Planning and Injustice in Tel-Aviv/Jaffa Urban Segregation in Tel-Aviv’s First Decades

Rotem Erez, 2016
Vol. 22 No. 9 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)


This major paper attempts to establish the sources of ethnic segregation in Tel-Aviv-Jaffa, Israel, through a comparative study of the city’s development and that of Casablanca, Morocco; through historical research specific to Tel-Aviv’s development prior to the establishment of the State of Israel and the city’s unification with Jaffa; and through the case study of a segregated neighbourhood in the city’s heart. This study is informed mainly by Lorenzo Veracini’s theorization of settler-colonialism and Carl Nightingale’s work on segregation. Settler-colonialism’s imperative to control the land and the population economy relies on continuous and expanding segregation. Both of these imperatives in turn benefit the real-estate economy, and all three rely on a planning framework as their rationalization and as a solution for their internal and mutual contradictions. The population hierarchy that developed under pre-state Zionism and after the formation of Israel relied on a division between Jews and non-Jews, as well as between ethnic classes of Jews. An exploration of this latter division is central to this work, and relies on insights from several Israeli scholars, as well as on Edward Said’s conception of orientalism. Tel-Aviv, as a settler-colonial city, has relied on a buffer population of internal others to mediate its antagonistic relations with its progenitor, Jaffa, and the artificial social hierarchy thus created has had its own internal contradictions with repercussions that reverberate to this day. Tel-Aviv both drew from Zionism’s ideology and helped shape it as it quickly became Palestine’s largest Jewish settlement and the centre of Zionist institutions in Palestine. This paper’s relevance is heightened by the recent political and cultural resurgence in Israel of Palestinian and subaltern Jewish groups, including the more established Mizrahi population, as well as more recent immigrant groups such as Ethiopian- and Russian-Israelis. A study of the historical sources of segregation could form the basis for an understanding of its contemporary manifestations, as well as inform attempts at its dissolution.