I wrote many times about the numerous Israeli settlements in the West Bank (I will repeat once again that they violate the article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention), but I never dedicated a whole article about what I call here an Architectural Stockholm Syndrome that is symptomatic of a problem within the Palestinian society. This syndrome that you can observe in the two pictures above lies in the quasi-imitation of those settlements’ architecture and planning for new groups of Palestinian buildings.
It has been shown many times that colonization defines itself by an absolute intrusion of a nation into another’s collective life and imaginary. One has to understand that the docile policies of the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank for almost two decades had for result to allow the bourgeoisie to develop within the Palestinian society. This bourgeoisie, in addition of strongly contrasting with the 25% unemployed people of the West Bank, is mostly depoliticized and, for part of it, silently accommodates itself of the status quo of the conflict. The architectural consequence of this class struggle within a broader geopolitical struggle is the development of those somehow luxurious groups of housing buildings, built in what must be a more or less aware reproduction of the newest and most luxurious examples of the region: the Israeli settlements.
The political consequence of such ambiguity between the colonized and the colon, in addition of the well understood internal class issues it creates, consists in the dismantlement of the creative collective imaginary that ties a nation together when it is oppressed by another one. It also participates to the ratification of the current situation as it introduces various forms of comfort which are in complete contradiction with the participation to the struggle. This contradiction has been perfectly understood by the Palestinian refugees in this regard. When offered to improve their life conditions in the numerous camps of the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, they have been consistently refusing for three generations, as such improvement would be a form of acceptance of their current situation as a definitive one. On the contrary, their rudimentary conditions of life keep them in a wakefulness position that can easily serve a political participation.
The Palestinian bourgeoisie simply follows the economical policies of the Palestinian Authority, and more specifically those of Salam Fayyad, the Prime Minister – although he had never been confirmed by the Palestinian Legislative Council which has been physically unable to meet since 2007 – who is leading a large strategy of estate development in the Area A around Ramallah. In this regard, the latter is implicitly accepted as the capital city of an hypothetical Palestinian state, when the real capital is supposed to be East Jerusalem, which has been annexed by Israel in 1967 and since then, included on its side of the barrier when the latter was built.
As I have been attempting to show in this article, architecture is extremely far from being innocent in this external and internal politics. In this specific symptomatic description, architecture can be considered as a weapon that serves a minority but severely hurts the Palestinian commons. Nevertheless, we can and must act to the creation of a Palestinian architecture that could both uses tradition (the work accomplished by Riwaq in this matter is remarkable) and a more specific response to the occupation (like strategical propositions by Decolonizing Architecture). This architecture would thus be weaponized to the same two levels than the one that reproduces the colonization’s scheme: it would both expresses the Palestinian’s nation identity and actively take part to the territorial struggle engaged in the West Bank.
Those of my readers who know me a little bit might be aware that I modestly attempted to give a small proposition for such an architecture (with all the faults that it involves), but I will have the occasion to talk slightly more about that soon (although I refuse to publish my design work on this platform).