Today we launch the Housing Justice Network in the MENA Region with a public denunciation of the atrocities committed by the state of Israel in Gaza and the wider region. As local housing practitioners working to advance just and inclusive housing and land rights for all those in the region, we believe it is fundamental to bear witness to these atrocities; amplify regional voices; stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people; and speak out on international rights violations.
We denounce the complicity of the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and other nations in this crisis, and their endorsement by politicians and corporate media of the Israeli state’s actions as self-defense. Many have extended political and diplomatic cover to the perpetrators while also providing them with economic and intelligence support; this is a fundamental violation of their commitments to the Geneva Convention.
We watch with horror as the world debates whether the events in Gaza are genocide in the technical legal sense, warranting the intervention of the international community, or mere mass murder— meanwhile, it continues to unfold before our very eyes.
Listen to the outcries of human rights organizations and the warnings of a coalition of U.N. experts and others from around the world, including over 800 scholars and practitioners of international law and genocide studies. The U.N. Human Rights New York Office director even resigned over what he called “a text-book case of genocide”. And yet, the Israeli State continues to make its intentions explicit with statements of genocidal intent by officials themselves. The attacks have been so relentless that the International Criminal Court is considering a lawsuit arguing that the Israeli airstrikes on densely populated areas within Gaza; the siege imposed on the strip; the forced displacement of its population; the use of toxic gas; and the denial of necessities such as food, water, fuel, and electricity, amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including genocide.
Though it stands out in scale, Gaza is not the only instance of systematic and deliberate destruction of civilian housing and massive damage to infrastructure for the purpose of controlling resources and trade. In a speech before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this November, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing denounced these acts as war crimes, wiping out the savings of entire families, erasing their memories, depriving them of the comfort of belonging, and inflicting unimaginable collective social and psychological trauma.
The violence inflicted on Gaza has revealed the existing structures that continue to promote profits and the accumulation of capital at the expense of basic human rights to safety, housing, and other vital resources. City dwellers around the world are struggling against many of the same capitalist forces that bolster the Israeli occupation of Palestine; forces that rely on racialized exploitation, dispossession, and policing.
The crisis in Palestine broadens our analysis on housing rights and urban justice in the region. In the absence of a cohesive framework, we often catalogue incidents of spatial injustice as a series of distinct events constituted in local contexts. However, we have to go further with our analysis and understand that these incidents are inextricably linked to root causes such as the history of colonialism, the state of emergency and war, challenges in representation and participation, and the foreign state support of autocratic regimes.
We stand unequivocally in solidarity with the Palestinian people. We call on our allies to do the following:
- Demand a permanent ceasefire and an end to the brutal siege of Gaza.
- Call upon international development and donor organizations active in the MENA region to exert pressure on their respective governments and on the Israeli State through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) resolutions.
- Amplify and communicate Palestinian and regional voices in their work and international forums.
- Promote understanding of this crisis through a regional lens of scholars, activists and practitioners who are mapping the atrocities and delivering core action research on how such genocide and domicide has been allowed to occur.
What is happening in Gaza today should be transformative. The Housing Justice Network is a bid to move towards a liberatory research agenda, allowing us to think through structural issues while developing a crosscutting understanding and responses that can then speak to our respective local contexts. This Network acts as a platform for action research that cuts across colonial borders to work with affected communities in the fight for a just and inclusive urbanization.
Read the longer statement:
Tear Down the Wall! Stop the Genocide in Gaza Now!
Housing Justice Network Statement on Palestine
Our Political Stance
We launch the Housing Justice Network with a public denunciation of the atrocities committed by the state of Israel in Gaza and in the region. With a death toll exceeding 20,000, more than two-thirds of which consists of women and children, the carpet bombing of Gaza since October 7th has left over 85% of Palestinians displaced, with Amnesty International declaring that there is “nowhere safe in Gaza”. Deprived of electricity, internet access, and fuel, Palestinians have been suffering from severe water and food shortages, lately amounting to a famine. Most hospitals and healthcare services have been put out of service, and over half the homes have been destroyed or damaged.
We denounce the complicity of politicians in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe, and other nations who endorse these atrocities, not only extending political and diplomatic cover to the perpetrators, but also providing them with economic and intelligence support—against their states’ commitments in the Geneva Convention. We also denounce most Western-based corporate and social media companies that have provided biassed coverage and stifled pro-palestinain voices.
We stand unequivocally in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and call upon all stakeholders in our workfield to demand an immediate ceasefire and end to the brutal siege of Gaza. We urge all international and funding organisations active in the region to exert pressure on their respective governments, and to exert pressure on the Israeli government, through BDS resolutions and otherwise, until it recognizes the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: ending its occupation and colonisation of all Arab lands; dismantling the Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the all citizens to full equality; and respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in U.N. resolution 194.
We also stand firmly against anti-semitism. We warn against using criticism of the state of Israel to perpetuate the continuing prejudices against people of Jewish faith or descent. The Holocaust is only one of the hideous outcomes of such hostilities, which remain pervasive and dangerous today, particularly in the Global North. Conversely, we warn against weaponizing anti-semitism to silence criticisms of Zionism or of the Israeli state. The stance against anti-semitism gets trivialised and discredited when it is used falsely and pragmatically. We stand in solidarity with the Jewish voices rising loud today against the use of Jewish suffering and martyrdom to try to justify Zionism. And we stand in solidarity with the Jewish people who have been arrested by the hundreds in New York City as they demonstrate in support of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza under the slogans, “not in my name,” and “never again means never again for anyone.” In fact, it is precisely and exactly because of the lessons learned after the extermination of the Jewish people in Europe that humanity should stand against the crimes committed by the state of Israel against the Palestinian people.
A framework of analysis for Palestine
We assert that settler-colonialism, apartheid, and genocide are the lenses through which we assess Palestine. The Palestinians use the word Nakba to describe the iterations of these phenomena in their local context, and we will use it too. Recurring threats by Israeli politicians and other public figures promising to perpetuate the Nakba confirm that the Nakba has never ceased.
As the world debates whether what is unfolding in Gaza is genocide in the technical legal sense warranting the intervention of the international community, mass murder continues before our very eyes. Set aside Palestinian voices, the outcries of human rights organizations, and the explicit statements of genocidal intent by Israeli officials themselves, warnings of genocide have come from a coalition of U.N. experts and others around the world, including over 800 scholars and practitioners of international law and genocide studies. The U.N. Human Rights New York Office director even resigned over what he called “a text-book case of genocide.” Since November 8, the International Criminal Court has been considering a lawsuit in this regard.
What is misleadingly termed the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is in fact the long-running process of the Zionist colonisation of Palestine—a reality that was pronounced by the early Zionist leaders themselves: in his famous “Iron Wall” essay, Ze’ev Jabotinsky bluntly refers to “the colonisation of Palestine” and compares it to the Native American context. Effectively, both indigenous people, killed by their occupier and forced to flee, have had nearly all their land stolen. The state of Israel has stolen over 85 percent of Palestinian land. According to the New York Times, “even a conservative assessment of the reported Gaza casualty figures shows that the rate of death during Israel’s assault has few precedents in this century.” Beyond these bouts of extreme violence, “transfer”—a Zionist euphemism for legal, military, and economic tactics to expel Palestinians—is essential to settler-colonial policy. Just like the Native-American reservations of the US, the crowded, walled-off neighbourhoods into which Palestinians are pushed by the apartheid regime in Israel are devoid of decent housing, healthcare, and economic opportunities.
The Nakba as Structural
The Nakba is not an event—it is structural: Palestine is a reminder of the ongoing colonial condition that plagues our world to this day. The violence did not start on October 7. From the Balfour Declaration in 1917 to the present onslaught on Gaza, the selective and tactical deployment of liberal values has enabled land appropriation and erasure by the state of Israel, so that it can control today important routes of global commerce, and auction off contracts for the extraction of Gazan gas.
Though it stands out in scale, Gaza is not the only instance of systematic destruction of civilian housing and massive damage to infrastructure for the purpose of controlling resources and trade. In a recent speech and report to the U.N. General Assembly, the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing used the term “domicide” to refer to these acts that he described as war crimes, noting that they have been committed in conflicts around the world.
More generally, beyond the war zones, growing numbers of people in the Global North as well as in the Global South are living increasingly precarious lives as their access to vital necessities is hindered. The commodification and financialisation of land, housing, and basic services by authoritarian urban regimes are forcing evictions, eroding affordability and the security of home tenure, and jeopardising access to basic utilities. The same forces that bolster war, relying on racialized exploitation, dispossession, and policing, afflict city dwellers more insidiously through the sanitised market mechanism.
Being the most vivid manifestation of their violence, Palestine unveils the structures that promote profits and capital accumulation at the expense of basic human rights, all under the banner of free enterprise and the defence of democracy—a liberal imagination sustained by denial.
Structural Analysis and Mobilization for Spatial Justice
With this unveiling, Palestine advances our analysis on housing rights and urban justice. In the absence of a cohesive framework, we often catalogue incidents of spatial injustice as a series of distinct events constituted in local contexts. A structural analysis, however, links these incidents inextricably together to common root causes such as the history of colonialism, the state of emergency and war, challenges in representation and participation, and the imperial backing of autocratic regimes by foreign states.
In the wake of the Cold War, structural analysis receded both in knowledge production and in political practice. Prior to the 1990s, the response to settler colonialism was the struggle for decolonization. More recently, however, in the absence of a settler-colonial analysis, Palestinian strategies have tended to accommodate settler-colonial outcomes. In 2008, the first-ever Palestine Investment Conference was described as Palestine “throwing a party, and the whole world is invited.” Private firms, international aid organisations, and the Palestinian government in the West Bank marketed large-scale private housing development to global capital, contending that a thriving private economy would lead to a free and functioning Palestinian state. This rhetoric represented a wider shift accommodating neoliberal globalisation. It is painfully clear today that this accommodation was in fact a demobilisation, which has only allowed the violence of occupation to intensify.
The struggle for spatial justice similarly demobilised in the 1990s. In accommodation to neoliberal outcomes, struggles for the universal rights to safe housing and to inclusive and sustainable spaces were downscaled to policy recommendations. The creative offerings of a structural analysis were underutilised, with negative consequences for intersectional and international movement building.
Advancing global capitalism as an interpretative framework offers not only conceptual, but also political possibilities, harnessing the strengths of an in-gathering of movements for an active, mutual, and principled alignment that expands the tools available to local movements and reconnect the struggle to its own political history. Crises since the subprime housing crash of 2008 have ushered committed scholarship back in, and what is happening in Gaza today should be all the more transformative, sustaining a praxis that brings back decolonization and social justice as political goals.
This network is a bid to move towards a liberatory research agenda, allowing us to think through structural issues while developing a crosscutting understanding and responses that can then speak to our respective local contexts. This Network acts as a platform for action research that cuts across colonial borders to work with affected communities in the fight for a just and inclusive urbanization.
Housing Justice Network is a network of independent, grassroots housing rights organisations, working together to advance housing and land rights in the Middle East and North Africa. Members work together to tackle the key issues responsible for housing and urban injustices in the region such as commodification of land, financial speculation and forced evictions. Such issues, though relevant in the global north, provide a different set of challenges when compounded with factors such as colonial history, the state of emergency and war, natural catastrophes and autocratic regimes. Moreover, other countries of the global south share the systemic lack of channels to allow effective participation in policy making and to ensure representation of the different segments of the population. We look at this network as an opportunity to think through structural issues collectively while developing cross cutting understanding and responses that can then speak to our respective local contexts.
The Network includes organisations engaged in urban and housing struggles in their respective contexts from Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria and Turkey and whose work focuses on just and inclusive urbanisation.
The Network exists to ensure solidarity, communication, communication and collaboration among member organisations. There is a transparent, non-hierarchical, non-discriminatory, equal and democratic relationship between the members of the network. The Network is not an umbrella organisation. It acts in solidarity, not competition, with other organisations and umbrella organisations.