Creating an effect

March 9, 2011

I am a philosophical neophyte. That said, I feel reasonably confident in claiming that philosophers wouldn’t (by and large) advocate their work being used to bring about a level of violence that that results in the death or harm of another human. Eyal Weizman’s article Lethal Theory, however, documents just this; the appropriation of theoretical works for political and military gain by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). In 2002, in the Palestinian city of Nablus, the IDF entered with the intention of “creating an effect.” Armed with sledgehammers, explosives, pious zeal and the permission to make decisions, soldiers made a new and unexpected path through the city, avoiding public thoroughfares and instead moving through the very private realms of citizen’s lounge rooms, bedrooms and kitchens. This manoeuvre, the IDF called ‘walking through walls.’

In contradistinction to a more traditional military tactic of invading and gaining control of territory, the purpose of this “…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.” As well as the weapons capable of physical violence, the IDF were equipped with a new concept of the city and its boundaries that enabled their campaign.

In any urbanised environment, there seems be a local and culturally accepted balance between power and privacy. To enjoy the privilege of a comfortable and familiar place that is ones’ own, individuals give up a level of power and freedom in the majority of the space in that environment. For the most part, there is a clear division of public and private space and a set of rules that govern movement between the two that the citizenry accepts and adheres to. The physical and psychological boundary that separate the two is the wall. Using (amongst others) Situationist theories that re-conceptualised the boundaries between public and private, the IDF first broke down these walls theoretically and then physically. And this is where the contradiction lies; the citizens of Nablus believed in the power of the wall to protect their privacy and ensure their relative safety, the IDF did not.

The effect that the IDF created was fear. If the military strategy of ‘walking through walls’ was never used again is not important. Following the campaign, all that needs to exist is the knowledge that it can be performed again, more efficiently and ruthlessly.

Ashley Mackey

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