The Palestinian Built Environment in Jerusalem: New Municipality, State and Regional Dynamics
Israeli planning regimes have been examined as strategies of ethnocracy (Yiftachel 2006), while others have seen the built environment as a key tool of ‘necropolitics’ or as a means through which domination takes shape (Mbembe 2003; Weizman 2007). Studies on Jerusalem master plans have emphasized increased displacement of Palestinians and how the building permission requirements have created structural obstacles for Palestinians and their displacement from the city (Arafeh 2016). While these plans have been addressed in isolation, I propose to read these alongside new regional dynamics and Palestinian class formation. I will focus on the state decision 3790 for ‘integrating’ Palestinian residents in the city and new municipality plans for real estate and high-tech projects alongside UAE investments.
In 2018, a new Israeli government decision (Resolution 3790) was passed entitled “Reducing socio-economic disparities and economic development in East Jerusalem”. The new plan states that there is a “need to strengthen the ability of East Jerusalem residents to integrate into Israeli society and economy” this is in order to serve “the aim of strengthening the economic and social resilience of the entire capital” (Gov. No 3790). It spans several sectors including transport, education, economics and commerce, employment and social welfare provision, in addition to planning, land and property registration. Most importantly, the new plan focuses on integrating Palestinians into the Israeli workforce –with specific emphasis on women– and overhauling land registration in the city. The decision was passed at the state level and mandates various ministries and the Jerusalem municipality for intervention in the city.
More recently in 2020, the Jerusalem municipality accounted a new project entitled ‘Silicon Wadi’ aimed at creating a high-tech hub in the Palestinian neighborhood Wadi al-Joz and attracting UAE investments in the venture. The 2.1-billion shekel ($600m) project aims to create a hub for high tech companies, commerce and hotels. According to the municipality, the aim is to create 10,000 new jobs to train Palestinians in tech and specifically to offer Arab women job opportunities. The project is an extension of the aims of government resolution 3790. This draws attention to important works on the question of scale and region, whereby Hanieh has examined how Gulf capital has been an important part of regional class formation as well as Palestinian class formation in particular.
If planning is an integral state process of regulating spatial and social order, then it is essential to follow social life of planning processes and mapping social relations to understand the volatile contradiction of displacement and destruction alongside integration and investment. At times, the construction of a built environment rather than its destruction can be just as important to understand how these oppressive structures maintain themselves and take place.
Lucy Garbett is a PhD Student at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) in the Department of Sociology. She holds an MSc in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London. Before starting her PhD she worked for a number of organizations in Palestine on political economy and gender.