By Stirling Howieson
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Hollow Land

This article is over 14 years, 7 months old
Eyal Weizman, Verso, £19.99
Issue 315

Devotees of the latest nuances of postmodernist styles will be disappointed with Weizman’s book, for this is not about changing architectural fashions in hot arid climates. Hollow Land – Israel’s Architecture of Occupation is the work of an architect chronicling the physical occupation and colonisation of Palestine by Zionism – in all its forms.

One of the main principles of Marxism is that the superstructure of any given society is predicated on its socio-economic base. Here Weizman demonstrates the inversion of this principle. The socio-economic base of Israel is reliant on its physical presence. The building of “settlements” is the key strategy of Israel’s expansionist aspirations. They are the frontline in a war, and according to the “rules of engagement” issued by the Israeli military, soldiers may shoot to kill any Palestinian observing these settlements through binoculars.

The book exposes in great detail the tactics that Israel has adopted, and is still using, to achieve this strategic goal. Weizman delivers many unique insights into how the land grab is championed by zealots, but more importantly, he shows how it is then justified – primarily by the military and eventually by the courts.

The Israeli government and its constituent parts try to keep at arms length from this process, for they are under some pressure from the international community and various peace accords not to sanction such theft, but Weizman exposes their hypocrisy. One example is the passing of a law that allows the state to requisition any land that has not been cultivated for a set period of time. On the surface this looks like an evenhanded practical policy to increase agricultural production. Of course it is invariably Palestinian farmers’ land that is targeted.

Simply denying these farmers access to water ensures that at least there is a regular flow of land coming under Israel’s control. A systematic annual aerial survey ensures few opportunities are missed.

In addition to this expropriation there is the settler movement that deliberately tries to stymie any attempt at creating a two state resolution by targeting hillsides that do not fit neatly into the planned route of the “wall” – a structure costing some $3 billion that will effectively partition Palestine.

The route the wall will have to follow to separate the “Dalmatian” pattern that is the West Bank is already quite bizarre, but many Zionists will clearly not be happy until all of the lands mentioned in their holy books are re-conquered by force or fraud.

Weizman mocks the current situation where a “prosthetic” Palestinian Authority undertakes certain administrative tasks (passport control on the Allenby Bridge terminal) while being directly supervised by Israeli policemen sitting behind a one way mirrored screen who actually make the decision as to who can cross.

He also has a pop at the architectural cognoscenti whose only criticism of the wall is its lack of aesthetic appeal!

Weizman recognises that it is physically difficult to separate Palestine, as it is politically impossible to separate the two states. It is a book that exposes the real injustices that have been imposed on the Palestinian people, and the reader will understand their rage and why the Intifada was long overdue.

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