Book Review Preview: Trajectories of Conflict

Trajectories of Conflict and Peace: Jerusalem and Belfast Since 1994, by Scott Bollens, New York, NY, Routledge Press, 2018

By Anne Shlay

Scott Bollens tackles two stubborn conflicts – one between Jews and Palestinians in Jerusalem and the other between Catholics and Protestants in Belfast.  We encounter space, nationalism, ethnicity, urban and national politics and policy, the underpinnings of peace and conflict, and trajectories for both cities.

Belfast’s conflict between Catholics and Protestants has been long standing. Jerusalem’s conflicts are recent. Despite biblical claims to the contrary, Israel as a state did not exist until 1947.   What is Northern Ireland is not in question.  What is Israel, not just Jerusalem, is contested.

Bollens describes the various mechanisms that Israel has used to hold onto Jerusalem. He argues that Jerusalem (through national policy) uses planning to allocate land for Jewish growth and development while rendering illegal any Palestinian housing construction.

Bollens shows how the separation barrier/wall is used overtly and covertly to eliminate Palestinians from Jerusalem.  Palestinian neighborhoods are literally walled out of Jerusalem.

Bollens looks at Belfast 20 years after the agreement to end violent struggles between Northern Ireland’s Protestants and Catholics.  This was an internal civil war as well as a revolution against Britain.  Suddenly, poof, the overt conflict had ended.

Well not really.  Bollens addresses the building of peace.  He shows that peace has not brought with it social and spatial integration but has brought continued segregation and exclusion.  Catholics and Protestants may be willing to share power, but they refuse to live together.

The commonalities between Jerusalem and Belfast are difficult to discern.  Belfast’s situation illustrates how political negotiation may eventually restructure urban life.  The denouement of conflict over Jerusalem often seems impossible and this book, more optimistic than most, does not make a claim that the conflict will end.

Trajectories of Conflict and Peace is useful for students of urban conflict as well as urban practitioners and policy makers.  Belfast provides reason for hope. Jerusalem has a long way to go.

Anne B. Shlay

Anne B. Shlay is a Professor of Sociology at Georgia State University.

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