Zones of transformation? Informal construction and independent zoning plans in East Jerusalem

Michal Braier*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Since the occupation and annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967, state-endorsed planning policies of restriction and demolition have had a profound oppressive effect on Palestinian urban development and political activity in the city. While the effects of this oppression have been widely discussed, this paper offers a closer look at 'groundlevel' planning processes. The analysis of independent local zoning plans submitted by Palestinians to legalize and expand their houses reveals a wider range of activity, negotiations, and inconsistencies. I argue that the practice of the independent plans, as small-scale yet unmediated acts operating from within the institutional planning system, presents a form of encroachment on the bureaucratic apparatus. While the 'spotzoning' amendment to the planning and building law originally resulted from pressures to promote free-market logic in urban planning practices, it unwittingly opened up the possibility for excluded and subordinated residents to pursue a new course of action. Thus, the concurrent tendencies of the Israeli planning system towards ethnonational goals, rational-comprehensive planning episteme, and the neoliberal logic have led to unexpected, at times contradictory, results. I claim that by dwelling on the inherent tensions between these tendencies, the independent plans work towards transforming the urban context into an arena for negotiating rights and positing demands that cannot be articulated in the political sphere.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)2700-2716
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Urban informality, Spot zoning, Independent plans, Quiet encroachment, East Jerusalem, Neoliberalism


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