PhD Student in American Studies, New York University
The paper examines the risk of financial collapse in Palestine as it relates to the Clearance Revenue System, debts to the Israel Electric Company, and the Palestinian National Authority’s (PNA) deployment of financialized urbanization as a strategy for economic growth.
Despite anxieties over impending financial collapse reaching their peak this summer, the World Bank granted $12.6M to continue its land registration campaign. The grant is a part of the PNA’s development initiative that seeks to transform land into property with the aims of collateralizing it to gain access to liquid capital. This strategy began in 2008, when the PNA implemented an Affordable Housing program which was coupled with the creation of a mortgage facility that targeted low and middle-income families. The program, heavily supported by international financial institutions and USAID, gave impetus to rapid urbanization in the areas surrounding Ramallah, despite failing to provide mortgages to the communities it targeted. In the decade after its implementation, debt financing real estate alone has increased 736%, reaching $1.9 billion in 2018 and accounts for 26% of all credit given to the private sector (PMA, 2018).
As a site for financialization, housing is a central node in the West Bank’s political economy. It brings together a triad of the PNA, holding companies that straddle the real estate and financial sector, and local banks. This real estate- finance nexus represents the co-constitution of land and credit as it facilitates the extension of credit through all circuits of capital. Understanding housing’s role as a mechanism of financial re-engineering for the local banking sector, the paper asks to what extent this financialized urbanization is tied to Israel’s larger settler colonial project, using debt as a mechanism of control and dispossession? In seeking to answer this question, the paper shifts analytical frames from examining housing as a site for the production and circulation of capital and examines its role in the reproduction of relationships.
Whereas the current process of financialized urbanization in the West Bank is distinct and historically contingent, the co-constitution of credit and land, as a relation, has functioned as a modality for eliminating Indigenous claims to land across settler colonies. Drawing on recent scholarship that seeks to denaturalize property relations and reveal the recursive logic of dispossession in settler colonies, the paper examines debt contracts in Palestine and the Salary Transfer Mechanism as an abstraction of the Clearance Revenue System established by the 1994 Paris Protocol (Park, 2016; Karuka, 2019; Bhandar, 2018). With this framing, the paper identifies the mandatory linking of debtors’ salaries to their loans as a social articulation of the relationship that the PNA shares with the Israeli State in regards to its electrical debts and clearance revenues. The analysis weaves through infrastructures of housing, electrical grids, and pre-paid meters to map the reproduction of debt relations.
Tareq Radi is a second year doctoral student in American Studies at NYU. His doctoral research examines the financialization of housing in the West Bank as a mechanism of financial and social re-engineering. More broadly, his research interrogates the co-constitution of finance capital and land as social relations at the nexus of settler colonialism and capitalism in Palestine and Turtle Island. Radi holds a MSc in Globalization and Development from SOAS, University of London and a B.S in Finance from George Mason University. In 2016, he co-produced of the pedagogical film Gaza in Context, and co-edited Gaza in Context: War and Settler Colonialism, with Noura Erakat.