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Guess Who Is Reading Deleuze and Guattari

It’s the Israeli military! Particularly this guy:


Shimon Naveh (also known as Foucault on Steroids). In “Walking through walls: Soldiers as architects in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Eyal Weizman documents the developing tactic of employing “inverse geometry” in urban warfare. This basically means that instead of following the routes made possible by the existing infrastructure, the Israeli military has been creating their own paths through existing structures.

“Soldiers used none of the streets, roads, alleys and courtyards that make up the order of the city, and none of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows that make up the order of the building, but moved horizontally through party walls, and vertically through holes blasted through ceilings and floors” (2).

The destruction of civilian property this implies is immense. During operations, civilians have died after being locked in rooms of their own cut-through homes for days (3).

The Israeli military adopted this strategy after boning up on much of the theory that circulates through the blood of uber-liberal PhD programs. Here’s super-Foucault on Deleuze and Guattari: “Most important was the distinction they have pointed out between the concepts of ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space….In [the Israeli Defense Force] we now often use the term ‘to smoothen out space’ when we want to refer to an operation in a space as if it had no borders. We try to produce the operational space in such a manner that borders do not affect us” (3). Roid-Fouc ends with: “What we need is not to be there–but…to act there” (4).

Let’s circle back to ZDT. I think it brings to light the growing conviction of our own military/security apparatus in this axiom. What is important is not the occupation of a striated space so clearly represented as impossible to manage in Hurt Locker–but simply the tactical ability to locate anyone anywhere and kill them. It is critical to note that operations done via “fractal maneuvers” along routes defined by “inverse geometrical principles” are often hidden from sight. The military appropriates for itself private spaces to conduct its business. In its production of a totally smooth theater of operations, it also becomes invisible.

If ultimately the goal of the IDF in creating or creating the capacity to create smooth operational spaces is to enable the end of a physical occupation of Palestinian territory, is this really the end of “occupation”? Or is the threat of having one’s home punctured and one’s self locked in the bathroom for three days a different kind of occupation, one still in violation of basic human rights? Is it possible that in representing an “end” in the War on Terror that is concurrent with American troop withdrawals in Afghanistan, ZDT also marks the beginning of new, subtler kind of occupation of Pakistan and its border areas? And how do those huge drilling machines in the 90’s Total Recall fit into this?

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About the Author

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Joe Hall is the author of five books of poetry, including Someone's Utopia (2018) and Fugue & Strike (forthcoming). His poems, reviews, and scholarship have appeared in Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets Poem-A-Day, Postcolonial Studies, Peach Mag,, PEN America Blog, Poetry Northwest, Ethel Zine, Gulf Coast, Best Buds! Collective, and Eighteenth-Century Fiction. He has taught poetry workshops for teachers, teens, and workers through Just Buffalo and the WNYCOSH Worker Center.


  1. First, I learned my Foucault and Deleuze at Purdue University, hardly a center of “uber-liberal PhD programs.” While both authors have their vocal and persistent conservative critics, so does Darwin. That Deleuze or Foucault is something ‘uber’ or extreme begs a certain critical scrutiny.

    That being said, I don’t really buy the idea that the I”D”F depends upon the insights of post-modernism to help them discover the dubious pleasures of going where ever the fuck they want whenever they fucking want to. They have been been frolicking in a similar manner since 1948, long before continental ‘theory’ came to be.

    The whole essay seems not to be so much an essay on the abuse of post-modern thought, as it is a back-door denigration… well not as much a ‘back-door’ denigration as a ‘to-hell-with-any-barrier’ denigration by association… of post-modernism.

    Humans never were so civilized (dare I type ‘utopic’ without betraying my affiliations here?) as to restrict violence between nation-states’ formal declarations of war exchanged through diplomatic channels. We never needed the ideas of Foucault or Deleuze (however abused and twisted) to justify or renovate our penchant for selfish brutality, torture, or revenge.. There is nothing new about justifying evil for the sake of the better good, or just knocking down the wall when one isn’t inclined to enter though the door.

    • joescirehall

      Hey Mike, I think you’re right here in terms of the idea that we don’t need “Foucault or Deleuze to justify or renovate our penchant for selfish brutality, torture, or revenge.” And certainly, the IDF could have developed this tactic through trial and error before codifying using these theorists to rationalize that codification here. I suppose I’m guilty of using a “hook” into this post that reveals my own naivete but which I also hoped would get people to the end, which I’m convinced now needs more emphasis/elaboration. For me, the shock is not that the IDF is literally teaching these texts nor that it has used them to perfect and ingrain certain tactics but that the tactics themselves, as Eyal W points out, represent a NEW kind of violation of human rights in the long sad history of the violation of human rights. Traditionally, a military uses roads and other public infrastructure to get to a target in a city which is occupied by civilians and isn’t in a total siege state (in which all rules are off). The point here is that the IDF is arriving at their targets by making routes which purposefully avoid public infrastructure (and public visibility). Instead, the routes are developed by blasting through walls, through buildings, etc. & this is happening not in a state of total war but in the perpetual policing of Palestinian camps/cities. These operations often end in “intimate” killings. They seem like the other side of remote drone strikes in the toolbox of the modern nation state completely willing to engage in unlawful assassinations. The difference is that while the drone and the operator of the drone are invisible, the results and the collateral damage are highly visible. Not so with using “inverse geometry” to “worm” through the interior of a city. I think the tactic is worth pointing out and distinguishing. I think its something to be worried about.

      • ” For me, the shock is not that the IDF is literally teaching these texts nor that it has used them to perfect and ingrain certain tactics…”

        First, they are not teaching the texts. Nor do the texts perfect or ingrain certain tactics. Just as Patton wasn’t teaching the bible with his liberal scripture quotations, or perfect or ingrain certain tactics. He as teaching something. But it was about appropriation and propaganda.

        “…represent a NEW kind of violation of human rights in the long sad history of the violation of human rights.”

        But the military have been knocking down walls since the battering ram and the catapault. They’ve been going vertical to violate human rights since the Blitz, Dresden, and Hiroshima. The only thing inventive about the Israeli tactics involves their access to large quantities of C-4.

        I saw the same behavior about twenty years ago with Fractals. Everyone saw a fractal in everything they wanted to see them in. “Look! It’s a fractal!” but their observations seldom allowed for any further insight or understanding into the issue. It’s seems the same to me with post-modernism. People who really don’t get post-modernism (and I don’t claim to ‘get it’ entirely by any means) see (imagine) it in everything. And that’s fine, but it doesn’t lead to further insight: it doesn’t for example give much if any insight into what the IDF might try tomorrow, or give their victims a formula for countering the “new” IDF tactics. Association between the IDF tactics and post-modern philosophy doesn’t lead anywhere substantial vis-a-vis what the IDF might do next. But this kind of analysis has a (more clandestine) purpose: it leads the reader towards making some conclusions about Foucault’s and Deleuze’s work itself, but conclusions based on the weakest of premises.

        To my reading, Foucault and Deleuze don’t present a predictive theory: a theory of what will happen tomorrow, as much as give instructions about how to better understand what is happening in their present and recent past. One learns from them by exactly the same means that one learns from history (those who don’t are condemned to repeat it). I would contend both authors are very cautious to warn readers that their theories are not predictive but descriptive, and that their worldview will become obsolete in the near future.

    • joescirehall

      Thanks for the comments, Mike. It’s good to know people are reading and this is helping me push the conversation along in my head.

  2. Here’s an application of ‘smooth space’ as it pertains to the Palestine situation

    Notice how Butler rejects the national borders of Israel as coincidential to Jewish identity, and her insistence that Arabs and others within those borders should not lose their fundamental human rights as a result of that political geography. This kind of critical analysis of ‘smooth’ and ‘striated’ space is much more consistent with my understanding of post-modern philosophy. It also provides for convincing arguments that lend ‘artillery’ to effective social change.

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