Advocacy Spatial Analysis

Makan: The Right to a Spatial Narrative

Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, recently published Volume 2 of Makan (meaning ‘Place’ in Arabic), their periodic journal for Land, Planning and Justice. This volume reveals the centrality of spatial planning and urban design in the continued suppression of Palestinian history and memory. Indeed, it is argued that this erasure of Palestinian narrative was a necessary and constitutive feature of Zionism. Given that recent legislation, such as the proposed Nakba Law, seeks to deny public expression of Palestinian history, the focus on ‘the right to a spatial narrative’ is particularly timely.

SISPa Journal CoverMakan: Vol. 2 – The Right to a Spatial Narrative
Adalah, 2010

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Co-edited by Hanaa Hamdan-Saliba and Suhad Bishara.

Contributions from Ilan Pappe, Mahmoud Yazbak and Ravit Goldhaber.

Those familiar with civil and political rights organizations in Israel-Palestine will be well acquainted with Adalah’s work. Yet perhaps not so well known is the breadth of their legal advocacy, which also addresses land rights. They have collaborated with a range of civil society actors (notably BIMKOM and ACAP) to develop and sustain a rights-based discourse in relation to planning. Such an approach not only brings together legal practice with academic theory and activism, but also develops public awareness and resources.

Volume 2 of Makan opens with a contribution from Ilan Pappe, whereby he traces spatial narratives according to Palestinian, Zionist, post-Zionist and neo-Zionist discourse. Pappe presents these perspectives chronologically, placing them in their historical and political context.

Closed Islamic Waqf Property in Old City of Jaffa
Closed entry to Islamic Waqf Property in Old City of Jaffa (Dena Qaddumi)

Mahmoud Yazbak next presents a detailed history of the Islamic Waqf in Yaffa. Here, he purposefully documents and constructs a Palestinian narrative, one that predates the establishment of the state of Israel.

In her piece, Ravit Goldhaber argues that recent development plans in Jaffa have proven disingenuous towards Palestinian residents. She asserts that planning and architecture are presented as technical, rational tools yet, in actuality, are used to mask ethno-national objectives.

Map no. 1: Master Plan 14/4 Amendment 23
Map no. 1: Master Plan 14/4 Amendment 23 (Adalah)

The journal ends with excerpts from an objection submitted by Adalah to the National Council of Planning and Building in 2007 against the Partial Regional Maser Plan in the Be’er Sheva Metropolitan Area. Here the concept of a spatial narrative is articulated in legal terms, exposing the responsibilities of the state for preserving and supporting this right in relation to the Bedouin populations in the Be’er Sheva region.

Adalah’s assertion of a rights-based approach in land use and development has broadened the scope for geographers, architects and urban planners to be active participants within social justice movements in Israel-Palestine. Certainly, publications such as Makan, have helped to politicise these professions and reveal their potential acquiescence to discriminatory Israeli policies.

Map no. 2: The area of unrecognized villages against the background of Master Plan 14/4 Amendment 14
Map no. 2: The area of unrecognized villages (turquoise) against the background of Master Plan (Adalah)

Makan, the Journal for Land, Planning and Justice, is featured and hosted on with kind permission from Adalah.

Volume 1 of Makan, entitled ‘the Right to the City’, explores this concept as proposed by French urban theorist Henri Lefebvre. A range of case studies are presented with the volume concluding with an excerpt from a Supreme Court Petition challenging discriminatory practices of the Jewish National Fund.