While I am writing these words, the Israeli army is starting its land invasion of the Gaza strip, thus providing the conditions for the continuation of the massacre that this army has been undertaking this last week. Once again, the fact of writing about the on-going tragedy unfolding in front of our eyes constitutes for me to insists on the (infra)structural conditions that foresee it, as well as enforces it to some degree.
The spectacularization of many aspects of the IDF’s militarized operations (via their Twitter account for example), coupled with their despicable interpretation as a sort of show by an Israeli ‘audience,’ as I wrote in the previous article, provide us with the comparison of the Roman games and their dramatic display of death. In the case of these games, the stage for the spectacle is insured by the architecture of the amphitheater itself that enforces the presence of the victims inside the circus, the doors being accessible only by the agent of death, whether executioners or wild animals. The doors to the Gaza strip are not numerous (five plus one in Egypt: see the map in previous article) but, similarly to the Roman amphitheater, they open only for the asymmetrical agent of death, in this case the troops and vehicles of the IDF. The population of Gaza is thus prisoners from the walls while the latter’s porosity is controllable at wish by the Israeli army: architecture’s power is fully exercised.
Of course, the wall that surrounds the land part of the Gaza strip are not alone in the exercise of this power on Palestinian bodies, they are complemented with technological weaponry and surveillance apparatuses (see past article), and the last side of the strip, the sea is a good example to illustrate how the confinement of a population to a territory can also be made in a less architectural manner. Nevertheless, walls remain the oldest and cheapest means to contain bodies within one of their sides, and their use has been mastered by the State of Israel.
Here is for the academic minute, quite inappropriate in such dreadful circumstances, yet evocative: the seventh chapter of Hollow Land (Eyal Weizman, 2007) entitled “Urban Warfare: Walking Through Walls” is now well-known for the philosophical account that is made by Israeli officers of the way they theoretically consider walls. In it, Weizman quotes IDF Brigadier General Shimon Naveh evoking the wall that was then being built by Israel in the West Bank: “Whatever path they [the politicians] can agree to build the fence [Wall] along is okay with me — as long as I can cross this fence.” During the same interview Naveh cheekily claims to interpret the concepts of “smooth and striated space” elaborated by Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze. However, the smoothing that he evokes here (the ability to cross the wall at any moment) constitutes the very characteristics of the privileged body who has full access to the porosity of the wall like the prison warden or the homeowner. This body is the accomplice of the architect: (s)he is literally given the keys to use the wall’s porosity for her/his own purpose.
The Israeli army is the architect of the wall that surrounds the Gaza strip. It controls the wall’s porosity as if its surface had no physical effects on its bodies while, on the contrary, deployed full violent effect on the Palestinian ones. The interface between the Israeli territory and the Gaza strip is therefore fully weaponized. The Gaza strip is ensured to function as a prison, as well as an antic circus where the spectacle of death is conditioned to occur with no possible escape for the victim. The crime itself is not architectural, but the conditions that allow it to happen are.