In all Demographics and Resource Use: The EU’s Interest in Assisting MENA Countries to look at their respective population growth for better understanding and eventually a serious levy towards better numbers would be of paramount importance.
The world population is currently estimated to be more than 8 billion and will be close to 10 billion by 2050. The extraordinary growth can be attributed to increased longevity as a result of widespread improvement in “public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine, and on the other hand, the persistence of high levels of fertility in many countries.” Most of the population growth is occurring in developing countries, a trend that will continue well into the future. Close to 50% of the projected increase in the world’s population from today until 2050 is anticipated to take place in a few large countries within the developing world, and the share of the developing world population will increase from 66% in 1950 to 86% by 2050. Moreover, the population of the developing world is young and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Increases in population will strain the governments of developing countries, translating into more demand for food, water, health care, jobs, and energy, among many other needs. Simply put, it will be more difficult for “low-income and lower-middle-income countries to afford the increase in public expenditures on a per capita basis that is needed to eradicate poverty, end hunger and malnutrition, and ensure universal access to health care, education and other essential services.”
The failure of governments in MENA to address quality-of-life issues as the population grows could lead to a complete collapse of their political systems, as witnessed in countries such as Libya and Syria. Current trends are paving the way for massive migration to European countries, which could experience similar strains in providing satisfactory living conditions. Given its status as a destination for migrants from the MENA region and its proximity to the region, the EU would be an important partner for MENA countries in their efforts to improve quality of life for their residents. The EU could assist MENA countries in adopting effective voluntary family planning, moving toward more reliance on clean and renewable energy, and implementing efficient water management practices.
An analysis of the role of architecture and urban form in the Israel-Palestine Dispute as intimated in this new edition of Eyal Weizman’s book (cover picture below) is reviewed in a Greater Kashmir post.
The opinions expressed within reflecting the author’s views and position on the issue are shared by more and more greater numbers. Let us see what’s it all about.
The above-featured image is for illustration and of Architectural Review showing Roads often highly fortified and for use by Israelis only, such as this section known as the Tunnel Road – or also the Apartheid Road – near the settlement of Gilo, under construction last year. Credit:Yonatan Sindel / FLASH90
The relationship between political will and the built environment is conspicuous and stands out most in turmoil-laden geographies. Architecture, beyond its primary function, can be perpetuated as a tool for occupation and dominance. Hollow Land, a book by Eyal Weizman published in 2007, navigates through the later proposition. Weizman has been an outspoken critique of Israel’s policies its occupation of Palestine and has written widely on the geopolitics of the Middle East.
The author’s pedantic observation of Israel-Palestine dynamics puts into the narrative what is otherwise obvious but seldom talked about in the dominant power narratives. Describing architecture from a unique vantage point, the book draws unprecedented insights into the arena of built environment. The text strongly argues and establishes architecture as an instrument to control occupied territories, instill fear among Palestinians and facilitate illegal usurping of natural and physical resources.
The book specifically takes on architecture as an expression of occupation. It explains with precise detail the role of apartheid wall; a 100 km long and 13-meter-high edifice separating the Palestine and Israel, case of illegal settler colonies, constant invigilation of Palestinian lands through panopticon watch towers, in addition to architectural elements like color coding, detail of cladding and other features pertinent to domain of urban structure.
From demographic prism, the book discusses Israel’s intrusion into Palestinian cities and intentional changing of urban population thresholds to declare scarcely populated settlements as ‘towns.’ Wiezman sees geography, apartheid policies, and politics of domination buttressing each other. Each of the physical element on the ground, he argues is ‘there to express something, it’s just that we need to decode it.’
Architecture reverberates beyond its primary function. Weizman quotes from Lahav Harkov, a retired Israeli general about Israel’s becoming of ‘world champions of occupation’ and alluding that occupation is ‘an art form’. Over the years, Israel’s domination of territory in Palestine areas as demarcated by blue line drafted by the United Nations in 1948 has been constantly modulated and abused by Israel.
Palestine as of today is constituted of three areas: East Jerusalem, West Bank, and the south-west Gaza Strip bordering Egypt. First two were part of conflict from the start whereas the Gaza Strip came under the purview of domination lately in 1967 following the Six-day war. Israel not only successfully thwarted the conglomeration of Arab opponents but also won territory more than it originally had before the war.
The idea of Israel as land of Jews is based on idea of ‘people without land’ in first place. Not is that proposition unethical because it was realized at the cost of throwing out the local Palestinian inhabitants from their land, but also it is based on doubtful historical justification. Palestine as a geographical entity with local inhabitants precedes the advent of Judaism as socio-religious unit. Historical references of the region date back to 12th Century BC during the time of Egyptian King Ramesses II. Later figures like Herodotus, Aristotle, Ptolemy also wrote about Palestine. Nur Masalha’s book, Palestine: A Four Thousand Year History documents the topic is methodical detail.
The art of apartheid, Israel orchestrates in controlling the Palestinian lands is played out at three levels: the subsoil, the surface, and the air. Palestinian territories reserve the compromised sovereignty only at the surface level whereas the subsoil and air are controlled by the Israeli government resulting in a vertical apartheid. Oslo Accords of 1993 argued for the case that Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem should be connected by road, usually by flyovers surpassing the Israel land below. Projects of such nature would directly connect the masses of Palestine and the flyovers itself would act as facilitators. Israel, however rebutted the idea citing security issues. It remains ironical given how the Israel has constructed thousands of kilometers of road network, both above surface and underground disregarding sovereignty of Palestine.
Dozen tunnels cut through hollow lands of what was once Palestinian farmlands. The roads cut across Palestinian territories and decrease the commute time of Israeli citizens. The constructions are usually aimed to proselytize into Palestinian lands and at the same time to connect mainland Israel with illegal settlements. Israel under the policy of ‘Metropolitan Jerusalem’, enshrined in policies of government mandates Israeli authorities to expand the capital territory far and beyond and in the process engulfing Palestinian lands into its jurisdiction fold.
Settlements are the most aggressive tool used by Israel to induce control to grass root level in West Bank and Gaza Strip, where they permeate almost every tract of land, and the way they are planned in midst of Palestinian towns makes the local Palestinians vulnerable in many ways and at the same time enabling Israel to control more effectively. Ariel Sharon in 1998 remarked what could be attested as the policy of Israel since then; ‘to move, run, and grab as many hilltops as we can.’ It usually starts with the placement of few mobile containers on hilltop until it is captured in its entirety.
Language and Form of Design
It’s surprising how a building material can convey the language of occupation. Throughout its glorious as well as confrontational history, Jerusalem houses architectural sites of importance to Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. Although the style may differ for each but there is a common denominator: the Jerusalem stone. The yellow tinted stone is available in abundance in and around the region.
When British colonized the Palestine in 1918, the aesthetically sensitive British builders saw the neglected plight of its cities. To them, the built form was mix of congested and haphazardly built houses lacking any sort of unifying appeal.
Determined to find a solution to the Jerusalem’s ‘overcrowding and unsightliness’, the British colonel Ronald Storrs invited influential British engineer, William Mclean to draw a development plan. He instructed to dismantle shackles and old torn out buildings. In the process, the British designers designated Jerusalem stone as mandatory cladding stone in order to achieve the ‘biblical outlook’. For Storrs, stone embodied biblical tradition and ‘Jerusalem literally a city build on rock’. Decades later the same archeological tradition and Jerusalem stone was invoked by the Zionist regime for propagandist purposes.
The 1968 Master plan of Jerusalem, keeping up with the earlier development plans singled out Jerusalem stone’s ability to render a ‘holy city image’ to occupied areas of extended metropolitan areas of Jerusalem. In course of time, certain planners and architects did stand up to challenge this notion due to the emergence of high rise and rising prices of stone but the Israeli government subdued all such voices. In last few decades, Israel’s builders have come up with affordable ways to just put 6-centimeter slates of stone instead of wholesome masonry but nonetheless the stone on the exterior remains the standard.
Topography has also had a huge influence on the occupation. Israel usually places its settlement colonies on the apex of hills. It helps the IDF to patrol the surrounding areas with three sixty degrees vigil. This principle is vividly explicated by the settlements. Apart from stone cladding, the law mandates the settlement buildings to have red colored roofs to help differentiate in case of air raids.
Israel has induced a sort of gentrification effect in Arab neighborhoods which eventually increases the property rates causing Palestinians to retreat to areas beyond ‘metropolitan Jerusalem’ which by law is a condition for Palestinians to acquire citizenship.
Once out of Jerusalem, these people are vulnerable to various kinds of human rights violations.
There are also efforts to constrict physical expansion of Palestinian urban areas. For example, the neighborhoods of Ramat Eshkol and the French Hill north of the old city were laid out to form an elongated arc that cut the Palestinian neighborhood of Shuafat from the Palestinian old city and the neighborhood of Seikh Jarah, which previously comprised a continuous urban area.
Appropriating the Archeology
Archeology possesses the power to dismantle whatever is seen as ‘non-original’. The Maghariba quarters and African quarters were razed overnight by Israel just after the 1967 war ended. David Ben Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel claimed in his memoirs that the Jewish right over Palestine is based on digging soil with our own hands. What he said referred to two practices that would establish and demonstrate Zionist right to the land.
Wherever the Zionists found traces of Hebraic past, they first reverted the names of places followed by demolition of whatever stood on it. Thousands of houses belonging to Palestinians were razed on the same principle. A year later after the 1967 war, Israeli government invited elite planners and architects from across the world for the cause. In one such project to revive the Hebrew past, Architect Louis I. Kahn was commissioned to construct Hurva synagogue on the same design it had existed before going into ruins. Somehow the project couldn’t find the light of the day, but several other projects returned to liveliness.
Resources and Amenities
Land presently under Israel lacks the natural reserves to sufficiently supply water to its residents. The mountain aquifer’s that supply 80% of the water into Israel are in West Bank. Israel cites Hebraic past disputing any authority of Palestine over the resources. Ironically the water, as well as the stone, is extracted from Palestinian lands and for compensation the Palestinians are returned with sewerage that Israel flows downslope to valleys around the West Bank hills. This has resulted in a health crisis for Palestinian people.
Over these years the number of settlers sit at a staggering number of around 7,50,000. The official policy asserts the ratio of Jews to Muslims kept at 78:22 but the actual numbers have always remained more than 22 percent for the Muslim population because of reasons like birthrate and dense neighborhoods.
The Palestinian neighborhoods like Muslim Quarters house at least twice the people of its capacity. The reason for over densification of the Muslim neighborhoods can be reasonably attributed to Israel’s vindictive razing policy which specifically target Muslim houses.
Unemployment is rampant and healthcare infrastructure in the state of no-existence. Palestinians have not only been snatched of their rights but they have also been made dependent at every conjecture.
Palestinians are queued like herds to enter premises which belong to them. In Palestine, violence is perpetuated with the help of architecture. The crime began on drawing board itself and as Weizman remarks, ‘It is architecture only that can rise above this.’
The author is an Urban and Regional Planner and alumnus of CEPT Ahmedabad.
Over the past 20 years, my research as an anthropologist has focused on the situation of Palestinian displacement in the Middle East. Having studied some of the daunting challenges millions of Palestinians face as stateless refugees denied the ability to return to their homeland or the right of compensation, I believe it is critical to understand their history and what is at stake for those trapped in indefinite exile.
The origins of Palestinian displacement are ongoing and cannot be reduced to a single cause. Most Palestinian refugees, however, can trace their roots to two significant events in Palestinian history: The “Nakba” and the “Naksa.”
Others found refuge in Egypt and Syria. More than a third of those Palestinians displaced in 1967 were already refugees from 1948 and thus suffered a second forced migration. Just as in 1948, when the 1967 war ended, the Israeli government blocked the return of any refugees and proceeded to destroy several Palestinian villages in the occupied territory, including Emmaus, Yula and Beit Yuba. After their destruction, these areas were leased to Jewish Israelis.
Beyond Al-Nakba and Al-Naksa
Although the tragedies of the Nakba and the Naksa turned the vast majority of Palestinians into refugees, numerous events since then have increased their number. One of the most significant causes of Palestinian displacement today is the Israeli practice of home demolitions.
Because Palestinians live under various governments in diverse circumstances, no single experience can account for their experience of exile. In Jordan, for example, where I have conducted research, Palestinian refugees can be divided into numerous groups, each with its own set of opportunities and challenges.
Since 1948, Palestinians in Lebanon have faced severe restrictions in work, education and health. Treated as an unwanted population in the country, their presence has been a source of significant divisions in Lebanon and a factor in numerous conflicts, including the Lebanese Civil War and the War of Camps between Syrian-backed militias and factions within the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Any solution to Palestinian displacement that involves returning to territory in contemporary Israel thus faces the problem of overcoming the idea of Israel as an exclusively Jewish state. And yet that is the challenge. Whatever peace negotiations may bring, no permanent solution to the Palestine-Israel conflict can avoid answering the question of return.
“The Human Right to the Environment affirms the right to life itself. When humans protect nature, they are also securing human health and wellbeing.” An article by eminent environmental lawyer Prof. Nicholas A. Robinson sees the recognition of the Human Right to the Environment (HRE) as a first step in a long process of restoring a healthy environment for people and the planet.
Professor Robinson’s article is published in a special issue of the Journal of Environmental Policy and Law on The Human Right to Sustainable Environment. In the preface Editor-in-Chief Bharat H. Desai, PhD, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Centre for International Legal Studies, stresses the essentiality of the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment, the importance of which is increasingly evident in the wake of the Political Declaration adopted at the SDG Summit (New York: September 18-19, 2023). This called to “act with urgency to realize its vision as a plan of action for people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership, leaving no one behind. We will endeavour to reach the furthest behind first.”
“The progressive attainment of Sustainable Development Goals will require investments of time and effort beyond the target date of 2030, but momentum has begun and can be sustained,” according to Prof. Robinson, JD, Executive Governor, International Council of Environmental Law, Kerlin Professor of Environmental Law Emeritus, at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law of Pace University.
Prof. Robinson continues: “These past 50 years, virtually all states have neglected to enforce their environmental statutes. Scientific studies confirm that harm to public health and natural systems has escalated during this time. The right to the environment will breathe rigor into the governmental enforcement of environmental protection norms. This will not be easy, as business as usual and inertia retard change. It is past time for making peace with nature.”
When the United Nations General Assembly adopted its landmark Resolution A/76/300 on July 28, 2022, entitled “The human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment,” a new human rights framework was launched. The UN Environment Program described environmental crises of climate change, biological diversity loss, and escalating pollution of the planet as the triple threat to human civilization, calling upon all states to “make peace with nature.”
The human right “to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment” is already being implemented. The UN General Assembly recognized that this right is related to other rights and international law, and that the vast majority of states have already incorporated the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment into their national laws. However, in most countries this basic right is not yet being enforced in courts. The UN General Assembly urged international organizations, commercial enterprises, and all relevant stakeholders to share best practices and further build capacity “to share good practices in order to scale up efforts to ensure a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment for all.”
The article in Environmental Policy and Law highlights one such example of international collaboration: the Global Judicial Institute on the Environment (GJIE), which is an independent association of judges launched in 2016 with the assistance of the World Commission on Environmental Law of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the UN Environment Programme. Not all countries have judicial institutions to provide continuing judicial education of judges and court personnel. There is no inter-governmental international service to assist courts. GJIE is a network by judges for judges, filling this gap in international cooperation.
The addition of the “Green Amendment” to the New York Bill of Rights and its implications are also highlighted in the article. New York’s Constitutional Bill of Rights now guarantees the liberty that “each person shall have a right to clean air and water and a healthful environment.” In the first year under the new Bill of Rights provision, there are now four lawsuits pending in New York courts.
Prof. Robinson elaborates: “Campaigning to secure adoption of the ‘Green Amendment’ in New York took more than 15 years. Inertia is a powerful force, and governmental frameworks tend to perpetuate past arrangements. Business as usual is not the status quo, it is regression. Failure across any and all sectors to adapt and embrace the Human Right to the Environment places the life, liberty, and property of each person in jeopardy. Slow reforms themselves are insufficient, in light of the destruction of wildfires, floods, droughts, and heat waves on land and under ocean waters. ‘Scaling up’ requires systemic and profound change. Notwithstanding all their problems, courts are the one authority that can oblige the public and private sectors alike to respect the right to life.”
The above-featured image is one of the author’s selections and is “Flames and smoke rise from the site of twin bombings at al-Khodhary Street in Karm al-Loz neighborhood, Homs, Syria, April 2014.EPA/stringer”
The Israeli bombardment of Gaza following the Hamas attack on southern Israel on October 7 has forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes. At least 43% of all housing units in the Gaza Strip have been either destroyed or damaged since the start of the hostilities, according to the Ministry of Public Works and Housing in Gaza.
Israel says that 1,400 people were killed in the Hamas attack on Israel and more than 220 taken hostage. Meanwhile, according to the health authorities in Hamas-run Gaza, more than 6,500 people have been killed in Israeli air strikes and more than 17,400 injured.
There is a modern term for what’s happening in Gaza. Domicide refers to the deliberate destruction of home, or the killing of the city or home. It comes from the Latin word domus which means home and cide, which is deliberate killing.
But, home here doesn’t only mean the physical, tangible built environment of people’s homes and properties, it also refers to people’s sense of belonging and identity. We are seeing in many conflicts and wars across the world that alongside the destruction of architecture, people’s sense of dignity and belonging is also being targeted.
There is a link between genocide and domicide: genocide refers to the killing of people and domicide to the erasure of their presence and their material culture. In 2022, a UN expert on housing argued that domicide should be recognised as an international crime.
When people are continuously displaced from their homes, sometimes for decades, or even a lifetime, there’s a sense of grief and sorrow that their history is being erased.
The destruction of Homs
My home city of Homs, Syria, which I focus on in my research, has been completely transformed since the 2011 uprising against the government of Bashar al Assad.
Over 50% of the neighbourhoods have been heavily destroyed, and over a quarter partially destroyed. Across the country, more than 12 million Syrians have been displaced from their homes. Of these, 6.8 million people are displaced inside the country, and 5.4 million people live as refugees in neighbouring countries and beyond.
Domicidal campaigns like this also work to erase evidence that a community actually existed in a particular place and that it had a history and culture there. This is an attempt to write people out of history through destroying their homes and heritage in a way that’s systematic and deliberate. In Homs, for example, whole neighbourhoods that opposed the Assad regime were targeted and razed to the ground. In other cities, such as Damascus and Hama, entire neighbourhoods were wiped out through new land and property laws which designate these neighbourhoods as “informal”.
There is no need to compare Homs and Gaza, as each place has its own context and struggle. But I’ve been following the news continuously since the Hamas attack on Israel, and I can’t stop looking at the updates about the heavy Israeli bombing. The scale of destruction, the level of mass displacement is just so heartbreaking. Gaza has been described as an open prison and people in that open prison have been pushed away from their homes.
Israel says it has the right to defend itself, and is targeting Hamas positions, but the scale to which ordinary people’s homes, hospitals and “safe areas” have been hit means what’s happening in Gaza is absolutely domicidal. People living in the north of the Gaza Strip were told by Israeli authorities to move to the south of the territory to the supposed “safe areas”, but the southern areas continue to be bombed too. The bombardment is killing civilians, killing their everyday lives and causing the mass destruction of neighbourhoods. As we have seen in videos, entire buildings have been levelled.
It’s not the first time that Palestinians in Gaza have had their homes destroyed. Many of the Palestinians who live in Gaza are people who have been displaced before. This is why many academics, activists, journalists and even Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan, call for context, for situating the Palestinian struggle within a history of suffering, dispossession and forced displacement since the Nakba (catastrophe) in 1948.
When one million people are ordered to leave their homes it’s important to understand that these people have attachment to their places, to their neighbourhoods, to their streets. The impact of displacement and loss of home can live with people for their lifetime.
In my interviews with people from the city of Homs, I’ve heard many people say that even if they are still living in Homs, they feel like strangers in their own city, or they feel exiled inside their own city. For people such as the Palestinian diaspora or the Iraqi diaspora or the Syrian diaspora who are unable to return to their home countries, that suffering and pain and trauma of displacement continues.
I imagine people have different mechanisms to cope with these traumatic events, but that’s why it’s so important to have memory projects where people at least can reflect on what happened to heal and grieve, even when, sadly, many are unable to return and some spend their lifetime in exile.
After researching conflicts, wars, dictatorships and occupations for several years, I always say that the pain of people start as a headline in the news media, and turns into a footnote in history. Let us resist that, let us remember the life of every human being and keep the struggle for a free and just world for everyone.
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Earth has been used as a building material for at least the last 12,000 years. Ethnographic research into earth being used as an element of Aboriginal architecture in Australia suggests its use probably goes back much further.
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