Hebron old city under occupation: control and displacement
Publication Type
Conference Paper


Abstract final – contested conference

In 1967, the old city of Hebron as part of the West Bank in Palestine fell under the Israeli occupation which ever since continued to implement measures aiming at fully controlling the old city and its population. These measures, including closures, confiscation of properties, movement restrictions, long curfews, fragmentation of spaces and human rights violations, have denied the residents the right to freely use their city spaces. In addition, such measures have had a negative impact on the socio-economic situation in the old city which affected its function as a residential area and a commercial hub. The continuation of these conditions along with the decline of the quality of the living conditions caused a considerable displacement of the original population from the old city to newer city neighbourhoods. Currently the old city is encountering harsh economic conditions, high level of unemployment, low income and high number of displaced original families.
According to Foucault, architecture and planning have always been political and used for political or military purposes. Urbanism, thus has become more closely tied to the political way of thinking about government and governing citizens through space.Foucault explained how the city is ruled, governed and disciplined through the dispositif which employs methods of control based on knowledge and power (Ploger, 2008) . Different forms of powers’ (Discipline, sovereign and bio-power)techniques are applied on the city and its population through planned techniques; the discipline power is exercised over the city to make it controlled, governed and disciplined through the division and graduation of spaces, zoning and diagrammatization of space. The sovereign power exercises its sovereignty over subjects in part by the organization of spaces to impose control on people. While bio politics is exercised closely over the subject through killing or neutralization. The well-developed controlling system exerted by a colonial dispositive not only leads to control civilians,however, of it could ultimately lead to displacement.

This paper aims to highlight a form of displacement which took place in the old city of Hebron through the exertion of a colonization dispositif; it aims to explore how city spaces as containers for people were produced by this colonial dispositif‘s techniques. The case of the old city of Hebron is discussed in light of the powers exerted over the city spaces based on the Foucauldian power analysis as well as Henri Lefebvre’s production of space and David Harvey’s right to the city. Since the measures imposed over the old city of Hebron were mostly based on spatial techniques, rising from the strong colonization and expansive background of the Israeli occupation, the old city of Hebron turned into a hot spot of conflict. The use of spatial powers’ techniques; manifested in the urban planning techniques as a tool for social control and spatial organization both on its statutory and physical dimensions, paved the way to implement a strong strategy of control or.The Israeli system of control over the spatial realm of the old city emphasized space fragmentation that is paralleled with a gradual and calm transfer of original population to be gradually replaced by Israeli settlers.We argue that the Bio-politics of Foucault is exercised on Palestinian groups and individuals (seen as the others whose life must be excluded) (Penny, 2010) through space and territory control legitimized by security needs of Israel as a colonizing power. Palestinians in the old city of Hebron since the 1970s experienced the establishment of nodes and spots for Israeli settlers in their neighbourhoods guarded by military forces. Such spots increased to be four spots in the old city and its close vicinity, they expanded by time mainly over the southern part of the old city and were linked together by existing roads and alleys. To secure these sports and roads, Palestinian neighbourhoods around these spots have been denied free movement in their roads and streets and have been denied the normal daily life, they are left vulnerable in enclaves-like spaces in favour of securing the nodes and spots of the Israeli settlers.
To be able to analyse and understand the different power relations in space we adapted a developed conceptual framework for situating spatial power relations which combined the concepts of Foucault and Lefebvre in an analytical framework to evaluate and explore the production of public spaces in conflict areas that was produced by Zahraa Zawawi . In this paper we are going to update and use this conceptual framework on the urban level/ city level of Hebron by discussing the following: the physical layout of the (old) city including the forced Israeli settlements; the existing power relations; the shift in people’s perception of their space; and finally how this perception affects resistance. This diagnostic framework explains how power relations produced the old city of Hebron during conflict times. The discipline and sovereign powers’ techniques are exercised over the conceived space, and the bio-politics power was exercised over the people of the city leading to control them then to their displacement. The built space is organized to contain the daily practices in the city under the overall order of the occupying military forces. The people perceive these spaces as conflictual spaces; and therefore, live their spaces in ways to resist against the dominance of discipline, sovereign and bio political powers. The space in this case is actively reproduced by power relations leading to displacement of original residents and leaving space empty or filled in by new ones.
This framework will be applied on the old city of Hebron to understand the transformation and production of the spaces by power relations in relation to displacement. According to a survey in 2007 , 1,014 Palestinian housing units were vacated by their inhabitants and 1829 Palestinian businesses were closed. The peak of this displacement took placement between the year 2000 and 2005 during the second intifada. Israeli military power installed methods of segregation between the four Israeli settler spots inside the old city and surrounded their areas with around 20 permanent and partial checkpoints, 44 blocked roads and three large restricted areas (OCHA, 2014) . Extremely long curfews imposed on the Palestinian inhabitants that banned their movement for the sake of securing the Israeli settlement spots and to sustain their free movement. The long closures and curfews pushed the Palestinian residents to seek another safer place far from the old city, those who have the means to find other places left the old city, the poor stayed however. Currently the old city has a population of 11,000 Palestinian and 820 Israeli settlers, some of the evacuated housing units in the old city of Hebron have been filled with poor tenants coming from other parts of the city, yet a continuous fragmentation and slow cutting off the city spaces is being implemented using the same techniques of the Israeli colonial dispositif.


Conference Title
Contested cities
Conference Country
Conference Date
July 4, 2016 - Jan. 1, 2016
Conference Sponsor
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
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Conference Website