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Roundtable Meeting on “Ethnic Urbanization: The Jordan Valley as a Case Study”

On Saturday December 1st, 2012 the Ibrahim Abu-Lughod Institute of International Studies hosted Mr. Chris Whitman for a roundtable meeting on “Ethnic Urbanization:  the Jordan Valley as a Case Study.” Mr. Whitman explained how with the designation of Areas A, B, and C in the Oslo Accords of 1993, Palestinian society has become an urbanized society, specifically in and around the Ramallah and Hebron areas.

This situation is much preferred by Israeli authorities and officials, who see territorial domination, and in some cases expansion, as being much easier under these conditions. The Jordan Valley is a prime example of this phenomenon. During the June 1967 war, Israel forcibly removed between 70,000 and 300,000 Palestinians from this area and established their first settlements there. In addition, after the Oslo Accords, when 95% of the Jordan Valley was designated Area C or a natural reserve, they limited Palestinian rural life to tiny, isolated islands surrounded by closed military zones, settlements, and natural reserves. Presently, a number of  established Palestinian villages are at their capacity rate, “indirectly” causing migration to other parts of the West Bank in order to start a family. Additionally, Bedouin and herding communities are forced to live in squalor, with a constant threat of demolition, unless they move to an “urban center,” the further the better from the Israeli perspective.

Instead of carrying out large scale forced transfers, the Israeli authorities prefer this method as it is cheap, effective, and receives little to no criticism from international bodies or individual states. Israel, as an expanding industrial economy, is creating conditions for mass urbanization which is typical for such states. The difference is the ethnic component that makes Palestinians a double target for migration from rural areas to urban ones. The added layer of it is a perfect fit for Israeli desires both to expand the settlement enterprise, and more specifically to realize their domination over the land itself. If Palestinians are forced to relocate from rural areas to urban ones, Israeli authorities have a much easier time confiscating land under various military edicts and expanding their dominance. Considering that the Jordan Valley constitutes 28.5% of the West Bank, this area is a strategic asset for the Palestinian people, and a prime target for the State of Israel, without even considering the resources or other benefits of the area.


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