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Eyal Weizman, architecture - Technion, has a "Lethal Theory" - Israel oppressing the Arabs through architecture

The maneuver conducted by units of the Israeli Defense
Forces (IDF) in Nablus in April 2002 was described by its
commander, Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi, as inverse
geometry, the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of
a series of microtactical actions. During the battle, soldiers
moved within the city across hundred-meter-long ?overground-
tunnels? carved through a dense and contiguous
urban fabric. Although several thousand soldiers and several
hundred Palestinian guerrilla fighters were maneuvering
simultaneously in the city, they were so ?saturated? within
its fabric that very few would have been visible from an aerial
perspective at any given moment. Furthermore, soldiers
used none of the streets, roads, alleys, or courtyards that constitute the syntax of the city, and none of the external doors,
internal stairwells, and windows that constitute the order
of buildings, but rather moved horizontally through party
walls, and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and
floors.1 This form of movement, described by the military as
?infestation,? sought to redefine inside as outside, and
domestic interiors as thoroughfares. Rather than submit to
the authority of conventional spatial boundaries and logic,
movement became constitutive of space. The three-dimensional
progression through walls, ceilings, and floors across
the urban balk reinterpreted, short-circuited, and recomposed
both architectural and urban syntax. The IDF?s strategy
of ?walking through walls? involved a conception of the
city as not just the site, but the very m e d i u m o f warfare ? a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent
and in flux.
The fact that most contemporary military operations are
staged in cities suggests an urgent need to reflect on an
emergent relationship between armed conflicts and the built
environment. Contemporary urban warfare plays itself out
within a constructed, real or imaginary architecture, and
through the destruction, construction, reorganization, and
subversion of space. As such, the urban environment is
increasingly understood by military thinkers not simply as
the backdrop for conflict, nor as its mere consequence, but as
a dynamic field locked in a feedback-based relationship with
1. In fact, after serving their original
purpose, the openings forced through
the walls become part of the syntax of
the city and are not reused for military
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 53
the diverse forces operating within it ? local populations,
soldiers, guerrilla fighters, journalists and photographers,
and humanitarian agents.
This essay belongs to a larger investigation of the ways
in which contemporary military theorists are conceptua l i z i n g the urban domain. What are the terms they are using to
think about cities? What does the language employed by the
military to describe the city to themselves (for example, at
international conferences dealing with urban warfare) and
to the general public (most often through the media) tell
us about the relationship between organized violence and
the production of space? What does this language tell us
about the military as an institution? Not least important is
the question of the role of theory in all these operations.
At stake are the underlying concepts, assumptions, and
principles that determine military strategies and tactics. The
vast ?intellectual field? that geographer Stephen Graham has
called an international ?shadow world? of military urban
research institutes and training centers that have been established to rethink military operations in cities could be
understood as somewhat similar to the international matrix
of elite architectural academies. However, according to
urban theorist Simon Marvin, the military-architectural
?shadow world? is currently generating more intense and
well-funded urban research programs than all these university
programs put together, and is certainly aware of the
avant-garde urban research conducted in architectural institutions, especially as regards Third World and African cities.2
Interesting is the fact that there is a considerable overlap
among the theoretical texts considered ?essential? by military
academies and architectural schools. Indeed, the reading
lists of contemporary military institutions include works
from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings
of Deleuze, Guattari, and Debord), as well as more contemporary
writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, and
postcolonial and poststructuralist theory. If writers claiming
that the space for criticality has to some extent withered aw ay
in late 20th-century capitalist culture are right, it surely
seems to have found a place to flourish in the military.
What has emerged from a sustained investigation of this
phenomenon is a convergence among trends in the practical
application of critical theory, such that the discourses which
shaped thinking in various academic fields toward the end of
the 20th century have been employed ? in an instrumental
and straightforward manner (and thus not at all) ? for the
production of new architectural methodologies as well as for
2. Simon Marvin, ?Military Urban
Research Programmes: Normalising the
Remote Control ofCities.? Paper delivered
to the conference ?Cities as Strategic
Sites: Militarisation, Anti-Globalisation
& Warfare,? Centre for Sustainable
Urban and Regional Futures,
Manchester, November 2002. The proliferation
ofthese institutions could be in
part the result ofthe reduced presence of
the military on university campuses since
the Vietnam War.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 54
the reinvigoration of warfare. While I will not compare the
uses of critical theory in architecture with its application by
the Israeli military, a close examination of the latter certainly
reflects on the former, insofar as it illustrates a more general
problem of the relationship between theory and practice.
In this context, I would like to concentrate on the ways in
which theoretical discourse is being used by the IDF, with a
focus on the conceptual frameworks that its strategists claim
have been instrumental in the development of contemporary
urban warfare tactics.
The method of ?walking through walls? that the IDF
employed in the April 2002 battle of Nablus was developed
from the necessities of a tactical condition. Palestinian resistance composed of about 1,000 guerrilla fighters from all
Palestinian armed organizations had barricaded all entries to
the Kasbah (old city) of Nablus and the adjacent Balata
refugee camp by filling oil barrels with cement, digg i n g
t r e n c h e s , and piling up trash and rubble. Streets and alleys were mined along their length with improvised explosives
and tanks of gasoline. Entrances to buildings facing these
routes were also booby-trapped, as were the interiors of
some prominent or strategically important structures. Several
i n d ependent bands lightly armed with AK47s, RPGs, and
explosives were organized deep within the camp and based
along major routes or at prominent intersections. In an interv
i e w I conducted with Aviv Kokhavi, commander of the
Paratrooper Brigade, and at age 42 one of the most promising
young officers of the IDF,3 he explained the principle that
guided the battle. In order to put this interview in context, it
is important to note that Kokhavi took time off from active
service, like many career officers, to earn a university
degree. He originally intended to study architecture, but
ultimately pursued philosophy at the Hebrew University. In
one of his many recent interviews in the press, he claimed
that his military practice is influenced to a great extent by
both disciplines.4 What was interesting for me in his explanation
of the principle of the battle was not so much the
description of the action itself as the way he conceived its
This space that you look at, this room that you look at, is nothing but your interpretation of it. Now, you can stretch the boundaries of your interpretation, but not in an unlimited fashion, after all, it must be bound by physics, as it contains buildings and alleys. The question is, how do you interpret the alley? Do you interpret the
alley as a place, like every architect and every town planner does, 55
3. Kokhavi was the commander of the
IDF operation for the evacuation of settlements
in the Gaza Strip.
4. Chen Kotes-Bar, ?Starring Him
(Bekikhuvo),? Ma?ariv, April 22, 2005
(in Hebrew).
Brigadier General Aviv Kokhavi,
commander of the Paratrooper
Brigade of the Israeli Defense
Forces. Photo courtesy the
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 55
to walk through, or do you interpret the alley as a place forbidden to walk through? This depends only on interpretation. We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through, and the door
as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place
forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the
enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps. Not
only do I not want to fall into his traps, I want to surprise him! This is the essence of war. I need to win. I need to emerge from an unexpected place. And this is what we tried to do.
This is why we opted for the methodology of moving through
walls. . . . Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at
points and then disappearing. We were thus moving from the interior of h o m es to their exterior in a surprising manner and in
places we were not expected, arriving from behind and hitting the
enemy that awaited us behind a corner. . . . Because it was the first time that this methodology was tested [at such a scale], during the operation itself we were learning how to adjust ourselves to the
relevant urban space, and similarly, how to adjust the relevant
urban space to our needs. . . . We took this microtactical practice [of moving through walls] and turned it into a method, and
thanks to this method, we were able to interpret the whole space
differently! . . . I said to my troops, ?Friends! This is not a matter of your choice! There is no other way of moving! If until now you
were used to moving along roads and sidewalks, forget it! From
now on we all walk through walls!?5
Kokhavi?s intention in the battle was not to capture and
hold ground, but to enter the city in order to kill members of
the Palestinian resistance and then get out. The horrific
frankness of these objectives ? as told to me directly by
Shimon Naveh, Kokhavi?s instructor, whom will we later
meet ? is part of a general Israeli policy that seeks to disrupt
Palestinian resistance on political as well as military levels
through ?targeted assassinations? from both air and ground.
The assumption, at least on the military level, is that,
because there is no possibility of military training for
Palestinians, the principal assets of the resistance are experienced fighters and political leaders.6 It is mainly, but not
exclusively, this aspect of the operation that would explain
current calls for Kokhavi to face a war crimes tribunal.7 This
will be the subject of a future article.
In a meeting called by Kokhavi in preparation for this
operation, he explained to his officers the problems they
faced in the impending operation. The Palestinians ?have set
the stage for a fighting spectacle in which they expect us,
5. Eyal Weizman interview with Aviv
Kokhavi, September 24, 2004, at an
Israeli military base near Tel Aviv. Translated
from the Hebrew by the author ;
video documentation by Nadav Harel
and Zohar Kaniel.
6. IDF forces killed almost 80 Palestinian
guerrilla fighters in this battle. The military
now claims that ifthe political
establishment had allowed the military
to continue this operation, Kokhavi?s
troops would have killed hundreds, but
the pressure built up in the aftermath of
the battle of Jenin brought the operation
to a halt. Eyal Weizman telephone interview
with Shimon Naveh, March 7, 2006.
In this context, Naveh later said that
?the military thinks like criminals. It
enters into an area and starts killing the
insurgents one by one.?
7. Kokhavi captured the attention ofthe
media recently when the chieflegal
advisor to the IDF recommended that he
not make a planned trip to a UK-based
military academy for fear he could be
prosecuted for ?war crimes? in Britain.
Cf. an earlier statement implicating
Kokhavi in war crimes in Neve Gordon,
?Aviv Kokhavi, How Did You Become a
War Criminal??www.counterpunch.org-
/nevegordon1.html (April 8, 2002).
Paratroopers moving through a
ceiling in Nablus?s old city center.
Photo: Operation theory
Research Institute (OTRI), 2002.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 56
when attacking the enclave, to obey the logic that they have
determined . . . to come in old-style mechanized formations,
in cohesive lines and massed columns conforming to the geometrical order of the street network.?8 After analyzing and
discussing this situation with his subordinate officers,
Kokhavi included the following paragraph in his battle plan:
We completely isolate the camp, in daylight, creating the impression of a forthcoming systematic siege operation . . . [and then]
apply a fractal maneuver swarming simultaneously from every
direction and through various dimensions of the enclave. . . . Each unit reflects in its mode of action both the logic and form of the general maneuver. . . . Our movement through the buildings
pushes [the insurgents] into the streets and alleys, where we hunt them down.9
The attack started on April 3, 2002, when IDF troops cut
off electrical, telephone, and water connections to the entire
city, positioned snipers and surveillance posts on the mountains
and on the high buildings that surrounded the area,
and cordoned off the city and its surrounding camps in a
perimeter closure.10 At this point, a large number of small
military units entered the camp from all directions simultaneously, moving through walls and the homes of civilians
rather than along the routes where they were expected.11
A survey conducted after the battle by the Palestinian
architect Nurhan Abujidi showed that more than half of the
buildings in the old city center of Nablus had routes forced
through them, resulting in anywhere from one to eight
openings in their walls, floors, or ceilings, which created
several haphazard crossroutes that she could not understand
as describing simple linear progression, and which indicated
to her a very chaotic maneuver without a clear direction.12
For anyone who might imagine that moving through
walls is a relatively ?gentle? form of warfare, the following
is a description of the sequence of the events: Soldiers assemble
behind a wall. Using explosives or a large hammer, they
break a hole large enough to pass through. Their charge
through the wall is sometimes preceded by stun grenades or
a few random shots into what is most often a private living
room occupied by unsuspecting civilians. When the soldiers
have passed through the party wall, the occupants are assembled
and locked inside one of the rooms, where they are
made to remain ? sometimes for several days ? until the
operation is concluded, often without water, toilet, food, or
medicine. According to Human Rights Watch and the Israeli
human rights organization B?tselem, dozens of Palestinians
have died during such operations. If moving through walls is
8. Quoted in Shimon Naveh, ?Between
the Striated and the Smooth: Urban
Enclaves and Fractal Maneuvers.? Paper
delivered to the conference organized by
myself, Anselm Franke, and Thomas
Keenan, ?An Archipelago of Exception,?
Centre for Contemporary Culture,
Barcelona, November 11, 2005.
9. Quoted in Naveh, ?Between the
Striated and the Smooth.?
10. At least 80 Palestinians were killed in
Nablus, most of them civilians, between
March 29 and April 22, 2002. Four Israeli
soldiers were killed; see www. a m n e s t y. o r g
(February 12, 2003).
11. In fact, the idea for the maneuver is
attributed to a platoon commander and a
sergeant from one of the units, both
from the same kibbutz. See Naveh,
?Between the Striated and the Smooth.?
12. In the survey, Nurhan Abujidi found
that 19.6 percent ofbuildings affected by
forced routes had only one opening, 16.5
percent had two, 13.4 percent had three,
4.1 percent had four, 2.1 percent had five
and 1.0 percent (two buildings) had
eight. See Nurhan Abujidi, ?Forced To
Forget: Cultural Identity & Collective
Memory/Urbicide. The Case ofthe
Palestinian Territories, During Israeli
Invasions to Nablus Historic Center
2 0 0 2 - 2 0 05 .? Unpublished paper presented
to the workshop ?Urbicide: The Killing
ofCities?? Durham University,
November 2005.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 57
pitched by the military as its ?humane? answer to the wanton
destruction of traditional urban warfare, and as an ?elegant
? alternative to Jenin-style destruction, this is because
the damage it causes is often concealed within the interiors
of homes. The unexpected penetration of war into the private
domain of the home has been experienced by civilians
in Palestine, just like in Iraq, as the most profound form of
trauma and humiliation. A Palestinian woman identified as
Aisha, interviewed by a journalist for the Palestine Monitor,
Sune Segal, in November 2002, described the experience:
Imagine it ? you?re sitting in your living room, which you know
so well; this is the room where the family watches television
together after the evening meal. . . . And, suddenly, that wall
disappears with a deafening roar, the room fills with dust and
debris, and through the wall pours one soldier after the other,
screaming orders. You have no idea if they?re after you, if they?ve come to take over your home, or if your house just lies on their
r o u te to somewhere else. The children are screaming, panicking. . . . Is it possible to even begin to imagine the horror experienced by a five-year-old child as fo u r, six, eight, twelve soldiers, their fa c es p a i n te d black, submachine guns pointed everywhere, antennas
protruding from their backpacks, making them look like giant
alien bugs, blast their way through that wall?13
Pointing to another wall now covered by a bookcase, she
added: ?And this is where they left. They blew up the wall
and continued to our neighbor?s house.?14
Shimon Naveh, a retired brigadier general, directs the
Operational Theory Research Institute, which is affiliated
13. Sune Segal, ?What Lies Beneath:
Excerpts from an Invasion,? Palestine
Monitor, November 2002;
_segal.htm (June 9, 2005). See also
Abujidi, ?Forced to Forget.?
14. Segal, ?What Lies Beneath: Excerpts
from an Invasion.?
IDF forces attack the Nablus
e n c l ave. Illu st r ation: OTRI, 2002.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 58
with the military and trains staff officers from the IDF and
other militaries in ?operational theory? ? defined in military
jargon as somewhere between strategy and tactics. In an
interview, Naveh summed up the mission of his institute,
which was founded in 1996.
We are like the Jesuit order. We attempt to teach and train soldiers to think. . . . We read Christopher Alexander (can you imagine?).
We read John Forester, and other architects. We are reading
Gregory Bateson, we are reading Clifford Geertz. Not just myself,
but our soldiers, our generals are reflecting on these kinds of
materials. We have established a school and developed a curriculum that trains ?operational architects.?15
In a lecture, Naveh presented a diagram resembling a
? s q uare of opposition? that plots a set of logical relations
h i p s among certain propositions relative to military and
guerrilla operations. Indications like Difference and Repetition
? The Dialectics of Structuring and Structure; ?Formless? Rival
Entities; Fractal Maneuver: Strike-Driven Raids; Velocity vs.
Rhythms; Wahhabi War Machine; Post-Modern Anarchists;
Nomadic Terrorists, and so on, resonate with the language of
Deleuze and Guattari.16 In our interview, I asked Naveh,
why Deleuze and Guattari?17 He replied:
Several of the concepts in A Thousand Plateaus became instrumental for us . . . allowing us to explain contemporary situations
in a way that we could not have otherwise explained them. It
problematized our own paradigms. . . . Most important was the
distinction they have pointed out between the concepts of ?smooth? and ?striated? space . . . [which accordingly reflect] the organizational concepts of the ?war machine?18 and the ?state apparatus.?
. . . In the IDF we now often use the term ?to smooth out space?
when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. We try to produce the operational space in such a manner
that borders do not affect us. Pa l estinian areas could indeed be thought of as ?striated,? in the sense that they are enclosed by
fences, walls, ditches, roadblocks, and so on. . . . We want to confront the ?striated? space of traditional, old-fashioned military
p ractice [the way most IDF units presently opera te] with smoothness that allows for movement through space that crosses any borders
and barriers. Rather than contain and organize our forces
according to existing borders, we want to move through them.19
And when I asked him if moving through walls was part
of it, he explained that ?in Nablus, the IDF understood
urban fighting as a spatial problem. . . . Traveling through
walls is a simple mechanical solution that connects theory
and practice. Transgressing boundaries is the definition of
the condition of ?smoothness.??20
15. Shimon Naveh, discussion following
the talk ?Dicta Clausewitz: Fractal
Manoeuvre: A Brief History of Future
Warfare in Urban Environments,? delivered
in conjunction with ?States Of
Emergency: The Geography ofHuman
Rights,? a debate organized by myself
and Anselm Franke as part of
?Territories Live,? B?tzalel Gallery, Tel
Aviv, November 5, 2004.
16. Naveh, ?Dicta Clausewitz?; cf.
Naveh?s titles to those in Gilles Deleuze
and FŽlix Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus,
Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian
Massumi (New York and London: Continuum:
2004); Gilles Deleuze, Difference
and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton(New
York:Columbia University Press, 1995),
among others.
17. Eyal Weizman telephone interview
with Shimon Naveh, October 14, 2005.
18. War machines, according to Deleuze
and Guattari, are polymorphous and dif -
fuse organizations characterized by their
capacity for metamorphosis. They are
made up of small groups that split up or
merge with one another depending on
contingency and circumstances. Deleuze
and Guattari were aware that the State
can willingly transform itselfinto a war
machine. Similarly, in their discussion of
?smooth space,? it is implied that this
conception may lead to domination.
19. See also Shimon Naveh, Asymmetric
Conflict, An Operational Reflection on
Hegemonic Strategies (Tel Aviv: The Eshed
Group for Operational Knowledge,
2005), 9.
20. Interview with Naveh, October 14,
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 59
Laws and unmarked frontiers remain . . . unwritten laws. . . .
And thus when frontiers are decided the adversary is not simply
annihilated; indeed, he is accorded rights even when the victor?s
superiority in power is complete. And there are, in a demonically
ambiguous way, ?equal? rights: for both parties to the treaty it is the same line that may not be crossed.
? Walter Benjamin21
This also corresponds to strategic positions developed at the
Operational Theory Research Institute which bear on general
political questions. Naveh supported the Israeli withdrawal
from the Gaza Strip, as well as the Israeli withdrawal from
South Lebanon before it was undertaken in 2000. He is similarly
in favor of w i t h d r awal from the West Bank. In fact,
his political position is in line with what is referred to in
Israel as the Zionist Left. His vote alternates between Labor
and Meretz parties. And his position is that the IDF must
replace presence in occupied areas with the capacity to move
through them, or produce in them what he calls ?effects,? or
?military operations such as aerial attacks or commando
raids . . . that affect the enemy psychologically and organizationally. ? As such, ?whatever line they [the politicians] could
agree upon ? there they should put the fence. This is okay
21. Walter Benjamin, ?Critique of
Violence,? in Reflections, trans. Edmund
Jephcott(New York: Schocken Books
and Random House, New York, 1989),
Shimon Naveh?s PowerPoint
slide marking ?connection?
between theoretical categories
that inform his operational
theory. Note most categories
refer to work of Deleuze and
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 60
with me . . . as long as I can cross this fence. What we need is
not to be there, but . . . to act there. . . . Withdrawal is not the end of the story.?
Naveh?s precondition for withdrawal ? ?as long as I can
cross this fence? ? implies a conditional withdrawal that can
be annulled in times of emergency. In fact, Israel?s preconditions for any territorial compromise and the drawing of
temporary borderlines since the Oslo Accords have been
accompanied in every case by a clause of exception that
guaranteed Israel?s right, under certain circumstances which
it could itself declare, to ?hot pursuit,? that is, to break into
Palestinian controlled areas, enter neighborhoods and homes
in search of suspects, and take suspects into custody for purposes of interrogation and detention in Israel. This undoubtedly
undoes much of the perceived symmetrical nature
of walls implied in Benjamin?s poignant reflection on laws
and borders. As long as this clause pertaining to ?hot pursuit?
is included in Israeli-Palestinian agreements, Israel still
remains sovereign in Palestinian territories, if only because it
can declare the exception that would allow it to move
through the wall and then within Palestinian cities.22
I have long, indeed for years, played with the idea of setting out the sphere of life ? bios ? graphically on a map. First I envisaged an ordinary map, but now I would incline to a general staff?s map
of a city center, if such a thing existed. Doubtless it does not,
because of the ignorance of the theatre of future wars.
? Walter Benjamin23
To understand the IDF?s tactics for moving through
Palestinian urban spaces, it is necessary to understand how
they interpret the by now familiar principle of ?swarming?
? a term that has been a buzzword in military theory since
the start of the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) after
the end of the Cold War. In our interview, Kokhavi explained
the way he understands the concept:
A state military whose enemy is scattered like a network of loosely organized gangs . . . must liberate itself from the old concept of straight lines, units in linear formation, regiments and battalions, . . . and become itself much more diffuse and scattered, flexible
and swarmlike. . . . In fact, it must adjust itself to the stealthy capability of the enemy. . . . Swarming, to my understanding, is
simultaneous arrival at a target from a large number of nodes ?
if possible, from 360 degrees.24
Elsewhere, Naveh has said that a swarm ?has no form,
no front, back, or flanks, but moves like a cloud? (this seems
22. In a press conference on the Hebron
Accord, former Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu was quoted as saying, ?Hot
pursuit is a sub-issue. It?s a specific
instance of a generic issue, and the
generic issue is the freedom of action of
Israel to protect its citizens wherever
they are. And against whatever threats
emanate from anywhere?;
www.mfa.gov.il (January 13, 1997).
23. Walter Benjamin, One-Way Street and
Other Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott
and Kingsley Shorter (London and New
York: Verso, 1979), 295.
24. Interview with Naveh, October 14,
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 61
to be a direct reference to T. E. Lawrence [of Arabia], in
whose book Seven Pillars of Wisdom he mentioned guerrillas
ought to operate ?like a cloud of gas?) and should be measured
by location, velocity, and density, rather than power
and mass.25 The swarm maneuver was in fact adapted from
the Artificial Intelligence principle of ?swarm intelligence,?
which assumes that problem-solving capacities are found in
the interaction and communication of relatively unsophisticated
agents (ants, birds, bees, soldiers) without (or with
minimal) centralized control. ?Swarm intelligence? thus
refers to the overall, combined intelligence of a system,
rather than to the intelligence of its component parts. It is
the system itself that learns through interaction and adaptation
to emergent situations.26
For Naveh, the swarm exemplifies the principle of
?nonlinearity.? This principle is apparent in spatial, organizational, and temporal terms. In what follows I will explain
the way the military understands this nonlinearity.
Although this concept implies some structural changes,
claims for radical transformation are largely overstated. In
spatial terms, swarming seeks to conduct its attacks from the
inside out and in all directions simultaneously. This is in
contrast to linear operations (what Naveh calls the ?subjection
of maneuvers to Euclidean logic?)27 that rely on the
authority of borderlines, on distinctions between front,
rear, and depth, and on military columns progressing from
outside into the city. Lines of movement are not straight,
but tend to progress in wild zigzags in order to disorient the
enemy. The traditional maneuver paradigm, characterized
by the simplified geometry of Euclidean order, is transformed,
according to the military, into a complex ?fractal?-like
25.Greenberg, ?The Limited Conflict.?
26. See Eric Bonabeau, Marco Dorigo,
and Guy Theraulaz, Swarm Intelligence:
From Natural to Artificial Systems
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
See also Sean J. A. Edwards, Swarming on
the Battlefield: Past, Present and Future
(Santa Monica: RAND, 2000) and John
Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, eds.,
Networks and Netwars: The Future of
Terror, Crime, and Militancy (Santa
Monica: RAND, 2001).
27. Naveh, ?Between the Striated and the
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 62
geometry. One must remember that this break with linearity
could obviously only be achieved because the military controls
all the roads in the West Bank and all other very linear
supply lines. It is a nonlinearity that is thus positioned at the
very end of a very linear geometrical order of IDF control in
the West Bank, as well as a command system that is explained
as ?nonhierarchical,? but is in fact located at the very tactical
end of a hierarchical system.
In organizational terms, instead of fixed linear or vertical
chains of command and communications, swarms
are coordinated as polycentric networks with a horizontal
form of communication, in which each ?autarkic unit?
(Naveh?s term) can communicate with the others without
going through central command. The physical cohesion of
the fighting units is, according to the military, replaced with
a conceptual one. Naveh believes that this ?form of m a n e u v e r is based on the break with all hierarchies, with the command
practice on the tactical level coordinating discussion. It?s a
wild discourse with almost no rules,? one that creates ?a
community of p r a c t i c e .?2 8 The claimed breakdown of v e r t i c a l
hierarchies in militaries is very much rhetorical, military
networks still being largely nested within strong, inbuilt institutional hierarchies. The hierarchy, according to Kokhavi,
can be seen as a fractal logic that is exemplified by the fact
that ?each unit . . . reflects in its mode of action both the
logic and form of the general maneuver.?29 Naveh explained
the reason for this: ?Although so much is invested in intelligence, fighting in the city is still incalculable and messy.
Battles cannot be scripted. Command cannot have an
overview. Decisions to act must be based on chance, contingency
and opportunity, and these must be taken only on the
28. See Ryan Bishop, ?The Vertical Order
Has Come to an End: The Insignia of the
Military C3I and Urbanism in Global
Networks,? in Ryan Bishop, John Phillips
and Wei-Wei Yeo, eds., Beyond Description:
Space Historicity Singapore, Architext Series
(London and New York: Routledge,
29. Interview with Kokhavi, September
Opposite page: IDF and
Palestinian maneuvers through
the Old City center of Nablus,
from a Powerpoint slide in
Naveh?s Tel Aviv presentation.
IDF did not move as expected
through the main roads, marked
in solid black, but through the
built fabric itself. Dotted lines
denote movement through
buildings. The image from which
the context is removed shows
the bubbles of space where
Palestinian resistance was fortified,
mainly around the road
intersections, and their maneuvers
between them. Right:
maneuvering through walls in
the Old City of Nablus. Photos:
OTRI, 2005.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 63
ground and in real time.?30 The theory is that by lowering
the thresholds of decision-making to the immediate tactical
level, and by the encouragement of local initiative, different
parts of the swarm can provide answers to unpredictable
encounters, to rapidly developing situations, and to changing
events ? to all the forms of uncertainty, chance, and uncontrolled eventualities that Carl von Clausewitz called ?friction.
?31 Indeed, according to Manuel De Landa, already in
von Clausewitz?s theory of the war of the post-Napoleonic
era, local initiative and diffused command and control
allowed a dynamic battle to self-organize to some extent.32
In temporal terms, traditional military operations are linear,
in the sense that they seek to follow a determined, consequential
sequence of events embodied in the idea of ?the
plan.? In traditional military terms, the idea of ?the plan?
implies that actions are preconditioned to some degree on
the successful implementation of previous actions. Battles
progress in stages. A swarm, by contrast, induces simultaneous
actions, but these actions are not dependent on one
another. The narrative of the battle plan is to be replaced b y
what the military calls ?the toolbox? approach,3 3 a c c o r d i n g t o which units receive the tools they need to deal with several
given situations and scenarios, but cannot predict the order
in which these events would actually occur. A qualifying
remark must be added here as well: The toolbox a p p r o a c h ,
which indeed restructured the formation of o p e r ative units
on the battlefield, is relevant mainly on the tactical and
microtactical level, whereas any general operation is still
given a clear (traditionally) planned form and timeline.
Another aspect is the tempo of urban operations: In contrast
to the traditional military paradigm, IDF operations in
urban areas are not based on speed and do not seek fast and
decisive results. Operations are days if not weeks long, and
operate at a rather slow pace as the infiltrated forces spend
most of their time waiting for opportunities or for the
enemy to make mistakes.
In general terms, with swarm maneuvers, the military
seeks to reorganize in a way that is influenced by the organization of a guerrilla network. This act of m i m i c ry is based on
the assumption, articulated by military theorists John Arquilla
and David Ronfeldt, that ?it takes a network to combat a netw
o r k .?3 4 N aveh?s analaysis may explain the military?s fascination with the spatial and organizational models and modes
o f operation advanced by theorists like Deleuze and Gua t t a r i : The concept of the swarm corresponds with military attempts to
understand the battle space as a network, and the city as a very
30. Interview with Naveh, October 14,
31. Carl von Clausewitz, On War (1832),
trans. Peter Paret, eds. Michael Howard
and Peter Paret (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1976), 119?21. See also
Manuel De Landa, War in the Age of
Intelligent Machines (New York: Zone
Books, 1991), 78?79.
32. Manuel De Landa, War in the Age of
Intelligent Machines, 71.
33. Michel Foucault?s description oftheory
as a ?toolbox? was originally devel -
oped in conjunction with Deleuze in a
1972 discussion. See Gilles Deleuze and
Michel Foucault, ?Intellectuals and
Power,? in Michel Foucault, Language,
Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays
and Interviews, trans. Donald F. Bouchard
and Sherry Simon,ed. and intro. Donald
F. Bouchard(Ithaca: Cornell University
Press, 1980), 206.
34. Arquilla and Ronfeldt, Networks and
Netwars. See alsoShimon Naveh, In
Pursuit ofMilitary Excellence: The
Evolution ofOperational Theory (Portland:
Frank Cass, 1997).
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 64
complex system of interdependent networks. Furthermore, urban
combat takes place within a field in which two opposing military
networks overlap spatially. The battle must be understood as a
dynamic, relational force-field in which soldiers, objects, and
actions must be seen in constant and contingent relation with other soldiers, objects, and actions. . . . These relations imply intersection, convergence, cooperation, or conflict. Their relationality
must be seen as the central feature of military spatiality.
Relationships among the operating soldiers create what we
call ?a community of practice?: Operative and tactical commanders
depend on one another and learn the problems through
constructing the battle narrative. . . . Action becomes knowledge
and knowledge becomes action. . . . Without the possibility of a
decisive result, the main benefit of operations is the very improvement of the system as a system.35
In fact, although celebrated now as radically new, many
of the procedures and processes described above have been
part and parcel of urban operations throughout history. The
defenders of the Paris Commune, much like those of the
Kasbah of Algiers, Hue, Beirut, Jenin, and Nablus, navigated
the city in small, loosely coordinated groups moving through
openings and connections between homes, basements, and
courtyards using alternative routes, secret passageways, and
trapdoors. Unable to control the pockets of Red Army resist-
35. Interview with Naveh, October 14,
US military diagram showing
the components of the urban
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 65
ance scattered through Stalingrad, Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov
gave up centralized control of his army. The result was later
analyzed as a form of ?emergent behavior,? where the interaction
between the independent units created a so-called
?complex adaptive system,? rendering the total effect of m i l i - tary action greater than the sum of its parts.36
?Maneuver Warfare,? as developed by several military
theorists in the period between the two world wars and
practiced by the Wehrmacht as well as the Allies in European
battles of World War II, is based on principles such as
increased autonomy and initiative.37 Similarly, the strategy
of walking through walls, as Israeli architect Sharon
Rotbard reminds us, is reinvented for every urban battle in
response to local conditions.38 It was first described in
Marshal Thomas Bugeaud?s 1849 draft of La Guerre des Rues
et des Maisons, in the context of anti-insurgency tactics used
in the class-based urban battles of 19th-century Paris.39
Instead of storming the barricades from the front, Bugeaud
recommended entering the barricaded block at a different
location and ?mouse-holing? along ?over-ground tunnels?
that cut across party walls, then taking the barricade by surprise from the flank. On the other side of the barricades and
a decade later, Louis-August Blanqui wrote this microtactical
maneuver into his Instructions pour une prise d?armes.40
For Blanqui, the barricade and the mouse-hole were complem
e n t a ry elements employed for the protection of s e l f -
governing urban enclaves. This was achieved by a complete
inversion of the urban syntax. Elements of circulation ?
paving stones and carriages ? became elements of stasis
(barricades), while the existing elements of stasis ? walls ?
became routes. The fight in the city, and for the city, was
equated with its interpretation. No longer merely the locus
of war, the city became its medium and its very apparatus.
However, despite historical similarities, contemporary
swarming is dependent not only on the ability to move
through walls, but on the technological capability of independent
units to orient, navigate, and coordinate with other
units across the city?s depth. In order to perform such
maneuvers, each unit must understand its position in the
urban geography, its position relative to those of other units
and ?enemies? within its operational space, as well as its
position in relation to the logic of the maneuver as a whole.
An Israeli soldier I interviewed described the beginning of a
similar battle like this:
We never left the buildings, and progressed entirely between
homes. . . . It takes a few hours to move through a block of four
36. Col. Eric M. Walters, ?Stalingrad,
1942: With Will, Weapon, and a Watch,?
in Col. John Antal and Maj. Bradley
Gericke, eds., City Fights (New York:
Ballantine Books, 2003), 59.
37. B. H. Liddell Hart, Strategy (New
York: Plum Books, 1991).
38. Sharon Rotbard, White City, Black City
(Tel Aviv: Babel Press, 2005), 178.
39. Marshal Thomas Bugeaud, La Guerre
des Rues et des Maisons (Paris: J.-P.
Rocher, 1997).The manuscript was written
in 1849 at Bugeaud?s estate in the
Dordogne, after his failure to quickly
suppress the events of 1848. He did not
manage to find a publisher for the book,
but distributed a small edition among
colleagues. In the text, Bugeaud suggested
widening Parisian streets and remov -
ing corner buildings at strategic crossroads
to allow a wider field ofvision.
These and other suggestions were implemented
by Haussmann several years
later; see Rotbard, White City, Black City.
40. Auguste Blanqui, Instructions pour une
prise d?armes (Paris: SociŽtŽ encyclop
Ždique franaise, 1972); see
1866/instructions.htm (September 25,
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 66
homes. . . . We were all ? the entire brigade ? inside the homes of the Palestinians, no one was in the streets. . . . During the entire battle we hardly ventured out. . . . Anyone who was on the street
without cover got shot. . . . We had our headquarters and sleeping encampments in carved-out spaces in these buildings.41
Indeed, as far as the military is concerned, urban warfare
is the ultimate postmodern form of warfare. Belief in a
logically structured and single-track battle plan is lost in the
face of the complexity and ambiguity of the urban reality.
?It becomes,? as the same soldier later indicated, ?impossible
to draw up battle scenarios or single-track plans to pursue.?
Civilians become combatants, and combatants become civilians
again. Identity can be changed as quickly as gender
can be feigned: the transformation of women into fighting
men can occur at the speed that it takes an undercover
?Arabized? Israeli soldier or a camouflaged Palestinian fighter
to pull a machine gun out from under a dress. For a
Palestinian fighter caught in the crosshairs of this battle,
Israelis seem ?to be everywhere: behind, on the sides, on the
right, and on the left. How can you fight that way??42 Since
Palestinian guerrilla fighters were sometimes maneuvering
in a similar manner, through preplanned openings, most
fighting took place in private homes. Some buildings became
like layer cakes, with Israeli soldiers both above and below a
floor where Palestinians were trapped .
During our interview, Naveh explained how critical theory
has become crucial for his teaching and training:
We employ critical theory primarily in order to critique the military institution itself ? its fixed and heavy conceptual foundations.
. . . Theory is important for us in order to articulate the gap
between the existing paradigm and where we want to go. . . .
Without theory, we could not make sense of different events that
happen around us and that would otherwise seem disconnected. . . . We set up the Institute because we believed in education and needed an academy to develop ideas. . . . At present, the Institute has a tremendous impact on the military . . . . [It has] become a subversive node within it. By training several high-ranking officers, we
filled the system [IDF] with subversive agents . . . who ask questions. . . . Some of the top brass are not embarrassed to talk about
Deleuze or Tschumi.43
My question to him was, why Tschumi?!
The idea of disjunction embodied in Tschumi?s book Architecture
and Disjunction became relevant for us. . . . Tschumi had another
approach to epistemology; he wanted to break with single-perspective knowledge and centralized thinking. He saw the world
Shimon Naveh, retired brigadier
general and director of the
Operational Theory Research
Institute. About 60 years old, his
bald head and some measure of
physical resemblance have led
some to refer to Naveh as
?Foucault on st e ro i d s .? Photo :
N a dav Harel.
41. Eyal Weizman interview with Gil
Fishbein, Tel Aviv, September 4, 2002.
Fishbein describes the first stages ofthe
battle of Jenin and not Nablus, however,
the early stages of the two battles were
rather similar before the bulldozers were
brought into Jenin.
42. Quoted in Yagil Henkin, ?The Best
Way Into Baghdad,? The New York Times,
April 3, 2003, Section A, 21.
43. Interview with Naveh, October 14,
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 67
through a variety of different social practices, from a constantly shifting point of view. . . . [Tschumi] created a new grammar; he
formed the ideas that compose our thinking.44
Again, I asked, why Tschumi? Why not Derrida and
Our generals are architects. . . . Tschumi conceptualized the relation between action, space, and its representation. His Manhattan
Transcripts gave us the tools to draw operational plans in a manner other than drawing simple lines on maps. Tschumi provided
useful strategies for planning an operation. Derrida may be a little too opaque for our crowd. We share more with architects; we combine theory and practice. We can read, but we also know how to
build and destroy, and sometimes kill.45
In addition to these theoretical positions, Naveh references
such canonical elements of urban theory as the
Situationist practices of dŽrive (a method of drifting through a city based on what they referred to as psychogeography) and
dŽtournement (the adaptation of abandoned buildings for
purposes other than those they were designed to perform).
These ideas were, of course, conceived by Guy Debord and
other members of the Situationist International as part of a
general strategy to challenge the built hierarchy of the capitalist city and break down distinctions between private and
public, inside and outside,46 use and fun'ction, replacing private
space with a ?borderless? public surface. References to
the work of Georges Bataille, either directly or as cited in the
writings of Tschumi, also speak of a desire to attack archit
e cture. Bataille?s own call to arms was meant to dismantle
the rigid rationalism of a postwar order, to escape ?the architectural straitjacket,? and to liberate repressed human desires.
For Bataille, Tschumi, and the Situationists, the repres -
sive power of the city is subverted by new strategies for
moving through and across it. In the postwar period, when
the broadly leftist theoretical ideas I have mentioned here
were emerging, there was little confidence in the capacity of
sovereign state structures to protect or further democracy.
The ?micropolitics? of the time represented in many ways
an attempt to constitute a mental and affective guerrilla
fighter at the intimate levels of the body, sexuality, and
intersubjectivity, an individual in whom the personal b e c a m e
subversively political. And as such, these micropolitics offered
a strategy for withdrawing from the formal state apparatus
into the private domain, which was later to extend outward.
While such theories were conceived in order to transgress the
established ?bourgeois order? of the city, with the architectural
element of the wall projected as solid and fixed, an
44. Naveh is currently working on a
Hebrew translation of Bernard Ts c h u m i ? s
Architecture and Disjunction (Cambridge,
Mass.: The MIT Press, 1997).
45. Interview with Naveh, October 14,
46. A Palestinian woman described her
experience ofthe battle in this way: ?Go
inside, he ordered in hysterical broken
English. Inside! I am already inside! It
took me a few seconds to understand
that this young soldier was redefining
inside to mean anything that is not visi -
ble, to him at least. My being ?outside?
within the ?inside? was bothering him.
Not only is he imposing a curfew on me,
he is also redefining what is outside and
what is inside within my own private
sphere.? Segal, ?What Lies Beneath:
Excerpts from an Invasion.?
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 68
embodiment of social and political repression, in the hands
of the IDF, tactics inspired by these thinkers are projected as
the basis for an attack on an ?enemy? city.
In no uncertain terms, education in the humanities ?
often believed to be the most powerful weapon against imperialism
? is being appropriated as a powerful weapon of
imperialism. The military?s use of theory is of course nothing
new ? a long line extends all the way from Marcus
Aurelius to Patton. The figure of the soldier-philosopher is
also the clichŽ of Israeli military history. In the 1960s, when academic education became a standard component of a military
career, many high-ranking officers returning from
studies in the United States, for example, invoked Spinoza to
describe the battle space (especially with respect to the 1967
occupation), referencing his concept of ?extension.? I would
argue that instead of laying blame at theory?s doorstep, it i s
more productive to concentrate on recognizing and attempting
to understand the contemporary uses of particular
strands of leftist critical theory that are being deployed not
to s u b v e r t power (as they were originally intended to do), but in order to p r o j e c t it. In this sense, leaving aside for the time being the operative aspect of practice-based theory, it is
important to understand the way in which the military?s use
of theoretical language reflects back upon itself as an institution. The IDF thrives on its image ? at least in Israel and
Israeli engineers in the Tul
Qarem Refugee Camp. Photo: Nir
Kafri, 2003.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 69
the United States ? as an ethical ?citizen army.? Although
this has been eroded since the 1980s, the IDF still seeks to
project the image of a different, more civilized military force
than the Arab militaries and Palestinian guerrilla fighters it
opposes. In this context, high-end theory fu'nctions to confirm
the ?enlightened? nature of the IDF (this is parad
o x i c a l, of course, since much critical theory takes an anti-
Enlightenment stance). If the IDF reads theory, what do its
enemies read? The Koran?47
When I asked Naveh about the ideological basis of the
theories he employs, he had this to say:
We must differentiate between the charm, and even some values,
within Marxist ideology and what can be taken from it for military use. Theories not only strive for a utopian sociopolitical ideal
with which we may or may not agree, but are also based on a
methodology that wants to disrupt and subvert the existing political, social, cultural, or military order. The disruptive capacity in
theory [elsewhere Naveh uses the term nihilist] is the aspect of
theory that we like and use. . . . This theory is not married to its socialist ideals.48
Married to ethics or not, when Naveh invokes the terms
disruptive and nihilist to explain his use of theory, something
else is at stake. Theory func'tions here not only, and probably
not even primarily, as an instrument in the power struggle
against the Palestinians, but as an instrument of power relations
within the institutional logic of the military itself.
Insofar as it is used to challenge existing military thinking,
critical theory becomes for the military (as it has for academia)
a means of transforming the institution and its practices.
And when it ossifies into a doxa, it may functi'on just as
well to preserve institutional hierarchies.
Future military operations in urban terrain will increasingly
be dedicated to the use of technologies developed for the
purpose of ?un-walling of the wall,? to borrow a term from
Gordon Matta-Clark.49 As a complement to military tactics
that involve physically breaking and walking through walls,
new methods have been devised to allow soldiers not only to
see but also to shoot and kill through walls. The Israeli company
Camero has developed a handheld imaging device that
combines thermal imaging with ultra-wideband radar,
which, like ultrasound imaging, has the ability to produce
three-dimensional renderings of biological life concealed
behind walls or other barriers.50 Human bodies appear on
the screen as fuzzy heat sources floating (like fetuses) within
an abstract clear medium wherein everything solid ? walls,
47. In this context, an interesting stor y
was printed on the dust jacket ofthe first
Hebrew edition of Franz Fanon?s The
Wretched ofthe Earth, published by the
Babel Press in 2005. Apparently, the first
copy of this book (in the original French
edition) known to have reached Israel
was found on the body of a dead guerrilla
soldier for the Marxist Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP),
who in mid-1970 entered from Jordan
with this book in his shirt pocket. For
soldiers ofthe PFLP, Fanon was the
equivalent ofthe Bible for American soldiers,
part ofthe basic kit.
48. Interview with Naveh, October 14,
49. Brian Hatton, ?The Problem ofOur
Walls,? The Journal ofArchitecture 4
(Spring 1999): 71.
50. Zuri Dar and Oded Hermoni, ?Israeli
Start-Up Develops Technology to See
Through Walls,? Ha?aretz, July 1, 2004.
Amnon Brazilay, ?This Time They Do
Not Prepare to the Last War,? Ha?aretz,
April 17, 2004, www.haaretz.com. See
also Amir Golan, ?The Components of
the Ability to Fight in Urban Areas,?
Ma?arachot 384 (July 2002): 97.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 70
furniture, objects ? has melted away. On the other hand,
weapons using the standard NATO 5.56mm round are complemented
with some using the 7.62mm round, which is
capable of penetrating brick, wood, and adobe without much
deflection of the bullet-head. These practices and technologies
will have a radical effect on the relation of military
practices to architecture and the built domain at large.
Future developments in this vein may have the capacity to
render not only the built environment but also life itself
transparent, making solid architecture effectively disappear.
Instruments of ?literal transparencies? are the main components
in a ghostlike military fantasy world of boundless
fluidity, in which the space of the city becomes as navigable
as an ocean. By striving to see what is hidden behind walls
and to move and propel ammunition through them, the
military seeks to elevate contemporary technologies ? using
the justification of (almost contemporary) theories ? to the
level of metaphysics, moving beyond the here and now of
physical reality, and effectively collapsing time and space.
This has its corollary in new engineering technologies
that seek to effect ?controlled? destruction. Given the international outcry that followed the April 2002 debacle of the
Jenin refugee camp, the IDF realized that it had to push its
engineering corps to improve their ?art of destruction,?
which had apparently spun out of control. In a military conference held in Tel Aviv, an Israeli engineering officer
explained to his international audience that, thanks to the
study of architecture and building technologies, at present
?the military can remove one floor in a building without
destroying it completely [sic] or remove a building that
stands in a row of buildings without damaging the others.?51
However exaggerated, this statement testifies to a new
emphasis on the ?surgical? removal of building elements,
essentially the engineer?s response to the logic of ?smart
weapons? (such as those used to enforce Israel?s policy of
?targeted assassinations?). The latter have paradoxically
resulted in higher numbers of civilian casualties simply
because the illusion of precision gives the military-political
complex the necessary justification to use explosives in
civilian environments where they cannot be used without
endangering, injuring, or killing civilians. In Gaza, for
example, there were two civilian deaths for every targeted
victim during the al-Aqsa Intifada ? a ratio of civilian casua lties higher than in many wars in which conventional ?dumb?
weapons were used exclusively.52
The imagined benefits of ?smart destruction? and
51. Greenberg, ?The Limited Conflict.?
52. From September 2000 to the time of
the evacuation, 1,719 Palestinians were
killed in Gaza, two thirds ofthem
unarmed and uninvolved in any struggle,
and 379 children. See Amira Has,
?The Other 99.5 Percent,? Ha?aretz,
August 24, 2005, www.haaretz.com.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 71
attempts to perform ?sophisticated? swarming thus bring
more destruction over the long term than ?traditional?
strategies ever did, because these ever more deadly methods,
combined with the highly manipulative and euphoric theoretical
rhetoric used to promulgate them, have induced decision-
makers to authorize their frequent use. Here another
use of ? t h e o ry? as the ultimate ?smart weapon? becomes
apparent. The military?s seductive use of theoretical and
technological discourse seeks to portray war as remote, sterile,
easy, quick, intellectual, exciting, and even economic
(from their own point of view). Violence can thus be projected
as tolerable, and the public encouraged to support it.
As such, the development and dissemination of new military
technologies promote the fiction being projected into the
public domain that a military solution is at all possible ? in
s i t uations it is clearly not. As countless examples hav e
already demonstrated, not least the attacks on Balata and
the Kasbah of Nablus, the realities of urban warfare are
much messier and bloodier than the military would like us
to think.
So, could we consider the use of Deleuzian theory to be
mere propaganda? I think it would be too easy to dismiss it as
such. Although you do not need Deleuze to attack Nablus,
theory helped the military reorganize by providing a new
View over the Balata refugee
camp adjacent to Nablus. Photo:
Nir Kafri, 2003.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 72
language in which to speak to itself and others. As a ?smart
weapon,? theory has both a practical and a discursive fu'nction
in redefining urban warfare. The practical or tactical
functi'on, the extent to which Deleuzian theory influences
military tactics and maneuvers, raises questions about the
relation between theory and practice. Theory obviously has
the power to stimulate new sensibilities, but it may also help
to explain, develop, or even justify ideas that emerged independently within disparate fields of knowledge and with
quite different ethical bases. In discursive terms, war ? if it
is not a total war of annihilation ? constitutes a form of discourse between enemies.53 Every military action is meant to
communicate something to the enemy, to demonstrate, to
threaten, to signal. Talk of s w a r m i n g, targeted killings,
and smart destruction may thus help the military communicate
to its enemies that it has the capacity to effect far
greater destruction. In this respect, a swarming operation
could be said to constitute a warning that ?next time we
could indeed save ourselves many casualties? by exercising
more brutality ? as occurred at Jenin.54 Raids can thus be
projected as the ?lesser evil,? the more moderate alternative
to the devastating capacity that the military actually possesses
and will unleash if the enemy exceeds the ?acceptable? level
of violence or breaches some unspoken agreement. In terms
of military operational theory, it is essential never to use
one?s full destructive capacity, but rather to maintain the
potential to escalate the level of atrocity. Otherwise, threats
become meaningless.
When the military talks theory to itself, it seems to be
about changing its organizational structure and hierarchies.
When it invokes theory in communications with the public ?
in lectures, broadcasts, and publications ? it seems to be
about projecting an image of a civilized and sophisticated
military. And when the military ?talks? (as every military
does) to the enemy, theory could be understood as a particularly
intimidating weapon of ?shock and awe,? the message
b e i n g: ?You will never even understand that which kills you.?
53. In the context of a discussion on war
as communication, the logic of blow and
counterblow means that there is an
inherent tendency in war to escalate to
extremes, to ever greater violence, the
ultimate state von Clausewitz calls
?absolute war.?
54. This resonates with Naveh?s attitude
toward American military action in
Falluja: ?A disgusting operation, they flattened
the entire city. . . . Ifwe would
have done just that we would have saved
ourselves many casualties.? Interview
with Naveh, October 14, 2005.
The areas destroyed by the IDF
in the Jenin refugee camp indicate
a ?planner?s logic? of
widening inroads and clearing a
space that allows for future
incursions. At right, on-theground
views of the actual damage
to the Jenin building stock
in 2002. Photos coutesy the
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 73
The words of built space, or at least its substantive, would seem to be rooms, cate g o r i es which are synthetically or sy n c a te g o r e m a t i c a l l y
related and articulated by the various spatial verbs and adverbs
? corridors, doorways, and staircases, for example, modified in
turn by adjectives in the form of paint and furnishings, decoration and ornament . . . . These ?sentences? are read by readers whose
bodies fill the various shifter-slots.
? Fredric Jameson55
In historical siege warfare, the breaching of the outer city
wall signals the destruction of its sovereignty. Accordingly,
the ?art? of siege warfare engaged with the geometries of
the perimeter of city walls and with the development of
e q ually complex technologies for breaching them. Contemp
o r a ry thinking about urban combat operations is increasingly
concerned with methods of transgressing the limitations
embodied by the domestic wall. In this respect, it might be
useful think about the city?s (domestic) walls as one would
think about the (civic) city wall ? the operative edge of the
law and the very condition of democratic urban life.
According to Hannah Arendt, the political realm of the
Greek city was guaranteed, quite literally, by these two
kinds of walls (or wall-like laws): the wall surrounding the
city, which defined the zone of the political, and the walls
separating private space from the public domain, ensuring
the autonomy of the domestic realm. ?The one harbored and
enclosed political life as the other sheltered and protected
the biological life process of the family.?56 For Arendt, the
rise of society corresponds with the rise of the oikia, or the
Even Plato, whose political plans foresaw the abolition of private property and the extension of the public sphere to the point of
annihilating private life altogether, still speaks with great reverence of Zeus Herkeios, the protector of borderlines, and calls the
horoi, the boundaries between one estate and the another, divine,
without seeing any contradiction.57
Without these walls, she continues, ?there might have
been an agglomeration of houses, a town (asty), but not a
city, a political community.?58 The differentiation between a
city, as a political domain, and a town is based on the conceptual solidity of the elements that safeguard both public and
private domains. For Giorgio Agamben, who follows in the
footsteps of Arendt, the antithesis of the city is not the town,
but the camp ? for our purposes, the refugee camp. For
Agamben, in ?the camp, city and house became indistinguishable,
?59 to the extent that the twin domains of private
55. Fredric Jameson, ?Is Space Political??
in Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in
Cultural Theory, ed. Neil Leach (London:
Routledge, 1997), 261.
56. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition
(Chicago: University ofChicago Press,
1998), 63-64.
57. This is developed in Plato?s Laws
8.843; quoted in Arendt, The Human
Condition, 30
58. Arendt, The Human Condition, 63?64.
59. Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer:
Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans.
Daniel Heller-Roazen(Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1998), 187.
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 74
life (whose sphere of influence is the home) and public life
(in the sense of a political subject whose sphere of activity is
the public sphere of the polis) are blurred. The destruction ?
whether physical or conceptual ? of walls blurs these borders
further, and directly exposes the private domain of life
to political power.60
At stake within the juridico-urbanistic interplay that
constitutes the city are thus two interrelated political concepts: sovereignty and democracy. We may understand the
former as the ?wall? (or border, in the case of a state)
assigned to protect the latter (defined not only as the private
interior of the home, but also ? since the Reformation ? as
freedom of conscience), and thus the ?wall? in turn is
patently dependent on the protection of the private sphere.61
Sovereignty is thus embodied in the idea of the city wall (or
the border), defining and protecting the sovereign boundary
of the (city) state, while democracy is embodied in the protection of the party wall that defines and separates private
dwellings. The breaching of the domestic wall as a physical,
visual, and conceptual border could signal one of the most
radical representations of the ?state of exception.? In this
act, the obliteration of the status of privacy has become one
of the fundamental tools.
The military practice of walking through walls thus
links the physical properties of construction with the syntax
of architectural and social orders. New technologies developed
to allow soldiers to see living organisms through walls,
and to give them the ability to walk (and fire weapons)
through them, address not only the materiality of the wall,
but its very essence. Activities whose operational means eff e c t the ?un-walling of the wall,? thus destabilize not only the
legal and social order, but democracy itself. With the wall n o
longer physically or conceptually sacred or legally impenetrable,
the fun'ctional spatial syntax that it created ? the separation
between inside and outside, private and public ?
collapses.62 The very order of the city relies on the fantasy of
a wall as stable, solid, and fixed. Indeed, architectural history
tends to otherwise see walls as a constant or basic ? architecture ?s irreducible given. The almost palindromic linguistic
structure of law/wall binds these two structures in an
interdependency that quite literally equates built and legal
fabric. The un-walling of the wall invariably becomes the
undoing of the law.63
In the battle of Jenin, for example, the entire center of
the camp was destroyed, but in a strange paradox, the
boundary lines between homes were remembered and
60. Agamben, Homo Sacer, 4 and 9.
61. Because walls fun'ction not only as
physical barriers but as devices to
exclude both visual and aural phenome -
na, they have provided since the 18th
century, according to architectural historian
Robin Evans, the physical infra -
structure for the construction ofprivacy
and modern subjectivity. See Robin
Evans, ?The Rights ofRetreat and the
Rights of Exclusion,? in Translation from
Drawing to Building and Other Essays
(London: Architectural Association,
62. Evans, ?The Rights ofRetreat and
the Rights of Exclusion,? 38.
63. Hatton, ?The Problem ofOur Walls,?
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 75
The process of walking through
walls. Video stills courtesy the
Weizman3 5/9/06 3:07 PM Page 76
reerected almost exactly as they were originally. The order
of the city ? the arrangement of conceptual boundary
lines that divide the city into a series of discrete ?floating?
volumes ? remained, even though the camp was destroyed.
In Nablus and the Balata refugee camp, on the other hand,
homes were left intact, but the boundary lines were blurred
and erased.
When Kokhavi claims that ?space is only an interpretation,
? and that his movement through and across the built
fabric of the city reinterprets architectural elements (walls,
windows, and doors) and thus the city itself, he uses theoretical
language to suggest that one can ?win? an urban
battle, not by the destruction of a city, but by its ?reorganization. ? If a wall is only the signifier of a ?wall,? un-walling
also becomes a form of rewriting ? a constant process of
undoing fueled by theory. Could rewriting amount to killing?
I f m o v i n g through walls becomes the method for ?reinterpreting space,? and the nature of the city is ?relative? to this
form of interpretation, could ?reinterpretation? murder? If
?yes,? then the ?inverse geometry? that turns the city
?inside out,? shuffling its private and public spaces, would
imply consequences for urban operations that go beyond
physical and social destruction and force us to reflect upon
the ?conceptua l destruction? they bring.
Eyal Weizman is an architect
based in London and Tel Aviv.
He is professor of architecture
at the Academy of Fine Arts,
Vienna, and director of
Goldsmiths Centre of Architectural
Research, London.
This essay originated as a talk
for the workshop ?Urbicide,
The killing of Cities?? organized
by Stephen Graham, Daniel
Monk, and David Campbell at
Durham University in November
2005. I would like to thank them
for their invitation and comments.
I would also like to
thank Brian Holmes and Ryan
Bishop for commenting on earlier
drafts, and Denise Bratton
for working so hard on making
sense of this one.


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