After eight years in a coma, former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon died this past weekend. During his political career, the influential and controversial leader, nicknamed “the bulldozer,” molded the Israeli state into the shape it is today. At Al Jazeera, Israeli architect and Goldsmiths professor Eyal Weizman makes the case that “Sharon, more than anyone else, has shaped the spatial realities of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.”
Sharon, Weizman argues, viewed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of an urban design problem, and attempted to solve it as such:
In his hands the suburban red-roofed single family homes replaced the tank as the basic battle unit; houses were deployed in formation across a theatre of operations to occupy hills, to encircle an enemy, or to cut its communication lines. The result was an interlocking series of settlements, roads, barriers, and military bases that splintered the West Bank into several isolated Palestinian cantons, each around a major city, with the connections controlled by Israel. Sharon loved being photographed in construction sites, pointing at plans or with a map rolled under his armpit. In the hands of Sharon, architecture was the continuation of war by other means.
From his time as an agriculture minister through his ascent to power, Sharon espoused an architecture of occupation–including settlements, military outposts, and bases and transportation infrastructure–which had a profound effect on how the region’s political situation unfolded.