Stephen graham urbicide on the west bank


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An overview of how Israel's warfare against Palestinian civilians and cities since 2002 amounts to a strategy of 'urbicide' -- the deliberate killing of the city

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Stephen graham urbicide on the west bank

  1. 1. ‘ Clean Territory’ The Politics of Urbicide in the Israel-Palestine Conflict Steve Graham
  2. 2. Introduction <ul><li>Urban research overwhelmingly focused on urban con -struction </li></ul><ul><li>Very little social scientific literature on cities as strategic sites of conflict and de -struction </li></ul><ul><li>Emerging research theme : the urbanisation of warfare ; cities as strategic sites ; the geo-political nature of urban space ; links between organised violence and military constructions and representations of urban space </li></ul><ul><li>Case study of discursive dimensions of Jenin Battle and ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ : to understand how the urban becomes constructed in contemporary strategic contexts </li></ul>
  3. 3. 1 Operation ‘Defensive Shield’ as Urbicide
  4. 5. The Battle of Jenin 3-16th April 2002 <ul><li>At least 52 Palestinians and 20 Israelis were killed </li></ul><ul><li>160 by 250 meter area 140 multi-family housing blocks completely destroyed </li></ul><ul><li>1500 were damaged </li></ul><ul><li>4000 people, of the resident population of 14000, made homeless. </li></ul>
  5. 6. <ul><li>Israel claimed its aim purely to destroy the “terrorist infrastructure” behind the recent Palestinian suicide attacks </li></ul><ul><li>Evidence suggests real aim to destroy the urban, infrastructural and cultural foundations of the proto-Palestinian State </li></ul><ul><li>A case of ‘Urbicide’ : The killing of the city (coined by Marshal Berman and Bosnian architects in 1992) </li></ul><ul><li>IDF analyst Dov Tamari (2001) - doctrine is to destroy &quot;the social infrastructure, the welfare infrastructure, out of which combatants have grown and on which [the palestinian fighters’] families rely&quot;. </li></ul>
  6. 7. The Bulldozer as a Weapon of War <ul><ul><li>D-9 armoured Caterpillar bulldozer. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Designed to plough through Palestinian built up areas with impunity </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>An Israeli Chief of Staff claimed in 2000 that “the Caterpillar D-9 is a strategic weapon around here” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Israel sold 12 D-9’s to US for iraq invasion </li></ul></ul>
  7. 8. Forced Demodernisation : Infrastructural Warfare <ul><li>Water infrastructure deliberately destroyed </li></ul><ul><li>Roads dug up </li></ul><ul><li>Electricity stations destroyed </li></ul><ul><li>Hospitals attacked </li></ul><ul><li>Information and bureaucratic installations ransacked </li></ul><ul><li>Financial damage to infrastructure from the first major offensive alone has been estimated by donors at 361 million US dollars </li></ul>
  8. 9. 2. Discursive Constructions of Urbicide <ul><ul><li>Closely associated with Sharon “The Bulldozer”. Him responding to a question about Palestinian shooting into Gilo: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I would eliminate the first row of houses in Beit Jela”. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>&quot;And&quot;, asked the journalist, &quot;if the shooting persisted ?&quot; </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>“ I would eliminate the second row of houses, and so on. I know the Arabs. They are not impressed by helicopters and missiles. For them there is nothing more important than their house. So, under me you will not see a child shot next to his father [as was the case with Mohammed Al-Dorra]. It is better to level the entire village with bulldozers, row after row” </li></ul></ul>
  9. 10. Three Interwoven Discourses <ul><ul><ul><li>(i) Constructing Palestinian Urban and Demographic Growth as an Existential Threat to Zionist Israel </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(ii) Constructing Palestinian Urbanisation as an Evasive 'Cancer' Threatening the (Greater) Israeli Body-as-State </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(iii) Urban Terrain as a Threat to Israeli Military Omnipotence and Surveillance </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 11. (i) Constructing Palestinian Urban and Demographic Growth as an Existential Threat to Zionist Israel <ul><li>A deepening antagonism amongst Israel’s right-wing military and political elites against the natural demographic and urban growth of the Palestinian people </li></ul><ul><li>Israeli Jews born in Europe are barely replacing their population (at 2.13 babies per family) ; Palestinians in Gaza have the highest demographic growth in the world (7.73 babies per family </li></ul><ul><li>Yasser Arafat has even called the demographic discrepancies in population growth between Jews and Palestinians the “biological bomb” </li></ul>
  11. 12. Fear of Urban and Demographic Growth <ul><li>Between 2000 and 2020, Israeli demographer Arnon Soffer: Jews will move from constituting 50.5% of the overall population to the west of the Jordan river to only 42%. </li></ul><ul><li>&quot;the process of urbanization around Israel’s borders will result in a large Arab population, suffering from poverty and hunger, surrounding the Jewish state. These areas are likely to become fertile ground for the evolvement of radical Islamic movements.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ In the Arab zone the urbanization process takes on a wild nature, stemming from the absence of planning policy and, in particular, a lack of supervision and enforcement of construction law. Everyone builds as he [sic] sees fit, and the result is hundreds of illegal villages spreading in all directions” </li></ul>
  12. 13. (ii) Constructing Palestinian Urbanisation as an Evasive 'Cancer' Threatening the (Greater) Israeli Body-as-State <ul><li>Far Right’s construction, and naturalisation, of the metaphor that Palestinian urbanisation is an evasive 'cancer' undermining the order, progress, and existence of the purported organic 'body' of the modern State of Israel. </li></ul><ul><li>E.g Effi Eitam : The spontaneous construction of Palestinian housing and refugee camps within both Israel and the occupied territories, was, he argued, a “ cancerous tumour destroying the ordered host” of the Israeli State. </li></ul>
  13. 14. Palestinian Urbanisation as a ‘Cancerous’ Threat <ul><li>Eitam : “ Uncontrolled spontaneous urbanisation is a threat of war ! The attacks against us are not physical but are on the order of the system. It’s an evasive threat - not conventional or terroristic. This is very important in the context of the global War on Terrorism.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It is destructive not through direct damage but through its evasive characteristics which eventually kill the order of the host state. As of today we have the evasive tumour which sits within the order of the Israeli system. This is a cancerous threat ; the cancer cell multiplies. We see a mosque appearing there ; a mass of buildings here. We thus see order destroyed&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>“ We are dealing with the use of urban areas as weapon, the building is a weapon.” </li></ul>
  14. 15. (iii) Urban Terrain as a Threat to Israeli Military Omnipotence and Surveillance <ul><li>This asserts that the urbanisation of Palestinian terrain strongly undermines Israeli military omnipotence, and hence geopolitical power, in the region </li></ul><ul><li>Palestinian cities are portrayed as essentially unknowable, closed and unoccupiable spaces, which challenge the three dimensional panoptic gaze of the IDF's high-technology surveillance systems and lie beyond the reach of many key weapons systems such as tanks. </li></ul>
  15. 16. Urban Raids to Assert Geopolitical Reach <ul><li>Following IDF raids into the Khan Yunis refugee camp of Gaza in early October 2002, Herb Keinon, celebrating the “success” of an operation which killed 16 Palestinian civilians, wrote that the raid was designed to demonstrate that ; </li></ul><ul><li>“ no area – even the most rabidly pro-Hamas or pro-Islamic Jihad stronghold in Gaza – is outside the IDF’s reach” ( Guardian , 2002) </li></ul>
  16. 17. The Urbanization of War <ul><li>Soffer; Urbanisation “forces the IDF to change its concept of security. It will not be possible for its armored force, for instance, to maneuver in urban areas within the country or outside it [...].” </li></ul><ul><li>“ It is unreasonable to think of the IDF going out to conquer lands beyond Israeli territory, especially not large cities populated by millions such as Damascus, Beirut, Nablus and Gaza .” </li></ul><ul><li>Eitam (2002), all this means that “ even if you have the best weapons you can’t deal with this. A woman or child turns into a terrorist. Eventually, this could destroy the strongest army in the world”. </li></ul>
  17. 18. ‘ Clean Territory : The Fear of Urbanised Space <ul><li>Such a fear of built and urbanised spaces reaches very high levels amongst Israeli military leaders and commanders, who have been deeply influenced by the prevailing IDF doctrine of city-avoidance </li></ul><ul><li>In 1998, for example, David Bar El, Deputy Head of Israel’s Civil Administration at the time, said that “if we don’t keep this territory clean, at the end of the day there will be an irreversible facts on the ground that will reduce our ‘maneuvering space’” </li></ul><ul><li>Palestinian occupation and inhabitation, by implication, emerges as “unclean” – something noxious to be metaphorically, and literally, swept away, ordered, and sanitised </li></ul>
  18. 19. 3. Back to the Battle of Jenin Asserting Urban Control: New ‘Streets’ <ul><li>Nactwey &quot;The street is a new one, carved by a huge bulldozer out of what was once a narrow alley. It leads to a place where gunmen and tanks forged a new, terrifying chapter in the long wars of the Middle East. The alley was just three feet wide before the Israeli army sent its heavily armoured Caterpillar D-9 down what is now a rutted track&quot;. </li></ul>
  19. 20. The Shift to Mass Bulldozing <ul><li>After ambush on 9th April 13 IDF reservists killed in an ambush </li></ul><ul><li>Mostly completed after end of battle as collective, symbolic punishment : rooting out ‘tumour’ ? </li></ul><ul><li>The retired IDF Brigadier General Gideon Avidor (2002) reflects that &quot;as a result of this ambush we [the IDF] stopped playing nice and polite&quot;. </li></ul>
  20. 21. ‘ Leveling Everything’ : Reflections of a Bulldozer Driver <ul><li>“ Before we went in I asked some guys to teach me [how to operate a D-9]. They taught me how to drive forward and make a flat surface… For three days I just erased and erased… I kept drinking whisky to fight off fatigue. I made them a stadium in the middle of the camp ! I didn’t see dead bodies under the blade of the D-9… But if there were any I don’t care.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ I found joy with every house that came down because I knew that they didn’t mind dying but they cared about their homes. If you knocked down their house you buried 40 or 50 people for generations… [After it was finished] I begged for more work : ‘Let me finish another house!’ I wanted to destroy everything. To level everything… It’s not that I wanted to kill. Just the houses. Believe me, we demolished too little”. </li></ul>
  21. 22. 4. Conclusions :Jenin - Paradigmatic Conflict of the 21st Century ? <ul><li>Israeli denial of the inevitability and necessity of Palestinian urbanisation. </li></ul><ul><li>A collective denial of the existential rights of Palestinians to urban living space and to the fruits of urban and infrastructural modernisation that Israelis, themselves, have long enjoyed </li></ul><ul><li>The culmination of the brutal reaction by Israeli politicians and military planners to the fact that many Palestinian fighters sought refuge within a built environment who’s very existence challenged Israel’s high-tech military omnipotence. </li></ul><ul><li>End result of a widespread series of increasingly pathological discourses which demonise Palestinian urban and demographic growth. </li></ul>
  22. 23. The Power of Medical-Corporeal Body-as-State Metaphors <ul><li>David Campbell (1998) By constructing a population as a &quot;danger to the social order, where the [Zionist ] social [order] is understood as a (naturally healthy) body&quot;, these discourses of 'cancers' and 'bodies' &quot;impute guilt, prescribe punishments, and incite violence&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>The result in this case is a widespread, and increasingly desperate, search for 'clean territory', and an apparent obsession with 'leveling everything' within a dense and rapidly urbanising geopolitical arena. </li></ul>
  23. 24. From Jenin to Baghdad ? A Wider Significance <ul><li>Very close partnership with US Military Operations on Urban Terrain (MOUT) specialists. </li></ul><ul><li>US special forces participated in Operation Defensive Shield as a &quot;'joint-venture' to gather important experience in fighting Muslim extremists in a densely populated area like Jenin&quot; (quoted in Elam) </li></ul><ul><li>Since, Israel has trained US urban warfare specialists preparing for Baghdad in ‘Gaza-storming’ methods. D-9’s also sold. </li></ul><ul><li>US Joint Chiefs of Staff delegation visited Israel between 17 and 23 rd May 2002 to “examine closely Israel’s tactics and make changes to the Corps’ urban war-fighting doctrine to reflect what worked for the Israelis” (Lowe, 2002). New US Doctrine for Urban Operations on 16 th September 2002 in time for Iraq war. </li></ul>
  24. 25. Global ‘Network-Centric Warfare’ Meets Urban Resistance ? <ul><li>What is the role of Jenin-like battles within the broader context of the global struggle between high-tech attempts to maintain and extend US military, and aerial, high-tech hegemony, and a wide variety of urban-based resistors (including certain Islamic states and international terrorist organizations). </li></ul><ul><li>Richard Hart Sinnreich, the Washington Post: &quot; As the US's ability to detect and strike targets from remote distances grows so also does an enemy's incentive to respond by locating his military forces in cities, where concealment and protection are easier. In an urbanising world scenes such as those in Jenin are likely to become the rule in war rather than the exception &quot; (2002). </li></ul><ul><li>Distanciated, remote and technologised urban warfare based on technical fixes versus bodily presence as only weapon available : ‘American skies vs Whites of the eyes’ ? </li></ul>
  25. 26. Research Implications <ul><li>Get ‘inside’ the urbanisation of war and, especially, military urban research ! </li></ul><ul><li>Excavating the hidden, military dimensions of recent, and contemporary, urbanisation (e.g. Le Corbusier ; Cold war ; ‘war on terrorism’) </li></ul><ul><li>Overcoming the collective ignoral of intersections of cities and warfare in critical urban research </li></ul><ul><li>Analysing the comparative ‘cultures’ of urban warfare </li></ul><ul><li>Asserting a critical geopolitics of urban space : multiscaled and ‘glocal’ ; seamless shifts between Homeland’ security and military incursions globally ; parallels between Al-Queda strategy for symbolic urban destruction and US ‘shock and awe’ </li></ul>