An analysis of the role of architecture and urban form in the Israel-Palestine Dispute as intimated in this new edition of Eyal Weizman’s book (cover picture below) is reviewed in a Greater Kashmir post.
The opinions expressed within reflecting the author’s views and position on the issue are shared by more and more greater numbers. Let us see what’s it all about.
The above-featured image is for illustration and of Architectural Review showing Roads often highly fortified and for use by Israelis only, such as this section known as the Tunnel Road – or also the Apartheid Road – near the settlement of Gilo, under construction last year. Credit:Yonatan Sindel / FLASH90
The relationship between political will and the built environment is conspicuous and stands out most in turmoil-laden geographies. Architecture, beyond its primary function, can be perpetuated as a tool for occupation and dominance. Hollow Land, a book by Eyal Weizman published in 2007, navigates through the later proposition. Weizman has been an outspoken critique of Israel’s policies its occupation of Palestine and has written widely on the geopolitics of the Middle East.
The author’s pedantic observation of Israel-Palestine dynamics puts into the narrative what is otherwise obvious but seldom talked about in the dominant power narratives. Describing architecture from a unique vantage point, the book draws unprecedented insights into the arena of built environment. The text strongly argues and establishes architecture as an instrument to control occupied territories, instill fear among Palestinians and facilitate illegal usurping of natural and physical resources.
The book specifically takes on architecture as an expression of occupation. It explains with precise detail the role of apartheid wall; a 100 km long and 13-meter-high edifice separating the Palestine and Israel, case of illegal settler colonies, constant invigilation of Palestinian lands through panopticon watch towers, in addition to architectural elements like color coding, detail of cladding and other features pertinent to domain of urban structure.
From demographic prism, the book discusses Israel’s intrusion into Palestinian cities and intentional changing of urban population thresholds to declare scarcely populated settlements as ‘towns.’ Wiezman sees geography, apartheid policies, and politics of domination buttressing each other. Each of the physical element on the ground, he argues is ‘there to express something, it’s just that we need to decode it.’
Architecture reverberates beyond its primary function. Weizman quotes from Lahav Harkov, a retired Israeli general about Israel’s becoming of ‘world champions of occupation’ and alluding that occupation is ‘an art form’. Over the years, Israel’s domination of territory in Palestine areas as demarcated by blue line drafted by the United Nations in 1948 has been constantly modulated and abused by Israel.
Palestine as of today is constituted of three areas: East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the south-west Gaza Strip bordering Egypt. First two were part of conflict from the start whereas the Gaza Strip came under the purview of domination lately in 1967 following the Six-day war. Israel not only successfully thwarted the conglomeration of Arab opponents but also won territory more than it originally had before the war.
The idea of Israel as land of Jews is based on idea of ‘people without land’ in first place. Not is that proposition unethical because it was realized at the cost of throwing out the local Palestinian inhabitants from their land, but also it is based on doubtful historical justification. Palestine as a geographical entity with local inhabitants precedes the advent of Judaism as socio-religious unit. Historical references of the region date back to 12th Century BC during the time of Egyptian King Ramesses II. Later figures like Herodotus, Aristotle, Ptolemy also wrote about Palestine. Nur Masalha’s book, Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History documents the topic is methodical detail.
The art of apartheid, Israel orchestrates in controlling the Palestinian lands is played out at three levels: the subsoil, the surface, and the air. Palestinian territories reserve the compromised sovereignty only at the surface level whereas the subsoil and air are controlled by the Israeli government resulting in a vertical apartheid. Oslo Accords of 1993 argued for the case that Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem should be connected by road, usually by flyovers surpassing the Israel land below. Projects of such nature would directly connect the masses of Palestine and the flyovers itself would act as facilitators. Israel, however rebutted the idea citing security issues. It remains ironical given how the Israel has constructed thousands of kilometers of road network, both above surface and underground disregarding sovereignty of Palestine.
Dozen tunnels cut through hollow lands of what was once Palestinian farmlands. The roads cut across Palestinian territories and decrease the commute time of Israeli citizens. The constructions are usually aimed to proselytize into Palestinian lands and at the same time to connect mainland Israel with illegal settlements. Israel under the policy of ‘Metropolitan Jerusalem’, enshrined in policies of government mandates Israeli authorities to expand the capital territory far and beyond and in the process engulfing Palestinian lands into its jurisdiction fold.
Settlements are the most aggressive tool used by Israel to induce control to grass root level in West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they permeate almost every tract of land, and the way they are planned in midst of Palestinian towns makes the local Palestinians vulnerable in many ways and at the same time enabling Israel to control more effectively. Ariel Sharon in 1998 remarked what could be attested as the policy of Israel since then; ‘to move, run, and grab as many hilltops as we can.’ It usually starts with the placement of few mobile containers on hilltop until it is captured in its entirety.
Language and Form of Design
It’s surprising how a building material can convey the language of occupation. Throughout its glorious as well as confrontational history, Jerusalem houses architectural sites of importance to Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. Although the style may differ for each but there is a common denominator: the Jerusalem stone. The yellow tinted stone is available in abundance in and around the region.
When British colonized the Palestine in 1918, the aesthetically sensitive British builders saw the neglected plight of its cities. To them, the built form was mix of congested and haphazardly built houses lacking any sort of unifying appeal.
Determined to find a solution to the Jerusalem’s ‘overcrowding and unsightliness’, the British colonel Ronald Storrs invited influential British engineer, William Mclean to draw a development plan. He instructed to dismantle shackles and old torn out buildings. In the process, the British designers designated Jerusalem stone as mandatory cladding stone in order to achieve the ‘biblical outlook’. For Storrs, stone embodied biblical tradition and ‘Jerusalem literally a city build on rock’. Decades later the same archeological tradition and Jerusalem stone was invoked by the Zionist regime for propagandist purposes.
The 1968 Master plan of Jerusalem, keeping up with the earlier development plans singled out Jerusalem stone’s ability to render a ‘holy city image’ to occupied areas of extended metropolitan areas of Jerusalem. In course of time, certain planners and architects did stand up to challenge this notion due to the emergence of high rise and rising prices of stone but the Israeli government subdued all such voices. In last few decades, Israel’s builders have come up with affordable ways to just put 6-centimeter slates of stone instead of wholesome masonry but nonetheless the stone on the exterior remains the standard.
Topography has also had a huge influence on the occupation. Israel usually places its settlement colonies on the apex of hills. It helps the IDF to patrol the surrounding areas with three sixty degrees vigil. This principle is vividly explicated by the settlements. Apart from stone cladding, the law mandates the settlement buildings to have red colored roofs to help differentiate in case of air raids.
Israel has induced a sort of gentrification effect in Arab neighborhoods which eventually increases the property rates causing Palestinians to retreat to areas beyond ‘metropolitan Jerusalem’ which by law is a condition for Palestinians to acquire citizenship.
Once out of Jerusalem, these people are vulnerable to various kinds of human rights violations.
There are also efforts to constrict physical expansion of Palestinian urban areas. For example, the neighborhoods of Ramat Eshkol and the French Hill north of the old city were laid out to form an elongated arc that cut the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat from the Palestinian old city and the neighborhood of Seikh Jarah, which previously comprised a continuous urban area.
Appropriating the Archeology
Archeology possesses the power to dismantle whatever is seen as ‘non-original’. The Maghariba quarters and African quarters were razed overnight by Israel just after the 1967 war ended. David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel claimed in his memoirs that the Jewish right over Palestine is based on digging soil with our own hands. What he said referred to two practices that would establish and demonstrate Zionist right to the land.
Wherever the Zionists found traces of Hebraic past, they first reverted the names of places followed by demolition of whatever stood on it. Thousands of houses belonging to Palestinians were razed on the same principle. A year later after the 1967 war, Israeli government invited elite planners and architects from across the world for the cause. In one such project to revive the Hebrew past, Architect Louis I. Kahn was commissioned to construct Hurva synagogue on the same design it had existed before going into ruins. Somehow the project couldn’t find the light of the day, but several other projects returned to liveliness.
Resources and Amenities
Land presently under Israel lacks the natural reserves to sufficiently supply water to its residents. The mountain aquifer’s that supply 80% of the water into Israel are in West Bank. Israel cites Hebraic past disputing any authority of Palestine over the resources. Ironically the water, as well as the stone, is extracted from Palestinian lands and for compensation the Palestinians are returned with sewerage that Israel flows downslope to valleys around the West Bank hills. This has resulted in a health crisis for Palestinian people.
Over these years the number of settlers sit at a staggering number of around 7,50,000. The official policy asserts the ratio of Jews to Muslims kept at 78:22 but the actual numbers have always remained more than 22 percent for the Muslim population because of reasons like birthrate and dense neighborhoods.
The Palestinian neighborhoods like Muslim Quarters house at least twice the people of its capacity. The reason for over densification of the Muslim neighborhoods can be reasonably attributed to Israel’s vindictive razing policy which specifically target Muslim houses.
Unemployment is rampant and healthcare infrastructure in the state of no-existence. Palestinians have not only been snatched of their rights but they have also been made dependent at every conjecture.
Palestinians are queued like herds to enter premises which belong to them. In Palestine, violence is perpetuated with the help of architecture. The crime began on drawing board itself and as Weizman remarks, ‘It is architecture only that can rise above this.’
The author is an Urban and Regional Planner and alumnus of CEPT Ahmedabad.
What is the Global South? A term that is in increasingly constant use nowadays according to many and to the author, Joseph S. Nye who reviews it and came up with what follows.
3 November 2023
CAMBRIDGE — The term “Global South” is in constant use nowadays. For example, some commentators warn that Israel’s incursion into Gaza is “alienating the Global South”, and we often hear that the “Global South” wants a ceasefire in Ukraine. But what do people mean when they use it?
Geographically, the term refers to the 32 countries below the equator (in the southern hemisphere), in contrast to the 54 countries that lie entirely north of it. Yet, it is often misleadingly used as shorthand for a global majority, even though most of the global population is above the equator (as is most of the world’s landmass). For example, we often hear that India, the world’s most populous country, and China, the second most populous, are vying for leadership of the Global South, with both having recently held diplomatic conferences for that purpose. Yet, both are in the northern hemisphere.
The term, then, is more of a political slogan than an accurate description of the world. In this sense, it seems to have gained traction as a euphemism to replace less acceptable terms. During the Cold War, countries that were not aligned with either the United States or the Soviet Union blocs were said to belong to the “Third World”. Non-aligned countries held their own conference in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955, and there are still 120 countries constituting a weak non-aligned movement today.
Nonetheless, with the Soviet Union’s demise in 1991, the idea of a non-aligned Third World no longer made much sense. For a time, it became common to refer to “less-developed countries”. But that term had a pejorative ring to it, so people soon began to refer to “developing countries”.
Although that term has its own problems, not all low-income countries are developing, after all, it proved useful in the context of United Nations diplomacy. The Group of 77 (G-77) now comprises 135 countries, and exists to promote their collective economic interests. Outside the UN context, however, there are too many differences between members for the organization to serve a meaningful role.
Another fad term that has come into vogue is “emerging markets”, which refers to countries like India, Mexico, Russia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil and a few others. In 2001, Jim O’Neill, then a managing director at Goldman Sachs, coined the acronym BRIC in a paper that identified Brazil, Russia, India, and China as emerging economies with high growth potential. Though he was offering investment analysis, some political leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, seized on the grouping as a potential diplomatic platform to counter American global influence.
After a series of meetings, the first BRIC summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia, in 2009. With the addition of South Africa the following year, the group became the BRICS. Then, at the 15th BRICS summit this past August, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that six emerging-market countries (Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) would join the bloc on January 1, 2024.
Ever since it became a conference-holding body, the BRICS has often been seen as representing the Global South. But, again, Brazil and South Africa (and now Argentina) are the only members from the Southern Hemisphere, and even as a political replacement for the Third World, BRICS is rather limited conceptually and organisationally.
The term’s main value is diplomatic. Though China is a middle-income country in the Northern Hemisphere that is competing with the US for global influence, it likes to describe itself as a developing country that plays an important leadership role within the Global South. Still, in conversations with Chinese academics on a recent trip to Beijing, I found differences among them. Some saw the term as a useful political tool; others suggested that more accurate terminology would divide the world into high-, middle-, and low-income countries. But even then, not all low-income countries have the same interests or priorities. Somalia and Honduras, for example, have very different problems.
For journalists and politicians, the high-, middle-, low-income terminology does not roll easily off the tongue or fit well in headlines. For want of an alternative shorthand, they will continue to rely on “Global South”. But anyone interested in a more accurate description of the world should be wary of such a misleading term. Project Syndicate, 2023.
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., a professor at Harvard University and a former US assistant secretary of defence, is the author, most recently, of “Do Morals Matter? Presidents and Foreign Policy from FDR to Trump” (Oxford University Press, 2020). Copyright:
Over the past 20 years, my research as an anthropologist has focused on the situation of Palestinian displacement in the Middle East. Having studied some of the daunting challenges millions of Palestinians face as stateless refugees denied the ability to return to their homeland or the right of compensation, I believe it is critical to understand their history and what is at stake for those trapped in indefinite exile.
The origins of Palestinian displacement are ongoing and cannot be reduced to a single cause. Most Palestinian refugees, however, can trace their roots to two significant events in Palestinian history: The “Nakba” and the “Naksa.”
Others found refuge in Egypt and Syria. More than a third of those Palestinians displaced in 1967 were already refugees from 1948 and thus suffered a second forced migration. Just as in 1948, when the 1967 war ended, the Israeli government blocked the return of any refugees and proceeded to destroy several Palestinian villages in the occupied territory, including Emmaus, Yula and Beit Yuba. After their destruction, these areas were leased to Jewish Israelis.
Beyond Al-Nakba and Al-Naksa
Although the tragedies of the Nakba and the Naksa turned the vast majority of Palestinians into refugees, numerous events since then have increased their number. One of the most significant causes of Palestinian displacement today is the Israeli practice of home demolitions.
Because Palestinians live under various governments in diverse circumstances, no single experience can account for their experience of exile. In Jordan, for example, where I have conducted research, Palestinian refugees can be divided into numerous groups, each with its own set of opportunities and challenges.
Since 1948, Palestinians in Lebanon have faced severe restrictions in work, education and health. Treated as an unwanted population in the country, their presence has been a source of significant divisions in Lebanon and a factor in numerous conflicts, including the Lebanese Civil War and the War of Camps between Syrian-backed militias and factions within the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Any solution to Palestinian displacement that involves returning to territory in contemporary Israel thus faces the problem of overcoming the idea of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. And yet that is the challenge. Whatever peace negotiations may bring, no permanent solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict can avoid answering the question of return.
On the eighth day of the current intensification of hostilities between Israel and Hamas, I saw a tweet that said that there would be more uproar in the west if “2.2 million golden retrievers [were] being bombed to extinction in an inescapable cage” instead of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
This tweet took me back to interviews I conducted with 96 young Palestinians and their teachers in the West Bank in the aftermath of the 2014 invasion of Gaza and published in a journal recently. We talked about issues that affected their daily lives, not least their awareness of human rights as well as how the rest of the world perceives the Palestinians’ struggle.
I wanted to find out about the different ways Palestinian youth in grades nine and ten (aged 13-15) across a range of public, private and United Nations schools understood, talked about and used human rights – especially when the ideals they learned about at school contrasted with their struggles for rights in their daily life. In my conversations with these young people, they opened up to me about a range of issues that they confront in their daily life.
1. Dehumanisation of Palestinians
The young people I spoke with, who were from a range of different socioeconomic and religious backgrounds, often described how they felt dehumanised in discourse on Israel-Palestine relations. This failure to see them as fellow humans with the same wants, needs and – importantly – human rights as every one else, they felt, has come to be accepted globally.
But they also often used similar language to describe how they live under occupation. Hiba, a girl in grade nine studying at a private school joked that: “It’s funny how animals have more rights than the humans in Palestine”. Then, more seriously, she added: “We’re not equal, we are different from other children in the world.”
The idea that the value of a Palestinian life is ranked lower than the lives of others was another talking point. Anwar, a grade nine female refugee student at a school run by the UN said that: “In western countries if someone dies they make a massive issue of it. But if we Palestinians were killed whether it was 100 to 1,000, then it’s normal and OK. Palestinians are numbers.”
The rhetoric displayed by Israeli officials over the past fortnight shows this dehumanisation at work. Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant in announcing the complete siege of Gaza asserted that: “We are fighting human animals.” His words were echoed by Israeli Major General Ghassan Alian who said to Palestinians in Gaza that “human animals must be treated as such”.
Many of the young people I spoke to were critical of how their elders – especially the leadership of the Palestinian Authority (PA) – appeared to have come to accept the occupation. Talking about the 2014 war in Gaza, Camilla, who was studying at a private school, told me: “Our government acts like they don’t care whether we are occupied or not … Israelis are killing kids and the government is not letting [sic] Israel pay for it.”
This week, Palestinians across the West Bank have joined protests against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. But they have also been highly critical of the PA. In response PA security forces have cracked down on and fired live ammunition at demonstrators, killing young people like Razan Nasrallah, a 12-year-old girl from Jenin who was shot and killed in the West Bank city on October 17 while protesting at the attack on a Gaza hospital which killed hundreds of Palestinians.
Although some young people were also cynical about the prospect of seeing an end to the occupation in their lifetime, most were optimistic. Anwar, a grade nine pupil at a UN school told me that while “adults feel that it is over … as young people, we still have hope because we have a future”.
3. Israelis: even occupiers deserve human rights
Many of the young people I interviewed in 2015 were keen to make a distinction between most Jewish people living in Israel and those whose vision of a Zionist Jewish homeland involves the displacement of native Palestinians. As Jiries, a grade nine pupil at a private school told me:
Some people say that Jews are the one who are Zionist … but they’re wrong because there are a lot of Jews that support us … I just want to make sure that everyone who reads about “Jews” or “Zionists” can separate between the two.
The students were also keen to stress that not all of the Jewish community supports the state of Israel’s policy towards Palestine – and during the current conflict there are many Jewish groups around the world standing in solidarity with them:
The young people I interviewed lived in areas of the West Bank controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which are officially off limits for Israelis. So, most of the young people’s encounters with Israelis would have been with settlers or soldiers either at checkpoints or during military raids. Young people held different views on their perceptions of the Israelis they’d encountered. Lina, a girl in grade nine at a UN school for refugee children stressed the difference between soldiers and citizens, meanwhile her classmate Nadiya, said:
In the Gaza war they didn’t differentiate between civilians and soldiers, Israelis target civilians and most of those who were killed were children, women and old people.
But when I asked this group of refugee girls if they thought an Israeli young person their age should enjoy the same human rights as them, they unanimously agreed.
4. Hope for the future
The occupied Palestinian territories have a young population: the median age in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is 19.6 years and in Gaza more than 40% of people are 14 or younger. Since October 7 2023, a Palestinian child has been killed about every 15 minutes.
For those who survive, military attacks can leave children with life-changing disabilities, without parental care, and can have long-term adverse impacts on their mental health. Other children may yet die because they can’t access food, water, or life-saving medical treatment because of the siege.
Despite being disproportionately affected by the violence, the views of young people are rarely consulted and their voices are largely missing in commentaries and decision-making processes that will affect their lives. Young people in society do not necessarily reproduce the views of adults around them. And often adults don’t listen when the young speak.
As Marwan, one of the young people I spoke to put it: “[adults] don’t understand that we are mature enough to understand our world”. Young people in Gaza and those in exile have addressed the international community calling for an immediate ceasefire.
The question is, who will listen and act upon these young people’s calls? They are the future of Palestine and their voices must be heard.
Earthquake and Wind Programs Branch Civil Engineer Pataya Scott, PhD shares more about the work FEMA does to improve building codes and standards. The Role We (FEMA) Play in Earthquake Preparedness is inspiringly here for all those in the MENA region concerned by a possible repeat of the same recent disastrous events.
The Role We Play in Earthquake Preparedness
After the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria last month, you may have wondered: in a similar event, what would have happened to buildings in the United States?
For more than 40 years, FEMA has worked with our partners to improve building codes and standards, as well as advance their adoption and enforcement across the nation. While these improvements are significant, there are still older buildings in our country that are at risk of collapse during an earthquake.
More work is needed to avoid the kind of regional disaster Turkey and Syria are experiencing after the magnitude 7.8 and 7.5 earthquakes. Many existing buildings in the United States are likely to perform poorly in earthquakes because they are built to outdated standards or, in some cases, no standards at all. These buildings remain vulnerable to collapse in seismic regions like Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, California, Hawaii, the Rocky Mountains, the New Madrid region, South Carolina, the Eastern United States, Puerto Rico and Oklahoma.
To explore how these areas would be affected during a major earthquake event, you can use FEMA’s Hazus Loss Library. This tool demonstrates the cost of life and severity of damage that would happen in earthquake events similar to those in Turkey and Syria. While the numbers presented in these scenarios might be less than what those regions endured, they still represent a significant risk and enforce the need for the nation to improve its built environment.
Modern codes and standards are only effective if they are properly enforced. Turkey is known for having a current building code, similar to many parts of the United States, but implementation has historically been an issue. Regional differences in code adoption and enforcement mean that some communities may not benefit from the protection offered by stronger codes. Ongoing advocacy for both code adoption and enforcement is still needed.
FEMA is always focused on improvements. We look at the latest lessons-learned information, new science and technology. We also collaborate with many government sectors to address and mitigate a community’s risk with existing buildings. This work includes improved methods for risk assessment, prioritization and retrofit, as well as support for developing and adopting effective mitigation policies and practices, which could include replacing with new buildings.
New attention on post-disaster response and recovery has suggested that emphasis on building collapse prevention may not be enough. Disaster-resilient communities need buildings that can be occupied following a hazard event and provide functions and services necessary for meeting essential community needs and maintaining economic vitality. This means buildings that not only stand strong after an earthquake but still allow residents to safely use things like running water and electricity.
There are many actions you can take on a personal level to improve your own community’s earthquake resilience.
Practice Safety Drills. Since earthquakes can happen without notice or warning, be prepared by practicing Drop, Cover, and Hold On with family and coworkers.
Make an Emergency Plan.Create a family emergency communications plan that has an out-of-state contact. Plan where to meet if you get separated. Make a supply kit that includes enough non-perishable food, water and medications for several days, a flashlight, a fire extinguisher and a whistle. Prepare for pets and service animals, too.
Protect Your Home. Secure heavy items in your home like bookcases, refrigerators, water heaters, televisions and objects that hang on walls. Also consider obtaining an earthquake insurance policy since a standard homeowner’s insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage.
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Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
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