Illegality in East Jerusalem: Between House Demolitions and Resistance

Theory and Criticism, Vol. 28, pp. 11-42, 2006 (in Hebrew)

Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-04

33 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2009 Last revised: 18 Jan 2009

See all articles by Irus Braverman

Irus Braverman

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: January 6, 2009


Eighty-five percent of the Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem are deemed illegal under Israeli planning laws for being built without adequate building permits. This implies that since 1967, approximately 20,000 buildings were built by Palestinians in East Jerusalem without acquiring sufficient building permits. Between 1987 and 2004, Israel demolished 400 (2.4 percent) of these houses. Through a detailed analysis of some 30 in-depth interviews conducted with Israeli bureaucrats and with Palestinian residents in Jerusalem, this article explores the institution of illegality within the Israeli planning discourse. In particular, the article examines how techniques of illegality based on planning laws and policy are utilized to dominate the Palestinian population of East Jerusalem.

Although the demolition of houses is the most spectacular spatial mechanism of illegality exercised by Israel in East Jerusalem, the focus of the first part of the article is on the more mundane techniques of illegality, such as mapping and tracing, criminality, and arbitrariness. The second part of the article introduces the notion of resistance and explores the illegal building carried out by East Jerusalemite Palestinians as an act of spatial protest. In examining tactics of "everyday" resistance, the article suggests that the study of illegality in the East Jerusalem context allows a nuanced understanding of the relations between bureaucrats and subjects, thereby offering a deeper comprehension of the character of power itself.

Note: Downloadable document is in Hebrew.

Keywords: Law and Geography, Law and Urban Planning, illegality, house demolitions, East Jerusalem, Israel/Palestine, everyday resistance, spatial protest

Suggested Citation

Braverman, Irus, Illegality in East Jerusalem: Between House Demolitions and Resistance (January 6, 2009). Theory and Criticism, Vol. 28, pp. 11-42, 2006 (in Hebrew), Buffalo Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2009-04, Available at SSRN:

Irus Braverman (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States
716-645-3030 (Phone)
716-645-2064 (Fax)


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