September 19, 2003


Ariel Sharon and the Geometry of Occupation: Israel’s ‘barrier’, ‘wall’, or ‘separation fence’ across the West Bank is the latest architectural expression of a twenty-year old political strategy. In a mind-opening three-part series that extends his renowned “The Politics of Verticality” into a new dimension, Eyal Weizman offers a penetrating analysis of how ideas about power, security and planning intersect with politics to shape the spaces in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict develops. (Eyal Weizman, 9 - 9 - 2003, Open Democracy)

This essay extends and connects with the general thesis set out in my 2002 openDemocracy project, “The Politics of Verticality”. It examines the process by which, after the expansion of Israel’s borders following the 1967 war, these borders have been dissolved and transformed: from being fixed fortified lines, laid out at the edges of the occupied territories, to fragmented and scattered inner frontiers across both horizontal and vertical dimensions.

In this process, the transformation of the territories occupied by Israel since 1967 became a parallel conflict, carried out with pencil lines on the drafting tables of military and civilian planners and architects. The West Bank as we know it today has come to be, not as a result of a collection of accumulated haphazard decisions of incremental politics, but as the spatial outcome of a strategic planning.

The design and construction of the “security barrier” through and around the West Bank is to complete the last stage in the Israeli project of territorial control.

It may appear that with the construction of such a border-like apparatus, Israel has finally surrendered to military contingencies and political pressures, thus transforming its entrenched territorial policies (how else could Ariel Sharon, the person who epitomises Israel’s settlement project, be the one finally to set a border through the “heart of the land of Israel”?).

But beneath the apparent change lies the same stubborn and implacable ideological regularity – the use of apparently temporary security-architecture to create permanent facts on the ground, the rejection of borderlines as the limits of state territory, the preference for ever-flexible internal frontiers. This is, in short, the spatial legacy of Ariel Sharon.

Ariel Sharon thus guides the progress of the “roadmap” and the barrier’s path as two complementary processes: the former is the process of bringing forth a Palestinian state in temporary borders, the latter is in the process by which these borders will solidify unilaterally in both space and time.

The analysis is right; the conclusion wrong. The only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is for Israel to dictate terms to the Palestinians, recognize their state, and face them as a rival nation. It is, however, in Israel's own best interest to cede more rather than less territory to that Palestine and to make it a contiguous whole, both for reasons of fairness and so that internal travel in Palestine will not require contact with Israelis.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 19, 2003 1:31 PM

I'm for the fence. Let the UN build a tunnel between Gaza and the left bank.

Posted by: genecis at September 19, 2003 8:34 PM