*The Conflict Shoreline*, best non-fiction book of the year

For best non-fiction book of the year, a late entry swoops in to take first place!  That’s right, I am going to select The Conflict Shoreline: Colonization as Climate Change in the Negev Desert, by Eyal Weizman and Fazal Sheikh.

This is an unusual book.  It is only 85 pp. of text and about half of it is aerial photos and maps.  It covers the history of the Negev desert, the Bedouin, Israeli policy toward the Bedouin, ecology, seed botany, and the roles of water policy and climate change, all in remarkably interesting and information-rich fashion, with a dose of Braudel and also Sebald in terms of method.

For one thing, it caused me to rethink what books as a whole should be.  This is one cool book.

To make it stranger yet, this book is Weizman’s response to Sheikh’s The Erasure Trilogy, which is structured as a tour of the ruins of the 1948 conflict.  That book is I believe from a Palestinian point of view, and described as a “visual poem.”  I just ordered it; note that Sheikh is the photographer for The Conflict Shoreline and thus listed as a co-author.

Some will read The Conflict Shoreline as “anti-Israeli” in parts, but that is not the main point of the book or my endorsement of it.  The book however does point out that Israeli policies toward the Bedouin often were prompted by a desire to remove large numbers of them from their previous Negev land and move them into the West Bank and Egypt.  I had not known “The village of al-‘Araqib has been destroyed and rebuilt more than 70 times in the ongoing “Battle over the Negev””.  The book ends with a two-page evidentiary aerial photo of that village, taken during 1945; other photos of it date as far back as 1918.  This is all part of Weizman’s project of “reverse surveillance.”

It is a hard book to summarize, in part because it is so visual and so integrative, but here is one excerpt:

The Negev Desert is the largest and busiest training area for the Israeli Air Force and has one of the most cluttered airspaces in the world.  The airspace is partitioned into a complex stratigraphy of layers, airboxes, and corridors dedicated to different military platforms: from bomber jets through helicopters to drones.  This complex volume is an integral part of the architecture of the Negev.

And then it will move to a discussion of seed technology, or how Bedouin economic strategies have changed over the course of the twentieth century, and how these various topics fit together.  Think of it also as a contribution to location theory and economic geography, but adding vertical space, manipulated topography, rainfall, and temperature to the relevant dimensions of the problem.

Too bad it costs $40.00.  Recommended, nonetheless.  Here is one review, here is another, the latter having especially good photos of the book’s photos.

Here is a good interview with Weizman, who among other things outlines his concept of Forensic Architecture.

Here is my earlier post on the best non-fiction books of 2015.  And here is an earlier post the best books under one hundred pages.



Obscure pick. It reminds me of an article on whether New Jersey marshes should be labeled as "wetlands" and preserved, despite so much development in and around them.

Happy New Year! My chess is improving rapidly now that I've cut back on work; I'm nearly an Expert! Worth it!

Is there any mention of how uncomplicated the airspace is over this part of the Negev?

'The Negev Nuclear Research Center (Hebrew: קריה למחקר גרעיני – נגב‎) is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometers to the south-east of the city of Dimona. The purpose of Dimona is believed to be the manufacture of Israeli nuclear weapons. Israel acknowledges the existence of the site, but refuses to disclose any information about its purpose in a policy known as nuclear ambiguity. Information about the facility remains highly classified.

An estimate based on the known power of the reactor (at least 150 MW) concluded that enough plutonium for 100 to 200 nuclear bombs could have been produced by the year 2000. The airspace over it is closed to all aircraft, and the area around it is heavily guarded and fenced off. During the Six-Day War, an Israeli missile shot down an Israeli Mirage III fighter that inadvertently flew over Dimona. In 1973 a strayed Libyan airliner was approaching the airspace above Dimona facility. Israeli fighters shot it down after failure to make it follow them, killing 108 people.' https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Negev_Nuclear_Research_Center

It sounds as if you expect some musical triumph -- big bass drums-- to emerge out of your description.
Are you expecting shock? Tut-tuts? What?

There is a war going on and the Israelis want to control access to information about the nuclear plant.
So? Seems fairly obvious thing to do.

Bedouins and Israelis, eh? Somebody got erased for sure. Can you say Christians and Pagans??

This reminds me of a proverb I once heard:

Rather the cruelty of the Turks than the justice of the Bedouins

I'm not sure but I think even to Arabs centuries ago, who were not known for their mercy, the Bedouins were notorious for their viciousness when preying upon Arab traders.

My stray thought for the day.

This is simply Natural Selection in action, only a Marxist would think that a failed culture such as the Bedouin deserves to be preserved.

You have to raise your game if you wish to be taken seriously as a troll. In fact, Marxists don't believe in culture preservation; they are famous for believing in internationalism and the suppression of national impulses. Do you not recall the scene from the excellent and largely factual movie "Munich"?


Ah -- scare quotes. They always make anti-Semitism much more digestible, and we thank you for providing them.

It's curious that you don't provide them when discussing "racism" or "climate change" though. Odd.

Some people think it's anti-semitic to suggest that there's a reason the Palestinians are pissed off.

The mere act of pointing out any wrong doing, or even questionable judgment, on the part of the state of Israel, is anti-semitic to some.

There is real anti-semitism in the world. The word should be saved for cases of actual anti-semitism.

Some people think it’s anti-semitic to suggest that there’s a reason the Palestinians are pissed off.

And some people keep pointing out to you that the Arabs on the West Bank and in Gaza have not one practical idea for improving their situation because the only political goal that's acceptable to them incorporates the Jews cutting their own throats.

"In ecology, the theory of alternative stable states (sometimes termed alternate stable states or alternative stable equilibria) predicts that ecosystems can exist under multiple “states” (sets of unique biotic and abiotic conditions)."

Low level war is a stable ecology in the eastern Mediterranean.

Takes two to tango.

It's hard to develop practical ideas to improve their situation when they are under military occupation.

This is silly.

- when Israel left Gaza the Palestinians built rockets, not schools, and elected Hamas the following year

- Israel has at least twice offered to hand over 97-98% of the so called occupied territory. The offers were refused.

- many Palestinians live inside Israel and enjoy more freedom than any of their Muslim neighbours.

So to make the excuse that Palestinians cannot abandon their obsession with murder after being given Gaza, offered the rest and seeing their brethren treated fairly within Israel, is probably an act of subliminal contempt on your part.

You are unwilling to hold them to a standard that we would hold all other peoples in the same situation. You believe the Palestinians are incapable of employing basic reason and morality.

Chip - OK, so Canada can invade Vermont, any American who lifts a finger is a terrorist (not a freedom fighter), and when we impose a nearly absolute blockade at all points of entry to Vermont, it is correct for us to blame the people of Vermont for a) not rolling over and b) failing to build their economy.

Oh, and anyone who criticizes Canada for dong so is racist.

This is what we learn from Israel.

Your analogy of the situation in Gaza speaks of a "nearly absolute blockade at all points of entry to Vermont." But Israel cannot blockade all points of entry into Gaza unless it controls the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt from either the Gaza or the Egyptian side, which of course is not the case. One can debate the morality of a country maintaining a sea embargo of a state with which its relationship is best described as just short of a hot-war, but hopefully you aren't suggesting that the Israelis and the Egyptians should have no control over what goes from their territory to Gaza. That would be the equivalent of suggesting that Canada cannot prevent anyone from crossing the border with Vermont with anything they wish to carry.

You speak in really broad strokes there, as you seem to have a tendency to do in these comment pages. Are you really familiar with the "Palestinian situation?" As in: personal experience? You know specific people who are validating your blanket assertion that the only "practical idea" Arabs in the West Bank are capable of contemplating is for Jews cutting their own throats? Cite some valid contemporary sources. Maybe engage personally (not on a comments page) with real, live, actual people with an existential interest in the situation?

Does the nonfiction book of the year have to have any resemblance to the truth? https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Araqeeb#Court_findings

Maybe someone should do a book about Indian land claims decided by the US Court of Claims.

"The book however does point out that Israeli policies toward the Bedouin often were prompted by a desire to remove large numbers of them from their previous Negev land and move them into the West Bank and Egypt. "

There are now over 200,000 Negev Bedouins, the world's fastest growing population. If Israel is practicing ethnic cleansing, they are doing a really horrible job. Or, to put it another way, "SCOREBOARD, MOTHERFUC***!"

The wikipedia article on the Negev Bedouin contains this line: "[T]he rate of growth of the Negev Bedouin is the highest in the world – the Bedouin population doubles its size every 15 years." Are the Israelis really that much more incompetent at ethnically cleansing as the forebears of the current residents of the Arabian peninsula were ten centuries ago, or is it possible their motives are not as described?

The government should not have poisoned the wheat. That is too revealing. Impossible to paint as compassionate governance.

I am sure all libertarians agree.

Israeli is not committing genocide they are only destroying homes and infiltrating the areas. A policy of lebensraum-lite ironically.

It may be outside the scope of the book but since it mentions littorals, anything about the Israeli attack of the USS Liberty?

Imagine if Russia killed 34 US naval personnel and what a pretext for war that would be now - by virtue of fog of war or otherwise. Freeloading client states of the US MIC get a pass one supposes.

As an interesting aside: There is no formal US treaty to protect Israel. Israel is not an ally of the US, it more of a partner but really a client state.


Israel's budget is about $100 billion and US military aid is $3 billion. Hardly freeloading and they certainly go it alone.

And what is $3 billion compared with Israeli contributions to the world in science, medicine and technology. How many lives have been saved by a nation with the highest per capita concentration of scientists.

Odds are you have taken one of their drugs or used their technology.

Israel punches well above its weight in terms of improving the welfare of humanity.

Israel also gets an unquestioned veto in the UNSC, via the USA, whenever it wants.

With that level of diplomatic support, I think Americans very much have the right to be intrusive and questioning of the country.

The US diplomatically doesn't protect Israel, it protects the surrounding anti-Israel countries from Israel.

If the US wasn't continually restraining and hobbling Israel diplomatically (i.e. just left the region completely alone), what stops Israel from just forcing the surrender of it's neighbors? US diplomatic policy is anti-Israel and for a variety of reasons, Israel listens, doing things like offering to give up lots of land, etc... already won for a buffer of protection in wars Israel didn't start.

For your Canada/Vermont example, you left out the part where Vermont repeatedly sent military forces against Canada first and bombed Canada from Vermont, declared they won't stop until all Canadians anywhere in Canada are dead, then refused to accept binding peace agreements in return for Canada leaving and giving Vermont back, then the rest of the US closed their border with Vermont because they apparently hate the local population... so it's all Canada's fault somehow.

What was Israel supposed to do when they were attacked militarily? Just give up and die? Refuse to fight back, to attack back against their attackers? Wait for them to come up with a better

That last should have ended with "Wait for them to come up with a better way to destroy Israel?"

Zionism was stupid idea from the start. They should have gone somewhere that already wasn't full of people who wanted their own country. Jews had an explicit project to demographically invade the area (aka the Zionist project) long before they were a target of any Arab/Palestinian violence.

Anyways, the facts on the ground are what they are, and the Palestinians would probably be smart to just roll over and do whatever the people with the big guns say. What can I say ... people are proud and some would rather rot in hell rather than roll over and accept a claim that has less historical legitimacy than Turkey's claim to Xinjiang in the west of China.

The US hobbles Israel diplomatically? Aside from American officials occasionally asking Israel to stop the settlements, the tiny country of Israel basically gets to pull every diplomatic string it wants for fear of being called anti-Israel.

Anyways, recent history as led me to define anti-semitism as follows: failure to bow deeply enough to Netanyahu.

Is significant military aid and the power to use America`s UNSC veto at will not enough for you? Perhaps the American constitution should be changed so that American foreign policy if formally determined in Jerusalem?

Israel also punches well above its weight in committing crimes against humanity.


Please inform the Bahai, the Druze and the Kurds.

Someone else is doing wrong, so we should give Israel a free pass and unquestioningly support them in whatever they want.

So supporting Israel is good because of a cost vs. benefit argument now for the GLOBAL economy?

At least some are acknowledging the absurdity of the whole 'no daylight' in US vs. Israel relations as some supreme moral principle.

If we are performing a cost benefit analysis, I would argue that the US squanders a lot of diplomatic capital and real US tax dollars for military aid and receives little or negative benefit in return. No symmetrical levels of military support in terms of Israeli troops, logistics, airfield, or ports.

Times change, allies or 'allies' diverge interest. GWB believed in
forgiving Russia, ignoring Germany, punishing France for their transgressions in the Iraq invasion at one point.

This is a very one-sided description.
There are a lot of beduin Villages, some of them quite big that are not being destroyed.
Al-Arkib is an unrecognized village, for which the beduin population don't own the land. The Israeli Goverment position is that there was no village there,
and the attempts to claim so are just means to take the land, and the re-building of the village are attempts to force the goverment's hands by setting facts on the ground.
This went to court, and the beduins couldn't prove they had a village there in 1858, when such villages were recognized by the Turks.

Comments for this post are closed