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In his book, Hollow Land, Eyal Weizman provides an original and eye-opening perspective on the various ways Israel maintains control over their occupied territories. Framing his work from the end of the Six Day War in 1967 to the present, Weizman reveals a side of Israel's "architecture of occupation" that is rarely, if at all, brought to light in American mainstream media outlets. He lays bare the "facts on the ground" and how Israel created powerful and oppressive structures of territorial occupation by implementing different spatial practices and technologies of separation and control. These tools of domination are examined individually and chronologically throughout the book's nine chapters that help highlight the evolutionary character of Israel's colonization, occupation, and governance.
Wiezman opens his book by looking at the very controversial Israeli outpost settlements that have become the most contested points of the conflict and a constant focus of political and diplomatic negotiations. These outposts as well as their architecture, Weizman says, play a vital role in formulating Israeli identity. In Jerusalem, for example, the Israeli government used "optical manipulations" in order to naturalize the occupied parts of the city in the eyes of Israeli citizens. This is seen in the use of stone cladding that both authenticated construction and linked new buildings to the sacred identity of Jerusalem.
Nonetheless, the location and layout of new Jewish settlements were not only for a growing Jewish population, but were also a means to prevent Jerusalem from functioning as a Palestinian city. Fearing a growing Palestinian demographic, the Israeli government reconfigured the city to spike the value of the housing market and enacted restrictive building codes for Palestinians that forced many families to leave Jerusalem in search of cheaper housing outside Israel's fluid borders. Weizman writes, "For the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem, unlike the Jewish residents, hardly anything was ever planned but their departure" (Weizman, 47).
Furthermore, Weizman explains that in the post-1967 world, the planning and architecture of the occupied territories dominantly fell into the hands of military men, politicians, and ideological activists. The planning culture, driven by Ariel Sharon, viewed architecture as a "continuation of war by other means." Consequently, Israeli culture was increasingly militarized as battlefield terms became normalized in civilian discourse. The outposts, or nekuda, meaning points in Hebrew, were seen as strategic positions rather than places of residency. Roadways were developed into elaborate defensive systems that separated Israelis from Palestinians as well as divided the Palestinians from themselves. Even the housing that was built in settlement areas was compared by Israeli government officials as "armored divisions." In turn, civilian settlements became military buffer zones that inadvertently made them into targets of attack by radical Palestinian terrorist groups.
In one of his most interesting chapters, "Checkpoints: The Split Sovereign and the One-Way Mirror," Weizman shows how the Israeli government created "a prosthetic political system propped up by the international community." Under Article X in the 1993 Oslo Accords, the Israeli government was granted full control over checkpoint terminals regulating the flow of people in and out of the occupied territories. In effect, these checkpoints let Israel occupy Palestine without actually having to occupy Palestine. However, these were no regular checkpoints. Run by the Palestinian guards, Israeli security agents sat behind one-way mirrors and retrieved personal travel documents through a secret compartment. After processed, the passport is given back to the Palestinian Authority who either rejects or accepts admittance based on the decisions made by the Israeli security staff. For Weizman, the architecture of these terminals served to hide the Israeli mechanisms of power and control. The Palestinian authority was "mere performance" in order to render Palestinians into believing that they were subjects of their own country rather than the objects of an occupying state.
Towards the end of his book, Weizman moves from Israel's rule over the ground to the state's tyranny of the skies. With new sophisticated weaponry, Israel's domination of the air transformed the logic of occupation as targeted assassinations became a mainstay and political tool for control. Although the air assassinations using unmanned drones and state of the art targeting equipment enjoys wide public support (80% according to Weizman) and is justified as legal in response to Israel's security concerns, these killings have "fed the conflict by creating further motivation for violent retaliations, and dramatically increased Palestinian popular support for acts of terror." Moreover, these targeted assassinations have helped normalize violence into everyday life. As Israel tries to make war more "humane" by using high impact-low blast radius missiles to minimize the loss of innocent lives, violence has become more frequent and legitimate. Notably, Weizman criticizes Israel's use of assassinations as a way to avoid engaging in solutions through a political process.
Overall, Hollow Land is a great book. However, since the book's scope is so large it misses out on the finer intricacies of this regional conflict. Also, because of this Weizman is forced into using the old Israel-Palestine binary that we so often see in the media. But these minor infractions do not infringe on this book's importance. It will open your eyes to new ways of thinking about architecture and state control. For me, this book has significantly altered my own perception concerning the Israel-Palestine conflict. Although Weizman leaves the reader off with a bleak prospect of this intense and ongoing conflict, hopefully this book may in some way help bring about a change in the future trajectory of Israeli policy concerning Palestine.