War of Construction
From the refugee camps outside Ramallah to the caravans of Israel's northern settlements, this series contains a selection of photos from five years of field work in Israel and the West Bank, where I documented the use of building and planning as tools of conflict.
Over 400 Jewish towns shot up in the early years of statehood: one for almost every destroyed Palestinian locality. The “war of construction” formed the second phase of development in the transformation of Palestine into Israel. In this way, destruction and construction went on to form twinned strategies of erasure and usurpation, working in tandem to convert Palestinian spaces into Israeli state lands.
Much like Israel’s earliest compounds, today’s settlements in the West Bank continue to lay siege on Palestinian lands, maintaining a state of persistent conflict. Built atop the peaks of the hilly terrain, these surveillance fortresses visually dominate the valleys. They mime the practices of early Zionist expansion, making today’s settlers heirs to the state’s early builders. Palestinians now live within a grid of semi-autonomous towns and cities, segmented by a network of Israeli roads and settlements. Patrolled by armed guards, with living rooms designed as observation towers, the red-roofed suburban homes of the settlements of Area C are ubiquitous, always looming above. In smaller compounds, tan and white sheds snake around low, rock-strewn hills. Even in the dead of night, rings of bright lights stake their ground. By day, settlements remain omnipresent. To use the historian Gyanendra Pandey’s expression, these building forms have become a way of “nationalizing the nation,” transforming the territories into a mirror image of the Jewish state.