World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


THE TERRITORIAL MANAGEMENT OF ETHNIC CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST - 2/2: The territorial management of ethnic conflict in the Middle East (333) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: THU 22, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED institution: University of Torino, University of Milano-Bicocca (Italy)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Marco Allegra, Anna Casaglia & Paolo Napolitano

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: While ethnic conflicts have many causes and facets, the territorial dimension represents one of the fundamental bones of contention in these situations. Since modern public authorities and collective decision-making arenas are mainly defined interritorial terms, demands by (ethnic) groups tend to focus on territorial issues at various levels. Moreover, in situations of conflict, policies oriented towards territory regulation have huge consequences on the worsening or resolution of the conflict itself, since physical space is charged with meanings that reflect power relations and becomes a tool for the construction of collective memories and social identity.
Consequently, in many situations these conflicts are fought to determine the balance between the powers of a central authority and those of a specific territorial sub-unit (through annexation, partition and secession, the granting of local autonomy or the reform of the constitutional structure of the state, etc.).
Furthermore, conflicts often arise over the control of identifiable geographical spots on the ground (i.e. not mobile material, strategic, symbolic or infrastructural resources).
Beside its relevance in determining the nature of the conflict, territory represents also the arena where the players confront each other, using territorial strategies and policies (i.e.: gerrymandering of jurisdictional boundaries, regulation on the movement of people and goods, urban and development planning, etc.) to advance their own agenda and/or promote different outcomes.
Our hypothesis is that the way conflicts relate to the territorial dimension, and to specific areas on a given territory, is paramount for their evolution. The analysis of the territorial policies carried on by the players therefore represents an interesting prism through which we can observe the reciprocal influence between two related dimensions: the nature of ethnonational conflict in general and the management of single important issues - for example policy sectors (i.e.: the land law, or water management) and/or geographic areas (i.e.: the ‘divided cities’).
The Middle East offers a broad range of cases of ethnonational conflicts that are strictly connected with territorial issues. We therefore invite the submission of papers addressing the subject both through theoretical contributions and the analysis of study cases.
The range of covered by the panel includes - but is not limited to - the conflicts in Cyprus, Israel/Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq. Given the panel's focus on comparative politics, the panel especially invites the submission of papers approaching the problem of territorial policies in a regional perspective; papers comparing Middle Eastern and other experiences of conflict are also most welcomed.

The second session will specifically focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first three papers presented will address various stages of the evolution of Israeli territorial policies by addressing the historical dimension of territorial policies in the field of water Management (Ilaria Giglioni), the construction of the Bedouin identity in the Negev (Raya Cohen) and the land tenure system (Es-Sayid). A fourth paper will delve into the overall territorial strategy of the Israeli government in the recent past (Yiftachel). A conclusive paper by the panel organizers (Marco Allegra, Anna Casaglia, Paolo Napolitano) will summarize the work of the two sessions and discuss the research perspective emerging from the panel.

Chair: Anna Casaglia (University of Milano - Bicocca)

Paper presenter: Oren Yiftachel (Ben-Gurion University), “Creeping Apartheid' and 'Gray Space' in Israel/Palestine”
The paper analyzes the recent phase in the political geography of Israel/Palestine termed here ''oppressive consolidation'', It is argued that this phase results in a structural process of ''creeping apartheid'', through which Israel gradually institutionalizes several types of ''separate and unequal'' civil statuses between Jordan and Sea. Territorial management is at the heart of the emerging new order, providing the regime with vital tools, such as the reshaping of spatial and mobility controls, legal settings, patterns of development, urban planning and the ethnocratic construction of fences, walls, gates and passages.

Paper presenter: Aida Essaid (University of Exeter), "A Land Tenure System Driven by a Colonial-Settler Movement: A Deconstruction of the Role of Zionism in the British Mandate in Palestine"
The core of the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is a territorial contest for the land that started long before the State of Israel was established. This paper analyzes the land tenure system in Palestine under the administration of the British Mandate and questions whether, and to what extent, the land tenure system in Palestine facilitated Zionist land acquisition? This paper explores whether the system allowed the Jewish Agency and Zionist actors to infiltrate every process within it. It argues that through the colonial-settler movement of Zionism, actors successfully penetrated very process of the land tenure system, and that it was their role in the combination of all these processes that permitted them to acquire enough land to hinder Palestinian landownership and land tenure security. Rather than approaching the transformation of the land tenure system in Palestine under the British Administration chronologically, the researcher found it best to address the topic by formulating the parts and processes that comprised a land tenure system, and analyzing each accordingly. After three years of investigating the topics of land and power, land tenure, land conflicts, and land tenure systems in the Middle East and specifically in Palestine, the following were determined to be the essential parts of the land tenure system: land legislation and the government objectives they support, the cadastral survey of the land, registration of title, land transfers, and disputes over land tenure. These processes are then reexamined using archives and an array of secondary sources, specifically those of the Central Zionist Archives and the Jordanian Department of Lands and Survey (the latter being a unique archive with restricted access). The paper begins by exploring colonial theory and the colonial settler characteristics of Zionism, and then substantiates how it was permeated all the processes of the land tenure system. This paper concludes that the land tenure system of the British Mandate in Palestine allowed the Jewish Agency and other Zionists to have a collaborative role in every process within the system, and that with this direct role they were able to fulfill their ambitions for land acquisition.

Paper presenter: Ilaria Giglioli (University of Toronto), "Water, networks and territory in the West Bank"
Infrastructure networks play a fundamental role in establishing and perpetuating territorial control. Water networks represent an infrastructure of this kind, playing a particularly important role, as they serve to establish control over both physical space and resources.Since Israeli occupation of the West Bank in 1967, large-scale ground-water development was carried out primarily to provide water to Israeli settlements. This paper will examine the role of the water network built in the West Bank during the years of Israeli occupation (1976 - 1994) in establishing, consolidating and perpetuating territorial control.

Paper presenter: Marco Allegra & Anna Casaglia(University of Torino,University of Milano-Bicocca, "The Territorial Management of Ethnic Conflicts: Research Perspectives"
The paper will summarize the results emerging from the sessions and illustrate the research perspective of the panel's organizers.