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The Spatial Logic of Intergroup Violence in Jerusalem
  • j.rokem,
  • Chagai Weiss,
  • miodownik
Chagai Weiss
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Author Profile


. Abstract: This paper assesses ways in which urban violence is shaped and transformed by Jerusalem’s spatial configuration, enhancing potential group encounters. We suggest that urban violence should be understood as an issue of mobility and encounter in space. We document  and map violent events, considering how their spatial patterns reflect the variety of ways that street patterns and mobility can have impact: segmenting populations, linking populations and/or creating spaces for conflict between the city’s Jewish Israeli and Arab Palestinian populations. Space syntax network analysis suggests that in the case of Jerusalem, violent events have multi-dimensional spatial patterns: both shaping opportunities and constraints for violent hotspots.  Over the last few decades, Institutional state violence on various levels has sustained spatial and social inequality in Jerusalem.  This has been evident during the peaks of the first (1988) and second (2000)  Intifadas (Palestinian civilian uprisings), and in the more recent sporadic violent cycle (2014-2016) which we argue has a more organized spatial and temporal pattern as we cover in further detail in this paper. We map and discuss the geographical patterns of recent violent events in the light of Jerusalem’s  on-going ethno-national division in an-increasingly-fractured-urban-reality.
Recurring incidents of indiscriminate violence during the summer of 2015, have installed in many citizens of Jerusalem, Jews and Palestinian alike, fear and uncertainty,  undermining basic feelings of personal security. As Jewish residents of  Jerusalem did not know where the next perpetrator may decide to attempt a  stabbing, and as Palestinian residents could not anticipate whether their behavior may be misconstrued - igniting harassment or violent policing, many Jerusalemites did their best to stay away from public spaces. The “unpredictability” of non-organized, individually implemented violence during the summer of 2015 in Jerusalem negatively affected the economic and social fabric of urban life in the contested city (Haaretz, 2015; Haaretz, 2015).
    The prevalence of individually implemented violence, occurring in densely populated urban spaces such as Jerusalem, has in recent years ignited a body of literature concerned with elucidating the personal attributes and motivations of violent actors, often referred to as “Lone Wolves”. Understanding the logic of lone wolves has been of great interest to both academics and policy-makers,  especially following recent violent events in major European cities such as  Paris, Brussels, and Manchester. Relatively scarce sources of data have led to diverging perspectives regarding lone wolves’ identities and motivations. Some offer that such individuals are rational actors motivated by political or religious ideologies, while others propose that such behavior often stems from personal vendettas or psychological disorders \cite{Moskalenko_2011,Weimann_2012,Gill_2013} (Pantucci 2011; Bates 2012). In a similar manner, studies of mobilization and recruitment in civil wars have also provided an array of personal (contextual) motivations driving individuals to violence, however, such findings acknowledge their inability to outline the "ideal type" prone to violence individual through one motivational explanation\cite{Humphreys_2008,Arjona_2012}.
    Acknowledging the prevalence of individually implemented violence in urban areas, and the difficulties of obtaining decisive and systematic conclusions as to the personal traits and motivations behind such behavior, we propose a spatial analysis which begins to unravel systematic elements of the phenomenon in question alongside other forms of more “collective” violence. Thus, we offer to divert attention from actors and in turn examine locations of violent incidents within contested cities. Put differently, we propose that rather than coming up with an ideal type of lone wolf, it would be more conducive to direct efforts towards determining the ideal type locations in which diverse individuals with diverging motivations implement an array of violent actions.         
     Hereinafter, we analyze interethnic confrontations occurring in Jerusalem during the previous cycle of violence, referred to by locals as “The Knives’ Intifada”, “al-Quds  Intifada” or “The Children  Intifada”. We choose Jerusalem due to its diverse and potent socio-political and geographical cleavages. However, despite the relative intensity of conflict in Jerusalem, a  renowned “contested city”\cite{Bollens_1998,Kotek_2000}, there are growing similarities between our case and “ordinary”  urban climates in which conflict between ethnic, religious and social groups  over infrastructure, housing and participation is ever-evolving \cite{Rokem_2016}. In our analysis of intergroup violence, we pay close attention to the ways in which spatial configurations of connectivity in Jerusalem impact inter-group interactions, offering insight into the broader effects of mobility and segregation on urban violence.
    Previous analyses of civil wars and ethnic conflicts have paid attention to the effects of space and geography on violence (FEARON 2003, Kalyvas, Zhukov 2012). However, such advances mainly depicted  the ways in which general spatial attributes including terrain type,  territorial control or road networks affect the onset or recurrence of  violence. Thus, hereinafter we adapt a more nuanced geographical perspective using space syntax network analysis in order to understand the urban geography of  intergroup violence. Doing so, we reveal the spatial logic underlying diverging  manifestations of urban violence. We show that while individual action converges to connective locations enabling constant opportunities for intergroup  assaults, collective violent incidents such as riots, occur far away from such  locations. We further provide evidence that the perpetration of individual  violence within specific connective locations can inspire further similar  events with time, resulting in the creation of unique urban hot spots such as  the Damascus gate in Jerusalem, recently referred to as “Bab a-Shuhada”  (The gate of martyrs).
    Following the introduction, section two presents a comprehensive  definition of urban ethnic violence alongside a theoretical framework explaining  the ways in which it may be affected by cities’ spatial configurations. Section  three describes our case study, Jerusalem, situating it within the broader theoretical  framework of the contested cities literature (Bollens 1998, Kotek 2000)). Introducing a new geo-located data-set  of violent events occurring in Jerusalem during the year 2015, section four  investigates spatial patterns of lone wolf stabbings and “collective” riots  providing evidence for an underlying spatial logic of violence in ethnically divided  cities. Lastly, in section five we discuss our findings and their implications,  alongside concluding remarks and future directions for research regarding the  geography of urban intergroup violence.

Trails, Roads, and Manifestations of Urban Violence

Criminologists have posited that it takes more than a "criminal" for crime to occur. Thus understanding deviant behavior requires close attention to a broad context, as different spaces, and the actors within them enable the perpetration of divergent sorts of crime and violent action \cite{Cohen_1979,Eck}. Considering mobility, opportunity structures and strategic values of urban spaces, we delineate a spatial logic of intergroup urban violence.