Date(s) - 08/11/2012
3:00 pm - 4:30 pm
Oren Yiftachel (Ben-Gurion University, Beersheba Israel) – ‘Grey Spacing and the Contemporary City: Between Liberalism and Urban Apartheid
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8
3:00 – 4:30 PM
CUNY GRADUATE CENTER
- RECEPTION TO FOLLOW -
The lecture conceptualizes what appears to be an emerging new urban order, flowing from structural tensions on the transformation of urban regimes and citizenship.
It draws attention to the pervasive emergence of ‘gray spaces’; that is, informal, temporary or illegal developments, transactions and populations. ’Gray-spacing’ has become a central strategy through which urban elites manage the unwanted/irremovable, putting in train a process of ‘creeping urban apartheid’. These tensions and trends will be illustrated by highlighting research findings from cities around Europe, Africa and Asia, with special focus on the ‘ethnocratic’ cities of Israel/Palestine.
Co-sponsored by the Graduate Programs in Urban Design (CCNY), CriticalSocial/Personality and Environmental Psychology and Earth and Environmental Sciences at the CUNY Graduate Center.
Prof. Yiftachel teaches urban studies and political geography at Ben-Gurion University, Beersheba. His research has focused on critical understandings of the relations between space, power and conflict, with particular attention to ethnic, social and urban aspects of these relations.
He published over 100 articles and ten authored and co-edited books, including Planning a Mixed Region in Israel (1992), Planning as Control: Policy and Resistance in Divided Societies(1995), Israelis in Conflict (2004), Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine(2006), andIndigenous (in)Justice (co-author, 2012 forthcoming).
Yiftachel now serves on the editorial boards of seven international journals, including journals such as Urban Studies, Society and Space and IJMS. He is an essay editor in the journal Planning Theory and a contributing editor of MERIP.
Yiftachel has been an activist in a wide range of human rights and social organizations, including the RCUV – council for unrecognized Bedouin villages, and Adva – center for social equality. He is currently the chair of one of Israel’s largest NGO - B’Tselem – monitoring human rights violations in the Palestinian Territories. He has been a team member in the planning projects Israel 2020, and in devising plans for Beersheba, Kibbutz movements and Bedouin villages.
For more information or inquiries please contact: Cindi Katz (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thursday, Nov. 1: Bedouin Rights in Israel/Palestine
November 1, 2012
“Indigenous Challenge to Legal Doctrine:
Bedouin Rights in Israel/Palestine”
A Talk by Oren Yiftachel and Ahmad Amara
12- 1 pm
Professor Oren Yiftachel, of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, and Ahmad Amara, Palestinian human rights lawyer and PhD candidate at New York University, will discuss a recent challenge launched in court (the ‘al-Uqbi case’) against a longstanding Israeli ‘empty Negev’ legal doctrine which has made it all but impossible for traditional land holders to gain legal ownership. The current challenge relates to global debates on issues of indigenous rights, customary law, legal pluralism and transitional justice.
Amara and Yiftachel co-edited a forthcoming book, “Indigenous (In)Justice,” which will soon be published by the Human Rights Program and distributed by Harvard University Press.
The indigenous Bedouin Arab population in the Naqab/Negev desert in Israel has experienced a history of displacement, intense political conflict, and cultural disruption, along with recent rapid modernization, forced urbanization, and migration. This volume of essays highlights international, national, and comparative law perspectives and explores the legal and human rights dimensions of land, planning, and housing issues, as well as the economic, social, and cultural rights of indigenous peoples. Within this context, the essays examine the various dimensions of the “negotiations” between the Bedouin Arab population and the State of Israel.
Indigenous (In)Justice locates the discussion of the Naqab/Negev question within the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict and within key international debates among legal scholars and human rights advocates, including the application of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the formalization of traditional property rights, and the utility of restorative and reparative justice approaches. Leading international scholars and professionals, including the current United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, are among the contributors to this volume.
Not yet available
$26.00 • £19.95 • €23.40
Publication February 2013
Jadal, Issue 13, May 2012 www.mada-research.org
Moving Towards Full-Scale Judicial Boycott in the Naqab
“We play the legal game. We are not equal to nor do we have the power of the state.
I know we will lose, but we play anyway. We know the court’s decision before we
So answered a resident of al-Sirra, an unrecognized village in the Naqab, when
asked why he endorses taking the al-Sirra case to the Israeli court despite its bias.
This “Viewpoint” tackles the same question, exploring the implications of
legitimization and the dynamics of the engagement of the Israeli judiciary by Naqab
Palestinians claiming their rights to land ownership.
In 1974, when Salim al-Hawashli brought claims of land ownership before the
Beersheba district court, he saw no point in hiring a lawyer to register his land. It
was obvious to him that he owned this land, given that he and his forefathers had
possessed and lived off the same piece of land in the Naqab for centuries, long
before any utopian, nationalist, colonialist, or adventurist Zionist ideas had emerged
or gained credibility in Europe. The Israeli judiciary and government (State
Attorney Office litigating the case) did not accept al-Hawashli’s claim and the court
ordered that the land be registered under the state’s name. His case and numerous
others show that the Israeli government and judiciary refuse to recognize that
Bedouins can hold “legal” land ownership.
Employing heavily manipulated legalistic discourse inherited from Ottoman and
British legislation, the courts consider the Naqab lands as mawat (dead land), which
automatically falls under the authority of the state. One may list quite a few
contradictory elements inherent in any such conclusion: Naqab Arabs have lived in
the Naqab for centuries and at times have cultivated up to three million dunams
therein; both the Ottoman and British governments granted Naqab inhabitants
almost full autonomy; in 1899 the Ottomans purchased 2000 dunams from al
Azazme tribe to establish Beersheba; the 1946 Survey of Palestine stated that
Bedouins may have rights to over 2 million dunams; disputes over unregistered
lands in the Naqab were adjudicated before the Palestine Supreme Court; and the
Jewish National Fund (JNF) purchased 60,000 dunams from Bedouins in the Naqab
before 1948.1 Consequently, one would wonder, why do Arab claimants continue to
resort to Israeli legal processes to assert their claims? Wouldn’t such engagement
serve to further legitimate the Israeli government policies of land dispossession by
providing a cloak of legality?
Processes of legitimization in the Weberian sense are widely discussed.
Governments attempt to establish their practiced authority as legitimate in the eyes
of their subjects. For self-proclaimed “democratic” governments, law is a key
platform and tool for legitimation, since the rubric of “the rule of law,” such
governments argue, is impartial. Israel’s decidedly legalistic approach to carry out
political strategies has played a primary role in legitimating Israeli policies. In broad
terms, most Israelis conform to the government’s Zionist policies, and most
Palestinians view Israeli law as a political tool to advance Zionist goals, particularly
regarding land. To date, the nationalization and Judaization of 93% of Israeli land
has been accomplished through “legal” means. Thus, the Naqab land case ought to
be discussed within a framework of a continuous process of Palestinian land
dispossession. The existing political polarization renders the subject of
legitimization to be relevant not to the subjects of Israeli authority, Israelis and
Palestinians, but rather to the international community.
To international audiences, the Israeli government utilizes a legalistic discourse to
justify its policies, including those concerning the Naqab. Additionally, it convolutes
the claim by presenting the Naqab case as a mere encounter between a modern
state and an anachronistic nomadic society. It is thus able to normalize its policies
by comparing them to other states’ policies of modernization. Between such
discourse of dis-ordered nomadism and the aforementioned mawat claims, the
Naqab Arabs are portrayed as people with no tangible connection to the land, and
their centuries of cultivation and possession are rendered, in the legal sense,
meaningless. Thus, in the state’s view, monetary compensation can account for the
“incidental” connection to the land that Naqab Arabs have—after all, the land is
“wasted” until it is “redeemed and developed” by the state.
Judicial processes diffuse the public outrage against racist policies and channel it
toward a “controlled” site operating under pre-determined rules. Similarly, the
NGO’s role in mitigating the results of the state’s failure or those of discriminatory
policies contributes to this diffusion, creating a smoke screen of a healthy society
that enjoys sufficient checks and balances. Thus, the argument of legitimization
applies in various degrees to other forms of engagement within the Israeli
constructed civic order. Within this complexity, I seek to stress one major point as
apparent in the statement of the al-Sirra resident.
1 For references to these claims and for further discussion on the Israeli legal position and its
contradictions, see Yiftachel, O., Kedar, A., and Amara, A. (2012) Re-Examining the ‘Dead Negev
Doctrine’: Property Rights in the Bedouin-Arab Space. Mishpat Umimshal. (Hebrew).
The quote complicates our understanding of power as it is practiced over subaltern
subjects. While many scholars view power as absolute over passive subjects, the al
Sirra resident presents an alternate narrative of conscious engagement of the
judiciary, including of the resulting ramifications. Lacking the power to influence the
system as a whole, subaltern groups have taken the strategy of utilizing the legal
apparatus as it stands. Similar to Governments, subaltern groups use courts for
political ends and as a political stage for mobilization and publicity, particularly
when mass popular resistance is absent, as it is nowadays in Israel/Palestine. Some
other possible considerations in such engagement are: short-term maximization of
benefits; management (rather than resolution) of the dispute; resistance of the
system; and making sure government policies do not go unchallenged. The Naqab
Arabs are aware that the courts cannot and will not bring justice (“The master's
tools will never dismantle the master's house”). 2 However, and without
romanticizing Naqab Arabs’ resistance, the Israeli government is also aware that it
cannot solve this case in courts alone. Until today, there were dozens of extra-
judicial governmental committees established to “solve” these cases, but to no avail.
Israeli Supreme-Court justices have stated the need for extra-judicial solutions,
which indicates that state power is fragmented and that formal law has revealed its
In addition to judicial engagement, Naqab Arabs resist state policies through protest
and domestic and international lobbying. However, the noblest form of resistance is
the commitment by most Naqab residents to continue to live in many of the lands
they claim, despite the miserable conditions to which they are subjected (besides
the fact that they have no alternative housing). Furthermore, some claimants refuse
to participate in the judicial process, resulting in dozens of court decisions against
them, exhibiting an active means of delegitimizing the judiciary.
One final question one might raise is: why not undertake a full-scale boycott of the
judiciary? Since Naqab Arabs pay the highest price for the injustices in question and
have the best understanding of the power in play, they are the authority on
strategies of engagement. Others ought to respect their decisions and work with
them to execute them. Surely, a collective decision in favor of boycott or another
form of engagement is the key to success. Before I read the court-decision of al-Uqbi
case, 3 I was in support of litigating one major case and accompanying it with
attempts at popular mobilization, given the increasing political and scholarly
attention paid to the Naqab cases and new historical evidence for legal Arab
ownership. I thought such actions would push courts closer to a precipice at which
they would have to either make a flagrant political decision endorsing land
dispossession or recognize the land rights of the Naqab Arabs. This, I thought, would
be the last serious judicial attempt and opportunity for resolution before a boycott
2 Lorde, A. (1984) Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. Berkeley, CA. Crossing Point.
3 C.A. 7161/06. al-Uqbi, S. et al. v. State of Israel. March 15, 2012. Beersheba District Court. Full
text available in Hebrew at http://www.lawpubshop.co.il/?
strategy would become inevitable. The al-Uqbi case convinced me that boycott is
now a better decision and that efforts towards international advocacy and local
mobilization can offer results not possible through Israel’s courts.
* Ahmad Amara is a lawyer and Ph.D. candidate at New York University