Displaced in place: neoliberal solutions to the housing crisis and Indigenous relation to land of ethno-national minority population

Authors: Oded Haas*, Ben Gurion University
Topics: Political Geography, Middle East, Urban Geography
Keywords: Displaceability, housing, Israel, settler-colonial, Indigenous
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 18
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper examines the effect of a national housing development scheme on the conditions of displaceability in a Bedouin city in Israel, Rahat. Following decades of state-induced ethnicised displacement and dispossession, including previous attempts at forced urbanisation of Bedouin-Arabs in the Israeli Naqab desert, the all-Bedouin city of Rahat is now presented with a massive urban development plan that would significantly increase housing options in the city, benefitting local inhabitants. This plan is part of a nationwide transformation in housing provision meant to deal with the local housing crisis, involving a highly centralised operation for increasing private market housing supply.
Looking into the case of Rahat, the paper explores how the state’s ostensible recognition in housing needs of Bedouin citizens is manipulated for assimilating the ethno-national minority into the state’s land regime. Looking at the housing crisis from an Indigenous perspective that recognises Indigeneity as a political category and Israel’s settler-colonial project as ongoing (Salaita, 2016), the paper explores how, while not being necessarily physically displaced, local residents become more displaceable – susceptible to displacement and vulnerable to distancing from their rights to the city (Yiftachel, 2020). Some will be evicted to make place for the new housing development, which is also meant for them but that was planned with no substantive consultation; some may be forced from ‘unrecognised’ villages to the new development; but beyond that, the collective relation to land, which has been the foundation of resistance to the state, would be altered, commodified, by the state.

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