri?)

Some articles by Weizman:

"Strategic Points, Flexible Lines, Tense Surfaces and Political Volumes: Ariel Sharon and The Geometry of Occupation." In Cities, War and Terrorism: Towards an Urban Geopolitics, ed. Stephen Graham (Blackwell, 2004)

A piece (I can't locate the title) in Against the Wall: Israel's Barrier to Peace, ed. Michael Sorkin (The New Press, 2005)

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