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« Cities in the Pincer | Main | The Forensics of Urbicide »

Preemptive Sites of Urbicidal Production: Gaza Tunnels

What is your reading of Israel’s pummeling of the Gaza border tunnels? They obviously sit at the center of the dual-use debate: while Gaza relies on them for goods and economic survival, the IDF treats them as a legitimate target through their association with weapons smuggling. ‘Dual-use’ and ‘military necessity’ are Israel’s claims to warrant their destruction, correct? -- while the Palestinian authority and human/legal rights groups regard destroying them as a direct attack on the people by virtue of crushing critical infrastructure, and as an assault on Palestinian democracy which elected Hamas into Gaza leadership. The timing of the Gaza attack was also curious in that it coincided shortly after Hamas formally legalized the tunnels as official infrastructure and industry, preceding fresh Israeli elections. These tunnels are also targeted just for being “suspected” of smuggling, something that cannot be formally proven from Israel’s current vantage.

My feeling is that the tunnels (regardless of whether they’re seen as legitimate military targets or not – though I’m still interested in your take) before they were labeled targets they were first manufactured targets, which goes beyond even premeditated urbicide – because it’s not just a question of deciding targets, it’s the notion of producing them. While the tunnel owners are directly responsible for having built the tunnels they are an obvious outcome of Israel and Egypt’s control of Gaza’s borders; that is, they are the indirect manufacturing of a much larger strategy to control the strip, to completely dismantle and de-sovereignate Palestinian space in every aspect – what Sari Hanofi referred to as “spacio-cide”: an attack on the land in every dimension, from ‘urbicide’ to ‘socio-cide’, ‘economo-cide’, and ‘politi-cide’; a total assault on the production of Palestinian statehood. The tunnels in this light are just another spatial product of the IDF’s blueprint for their continued siege of Gaza.

The IDF has been demolishing “suspected” smuggling tunnels along the border for years, and must have predicted a rise in their production as long as the Palestinians weren’t to gain control over their own borders.

For Gazans, the tunnels are the only option to the sealing of their borders. They may have been built by Hamas and Gazans, but indirectly they were put there by Israeli border strategy. From the perspective of the IDF, tunnelizing the Gaza economy makes it – besides totally retrograde – ultimately more criminalizeable, as daily commerce must share the space with arms smuggling, or even the association of arms smuggling, which the IDF uses to justify bombing Gaza infrastructure as all the more legal.

The Palestinian reliance on the tunnels for access to common goods and weapons provided Israel the legal ambiguity to be make them targets, and in this sense it does not seem illogical that the tunnel industry was expected to surge all along, perhaps even spatially programmed in a sense by Israeli border policy. With Gaza’s economy in the tunnels, Israel seizes upon a tactical and political justification for being able to attack them without further scrutiny.

It’s one thing to wage war on the law in order to justify certain targets, but it’s another to preempt that by, in a way, forcing the construction of those targets first in a manner that would make them more suitable to the legal battle of legitimating them as a target later on.

Since Israel has total control over Gaza’s ability to economize, we could read the tunnels as an intended outcome (consequential construction) of the closed borders, an IDF production. My point is that the urbicide began long before the tunnels were bombed, but when Israel took control of Gaza’s borders and forced commerce into the underground. It was a political act before a military act. The tunnels are the hatchlings of seeds set for urbicide long ago.

I’m interested in how targets are manufactured for the purposes of urbicide – how they can be prepackaged for urbicide, if you will, through geopolitics, and how other preemptive forms of political violence are used to set the stage, so to speak. Yet, equally interesting is how the tunnels continue to be a source of resiliency, perhaps the one thing that can survive despite urbicide. Sorry again for another rant, but just very curious of your reading of them in light of this topic.

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