The wall with two faces: a state’s security system containing and protecting its residents and, in its shadow, the death and destruction of silenced civilians.
When access to crops and water has been revoked, the grass really is greener on the other side.
There are some who choose to utilise infrastructure to aggravate tensions between social and cultural dichotomies and divide humanity through the materialisation of their bigoted imaginaries – and instances of these ideas, already cemented in the minds of these wall-building fantasists, being masqueraded as state security, are historically plentiful (see Berlin Wall, Trump’s wall). And, so, for those battling these ideologies and their precursors, wishing to bulldoze the xenophobic image of defenceless civilians as terrorists, it’s like talking to a brick wall.
Weszkalnys theorises infrastructures as ‘gestures’ which can enforce “the contradictory dynamics of contemporary capitalism” (Weszkalnys, 2016:1). Infrastructures as gestures act as an indeterminate, yet sustaining force, through their productive potential, which represents the notion of capitalism as a “propulsive force” (2016:2). Thereby the gestural form of infrastructures can convert current unproductivity into future potential, preventing projects from being written off and postponing failure (2016:2). Weszkalnys’ notion of gesture presents infrastructures as expressional entities which can ‘gesture’ or express narratives (such as capitalism) and explicitly replicate dangerous social imaginaries (in this case, Israel’s xenophobia towards Palestinians) and highlights the dangers of socio-materiality.
The difference in language ascribed to infrastructure by opposing political and social groups alludes to the way gesture can ascribe meaning. Israel proclaims the wall as a security measure which, although deemed as a guise to acquire further land from the Palestinians by opposers, is in line with security measures involving infrastructure enforced by other countries who believe that “societies are grounded in infrastructure” and thus “their functioning, continuity and survival are made possible by the protection of infrastructure” (Aradau, 2010:9). In this sense, infrastructure serves to protect the network of other “critical” infrastructures that pervade every day existence (2010:9). Therefore, the term security fence or separation barrier is generally adopted by Israel.
Israel justifies the wall through statistics which depict a decrease in suicide bombings since its existence. However, as Palestinians cross the wall every day for work, the greatest impact of the infrastructure seems not to be its functional, but symbolic impact, as its physically threatening demeanor scales twice as high and four times as long as the Berlin Wall.
Opposers of the wall (international law, Palestinians, activists, media outlets) are careful in avoiding terms that allow the infrastructure to represent an image of preservation and protection, but rather present their imaginary of the demonising and destructive nature of the wall not only towards the Palestinian people but their (critical) infrastructures (e.g. economic, medical, social, water). So terms such as Wall of Apartheid (where the Arabic word for ‘Apartheid’ also translates as ‘racism’), Apartheid Fence and Separation Barrier are applied to represent the danger of the utilisation of an infrastructure to oppress and dichotomise not only people, but destroy other infrastructures.
Aradau, Claudia (2010). Security that matters: critical infrastructure and objects of protection. Security Dialogue, 41(5) pp. 491–514.
Weszkalnys, Gisa (2016) ‘Infrastructure as Gesture’ in Infrastructures and Social Complexity: A Routledge Companion. Eds. P. Harvey, C. Bruun Jensen, A. Morita. London and New York: Routledge.
Title image, Retrieved from: https://goo.gl/images/lUv2Gx
Image 1, Retrieved from: http://bit.ly/2jPHBsq
Image 2, Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/43405897@N04/4349202367
Image 3, Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Israel-Palestinian_Wall_Ich_Bin_Eine_Berliner.jpg
Image 4, Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/libertinus/8236191472/