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WAR ON A DAILY BASIS

BY NICOLE SCHUSTER

 

When I first flipped through Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin's book entitled Chicago, the pictures of cans of coke, watermelon, birdcage, walls full of graffiti's and car wrecks, followed by pages without numeration really surprised me. Each reproduction seems to be a piece of surrealistic scenery. Unfortunately, it is not fictional. This kind of surrealism is part of the Israelis and Palestinians' real life. These items that at first sight appear benign because they belong to our daily environment might actually hide a booby-trap made by warriors who fight with asymmetrical means against the so-called "occupation policy" applied by Israel. With these pictures, Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin want to show how the metastases of war invade each organic fibre of the Israeli and Palestinian society. The book starts with the unveiling of the existence of a fake military town called Chicago built in the middle of the Negev desert where, as the authors write: "Everything that happened happened here first, in rehearsal". All wars led and to be led by Israel in the future are being practiced in Chicago. From the pictures we can deduct that, though artificial and phantasmagorical, this town has a lot in common with the territories destined to be occupied by Israel. It is therefore not neutral that the book begins with a description of this ghost town that shows only desolation and apocalyptic sceneries.

As a matter of fact, in that region war is omnipresent, tangible. This can particularly be observed through the architectural structure of the occupied territories. But the worst is that the phenomenon of war becomes surreptitiously incrusted in the collective unconscious of Israeli people, so that it converts itself into a quasi natural occurrence in their daily life. This could be interpreted as a manifestation of estrangement, since considering war as a natural phenomenon or even as a contingency is a symptom of alienation. That may be particularly true if one realizes that the "civilian occupation" is supported by a whole theological and philosophical system. Therefore, in the frame of the strategy for reshaping the Jewish "Memory", a new semantic approach grants the Jewish "mission" the aura of holiness it needs to be legitimated. Biblical symbols such as a rock, a tree, a hill chosen to express the original suffering and resistance of the Jewish people against the Gentiles, are used as a mythical rallying point in the implantation of a new Israeli colony. Another consequence of this process of sacralization is the systematic appropriation of strategic hilltops which provides Israeli settlers with an extraordinary capacity of control over the neighbourhood and converts them into sentinels of the policy of “reconquest”.

Eyal Weizman, architect and author of "Hollow Land", who contributes with his comments to the elaboration of this book, insists on the fact that a demystification of the biblical symbols used in the frame of the policy of civil occupation is a must. Also, people should learn to look at those apparently innocent objects like cans of coke, watermelons, etc... and be aware of the role they might play in this situation of constant conflict. Each of them could hide a piece of this awful war.

As Weizman states, Broomberg and Chanarin have the great merit of having succeeded at their task of translating into an accessible language the hidden mechanisms of this war and the pernicious and long-term consequences that they have on people.

 

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