Abstract In this article, I propose a framework for analyzing context-specific relationships between neoliberal restructuring and simultaneous efforts to reorganize racial and colonial domination. To do so, I explore the articulation between colonization and neoliberalization in the West Bank with a focus on the Bethlehem region. Drawing on qualitative interviews and ethnographic research, the article begins by examining the territorial fragmentation of the Bethlehem region into a series of isolated Palestinian enclosures. These neoliberal enclosures attempt to contain a colonized population that has become increasingly disposable with the restructuring of Israel’s economy. As sites of concentrated inequality and intense marginalization, however, they offer only a precarious form of containment. The article then turns to the Palestinian villages, which have become front lines of the struggle over colonization in the West Bank. In the hills west of Bethlehem, Palestinian villagers confront colonial violence by Israeli settlers and the state. They also confront a crisis of unemployment and rapid urbanization due to neoliberal restructuring. These dynamics have combined to create an indirect form of displacement and a market-based strategy of colonization. Overall, therefore, Palestinians in the West Bank today confront a unique form of neoliberal colonization. Palestine, settler colonialism, racial capitalism, neoliberalism, enclosure Over the last twenty years, the State of Israel has accelerated its settler colonial project in the West Bank by fragmenting the territory into an archipelago of isolated enclaves, concentrating the Palestinian population into these enclaves, and colonizing the land that remains. Given the intensity of Israel’s colonial project, visitors to Ramallah, Bethlehem, and other West Bank enclaves are often struck by the lavish lifestyles of the Palestinian elite: fancy restaurants, expensive cars, five-star hotels, and private “villas.” Billboards advertise real estate opportunities, private swimming pools, and exclusive resorts. Yet most residents of the West Bank enclaves are poor and working class Palestinians whose lives are marked by poverty, dispossession, and constant repression. The Palestinian enclaves, therefore, can be described as spaces of concentrated inequality where rich and poor live side by side. What accounts for concentrated inequality in the West Bank today? The answer lies in the relationship between colonization and neoliberalization. As products of Israel’s settler colonial project, the Palestinian enclaves are the continually shrinking remainders of a national homeland. The enclaves are also shaped by market-oriented neoliberal projects that have reduced Israeli dependence on Palestinian workers while facilitating the emergence of a new Palestinian elite. To understand the transformation of the West Bank over the last twenty years, therefore, requires attention to the combination of settler colonialism and neoliberal capitalism—a combination that I call neoliberal colonization. Scholarship on neoliberal restructuring is well established. Studies of settler colonialism, on the other hand, have experienced a recent revival. Yet much of the new literature on settler colonialism downplays the significance of capitalism, while most studies of neoliberalism pay little attention to racial domination. In this article, I propose a framework for analyzing context-specific relationships between neoliberal restructuring and simultaneous efforts to reorganize racial and colonial domination. To do so, I explore neoliberal colonization in the West Bank today, with a focus on the Bethlehem region. I begin with a brief review of the literature on settler colonialism and neoliberalism and an outline of my research methods. Next, I present an overview of the Oslo “peace process,” which combined a restructuring of Israel’s settler colonial project with neoliberal projects to restructure the economy in Palestine/Israel. I then trace the impact of neoliberal colonization on the Bethlehem region. I first analyze the enclaves produced by the Israeli strategy to concentrate and contain the increasingly disposable Palestinian population. As spaces of concentrated inequality, intense marginalization, and constant struggle, however, the enclaves provide only a precarious form of containment. I then turn to the Palestinian villages, which have become front lines of the struggle over colonization. In the hills west of Bethlehem, Palestinian villagers confront colonial violence by Israeli settlers and the state along with a crisis of unemployment and rapid urbanization. These dynamics have combined to create an indirect form of displacement and a market-based strategy of colonization. Overall, therefore, I argue that Palestinians in the West Bank today confront an aggressive form of neoliberal colonization. SETTLER COLONIALISM AND NEOLIBERAL CAPITALISM Common in the 1960s and 1970s, studies of settler colonialism have re-emerged in recent years, especially within the fields of indigenous studies and Palestine studies. Settler colonialism is a form of colonization marked by ongoing efforts to displace local populations and expropriate their land in order to establish or expand a society dominated by settlers (Abdo 2011; Abowd 2014; Collins 2012; Coulthard 2014; Lockman 2012; Rouhana and Sabbagh-Khoury 2015; Salamanca et al. 2011; Simpson 2014; Wolfe 1999, 2006; Veracini 2007). Colonization, in this sense, refers to the process of establishing control over territory through displacement, expropriation, and settlement. Settler colonialism operates through racial projects that devalue and dehumanize “native” populations, provide “ethical” or “legal” arguments for dispossession, and contribute to the formation of racialized structures of settler domination. Among the most important of these structures is the settler state, which provides a powerful tool for dispossession and domination. In a foundational article, Patrick Wolfe explains that settler colonial projects prioritize the “elimination of the native” in order to build a settler society on expropriated land (Wolfe 2006). Lorenzo Veracini adds that settler colonialism is distinct from other forms of colonization because it is premised on the elimination rather than the exploitation of indigenous populations (Veracini 2011). Although Veracini and Wolfe acknowledge that the logic of elimination intersects in complex ways with capitalist demands for labor, much of the recent scholarship has emphasized colonization rather than capitalism. A few critical scholars have challenged this tendency by exploring the interconnections between settler colonialism and capitalism (Byrd 2011; Coulthard 2014; Jackson 2012; Krauthamer 2015; Lowe 2015). Glen Coulthard (2014), for instance, reworks Karl Marx’s concept of “primitive accumulation” to argue that dispossession is a strategy for not only accumulating land and wealth but also eliminating an unwanted population. Rather than treating elimination and exploitation as mutually exclusive, I follow these scholars in highlighting their complex interconnections. Analyzing these interconnections in contemporary settler colonial societies requires attention to neoliberalism. Rejecting the Keynesian notion that governments should promote full employment and the Fordist principle that businesses can maximize profits by increasing wages and productivity, neoliberal economists see competition as the most efficient mechanism for generating prosperity and protecting individual liberty. They advocate policies such as free trade, privatization, de-regulation, corporate tax breaks, and cuts in social spending; attacks on unions, welfare, and affirmative action; and the promotion of individualism and entrepreneurialism (Block and Somers 2014; Brenner and Theodore 2002; Brown 2015; Harvey 2005; Peck 2010). Despite an abundance of critical research, much of the scholarship continues to overlook the racial dynamics of neoliberalism. Fortunately, that is beginning to change as scholars analyze neoliberal racial capitalism. Critical race scholars, for instance, have demonstrated that the neoliberal mantra of individual achievement is integral to “colorblind” discourses that deny the continued significance of racism (Bonilla-Silva 2001; Davis 2007; Giroux 2004; Goldberg 2008; Omi and Winant 2015; Roberts and Mahtani 2010). They also point out that neoliberal critiques of “big government” push back most aggressively against programs that are perceived as racially redistributive—such as affirmative action or reparations. Moreover, they demonstrate that mass incarceration is a neoliberal racial project (Gilmore 2007). As David Roberts and Minelle Mahtani (2010) argue, “race and racism are inextricably embedded in the neoliberal project” (p. 250). Urban geographers have revolutionized the study of neoliberalism by analyzing the process of neoliberal restructuring or neoliberalization. Rather than simply replacing one hegemonic ideology with another, neoliberalization is a contested, uneven process through which actors seek to transform entrenched patterns of social organization with market-oriented projects (Brenner and Theodore 2002; Peck 2010; Peck and Tickell 2002). Neoliberal projects are internally contradictory and generate struggles and crisis that in turn must be managed. As a result, Jamie Peck (2010) argues, the process of neoliberalization is shaped by constant interventions to manage the tension between markets and order. Building on the work of critical race theory, urban geography, and settler colonial studies, my research focuses on the articulation between neoliberalization and racialization. As Michael Omi and Howard Winant (2015) point out, neoliberal projects are racial projects. At the same time, neoliberal projects intersect with a range of other projects—including racial and colonial projects—that are not primarily about capital accumulation. This requires attention to the complex formations of neoliberal racial capitalism that result from articulations between simultaneous projects to rework or defend existing social relations. In this article, I trace the articulation between neoliberalization and colonization in the West Bank today. RESEARCH METHODS I have been doing research in Palestine/Israel since 1996. From 2001-2006, I conducted 15 months of ethnographic research in the West Bank. In 2012 and 2013, I completed another five months of ethnographic research and more than 100 interviews in the Bethlehem region. I conducted formal and informal interviews with Palestinian officials, NGO employees, community organizers, activists, former political prisoners, farmers, laborers, and unemployed workers as well as Israeli soldiers, settlers, NGO employees, and anti-occupation activists. Along with interviews and ethnographic observations, I gathered an archive of government documents, newspaper articles, publications, maps, and statistics. The most important database for my research is the online archive of the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem (ARIJ). ARIJ monitors Israeli settlement and military activities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and publishes a web-based archive of reports, maps, photographs, and analyses. As a white, American, middle-class, male conducting research on settler colonialism and racial capitalism in the global South, I take seriously the tensions produced by my own subjectivity. Over the last twenty years, I have established extensive networks of trust and support in Palestine/Israel. Yet my social identity continues to shape my relationships and my research. My status as a US citizen provided me with two privileges that Palestinians lack the most and that facilitated my ability to conduct research: immunity from the physical violence of the occupation and the freedom to move through checkpoints. Gender relations in Palestinian society facilitated my access to Palestinian men but constrained my interactions with Palestinian women. As a result, most of the Palestinians that I interviewed are men. The Israelis that I interviewed and met informally were largely open to my project and willing to share their ideas and experiences. Nevertheless, the fact that I speak Arabic but not Hebrew and lived among Palestinians rather than Jewish Israelis created obstacles in the eyes of some Israeli officials. OSLO: A NEOLIBERAL COLONIAL PROJECT After occupying the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, Israel installed a military administration to govern the Palestinian population and began steadily colonizing Palestinian land and building Israeli settlements (Aruri 1983; Said 1994; Hajjar 2005). The state incorporated the occupied Palestinian population into the Israeli economy as low-wage workers (Farsakh 2005; Hilal 1976; Roy 1995; Samara 1992; Semyonov and Lewin-Epstein 1987). Until the 1980s, Israel managed a racial Fordist economy characterized by state support for industrial and agricultural production, full employment and extensive benefits for Jewish workers, and the exploitation of low-wage Palestinian and Mizrahi Jewish workers (Shafir and Peled 2000a). By the mid 1980s, 40% of Palestinians from the occupied territories worked inside Israel—primarily in construction and agriculture (Farsakh 2005). Others worked in factories throughout the occupied territories that subcontracted for Israeli manufacturers (Samara 1992). View largeDownload slide The West Bank after Oslo. By Molly O’Halloran. Based on B’Tselem, “The West Bank: Settlements and the Separation Barrier – November 2014.” View largeDownload slide The West Bank after Oslo. By Molly O’Halloran. Based on B’Tselem, “The West Bank: Settlements and the Separation Barrier – November 2014.” In 1993, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization began a series of negotiations known as the Oslo “peace process” and established the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a self-governing body for Palestinians in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.1 1 This article does not address changes in the Gaza Strip or within the 1948 boundaries of Israel. On these topics, see: Gordon 2008; Li 2006; Rouhana and Sabbagh-Khoury 2015; Roy 1995; Weizman 2007; Yiftachel 2000; Yiftachel and Ghanem 2004. Within the West Bank, the PA was granted partial autonomy in Areas A and B—a series of scattered enclaves that make up 40% of the territory. Israel retained full jurisdiction over the remaining 60% of the West Bank (Area C) and ultimate control over the entire territory (Weizman 2007; Gordon 2008). The Israeli military fragmented the West Bank by withdrawing from the heart of Palestinian cities (Area A); surrounding the cities with checkpoints; introducing a regime of permits to regulate Palestinian movement; and charging the PA with responsibility for suppressing resistance in Area A. Overall, therefore, Oslo enabled Israel to supplement direct military rule with aspects of indirect rule. In the West Bank, Israel’s new colonial strategy involves concentrating the Palestinian population into the enclaves of Areas A and B and colonizing Area C by confiscating Palestinian land, demolishing Palestinian houses, and building Israeli settlements (Gordon 2008). Since 1994, the number of settlers in the West Bank has tripled from 110,000 to more than 300,000 and reaches over 500,000 when the East Jerusalem settlements are included (B’Tselem 2013). Israel also built a network of “bypass roads” that link the settlements to one another and to Jerusalem while furthering the fragmentation of the Palestinian population (Weizman 2007). And, since 2002, Israel has been building the “separation fence” or “Apartheid Wall” deep into the West Bank, incorporating settlements and Palestinian land into Israel while fortifying the isolation of the Palestinian enclaves (Sorkin 2005; Backmann 2010). Taken together, the expansion of Israeli settlements, roads, fences, walls, and checkpoints provides clear evidence that the Oslo process intensified, rather than reversing, Israel’s settler colonial project in the West Bank. Although Israel’s colonial practices may be familiar, it is important to understand that the reorganization of Israeli rule has been coupled with neoliberal restructuring. Since the mid-1980s, Israel has undergone a fundamental transformation from a state-led, worker-centered economy focused on domestic consumption to a corporate-driven, profit-centered economy integrated into the circuits of global capital (Grinberg and Shafir 2000; Nitzan and Bichler 2002; Ram 2008; Shalev 2000). Neoliberal restructuring has generated massive profits for high-tech and finance capital while dismantling the Israeli welfare state, weakening the Histadrut labor federation, and generating widespread poverty. Israel now has the second highest level of inequality among advanced industrial countries (after the US) and spends less than every other OECD country on social safety nets (Ram 2008; Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 2015; Adva Center 2014). The Oslo negotiations were central to this neoliberal project. Political and business elites argued that peace would open the markets of the Arab world to US and Israeli capital and facilitate Israel’s integration into the global economy (Beinin 2006; Hanieh 2013; Shafir and Peled 2000b). At the time of Oslo, Shimon Peres (1993) outlined his vision for a “New Middle East” based on a regional free trade zone. Meanwhile, the US government and the World Economic Forum hosted a series of Middle East/North Africa economic summits to encourage free trade policies and joint ventures between Israel and the Arab world (Paris 2000). Israel quickly signed free trade agreements with Egypt and Jordan. Israel’s colonial policy operates through neoliberalism. Neoliberal restructuring enabled Israel to pursue its strategy of concentration and colonization by significantly reducing Israeli reliance on Palestinian labor. Israel’s transition to a globalized, high-tech economy reduced the demand for industrial and agricultural labor (Grinberg and Shafir 2000; Ram 2008; Shalev 2000). In addition, free trade agreements allowed Israeli manufacturers to shift production from Palestinian subcontractors in the occupied territories to export-processing zones in neighboring countries (Drori 2000; Samara 2000). Moreover, the collapse of the Soviet Union followed by “shock doctrine” neoliberalism led more than one million Russian Jews to seek opportunities in Israel—further displacing Palestinian workers (Lewin-Epstein, Ro’i, and Ritterband 2013). Finally, neoliberal restructuring on a global scale led to the immigration of 300,000 migrant workers from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa that now compete with Palestinians for the remaining low-wage jobs (Drori 2009; Ellman and Laacher 2003; Raijman and Semyonov 2004). The formation of the Palestinian Authority allowed Israel to partially outsource the occupation (Gordon 2008). The schools, hospitals, and pensions operated by the PA are funded primarily by grants and loans from “donor states” in Europe, North America, and the Arab Gulf and from taxes collected by Israel on imported goods consumed by Palestinians in the occupied territories. Israel and the donor states exploit this dependency to shape the policies of the PA. The PA also helps Israel suppress resistance through coordinated security operations that target the Palestinian opposition (Byrne 2009; Sayigh 2011). And the economic policies of the PA are based on the neoliberal vision of a private sector-led, export oriented, free market economy (Samara 2000; Hanieh 2013; Haddad 2016). This stems in part from longstanding connections between the Fatah leadership and Palestinian capitalists in the diaspora (Nakhleh 2012). But the World Bank, the IMF, and the US government have tremendous influence over the economic policies of the PA. And Israel retains ultimate control over the Palestinian economy through its domination over land, resources, water, movement, and borders. Overall, then, the Oslo process has linked the colonial and capitalist projects restructuring social relations in Palestine/Israel today. Rather than simply a political project, Palestinians in the West Bank confront a dangerous combination of colonization and neoliberalization. In the next section, I document the impact of this combination on the urban enclave of Bethlehem. I then trace its impact on the Palestinian villages west of Bethlehem. NEOLIBERAL ENCLOSURES: THE BETHLEHEM ARCHIPELAGO Like other parts of the West Bank, the Bethlehem region was fragmented after Oslo. For centuries, Bethlehem was a small town with close ties to Jerusalem. Since the 1990s, Israel has separated these twin cities with an array of settlements, checkpoints, fences, and walls (Abowd 2014; Shlay and Rosen 2015; Yiftachel and Yacobi 2002). Cut off from the heart of its metropolitan region, Bethlehem became the center of an administrative district under the Palestinian Authority. View largeDownload slide The Bethlehem region. By Molly O’Halloran. Based on B’Tselem, “The West Bank: Settlements and the Separation Barrier – November 2014.” View largeDownload slide The Bethlehem region. By Molly O’Halloran. Based on B’Tselem, “The West Bank: Settlements and the Separation Barrier – November 2014.” The district is centered on an urban enclave (Area A) that consists of four cities (Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Al-Doha), three refugee camps (Dheisheh, Aida, and Azza), and two villages (Al-Khader and Artas). The district also includes dozens of separate village enclaves (Area B) to the east, south, and west. The PA exercises partial autonomy within these enclaves (Areas A and B), which make up 13% of the Bethlehem district. Israel retain full jurisdiction over the remaining 87% (Area C) of the land (United Nations 2009). Israel targets Area C for land confiscation and settlement construction. To the north, the settlements of Gilo and Har Homa separate Bethlehem from Jerusalem. The Etzion settlement bloc fragments the rest of the Bethlehem district. The Etzion bloc consists of two large cities, a major cluster of settlements west of Bethlehem, a small cluster to the east, and several hilltop outposts. Israeli officials consider the Etzion settlements an integral part of “Metropolitan Jerusalem” and insist that they will eventually be annexed. Since the 1990s, Israel has built three bypass roads in the Bethlehem region to connect the settlements with Jerusalem and Israeli cities on the coast. The bypass roads loop around Palestinian cities and villages, further isolating the enclaves. Palestinians are prohibited from traveling on parts of these roads and their movement is highly restricted on others. Built on confiscated land, the new highways created a complex grid of tunnels, bridges, and separate (but unequal) roads for Palestinians and Israelis (Gordon 2008; Weizman 2007). Since 2002, the state has also built a series of fences and walls in the Bethlehem district (Backmann 2010; Sorkin 2005). To the north, an 8-meter concrete wall separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem. To the northeast, an array of fences, trenches, military roads, and buffer zones zigzag between Palestinian cities and Israeli settlements. To the west and south, however, Israel has only built sections of the wall due to opposition by Etzion settlers who fear that the wall will limit their expansion (Hever 2010). If Israel constructs the wall as planned, however, it will enclose seven Palestinian villages within a fully isolated annexation zone (United Nations 2009). The Bethlehem enclave, therefore, is a product of aggressive colonization. It is also a site of concentrated inequality. Expensive cafés, restaurants, and hotels cater to wealthy Palestinians. Luxury cars and SUVs line the driveways of palatial mansions. Cranes and construction crews transform the landscape to realize the fantasies and investments of the Palestinian elite (Rabie 2013; Taraki 2008). Rather than signs of a thriving economy, these displays highlight the shifting class structure of Palestinian society in the West Bank. Through the Oslo process, a small Palestinian elite has grown rich while the majority of Palestinians confront poverty, unemployment, and constant repression. During the 1990s, the PA encouraged the return of Palestinian capitalists from the diaspora and provided economic incentives for political support (Hanieh 2013; Nakhleh 2012). Since 2007, the PA has pursued more explicitly neoliberal economic policies (Hanieh 2013; Khalidi and Samour 2011). These policies led to the consolidation of a new class of Palestinian capitalists composed of wealthy returnees, traditional elites, and business owners who serve the occupation. Because their ability to conduct business depends on the consent of Israeli authorities, Palestinian capitalists generally accommodate the occupation while some even profit from colonization (Dana 2014; Hanieh 2013). In addition, Oslo enabled the emergence of a Palestinian NGO elite with ties to international donors. After 1994, the flow of donor aid and the liberal doctrine of “civil society” led to a proliferation of international and Palestinian NGOs in the occupied territories (Hammami 1995). Although many NGO employees have backgrounds in community organizing, the salaried elite has become increasingly professionalized, accommodating, and responsive to international agendas (Hanafi and Tabar 2005; Nakhleh 2012). Along with the PA leadership, Palestinian capitalists and NGO officials constitute a new West Bank elite. While protected from some aspects of the occupation, Palestinian elites are still subject to Israeli rule. They confront humiliation, land confiscations, and violent assaults. Moreover, they are confined to the same enclaves as the Palestinian poor. This makes the Palestinian enclaves spaces of concentrated inequality. Life for working class Palestinians has become increasingly precarious. With limited access to jobs in Israel, poverty and unemployment have soared within the occupied territories (Farsakh 2005). To address the crisis of unemployment, the PA rolled out a public employment program during the 1990s and expanded the program when Israel sealed off the occupied territories during the second intifada (uprising) from 2000-2005 (Farsakh 2009). Although the World Bank and IMF always encouraged the PA to reduce public spending, they rallied donor states to finance PA employment in the hope that access to jobs would help contain the uprising (Farsakh 2009). After 2007, the PA followed a strict prescription of neoliberal economics under the leadership of PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Fayyad’s plan for economic restructuring—the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP)—was developed in coordination with the World Bank (Palestinian National Authority 2008; Khalidi and Samour 2011). The core of the PRDP is public sector fiscal reform and private sector investment. To reduce public expenditures and dependence on donors, the PRDP called for eliminating 40,000 public sector jobs, imposing a three-year freeze on public salaries, and ending subsidized water and electricity for the refugee camps (Hanieh 2013). To promote private sector investment, the PRDP embraced the longstanding goal of establishing free-trade industrial zones to take advantage of low-wage labor in the Palestinian enclaves (Hanieh 2013). Despite ambitious efforts to attract investors, however, the private sector in the West Bank remains weak and fragmented. It consists primarily of small, unregulated firms that employ one or two workers (International Labor Organization 2013). 53% of workers are hired without a contract and 35% receive less than minimum wage (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2014). Despite experiments with free-trade zones, the planned industrial estates have largely failed to materialize. In Bethlehem, for instance, a building has been constructed and plans remain on the table for a Bethlehem Industrial Estate. Yet investors have shown little interest due to political instability, Israeli restrictions on imports and exports, and the relatively high cost of Palestinian labor compared to neighboring countries (Interview with Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry, October 2012). The Bethlehem area has only two major industries: tourism and stone-cutting. Oslo suffocated the Palestinian tourist industry while enabling Israeli firms to capture the vast majority of tourist spending (Stein 2008). Bethlehem experienced a temporary boom in tourism in preparation for celebrations of the new millennium (“Bethlehem 2000”), but the outbreak of the second intifada in September 2000 disrupted these plans. While some large stores and hotels have experienced a recovery, the industry increasingly squeezes the smallest players: tour guides, hotel and restaurant employees, small souvenir stands, and the factory workers who produce keepsakes made of olive wood and mother-of-pearl (Interviews with an official in the PA Ministry of Tourism and business owners, factory workers, and tour guides, September 2012). Stone and marble accounts for 25% of Palestinian industrial revenue and nearly 1/3 of the factories are in the Bethlehem region—mostly around the village of Beit Fajjar (Paltrade 2014; Palestinian National Authority 2002). In recent years, more than 75 (out of 150) factories in Beit Fajjar have closed, and only 10-12 still operate full-time (United Nations 2009). Israel refuses to issue new permits for Palestinian quarries, confiscates equipment from quarries operating without permits, restricts the export of Palestinian products, and encourages Israeli companies to open quarries in the occupied territories (Sherwood 2012; Union of Stone and Marble Industry 2011; World Bank 2013). The only reason that stone-cutting remains profitable is the expansion of Israeli settlements. Because an Israeli law requires all buildings in the Jerusalem region to be faced with “Jerusalem Stone,” more than 70% of Palestinian stones are sold to Israeli developers for construction in Jerusalem and the settlements (Prusher 2000). Yet the stone-cutting industry generates few jobs. Most factories are small, only 10% employ more than 20 workers, the industry is increasingly automated, and the jobs that remain are difficult, dirty, and dangerous (Paltrade 2014; Prusher 2000). Overall, therefore, the neoliberal effort to promote private investment has failed. As a result, the PA continues to rely on public employment to contain unemployment and resistance. The PRDP reduced the government payroll from 180,000 to 153,000, but 16.5% of Palestinians in the West Bank work for the PA and 52% of the PA budget is allocated for wages (Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics 2014; World Bank 2014). Although there are jobs in education and health care, the bulk of jobs are with the PA security forces. More than 70,000 strong, the security forces account for 30% of the PA budget. Since 2005, the PA security forces have been trained by the US in Jordan and then deployed in coordination with the Israeli military to target Palestinian critics of Oslo in the West Bank (Byrne 2009; Sayigh 2011; Clarno 2014). Crackdowns on Islamists and leftists involve shared intelligence, coordinated arrests, and weapons confiscations (Interviews and informal meetings with Palestinian, Israeli, and US officials involved in security coordination and a focus group discussion with Palestinian security officers, September and October 2013). Although Israeli and US officials celebrate the success of these operations, Palestinians increasingly view security coordination as one of the worst aspects of Oslo. Like the PA, the Israeli government uses employment as a pressure release valve. Whereas previous policies sought to forcibly incorporate Palestinian workers into the Israeli labor market, the state now treats jobs in Israel as a privilege for good behavior. The permit regime allows the state to address the changing demands of Israeli employers as well as the shifting political context (Hanieh 2013; Farsakh 2009). The availability of work permits depends on individual and collective accommodation to the occupation: not only does Israel restrict the number of permits during an uprising but individuals with marks on their security record are automatically blacklisted (Farsakh 2009; Shenhav and Berda 2009). Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are blacklisted for undisclosed “security” reasons, for entering Israel without a permit, or for failing to pay a fine or comply with a military order (Berda n.d.; Shenhav and Berda 2009). The state also uses the permit regime to recruit informants (Berda n.d.). In the context of widespread unemployment, the permit regime provides a powerful disciplinary tool for the occupation. The only sector of the Israeli economy that has retained a relatively steady demand for Palestinian workers is construction—due largely to the high-tech boom and the expansion of Israeli settlements. Israel now designates nearly 50% of work permits for the settlements (International Labor Organization 2013). Because Israeli labor laws are rarely enforced in the settlements, Palestinian workers confront wage theft, hazardous conditions, denial of social rights, violence, and abuse (Kav LaOved 2012). According to a 2011 survey, 82% of Palestinians employed in the settlements would leave their jobs if they could find a suitable alternative (Democracy and Workers’ Rights Center 2011). Palestinians without work permits or jobs with the PA increasingly rely on the informal economy to survive. Israeli checkpoints have become hubs of the informal economy (Hammami 2004). Merchants sell shoes, snacks, and drinks; porters carry bags and groceries; taxi drivers offer rides to nearby cities and villages (Hammami 2010). Poverty has also created the conditions for a market in illicit goods. Drugs, stolen cars, unlocked iPhones, and other merchandise are available in every Palestinian enclave. Refugee camps contain the most concentrated poverty in the West Bank. Dispossessed of their land in 1948, Palestinian refugees became a reserve army under Jordanian and later Israeli rule (Tamari 2009). In Bethlehem, the businesses that cater to the Palestinian elite recruit employees from the three refuge camps: Dheisheh, Aida, and Azza. Wealthy families hire women from the camps to clean their homes. Although many refugees work for the PA security forces or in Israel and the settlements, the camps confront high rates of poverty and unemployment. In addition, the services provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Association (UNRWA) have been slashed in recent years due to budget cuts. As a result, refugee camps have become centers of the informal economy. Many women work from home producing embroidered dresses, scarves, purses, and other items for sale to international visitors. And many refugee families have transformed a room in their home into a small shop to sell basic necessities. In Aida camp, home to 3500 people, there are now more than 50 small stores. Yet most of the stores sell the same items and generate little income (Interview with a Palestinian NGO official, September 2012). One of the most common informal economic activities is undocumented work in Israel and the settlements (Amiry 2010). Most estimates suggest that 20,000-30,000 Palestinians work in Israel and the settlements without permits (Kav LaOved 2012). Some of these workers are blacklisted on “security” grounds; others do not meet Israel’s age and family requirements; others find that they make more money by not paying the NIS 2000 ($500) fee to apply for a permit. Some sneak into Israel through holes in the fence, climb over the wall, and or pay drivers to take them around checkpoints. Most, however, simply converge on areas where the wall has not yet been built—such as the western villages of Bethlehem—and walk across the Green Line (Focus group with undocumented workers, September 2012). Although Israeli law requires employers to provide benefits to all workers regardless of documentation, most undocumented workers do not receive minimum wage, sick days, holidays, pensions, or other social rights (Kav LaOved 2012). They live in constant fear of arrest and abuse, returning home once a week or less and sleeping at their work sites—often without shelter or in cramped quarters. Despite their caution, most undocumented workers have been arrested (Focus group with undocumented workers, September 2012). On their first arrest, they are generally returned to the West Bank. Subsequent arrests lead to jail time along with a fine and a 3-year ban on receiving a work permit (Kav LaOved 2012). Alongside the informal economy, Palestinians draw on several forms of social support. With funding from the European Union, the PA provides small cash grants to extremely poor families. Some refugees receive food subsidies from UNRWA. More important, however, are forms of social solidarity from family members within the occupied territories and in the diaspora. In addition, credit has become increasingly important. From 2008-2011, bank credit for consumer spending increased 245% reaching nearly $1 billion (Dana 2014; Hanieh 2013). Some suggest that the loans are part of a donor agenda to trap people in debt so they focus on finding work rather than political struggle. Others expect that the credit bubble will burst, that the banks will be unable to carry out evictions or repossessions, and that the entire system will collapse (Interviews with a grassroots organizer, an economist, and a NGO official, September and October 2012). In short, the neoliberal enclosures in the West Bank were designed to contain the increasingly disposable Palestinian working class and have become spaces of concentrated inequality. Despite the pressure valve politics of Israel and the PA, the combination of colonization and neoliberalization is explosive. Because the neoliberal enclosures have intensified the suffering of the Palestinian poor and enhanced the conditions for popular resistance, they offer only a precarious form of containment. NEOLIBERAL COLONIZATION: THE WESTERN VILLAGES While concentrating the Palestinian population into the enclaves of Areas A and B, Israel continues to colonize Area C. As a result, Palestinian villages have become key battlegrounds in the struggle over colonization. Although colonial settlement in the West Bank is driven by political and ideological motives, the dynamics are shaped by the relationship between colonialism and capitalism. When the borders of the Palestinian enclaves were established during the 1990s, the core residential districts of the villages were designated Area B (occasionally Area A) and the Palestinian Authority gained jurisdiction over planning and development. The majority of land in almost every village was designated Area C—including the cultivated fields of farmers, the pastureland of shepherds, and the land set aside for future residential, commercial, and agricultural development. Because Israel has jurisdiction over planning and development in Area C, the Israeli military administration requires Palestinians to obtain permits to build on or otherwise develop this land. With rare exceptions, however, the state systematically refuses to issue such permits. While the population is confined to the small enclaves of Area B, therefore, the remainder of village land is open for colonization. The hills west of Bethlehem are home to nine Palestinian villages that have historically served as the agricultural heartland of the Bethlehem region. Two of the villages (Artas and Al-Khader) are connected to the main Bethlehem enclave; six are isolated in separate enclaves (Wadi Fukin, Husan, Battir, Al-Jab’a, Nahhalin, and Al-Walaja), and one (Beit Sakariya) exists entirely within Area C. Indeed, the vast majority of land in every village west of Bethlehem is designated Area C: more than 75% of the land in eight of nine villages and more than 90% in five. This means that the residents of Beit Sakariya are unable to build anywhere in their village and that the residents of the other villages need permits to build houses, dig wells, tar roads, terrace fields, or otherwise develop the majority of their land. Yet these permits are not forthcoming. Unemployment has led many village residents to return to farming. According to the World Bank (2013), the number of West Bank Palestinians employed in agriculture doubled from 1995-2006. But the contribution of agriculture to Palestinian GDP fell from 13.3% in 1994 to 5.9% in 2012 (Sansour and Tartir 2014). This is because Palestinian farmers face an agricultural crisis manufactured by a combination of state policies (Palestinian Farming and Civil Society Organizations 2013). To begin with, Israeli authorities confiscate Palestinian land to build settlements, military bases, roads, and walls (B’Tselem 2011). They also issue military orders to prevent Palestinians from using land in Area C: “demolition orders” for structures built without permission, “stop work orders” for ongoing projects, and “revert orders” that require the restoration of land to its previous condition. “They wait until we finish the work and get tired, then they tell us to stop,” complains a farmer from Wadi Fukin who had just spent two years upgrading several acres of land when he received a “stop work” order (Field notes, September 2012). The same week, a farmer from Al-Khader found a revert order on land he had just finished restoring after six months of work and a NIS 15,000 ($3800) investment. The order contained a map, a satellite image taken the previous year, and a demand that the farmer restore the land to its previous state (Field notes, September 2012). Along with military orders, the state uses more mundane methods to keep Palestinians off of their land (B’Tselem 2008). In September 2012, for instance, Israeli authorities erected guardrails along a section of the bypass road around Al-Khader village, blockading several dirt roads used by local farmers. No longer able to reach their fields by car, the farmers resorted to traveling on foot or by donkey (Field notes, September 2012). The farming crisis also stems from limited access to water. The State of Israel controls all three sources of water in the region: the Jordan River, the Coastal Aquifer, and the Mountain Aquifer (which lies beneath the West Bank) (Amnesty International 2009). The Israeli water company extracts 89% of the water from the Mountain Aquifer, enabling 500,000 Israeli settlers to use six times more water than 2.6 million Palestinians (Al-Haq 2013b). While the settlements have access to water 24 hour a day, many Palestinian cities, villages, and refugee camps only receive water once every 2-3 weeks during the summer (Field notes, September 2012 and September 2013; interview with a Palestinian water engineer, October 2012). They fill rooftop tanks and hope that the water lasts. To irrigate their fields, the villages west of Bethlehem rely entirely on rain and spring water. Yet the flow from these springs has steadily declined due to overconsumption and settlement construction. The large concrete settlements limit the ability of the ground to absorb rainwater and the use of explosives in the construction process disrupts the flow of underground water (Interview with a Palestinian water engineer, October 2012). To address the water crisis, Palestinians dig wells and build cisterns, but Israeli authorities regularly target these projects with demolition orders. In addition, settlers have increasingly claimed control over West Bank springs and deterred Palestinians from accessing them (United Nations 2012). Finally, the farm crisis stems from the inability of Palestinian farmers to market their produce. Historically, farmers from the villages west of Bethlehem sold their goods in the markets of Jerusalem. Those markets have largely been eliminated, although some farmers cross into Israel without permits to sell their crops. Without access to Jerusalem, farmers have turned to the Bethlehem market. But Bethlehem has a much smaller market and is easily overwhelmed with produce from nearby villages (Focus group discussion with farmers from Al-Khader village, September 2012). To make matters worse, Israeli farmers dump produce in Palestinian markets at rock-bottom prices, undercutting the local farmers (Interview with official from the Bethlehem Municipality, October 2012). And, on a broader scale, the state limits the ability of Palestinian farmers to export their goods (Palestinian Farming and Civil Society Organizations 2013). Subject to export controls imposed by the Israeli military, fresh produce often sits in containers for hours or even days awaiting a security check. As a Palestinian economist jokes, “When a strawberry goes through a security checkpoint, instead of fresh berries we only have jam” (Interview with the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce and Industry, October 2012). Along with the manufactured farm crisis, Palestinian villagers also confront colonial violence by ideologically motivated Israeli settlers. Violence by extremist settlers dates back to the 1970s when organizations such as Kach and the Gush Emunim Underground targeted Palestinian political leaders. In 1994, a right-wing settler massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. As the heart of religious Zionism in the West Bank, the Etzion settlements are notorious for violent attacks on Palestinians. Settler violence has increased in recent years due to the emergence of coordinated “price tag” attacks. After Israel withdrew its settlements from the Gaza Strip in 2005, settler organizations insisted that Palestinians should pay a price every time the Israeli government tried to limit settlement activity (Al-Haq 2013a; Byman and Sachs 2012; Nir 2011; Shalhoub-Kevorkian 2015). Despite the overwhelmingly pro-settler policies of the Israeli government, “price tag” attacks have proliferated. Israeli authorities do not officially condone these attacks, but the state does little to prevent settler violence or punish perpetrators (Al-Haq 2013a; B’Tselem 2001; B’Tselem 2002). The majority of settler violence involves small-scale attacks on people, buildings, cars, and crops. In the Bethlehem region, settlers uproot olive trees, destroy grape vines, throw stones at passing cars, assault pedestrians, and attack farmers trying to reach their fields. But sometimes the assaults are much more serious. In August 2012, a settler threw a petrol bomb at a Palestinian taxi near Bethlehem. Driving with the windows down to enjoy the summer evening, the passengers—a family of five plus the driver—suffered severe burns when the petrol bomb exploded inside the vehicle (Interview with the driver, September 2012). Similar attacks took place in July 2014, when settlers kidnapped and burned to death a Palestinian teenager in East Jerusalem, and again in July 2015, when settlers threw firebombs into a home in the village of Duma—killing an infant and his father. In addition to violent assaults, ideological settlers unilaterally expropriate Palestinian land. Groups such as the “Hilltop Youth” establish settlement outposts by placing caravans on hilltops and then demanding military protection (Weizman 2007). Settlers also claim land by planting trees and other crops. Near the borders of El’azar settlement in the Etzion block, for instance, settlers cultivate new plots of land each year (Field notes, September 2012 and September 2013). 55% of the land cultivated by settlers in the Etzion settlements is privately owned Palestinian land (Kerem Navot 2013). This form of colonization has expanded rapidly since Oslo because it provides a quick, inexpensive way to expand the settlements unilaterally. Driven by political and ideological goals, the state and the settlers use violence to displace and dispossess the colonized Palestinian population. Yet the process of colonization is shaped by the relationship between the settler colonial project and a neoliberal capitalist project. Neoliberalization produced the economic crisis that led so many Palestinians to attempt a return to farming. It has also contributed to the rapid urbanization of the villages, the changing class dynamic within the villages, and the expansion of a market-based form of colonization. It is, therefore, crucial to analyze the articulation between neoliberalization and colonization. As a result of colonial settlement and neoliberal restructuring, many Palestinian villages have experienced a process of rapid urbanization. Because Palestinians are only allowed to build within Area B, usually less than 25% of the village land, the core areas of the villages are becoming more and more crowded. Within Area B, villagers have two options for construction: adding new floors to existing buildings or filling in gaps between buildings. A more risky tactic to is to build in Area C without a permit, but this often results in a demolition order (B’Tselem 2013). As a result, the core residential sections of villages have become increasingly dense while also expanding vertically. As a PA official explains, “There is no land left for public needs: schools, clinics, sports fields, playgrounds, green spaces, parks, water reservoirs, new roads, sewage treatment, etc. Land prices are unimaginable. Our villages were rural, but they have now become cities” (Interview with the Joint Services Council for Planning and Development, September 2012.) A geographer from Bethlehem says that, “The villages have been turned into slums” (Field notes, September 2012). In Artas village, which borders the Dheisheh refugee camp, a member of the village council told me: “You didn’t come to Artas village; you came to Artas refugee camp” (Field notes, October 2012). In describing their villages as cities, slums, or refugee camps, Palestinians are not only pointing to the densification of the built environment. They are also commenting on the changing social and economic conditions in the villages—particularly the sharpening of class divisions. Like the urban enclaves, the villages have become sites of concentrated inequality. Palestinian elites build multi-million dollar “villas” in the villages. And restrictions on land use in Area C have inflated the value of the land in Area B. To take advantage of land rents, speculators are now building residential towers in the villages (Yaser 2015). Yet rates of poverty and unemployment in the villages rival the cities. As an unemployed villager explains, “There used to be three classes in our villages: the rich, the middle class, and the fellahin (peasants). But now there are only two classes: the extremely rich and the dispossessed” (Focus group discussion with Palestinian farmers, September 2012). When asked about the biggest problems in the villages, residents almost universally point to the crisis of unemployment. Situating the crisis historically, they argue that Israel encouraged the fellahin to leave their lands in the 1970s by opening the Israeli labor market. This provided Israeli firms with a source of cheap labor and enabled the Israeli government to confiscate lands that were not being cultivated. Yet the introduction of permits, closures, and walls has eliminated access to jobs for thousands of Palestinians. Now, says an organizer, “There is no work in our village. Nothing. You can leave the village or stay here and do nothing. There are no other options” (Interview with youth organizer, September 2012). High rates of unemployment, a manufactured farm crisis, limited space for expansion, and attacks by settlers and the state place tremendous pressure on the rural poor to leave their villages and seek opportunities in the cities. This constitutes a form of displacement that some Palestinians describe as “indirect forcible transfer” (Al-Haq 2006). An advocate for Palestinian farmers argues that this constitutes a neoliberal, do-it-yourself form of expulsion: “a self-immigration plan for the Palestinians” (Interview with organizer for a Palestinian farmers union, October 2012). The rural exodus contributes to overcrowding in the urban enclaves. It also opens the door for another form of colonization: land purchases by Zionist organizations. In the 1980s, during the early stages of neoliberal restructuring, Israel began encouraging private developers to buy land from West Bank Palestinians for the purposes of settlement construction. To facilitate the process, the state waived requirements that land sales be publicized and allowed people involved in the transactions to conceal their identities for up to 15 years (Bimkom 2008; B’Tselem 2010). The ostensible goal of both policies is to protect Palestinians involved in the transactions. But the policies eliminated the opportunity for Palestinians to challenge the legality of the alleged sales and opened the door for fraudulent claims (Hass 2012). As a result, transfers of ownership over the most contested land on earth are incredibly murky. Over time, an extensive web of organizations, individuals, and businesses has emerged to purchase Palestinian land. Three of the most important organizations are the Israel Land Fund, the Land Redemption Fund, and Elad (Algazi 2009; Blau 2012). Much of their funding comes from wealthy international donors and is funneled through tax-exempt organizations in the US and offshore tax-shelters (Blau and Hasson 2016; Several 2011). Key to the process is an Arab “front man” who identifies potential sellers, negotiates the transaction, purchases the land, and transfers it to an Israeli front company. The front companies, with names such as Al-Wattan (Arabic for “homeland”), operate on behalf of the organizations and businesses managing the entire operation (Blau 2012). In the Bethlehem region, settler organizations have used these methods to purchase land near Rachel’s Tomb and the settlement of Efrat (Blau 2012). In 2009, two Israeli businessmen announced that they had purchased 2500 dunums (750 acres) along the bypass road connecting the Etzion block to Jerusalem and were seeking government approval for the construction of a new settlement (Hasson 2010). In 2011, the Israeli military began demolishing Palestinian homes, businesses, and infrastructure in the area—generating speculation that the settlement may soon be approved (Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem 2012; B’Tselem 2013). Despite the secrecy and obfuscation, Palestinians are well aware of the process. “Lots of people are selling their land,” complained a community leader in Al-Khader village (Interview, September 2012). On two separate occasions, people told me they had been offered “blank checks” worth millions of dollars for their land (Interview with a resident of Al-Khader village, September 2013; Public presentation by a farmer from Nahhalin village, October 2012). The lack of transparency creates tremendous suspicion. When a poor Palestinian buys a new car or builds a new house, neighbors often suspect he has sold land. It also creates the potential for fraud—including the widespread use of forged title deeds by organizations claiming to buy land (Hass 2012). Dating back to the early 20th century, Zionist organizations have presented land purchases as a consensual, market-based practice that is neither colonial nor even controversial. Yet the land market is embedded in a broader social context. The settler state not only facilitates these transactions, but it also creates the crisis conditions that lead some people to sell their land. As a farmer explained, “Nobody would go sell his land except under pressure. Especially to sell land to the enemy” (Focus group discussion with farmers from Al-Khader village, September 2012). Colonization, therefore, not only contributes to the agricultural crisis, it also operates through that crisis. The “free” market in land is a mechanism of neoliberal colonization. CONCLUSION: FRAGMENTATION AND RESISTANCE The combination of colonization and neoliberalization has made life miserable for most Palestinians in the West Bank. Growing class inequality has exacerbated the territorial fragmentation of the Palestinian enclaves, intensifying existing social divisions and introducing new ones. The result is a highly fragmented Palestinian society. Along with pressure valve politics and the repressive violence of Israel and the PA, this fragmentation is all that prevents explosive social conditions from generating a new intifada in the occupied territories. Although the Palestinian population remains divided, the struggles of the Palestinian poor create constant crises that the neoliberal colonial regime must manage. Along with the emergence of a global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, struggles on the ground proliferate. Villages hold weekly protests against settlement expansion. Workers organize independent trade unions. Youth in the refugee camps confront Israeli soldiers who enter at night to carry out arrests. Palestinian prisoners engage in hunger strikes to resist administrative detention. And a Palestinian youth movement organizes creative forms of civil disobedience such as “freedom rides” on settler busses and “protest villages” on land designated for settlement construction. In September 2012, the occupied territories erupted in protests as Palestinians took to the streets to demonstrate their anger at the high rates of unemployment, the rising cost of living, and the growing sense of hopelessness. Targeting the neoliberal policies of the PA, protesters organized marches, demonstrations, and a general strike in the West Bank (Field notes, September 2012). Their chants echoed the revolutionary slogan of the Arab Spring: “Al-sha’b yurid isqat al-nizam” (“The people want the fall of the regime”). Although short-lived, the protests were regarded as warning signs for Israel and the PA. In the words of a former PA spokesperson, “all of the factors that led to this volatile situation remain in effect. Whether the spark is political or economic, another blow-up is just around the corner” (Khatib 2012). While the dynamics of neoliberal colonization discussed above are specific to the West Bank, this article presents a more general argument for attention to the relationship between neoliberalization and colonization. My research contributes to an emerging tendency within settler colonial studies to analyze the relationship between colonization and capitalism. It also builds on the work of urban geographers and critical race scholars to outline a framework for analyzing the articulation between neoliberal projects and simultaneous racial and colonial projects. Analyzing the articulation between neoliberalization and colonization not only deepens our understanding of the Oslo process, but it also points to links between Palestine/Israel and other parts of the world today. In many places, neoliberal restructuring has combined with racial, colonial, and imperial projects to generate extreme inequality, racialized poverty, and advanced strategies for securing the powerful and policing the racialized poor. While the configurations are context-specific, combinations of marginalization and securitization are the definitive features of neoliberal racial capitalism throughout the world in the early 21st century. The author wishes to thank friends and colleagues in every city, village, and refugee camp in the Bethlehem area who made this research possible; Abaher El-Sakka and Lisa Taraki at Birzeit University; the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, BADIL, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees, and the Stop the Wall Campaign for support in the field; the American Sociological Association Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline, the Palestinian American Research Center, the UIC Great Cities Institute, and the UIC Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy for financial support; and Claire Decoteau, Nadine Naber, and Cedric de Leon for valuable feedback on the article. REFERENCES Abdo Nahla . 2011 . Women in Israel: Race, Gender, and Citizenship. London : Zed Books . Abowd Thomas Philip . 2014 . Colonial Jerusalem: The Spatial Construction of Identity and Difference in a City of Myth, 1948-2012 . Syracuse : Syracuse University Press . 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Social Problems – Oxford University Press
Published: Aug 1, 2018
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