A divided city? Rethinking borders, settlements and inter-communal interactions in metropolitan Jerusalem

Relevance binary approaches to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: Jerusalem as a case study

Participants:

Marco Allegra (political scientist, University of Lisbon), organisaser, Michal Braier (planner, Ben-Gurion University), Diane Davis (sociologist, Harvard University), Mick Dumper (political scientist, University of Exeter), Daphna Golan (Hebrew University), Lev Grinberg (sociologist, Ben Gurion University), Shira Havkin (political scientist, CERI), Cédric Parizot (anthropologist of politics, Aix Marseille University and CNRS), organiser,  Amir Paz-Fuchs (jurist, Sussex University), Oren Shlomo (sociologist, Ben-Gurion University), Marik Shtern (sociologist, Ben Gurion University), Yair Wallach (historian, SOAS), Haim Yacobi (planner, Ben Gurion University), organiser.

Rami Nasrallah (International Peace and Cooperation Center) and Stephanie Latte Abdallah (Institut Français du Proche Orient) dropped out at the last minute, due to unforeseen circumstances

Parizot_Groupe_2014

Review

A divided city? Rethinking borders, settlements and inter-communal interactions in metropolitan Jerusalem 
by Cédric Parizot
3 – 8 November, 2014

Abstract

This workshop on Jerusalem aimed at challenging the dichotomic understanding of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which means approaches taking for granted the idea of separation between the two populations and there spaces of life. Jerusalem, which is widely described in the media and in the scholarly contributions on the subject as a “divided city” epitomizes this “separation discourse”.

The rationale for the organization of the workshop is precisely that scarce attention has been given so far to those phenomena and dynamics that contradict this established narrative of the conflict. In this respect, the participants were not merely asked to focus on the level and the complex forms of merging between Israeli and Palestinian spaces, their diplomatic and geopolitical significance, or the role of planning and security in the production of space, but rather they were encouraged to explore new ways to capture this interconnected social, economic and political reality as well as the crucial issues it raises: the political economy of sovereignty, the dynamics of spatial practices and perceptions, the forms of cooperation and exchange between the communities, and the nature of borders and the concrete mechanisms for their management.

The organizers are currently exploring publication opportunities and future research initiatives and networks.

Keywords

Jerusalem – Divided Cities – Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Full text

Public and media discourse overwhelmingly focuses on the idea of separation as the fundamental lens to look to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – an attitude also reinforced by scholarship that has always separated Israeli-Jewish studies from Palestinian-Arab studies. This discourse builds on an implicit dichotomous interpretation of the very nature of the conflict, which has been validated, paradoxically, both by the experience of the Oslo process (which aimed at partitioning the area mandatory Palestine into separate Jewish/Israeli and Arab/Palestinian states) and by its failure (with the construction of the so-called “security fence” in the West Bank and Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza).

Jerusalem – a city defined as “torn” (Benvenisti 1977), “polarized” (Bollens 2000), “ethnocratic” (Yacobi and Yiftachel, 2002) and as a contested “frontier” (Kotek 1999, Klein 2001); a “city of collision” (Misselwitz and Rieniets 2006), where “intimate enemies” (Benvenisti 1995) live “together separately” (Roman and Weingrod, 1991) or “separate and unequal” (Cheshin 1999) – is in many ways the epitome of this “separation discourse”. The lion’s share of scholarly work regarding the city, in particular, has focused on measuring the degrees of the separation between Israeli and Palestinians, on blatant episodes of trespassing of these boundaries and, with the aim of peacefully coming to terms with the by-products of this dichotomy, on the possible arrangements and strategies to progress along a pattern of conflict resolution and the creation of a Palestinian state along Israel.

The rationale for the organization of the workshop is precisely that scarce attention has been given so far to those phenomena and dynamics that contradict the established narrative of the conflict, and to the way the evolutions of the reality on the ground do not fit the dichotomic paradigm of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The aim of this workshop has been not merely to discuss the level and the complex forms of merging between Israeli and Palestinian spaces, their diplomatic and geopolitical significance, or the role of planning and security in the production of space, but rather to explore new ways to capture this interconnected social, economic and political reality as well as to highlight the crucial issues it raises.

Six sessions (including a final roundtable) were organized to discuss these crucial issues: the political economy of sovereignty, spatial practices and perceptions, the forms of cooperation and exchange between the communities, economic issues, and the nature of borders and the concrete mechanisms for their management.

The contributions of the participants (in the form of short presentation papers) and the discussion developed in the course of the week emphasized a few important points. In the first place, a few contributions focused more broadly on the historical (Grinberg), economic (Amir) evolution of Israeli policies in Jerusalem, while others (Shlomo, Braier & Yacobi) detailed the dynamic of administrative intervention. Other contributions (Allegra, Shtern, Yacobi, Wallach) emphasized the heterogeneity of actors, networks and practices by challenging binary notions such as “divided city”, in which space is neatly divided in impermeable enclaves exclusively defined by ethno national affiliation – and where, by contrast, more frequent inter-group contacts (because of top-down intervention for the creation of public space, or the progressive  marketization of intergroup relations) is assumed to soften tensions. In this respect, the nature of borders has been one of the main themes under scrutiny. Different contributions (Havkin, Parizot) emphasized the idea that Israel’s policy of separation does not entail territorial separation per se, but rather foster the establishment of mobility regime whose functioning is based on a complex “border network”, involving both formal and informal actors. The final roundtable summarized the main issues that emerged during the debate and discussed the possible spaces of contestation and change.

The participants expressed their satisfaction for the debate developed through the workshop sessions. The organizers are currently exploring publication opportunities and future research initiatives and networks.

References

Anderson J, 2008 “From empires to ethno-national conflicts: a framework for studying ‘divided cities’ in ‘contested states’” WP 1, Conflict in Cities and the Contested State Programme.
Benvenisti M, 1977 Jerusalem. The Torn City (The University of Minnesota Press/Isratypeset LTD: Minneapolis/Jerusalem)
Bollens S, 2000 On Narrow Ground: Urban Policy and Ethnic Conflict in Jerusalem and Belfast (State University of New York Press: Albany)
Bollens S, 2007 “Comparative research on contested cities: lenses and scaffoldings”, WP 17, Crisis States Research Centre – Cities and Fragile States.
Cheshin A, 1999 Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem (Harvard University Press: Cambridge-Mass. and London)
Klein M, 2001 Jerusalem: The Contested City, (Hurst & Co. in association with the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies: London)
Kotek J, 1999 “Divided cities in the European cultural context” Progress in Planning 52(3) 227-237.
Misselwitz P, Reiniets T, 2006 Eds City of Collision: Jerusalem and the Principles of Conflict Urbanism, (Birkhauser, Basel)
Wasserstein B, 2001, Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City (New Haven : Yale University Press)
Marco Allegra Michal Braier Diane Davis Michael Dumper Daphna Golan Lev Grinberg Shira Havkin Cédric Parizot Amir Paz-Fuchs Oren Shlomo Marik Shtern Yair Wallach Haïm Yacobi A divided city? Rethinking borders, settlements and inter-communal interactions in metropolitan Jerusalem
This entry was posted in Reviews and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.