The colonial vision of terra nullius—unoccupied or empty land—is the epistemological basis of any settler colonial project. A vision of land as empty or null drives the dehumanization of indigenous communities and the violent elimination of existing land claims. A great deal of scholarly attention has been focused on the nullius piece of terra nullis. But what happens when the terra does not behave?
While people around the world are under lockdown, Palestinian workers in Israel continue to labor in the now accelerated construction sector. While Israel’s project of control and expansion exploits their labor, Palestinians are put at greater risk without proper testing, accommodations or healthcare.
Refugees everywhere are particularly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza are legally under the protection of the UN and Israel. Are these authorities meeting their obligations? Amahl Bishara talks to Badil director Nidal Al-Azza to find out and to learn how communities are coping.
Religious Zionism provides ideological leadership to the ascendant right-wing bloc and increasingly to Jewish Israeli society as a whole.
The Jordanian government has gone to great lengths to hide information about its 2014 multi-billion dollar gas deal with Israel from the public. But the government’s attempt to keep the public in the dark has only energized a popular campaign demanding full disclosure of its terms.
At Birzeit University in the Israeli occupied West Bank, students and faculty are fundamentally remaking the dominant paradigm of Israel Studies as it has been configured in the United States with its proud “advocacy” mandate on behalf of the Israeli state. Birzeit’s program turns this paradigm inside out.
The United States’ Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and the Challenge to the International Consensus
On December 6, 2017, US President Donald Trump announced that the US was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would be moving its embassy there from Tel Aviv in fulfillment of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act (henceforth Embassy Act). In one fell swoop, the US has seriously challenged 70 years of international consensus enshrined in international law as regards the status of the city, and put the potential for a two-state solution into a tail-spin. What are the consequences of this major policy change?
The White House announcement distinguishes between recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and establishing an embassy there and recognizing “the specific boundaries of Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem.” In other words, the Trump administration, like all those before it, seeks to avoid acknowledging how Israel, in defiance of UN resolutions, has altered the demographic and geographic realities of the city.
Among the numerous ideological affinities and governing styles shared by President Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a commitment to the rhetoric of “fake news.” In the last year, Netanyahu has increasingly borrowed this Trumpian formulation in an attempt to quell dissent and undercut critical Israeli and international media scrutiny. Netanyahu is not unique in this regard. Over the course of the last year, authoritarian regimes across the globe—including Syria, Russia and Malaysia—have adopted the fake news script to silence detractors and critics, frequently in response to the charge of human rights violations.
In January 2011, hundreds and sometimes thousands of Jordanians began protesting like clockwork on Friday afternoons; they continued to do so for nearly two years. The crowds were small compared to those in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Bahrain, but the turnout was sustained and marked a significant uptick for Jordan, where peaceful protest had not been uncommon. But by 2013 the demonstrations declined in both size and frequency. The regime weathered the main storm of the Arab uprisings, and without having resorted to violent repression. Many in the regime credited top-down reforms, including a revised constitution and amended laws on parties, public gatherings and elections. The political elite, including King ‘Abdallah II, spoke in terms of a reformist democratic march, through which Jordan would show the region a third way between the stark alternatives of revanchist authoritarianism, on the one hand, and upheaval and civil war, on the other. Jordan’s “Arab spring” would be about evolution, not revolution.
The present era of counter-terrorism wars has severely damaged what, in hindsight, looked like a solid international consensus about which forms and levels of violence are “legal” in war and what “humanitarian” limits are imposed on such violence. The counter-terrorism paradigm of “with us or against us” in which the latter—and all that is proximate to it—is regarded as targetable upends the important distinction in international humanitarian law (IHL) between civilians and combatants and inflates the norm of proportionality to justify indiscriminate violence. This paradigm is the dominant strategic approach in the US “war on terror” and Israel’s “war model” approach in the Occupied Territories, as well as among regimes like Syria and Saudi Arabia.
The colonization of Palestine began in the late nineteenth century with the First Aliyah, or Zionist immigration, and the establishment of plantations worked by Palestinians under the management of Jewish settler-owners. A generation later, the “socialist” or “labor settlement” wing of the Zionist movement began its ascendance to hegemony via the “conquest of labor,” with the demand that Jewish-owned farms employ the Jewish proletarians who were streaming into the country in the wake of World War I. The battle ended with a commitment of the central Zionist institutions to the financing of land purchases for communal and collective farms (kibbutzim and moshavim, respectively), which would provide a prestigious if not luxurious livelihood for these European worker-pioneers. The new communities prided themselves on their commitment to labor qualified as “Hebrew”—that is, exclusive of Palestinians—and “self-”—that is, rejecting of “exploitative” wage relations.
Dear Sen. Sanders,
I’m a contributor to your campaign and enthusiastically support your bold, relentless critique of the billionaire class that is undermining democracy and making a decent life impossible for millions of people. I’d like you to speak more about how big money has been a destructive force in shaping our foreign policy as much, if not more, than our domestic policies. Perhaps no issue exemplifies this problem like Israel-Palestine.