Demographic Architecture


Issue . 38
P. 17
Demographic Architecture

many colonial cities, Jerusalem has its dark enclaves for its native
inhabitants, ruled by the border police, with surprise checkpoints
between neighbourhoods. For the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem,
unlike the Jewish residents, hardly anything was ever planned but their
departure. Within the municipal borders of the city, architects and
planners were given the task not only of constructing homes and
developing a new “national style” but also of maintaining the
“demographic balance,” which at the time of occupation in 1967, and
within Jerusalem’s gerrymandered borders, stood at about three Jewish
inhabitants to every Palestinian. The faster growth rate of the
Palestinian population was seen by Israel as a “demographic time bomb.”
In 1993 City Engineer Elinoar Barzacchi echoed an ongoing state policy
when she outlined how the municipality intended to deal with this

is a government decision to maintain the proportion between the Arab
and Jewish populations in the city at 28 per cent Arab and 72 per cent
Jew. The only way to cope with that ration is through the housing

policy of maintaining “demographic balance” has informed the underlying
logic of almost every master plan prepared for the city’s development.

trying to achieve the demographic and geographic guidelines of the
political master plan, the planners and architects of the municipality
of Jerusalem and those working for them have effectively taken part in
a national policy of forced migration, unofficially referred to in
Israeli circles as the “silent transfer,” a crime according to
international law.
2 The evidence of these crimes is not only to be found in protocols or

the wording of political master plans, but in the drawings of
architects and planners. They can be seen as lines in their plans.
3 Yet
remarkably, in spite of all Israel’s efforts to keep the 28 per cent
Palestinians to 72 percent Jewish ratio, its planning policy is falling
short of its target. Out of the 650,000 registered residents of
Jerusalem in 2005, about a third were Palestinians. This has obviously
increased the frustration that further accelerates Israel’s draconian

demographic policies are clearly outlined in political master plans,
which are seen as guidelines only in town-building schemes and local
plans – which are statutory documents having the force of law – these
intentions are camouflaged within the techno-professional language of
planning. Since the government guidelines are in blatant violation of
both Israeli and international law, a deliberate discrepancy in
language has opened up between political and architectural documents.
The illegal policy was implemented by manipulating seemingly mundane
planning categories. Maintaining the “demographic balance” through the
“housing potential,” when Palestinian demographic growth is so much
faster, implied the use of one or both of two planning policies: one
promoting the construction of housing in Jewish neighbourhoods and the
other limiting the expansion of Palestinian ones. While issuing an
annual average of 1,500 building permits to Jewish Israelis and
constructing 90,000 housing units for Jews in all parts of East
Jerusalem since 1967, the municipality has issued an annual average of
only 100 building permits to Palestinians in the city, thus creating a
Palestinian housing crisis with a shortfall of more than 25,000 housing
4 Without
the possibility of obtaining planning permissions, many Palestinian
families have built homes “illegally” and exposed themselves to the
random actions of municipal demolition squads. These demolitions are
undertaken mainly in the most disadvantaged Palestinian neighborhoods,
where residents cannot afford legal defense.

spatial manipulations were similarly undertaken to try to maintain the
“demographic balance.” The construction of the new Jewish
neighbourhood/ settlements were also seen as antidotes to Palestinian
urbanization and were planned in such a way to create wedges between
Palestinian neighbourhoods and villages, limiting their possible
expansion and splintering Palestinian urban contiguity. For example,
the neighborhoods of Ramat Eskhol and the French Hill north of the Old
City were laid out to form an elongated arc that cuts the Palestinian
neighborhood of Shu’fat from the Palestinian Old City and the
neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which previously comprised a continuous
urban area. Indeed, the location and layout of the new neighborhoods
were conceived not only as a utilitarian receptacle for the Jewish
population but also as a means of preventing Jerusalem from functioning
as a Palestinian city and making it harder to be Palestinian in

massive overcrowding in Palestinian neighbourhoods, and the rapid
increase in property prices that ensued, ultimately forced many
Palestinian families to leave Jerusalem for nearby towns and villages
in the West Bank, where housing is considerably cheaper. This was
precisely what the government planners intended. By leaving the city,
Palestinians also lost the status of “Israeli residency,” which

those Palestinians included within Jerusalem’s post-1967 borders from
those in the rest of the West Bank, and which, among other things,
allowed the former access to state services and healthcare, and freedom
to enter and work in Israel. In the past forty years more than 50,000
Palestinians have lost their residency status in this manner. Tens of
thousands of others have moved outside the municipal boundaries but
have kept an address in the city in order to keep these rights and
often travel to work there. One of the factors in the routing of the
Separation Wall around Jerusalem was to cut these Palestinians out of
the city and close this loophole. The Palestinian residents of
Jerusalem now face having to choose which side of the Wall to live on –
a crowded and expensive Jerusalem, where they cannot build, or give up
the rights they previously had and live in the surrounding towns and
villages of the West Bank.

the years of Israeli domination in Jerusalem, about 40 per cent of the
land that would have been available for Palestinians in the occupied
part of the city was marked up on municipal plans as an open, public
space. This was presented, for legal reasons, as an amenity for the
improvement of the quality of life and air of the residents of the
Palestinian neighbourhoods, but it effectively framed them within zones
into which expansion was forbidden. Whenever the status of these “green
areas” was “unfrozen” and earmarked for construction, they were
allocated for the expansion of Jewish neighborhoods. This was openly
admitted by Mayor Kolleck:

primary purpose of defining the Shu’fat Ridge [then still an empty hill
in the occupied part to the north of the city next to the Palestinian
neighbourhood of Shufat mentioned above] as a green area was to prevent
Arab building [there] until the time was ripe to build a new Jewish

another planning strategy used to limit Palestinian residential
construction and demographic growth is the pretext of preservation.
Professing to protect the traditional rural character of Palestinian
villages within the municipal area, and the historic nature of
Palestinian neighbourhoods, the municipality insisted that the floor
area ration (FAR) – a planning ratio that defines the relation between
the size of a plot and the size of the building – is kept low. So,
while the building rights in the Jewish neighbourhood of Talpiot-Mizrah
permit the construction of buildings of five stories, the adjacent
Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal al-Mukaber, buildings may occupy only
25 per cent of the building plot, resulting in a small house within a
large plot.

limited by the green zones around them, and vertically by a
“preservation” policy, the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Jerusalem were
transformed into an archipelago of small islands of conjured
“authenticity,” within an ocean of Jewish construction, their
architecture functioning as an object of aesthetic contemplation to be
seen from the concrete-built but stone-clad Jewish neighbourhoods.
These “preservation zones” surrounded by parks, multiply the principle
of the 1918 McLean plan, and reproduce, on the urban scale, the image
of the Palestinian “Bantustans” of the West Bank.

Palestinian villages and neighbourhoods in Jerusalem very often exhibit
anything but the ostensible “oriental authenticity” which they are
meant to embody. Contrasting sharply with the Jewish neighbourhoods of
Jerusalem’s periphery, the Palestinians often do not abide by the
Jerusalem stone bylaw and the architectural styles that attempt to give
Israel’s colonial architecture an image of authenticity. Many buildings
are constructed without permits and facing prospective demolition are
built cheaply, with their structural walls of raw concrete and cinder
blocks left bare. The utilitarian modernist silhouette of their slab
construction, supported over the hilly landscape by columns, was
influenced by the modernist ethos of early Zionist architecture.
Appearing as a local adaptation of modernist villages, they testify to
a complete reversal, which the policies of Israeli domination have
brought on the building culture of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

Eyal Weizman is an architect and Director of the Centre for Research Architecture at Goldsmiths College, University of London. Jerusalem Quarterly thanks the author and Verso for permission to publish this excerpt from Eyal Weizman’s book, Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation, London: Verso, 2007.


1 Minutes
of meeting of the local Planning and Rights and Ir Shalem, 2004 (in
Hebrew). A sum-Building Committee, quoted in Elter Felner,
A mary of the report was published in English, seePolicy of Discrimination, Jerusalem: B’tselem, Nathan Marom, “The Planning Deadlock: House1995. Demolition in the Palestinian Neighborhoods of

2 The Rome Statute of the International Criminal East Jerusalem,” in Phillip Misselwitz and Tim Court. (See the complete statute at: http:// Rieniets (eds) City of Collision, Basel and Article don: Birkhauser, 2006, pp. 347-52.

forbids “The transfer, directly or 5 According to a study undertaken by
the architectindirectly by the Occupying Power of parts of Nathan
Marom, more than 18,000 buildingsits own civilian population into the
territory it – half of all Palestinian housing units in Eastoccupies,
or the deportation or transfer of all or Jerusalem – are “illegally”
built. Betweenpart of the population of the occupied territory 1987 and
2004 about 500 of these homes were within or outside this territory.”
demolished. Since the beginning of the second

3 Crimes relating to the organization of the built Intifada, the rate of destruction has increased: in environment, originating on computer screens 2004 alone, 120 homes were pulled down. See and drafting tables, may call for architect/ Nathan Naton, The Planning Deadlock. Also planners for the first time, to be placed on the see Rassem Khamaisi, “Villages under Siege,” and Rassem Khamaisi and Rami Nasrallah,

accused stand at an international tribunal. It is revealing that the Israeli Attorney-General “Jerusalem: From Siege to a City’s Collapse,” in Elyakim Rubinstein urged the Israeli Knesset Misselwitz and Rieners (eds) City of Collision, to retreat from ratifying the ICC lest “every esp. p. 123. building (in the Occupied Territories) start to be 6 Rassem Khamais and Rami Nasrallah, The Jeruconsidered a war crime,” and Israeli planners, salem Urban Fabric: Demography, Infrastrucarchitects, constructors, suppliers or residents ture and Institutions,
Jerusalem: International in the settlement be indicted. Allen Baker,
than Peace and Cooperation Center 2003, p. 126.the legal advisor to the
Foreign Office, put it in See also the summary of this work in
Rassembolder terms, “Every person who is involved in Khamaisi,
“Villages under Siege.” decision making regarding the setting of

7 Sarah Kaminker, Planning and Housing Issues on occupied area may be arrested, from the Prime in East Jerusalem, Jerusalem: Report PreparedMinister down to the last citizen.”

for the Society of St. Yves, in Response to High

4 Nathan Marom, The Planning Deadlock: Plan-Court Petition 1091/94, p.15. Quoted in Felner, ning Policies, Land Regularization, Building A Policy of Discrimination. Permits and House Demolition in East Jerusalem,

8 Nathan Marom, The Planning Deadlock.

Jerusalem: Bimkom – Planners for Planning