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The Other Shift: Settler Colonial Studies and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

A lecture by Lorenzo Veracini, Swinburne University of Technology, Victoria, Australia

Menachem Klein’s The Shift: Israel-Palestine from Border Struggle to Ethnic Conflict convincingly proposes a reinterpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict centred on the transformations that followed the Israeli victory in the war of 1967.  Since then, an Israeli-determined ‘control system’ instituted no less than 5 different Palestinian constituencies defined by their subjection to different administrative regimes: the citizens of Israel, the residents of East Jerusalem, those who live in Gaza, those who live in the West Bank – west of the recently erected separation wall, and those who live in the West Bank – east of it. The progressive emergence of this pattern of control, Klein argues, transformed a border dispute into an ethnic confrontation. If approaching a border conflict necessarily involves a search for a territorial resolution, an ethnic confrontation, by definition, rules out this possibility. Following Klein, this talk also proposes that a comprehensive transformation took place. As well as a shift from a border to an ethnic conflict, however, Veracini suggests that the shift was also and especially from a system of relationships that could be understood as settler colonial to one crucially characterised by colonial forms.  Klein does compare the various regimes Israel established with a number of colonial settings but his overall conclusion is that colonialism is not the issue. By contrast, Veracini here argues that the conflict cannot be understood properly without highlighting its simultaneously colonial and settler colonial dimensions.

Lorenzo Veracini is Queen Elizabeth II Fellow at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research in Melbourne, Australia. His research focuses on the comparative history of colonial systems and settler colonialism. He has authored Israel and Settler Society (2006) and Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (2010). Lorenzo is managing editor of settler colonial studies.

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