Israel’s ‘day-after’ plan for Gaza is a brutal occupation

Netanyahu is taking Israel’s war on Gaza to a final terrifying stage, promising that total victory is at hand and using 1.5 million Palestinians in Rafah as hostages. If he can’t force them out into Sinai, he wants to take over complete control of the Rafah crossing from Egypt, destroy Hamas and obliterate its leadership.

This is a mission impossible. Whatever new genocidal acts Israel commits in the coming days, the Palestinians will continue their resistance among the ruins of Gaza and once it is rebuilt.

If Israel has its way, however, and Western powers continue to enable its ethnic cleansing project, the bombs that have destroyed Gaza will be replaced by a new weaponised form of urban planning.

New independently verified studies have shown that 60% of Gaza has been damaged or completely destroyed. Israeli scenarios envisage post-war Gaza as a more militarised version of the West Bank with thousands of hectares of land under direct Israeli occupation.

"Today, 75 years on [from the Nakba], Israel’s determined destruction of the entire infrastructure of Gaza is callously planned so it can be rebuilt as an optimum site of occupation" 

Apparently, orders have been given to determine the locations for permanent army stations. The shape of the new urban landscape will be minutely planned by Israel, if it is given a free hand, to lock Gaza into a grid of surveillance and control.

This is not a new phenomenon in the Israeli mind-set. The mechanisms of ‘Israel’s architecture of occupation’ have been unpacked in the work of Eyal Weizman in his book Hollow Land. Weizman is Director of Forensic Architecture and Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College. Along with Alessandro Petti and Sandi Hilal, he set up the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency in Beit Sahour.

The book explores the planning history of Zionism and notes how from the start, the Zionist project enlisted architects from the UK to plan Tel Aviv and other Zionist settlements.

Having ethnically cleansed Palestine of the majority of its people in 1948 and levelled 500 villages, the Zionists could transform the landscape as they wished.

Today, 75 years on, Israel’s determined destruction of the entire infrastructure of Gaza is callously planned so it can be rebuilt as an optimum site of occupation.

The 'day after' in Gaza: What will happen once Israel's war ends? 👇 https://t.co/nmK5CDdW4n — The New Arab (@The_NewArab) December 3, 2023

In the West Bank, this has been an ongoing project, at least since the time of Ariel Sharon with the massive settlement building which started in the 1970s. This was organised for defence and colonisation, taking strategic hilltops and developing a network of roads to facilitate military manoeuvres which became effective instruments of possessing occupied Palestinian land.

Sharon announced, on one of his reconnaissance trips to the West Bank, that the Palestinians should see “Jewish lights every night from 500 metres”. Later the building of Israel’s apartheid wall gobbled up huge swathes of Palestinian land, impeding freedom of movement along with hundreds of checkpoints.

Today, strategic mechanisms of subjugation intersect all coordinates in the West Bank forming a matrix of control with on/off valves to regulate the movement of the occupied.

Israeli planning policy, on the micro and macro level, creates isolated Palestinian zones, watched over by militarised settlements and outposts. These colonising devices are “intended to make the colonised internalise the facts of their domination”.

In 1971, Ariel Sharon bulldozed wide roads through Gaza’s refugee camps, Jabalia, Rafah and Al-Shati. He wanted to cut up the camps into smaller neighbourhoods which could be easily accessed by the military.

This was the beginning of a strategy Sharon envisioned for Gaza, similar to that of the West Bank. He planned to build five wedges of settlements in what he called the ‘5-finger plan’ to break up the Strip into controllable sections. He also planned new neighbourhoods for the refugees in order to destroy the fabric of the social life of the Palestinian camps.

Sharon never completed his plans for Gaza. What Netanyahu has done in the last four months, however, would outstrip Sharon’s wildest fantasies. The carpet bombing of Gaza, the murder of over 30,000 Palestinians and the destruction of every aspect of Palestinian life there is almost complete.

Before Israel’s pitiless onslaught, Gaza was described as the world’s biggest open-air prison. Now it is the world’s biggest urban wasteland, a dystopian landscape of tortured iron and cement.

Most of its dispossessed inhabitants are living a life of despair and unimaginable fear in Rafah waiting for Israel’s climatic violent paroxysm.

"Before Israel's pitiless onslaught, Gaza was described as the world's biggest open-air prison. Now it is the world’s biggest urban wasteland, a dystopian landscape of tortured iron and cement" 

When the killing finally stops, Gaza will be rebuilt for the Palestinians who remain, and who survive. Gaza will offer a clean slate to plan the definitive site of colonising power.

Weizman, in his analysis of the architecture of occupation in the West Bank, uses ideas from French philosopher Michel Foucault’s Power and Knowledge. Foucault describes that authority changed how power was exerted on the public with the rise of institutional forms of power such as the hospital, the asylum, the police and the prison, where the bodies of the masses were codified and observed through new disciplines of observation.

Instead of power being exerted through public executions and torture, power transmuted into capillary power, micro power that ran through every institution of society. Foucault gives the ultimate metaphor for this: the panopticon.

The panopticon is the ultimate tool of surveillance, a prison where the staff could observe all the inmates at once.The prisoners would not know if they were being watched and so they would always discipline their own behaviour under a faceless gaze.

This concept gave rise to the idea of panopticism, where every aspect of social life could be similarly designed to facilitate the exertion of power and its control in spatial and surveillance terms.

How, then, would Israel plan a new Gaza, if it could? Would it cut it into five zones, as envisioned by Sharon, with settlements or military bases? It would, no doubt, try to organise the urban environment of Gaza in a way which would give maximum spatial domination to facilitate military incursions, to access every street and every house.

The planning will ensure that these zones will be under constant observation, through technological apparatus, installed everywhere.

Another key element of panopticism is the isolation of individuals. Preventing horizontal relations avoids the formation of groups – divide and rule.

The obliteration of neighbourhoods in Palestinian towns and refugee camps has already shattered communities, which once fostered support and solidarity.

This has realised Sharon’s idea whereby new neighbourhoods would break up the Palestinian camps, to compartmentalise the Palestinians of Gaza, to cut social bonds, to fragment them as a society and people.

The new Gaza may not be in Gaza at all but on an artificial island, a fantastical idea put forward by Israel Katz, at a special meeting of EU Foreign Affairs Ministers in Brussels on 24th January.

This initiative would entail the construction of an artificial island off the coast of Gaza with a port which would provide a “humanitarian, economic, transportation gateway to the world, without endangering Israel’s security”.

An island prison, an Alcatraz for 2.3 million people, where control and surveillance would be absolute.

This may be Israel’s pie-in-the-sky, but whatever form the new Gaza will take, the Palestinians will rise to continue their struggle. As Foucault said, “Where there is power, there is resistance.”

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