Understanding the law’s role in the project of Israeli colonization requires examining how distinct legal frameworks applied across a legally fragmented space can nevertheless share a common defining logic. One manifestation of this shared logic becomes evident by scrutinizing claims to land adjudicated by Israeli courts: Israeli state agencies and Jewish settler groups are treated as presumptively proper claimants of property while non-Jewish Palestinians are treated, at best, as dwellers who are not entitled to claim property but merely inhabit the land at the sufferance of Israeli authorities.
In liberal-leftist discourses, both Zionist and otherwise, the pivotal year for what is called the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is 1967. Israel’s control over all aspects of Palestinians’ lives, both those who live within the ‘Jewish state’ and those who reside in the Occupied Territories, renders the 1967 paradigm not only unpersuasive, but ridiculous.
Much attention has been rightly paid to the billions of dollars that the U.S. government hands over to Israel every year, regardless of Israel’s war crimes, or even the warnings of military and diplomatic experts’ that such support might harm U.S. strategic interests in the region. Less public scrutiny has been trained on the U.S. government’s indirect support to the Israeli settlement enterprise through the export of private actors, ideology and capital. But the colonization of Palestine has always been a multinational endeavor that extends beyond state-based support and that is inextricably intertwined with private forms of action.
The anti-discrimination framework imagines a situation where authorities unjustifiably favor some categories of its population over others. While this analysis is not wrong, it obscures how Zionism – the political movement for a state for all Jews in the world and Israel’s official ideology – privileges even foreign Jews, to varying extents, over indigenous Palestinians. The systemic harm here is not merely discrimination; it is one of colonialism. And when we speak of colonialism – and especially settler colonialism, which seeks not only to rule native populations but to replace them – the logic of racial capitalism is seldom far behind.
Is private violence simply an epiphenomenon in a settler colonial society like Israel – or does it, together with official indulgence of it, perhaps serve a more systemic function?