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Introduction to The Politics of Verticality

Weizman introduces the experience of territory in the West Bank, which explodes simple political
boundaries and crashes three-dimensional space into six dimensions three Jewish and three
Since the 1967 war, when Israel occupied the West Bank and the Gaza strip, a colossal project of
strategic, territorial and architectural planning has lain at the heart of the Israeli- Palestinian
The landscape and the built environment became the arena of conflict. Jewish settlements statesponsored islands of territorial and personal democracy, manifestations of the Zionist pioneering
ethos were placed on hilltops overlooking the dense and rapidly changing fabric of the Palestinian
cities and villages. First and Third Worlds spread out in a fragmented patchwork: a territorial
ecosystem of externally alienated, internally homogenised enclaves located next to, within, above or
below each other.
A new understanding of territory had to be developed to govern the West Bank. The Occupied
Territories were no longer seen as a two-dimensional surface, but as a large threedimensional
volume, layered with strategic, religious and political strata.
New and intricate frontiers were invented, like the temporary borders later drawn up in the Oslo
Interim Accord, under which the Palestinian Authority was given control over isolated territorial
islands, but Israel retained control over the airspace above them and the sub-terrain beneath.
This process might be described as the politics of verticality. It began as a set of ideas, policies,
projects and regulations proposed by Israeli state-technocrats, generals, archaeologists, planners
and road engineers since the occupation of the West Bank, severing the territory into different,
discontinuous layers.
The writer Meron Benvenisti described the process as crashing three-dimensional space into six
dimensions three Jewish and three Arab. Former US president Bill Clinton sincerely believed in
a vertical solution to the problem of partitioning the Temple Mount. Settlement Masterplanners
like Matityahu Drobless aimed to generate control from high points.
Ron Pundak, the architect of the Oslo Accords, described solutions for partitioning the West Bank
with a three-dimensional matrix of roads and tunnels, still on the drawing board, as the only

practical way to divide an undividable territory. And Gilead Sher, Israeli chief negotiator at Camp
David (and a divorce lawyer) explained it to me as a way of enlarging the cake before partitioning
Over a week, openDemocracy posted Eyal Weizmans extraordinary series of articles and photoessays, which fills out this picture of three-dimensional conflict in devastating detail. These ideas
are extracted from a book he is writing. They offer us a fresh way of understanding the West Bank
in words and pictures.
In the course of the articles, Weizman takes us on a journey which starts with the hills and valleys of
the West Bank landscape. Reflecting on the significance mountains and valleys have historically for
the Jewish people, he focuses on the recent mountaintop settlements.
Next he takes us underground to examine the politics of water and sewage in this contested
territory, and the way archaeology is being pressed into the service of the present (episodes 5 and
6). He then lays out the special case of Jerusalem and the ongoing battle for its past, above and
below ground (episode 9), before going on to explore the astonishing infrastructure of bypass roads
that weave above and below each other and attempt to separate the two communities (episode 10).
In his chilling final episode he turns our attention to the way the Israelis have established control
over individual Palestinian lives, by militarising the airspace over the West Bank.
The series will climax in May with Weizmans definitive new map of the West Bank patchwork,
showing how Israeli and Palestinian settlements encircle one another. Prepared for the human
rights organization Btselem, and updating American intelligence maps, it will be an indispensable
aid to understanding the intimacy of this conflict.
Index to the Politics of verticality
1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness

9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under
11. Control in the air
Mountains play a special part in Zionist holiness. The settlers surge into the folded terrain of the
West Bank and up to its summits combines imperatives of politics and spirituality. The IsraeliPalestinian conflict is a territorial one, though fought out in three dimensions. More then anything
else, it is defined by where and how one builds. The terrain dictates the nature, intensity and focal
points of confrontation. On the other hand, the conflict manifests itself most clearly in the
adaptation, construction and obliteration of landscape and built environment. Planning decisions
are often made not according to criteria of economical sustainability, ecology or efficiency of
services, but to serve strategic and national agendas.
The West Bank is a landscape of extreme topographical variation, ranging from four hundred and
forty metres below sea level at the shores of the Dead Sea, to about one thousand metres in the high
summits of Samaria. The conflict is played out in the mountainous region and this has influenced
its forms.
From the plains to the hills (and back again)
The settlement project in the West Bank is a culmination of Zionisms journey from the plains to
the hills. That journey attempted to resolve the paradox of early Zionist spatiality that, while
seeking the return to the Promised Land, reversed the settlement geography of Biblical times.
Braudels observation that the mountains are as a rule a world apart from civilisations, which are
urban and lowland achievement suited the ancient geography of Israel well. The mountains of
Judea became the breeding ground for an isolated form of monotheism; meanwhile the plains,
inhabited by the Phoenician Philistines, the invaders from the seas, gave birth to an integrated
and progressive culture, set apart from the isolation of the mountain, close to the international road
system and the seaports.
Migrating into Israel in the twentieth century, the Zionist movement, now itself an invader from
the seas, and dominated by a modern, pragmatic socialism, settled mainly along the coastal plains
and fertile northern valleys, which suited its ideology of agricultural cultivation well. This spatial
pattern would dominate the Israeli landscape until the political reversal of 1977, in which the
hawkish Likud party replaced Labour in power for the first time.

The civilian occupation of the West Bank was a process that began in the deep, arid Jordan valley
during its first ten years of Israeli rule under Labour governments (1967-1977). Fifteen agricultural
villages were constructed under the Allon Plan, that emphasized maximum security and maximum
territory for Israel with a minimum number of Arabs.
As the political climate in Israel changed, the reconstruction of Zionist identity began. The
settlements started a long and steady climb to the mountains, where isolated dormitory
communities were scattered on barren hilltops; without agricultural hinterlands, they cultivated
nothing but holiness on their land.
The settlements of the mountain strip, built during the late 1970s and early 1980s, shifted the
expansion stimulus from agricultural pioneering to mysticism and transcendentalism. These
settlements were promoted mainly by Gush Emunim (The Block of Faith), a national-religious
organisation that was fusing Biblical messianism, a belief in the Land of Israel, with a political
thinking that allowed for no territorial concessions.
The climb from the plains to the hills coincided with the development of a feeling of acting
according to a divine plan. It promised the regeneration of the soul and the achievement of
personal and national renewal, imbued in a mystic quality of the heights. Ephi Eitam, the retired
general who is now the popular leader of the National Religious party, recently opposed any
dismantling of these mountain settlements in these terms: Whoever proposes that we return to the
plains, to our basest part, to the sands, the secular, and that we leave in foreign hands the sacred
summits, proposes a senseless thing.
Beyond the hard core of extremists inhabiting the mountain ridge of the West Bank, the majority of
settlers built their home in the western slopes near the 1967 border. They went in search of a better
quality of life, settling in green suburbs that belong to the greater metropolitan regions of Tel Aviv
and Jerusalem.
What drew them there was the rhetoric of living standards, quality of life, fresh air and open
view. All you can dream of for a very affordable price this pitch has a special appeal to firsttime buyers. Settlers benefit from substantial government subsidies; for the price of a small flat in
Tel Aviv, they can buy their own red-roofed houses and gardens.
Vertical Planning
Matityahu Drobless was appointed head of the Jewish Agencys Land Settlement Division in 1978.

Shortly after, he issued The Master Plan for the Development of Settlements in Judea and
Samaria. In this masterplan he urges the government to
conduct a race against time now [when peace with Egypt seemed immanent] is the most
suitable time to start with wide and encompassing rush of settlements, mainly on the mountain
ranges of Judea and SamariaThe thing must be done first and foremost by creating facts on the
ground, therefore state land and uncultivated land must be taken immediately in order to settle the
areas between the concentration of [Palestinian] population and around it... being cut apart by
Jewish settlements, the minority [sic] population will find it hard to create unification and
territorial continuity.
The Drobless masterplan outlined possible locations for scores of new settlements. It aimed to
achieve its political objectives through the reorganisation of space. Relying heavily on the
topography, Drobless proposed new highvolume traffic arteries to connect the Israeli heartland to
the West Bank and beyond. These roads would be stretched along the large westdraining valleys;
for their security, new settlement blocks should be placed on the hilltops along the route. He also
proposed settlements on the summits surrounding the large Palestinian cities, and around the
roads connecting them to each other.
This strategic territorial arrangement has been brought into use recently during the Israeli Armys
invasion of Palestinian cities and villages. Some of the settlements assisted the IDF in different
tasks, mainly as places for the army to organise, refuel and redeploy.
The hilltops lent themselves easily to state seizure. In the absence of an ordered land registry in
time of Jordanian rule, Israel was able legally to capture whatever land was not cultivated.
Palestinian cultivated lands are found mainly in the valleys, where the agriculturally suitable
alluvial soil erodes down from the limestone slopes of the West Bank highlands. The barren
summits were left empty.
The Israeli government launched a large-scale project of topographical and land use mapping. The
terrain was charted and mathematised, slope gradients were calculated, the extent of un-cultivated
land marked. The result, summed up in dry numbers, left about 38% of the West Bank in under
Israeli control, isolated in discontinuous islands around summits. That land was then made
available for settlement.
(The settlements research presented here forms the basis for a collaboration between Eyal and his
partner architect Rafi Segal for the forthcoming exhibition in the International Union of Architects

(UIA) congress in Berlin, July 2002).


This 270 degree panorama shows the Israeli settlement on a hill overlooking the Palestinian
village in the valley (a large-scale version is available onsite)

Index to the Politics of verticality

1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under
11. Control in the air
Many different types of settlements perch atop the hills of the West Bank, providing islands of
biblical identity that are also strategic vantage points. The Community Settlement is a new type of
settlement developed in the early 1980s for the West Bank. It is in effect a closed members club,
with a long admission process and a monitoring mechanism that regulates everything from
religious observance to ideological rigour, even the form and outdoor use of homes.
Settlements function as dormitory suburbs for small groups of Israelis who travel to work in the
large Israeli cities. The hilltop environment, isolated, with wide views, and hard to reach, lent itself
to the development of this newly conceived utopia.
In the formal processes, which base mountain settlements on topographical conditions, the laws of
erosion had been absorbed into the practice of urban design. The mountain settlement is typified by
a principle of concentric arrangement, with roads laid out in rings following the topographical lines
around the summit.
The ideal arrangement for a small settlement is a circle. But in reality the particular layout of each

depends on site morphology and the extent of available state land. Each is divided into equal,
repetitive lots for small private redroofed homes. The public functions are generally located within
the innermost ring, on the higher ground.
The community settlements create cul-de-sac envelopes, closed off to their surroundings,
promoting a mythic communal coherence in a shared formal identity. It is a claustrophobic layout,
expressing a social vision that facilitates the intimate management of the lives of the inhabitants.
These masterplans describe different settlement typologies. The light grey area describes the limit
of the settlements, the darker grey their built fabric. Settlement masterplanning is typically
influenced both by financial, political and ideological criteria, and by the constraints of
topography and availability of state land.
The private single family house is most common in settlements. It is attractive to buyers, suits the
low prices of land, and can draw in the kind of population that seeks a better quality of life. It also
takes up more territory per person.
Four main types of settlements can be differentiated in the West Bank.
1. Community Settlement (e.g. Eli)
In the Community Settlement, although some aspects of communal living still remain,
employment is found in nearby cities: the settlement operates more or less as a remote dormitory
The settlement layout, arranged in a garden-suburb fashion, aims to limit motor circulation
within, and allows easy access to all essential services within a walking distance of no more than
250 meters.
These settlements are built in one or two construction stages, and spring off the drawing board.
They are typified by repetitive developer-designed single- or joint-family housing types. The
parceling-out of land is equal and homogenous, with each plot being between a third and a half of
a dunum.
2. Urban Settlement (e.g. Givat Zeev)

Urban settlements are regional centres for settlement blocs. They are higher density than smaller
settlements because of the construction of apartment blocks, although each contains private,
single-family homes as well.
They have a very large core of services, including economic service and employment centres for
themselves as well as for the settlements around them.
3. Private Settlement (e.g. Zofim)
The growth of the metropolitan region of Gush Dan created demand that was supplied
successfully in private settlements not far from the 1967 border. The private settlements are
located mainly in western Samaria, near Tel Aviv and around Jerusalem. Suburban settlements,
constructed on private initiative, they are composed of single-family homes or villas, on land that
is mainly but not always privately sold.
The size of lots tends to be relatively large, between half a dunum and a dunum, and privately
designed and constructed homes are invited.
It is hard to secure land in these areas of high demand, which makes the form of Zofim and other
settlements of its type fragmented and bizarre, as they try to squeeze into the limits of the
available land.
4. Agricultural Settlement (e.g. Pazael)
The orthogonal geometry of this settlement makes it non-site-specific, typical for the agricultural
settlements of lower plains of the Jordan valley.
Small agricultural lots are connected to each home, divided equally and repetitively within
Alfei Menashe
Alfei Menashe is a rather large settlement (we see only a part of it here) on the western slopes of
the mountains of Samaria. In the center of the image you can see a field not built on. Often
Palestinian land is 'trapped' inside settlements. Construction on these islands is not allowed they
still legally belong to the Palestinian owner, who however most often has no access to it. Also note
how, on the right and top right of the settlement, pine forest meets an olive grove. Planting has
become an intensely political act. Palestinians are continuously planting olive groves to secure
ownership of land not built on; Israel does the same, but with fastergrowing pine trees. These

kinds of trees became undeclared symbols of the two national groups' ownership claims. In both
cases planting is replaced by construction when the time allows for it.
Mitzpe Yehuda
Mitzpe Yehuda is a small settlement located in the eastern slopes of the Judean desert, close
enough to Jerusalem for its residents to commute daily to work there.
Har Homa
Har Homa is a neighborhood of Jerusalem, built in the southern occupied part of it, near
Bethlehem. As you can see, its layout traces the shape of the mountain topography and creates a
fortress-like arrangement that controls the areas and roads around it.
Har Adar
Har Adar is a settlement in high demand from well-to-do Jerusalem professionals. It was built in
two phases and is still in demand, a fact that explains the continuous construction there.
Har Adarnew plots
Many settlements are made up of relatively uniform prefabricated units. But Har Adar is a
private settlement, its homes constructed on the bnebet'ha (build your own home) system:
residents design and construct their own villa on relatively large plots of land.
Har Adardeveloped plots
Note how the olive orchards (planted by Palestinians) on the top right of the image closely
demarcate the settlement border, and how a pine forest (planted by Israelis) in the bottom of the
first image on this page demarcates it from the other direction. The politics of olive groves and
pine trees is explained above, in the caption to Alfei Menashe.
Eli is a community settlement built in the vicinity of Ramallah. Its layouts form a bra-like
arrangement typical for the morphology of two close mountain summits. See the masterplan for
Eli above.

Note how the central functions of the settlement (kindergarten, synagogue, assembly hall) are
arranged within its formal core protected within the circular arrangement. On the top right is the
shopping center; on the bottom left, the new extension to the settlement, made up of temporary
homes (caravans). Here, too, the Palestinians have planted olive orchards all the way to the
settlements edge in an effort to limit its expansion. (Cultivated land cannot be expropriated on the
West Bank.)
Maale Edumim
Maale Edumim is the biggest settlement in the West Bank, located on the Jerusalem-Jericho road.
Planned by the acclaimed office of Thomas Leitersdorf in the late 1970s, it recently won the prize
for best-designed city in Israel. Its population is just over 20,000. Measured by the extent of
land within its boundaries, Maale Edumim is the largest city in Israel, larger then Tel Aviv or
Jerusalem. This extensity captures as much land as possible, in order to fortify Jerusalem from
the east.
These images show Jewish and Palestinian settlements in close proximity. The fence between
Matan-Yarhiv and Habla in the centre of the image above is the Green Line - the 1967 border.
Paradoxically, Habla, the Palestinian settlement on the left, is within pre-1967 Israel; MatanYarhiv is to the east of the Green Line. The differences are immediately apparent between the
organic spread of the Arab village and the planned layout of the Jewish settlement.
Psagot is located on a hill overlooking the city of Ramallah. From it, the Israeli army shot antitank missiles at the vehicle of Palestinian activists traveling along the main road leading to
Ramallah (to the left of the first image).
Note how the Palestinian settlement is located at the foot of the hill and along the roads, while
Jewish settlements are always laid out in a cul-de sac arrangement.
Index to the Politics of verticality
1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank

4. West Bank settlements

5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under
11. Control in the air
optical urbanism- photoessays to come
High ground offers three strategic assets: greater tactical strength, self-protection, and a wider
view. This principle is as long as military history itself. The Crusaders castles, some built not far
from the location of todays settlements, operated through the reinforcement of strength already
provided by nature. These series of mountaintop fortresses were military instruments for the
territorial domination of the Latin kingdom.
The Jewish settlements in the West Bank are not very different. Not only places of residence, they
create a large-scale network of civilian fortification which is part of the armys regional plan of
defence, generating tactical territorial surveillance. A simple act of domesticity, a single family
home shrouded in the cosmetic facade of red tiles and green lawns, conforms to the aims of
territorial control.
But unlike the fortresses and military camps of previous periods, the settlements are sometimes
without fortifications. Up until recently, only a few settlements agreed to be surrounded by walls or
fences. They argued that they must form a continuity with the holy landscape; that it is the
Palestinians who need to be fenced in.
During the recent days of Intifadah, many settlements were attacked and debate returned over the
effect of fences. Extremist settlers claimed that protection could be exercised solely through the
power of vision, rendering the material protection of a fortified wall redundant and even
Indeed, the form of the mountain settlements is constructed according to a geometric system that
unites the effectiveness of sight with spatial order, producing panoptic fortresses, generating
gazes to many different ends. Control in the overlooking of Arab town and villages; strategy in
the overlooking of main traffic arteries; self-defence in the overlooking of the immediate

surroundings and approach roads. Settlements could be seen as urban optical devices for
surveillance and the exercise of power.
In 1984 the Ministry of Housing published guidance for new construction in the mountain region,
advising: Turning openings in the direction of the view is usually identical with turning them in the
direction of the slope [the optimal view depends on] the positioning of the buildings and on the
distances between them, on the density, the gradient of the slope and the vegetation.
That principle applies most easily to the outer ring of homes. The inner rings are positioned in front
of the gaps between the homes of the first ring. This arrangement of the homes around summits,
outward-looking, imposes on the dwellers axial visibility (and lateral invisibility), oriented in two
directions: inward and outward.
Discussing the interior of each building, the guidance recommends the orientation of the sleeping
rooms towards the inner public spaces and the living rooms towards the distant view. The inwardoriented gaze protects the soft cores of the settlements, the outward- oriented one surveys the
landscape below. Vision dictated the discipline and mode of design on every level, even down to the
precise positioning of windows: as if, following Paul Virilio, the function of arms and the function
of the eye were indefinitely identified as one and the same.
Seeking safety in vision, Jewish settlements are intensely illuminated. At night, from a distance they
are visible as brilliant white streaks of light. From within them, the artificial light shines so brightly
as to confuse diurnal rhythms. This is in stark contrast to Palestinian cities: seeking their safety in
invisibility, they employ blackouts as a routine of protection from aerial attacks.
In his verdict in support of the legality of settlement, Israeli High Court Justice Vitkon argued,
One does not have to be an expert in military and security affairs to understand that terrorist
elements operate more easily in an area populated only by an indifferent population or one that
supports the enemy, as opposed to an area in which there are persons who are likely to observe
them and inform the authorities about any suspicious movement. Among them no refuge,
assistance, or equipment will be provided to terrorists. The matter is simple, and details are
The settlers come to the high places for the regeneration of the soul. But in placing them across
the landscape, the Israeli government is drafting its civilian population alongside the agencies of
state power, to inspect and control the Palestinians. Knowingly or not, settlers eyes, seeking a
completely different view, are being hijacked for strategic and geopolitical aims.

Index to the Politics of verticality

1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under
11. Control in the air
Photoessay on settlement brochures to come
The journey into the mountains, seeking to reestablish the relation between terrain and sacred text,
was a work of tracing the location of biblical sites, and constructing settlements adjacent to them.
Settlers turned topography into sceneography, forming an exegetical landscape with a mesh of
scriptural signification that must be read, not just viewed.
For example, a settlement located near the Palestinian city of Nablus advertises itself thus:
Shilo spreads up the hills overlooking Tel Shilo, where over three thousand years ago the children of
Israel gathered to erect the Tabernacle and to divide by lot the Land of Israel into tribal portions
this ancient spiritual centre has retained its power as the focus of modern day Shilo.
Rather than being a resource for agricultural or industrial cultivation, the landscape establishes the
link with religious-national myths. The view of the landscape does not evoke solemn
contemplations, but becomes an active staring, part of an ecstatic ritual: it causes me excitement
that I cannot even talk about in modesty, says Menora Katzover, wife of a prominent settlers
leader, about the view of the Shomron mountains.
Another sales brochure, published for member recruitment in Brooklyn and advertising the ultra
orthodox settlement of Emanuel, evokes the pastoral: The city of Emanuel, situated 440 metres
above sea level, has a magnificent view of the coastal plain and the Judean Mountains. The hilly
landscape is dotted by green olive orchards and enjoys a pastoral calm.

There is a paradox in this description. The very thing that renders the landscape biblical
traditional inhabitation, cultivation in terraces, olive orchards and stone buildings is made by the
Arabs whom the settlers come to replace. The people who cultivate the green olive orchards and
render the landscape biblical are themselves excluded from the panorama.
It is only when it comes to the roads that the brochure mentions Arabs, and that only by way of
exclusion. A motored system is being developed that will make it possible to travel quickly and
safely to the Tel Aviv area and to Jerusalem on modern throughways, bypassing Arab towns
(emphasis in the original). The gaze that can see a pastoral, biblical landscape will not register
what it doesnt want to see the Palestinians.
State strategy established vision as a mean of control, and uses the eyes of settlers for this purpose.
The settlers celebrate the panorama as a sublime resource, but one that can be edited. The sightlines from the settlements serve two contradictory agendas simultaneously.
The Emanuel brochure continues, Indeed new Jewish life flourishes in these hills of the Shomron,
and the nights are illuminated by lights of Jewish settlements on all sides. In the centre of all this
wonderful bustling activity, Emanuel, a Torah city, is coming into existence.
From a hilltop at night, a settler can lift his eyes to see only the blaze of other settlements, perched
at a similar height atop the summits around. At night, settlers could avoid the sight of Arab towns
and villages, and feel that they have truly arrived as the people without land to the land without
people. (This famous slogan is attributed to Israel Zangwill, one of the early Zionists who arrived
to Palestine before the British mandate, and described the land to which Eastern European Zionism
was headed as desolate and forsaken.) Latitude thus becomes more than merely relative position on
the folded surface of the terrain. It functions to establish literally parallel geographies of First and
Third Worlds, inhabiting two distinct planes, in the startling and unprecedented proximity that
only the vertical dimension of the mountains could provide.
Rather than the conclusive division between two nations across a boundary line, the organisation of
the West Banks particular terrain has created multiple separations, provisional boundaries, which
relate to each other through surveillance and control. This intensification of power could be
achieved in this form only because of the particularity of the terrain.
The mountain settlements are the last gesture in the urbanisation of enclaves. They perfect the
politics of separation, seclusion and control, placing them as the end-condition of contemporary
urban and architectural formations such as New Urbanism, suburban enclave neighbourhoods or

gated communities. The most ubiquitous of architectural typologies is exposed as terrifying within
the topography of the West Bank.

Index to the Politics of verticality

1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under
11. Control in the air
The aquifers deep below the West Bank are a battleground, just as much as the rivers of sewage
split through its valleys by both Israeli and Palestinian settlements. The subterranean spaces of the
West Bank are inhabited by underground aquifers, archaeological sites, and infrastructure systems,
as well as sacredness hidden from view. The underground has been transformed into a conflict
zone, whose undercurrents affect the patterns of inhabitation of the terrain above.
Deep water
One of the most crucial issues in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict takes place below the surface:
about eighty per cent of the Mountain Aquifer, the regions largest reservoir, is located under the
West Bank. Yet this massive resource supplies approximately forty per cent of Israels agricultural
waters and almost fifty per cent of its drinking waters. Indeed, it is the main source for its large
coastal urban centre. Indeed, it is the main source for its large coastal urban centre.
During the Oslo and Camp David negotiations, Israel insisted on keeping control of the
underground resources in any permanent resolution. A new form of subterranean sovereignty,
which erodes the basics of national sovereignty, is first mentioned in the Oslo Interim Accord.
The 1995 Accord transferred responsibility for the water sector from Israels civil administration to
the Palestinian Authority. But in practice, the scope of Israeli control of this sector did not change.

A Joint Water Committee (JWC) was set up to oversee and approve every new water and sewage
project in the West Bank. The Committee is comprised, in equal number, of representatives of
Israel and of the Palestinian Authority. All its decisions are made by consensus. No mechanism is
established to settle disputes where a consensus cannot be attained.
This might seem a sensible compromise. But through the Committee, Israel can veto any request by
the Palestinian representatives to drill a new well, or to obtain the additions stipulated in the water
However, the Israeli settlements in the West Bank have access to pumping wells which do not need
JWC permission. They represent approximately ten per cent of the West Bank population, and use
some thirty-seven per cent of this West Bank water, leaving the remaining sixty-three per cent for
the 1.9 million Palestinians.
The politics of shit
There has been a recent and deliberate breaking loose of sewage systems across the West Bank. The
strong topography allows Israeli settlements and Palestinian cities to spill their sewage through the
valleys toward each other.
The Palestinian municipality of Hebron was awarded a sewage-recycling farm from the German
government. But its operation was halted. According to agreements, the project was still regulated
by the Joint Water Committee. It needed Israels permission, and Israel might demand a quota of
the water. Since then, to put pressure on Israel to concede the waters, the municipality of Hebron
has been spilling its residential and industrial sewage into the Hebron River that f lows , via three
settlements , to the outskirts of Beer Sheva in Israel proper.
Non existent or disintegrating underground pipes allow sewage to flow overground the length of
some Palestinian refugee camps. This visible shit testifies to day-visiting official guests of the
Palestinian Authority of an inhumane permanent neglect, the everlasting problem of the refugees,
consequence of the yet unresolved conflict.
Efforts by different NGOs and UN departments to repair this system of infrastructure with
permanent underground plumbing have often been rejected by the Palestinian Authority. They can
allow no real improvement or investment in infrastructure until the refugee camps are considered
permanent settlements.
Sewage is a political weapon when dislocated from the bowels of the earth to the overground. When

shit is invisible underground, it is merely sewage, running through a technically complex system of
public plumbing. But let it only break loose over the surface, and sewage becomes shit again.
The latitudinal co-ordinates affirm the nature of the substance. When sewage overflows and private
shit, from under the ground, invades the public realm of the street, it becomes simultaneously a
private hazard and a public asset to be used as a tool by the authorities.

Index to the Politics of verticality

Hills and valleys of the West Bank
West Bank settlements
Optical urbanism
The paradox of double vision
From water to shit
Excavating sacredness
Roads over and under
Control in the air
In a quest for biblical archaeology, Israel has attempted to resurrect the subterreanean fragments of
ancient civilization to testify for its present-day rights above ground.When the Zionists first arrived
in Palestine late in the nineteenth century, the land they found was strangely unfamiliar, different
from the one they longed for. Reaching the map coordinates of the site of their yearnings was not
enough. The search had to continue: above, in a metaphysical sense, below the crust of earth in
archaeological excavations.
That the ground was further inhabited by the Arabs and marked with the traces of their lives,
complicated things even further. So the existing terrain was transformed in the Zionists minds into
a protective wrap, under which the historical longed-for landscape was hidden.
Archaeology attempted to peel this visible layer and expose the historical landscape concealed
underneath. Only a few metres below the surface, a palimpsest made of five thousand year-old
debris, traces of cultures, narratives of wars and destruction, is arranged chronologically in layers
compressed with stone and by soil.

Biblical archaeology
The quest for Biblical Archaeology attempts to match traces of Bronze Age ruins with Biblical
narratives. Modern Israel tried to fashion itself as the successor of ancient Israel, and to construct a
new national identity rooted in the depths of the ground. These material traces took on immense
importance, as an alibi for the Jewish return.
If the land to be inherited was indeed located under the surface, then the whole subterranean
volume was a national monument. From this source, the ancient civilisation could be politically
resurrected to testify for the right of the present-day Israel.
At the centre of this activity, quickly its very symbol, was Yigal Yadin, the former military chief of
staff turned archaeologist. Seeking to supply Israeli society with historical parallels to the struggles
of Zionism, he focused his digging on the ancient occupation and settlement of Israelites in Canaan,
on Biblical wars and on monumental building and fortification works carried out by the kings of
The visible landscape and the buried one were describing two different maps that slip over each
other. There was a continuous effort to anchor new claims to ancient ones, as a series of settlements
were constructed adjacent to or over sites suspected of having a Hebrew past.
Making the historical context explicit allowed for the re-organisation of the surface, creating an
apparent continuum of Jewish inhabitation. Settlements recycle history by adopting the names of
Biblical sites, making public claim to genealogical roots.
Perhaps the most dramatic example occurred in the city of Hebron. The settlement of Tel Rumeida
was built in the middle of a Palestinian neighbourhood there. It was built on stilts, on top of a
recently excavated Bronze Age site.
As the sub-terrain erupted onto the surface, the Israeli minister of defence, Benjamin Ben- Eliezer,
seized the Palestinian land, declaring it an archaeological site. Soon after, he allowed a group of
settlers to build an elevated cement roof over the heart of the archaeological site and put up a
settlement composed of seven mobile homes on it, perching over the newly-revealed history.
Recently, after several shooting attacks on settlers in the vicinity of their homes, Ben- Eliezer
authorised the walling off of the site and the replacement of the mobile homes with new bulletproof structures.

What is antiquity and therefore worthy of of nationalistic sentiment connected with the discovery
of abundant archaeological sites, especially in and around East Jerusalem. Previous state -sponso
red housing developments were built according to the white-block model of European Modernism,
and reflected a socialist ethos.
But new neighbourhoods now boasted arches and domes, colonnades and courtyards, and were
clad with a veneer of slated stone. This was the Israeli version of architectural postmodernism: a
style of building based on the brutal modernism of raw concrete, but wrapped in features
embodying the new national-religious identity.
Against the tendency of Biblical Archaeologists to short-circuit history and celebrate a
phantasmagoria of great Biblical events and destructions, a newly emergent Archaeology,
advocated in both Palestinian and Israeli universities, has started digging the more recent, upper
historical layers of the Arab and Ottoman periods. These archaeologists have worked to uncover the
evolution of the daily life of the people without history as long-term processes, featuring gradual
cultural and social changes.
Tel Hebron (Rumeida)
Tel Hebron - Home of Abraham and King David - Right: an Ancient Hebron Wall and Olive Tree
Left: The work begins - Right: The families moved into new, double- decker caravans

Index to the Politics of verticality

1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under

11. Control in the air

From the struggles over Haram al-Sharif (the Temple Mount) to the historic stone with which all
Greater Jerusalem is now clad, Jerusalem is an intense case study of the politics of verticality.On 24
September 1996, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered the opening of a subterranean
archaeological tunnel running along the foundation of the Western Wall, underneath the Haram alSharif/Temple Mount compound. Thus the Government demonstrated its control of all parts of
Jerusalem, above and below ground.
Subterranean Jerusalem is at least as complex as its terrain. Nowhere is this more true than of the
Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif.
The Haram al-Sharif compound is built over a filled-in, flattened-out summit. On it are built
mosques and Muslim holy sites, including the Al-Aqsa Mosque (the third holiest Muslim site in the
world), and the Dome of the Rock. It is supported by retaining walls, one of which is the Western
Wall, whose southern edge is known as the Wailing Wall. The Western Wall is part of the outermost
wall of what used to be the Second Temple compound. Jewish faith has it that the Haram al-Sharif
stands precisely above the ruins of the ancient Temple.
Since East Jerusalem was occupied in 1967, the Muslim religious authority (the Wakf) has charged
that Israel is trying to undermine the compound foundations in order to topple the al-Aqsa Mosque
and the Dome of the Rock, and to clear the way for the establishment of the Third Jewish Temple.
The opening of the Western Wall Tunnel was wrongly perceived as an attempt at subterranean
sabotage, fuelled by memories of a similar event: in December 1991 another tunnel recently
excavated below the Haram collapsed, opening a big hole in the floor of the Mosque of Atman benAfan.
The ascent of the present Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount in 2000 and the
bloodshed during the Intifadah that followed that visit were not unique. The Temple Mount/
Haram al-Sharif has often been the focal point of the conflict.
Israels chief negotiator Gilead Sher has told how, during the failed Camp David summit on 17 July
2000 in the Dogwood hut balcony, in the presence of the whole Israeli delegation, Barak declared:
We shall stand united in front of the whole world, if it becomes apparent that an agreement
wasnt reached over the issue of our sovereignty over the First and Second Temples. It is the
Archemedic point of our universe, the anchor of the Zionist effort we are at the moment of

The two delegations laid claim to the same plot of land. Neither side was willing to give up their
claim of sovereignty. In attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable, intense spatial contortions took
place at Camp David.
Most archaeologists believe that the Wailing Wall was a retaining wall supporting the earth on
which the Second Temple stood at the very same latitude as todays mosques. But the Israeli
delegation argued that the Wailing Wall was built originally as a free-standing wall, behind which
stood the Second Temple; and therefore that the remains of the Temple are to be found underneath
the mosques.
The most original bridging proposal at Camp David came from former US president Bill Clinton.
After the inevitable crisis, Clinton dictated his proposal to the negotiating parties. It was a daring
and radical manifestation of the regions vertical schizophrenia.
The border between Arab East and Jewish West Jerusalem would, at the most contested point on
earth, flip from the horizontal to the vertical giving the Palestinians sovereignty on top of the
Mount while maintaining Israeli sovereignty below the surface, over the Wailing Wall and the
airspace above the Mount. The horizontal border would have passed underneath the paving of the
Haram al-Sharif. A few centimetres under the worshippers in the Mosque of al-Aqsa and the Dome
of the Rock, the Israeli underground could be dug up for remnants of the ancient Temple, believed
to be in the depth of the mount.
Barak accepted the proposal in principle. To allow free access to the Muslim compound, now
isolated in a three-dimensional sovereign wrap by Israel, he suggested a bridge or a tunnel ,
through which whoever wants to pray in al-Aqsa could access the compound . But the Palestinians,
long suspicious of Israels presence under their mosques, rejected the plan flatly. They claimed,
partly bemused, that Haram al-Sharif must be handed over to the Palestinians over, under
and to the sides, geographically and topographically.
Charles Warren, a captain in the Royal Engineers, was in 1876 one of the first archaeologists to
excavate the tunnels and subterranean chambers under the Temple Mount. He recorded no
conclusive ruins of the Temple, but a substance of completely different nature:
The passage is four feet wide, with smooth sides, and the sewage was from five to six feet deep, so
that if we had fallen in there was no chance of our escaping with our lives. I, however, determined

to trace out this passage, and for this purpose got a few old planks and made a perilous voyage on
the sewage to a distance of 12 feet Finding the excessive danger of the planks, I procured three
old doors The sewage was not water, and not was not mud; it was just in such a state that a
door would not float, but yet if left for a minute or two would not sink very deep we laid the first
door on the sewage, then one in front of it, taking care to keep ourselves each on a door; then
taking up the hinder of the three it was passed to the front, and so we moved on. The sewage in
some places was more liquid than in others, but in every case it sucked in the doors so that we had
much difficulty in getting the hinder ones up
If that Indiana Jones-type description was correct, what Clinton and the negotiating teams hadnt
realised was that the Temple Mount sat atop a network of ancient ducts and cisterns filled with
generations of Jerusalems sewage.
East of the Temple Mount lies the Mount of Olives, on whose western slopes lies one of the oldest
and most sacred Jewish graveyards. It is believed that from there the Messiah will arrive at the
gates of Jerusalem; that therefore, people buried there would be the first to be resurrected.
Since Israel would not concede sovereignty over the Olive Mount (in the occupied part of
Jerusalem), and since it lies between Al-Aqsa and the bulk of Arab neighborhoods, it was
proposed at Camp David to build a pedestrian viaduct over it, which would be within Palestinian
jurisdiction. This idea was flatly rejected by the Palestinians. The image above illustrates what
such proposal might look like, were it to be realized. It is yet another example of the politics of
Storrss stare of Medusa: the Jerusalem stone by-law The first British military governor of
Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, enacted a bylaw in 1918. It required square, dressed natural stone
(termed Jerusalem stone) to be used for the external walls of all new buildings constructed in the
Giving Jerusalem a single architectural uniform, Storrs created the conditions for its expansion.
The stone coating does more than just fulfil an aesthetic agenda by maintaining a continuity of
appearance. It visually defines the geographic limits of Jerusalem, and marks by association the
extent of its holiness.

According to Judaic tradition, a special holy status is reserved for the ground. Its relocation as stone
from the horizontal (the earth) to the vertical (walls), from the quarries onto the faades of
buildings, transferred this holiness further.
Israel resurrected this British-era by-law for its own purposes, requiring its application in all parts
of the municipality. Storrs had meant it to apply only around the holy basin surrounding the old
city. As Jerusalems paving of stone climbs up to wrap its faades, a new ground topography of
holiness is extended.
When the city itself is holy, and its boundaries are being constantly redefined, holiness becomes a
planning issue. New territories annexed to the city throughout the area of Israeli rule, east and
west, traditionally and historically far from the historical city, were required to be dressed in stone.
They became Jerusalem, physically imbued with the citys holy status.
This skin of holiness put every newly built suburb well within the boundaries of the eternally
unified capital of the Jewish people, hence not negotiable in any final status deal.
Curiously enough, since in Israel environmental regulations severely limit the use of open quarries,
the Jerusalem stone that produces this sacred identity is excavated in the West Bank, mainly
around the cities of Ramallah and Hebron.

Index to the Politics of verticality

1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under
11. Control in the air
A bewildering network of bypass roads weave over and under one another, attempting to separate
the Israeli and Palestinian communities. And the future could be wilder a 48-kilometre viaduct

between Gaza and the West Bank. The Israeli settlements in the West Bank are dormitory suburbs,
reliant on roads connecting them with the urban centres of Israel proper. So-called bypass roads
were a feature of the Oslo accord. The Israeli government was allowed (with specially allocated
American money) to construct a network of fast, wide security roads that bypass Arab towns and
connect the settlements to Israel.
The bypass roads, some still in the process of paving, would become a massive system of twentynine highways spanning four hundred and fifty kilometres. They allow four hundred thousand Jews
living in land occupied in 1967 to have freedom of movement. About three million Palestinians are
left locked into isolated enclaves.
These roads make any attempt to detach the West Bank from Israel proper almost impossible. They
demonstrate the alienation of the settlers from the surrounding landscape. But if the settlements
themselves are hard to attack, Palestinian militants have identified the roads as the soft point where
settlers can be hurt. Attacking civilian vehicles and military patrols travelling along the roads, they
attempt to cut these slim economic lifelines.
The bypass roads attempt to separate Israeli traffic networks from Palestinian ones, preferably
without allowing them ever to cross. They emphasise the overlapping of two separate geographies
that inhabit the same landscape. At points where the networks do cross, a makeshift separation is
created. Most often, small dust roads are dug out to allow Palestinians to cross under the fast, wide
highways on which Israeli vans and military vehicles rush between settlements.
Some more grandiose Israeli projects have proposed highways to bypass Palestinian towns in three
dimensions. The Tunnel Road, for example, connects Jerusalem with the southern settlements of
Gush Etzion and further, to the Jewish neighbourhoods of Hebron. To accomplish this, it has to
perform a double contortion: stretched up as a bridge spanning over a Palestinian cultivated valley,
it then dives into a tunnel under the Palestinian Bethlehem suburb of Bet Jallah.
Meron Benvenisti writes: And indeed the person travelling on the longest bridge in the country
and penetrating the earth in the longest tunnel may ignore the fact that over his head there is a
whole Palestinian town and that on his way from the housing projects [of the Jerusalem
neighbourhood] of Gilo to the housing projects of the city of Efrat and Etzion (settlement) block he
does not come across any Arab, save for some drivers that dare go on the Jewish road.
Both the valley the road spans over, and the city it dives under, are areas handed over to limited
Palestinian sovereignty under the Oslo accord. The physical separation is mirrored in a political

one. As with the Temple Mount proposals, the border stretches along a horizontal line. The city
above is under Palestinian limited sovereignty; the road below it is within Israeli jurisdiction.
In the West Bank, bridges are no longer just devices engineered to overcome a natural boundary or
connect impossible points. Rather, they become the boundary itself, separating the two national
groups across the vertical dimension.
Benvenisti continues: The bridge and tunnels are not the real engineering wonder: the road
managed to crash the three dimensional space into six dimensions three Jewish and three Arabs
and the points of frictions between the world of the Jews to the world of the Arab continue to
bring up sparks of fire.
This type of boundary was first proposed in the 1947 UN Partition Plan. At two locations within this
plan the kissing points the territories of Israel and Palestine were to cross. The twodimensional boundary a line was to become a one-dimensional point. A bridge-over-tunnel
design was proposed to keep the territories connected; where the border was reduced from two
dimensions into one, the solution had to resort to three dimensions.
The situation today is even more complex. The Camp David proposals for the partition of Jerusalem
necessitate several of these kissing points between separate Israeli and Palestinian
neighbourhoods. Existing or new bridges and tunnels will perform these local separations. But it
requires intense effort from government legal experts, as there are almost no precedents for
property and bilateral law in three dimensions.
The connection of Gaza and the West Bank the two remotely estranged territories that according
to the Oslo accord are to form a single political unit poses a similar problem on a larger scale. The
distance between them is forty-seven kilometres as the crow flies. The so called safe passage, still
on the drawing board, will be a Palestinian route including six motor lanes, two railway lines, highvoltage electricity cables and an oil pipe that will connect the two enclaves across Israeli territory.
Israeli and Palestinian engineers proposed a bewildering variety of possible solutions. A tunnel, a
ditch, a land road cut off from the landscape with dykes on either side, a viaduct The political
debate turned very quickly to the question of whos on top. Avoiding the integrative solution of a
land road, Israel asked for the Palestinian sovereign road to run through a seven-metre deep ditch.
The Palestinians naturally preferred a bridge: they would hold sovereignty over the road, Israels
sovereignty would extend to the under-part of the viaduct and its columns. Below, some of this

extraordinary proposal for the volumetric carving of sovereign space (thoroughly documented in
plans, construction drawings, and meeting protocols) is reconstructed.

Index to the Politics of verticality

1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under
11. Control in the air
Now and in the final settlement proposals, Israel holds control of the airspace over the West Bank.
It uses its domination of the airspace and electromagnetic spectrum to drop a net of surveillance
and pinpoint executions over the territory.
Airspace is a discrete dimension absent from political maps. But it is a space of utmost importance
cluttered with civilian and military airways, allowing a vantage observational point on the terrain
under it, denying that position to others.
Complete control over the West Banks airspace is currently exercised by the Israeli Defence Force
(IDF). In Camp David, Israel agreed to the concept of a Palestinian state, but demanded sovereignty
over the airspace above it in the context of a final resolution.
The height to which the sovereign space of a country extends has been debated extensively in
different UN committees. It was finally set as the maximum height a jet-powered plane reached
as defined in Garry Powers famous U2 reconnaissance flight at about sixty thousand feet over the
Soviet Union, the altitude at which he was downed by an SA-2 heat guided missile near Sverdlovsk
on 1 May 1960.
That latitudinal datum became thereafter the sovereign ceiling above which free space begins. The
Positive Control led Airspace (the band in which most commercial airliners travel) ranges from

eighteen thousand to sixty thousand feet, and is regulated by a series of national ground air traffic
control systems.
The first appearance of flying machines late in the nineteenth century caught the attention of
Futurist writers. They imagined air traffic to inaugurate a new era of worldwide transportation, a
world of total mobilisation and of universal character. They proposed the freedom of the air,
analogous to Grotiuss freedom of the seas centuries before, according to which aircraft should be
as free to fly the international skies as ships cruise the high seas.
But the analogy with freedom of the high seas was rejected for airspace following the 1919 Versailles
Peace Conference, where the potential devastation of air power was first realised. That potential
was dramatised further for Americans by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. The
vulnerability of the sky prompted them to further protect this new geopolitical soft belly.
Article 1 of the 1944 Chicago Convention led to the confirmation of national control of airspace,
reaffirming the sovereignty of each country above its territory, and turning international airspace
into hundreds of no entry zones. It was only after the first space launches in 1959 that the concept
of open skies was finally accepted for outer space.
So, international law affirms the continuity between the ground and the sky. To bypass this
continuity, a new definition of boundaries in airspace had to be invented for the Israeli- Palestinian
situation. It was proposed that the sovereign ceiling of the emerging Palestinian state be
significantly lowered, to include only architectural construction and low-flying helicopters. The
upper layers were to remain in Israeli control.
The Israeli claim for sovereignty over Palestinian airspace started with the Oslo Accord. In the
clauses concerning the electromagnetic sphere and airspace, the Accord states that All aviation
activity or usage of the airspace shall require prior approval of Israel.
During the permanent status negotiations in Camp David, Israel demanded the use of the airspace
and electromagnetic space and their supervision. With control of the electromagnetic spectrum,
Israel could continue to regulate radio frequencies and other communications in both states. With
its control of the skies it could use the airspace over Palestine as training grounds for its Air Force.
In return, the Palestinians were offered a special aerial corridor through Israeli airspace between
Gaza and the West Bank.
The storm

The outbreak of hostilities in the recent Intifadah introduced the airspace for the first time as the
site of war with the Palestinians. Do we want to transfer the war to the sky? To rockets [fired on
Israeli cities] and anti-aircraft missiles? asked Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, when questioned if
Israel should fortify unilaterally behind a protected border on land. But it was too late. The war of
the skies has already broken out. Besides the latest invasion of Israel into Palestinian areas on land,
the actual day-to-day policing of the Occupied Territories is done primarily from the air.
Occupation of the skies gives Israel a presence across the whole spectrum of the electromagnetic
field, and enables total observation. The airspace became primarily a place to see from, offering
the Israeli Air Force an observational vantage point for policing airwaves alive with electromagnetic
signals from the visible to the radio and radar frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The West Bank must currently be the most intensively observed and photographed terrain in the
world. In a vacuum-cleaner approach to intelligence gathering, sensors aboard unmanned air
vehicles (UAVs), aerial reconnaissance jets, early warning Hawkeye planes, and even an EarthObservation Image Satellite, snatch most signals out of the air. Every floor in every house, every
car, every telephone call or radio transmission, even the smallest event that occurs on the terrain,
can thus be monitored, policed or destroyed from the air.
Since the beginning of the recent hostilities, the Israeli Air Force has put in thousands of flight
hours, gathered piles of information through its complex network of different airborne
reconnaissance platforms, and put it at the disposal of different intelligence agencies.
These eyes in the sky, completing the network of observation that is woven throughout the ground,
finally iron out the folded surface and flatten the terrain. From the air, everything can be watched
if you have the right kind of access.
Amongst the techniques of aerial interpretation is a process of hologrammatisation. Two
simultaneous images are captured from a double lens camera onto two plates. Then, when the
prints are viewed through special spectacles, the different shades and colour on the images turn
into higher and lower buildings, to hills, mountains and valleys. The specialised scrutinising gaze of
the analyst transforms the two-dimensional prints into a three-dimensional simulation, allowing
him carefully to identify targets or precisely assess the impact of previous raids.
This precise intelligence, a near absolute knowledge of the terrain and of movement of persons in it,
coupled with the ability to deliver precise destructive force, has empowered Israel to wage a new
kind of warfare: surgical killings administered from above.

During 2001 Israeli Air Force conducted 5,130 sorties over the West Bank and Gaza in the context
of the conflict. This included six hundred flight hours in assault helicopters, which fired five
hundred missiles at Palestinian targets, with about a third of the missiles achieving the forty-five
aerial targeted killings, in which Palestinian militants were liquidated.
Most missions are built up in the air, where satellite, reconnaissance plane and helicopter gunship
complete each others task. As the attack helicopter is on its way to the suspected area, live
intelligence about the targets location, intentions and destructive potential is transferred as radio
and image data.
The Apache gunship, equipped with a sophisticated electro-optical array of precise target
acquisition technology, travelling fast and low, detects, identifies and acquires the target, then fires
a Hellfire missile into most often a Palestinians vehicle. At other times, ultra-violet paint splashed
by collaborators on the roof of a car marks the target for the pilot to destroy.
The aerial policing and execution of Palestinians within their cities was made possible by the
integration of these technological advances. And the act of their liquidation is now subject only to
If the horrific potential of iron bombing already exhausted the imagination, in this next step of
warfare, armies could target individuals within a battlefield or civilians in an urban warfare.
Summary executions can be carried out after short meetings between army generals and politicians
working their way down wanted men lists. This kind of aerial warfare is so personal as to set a new
horizon for the horror of war.
Index to the Politics of verticality
1. Introduction
2. Maps
3. Hills and valleys of the West Bank
4. West Bank settlements
5. Optical urbanism
6. The paradox of double vision
7. From water to shit
8. Excavating sacredness
9. Jerusalem
10. Roads over and under

11. Control in the air