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New Left Review 111, May-June 2018

kareem rabie


Visitors to ramallah these days are often struck by its boom-town appearance. There are large-scale construction projects underway, a proliferation of hotels and nightclubs, Mexican restaurants, luxury cars, cappuccino prices on par with London or Brooklyn—jarringly at odds with prevailing notions of Palestinian life under the shadow of Israeli occupation. Arafat’s hilltop compound, reduced to rubble by Israeli shelling and bulldozers in 2002, has been rebuilt at vast expense and now houses his pharaonic tomb. The city’s ‘diplomatic quarter’ of al-Masyoun boasts quasi-embassies from the oecd countries, as if it were the capital of a real nation-state, while international dance and theatre companies regularly perform at its state-of-the-art Culture Palace. For some, Ramallah is Palestine’s Green Zone, as isolated from the rest of the Occupied Territories as the notorious us headquarters in Baghdad. It represents an enclave cosmopolitanism, a ‘Bantustan sublime’. [1] Joseph Massad, ‘Pinochet in Palestine’, Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 9–15 November 2006; Nasser Abourahme, ‘The Bantustan Sublime: Reframing the Colonial in Ramallah’, City, vol. 13, no. 4, 2009. The latest metaphor is the ‘bubble’, which manages to combine a sense of cultural insulation from post-Oslo realities with intimations of an over-blown credit system, ready to pop.

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Kareem Rabie, ‘Remaking Ramallah’, NLR 111: £3

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