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Professor Rassem Khamaisi

Rassem is a Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at the University of Haifa. We spoke to Rassem about The DNA of Jaffa and Tel Aviv.

Photo credit: Shai Pal via Unsplash.

Rassem Khamaisi

I think this project is very important, but I suggest you not just look into Tel Aviv; I suggest you to do some more about the Palestinian cities, the DNA of the Palestinian cities, such as Ramallah, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jenin and Nablus and Al-Khalil - as you know very well, Jericho is the oldest urban centres - which is very important to deal with. Not just on the global cities that develop according to global actions.


Greg Clark

So do you want to take some minutes now, Rassem, to talk a little bit about those cities and where you think their origins lie? And in a way, this could be the beginnings of how you introduce Jaffa if you know what I mean.

Rassem Khamaisi

Yes, I think that Jerusalem is the oldest city here in our country. And I think that when I looking on the mountain's access, which actually come from north - Safed, Nazareth, Jenin, Nablus - and I can see Bethlehem and Al-Khalil. And we can turn to, what I can said, Be'er Sheva which actually, this is accessing the oldest urban centre in Palestine.


And I think when we come to deal with this, we cannot just deal with the new notion of, what we call, a nation-state because before the building of nation-state, the urban centres was actually close and neighbours. Intermediate urban centres; actually, was connected to what we called Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo. Moreover, Jaffa, actually, and Akka, it was part of the urban system or the urban network which was in the second level intermediate. However, it was important of the country and the relation between the important of the country.


Moreover, the importance of the cities is very important to connect it in order to discuss because actually, Palestine was a part or a connection between Cairo and Damascus and Baghdad that was the urban centres. It was the urban centres of this region, which was connected, later, to Istanbul, which was very important. That mean when we want to learn about the DNA of the Palestinian cities, we have to understand and to learn the connectivity or connection between these cities, which is intermediate to other cities.


And the brand of Jerusalem, which is very important, in spite of its geopolitical level, which, actually, all the time, was to be the capital or the centre. All the time, it was a second liberal cities, despite the global cultural important. In addition, I think that we have to differentiate between what we call global cities, according to the new liberal notion, to the global cities as a cultural, religions cities. I think it is very important to differentiate between these two kind. That mean not just global cities related to what we call-- according to American or Western thinking or model; we have to turn to other dimensions, which defines as global cities. And I think it's very important when we discuss about what we call DNA of cities.


And Jaffa, actually, when we come to learn about, it was the port of Palestine, and the port was connected to the Mediterranean cities. It was part of the Mediterranean cities. It was connected to Athens, connected to Rome, connected to others surrounding, Beirut and Alexandria. And Jaffa was a small city which connected Jerusalem to Mecca and even Damascus to other parts of the world, which is important, and began to grow. This is the growing of-- the modernization come to Palestine from the Western point of view coming through Jaffa. That mean was connected.


Gaza is in the south and Acre was in the north, but as a location of the cities, Jaffa, as well, very important. It began to grow. Moreover, this city began to grow and to be part of the cosmopolitical, of the cosmo-development of the global at that time, at the end of the 19th century.


When we come to enter the 20th century, Israelis began to go out from the walls, which were surrounding the city and began to grow during the period of the end of the 19th century, and the Ottoman Empire gave it some push with the connection of Beirut. This is kind of something. And when come to Jaffa to be a part of the urban centre, cosmopolitic, modernized cities in Palestine because there are some kind of limitation in Jerusalem as a religion, culture, reserved cities while Jaffa as a part of the seashore cities. And in Palestine, here, we have to differentiate between the behaviour of the community within what we call the country as located on the mountain area vis-a-vis the seashore city was more open, more modernised, more progressive than which managing and behaviour according conservative narratives and agenda. I think that this differentiation is very important.


And when we enter cities such as and the connection between the mountain area vis-a-vis the seashore area, actually, Jaffa present us the seashore centre and Jerusalem present the mountain centre. And the connection between two cities is very important because the complimentary between them.


Greg Clark

Rassem, I want to say this is wonderful, and we don't want to stop you, so please keep going. But one question I'd like you to get to, when you're ready, is, what was Jaffa particularly important for? Was it a particular trade in certain kinds of goods, or was it really the community that began to evolve in Jaffa? Just tell us when you're ready. Keep going with the story but tell us a little bit more about the specific characteristics of Jaffa.


Rassem Khamaisi

Actually, this is the urban network, and when we come to discuss and define what the competitive value of Jaffa? What the competitive value of this is urban canter, Jaffa. Actually, the main port of Palestine before establishing the Israeli State. Actually, as a trade centre, it was cosmopolitic, it was attracting for middle class and upper class of Palestine, which was living in this area. And Jaffa, actually, was centre for agricultural hinterland, actually, as well as connected or close between two main access. One is connected the seashore with the mountain, Jerusalem access, the second is connected to what we call the outsider canters, and it's connected between Cairo and actually, Damascus.


And when the Ottoman Empire come and developed what we call the railway system, they began and put Jaffa port on main point junction. It's connected between Jerusalem and Jaffa. And Jaffa connected our country to the world using the trade centre, the port; which was export the famous apple. Apple of Jaffa/Palestine is very very famous, producing in this area as a brand. This is brand of our country, Jaffa.


And because Jaffa attract the middle class of our country as well as a political centre. Most of the newspaper, before establishing the Israel state, as well as the Palestinian newspaper. The centre of what we call the establishing and managing the Palestinian parties, the political parties, the political leaders was located, and actually, was moving between Jaffa and Jerusalem and some cases, actually, to Al-Khalil because the conservative Al-Khalil represent our conservative style. And Nablus, which has some kind of the family, the family leaders, the clan leaders, which it was called Shakhes or Mokhtares.


But Jaffa, actually, is include a multiclass, more open, more freedom than other Palestinian cities. More freedom, even from the woman point of view because the Palestinian community actually was more conservative. While who were living in Jaffa benefit from freedom, open, modernised, cosmopolitical. And even some women singers, such as Asmahan and Umm Kulthum come to the theatre in Jaffa. And this is some kind of feature of the city, and I think it's very important thing to understand when we come to shifting to Tel Aviv because Tel Aviv, actually, has come as a neighbourhood of Jaffa, and the centre of the country, actually, is Jaffa.


And the British Mandate, when they come and located what we called the Airport of Lod, Lyddaa, now, named as Ben Gurion, okay? It's very important to connect it between the railway system, the airport system and the port system because the transportation connection of the city is very important, because it's located in the main location which connected to the other place and actually, produce the DNA of the city, and I think it's very important thing when we come to understand what Jaffa mean and the Palestinian narrative. Very important because Jaffa presents as and functions as a centre, the urban centre of Palestine, before 1948.


And when Israel was established in 1948 in the Nakba, actually, there are a competition between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, the Zionist movement which come and myth and catching on Jaffa area\ land and to distribute the Jewish who's come from urban centre in the diaspora, which come to control the land and colonise it.


Actually, first of all Jewish immigrants, colonise the periphery in rural\villages and create the rural centres\ blocks. The Jewish Zionist immigrants, did not give the urban centre as importantancy. In 1920, actually, they began, Jewish immigrants to come to Tel Aviv as Zionist to be located in a neighbourhood close to Jaffa. And actually, when they come, the Jewish middle class come and located close to Jaffa vis-a-vis most of the core of the Zionist was in the rural location, such as the Kinneret, such as Degania, such as Rashon to Tzion. Jewish immigrants think and aims to establishing the nation-building. And actually, some of them actually located in Haifa. Haifa was a very important city because Daher al-Omar actually began to develop it as an urban centre and main modern port of Palestine in British Mandate period and compete of Jaffa.


And in 1933, actually, during the British Mandate, they're shifting the port, the main port in Palestine from Jaffa to Haifa, and the British began to develop the industrial centre, close to the port of Haifa vis-a-vis to establishing a lot of factories which was connected to the oil factories connected to the Iraq petrol to bring the petrol. And from Haifa port to transfer to Europe. This is shifting from Jaffa to Haifa, which was in the beginning, vis a vis Acre continued to be a small urban center and port. But the competition between Jaffa and Haifa and Tel Aviv, it begin before establishing of Israeli State, during what I call the initial building of the Zionist movement here in our country.


Greg Clark

Rassem, thank you so much for this very, very clear story. So I want to, if I may, continue the story with you but to ask one question to be even more explicit. It seems to me that you are saying that Jaffa was a very important gateway city. It was a port city, a city with a growing middle class. It was a city that was connected into the global flows of what we might call the Muslim and Arabian world but also into the world of the Mediterranean and all of its sources of trade. It was Palestine's global city of that time. And with the founding of Tel Aviv, it sounds like you think some of the DNA of Jaffa was planted in Tel Aviv. Is this correct?


Rassem Khamaisi

Yes. We cannot understand the DNA of Tel Aviv if we are looking to the invisible thinking to what the DNA of Jaffa because most of the Jewish Israelis urban network based on the Palestinian urban network after it's displaced.


And if we speak about new cities, actually, most of the new cities, which built after Israel state was established, actually, is located on the previous Palestinians urban centre: Ramle, Lydda, Saffad, Bisan, Beersheba, okay? There are some of what we call the new cities such as Modi'in, such as Karmiel. It's come from geopolitical consideration to Hebrewisation of the space and the place and respond to the question of how to control the periphery by Zionist colonies, okay?


That mean Jaffa began to produce a new urban plan in 1920, and it was as a modern plan for Manshiyya quarter, a plan which come to the north of Jaffa, actually and when Hassan Bek Mosque began to built in this area, which continue to locate until today, okay? And around this mosque, actually, they built a lot of hotels, new hotels, according to the new global notion or thinking, okay? And that's mean if I come to the Jaffa as a base, the Palestinian narrative, okay, which come through a long history, actually, Jaffa present the urban Palestinian narrative in this country, okay?


And before the transformation of Jaffa, I call transformation in 1948. This is transformation come what we call Nakba catastrophe. This Nakba, happen to urban caters in Palestine include Jaffa. during the war of 1948 actually, and even before the war, the Palestinian middle class began to leave, to push out, to exile from Jaffa and vis-a-vis, the more middle class of the Israeli Jewish began to locate it and to settle in Tel Aviv because in, actually, 1921, they established what we call the Anglo Palestine bank, which later transferred to be what we call Bank Leumi "National Bank". And in 1934, split Tel Aviv quarter from Jaffa city and establish new municipal Tel Aviv while Jaffa continue to be as a depended municipal.


That's mean this situation create what we call Twin Cities. Twin Cities actually come to contribute one to the other. Tel Aviv began to expand and develop; Jaffa began to expand and develop. And from one side, there are continuity. Other side want a competition between the cities. And after the 1933-1936 riots , actually, the relations between the two cities, transferred from urban cooperation to what we call, the division / the splits or their contribution. Okay, this is great, some competition, and this situation affect the development of Jaffa and affect the development of Tel Aviv.


While most of the Jewish middle class which come from outside Jewish diaspora as wave of immigration as a middle class, which did not want to go to locate it or to living in rural community, come and live in Tel Aviv as urban centres, particularly after what we called in Israel, topology, the fourth immigrant wave in 1930's. The Jewish immigrates / newcomers it's come from more European countries. And after what happened in Germany, what happened in Europe, and there are some Jewish come and located in Tel Aviv. The understanding of the Jewish immigrant's wave's characters, and Zionist colonised policies, it is very important thing, which shape the DNA of Tel Aviv urban fabric.


Greg Clark

Well, Rassem, this is wonderful analysis and narrative from you. Please take a moment to breathe because we want to ask you now to tell some more of the story, which is really where you were just now, which is this relationship between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, how it evolves and the consequences for Jaffa of Tel Aviv's development and the consequences for Tel Aviv of Jaffa's change of path. And eventually, of course, we want to ask you about the two cities today and how the relationship is. But you should continue to tell the story from your point of view. This is wonderful, exactly the things we wanted to learn from you.


Rassem Khamaisi

Okay, thank you. But I think it's very important not to shift now. After the Israeli settlers established what the status of Jaffa, okay, this is very important because during the war, according to the policy of de-urbanise, most of the urban centre in Palestine, which was located in the seashore area, de-urbanised during the transformation of the Nakba, the war of 1948. I can define that de-urbanizing of the Palestinians urban canter, include Jaffa, what we call the Nakba. It's not just the Nakba of Palestine; it's include the Nakba of the cities in Palestine, okay? It's very important to understand this. That mean, in 1948, actually, Jaffa was destroyed as cosmopolitel Palestinians city.


Actually, the problem of Jaffa, what happened during what we call the riots, rising and uprooting of 1936, during the British mandate, which come and demolished the centre or the core of Jaffa, okay, because there are a violence riots against the Zionist project of colonisation of Palestine, according to the mandate activity and policy. But what happened in 1948, actually, that mean most of the Arab Palestine was depopulated from Jaffa. And still, there are a few. That mean they transfer from majority to minority, which mean more than 70,000 Palestinians population still in Jaffa to actually, less than 3,000 Palestinian living in destroyed and very bad condition.


And what happened, part of the Israeli policy was to impose the military governor on the rest of the Arab Palestinians who continue to live in Israeli State. Part of this is, military governor actually imposed on the rest of the Arab in the cities, such as Jaffa. And I can say, most of the Arab middle class and lower class and high class, actually, they not continue to live in Jaffa. Who's still there? Most of them are the poorest lower class, refuge rural communities transferred to live in Jaffa, and some of the few families which have the origin.


And Jaffa attract some of the immigrants who still continue to live in the village surrounding its hinterland. And during the war of 1948, actually, like I said, mostly of the Arab who were living within the Jewish state, according the U.N. Resolution 181, actually, was clear and pass spaciocide.


And that mean Jaffa began to resume its development under Israeli military governor. And this is very, very bad condition. It has deteriorate from cosmopolite, from main gate, from a modern city to very poor deteriorate neighbourhood. Actually, in this context, the municipality of Tel Aviv, in the beginning of the '50s of the 20th century, decide to what we call annexiate Jaffa to Tel Aviv. And that mean, in this situation, that all the history of Jaffa actually was depopulated, and changed to be deteriorate neighbourhood of Tel Aviv.


And some of the Jewish immigrant who come from the Arab world, actually, was populated and replaced the Palestinian community who was living in these houses. This is very important transformation, and it's shaping the DNA of Jaffa, one side, after Israel establish vis-a-vis the strengthening of Tel Aviv and the relation between north of Tel Aviv and south of Tel Aviv, Jaffa, today, because Tel Aviv continue to grow, continue to attract the Israeli institution. For instance, the Knesset was located in Tel Aviv, the minister of defence located in Tel Aviv, all the state institution actually located in Tel Aviv, and Jaffa deteriorate and depopulate.


Moreover, some of the new Jewish immigrant, who come in the beginning of the '50s populated and replace the Palestinians. In addition, as immigrant are weaker, are poorest, and the shape of Jaffa began to re-populated and unfortunately, the poorest place deteriorated because the origin people were depopulated, and the newcomer or the immigrant are weaker. this situation create the differentiation between Jaffa origin neighbourhoods to Tel Aviv until now. The border, the social border between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. Tel Aviv continue to be as a developed cosmopolitan, and Jaffa is still to be a deteriorate part of this city, I can say, metropolitan global city, which we come later to this.


I think it is very important to understand the connection between Jaffa and Tel Aviv as a DNA of this agglomeration, urban agglomeration without understanding the geopolitical transformation. And within this urban agglomeration, there are other cities which located. Some of them was a Jewish rural community such as Kefar Sava, such as Rehovot, such as Giv'atayim, Herzliya, and later, began to urbanise and contribute to the agglomeration or urban Metropolitan of Tel Aviv despite of the Israeli national policy, after establishing of the state, was to depopulate the Jewish from the urban centres to the rural and the periphery from sheer geopolitical consideration to control the borders from what called dispersal Jewish population. But Tel Aviv, because its DNA as a centre, as a centre of the country, geographical centre, geopolitical centre, an economic centre, a gate of the state to the part of the world, this is very important, especially when we come to understand the modern urban fabric of Tel Aviv centre.


Before 1948, Palestine was open to its regions: open to Iraq, open to Jordan, open to Egypt. After 1948, Israel changed to be from open to closed, to be island, which actually is connected to the Western world, not on the region area. This is conditions guide Tel Aviv to began oriented to the West; while Jaffa, before 1948 was open, oriented to the Middle East and to the West.


Greg Clark

I'm just going to say, please continue. It's a brilliant story.


Rassem Khamaisi

Thank you. Now, I want to continue that in Tel Aviv began to be a centre. In the beginning, the Zionist ideology deal with the city as less important, compare to the village and rural communities. The Zionist movement want to produce a nation-building, a state-building; and go to the Herzl notion of populated new land, that mean it's pushed to the more rural communities to colonised the county, which later transferred to prefer the urban centre as generator of the development of the region and the state.


Now, because in the beginning, Israel state based on the socialist notion, they want to lead for equality such as kibbutz, moshav, etc. Locality is very important in the thinking, which has transferred today. I'll come later to this transformation as a part of the process of urbanisation in the world.


Moreover, I think it's very important to look to the geopolitical transformation to understand the transformation and DNA of Tel Aviv. It's very important to differentiate between Tel Aviv as a notion, as a brilliant brand was developed as Tel Aviv urban centre and within the municipal level of Tel Aviv because I differentiate between the municipal level of Tel Aviv vis-a-vis the urban agglomeration of Tel Aviv or Tel Aviv metropolitan or urban region of Tel Aviv, and even Tel Aviv State. It's very important because urban region of Tel Aviv actually include a lot of cities within this urban region when we come to Tel Aviv, actually, the core, the centre which actually spread out on the surrounding area.


In addition, Tel Aviv, actually, such as Jaffa before, began to be cosmopolitic, the centre of freedom, centre of the party, the institution, the people that can feel open. And some thing that characterise the city is the reputation of the cities. This reputation define the images of the city; such what they said about the main cities in Israel in the '50s and '60s. to define the images, they said; "Jerusalem actually religion or learning, and Haifa working, and Tel Aviv dancing". Give some kind of a feature of these cities that mean a more conservative Jerusalem or conservative Haifa actually working because the DNA of the city was based on the factories who established and the Technion and Haifa University are located today. The images of the cities It's very important to describe the DNA of city.


Nevertheless, while Tel Aviv actually diversity, freedom, opening to the world, gate to the world, the social stratification of the community, it's something that give diversity within the city. Moreover, Tel Aviv, actually, despite the saying of the Zionist movement that we want to go back to the land to establish the small localities, in the practical way, they give centrality for Tel Aviv. Most of the institution actually is located in Tel Aviv. In addition, when we come to connected between nation-building and city building, actually, we cannot avoid, and we have to understand the relation between the DNA of the developing of Tel Aviv and the DNA of building of Israeli State as a nation-state.

Greg Clark

Very, very clear, Rassem. And there's so many questions I want to ask you before we continue. But let me just summarise what I understood, that although the original philosophy of Herzl and the Zionists was to create a more rural population based on the socialist ideas but also on the Jewish traditions of living in the forests and in the shtetl and other places, in fact, the Israelis rapidly urbanised. And that rapid urbanisation had a big consequence for the Palestinian cities that were already created, partly because, as you explained, the Israelis took over those cities in one way or another and partly because the consequence of this, particularly for Jaffa, was that Tel Aviv became a much larger city of conurbation or an agglomeration, creating a big metropolitan area in which Jaffa eventually becomes subsumed.

In addition to what you already explained about the population shifts because of the suppression of Jaffa, the middle-class Palestinians are obliged to leave Jaffa. And this creates the opportunity for Jaffa to be not just annexed by Tel Aviv, but to become, as it were, a low-cost, low-value entry point for Jewish immigrants to become new Israelis. So the metropolitanisation of Tel Aviv is part of the process of suppressing Jaffa and producing a new dynamic where Jaffa is, in a sense, subordinate to Tel Aviv. Did I understand correctly?


Rassem Khamaisi

Yes, yes. You summarised very well. We can putting some word in different context, but in general, yes, yes, I accept your summarising. Yes.


Greg Clark

And I want to know, then, just a little bit from you about this metropolitan area because we heard some people call it the Dan region, we heard other people call it Tel Aviv-Yafo metropolitan area, we heard other people call it Tel Aviv, you know, Greater Tel Aviv. What is the real way to describe this metropolitan area, and what are the meanings of the different names that it has?


Rassem Khamaisi

Okay, when we come to the naming and how I conceptualise Tel Aviv, actually, it depend about who's speaking, who's defining and what the narrative that he want to present. And there are some changing when we come to the issue development of cities until understand the nature and the feature of the city. I can say it about changing of Tel Aviv. Until 1983, the term of metropolitan, it not exist to describe Tel Aviv city, and even in the urban geography in Israel, the term of metropolitan it not exist.


And later, they began to enter this terminology, particularly in the beginning of the 1990, when come as a plan, which I mentioned, as a official national plan, TAMA 31. And when a lot of immigrants who comes from Soviet Union in the beginning of the 1990s, this has immigrant from urban centres in previous Soviet Union. These immigrants have a tendency to locate in urban centres such as Tel Aviv region. In addition, according to the theory that you all it know very well, okay, that urban centre can absorb more people easily. Particularly, some of the small communities in small cities and rural, they're not tendencies to accept a new immigrant to live with.


Therefore, this situation, most of the new Soviet immigrant located in the centre, in Tel Aviv area, and this give push to regenerate the development of Tel Aviv. If we come to understand what happened in Tel Aviv, actually, between 1950 to 1960 to 1980s, okay, Tel Aviv was declined from population point of view. Most of the immigrant come outside to Tel Aviv, and some of them go to the new Israeli settlements as settlers within West Bank as a surrounding. Moreover, there are some within 10 minutes from Kfar Sava. That mean you can living in the hinterland of Tel Aviv from on hand, and these settlements contribute to eliminate the Green Line as geo-political future border between two nation states; Israel and Palestine.

So when we come to the naming of this area, it depend what we define it. Now, it is some of them as Dan municipal agglomeration. Dan, this is name which come from the Jewish narrative, as a name to define the agglomeration of localities within the centre of the country, and Tel Aviv as a municipal area. And there are competition between cities - Herzliya, Giv'atayim, Bat Yam, Holon - and some of them have a tendency to give the privilege to Tel Aviv. in spite of the historian attitude to Tel Aviv, but in the after transformation of urban network in Israel because Tel Aviv has developed from Jaffa to be the "leaders" of the urban rank size in Israel, so began to be what we call the name Tel Aviv state.


Tel Aviv as a Greater Tel Aviv is connected to what we call Greater Jerusalem. Some think that if we want to define some area greater, Greater London, some of the term actually has imported from outside of the country to say that the uniqueness of the Jewish Zionist narrative or Israeli narrative is not unique. It is not unique. It is as part of the global terminology, and we can follow similar to what happened in the world. Moreover, I think it is very important about the competition or what we call how the Zionist Jewish communities have come to define itself. In addition, the naming, it's very important how we can define city considering to organic development according to it DNA. 


This is some somewhat soft thinking, how I present myself as a national project or Israel defining itself as a national project, how to be part of the international community. However, in the real situation and the development, actually, now, Tel Aviv behave as a greater metropolitan, as a centre of the country. Most of the phenomenon that happen in the urban American, European centre, actually, happen in Tel Aviv because we are in a global new liberal era. Actually, this is behaviour have to be similar to the situation occurred in Western Cities, despite in developed in the Middle East.


Besides that, some of immigrant come as outsider-workers from such as Africa, come and living in Tel Aviv. And some of the foreign worker come, and they found their work in Tel Aviv, and most of them located in a weak neighbourhood in the south of Tel Aviv vis-a-vis most of the original development was to the north of Tel Aviv. I mean, they are calling it by Hebrew Names. Moreover, sometime, I use the Arabic name because this is the shifting, not just in the urban, not in just the population, the shifting actually about the naming, how we are naming. Naming define the organ and the narrative, and could define to home belong this place.


And there are some kind of competition here about the owners and indigeneity of the country, and I think we have to think how we can solve this as the problem in the DNA of the cities. And I'll mention Sheikh Munis, for instance, for the Tel Aviv University has located because some of the Zionist narrative want to present that before Israel State was established, it's what we call 'country without people' to 'people without country'. And I think it's wrong because before Israel State here, nation movement, actually began to compete. Some of the Zionist colonial activity come and began to colonise our country.


But this is the situation. We have to connect the DNA of Tel Aviv - it cannot avoid it to understand it - with the national conflict here between two people. Two people define themselves as organic, developed, part of the open, this area. And people, Zionist, who come as immigrants, while the Palestine are Natives. There was some Jewish living in Jaffa. Some of the Jews was living in Kfar Sava, and some are living in Jerusalem and Khalil. But we have to differentiate here between the Jewish as a religion, the Zionist as nation-building or nation-settling, and the Israeli as a citizen-state. And it's very important to differentiate between this thing because if there are no differentiable terminology, it could be some kind of misunderstanding. Because Jewish as a religion, as a culture is very important, nation building as a Zionist which lead to a conflict with the Palestinians. Israel as a nation Jewish state, which wanted, be as a pure Jewish state, Zionist state, and related to Tel Aviv as Israeli Jewish city. While the Arab Palestinians citizens want to call Israel as citizen-state, which I claim to be, include Tel Aviv Jaffa city. That mean more equity and equality, freedom, open, managed according to the international vision, humanitarian needs.


I think it's very important to change the images of Tel Aviv, because the present of Tel Aviv was, and continue until today as Jewish city. It was established as Zionist colony, and aims to function as urban core, which include main state institutions. As said before, when was declared about the establishing of Anglo Palestine Bank, which now transferred to be Bank Leumi. Or in 1934, this was Tel Aviv give dependency from Jaffa because before it was connected to Jaffa. Now, we established the Hebrew state, the Israel state, because, before 1948, nobody knew how to call the new state, and they define later what the name of the state: Jewish state, Israel state, even something else. But they defined as Israel state in 1948 as Ben-Gurion defined it Israel state, as Jewish and democratic state. The languagestice urban landscape in the city characterises by Hebrew and Jewish symbolic resource to belonging the city to one nation. 


Greg Clark

Rassem, very, very clear, very helpful. The politics of the naming of places and the connection to the different narratives, very clear. Can you, in a minute, maybe you talk about Jaffa and Tel Aviv today? But before that, can you say anything else about this metropolitan area? Are there other names?

You spoke about Dan region; you spoke about Greater Tel Aviv. Is there some other language that is used by Palestinian thinkers about this region, or are there other ways to describe it? I can imagine a brilliant conference debating what is the right name for this place, but how do you think about it?


Rassem Khamaisi

First of all, I began with the latest comment, that I have to differentiate between from the Palestinian point of view and the Arab Palestinian citizens like me regarding the naming. We have two level. One about the reality, and about the narrative and the past. And because we are as Arab Palestinians citizens, not participate in the producing of this place, actually, we are consume this place because the Israeli Zionist hegemony. Arab Palestinian citizens are excluding form the official authority to produce the place by the Zionist Israeli, they are discriminated, they are avoided them because if they patriciate and gain the right to produce the naming in the place, include Tel Aviv, actually, my be threat the Israeli Zionist nation-building project as Jewish state and cities. The Arab Palestinians award of the important of the place naming according their narrative and culture, which refused from the Israel Zionist side. From other side, if the Arab Palestinians citizens are involved, and cooperate with the Zionist project it will create hybrids maps of names, which the two sides, the Israeli and the Arabs still not ready to do. There are still some kind of national cultural conflicts in this context Israel nation building cope the Palestinian nation building and resuming their narratives.


But regarding to the name, it's still Jaffa, Jaffa area or the seashore area. And the Arab Palestinians citizens, still have to concentrate more about the localities, the naming of all localities, not about the region, the area, because this area was rebuilt or built today according to the activity of the Israeli State, and named about the Zionist movement of the Jewish. So the name of the place, include the city is important about the local people, because the Palestinian want to concentrate more about the naming before Israeli State was established, and they define the places, the local places, the micro, not in the macro. It is very important to differentiate between macro and micro according narratives. Moreover, the Israeli want more to agglomerate, to say that this is one part, and while the Arab Palestinians try to go back to the organ names of the place before Israel control the place. 


And when you come to the road naming, about the extent of the status of the Arab language, within the city, for instance, still most of the road named by Hebrew name, and translate them to Arabic and write the Hebrew and in Arabic letters. In spite of that, there are some kind of need to name the roads in Arabic. Israel, actually, when you come to the sign, right, in three languages, what we call Hebrew, Arabic and English. But we have to differentiate between putting the name in Arabic vis-a-vis try to put the name in Arab letters.


Greg Clark

It's very different.


Rassem Khamaisi

Yes, Jaffa, Yafa. According to the toponomy of naming, when you name Yafa in Arabic, while Jaffa in English and Yafor n Hebrew. Actually, there are some kind of name that international, there are some local and there are some numbers of naming, and it's very important when we come to the naming with the sign in Jaffa. The naming is part of the national conflict over nature and image of the city and it affiliation and belonging.


Actually, today, the name of Tel Aviv-Yafo, that mean to connect it, to join Jaffa to Tel Aviv. And it's not said as Yafa, it changed to Tel Aviv-Yafo. If you say the Tel Aviv-Yafa, that mean you recognize that, here, was some kind of city gate of Palestine, gate of the country. Now, if you put it as a joint, reduce the importance of the Arab Palatines narrative on the city.


Second, when we come to naming, actually, you find that Herzl in Arabic, but you cannot for instance, if I come to the road in Jaffa, it's very important, Yafa is named as what is called Jamal Pasha in past , and later today's change to Jerusalem. That means this is not what exists, but they transform the name according to the transformation and Hebrewnising of the urbanising landscape.


And one of the DNA of Tel Aviv, actually, how to transfer the landscape and to develop the Zionist narrative on the city. This is some kind of what we call soft and symbolic dimension of the conflict within and over the DNA of cities.


Greg Clark

Yes, it's a soft power approach.


Rassem Khamaisi

Symbolic, soft power approach, yes. And some kind of which I named it as sophisticated matrix of control, which some of that actually have a soft component, other as hard and harsh component. Between these components of the matrix synergy to control the city and define and characterise its DNA and enable us to understand the city characters. 


Greg Clark

Soft power with hard consequences.


Rassem Khamaisi

Yes. Today, Jaffa actually began to grow. There are living in Jaffa today, about 20,000 Arab population. But still, in the urban Tel Aviv outlined plan, such as Tel Aviv original plan or state, national plans, they want and they aim to continue to reduce the status of Jaffa to be an Arab centre, and enable it to attract Arab middle class. For instance, like me. If there are a normal situation, I was a migrant from the periphery to the Tel Aviv where there was more opportunity. And the Arab middle class who began to grow after 1948, actually, they want to be part of Tel Aviv.


Today, actually, Tel Aviv-Jaffa is continue to grow, mainly from the Arab Palestinian point of view. Natural growth with the limitation, actually, it's a sign some kind of problematic place to live within. That mean, there are a lot of thinking how we can develop Jaffa from Arab point of view.


And there are the community. The Arab community within Jaffa began to think and to claiming how they can develop Jaffa, to push up and regenerate it as a neighbourhood, as a city. And some of the thoughts began to sign we want to separate ourselves back from Tel Aviv and to be such as Bat Yam, such as other localities or municipal who's part of the greater metropolitan or Tel Aviv metropolitan.


And the claiming come that if we alone depend, actually, the Arab citizens of Jaffa are claiming more resources form the state and form the municipality. The Arab Palestinians citizens are concentrated in organ neighbourhoods of old Jaffa, and they can actually manage their allocated budget in different way. There are some kind requesting by Jaffa Arab citizens from the Tel Aviv municipality and the Israeli state to ending the doula discrimination which suffer from (national and municipal levels), and they claiming more resources for development and securing the Arabic DNA of the city.


Greg Clark

But Rassem, if I may ask, does the Tel Aviv city government, the Tel Aviv-Yafo or Tel Aviv-Jaffa city government, do they not have an active project to help Jaffa develop to become a really important location, a city, a town within the municipal boundary? Because this is a logical project to create the restoration of a great Palestinian city within the municipality. They don't see this?


Rassem Khamaisi

Today, and particularly after the 1990s, when the notion of back to the city grow and began to implemented, and the population of Tel Aviv began to grow more and more as an economic core of the state of Israel as part of the global city. This create a direct impact about Jaffa and contribute to Jaffa development. Now, Jaffa is face a problem within the urban fabric of Tel Aviv.


Now, how they relate it? They have to differentiate between regenerate it and gentrification it or restore it. The gentrification process in Jaffa today are, actually, come not to help and develop the local community. The origin community of Palestine citizens in Jaffa are not benefit from this as projects. It is come to create a demographic transformation by attracting Jewish to live in Jaffa.


Actually, it need to differentiate between how we relate to the place to relate to the community in the place in the city. That mean, they want and work to generate, develop, restore Jaffa, but not form benefit of exist citizens, and to attract Arab middle class to this area. How they do that? They not build new schools, not a new mosque or services to serve and oriented to the Arab community considering the cultural and community. It has done to Judaisation and urbanisation of this as a place through this rehabilitation and gentrification projects. And some of the middle-high class of Jewish come and want to live in Jaffa, and to benefit from the gentrification of Jaffa, because there are something special with this area, and the municipality that managed and governorate by Jewish, and they initiated renewal projects to attract Jewish middle and high classes families to live in new housing building and living in what named in urban geography as "gated communities".


Greg Clark

I understand. It's very, very clear what you're saying.


Rassem Khamaisi

However, the leaders of the state and the municipality want to secure the Jewish hegemony on the city. You have to be aware that Jaffa is continue to grow under national conflict, a conflict about the narrative, and over the nation building. Still the discourse and the actions not transfer from nation building to state building. Still, there are conflict. So anything that you want to contribute from the Arab Palestinian to resume or develop here, the explanation from Tel Aviv, "Oh, you want to come back to resume the development of Jaffa as the project from before 1948. That mean you are a threat us." In addition, we have to transfer from the notion of threaten to common understanding to development, still. Moreover, this is point of thinking, which the Israeli municipal and state leaders not ready to adapt and enable Arab development in Jaffa as part of it DNA.


Despite of the power of the Tel Avivian leaders and Jewish communities and its economic power, political power, still, some of the Jewish extremists on the right parties, they did not want to promote Jaffa development which could attract more Arbs to city, on one side. On the other side, the Arab Palestine community of Jaffa is still not enough strong to resume projects, and most of the Arab who are still as an Israeli citizen, weaker. About 50% of them are under poverty line. That mean the economic ability, the community organising of immigrant of the Arab middle class from the periphery to the centre, this is as an internal Arab Palestinian community, and they have a barriers to do something to create and important change to the urban fabric. On the other side, the state, the municipality of Tel Aviv, not do actions to promote Arab development in Tel Aviv Jaffa, and they do not want this kind of developed project oriented to shape the collective of the Arabs citizens. However, project which could enable individual to benefits is "Okay and we'll come". But initiating a developed projects as a collective, which could have positive impact of the identity of the place, identity of the city, they said "No, no, no, no, please. We are not there."

Caitlin Morrissey

I guess I really have one question for you, Rassem, which is, are you optimistic about the future of Jaffa?


Rassem Khamaisi

I am urban planner looking to the future. I am learning of the past, analysing the situation, but I look into the future. I am optimistic in my heart, and I think that it is not optimistic or pessimistic; it's about reality. And I think that the Arab Palestinian narrative, as indigenous, have the power, soft power. People believe in that, and I think that we have to sharing to be part of the building as a metropolitan, as a shared metropolitan because Jewish and Arab living side by side in the same space and location.


In spite of our demographobia, in spite of the economic stratification, the Arab Palestinian citizens are belong to the place. Therefore, they have to be more involved. Moreover, I think the state should enable them to be part of this because they have no other place. The Arab Palestinian citizens cannot come to London as a visitor, but we're not attachment to London. Their Attachment is to here, to this place, Jaffa.


This is a struggle. This is my work to be part of, to be shared with. It's not easy, but I think that we have to look to the future, and our future should be that Tel Aviv today, Jaffa, the centre, not just of the Jewish community; its economic centre of the Arab community, It should be a lot of the upper-middle-class factories, companies as a global city who's want to develop and should be located in the urban centre.


Yes, we have a good general what we call the transportation infrastructure, but this is not good infrastructure. We have to initiate what we call culture activity, cultural initiative within the city, which is oriented to the Arab community. In addition, I think that Jewish community, actually, today, consume Arab Palestinian culture. Therefore, I think that we have to create some kind of hybrid structure and fabric, which can absorb the need of the Israelis, the need of the Arab Palestinians, thinking beyond what we call the nation building to thinking to be more citizen one.


Second, I think, today, we have to think about the citizenship of cities. It is very important. Moreover, I think that we have to differentiate national conflict Vis a vis urban cooperation because we are living today, most of the states actually, are finished outside conflict. I hope that a Palestinian state will be established and will be close to Israel state because I believe in that for possible settling the deep national and urban conflict. I think without this solution, as a geopolitical solution, it will be a lot of problem here between the two peoples. So we have to create a compromising about this solution to put the Arab Palestinian as a citizen of the state, should have the right and the equal right to participate, to shape, to produce the urban fabric, include Tel Aviv and to take what we call urban cores such as Jaffa, such as Lydda, such as Ramle.


Ramle, actually, is part of the Metropolitan, which was the first Arab Muslim city. It was built through the Umayya period, 715 year, observed by Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik. That mean nobody can eliminate or delete this issue. Moreover, we are a part of the country and it is urban fabric. We have to resume rebuilding the development of Jaffa and create differently an heir to Tel Aviv for the future of our sons and our communities here in our country.


Greg Clark

Rassem, very, very, very helpful, and we learned so much listening to you. I knew that somebody understood these things, but I didn't know who. And I'm so honoured that you would spend the time explaining this perspective, this history and this very distinctive urban challenges. Very, very interesting for us. I want to just ask one more question if I may.


So I have met, a couple of times, Ron Huldai, the mayor of Tel Aviv. He is from a socialist origin. Does he not ever discuss these ideas of how to restore Jaffa to create a great Arabic centre there or this point you just discussed about developing Tel Aviv-Jaffa as more of a hybrid city which can celebrate Jewish and Palestinian culture and background? Is this not part of his project?


Rassem Khamaisi

I don't know exactly. I assume that not. I assume not. And I differentiate between rhetoric than practice. I differentiate because I see the active in the grounds, what happen.


I can read the plan in Hebrew, I can read the budget, I can learn about it from the Arab representative within a municipality of Tel Aviv. That mean, still, despite what we call some limited positive action in the discourse and action of development we want to share, we want to do. We want to do and transferee from word to actions and friendship.


Therefore, I think that Huldai, I do not know if he's a socialist. He come from socialist, but I think that he following the new liberal economic ideology because this is basic of open market, and I think the Arab power within Tel Aviv local election continue to be a minority, minority with limit impact on the local municipal election. They cannot gain enough resources to develop, one.


Second, Huldai - and I think this is most of the Zionist leader - they want to resume, and to develop the city of Tel Aviv as an Israeli city which mean Zionist city, which mean more Jewish in the city, And within the Zionist and Jewish community and Israeli, there are a lot of stakeholders who's looking negatively to the Arab Palestinian citizens as . But when they come to put the Arab as a part, as a share, as equal, my assumption from my knowledge that they feel that that threat their urban Israelization project. The requirement of the Arab to share the urban fabric and public space and belonging in equal with the Israeli.


Most of the Israelis and Zionists, they do not want Arab to be equal. Why? Because they still want to continue to look to the story of building the new project, the Jewish state. Look just to the last nation law in 2018. Actually, what that's mean? To strengthen more the Judaisation of the state. And this is against of the process that we want to share in the national level, in the region level and in the city level, in the urban fabric level. So I think that the road is still long to reach some activity, to transfer from rhetoric. What we want, equal, to be as practical, to give the community within Tel Aviv-Jaffa or in Jaffa to be people equal and get more resources for redevelopment.


So when Jewish leaders think about that, they think how to bring to this area Jewish investors, different Jewish Zionist development which lead to the what we called community transformation. And we have to differentiate between place transformation then community. We have to upgrade and renewal and to strengthen the community to help and to be attach to the community and to push this community to be more developed.


And when you're looking to what will happen today, the youngest the Arab Palestinian citizens and Jewish Israeli young people, immigrant from the periphery to Tel Aviv, they will coming. Actually, the municipality and the state want that. But when they come to immigrant from Arab middle class to there, to attract them, still, no, no, no; it's a threat. "Please continue to live in your localities. You can come work and back. Commuting."

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