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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 January 2010


When in 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, and South African apartheid soon followed, it appeared even to political realists of the period that such systems, with their landscapes of walls and practices of separation, would rapidly be consigned to historical memory. In one of the great ironies of recent history, however, a new generation of such landscapes is proliferating in the wake of 1989, used by practitioners of power to promote systems of segregation and control movements of groups designated as threats by virtue of their representation as “other.” Reflecting collective psychologies of fear, these environments range from urban-based gated communities, where class prejudices against the poor and apprehension about crime coalesce in “fortified enclaves” within Cities of Walls, to borderlands between nation–states where hostility to immigrants and prejudices against ethnic others converge in creating what scholars describe as The Wall Around the West. Despite differences, these landscapes share a similar aim: they use built environments as defensive fortifications to preempt the circulation of people across territorial space based on class, religious, and ethnic divides. In this way, gated communities in São Paulo and Los Angeles, the walled borderlands of Melilla and Ceuta separating the European Union from Africa, and the walled border of Operation Gatekeeper separating the United States from Mexico, are broadly comparable.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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Author's note: All interviews for this article were undertaken with signed consent forms by interviewees in accordance with provisions of the University of California, San Diego Human Subjects Protocol. All interviews were recorded. Interviews were in English and Arabic. Interviews in Arabic benefited from translators. The author thanks Judith E. Tucker, Beth Baron, Sara Pursley, the anonymous reviewers, and Jim Rauch for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

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24 I use the term “wall” in accordance with the terminology used to denote the barrier in the legal opinion of the International Court of Justice ruling of 9 July 2004, entitled Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, (accessed 24 November 2009).

25 “Jewish leaders . . . strove to gain possession and ownership of as much of Israel's sovereign space as possible by making use of the legal mechanisms of the state at their disposal.” Geremy Forman and Alexandre Kedar, “From Arab Land to ‘Israeli Lands’: The Legal Dispossession of the Palestinians Displaced by Israel in the Wake of 1948,” Environment and Planning D 22 (2004): 812. See also Gazi-Walid Falah, “Dynamics and Patterns of the Shrinking of Arab Lands in Palestine,” Political Geography 22 (2003): 179–209.

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35 This matrix also includes control of Palestinian water sources by Israel. See Palestinian Hydrology Group, Water for Life: Israeli Assault on Palestinian Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene During the Intifada (Ramallah, 2004).

36 Interview with author, Jayus, 2 August 2006.

37 Interview with author, Jayus, 15 July 2008

38 Khalidi, Palestinian Identity, 20–21.

39 The exceptions to this pattern are the settlements in the Jordan Valley, where Palestinians had limited agriculture, and parts of East Jerusalem. See B'tselem, Land Grab: Israel's Settlement Policy in the West Bank (Jerusalem, 2002), 91–116.

40 Ibid., 8, 47.

41 Ibid., 47–64.

42 See Dror Etkes and Hagit Ofran, Peace Now Report, Breaking the Law in the West Bank: Israeli Settlement Building on Private Palestinian Property (Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, 2006).

43 Based on interviews with mayors from Bethlehem, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, Husan, Al-Ramadin, Qaffin, Jayus, and ʿAzzun, 2004–2008.

44 Interview with author, Husan, 24 July 2006.

45 Interview with author, Marda, 5 August 2005.

46 E-mail correspondence with Dr. Jad Issac, director general of the Applied Research Institute– Jerusalem, 19–20 October 2009.

47 Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Agriculture Statistics Annual Report 2008, (accessed 5 September 2009).

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49 See also B'tselem, Not all it Seems: Preventing Palestinians Access to Their Land West of the Separation Barrier in the Tulkarem/Qalqilya Area (2004), 11.

50 UNOCHA and UNRWA, Humanitarian Impact of the West Bank Barrier, 13.

51 Interview with author, Jayus, 3 August 2006.

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57 Statistics in this paragraph are from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Occupied Palestinian Territories), The Planning Crisis in East Jerusalem: Understanding the Phenomenon of “Illegal” Construction (Jerusalem, 2009), (accessed 19 September 2009).

58 Isabel Kershner, “UN Seeks End to Razing of Homes in East Jerusalem,” New York Times (1 May 2009): A1, (accessed 19 September 2009).

59 United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Territorial Fragmentation of the West Bank (2006).

60 Interviews with author, Ramallah, 25 December 2004, and Ezaria, 27 December 2004.

61 For a comprehensive analytical description of the architecture and built environment of the Israeli occupation, see Eyal Weizman, Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation (London: Verso, 2007).

62 I am indebted to Adi Opher for this insight about checkpoints as camps.

63 Interview with author, Beit Jala, 31 July 2005.