The settlement of African migrants in Tel Aviv's southern neighborhoods has elicited much resentment from long-term (Jewish) residents. Infuriated by so-called uneven urban burden-sharing, which worsened already poor living conditions in their neighborhoods, residents took to the streets against local and national policymakers as well as migrants themselves. The result has been a whole decade of tense relations between long-timers and new-comers.
In accounting for these residential conflicts, Israeli scholars have often employed an (urban) justice-oriented framework in which conflicts were explained against the loss of urban rights -- both symbolic and material - felt by either group, or both. Accordingly, whereas long time-residents mourned the disappearance of traditional ‘timespaces’ (e.g., public parks, compromised sense of security), African migrants grieved the deprivation of fundamental necessities – from health services to the right to work.
In this talk, I challenge this right-based perspective as the leading approach for explaining urban antagonism in the area. Drawing on feminist ethics of care, I suggest instead that inter-residential conflict emerges out of the deprivation of care experienced by both groups. It is the ‘crisis of care’, namely the manufactured withdrawal of care from state – and to a lesser extent municipal – policies, which bequeaths urban antagonism. From run-down infrastructures to low-quality welfare services, programs and administrative procedures render southern neighborhoods a care-less human and physical landscape, elevating residents’ frustration levels and sending them to battle each other over meager local resources.
Using insights from my ongoing research in several southern neighborhoods, I use care ethics to account for the ongoing crisis, and illustrate the ways by which residents narrate their (unrealized) quest to be listened to, empathized with and, ultimately, cared for by the city, state, and other social groups.
Nir Cohen is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environment at Bar Ilan University. His research interests include the politics of migration and diaspora, and social urban geographies in Israel. He published extensively on these topics in such journals as IJURR, Cities, JEMS, Population, Space and Place, Environment and Planning D, and Geoforum. In spring 2018 he was Visiting Fellow of Jewish Migration at The Parkes Institute for Jewish/Non-Jewish Relations at the University of Southampton, UK. In 2019 he was Visiting Professor for Urban Studies at TU Vienna, Austria. He is currently co-editing a book with Routledge (expected Spring 2021) on care and cities.