The Impact of the Separation Wall on the Social Capital of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank

Dhaher, Safa Husni
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University of Trento
This doctoral thesis is about the study of the social capital, its effects on the local development and on the socio-economic resilience of the Palestinians trapped, socially, politically, and economically, in the East Jerusalem's al-'Eizariyah area. The transformation of al-'Eizariyah since 2002 through the Israeli encroachment on Palestinian land by instrumental use of the Separation Wall policies were analyzed and re-stated through the lenses of the sociological theory and concepts. Based on the accounts of life stories and interviews with various members of the al-'Eizariyah's former and current community and through the visual data of the changes in al-'Eizariyah and the areas adjacent to the Separation Wall an analysis of the Palestinian coping and survival strategies was undertaken. The thesis demonstrates how the reality of al-'Eizariyah was changed dramatically in the last two decades despite and in the opposite direction of the Oslo Accords of 1993. To be sure, al-‘Eizariyah, which is located two miles east of Jerusalem, had expanded to adjust to the economic boom of the early post-Oslo years coupled with the political expectations of it being part of the future Palestinian capital. This was disrupted by the failure of the Oslo Accords, and the construction of the Israeli Separation Wall in 2002, which served as an instrument of intimidation and harassment to make Palestinians leave Jerusalem, as this thesis demonstrates. The Wall did not only cut off al-'Eizariyah from the main road that used to connect East Jerusalem to Jericho. The Wall's more sinister and long-term damage has been in the physical and psychological isolation of al-‘Eizariyah and in preventing its residents from being fully integrated in the economic, social, cultural, and political life of the East Jerusalem and of the West Bank. This two-sided effect of the Separation Wall started when most of the people who used to work in East Jerusalem and Israel lost their Jobs, students could no longer study in Jerusalem and had to change schools; the sick no longer could use the healthcare facilities, etc. Former residents of al-'Eizariyah could no longer do any of these basic necessities neither their shopping and entertainment in Jerusalem freely without being humiliated with denial of access to Jerusalem based on the persons' ability to present a Blue ID at the checkpoint, the only ID that is recognized by the Israeli regime. While some social capital forms helped in coping with the difficulties caused by this new reality it was the difference in the pre- and post-Wall situations that were examined in order to understand the impact of the adversity represented by the Wall on the social capital of the Palestinians. The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate the implications of the construction of the Wall on the socio-economic life of al-‘Eizariyah residents and to study the Israel-Palestine conflict from sociological lens using a case study setting and qualitative analysis approach. This thesis demonstrates positive impact of the Wall on social capital types by where the bonding social capital became stronger yet the trend got reversed. At the community level, the challenges were too large to be handled only by bonding social capital. Therefore, there is a combined effort between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the local civil society associations and the private sector to overcome problems related to education, health care services, trade and labor in addition to social security caused by the Wall. It was found that bridging social capital and linking social capital were strongly present after the Wall was completed. Although civil society associations are strongly present in al-‘Eizariyah but because the Palestinian society is structured along patrimonial, familial, clannish, tribal and contradictory geographical cleavages, most of these associations work in a way that transformed the intended outcome of bridging social capital to some kind of bonding social capital as the beneficiaries and the participants are mostly from their family, clan members, or those who belong to the same political party, and not the community as a whole. However, observations and the empirical evidence show that bonding is stronger than bridging social capital. The social fragmentation caused by several social forces such as the local-stranger relationship, between the locals of al-‘Eizariyah and the displaced residents, prevented efficient cooperation in solving community problems. Lack of the sense of belonging is not only because the locals always express superiority over the displaced, but also because the displaced themselves do not want to lose their rooted original identity, especially the refugees who settled in the town after the 1948 war. This had a great overall impact on the unity of the Palestinian society especially that ‘the refugees’ communities constitute approximately 42 percent of the total population of the West Bank. The future challenge of the Palestinians in areas such as al-‘Eizariyah is to find ways of detecting defragmentation and manipulation policies and develop strategies that would prevent defragmentation of the Palestinians being orchestrated by the Israeli Wall policies and that only become apparent with a time lapse when it can be too late.
The Wall , the Oslo Accords , Jerusalem , Al-‘Eizariyah , social capital , local development , socio-economic resilience