Palestine: the Architecture of Apartheid

by David Parker. October 12, 2008. Interview with Jon Elmer.

In the 2007 publication “Hollow Land“, Eyal Weizman, the Israeli-born, London-based architect, reconceptualized geopolitics in the Occupied Territories. The political space created by Israeli apartheid is a web of total domination and control over Palestinians. The architecture and urban planning inside the territories demonstrate a late-modern colonial occupation. Israel owns the subterranean aquifers beneath Gaza and the West Bank, controls the airspace above, and has weaved a web of Israeli only settlements, highways, and security perimeters throughout the West Bank, while turning Gaza into an open-air prison.

According to Weizman, the natural and built features of the landscape function as weapons and ammunition for the conflict. The Occupied Territories have become a series of layers and territories, each manipulated by the Israeli authorities. Borders are porous for Israelis but solid for Palestinians. Checkpoints are a source of humiliation.

The political power of Israel re-inscribes relationships of force in the organization of the built environment. Contemporary urban warfare in the West Bank and Gaza is a constant destruction and construction of space. At the root of the warfare lies Israeli racism and colonialism.

Lines of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza can change overnight. Borders are flexible for the daily incursions of Israeli forces who inflict torture without sullying their home soil. Palestinian homes are a potential theater of war. Palestinian houses are demolished, their farms destroyed and confiscated.

Weizman depicts the Israeli settlements inside the West Bank as built according to a military design of concentric circles, fences, searchlights and patrol roads. In his lecture at the Canadian Center for Architecture in 2007, he refers to them as “optical matrices radiating out from a proliferation of look-out points/settlements scattered across the landscape”. The psychological effects are calculated; fear is used to induce flight and displace the indigenous Palestinian population from their land; a tactic carried out since the 1948 Nakba, Arabic for ‘catastrophe’.

Read the interview here: