Territorialization’s consequences in H2 and EJ

Another response for class

kavafis enjoyer
5 min readApr 4, 2023

Over the past three decades as Gush Emunim has steadily grown in its political and bureaucratic influence, the government has intensified its colonization efforts in both Jerusalem and Hebron, specifically in East Jerusalem and the H2 area of Hebron. Although the approaches that the state takes in conjunction with the settler movement differs slightly from Jerusalem to Hebron, in both cases tools of security are used to weaken the Palestinian economy and society to the benefit of Jewish settlers as part of a larger process of territorialization, resulting in perpetual insecurity for Palestinians in both cities.

In Jerusalem and Hebron, the Israeli state is engaged in two linked territorialization processes, both spearheaded by the religious zionist settler bloc. According to Volinz, territorialization is when a state embarks to “claim authority over people and resources in a delimited area through cohesive enforcement and the mobility of policies, capital and discourse.” Although he focuses on East Jerusalem as a case of territorialization through the state’s privatization of security governance, Hebron is undergoing a similar process, in which security measures are used as a means to dismantle Palestinian society.

Before the Israeli government can use security as a tool of territorialization, there must be a settler population to rationalize security provision — Gush Emunim, then, is essential to and the main driver of this process. That said, the state security apparatus is the actor with the power to control capital and resources, and the settler bloc relies on the state for its dominance in East Jerusalem and H2. The NGO Ir Amim attests in its issue brief that in the late 1980s, the government began encouraging Jewish settlement within Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, transferring a number of Old City and East Jerusalem properties to settler organizations. This process began in Hebron at around the same time according to Makdisi, as settlers began to move into the Old City and the Palestinian population there began to decline. As is still the case in Sheikh Jarrah, Silwan and Jabel Mukaber, the state routinely evicts Palestinians from their homes so that Jewish settlers can replace them — this practice, which the state seldom justifies through security concerns (rather through ownership claims based on legal loopholes), already guarantees the insecurity of Palestinians in Jerusalem and Hebron. In Jerusalem, political organizer Amal Qassem, who is under threat of eviction, recounted her daughters’ reaction to the notice: “My daughters expect that their fate will be the same as their friends and neighbors who were evicted,” indicating this is not just a painful moment for their family, but a common occurrence.

Security measures such as closures, blockades, and the provision of guards, now relevant because of a Jewish settler presence, cement the effects of routine evictions by deconstructing various facets of Palestinian communal life.

In Hebron, the army shuts down areas it designates as “closed military zones” and enforces enclosure orders for Palestinian residents, making it impossible for them to “renovate and rejuvenate” the center of the city, which once produced 40% of the economic output of the southern West Bank. This occurred in Hebron’s center, particularly on al-Shuhada Street which runs through the Old City in 1994, when the army closed Palestinian shops on the street and barred Palestinians from passing through, shifting economic activity from H2 to H1. There is a large commercial center in the Bab al-Zawiya area of H1, but the infrastructure which supports it is temporary, reinforcing a collective sense of impermanence. Makdisi’s tour guide attests to this, noting how the “stalls [of the open market] are set up in a makeshift way, on car tops or the sidewalk.”

Al-Shuhada Street in Hebron (Sete Ruiz/Commons)

Physical separation between Jewish settlers and Palestinians, enforced by the army, is of unequal nature. For Palestinian residents, many roads which have Jewish settlements at the end are blockaded, or at least closed off for entry. This doesn’t mean that Jews and Palestinians aren’t living in close proximity with one another, though. There are no blockades to the Jewish settlement which looms over the Palestinian souk on al-Casbah street — residents are at liberty to throw heaps of their trash from their homes onto the Palestinians below, protected only by netting, but Palestinians are unable to come near Jewish areas of residence. Of the 500 former shops that used to exist on al-Casbah Street, only 15 remained in 2008.

The organization of security forces in Hebron is characterized by its exclusive anticipation of Palestinian violence against Jewish settlers rather than vice versa. The priorities of the army, as well as emergency and medical services in Hebron, are exemplified by their immediate response to the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre in 1994. When the security center of Kiryat Arba first learned through its communications system that gunshots were fired from inside Ibrahimi Mosque, they contacted the culprit first, Baruch Goldstein, who was known in the settlement as an emergency physician and served on the Kiryat Arba municipal council.

Neuman writes that in response to the crowd rushing toward the exit, the army stationed at the site fired gunshots into the air, supposedly to impose order. She notes that contrary to the army’s narrative, Palestinian accounts allege soldiers shot into the crowd, causing more deaths. The state’s lack of preparedness in its response was not due to general negligence, but the fact that security forces were created to work exclusively for Jewish settlers against the Palestinian population, and when confronted with situations outside of this agenda, its response is ineffective by design. Palestinians in H2 are thus deprived of building their own institutions, and deprived of institutional backing from the Israeli state.

Private security guard looks from a roof in Silwan, East Jerusalem. (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

In Jerusalem, the state attempts to obscure the purpose of its security forces through the delegation of its responsibilities to private security companies, rather than the Israeli police. Former Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franko in a 2010 parliamentary session discerned between the goals of private security guards and Israeli police. He plainly states that he and those working under him “treat residents equally” while PSCs do not. However dubious his claim about Israel’s police force may be, he acknowledges PSCs’ sole focus is on protecting Jews. Despite the private nature of these companies, the state pays for the provision of private security guards in East Jerusalem and oversees the private contractors it outsources security to through a governmental ministry.

PSCs in East Jerusalem are paid by the Ministry of Housing to guard exclusively Jewish-only settlements. There are over 350 full-time security guards, one for every 5 settlers, and they provide services to these settlers such as transport, which goes beyond simple patrolling. Palestinian neighborhoods do not only lack these, but also find themselves at odds with the Israeli Border Police, and so similar to in Hebron, there is a real lack of institutional support for East Jerusalem’s Palestinian majority. The fact that the state is held less accountable due to its outsourcing of security means that it can be bolder in its settlement project in East Jerusalem, while simultaneously continuing evictions and steadily dismantling facets of Palestinian society life to further Israel’s expansionist interests.