In the 2010s in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank, several initiatives of collective agricultural labor and property emerged. This presentation argues that these commons developed out of the contradictions of the current phase of Zionist colonization in the West Bank, and specifically what I term peripheralization. In short, the destruction of the productive capacities of the Palestinian economy since 1967 proletarianized the population and led to the neglect of large swathes of agricultural land. This has intersected with the obstruction of political mobilization, under the joint repression of the Zionist regime and the Palestinian Authority. The majority of Palestinians thus faced double alienation, political and economic. From within this situation, a sector of left-leaning youth perceived need along with opportunity, and utilized fallow land towards an alternative economy in an effort to respond to the entanglement of capitalism and Zionist settler-colonialism in Palestine today.
The paper argues that these contemporary commons are spaces of both economic and political organization that correspond to the political economy of Palestine today. It further shows that they build on a heritage of mobilization around collective labor in Palestinian revolutionary movement, such as women and farmer committees. These played the roles of service provision for a society under military occupation, social (feminist and class) struggle, and mobilization towards anticolonial struggle.
In an era of planetary crises, the concept of the commons—defined by David Harvey as a resource utilized by society towards common good—is gaining importance as an alternative to unfettered capitalist growth. This paper argues that an understanding of commons through the experience of Palestinian struggle is pertinent for all those interested in the potential the commons might hold for this planet. The Palestinian experience reflects particular manifestations of trends that are global: marginalization and securitization under racial capitalism and imperialism.
This paper is based on extensive ethnographic work (50+ interviews and meetings), which traces the practices of a group of contemporary commons as well as their organizational and intellectual ties. The paper contextualizes these commons among historical Palestinian cases through secondary and primary sources. It traces the outlines of the peripheralization of the West Bank’s countryside, which I theorize as a process of urbanization tied to the colonial and imperial economic peripheralization of Palestine and the Arab Region as a whole, based on urban and dependency theories.
Architecture & Urban Planning