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Israel’s Biospatial Politics: Territory, Demography, and Effective Control

Israel’s Biospatial Politics:
Territory, Demography,
and Eective Control
Yinon Cohen and Neve Gordon
Not long after the June 1967 war, at a meeting of the
Labor Party, Golda Meir turned to Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and asked: “What
are we going to do with a million Arabs?” Eshkol paused for a moment and then
answered: “I get it,” he said. “You want the dowry, but you don’t like the bride!”
This anecdote underscores that, from the very beginning, Israel made a clear
distinction between the land it had occupied in the 1967 war the dowry and
the Palestinians who inhabited it the bride. While the distinction between the
people and their land swiftly became the overarching logic informing the struc-
ture of Israel’s colonial project in the occupied territories, it has also informed
Israel’s land policies within the pre- 1967 borders (Said 1980). Indeed, the notion
that there are “two Israels” the virtuous liberal democracy west of the Green
Line, or the 1949 armistice agreement border, and the iniquitous colonial regime
within the territories Israel occupied in 1967 is a construct disseminated by
liberal Zionists that conceals the intricate connection between race and space
produced by the Jewish state.1 This “good Israel” / “bad Israel” framing does not
hold water once one acknowledges that the Judaization of land has been a prime
objective of every single government since Israels establishment in 1948, while
the modes of Palestinian dispossession on both sides of the Green Line have been
uncannily similar.
Public Culture 30:2 DOI 10.1215/08992363-4310888
Copyright 2018 by Duke Universit y Press
We ack nowle dge equ al con tri buti on a nd woul d l ike to tha nk Mic hal Bra ier , Is aac Coh en, Yose f
Grodzinsky, Nicola Perugini, Moriel Ram, Michal Rotem, Catherine Rottenberg, and Niza Yanay for
their comments and suggestions. Neve Gordon acknowledges the support of the Leverhulme Trust.
1. We often use th e wor d race rat her than t he term more commonly employed in the academic
literature on Israelethnicity because in Hebrew the manifestations of these policies are often
described as racist and never as a result of ethnic hatred.
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Expropriating land, does not, however, guarantee spatial control or the Judaiza-
tion of space. Critical social scientists have shown how from the “tower and stock-
ade” method of settling Jews in Mandatory Palestine through the establishment of
Jewish towns in the Galilee and the Negev to the construction of settlements and
outposts in the West Bank, Zionist leaders have always understood that without
civilian presence on the ground effective control of Palestinian land could not be
secured. Thus, alongside efforts to empty the land of its Palestinian inhabitants,
Jewish civilians were relocated to the land seized from the indigenous popula-
tion and deployed within the broader architecture of control as an integral part
of the process through which space has been racialized and rendered “Jewish.”
This process has depended on the creation of a strict bifurcation between Jews
and Palestinians, which today may seem all too natural but was, in fact, produced
over time through the introduction of a variety of mechanisms, including decisions
relating to demographic classications. Underscoring how the Judaization of land
is tied to the state’s biopolitical techniques helps to make sense of the interplay
among territory, demography, and effective control.
Using Israel’s land- grabbing practices alongside its demographic classications
as a conceptual lens, in the following pages we make two claims: one about biospa-
tial strategies, including the construction of space as a racialized category, and the
other historical. We derive the term biospatial from Michel Foucault’s (2003) notion
of biopower, which deals with the population as a political problem. Biopower uses
statistical devices and scientic methods as well as mechanisms of surveillance
to measure and intervene in a set of processes designed to maximize and extract
forces from individuals and at times to repress and subjugate them. As opposed to
discipline, however, these biotechniques operate on the level of the population rather
than the individual. The term biospatial denotes the deployment of such biotech-
niques to demarcate, control, manage, shape, and ascribe signication to space. In
other words, biospatial is a term that helps describe the diverse mechanisms and
processes by which space is constituted as racialized or in racialized terms.
We accordingly show that the particular biospatial scaffolding underlying
Israel’s colonial project has deployed two major strategies made up of legal-
bureaucratic mechanisms of dispossession alongside the movement of Jewish
civilians to settle Palestinian land across the entire territory located between
the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea in order to grab and control as much
land as possible (Falah 2003).2 We go on to draw a conne ction bet ween these str at-
2. Since Israel’s withdrawal from the G aza Strip in 2005, the methods through which it is
controlled without permanent presence on the ground are rad ically different from the met hods
used in the West Bank. We t herefore do not discuss the Gaza Strip in this article.
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egies and statistical classications and techniques of enumeration that Israel has
adopted in order to delineate its efforts to racialize the appropriated space. These
classications and forms of enumeration at times not only defy international
standards of statistical reporting (Cohen 2015) but are deployed to either cement
or sever the connection between people and space. Historically, we identify a
boomerang trajectory, beginning with the massive conscation and Judaization
of Palestinian land in the wake of the 1948 war, then extending and duplicating
many of the practices originally developed inside Israel to the West Bank in 1967,
and nally turning back inward to solidify the racialization of land within Israel.
When we consider that settler colonialism, as Patrick Wolfe (2006) has shown,
is a structure and not an event, this recoiling movement across space is neither
surprising nor unexpected.
The Racial- Spatial Logic
Before the 1948 war, there were nearly three hundred Jewish and over six hundred
Palestinian villages and towns in the territory that would later become Israel.
During the war, Palestinian cities were depopulated and about ve hundred Pales-
tinian villages were destroyed, while most of their inhabitants either ed or were
expelled across international borders, becoming refugees in neighboring coun-
tries. In total, about 750,000 Palestinians were displaced in what today would be
characterized as ethnic cleansing, while thousands more were internally displaced
within the nascent Jewish state. By 1951 the Palestinians who had become refu-
gees were “replaced” by a similar number of Jewish immigrants, both Holocaust
survivors from Europe and Mizrahi Jews from Arab countries, thus transforming
the nascent state’s ethnic composition without altering its overall population size
(Cohen 2002).
Soon after the war, Israel introduced a series of administrative and legal mech-
anisms to seize Palestinian land (Zureik 1979). It classied property belonging
to Palestinian refugees rst as “abandoned” and then as “absentee property” and
quickly appropriated it, while also conscating much of the land owned by the Pal-
estinians residing in the one hundred villages that survived the war (this includes
the villages that were transferred from Jordan to Israel as a result of the 1949 armi-
stice agreement). The establishment of a military government (1948 66) respon-
sible for governing the Palestinian citizens within the edgling state (Sa’di 2013)
facilitated the massive conscation of land. A twofold strategy was adopted: Israel
conned the estimated 160,000 Palestinians who had remained in the Jewish state
to their villages and simultaneously converted Palestinian land into closed mili-
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tary zones and nature reserves, conscated what it dened as absentee property,
and prohibited Palestinians from cultivating agricultural plots, all the while reg-
istering their estates as state land (Khamaisi 2003). As we will see, the post- 1967
strategies implemented in the occupied territories and associated with the “bad
Israel” by liberal Zionists had their origins in these earlier practices. Indeed, as
early as 1951, the state effectively owned 92 percent of the land within its judicial
territory, up from 13.5 percent in 1948 (Forman and Kedar 2004).
Yet, as mentioned, seizing land alone does not guarantee effective control or
the reconstitution of space and its racialization as Jewish. Using the rhetoric of
“population dispersal,” Israel consequently established new Jewish towns to attract
large numbers of immigrants to areas still populated by Palestinians and created
agricultural settlements to ensure control over large swaths of Palestinian land. Of
the 370 new Jewish settlements established soon after 1948, 350 were built on or
in proximity to Palestinian villages that had been destroyed (Kedar and Yiftachel
2006). While Jews of all stripes and classes settled on conscated Palestinian land,
the state sent mostly new Mizrahi immigrants a weak socioeconomic group to
Israel’s periphery, especially to the frontiers along its borders. This, according
to Ela Shohat (1988), raised their anti- Palestinian sentiments and strengthened
their non- Arab identity. In later years, middle- and upper- middle- class Jews were
offered incentives to relocate to the Galilee to live in hilltop communities overlook-
ing Palestinian villages. As Alexandre Kedar and Oren Yiftachel (2006) explain,
the Palestinian settlement map was “frozen” in 1948 by prohibiting the establish-
ment of new Palestinian villages and towns and arresting the development of those
still intact after the war by conscating most of their land reserves, preventing any
development outside the already developed area, and surrounding them with Jew-
ish settlements. In this way, Israel created a “geography of enclaves” in which the
vast majority of Israel’s Palestinian citizens have remained until this day even as
their population has increased tenfold. Not surprisingly, these policies maintained
and reproduced extreme residential segregation between Jews and Palestinians.
Residential segregation characterized by acute disparity in the state’s invest-
ment in infrastructure and social services is arguably the most salient feature
informing the organization of Israeli space, with the vast majority of localities
dened as either Jewish or non- Jewish by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics
(CBS). To create and maintain such segregation, Israel adopted a variety of bio-
political techniques while harnessing statistical tools to produce and reproduce a
series of classications that create a clear demarcation between Jews and Palestin-
ians; it did so by homogenizing the former and fragmenting the latter. From the
outset, the CBS adopted religion as the population’s primary classication, while
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framing the Jews as the norm and contrasting
them with all “non- Jews” in its statistical re-
ports. To this day the word Palestinian does not
appear in Israel’s statistical abstracts, while only
in 1995 did the word Arab nally emerge after
decades in which Palestinians were referred to
by their religion or as “non- Jews,” reminiscent
of their treatment in the Balfour Declaration and
the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine.
Moreover, to determine their origin,” Jews
are classied according to their (or the father’s)
country of birth. Possible “origins” do not in-
clude Mizrahim or Arab Jews (presumably be-
cause they are divisive) but only include con-
tinents of birth. If, however, both respondents
and their fathers were born in Israel, they are
assigned an “Israeli origin.” Kenneth Prewitt
(2013: 217), a former director of the United
States Census Bureau, calls this “Israel’s policy
of ethnic erasure,” explaining that it was de-
signed to solve any problem of [Jewish] ethnic
cleavage.” One of its outcomes was the rapid
erasure of the Arab origin of Mizrahim, about
half the Jewish population, thus contributing to
the “cleansing,” in Ella Shohat’s (1988) words,
of their Arabness, while ensuring that Arab Jews
would swiftly become “Israeli.” By contrast,
Palestinians have always been unable to attain
the status of “Israeli origin” irrespective of how
many generations their ancestors have resided in
Israel/Palestine (Cohen 2002). In fact, they have
no “origin,” only religion. In other words, according to Israel’s ofcial statistics,
all Jews ultimately become “Israeli” within the span of two generations, and no
Palestinian can ever become “Israeli.” This produces a bifurcated racial reality
where Jewishness trumps all other categories of identication, which, in turn,
both reects and helps reproduce the state’s mechanisms of control as well as its
spatial politics.
A case in point is nationality. The word nationality has never appeared in
Figure 1 Israel and the occupied
territories (Central Intelligence
Agency, The World Factbook
/publications/ the- world- factbo ok
/geos/is.html, accessed Oc tober 21,
2017]) The map has been altered,
deleting some of the cities that
appear in the original and adding
markers relevant to the article.
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CBS reporting, probably because adding nationality would undo the strict division
between Jews and Palestinians. Nationality, however, is recorded by the state’s
population registry, which has a list of 135 acceptable nationalities, yet “Israeli”
is not one of them. In most cases, the registry determines nationality according to
religion, the most common being Jewish (for Jews and their non- Jewish relatives),
Arab (for Muslims and “Arab Christians”), and Druze. A 2008 petition led by
citizens of different registered nationalities, including Jewish, Arab, and Druze,
asked the Jerusalem District Court to compel the state to register their national-
ity as “Israeli.” The court rejected the petition, ruling that such a change has “far
reaching implications for the State of Israel’s identity,” while accepting in part the
government’s claim that an Israeli nationality would “undermine the foundation
of the State of Israel” (Uzi Ornan et al. v. Ministry of Interior et al. # 6092/07;
clauses 58, 14). In 2013 Israel’s Supreme Court upheld this decision.
The statistical acrobatics carried out following the mass migration from the
former Soviet Union in the 1990s underscores even further the steps the CBS
has been willing to take to consolidate the strict Jewish/Palestinian divide: add-
ing non- Jews to the Jewish group as long as they are not Palestinians (Lustick
1999). Out of an estimated one million immigrants who arrived on Israel’s shores,
approximately 250,000 had Jewish relatives but were themselves either Christian
or had no religious afliation. The CBS decided to alter the way it classies the
entire population and labeled the new non- Jewish immigrants as “others,” uniting
them with Jews in a group called “Jews and others.This group is contrasted in
the statistical abstracts with the newly created group Arab population,” which
includes only Muslims, Druze, and Christians. Thus, since the mid- 199 0s, a ccord-
ing to the CBS, there are two kinds of Christians in Israel: Arab Christians”
and “non- Arab Christians.” The algorithm developed by the CBS to distinguish
between these two groups is based in part on where they live, namely, in a “Jewish
locality” or a “non- Jewish” one. This suggests that race and space are mutually
constitutive; biotechniques are used to produce a population’s racial (and other)
identity and in this way to racialize the inhabited space, while space itself helps
determine the population’s identity.
Over the years, Israel has continuously monitored the changing proportions
of Jews and Palestinians, not only at the national level but also in each region. Its
demographic anxiety has manifested itself prominently in its spatial policies in the
northern district, especially the Galilee, where nearly two- thirds of the district’s
population after the 1948 war were Palestinians. This demographic imbalance
led the state to devote massive resources to Judaize the land, and, after decades
of investment in the northern district, the proportion of the Palestinian popula-
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tion was reduced to 54 percent. In line with its policy of arresting all Palestinian
development, Palestinians in northern Israel currently reside in 78 localities, all
of which existed before 1948, while Jews reside in 307 localities, most of them
established since 1948. Even though Israel did not succeed in creating a Jewish
majority in this district, the size of the Jewish population relocated to the area has
been sufcient to advance three major objectives. First, the establishment of Jew-
ish towns and farming communities has helped restrict Palestinians’ development,
transforming their villages into enclaves. Second, it has enabled Jews to exercise
effective control over the land conscated after the 1948 war and thus to Judaize
it. This was particularly important in the Galilee, parts of which had been allot-
ted to the Palestinian state in the 1947 United Nations (UN) Partition Plan. The
Labor government believed that if Palestinian development was left unchecked
in the Galilee, it could potentially lead to demands for Palestinian autonomy or
even Palestinian independence, a concern that has also informed the West Bank
settlement project. Third, the Jewish civilians who were relocated to these areas
served, wittingly or not, as a vital component in the state’s apparatus of ethnic
policing and surveillance.
Figure 2 Police guarding bulldozers during demolition of a Bedouin house, August 4, 2015
(Michal Rotem / Negev Co- Existence Forum for Civil Equality)
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The biospatial strategies adopted in the south, which is Israel’s largest geo-
graphical region and is known in Hebrew as the Negev, were even more pro-
nounced. An estimated ninety thousand Palestinian Bedouin inhabited the region
in 1947, but only eleven thousand remained in the years following the state’s estab-
lishment, the rest having been pushed across the borders (Porat 2009). Moreover,
not long after the 1948 war, Israel concentrated the majority of the remaining
Palestinian Bedouin population into a restricted, 1,500- square- kilometer area
known as “al- Siyaj(meaning “fence” in Arabic) located in northeastern Negev,
the region’s least arable land. After military rule ended, forced urbanization of
the Bedouin community began. For Israel, concentrating the Bedouin in urban
areas meant that it could seize almost all of the Negev’s land while concomi-
tantly consolidating its control over the population. Indeed, after 1969, the state
established seven Bedouin- only towns within the Siyaj area among the eight
Palestinian communities that have been established since 1948 touting them
as paradigms of modernity (Rotem and Gordon 2017). The allocation of plots
within these hastily fabricated towns was, however, contingent on the Bedouin
surrendering at least some of their land claims, which drove almost half of the
population to refuse to move into these designated towns (Amara 2013). Indeed,
a signicant portion of the Bedouin population remain in villages unrecognized
by the state villages whose borders are not demarcated, and unlike the Palestin-
ian villages in the north, their houses are dispersed over a relatively large area of
conscated land. The CBS does not include these Bedouin villages in the count of
localities and asks the people inhabiting them to indicate the name of their tribe
instead of an address, thus revealing, yet again, the CBS’s power of interpellation
while severing the bio from space.
Attaining effective control of the Negev’s land proved difcult also due to its
size, which is ve times larger than all of the northern district. Even though Israel
took over Bedouin land for military training while giving the local kibbutzim
unusually large agricultural plots not so much for the economic value but to
prevent Bedouin from settling on these lands the Negev’s size limited the state’s
ability to Judaize the whole terrain. As we will see, in recent years Israel has
adopted new policies to mitigate this shortcoming. Nonetheless, due to the overall
success of its dispossessive practices, many strategies were exported to the West
Bank following the 1967 war.
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Territorial Expansion
On June 27, 1967, the day East Jerusalem was annexed by Israel, a group of
Israeli archaeologists were appointed as supervisors of the archaeological and
historical sites in the West Bank. In a press release issued by the military, these
sites were dened as Israel’s “national and cultural property.” This act, which
may appear relatively benign, nonetheless reveals that the ideology of a Greater
Israel namely, that the West Bank is part of the biblical land of Israel and is
therefore Jewish and should be integrated into the state informed Israel’s poli-
cies from the moment it had occupied these territories. Alongside this messianic
ideology, a militaristic ideology that considers the West Bank to be a defensive
corridor against invasion from the east also gained ground after the ghting had
subsided. The spatial signicance of the region was emphasized by the propo-
nents of both of these ideologies, while the connection between the indigenous
Palestinian inhabitants and their land was similarly and conveniently ignored
(Gordon 2008).
Israel, however, did not merely annex what had been Jordanian Jerusalem, the
main city in the West Bank, but annexed an area eleven times larger, including
twenty- eight adjacent Palestinian villages with a total population of nearly seventy
thousand. The “united” city’s post- 1967 borders had been drawn according to a
racial- spatial logic in order to maximize its urban territory while integrating the
smallest possible number of Palestinians. Nonetheless, the city’s population grew
from 198,000 to about 266,000 residents overnight, while its ethnic makeup had
been transformed from 98 percent Jewish to 74 percent Jewish and 26 percent
Palestinian. These Palestinians were not granted citizenship but rather classied
as Israeli “residents,” thus enhancing Palestinian fragmentation by distinguish-
ing them from the Palestinian citizens of Israel and from the noncitizens in the
West Bank.
Following annexation, Israel once again adopted a two- prong approach of con-
scating the newly captured land and sending civilian emissaries to settle it. It
imposed its own legal system on the city’s eastern part. Applying land- use codes,
building restrictions, and regulations involving infrastructure distribution, the
government expropriated Palestinian land, prevented the development of Palestin-
ian neighborhoods, disrupted their urban continuum, and transformed them into
enclaves by building new Jewish neighborhoods in ways that were reminiscent of
Israel’s actions in the Galilee. As Michal Braier (2013) explains, the government
created a series of inner neighborhoods to ensure Jewish territorial continuity,
while simultaneously establishing outer neighborhoods to deliberately facilitate
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suburban sprawl. These colonial policies managed to blur the lines dividing West
and East Jerusalem, creating an urban fabric that, on the one hand, is geographi-
cally interwoven yet, on the other hand, preserves strict segregation between the
city’s Jewish and Palestinian areas (g. 3). Moreover, the densely built satellite
“neighborhoods” nearly tripled the city’s Jewish population, even though, due
to higher Palestinian fertility and to a lesser extent out- migration of Jews, in
the past fty years the proportion of Jews in the city has actually declined from
74 percent to 64 percent. The rising proportion of Palestinians in Jerusalem,
viewed as nothing less than a strategic threat, led Israel to implement a “silent
deportation” policy, whereby legal- bureaucratic mechanisms have been used to
strip the residency of thousands of Palestinians. More recently, the politics of
space and race has moved up yet another notch, with the government contemplat-
Figure 3 East Jerusalem neighborhoods (Ir Amim)
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ing ways to redraw the city’s municipal boundaries either to include more Jews
from neighboring settlements within its borders or to reduce its size in order to
transpose 140,000 Palestinian residents of Jerusalem to the rest of the West Bank.
While Israel took over East Jerusalem in one fell swoop through de jure annex-
ation and the mobilization of Israeli laws, in the West Bank, by contrast, it car-
ried out the conscation piecemeal utilizing a mixture of Ottoman and British
Mandatory law, regulations from the Jordanian legal systems, and orders issued
by military commanders. The West Bank itself is about seventy miles long and
thirty miles wide, an area the size of Delaware; it is circumscribed on the east by
a barren plateau and on the west by the Green Line. Before the war, about 800,000
Palestinians were living in twelve urban centers and about 527 rural communities,
including nineteen refugee camps. During the war, Israel partially “cleansed”
several West Bank areas of their Palestinian inhabitants.3 The Jordan Valley
(excluding Jericho) was partially cleansed of its population because Israel wanted
to secure the border with Jordan, while the Latrun enclave was depopulated of
Palestinians because their villages overlooked the highway leading to Jerusalem
and the Israeli military decided to destroy them, as just one of “the unpleasant
and unpopular aspects of fullling Zionism,” in Moshe Dayan’s words (quoted in
Segev 2007: 410). In addition, demolitions were part of a broader policy aimed at
clearing a section of the area adjacent to the West Bank’s western border where,
for example, more than 40 percent of the dwellings in the border town Qalqi-
lyah were demolished as well as the entire Magharbia Quarter located in Jeru-
salem’s old city in front of Harem al Sharif and the Wailing Wall (Raz 2012).
All in all, about two hundred thousand people, or 25 percent of the West Bank’s
inhabitants, were displaced, eeing to Jordan during the war and its direct after-
math (Gazit 1995). Similar to the policies within pre- 1967 Israel, Palestinians
have not been allowed to build a single new village or town in the West Bank
over the course of the fty- year occupation, even as the population has grown
Israel has used several complementary methods to seize Palestinian land in the
West Bank, many of which had their basis in the methods rst developed within
its pre- 1967 borders. These include declaring land absentee property, transforming
3. The removal of the population and t he lan d- grabbing policies in the Golan Heights, which
we do not discuss in t his paper, were more extreme. Of the 128,00 0 Syrians who lived on the Golan
before the 1967 war, only 5 percent remained in the area in its aftermath, and of the 139 Syrian
agricultural villages and 61 individua l farms registered prior to the war, only 7 villages were not
destroyed (Gordon and Ram 2016). Currently the occupied Golan Heights is home to 22,000 Jews
residing in 32 settlements, and 25,000 Syria ns (mostly Druze) residing in ve villages.
4. The sole exception is the town of Rawabi, which is now under construction near Ra mallah.
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swathes of land into nature reserves, and claiming that land has been left unculti-
vated for many years or, alternatively, simply declaring that a particular area was
needed for military or public use (where “public” denotes Jewish). Using these
methods, Israel by 1987 managed to restrict Palestinians to less than 60 percent of
the West Bank, and the outcome has been that, not unlike their copatriots within
the Green Line, many occupied Palestinians have lost all or parts of their land.
The de jure land- grab translated into de facto annexation through the establish-
ment of Jewish settlements and bypass roads and, eventually, the erection of a
separation barrier. Often this process actually operated in the opposite direction,
whereby the de facto seizure preceded the de jure conscation, as has been the
case with many “unauthorized” settlements.
While many view the Judaization of the West Bank as part of a right- wing
messianic ideology, the policy was, in fact, rst enacted by Labor Zionists. Israel
began Judaizing the land by moving military bases to the region immediately fol-
lowing the war, gradually converting some of them into settlements. One- fourth
of the settlements that currently exist were established within the occupation’s rst
decade, and if one counts those that were already planned, almost one- third of the
settlements existing today were initiated by the Labor Party before it lost the 1977
elections (Gordon 2008). Young secular men and women, most of whom were
aligned with the Labor Party, established the majority of the Jewish settlements
during this rst period, many of them located in the Jordan Valley, which was
viewed as essential for Israel’s security. Simultaneously, the Labor government
allowed religious Jews, whose desires and interests were shaped by the messianic
ideology of a Greater Israel, to establish a few settlements in densely populated
parts of the West Bank.
Two p o in t s ne e d to b e e mp h as i ze d h er e . Fi r st , ev e n th o ug h t he g ov er n m en t pr e -
sented the religious settlers as contrarians, in practically every case the two oppos-
ing camps ended up cooperating, with the government actually providing nancial
and other assistance to the settlers. Second, from the very beginning, settlements
were established not only according to a military- strategic logic but also according
to a national- religious one. Not unlike Jewish citizens in the Galilee, these settlers
and settlements, which are usually located on hilltops overlooking Palestinian vil-
lages, serve as a means of population control, not only by restricting Palestinian
development and movement but also as mechanisms of civilian surveillance and
ethnic policing (Weizman 2012).
After the right- wing Likud assumed power, the cooperation between the gov-
ernment and the settler leadership Jewish fundamentalists with clear goals and
astute political skills became even more intimate, and, as a result, settlement
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construction was intensied. Sixty- three new settlements were established during
the seven- year period between 1978 and 1984. The Likud government’s goal was
to Judaize the entire “land of Israel” and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian
state, an option that seemed viable following the 1979 peace treaty with Egypt.
To accomplish these ends, other settlements were placed in close proximity to the
Green Line, in an effort to attract nonideological Jews to settle in the West Bank.
Indeed, a minority of the settlers were religious fundamentalists, while most set-
tlers were simply looking for a suburban home at an affordable price located not
too far from the urban centers. To encourage their resettlement, the Israeli govern-
ment, especially in the post- 1977 period, proffered economic perks to anyone who
was willing to relocate to the West Bank. Notwithstanding these policies, during
the occupations rst two decades Israel failed to populate the West Bank with
large numbers of Jews.
When Israelis and Palestinians rst formally met to negotiate peace in 1991,
twenty- four years into the occupation and fourteen years since the rst Likud- led
government, there were 132,000 settlers in East Jerusalem but only 90,000 set-
tlers in the rest of the West Bank. Twenty- ve years later, the numbers of settlers
in East Jerusalem had increased by about 60 percent, while the number of settlers
in the West Bank had more than quadrupled, and this despite the freeze on new
settlement construction to which Israeli was forced to agree during the Oslo pro-
cess. An analysis of the increase of Jewish settlers in the West Bank during these
years reveals that the level of Jewish migration to the West Bank does not uctuate
according to the changing composition of the Israeli government Likud- led or
Labor- led but rather increases during periods of negotiations between Israe-
lis and Palestinians, when there is less violence. This suggests that “the peace
process” actually bolsters Israel’s settlement project, while violence impedes it
(Gordon and Cohen 2012).
Moreover, during Oslo, the West Bank was divided into Areas A, B, and C,
which were drawn according to a biospatial logic and which determined the dis-
tribution of powers by creating internal boundaries, each one with its own specic
laws and regulations (Said 2007). In Areas A and B, which were more densely
populated with Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority was given more respon-
sibilities, while in Area C, which contained almost 60 percent of the land and
only 4 percent of the Palestinian population, Israel retained full responsibility
for security and public order as well as for civil issues relating to territory (plan-
ning and zoning, etc.). Oslo reveals that the biospatial logic underlying Israeli
settler colonialism not only constitutes space as racialized but also divides and
organizes space, determining, in this case, its contiguity. Because Areas A and
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B were densely populated by Palestinians, they were divided into 131 clusters,
scattered like an archipelago across the terrain (g. 4) and separated by strategic
corridors that facilitated Israeli control, while Area C remained contiguous. It is
also in the context of such biospatial strategies that one needs to understand the
“unauthorized” Jewish outposts that were erected in the West Bank in the wake
of the new millennium. These outposts are populated by relatively few about
ten thousand Jews, many of them second- and third- generation settlers, but they
manage to ensure effective control of large swaths of land.
The way Israel enumerates its population bolsters this logic. Following the 1967
war, it began including all the people residing within the pre- 1967 borders and
annexed East Jerusalem, but in the West Bank it counts only those residing in Jew-
ish settlements and leaves out the indigenous population. Statistical virtuosities of
this kind counting Jewish residents while ignoring the existence of millions of
Palestinians within the same region is not practiced in Jerusalem, which had been
annexed de jure provide a distorted picture of reality. They reect and help repro-
duce the de facto annexation of this region by engendering a biospatial link between
Jews and this a rea, while severing the link between Palestinia ns and their la nd.
Following Oslo, Israel has made immense strides in the demographic race in
the West Bank. Of the 420,000 settlers currently living in the West Bank (exclud-
ing East Jerusalem), approximately 150,000 are ultra- Orthodox Jews. This settler
group has grown thirtyfold from 5 percent of the settler population in 1991 to
35 percent today and is the major cause of the exponential growth of Jews in the
region. The ultra- Orthodox community became Israel’s demographic silver bul-
let, facilitating the rapid racialization of space. Not unlike the move of Mizrahi
Jews to the periphery in pre- 1967 Israel, the government exploited their poverty
and offered them inexpensive housing and a series of other subsidies if they relo-
cated to the West Bank. In this case, however, the government has taken advantage
of this community’s extremely high birth rate, about seven children per woman,
which guarantees that the natural growth rate (births minus deaths) is considerably
higher among Jewish settlers than it is among Palestinians; indeed, natural growth
is now the main cause of settler proliferation, and even if the Israeli government
were to stop moving its citizenry to the West Bank, the number of settlers would
still increase substantially and the space would increasingly become more Jewish.
The Colonial Leviathan Recoils
Following Israel’s success in Judaizing large parts of the West Bank, it has turned
back inward, and, not unlike the trajectory of a boomerang, it is now completing
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Figure 4 The West Bank archipelago (B’Tselem)
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the project it left unnished
in the Negev. Approximately
712,000 people currently live
in the Negev, which contains
about 60 percent of the coun-
try’s land but is home to only
8 percent of its population. Of
this population, 35 percent are
Palestinians, the vast majority
of them Bedouin, who, due to
extremely high fertility rates
(si mi lar to ultr a- Orthodox
Jews), increased from 11,000
in 1948 to about 250,000
today. Nonetheless, only 18
localities out of the 144 in the
region are designated for the
Bedouin community, while
about 65,000 Bedouin citizens continue to reside in 35 villages classied as
“unrecognizedby the Israeli government (g. 5) (Rotem and Gordon 2017).
This means that they are prohibited from connecting their houses to the electric-
ity grid or the water and sewage systems. Construction regulations are strictly
enforced, and in the past year alone about a thousand Bedouin homes and animal
pens usually referred to by the government as structures were demolished.
There are no paved roads, and signposts to the villages from main roads are pro-
hibited (Nasasra 2017). Moreover, the villages do not appear on maps. As a mat-
ter of ofcial policy these localities do not exist, while demographically their
inhabitants (who are Israeli citizens) are linked to tribes rather than to a locality,
thus detaching their connection to their land. Actually, until recently, three of the
eighteen Bedouin localities recognized by the state were considered not locali-
ties but rather “places” in the state registry. This was because they were deemed
empty, according to the ofcial records. Informed by biotechniques that sever
this group from their land, Israel’s actions indicate that it plans to demolish most
of the unrecognized villages and relocate at least thirty thousand inhabitants into
already established Bedouin towns.
While the conscation of the Negev’s land was accomplished in the state’s
early years, over the past decade the government has intensied its attempts to
strengthen its effective control of this area and to Judaize it fully. The production
Figure 5 Bedouin towns
and villages in the Negev
(Michal Rotem / NCF)
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of the biospatial link, which effectively racializes space, is achieved through the
CBS’s classication and the by now familiar twofold strategy of dispossessing
and settling. On the one hand, the government is restricting Bedouin develop-
ment within the conned borders of the towns it created and the eleven villages it
recently recognized, while transferring many of its military bases to the Negev,
deploying a draconic policy of home demolitions in the unrecognized villages,
and, until 2007, spraying “illegal” agriculture plots with poison and, since 2007,
by simply plowing over them (g. 6). On the other hand, it has been reinforcing the
civilian presence on the ground, establishing new Jewish settlements and encour-
aging Jews to move to the region, while planting thousands of “Jewish trees”
provided by the Jewish National Fund on large strips of Bedouin land (Rotem and
Gordon 2017).
Initially, the government decided to allocate plots of land to some sixty Jewish
families, scattering farms across the Negev terrain to restrict and circumscribe
the space that its non- Jewish citizens could occupy. What is unique about these
farms is that they connect existing strategies of Judaizing the land with neolib-
eral entrepreneurship projects. These new farms stie Bedouin expansion as they
prosper from boutique guesthouses and homemade wines and cheeses catering to
the bourgeois tastes of Tel Aviv tourists. Thus space not only becomes increas-
ingly Jewish, but it also acquires a specic entrepreneurial valance. More recently,
the government has decided to build fteen additional Jewish settlements in the
region to consolidate the Judaization of the land. Indeed, Blueprint Negev, a Jew-
Figure 6 Israeli authorities with pickup trucks and trac tors plowing “illegal” Bedouin elds east of
Lakiya, February 5, 2014 (Michal Rotem / NCF)
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Public Culture
ish National Fund agship project, aims to attract 250,000 Jews to the Negev in
the coming years.
An illustration of how the colonial leviathan is turning back inward is
perhaps most obvious in Umm al- Hiran, a village of about 350 Bedouin citizens
destined to be destroyed and replaced by a Jewish settlement called Hiran. Just
a few kilometers away from this Bedouin village, about thirty Jewish religious
families have been living in a makeshift gated community, waiting patiently
for the government to expel the Bedouin families from their homes. This gated
Jewish community is made up of houses scattered around a playground and a
new kindergarten. Needless to say, this bucolic setting is both unnerving and
surrealistic, considering its violent undertow. Ironically, the people who are
destined to dispossess the residents of Umm al- Hiran are West Bank settlers who
made an ideological decision to return to Israel to “redeem Jewish land” from
“Bedouin invaders.” Because the land is itself constituted as Jewish, the Bedouin
who inhabits it is rendered an “invader,” thus revealing not only the classic colonial
inversion between the colonist and the colonized (Perugini and Gordon 2015) but
also how the spatial- racial nexus produces the biocriminal the person who is
deemed a felon due to the racial status ascribed to him or her (Foucault 2003). In
Israel, Foucault’s notion of the biocriminal is further developed since space itself
is racialized and the racial mismatch between space and the subject who occupies
it is sufcient to transform the latter into a criminal.
One obvious conclusion when examining the political ecology in the Jewish state
is that the common tendency to single out Israels policies in the occupied West
Bank and East Jerusalem as representing an epiphenomenon or some kind of devi-
ation is misguided. In the past seventy years, four related strategies have governed
Israel’s preoccupation with biospatial policies with remarkable regularity and lit-
tle change. First, Israel has adopted biotechniques and has developed a series of
classications to help constitute Jews and Israelis while distinguishing them from
Palestinians. The second strategy even if only partially achieved aims to cre-
ate and maintain a solid Jewish majority not only in the entire territory between
the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea but also in each and every district
(exc ept Area s A and B). The third is the country’s extreme residential seg rega-
tion, where over 99 percent of the 1,214 localities listed by the CBS are either
exclusively Jewish or Palestinian. This segregation is crucial for the state’s bio -
spatial project, since it not only encourages the Jewish localities to expand across
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space while stiing the development of the Palestinian localities, but it also helps
ascribe and inscribe Jewishness to and in space. These three strategies inform the
fourth, namely, the Judaization of land.
There are, of course, differences between the demographic and spatial strate-
gies introduced on each side of the Green Line. Even though land has been seized
using very similar mechanisms, and the state’s efforts to enhance effective control
by dispossessing the colonized and settling the Jews are nearly identical in all
areas under its control, Jews and Palestinians are segregated differently in each
region. Due to these differences, the efforts to Judaize the land are beginning to
produce contradictions within the pre- 1967 borders that have yet to materialize in
the West Bank. Consider Nazrat Ilit (literally, Upper Nazareth), a Jewish town that
was built in 1957 on a hilltop overlooking Palestinian Nazareth. Notwithstanding
the Jewish town’s role in the Judaization of the Galilee, the acute housing shortage
propelled by restrictions on the expansion of Palestinian municipal boundaries
and on housing construction within Nazareth and nearby villages has led middle-
class Palestinians to move to Nazrat Ilit. Despite the erce opposition of many
of its Jewish residents and their elected ofcials, by the end of 2016 Palestinians
made up 25 percent of the Nazrat Ilit’s population of over forty thousand. A simi-
lar process, albeit much smaller in scale, has been identied in some of the Jew-
ish “neighborhoods” in East Jerusalem (Pullan and Yacobi 2017). The signicant
point is that the movement of Palestinian citizens to Jewish cities “contaminates”
the Jewish city’s purity and thus undermines, even if very gradually, the bio-
spatial link and the construction of space as Jewish. The strict segregation in the
West Bank does not allow for such “spatial miscegenation” processes. Indeed, the
settlements in the West Bank consist of Jews only.
Israel’s obsession with demography and this obsession’s intricate connection
to space is not new. Indeed, the major feature distinguishing the different camps
within Zionism has to do with the political signicance each camp ascribes to
demography and territory. Labor Zionists have always aspired to create a homoge-
neous Jewish society and, therefore, eventually preferred demography over geog-
raphy, often resisting their desire for territorial expansion (Shar and Peled 2002).
The Zionist Right, by contrast, wanted the edgling Jewish state to include parts
of the East Bank (i.e., Jordan), thus emphasizing geography over demography.
Over the years the language has changed somewhat, but the guiding principles
continue to be the same. Liberal Zionists who currently support territorial com-
promise champion the creation of a Palestinian state primarily because they want
to minimize the number of Palestinians within Israel’s territory. Even among this
camp, Palestinian basic rights and UN resolutions are of secondary importance,
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Public Culture
since the logic overriding everything else is biospatial: guaranteeing a solid Jewish
majority within a given space.
By way of conclusion, it might be important to state the obvious. Historically,
states have frequently connected the bio with the spatial at least since the eigh-
teenth century, at times with horric consequences. Contemporary manifestations
also abound, ranging from the biospatial strategies Europe has recently adopted
to deal with the massive refugee crisis through US President Donald Trump’s
Muslim ban and all the way to Myanmar where Rohingya Muslims are being eth-
nically cleansed from Rakhine State. Nonetheless, excavating the specicities of
each case remains vital. Before Israel’s establishment, for instance, the 1937 Peel
Commission and the 1947 UN Partition Plan clearly based their recommendations
on a biospatial logic (i.e., the division of territory according to certain popula-
tion classications produced by the colonial power). The difference between these
partition plans and the Oslo archipelago is instructive, however, since in the latter
the biospatial logic was used not to harness and maximize the population’s forces
or to enable self- determination but rather to guarantee the ongoing subjugation of
the colonized Palestinians. Notwithstanding this difference, both the long history
of biotechniques and the different geographical settings in which they are cur-
rently being mobilized suggest that Israel is not really an innovator. The novelty of
Israeli colonialism is that for decades it has not merely managed to survive but has
actually ourished. This is because it receives the unconditional support of almost
all liberal democracies, something that is striking in the postcolonial era and is
due in part to these countries’ perception of Israel as a democracy. The tragic irony
is that Israel’s biospatial politics have given birth to a reality of a single, Jewish-
Palestinian, apartheid state.
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Yinon Cohen is a professor of sociology and Yerushalmi Professor of Israel and Jewish
Studies at Columbia University. His recent publications include “Spatial Politics and
Socioeconomic Gaps between Jews and Palestinians in Israel” (Israeli Sociology, 2015),
and (with Tali Kristal) “The Causes of Rising Wage Inequality: The Race between
Institutions and Technology” (Socio- Economic Review, January 2017).
Neve Gordon is a professor of international law at Queen Mary University of London
and a professor of politics at Ben- Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. He is the author
of Israel’s Occupation (2008) and coauthor of The Human Right to Dominate (2015). He is
completing a book about the history and politics of human shielding.
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... The land classified politically as 'Area C' (plain grey colour in Figure Since the occupation of the West Bank in 1967, the main aim of all the Israeli governments and the civil administration was to increase the establishment of Jewish settlements and limit the expansion of Palestinian cities and villages (Stockmarr, 2012;Cohen and Gordon, 2018 Habitat, 2015). Compared with 'Area A' and 'Area B', 'Area C' has a more restricted socioeconomic development and fewer amenities and institutions. ...
Full-text available
Background: Features of the urban environment can support human health as well as harm it. Evidence has accumulated for the links between different place-based characteristics and physical and mental health. However, this evidence stems primarily from highly developed countries. The extent to which it is generalisable to other locations, such as the Middle Eastern Arab region, which has unique political, socio-cultural, and climatic environments, is not clear. Aims and setting: This thesis aims to investigate health in relation to the urban environment in the twin cities of Ramallah and Albireh in the occupied Palestinian territory. Specifically, it will examine the associations between the risk of chronic illness and: a) politically created area disadvantage (refugee camps and 'Area C’); b) urban green space. It will also explore the interaction between these area-level features and age, sex, and household assets in their association with chronic illness. Methods: Area-level variables were linked with individual respondents to the 2017 census using a Geographic Information System. The analytical sample was 54693 individuals living in 228 residential areas. The outcome variable was the presence/absence of chronic illness. The area-level variables were the politically created disadvantage indicated by Refugee camps and political land classification ‘Area C’ (controlled by Israel); the proportion of mixed trees, crop trees and open space with little/no vegetation; Individual-level variables included twelve demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Multi-level logistic regression models examined associations and interactions between individual and area-level variables and the probability of chronic illness risk. Results: On the political dimension, living in the context of a refugee camp was associated with greater odds of chronic illness (OR 1.91 CI [1.17-3.09]). This association was attenuated and rendered non-significant when adjusting for green space. The proportions of ‘mixed’ trees in residential areas had an independent iii inverse association with chronic illness (OR 0.96 CI [0.95-0.97]). There was no/weak evidence for an association between the context of ‘Area C’ and the proportion of crop trees and open space with the risk of chronic illness. A statistically significant interaction was found between sex and living in refugee camps. Females living outside refugee camps have a significantly lower risk of chronic illness compared to males but not for those living inside refugee camps; females inside refugee camps had a higher risk of chronic illness compared to males (though not a significant difference). There was no/weak evidence for interactions between the other area characteristics and age, sex, and household assets. Conclusion: This is the first study in the Palestinian context, and among the few from the Arab World, to investigate links between the urban environment and health. As expected, living in the disadvantaged context of refugee camps is associated with a higher likelihood of chronic illness. Not all greenspace types were associated with improved health outcomes, but mixed trees were, and the green environment appeared implicated in the association between refugee camps and poor health. These results from a Middle Eastern Arab setting add to the evidence, largely from Western countries, that mixed trees in urban environments benefit health. Researchers and policymakers interested in reducing health inequalities should give more attention to refugee camps and green typologies, especially to females living in the disadvantaged contexts of refugee camps who may gain greater benefits. Research with a broader scope is needed to investigate the impact of political land classification on health.
... 'Politics of planting' has been mobilized by both Jews and Palestinians to underline their belonging in particular areas. 27 A policy of renaming towns, sites and regions, as well as of inventing their new genealogies -known as the strategy of de-Arabization -has been undertaken to establish the Jewish character of the territory, 28 symbolically accentuating Jewish presence there. The ideologyinfused project of 'making the desert bloom' -consisting in heightening human presence and effective management of the chaotic 'counter-space' 29 of the desert -has relied on representations of Jewish community as progressive and hardworking 30 as contrasted with the backward and undeveloped practices of Arab populations in the region. ...
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This article engages with the material geographies of colonialism in Israel/Palestine by looking at the site-specific cultural activities in Iqrit (Israel), a Christian-Arab village depopulated during the 1948 war in the region. We investigate the importance of material infrastructure-and material, bodily encounters with the site-as a basis for the place-based activist memory-work, as well as exposing the ways in which such activities contribute to the advancement of 'the politics of presence', understood as a manifestation of a continuous resilience vis-à-vis the discriminatory policy of the state. Our argumentation focuses on the importance of physical presence in specific geographical areas, shedding light on how place-based activities may contravene the expressed state policy by increasing the fluidity of the territory, creating spaces of contestation in which the traditional understandings of state authority partly dissolve. It also explores how the material reconfigurations of the place, and emotional-bodily investment in it, contribute to the semantic instability of the site, turning the place-based memory-work into a future-oriented project with important political aspirations.
... Likewise, John Calmore (1993Calmore ( : 1233 argues that racial (spatial) segregation debases those who are its victims, those who victimize, and those who are mere accessories. Another way of theorizing the racialization of space, with specific reference to Israel's land-grabbing occupation practices and demographic classifications, is Yinon Cohen and Neve Gordon's (2018) argument that Israel's bio-spatial strategies, separating between (occupying) Israeli Jews and (occupied) Palestinian Arabs, and using statistics to racially categorize the Palestinians, construct space itself as a racialized category. ...
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Since November 1999, people arriving in Ireland to seek asylum have been dispersed throughout the country and confined in Direct Provision (DP) accommodation centres. Though initially meant for a six-month stay, by May 2020 7,700 people were living in 85 DP and emergency accommodation centres, many of them for up to nine years. The centres are operated by for-profit private companies who have been paid 1.6 billion euros since 2000, and are mostly sited in remote locations outside cities, on the periphery of society. The confinement of asylum seekers has been disavowed by state and society and continues the disavowal by Irish state and society of the coercive confinement of unwed mothers and poor children in church-run institutions, where women and children were confined and enslaved until late in the twentieth century. This article is based on interviews with and publicly available testimonies of asylum seekers in Direct Provision and on public and social media statements by the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI). It theorizes the DP centres as racialized zones of nonbeing (Fanon 1967: 8) and the DP regime as racialized state violence. The segregation and racialization of asylum seekers in Direct Provision were poignantly demonstrated by asylum seekers’ inability to observe social distancing in overcrowded DP centres during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to a considerable number of them being infected.
... A statistical anomaly in the country's racially segregated territory and society (Cohen and Gordon, 2018), 'mixed cities' are towns with a majority Jewish population and a substantial Palestinian minority, estimated at over 10%, but at times much higher (Monterescu and Rabinowitz, 2007;Blatman-Thomas, 2018). 8 Despite their demographic composition, these cities' classification as 'mixed' is bitterly disputed for its contribution to the enduring erasure of Palestinian urbanism in general and the histories and identity of Historic Cities in particular. ...
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This essay puts forward a theoretical framework for Palestinian Indigenous urbanism. It argues that the specific and diverse expressions of this urbanism are partly an outcome of the fact that Palestinian cities—as a modern urban form—predate the Zionist settler colonization of Palestine. We centre the longue durée of Palestinian urbanism as a constitutive mode for contemporary experiences of Palestinian citizens in Israel and link it to Israel's persistent attempts to erase the urban landscapes of Palestine, symbolically and materially. We discuss how the de‐urbanization of Historic Palestinian cities in Israel since the beginning of the Nakba has drastically changed the urban and rural landscapes of these cities, ultimately leading Palestinians to adapt, develop and create new forms of urbanism in and around cities. Although Palestinians live in very different types of cities today, Palestinian urbanism broadly manifests as a presence of the absence, namely as the recursion of pre‐1948 urban life. Thus, in this essay we provide a new lens through which to understand Indigenous urbanism as a recursive and relational anti‐hegemonic structure that predates and can outlive settler‐colonial violence.
... However, due to mixed marriage and the lack of spatial segregation between these ethnic groups (Lewin-Epstein & Cohen, 2019), many Jewish Israelis can identify as belonging to both. In addition, the Israeli ethos, perpetuated by a national hegemonic discourse, denies the existence of ethnic stratification within the Jewish population (Biton, 2011;Cohen & Gordon, 2018;Sasson-Levi & Shoshana, 2013;Shoshana, 2016). With regard to the Modern-Orthodox society, some of the differences between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim refer to the ancient customs and religious practices adopted by each group in each diaspora, such as differences in the texts and melodies used during services of prayer, customs of foods served, and even additional festivals. ...
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The aim of this study is to test changes in ethnic identity from two points of view, focusing on Marcia's identity status model and the ethnic identity literature. Based on 135 participants who completed the Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure (MEIM) questionnaires at two-time intervals, stability was found at the mean level, while stability, progression and regression were found at the individual level. Transitions from moratorium into achievement were found more than to diffusion and status changes derived mainly following changes in the commitment component. In line with Erikson's theory, the results highlight the effect of the sociocultural context on the identity formation process and the need to examine changes in identity formation processes over time, both at the mean level and the individual level. These findings could be relevant to other countries that are going through similar processes of demographic changes in which the minority challenges the hegemony of the majority.
This paper takes up the entwinement of citizenship and the political in the writings of Engin Isin in the context of the Palestinians in Israel. It opens with an invitation to think with an artwork by the Palestinian artist Durar Bacri as a staging of fugitivity through a refusing of that which has been refused. Out of this I pose the question of whether such an act of refusal is political or not. I start by thinking with this artwork to unpack the settler colonial nature of Palestinian citizenship in Israel and how the figure at the centre of the painting is refusing the citizenship that is being refused him. From this I posit that not only is there a refusal of citizenship, but more there is an ‘end’ or limit to the political itself, and with it the political subject. I conclude with a discussion of a fugitive sociality and its implications for understanding the struggle of Palestinians in Israel.
This article is about Israel’s West Bank settler-colonial project from the standpoint of settlers who are of Mizrahi origin (i.e. Jews of African or Middle Eastern descent). While historically predominantly Ashkenazi (i.e. Jews of European descent), with time many Mizrahim have moved to the West Bank and joined the settlement project. And yet, there is more or less scholarly silence regarding the existence of Mizrahi West Bank settlers, and when they are addressed, their motivations are reduced to simplified “economic” considerations; in a way that devoid them of political consciousness compared to their Ashkenazi counterparts. While there has been an immense body of work dealing with ethnic tension between settlers and the indigenous population, by centreing the experience of a particular group of Mizrahi settlers, this article examines how internal ethnic tensions within the society of settlers play into and are transformed in the settler-colonial process.
Colonial Bureaucracy and Contemporary Citizenship examines how the legacies of colonial bureaucracy continue to shape political life after empire. Focusing on the former British colonies of India, Cyprus, and Israel/Palestine, the book explores how post-colonial states use their inherited administrative legacies to classify and distinguish between loyal and suspicious subjects and manage the movement of populations, thus shaping the practical meaning of citizenship and belonging within their new boundaries. The book offers a novel institutional theory of 'hybrid bureaucracy' to explain how racialized bureaucratic practices were used by powerful administrators in state organizations to shape the making of political identity and belonging in the new states. Combining sociology and anthropology of the state with the study of institutions, this book offers new knowledge to overturn conventional understandings of bureaucracy, demonstrating that routine bureaucratic practices and persistent colonial logics continue to shape unequal political status to this day.
Research on the census and ethnoracial classification shows that the categories collected by census agencies are political choices that not only reflect demographic reality but also, to some extent, construct it. In this article, using the case of the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, I focus on one type of official statistics, criminal justice statistics, and theorize how their changing presentation of ethnoracial categories can have a stigmatizing effect. Based on analyzing 30 years of the annual Statistical Abstract of Israel, I show that the criminal justice statistics section of this publication made several changes to the categories they presented including removing breakdowns by continent of origin/birth for Jews. Building on research on the history of crime statistics in the United States, I show how removing the continent of origin/birth for Jews had the effect of creating a binary comparison between Jews and Arabs, thus stigmatizing the latter group.
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The struggle between Zionists and Palestinian Bedouin over land in the Negev/Naqab has lasted at least a century. Notwithstanding the state's continuing efforts to concentrate the Bedouin population within a small swath of land, scholars have documented how the Bedouin have adopted their own means of resistance, including different practices of sumud. In this paper we maintain, however, that by focusing on planning policies and the spatio-legal mechanisms deployed by the state to expropriate Bedouin land, one overlooks additional technologies and processes that have had a significant impact on the social production of space in the Negev. One such site is the struggle over the right to education, which, as we show, is intricately tied to the organization of space and the population inhabiting that space. We illustrate how the right to education has been utilized as an instrument of tacit displacement deployed to relocate and concentrate the Bedouin population in planned governmental towns. Simultaneously, however, we show how Bedouin activists have continuously invoked the right to education, using it as a tool for reinforcing their sumud. The struggle for education in the Israeli Negev is, in other words, an integral part of the struggle for and over land. © 2017 by the Institute for Palestine Studies. All rights reserved.
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Hundreds of thousands of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have arrived in Israel between 1989 and the present are not Jewish, yet they legally gain Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. The flow of so many non-Jewish, non-Arabs into the "Jewish" state greatly complicates the demographic, cultural, statistical, and political landscape. This article explains the legal, bureaucratic, and political conditions which have sustained this immigration and suggests some of its long-term implications for the political identity of the country.
A timely study by two well-known scholars offers a theoretically informed account of the political sociology of Israel. The analysis is set within its historical context as the authors trace Israel's development from Zionist settlement in the 1880s, through the establishment of the state in 1948, to the present day. Against this background the authors speculate on the relationship between identity and citizenship in Israeli society, and consider the differential rights, duties and privileges that are accorded different social strata. In this way they demonstrate that, despite ongoing tensions, the pressure of globalization and economic liberalization has gradually transformed Israel from a frontier society to one more oriented towards peace and private profit. This unexpected conclusion offers some encouragement for the future of this troubled region. However, Israel's position towards the peace process is still subject to a tug-of-war between two conceptions of citizenship: liberal citizenship on the one hand, and a combination of the remnants of republican citizenship associated with the colonial settlement with an ever more religiously defined ethno-nationalist citizenship, on the other.
This first complete history of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows us to see beyond the smoke screen of politics in order to make sense of the dramatic changes that have developed on the ground over the past forty years. Looking at a wide range of topics, from control of water and electricity to health care and education as well as surveillance and torture, Neve Gordon's panoramic account reveals a fundamental shift from a politics of life-when, for instance, Israel helped Palestinians plant more than six-hundred thousand trees in Gaza and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds-to a macabre politics characterized by an increasing number of deaths. Drawing attention to the interactions, excesses, and contradictions created by the forms of control used in the Occupied Territories, Gordon argues that the occupation's very structure, rather than the policy choices of the Israeli government or the actions of various Palestinian political factions, has led to this radical shift. © 2008 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
This first complete history of Israel's occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip allows us to see beyond the smoke screen of politics in order to make sense of the dramatic changes that have developed on the ground over the past forty years. Looking at a wide range of topics, from control of water and electricity to health care and education as well as surveillance and torture, Neve Gordon's panoramic account reveals a fundamental shift from a politics of life-when, for instance, Israel helped Palestinians plant more than six-hundred thousand trees in Gaza and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds-to a macabre politics characterized by an increasing number of deaths. Drawing attention to the interactions, excesses, and contradictions created by the forms of control used in the Occupied Territories, Gordon argues that the occupation's very structure, rather than the policy choices of the Israeli government or the actions of various Palestinian political factions, has led to this radical shift.