Monday, May 07, 2007

Inhabiting The Wall

You may remember, a few years ago back in ’04, when the story was first brought to light of how one Arab family in the occupied territories had taken a defiant stance against the expansion of the Israeli security wall in their neighborhood by refusing to move from their home that was situated almost, if not directly, in the proposed barrier’s construction path.

Immediately I was blown away that a) their home had not been demolished like so many others had, b) that after the rest of their land had been taken they still managed to survive without having to relocate, and c) that quite literally their home had been enfolded within the wall itself into what was called by Israel’s Channel 1 television station at the time an open-air prison.
In case you’re not familiar with the story of the Amer family, a prison is by no means any exaggeration. As Kim Bullimore for Green Left Weekly pointed out in her article, “To the east, within 20 metres of their house, the Israeli state erected the now familiar eight-metre-high slabs of concrete.” To the west of their home, “there is a four-metre-high reinforced steel fence topped with another four metres of barbed wire, separating the Amer family from the illegal Israeli colony of Elkana which has been built just 25 metres from their back door.” As if that weren’t sufficient enough to fulfill the prison metaphor, she continues to write, “To the north is another reinforced electronic fence, which cuts across what once was the main road to the township of Mas’ha. To the south a fourth electronic fence with barbed wire and locked gates lead to an area regularly patrolled by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) and Israeli Border Police.”

Forgive the considerable quotations from her article, but she goes on to tell us how for seven months the family was not even given a key to the “huge heavy steel-framed gate set in the electronic fence located adjacent to the concrete wall.” During this time, Munira and Hani were only given access to their home three times a day, “and only if one of the Israeli security forces was present to open the gate for them.”

It’s really quite unbelievable, actually. Not just for the obvious reasons of imprisoning an entire family that has lived there for 32 years farming the land, but that the wall itself could serve as the spatial membrane for enacting such a thing, that this “security barrier” could in essence devour a family, enfold them into it’s construction – literally!

I’ve talked about the perhaps far-out notion of a theoretical global border wall consuming migrants, or even entire border communities – like some sort of wall-induced digestive annexation; people in the future not only being swept aside for the plotting and construction of these futuristic border fences, but being swept inside its gullet, detained within the architecture of the border fence itself.

Leave it to the IDF to pioneer such a strategy.
Anyway, I bring all of this up because a couple of journalists recently paid the Amer family a visit for whom still remain imprisoned in their home, but have also somehow gone on to become symbols of a certain resistance that I could not pass up bringing to everyone’s attention.
Without simply relaying the entire story (for which you should just go read for yourself) I will offer you a quick summation. The Israeli settlement ‘Elkana’ has in Hani’s estimates “confiscated at least 7,000,000 square metres -- eighty percent -- of the land of Mas'ha,” which is in the Qalqilya district, and was fancied out of an old military compound used by the British, the Jordanian and eventually the Israeli army.
The first Jewish settlers came to live on the compound “in mobile caravans” during the eighties, before the IDF expanded and built the wall which now encloses “about eighty percent of Mas'ha.” We learn that back in the early nineties part of the Amer home was demolished for being too near to the concrete wall, where Hani also once had a nursery and farm for agriculture which was either demolished or confiscated. Only a tiny portion of farm land remains within the family's grasp.

Having protested demolition orders numerous times in court, faced intimidation tactics from the IDF, Hani and his family still have managed to keep their home even though now it is essentially a prison guarded by the IDF and wall sensors that alert them any time visitors come near the home of the Amers.
This prison island of resistance is however about as symbolic as any single instance can get (that I can imagine) for displaying the kinds of dehumanizing effects the Israeli security wall has on the people through out the West Bank, as well as the flexibile nature of the barrier - if it does not destroy everything in its path it simply incorporates it. If not as a means for walling off entire communities as seen in Bethlehem, then the wall can (as proven here) hijack your own home like some post-urban behemoth or viral architecture and literally turn it into a part of its own structure - the home as some kind of bait for the wall which in the end becomes an expanded embodiment of the foreign occupation itself, engulfed, digested, re-adapted through some process of architectural biotransformation, or something. It's border militarization consuming the shelters of resistance for its own urban fortification.
Uh......yeah. Craziness.

Anyway, here are some more articles from which these images have been borrowed from:
The one-family Bantustan in Mas’ha one year into its residents’ demise (February 6, 2004)
A prison with your own key all in the name of security! (March 21, 2004)
Living as prisoners in their own home (The Globe and Mail; 4 January 2006)
Children, Artists Paint Mural on Apartheid Wall at Mas’ha (July 18, 2004)


Blogger ramallah syndrome said...

great post bryan,
big fan of your site though i rarely comment enough; but really great stuff

one of the contradictions of the wall, from an israeli perspective is that it reifies a border they dont really want to create; they have always been partial to a flexible frontier geography and a matrix rather than linear geometrical defensive layout

ur post shows how even with something as concret as a wall they aim to maintain maximum flexibilty and temporariness, as they move from a situation of direct territorial occupation to occupation in the context of almso heremetic seperation. weizman's most recent writing suggests this is butressed by what he calls 'thanato-tactics', basically 'airborne occupation' in which the plane becomes the main operational tool in the struggle for control. its indicative of the vertical kind of geopoltical thinking the IDF employs.

anyway sorry for the long post, keep up the good work man; i come form an urban theory background and am very interested in the 'military urbanism' stuff especially in the israel/palestine context so its great to have this site as a resource. great stuff!


10:37 AM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...


thanks for the comment, appreciate that. yeah, that is what i am interested in precisely, how something as concrete and hardened as a border wall could also be so flexible, adaptable, not just structuraly, but also as a physical embodiment of a flexible ideology, a suspended state of exception, etc. the wall as a symbol of the IDF's modular juridical system, that can change course, alter direction, redeploy elsewhere, in a moment. a suspended ideology, a juridical flexibility, etc. weizman has summed it up better than anyone.

but to see the fence as a space unto itself, with spaces within; the fence as a spatial agent of consumption, the idea the fence could accumulate anything in its path and add to its own structure, digest communities within it, as a membrane for detention and exception, yada yada yada.

i will look more into 'thanato-tactics' to be sure.

but thanks for reading and commenting, and i would love to hear more of your comments in the future. so don't be shy!


2:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yo bryan you should check out this paper:

4:12 AM  

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