Normalizing Occupation: The Politics of Everyday Life in the West Bank Settlements

Normalizing Occupation: The Politics of Everyday Life in the West Bank Settlements

Normalizing Occupation: The Politics of Everyday Life in the West Bank Settlements

Normalizing Occupation: The Politics of Everyday Life in the West Bank Settlements

Synopsis

Controversy surrounds Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, and the radical national and religious agendas at play there have come to define the area in the minds of many. This study, however, provides an alternative framework for understanding the process of "normalization" in the life of Jewish residents. Considering a wider range of historical and structural factors in which the colonization of the West Bank developed it allows placing its origins and everyday reality into a wider perspective. The works collected consider the transformation of the landscape, the patterns of relationships shared by the region's residents, Palestinian and Jewish alike, and the lasting effects of Israel's settlement policy. Stressed in particular are such factors as urban planning, rising inequality and the retreat of the welfare state, and the changing political economy of industry and employment. In doing so, the authors collected here provide new insight into the integration and segregation processes that are an integral part of the broader historical trends shaping Israel/Palestine.

Excerpt

In January 2016, this flat in the Jewish settlement of Ma’ale Adumim was presented in the popular website Airbnb: “Amazing beautiful and spacious house, in a beautiful quiet suburban city 15 minutes to central Jerusalem. 4 big bedrooms, well equipped kitchen and large and cozy living room with panoramic view to the desert mountains.” Nothing in the advertisement hints at the fact that the Israeli town is located beyond the Green Line, in a territory that was occupied in the 1967 war. the controversial status of the location is obscured by a rather conventional description of the apartment, echoing that of tens of thousands of other Airbnb listings: the quality of the facilities available (at $60 a night) to guests, the beauties of the immediate surroundings, and the possibility of a fast, uncomplicated access to major commercial and touristic sites. the banality of the attributes listed by Airbnb hosts, however, illuminates some of the fundamental traits of Israel’s settlement project. As a matter of fact, most of the housing units built in the settlements are quite similar to the apartment depicted above and would therefore not appear out of place among the over two million properties in thirtyfour thousand cities that Airbnb lists in its website. the fact that the apartment in Ma’ale Adumim, as well as others in settlements such as Ariel, Karnei Shomron, or Efrat are presented on the website as being in Israel is also telling, as it points to the role that seemingly prosaic activities such as renting an apartment have in shaping the political and human geography of a contested territory. Indeed, the history of Israel’s settlement project has been by and large the history of the normalization of Jewish presence in the West Bank, a history in which the advent of Airbnb to the region represents just the latest episode. the process of normalization, i.e., the ongoing incorporation of the settlements into Israel’s social, economic, and administrative fabric underlying the development of Israel’s settlement policy is the topic of this volume.

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