FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Human Right to Settle?

by NICOLA PERUGINI

In a recent article in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronot, columnist Rafael Castro writes:

“We will not dwell on Jewish historical rights over Judea and Samaria. These have been elucidated elsewhere and are well-known to most readers. It is high-time to discuss the rights of Jews to reside in the West Bank in terms of human rights. Is this a joke?”

The author stresses the necessity of a paradigm shift in the Zionist conception of settling in Palestine and tries to highlight the central role that the utilisation of the human rights discourse could play in the legitimisation of the Israeli colonial project. The equation on which the new paradigm is constructed is that any settlement evacuation corresponds to an ethnic cleansing operation. Castro’s attacks are aimed both at a generic “intolerant Arab/Palestinian” and the NGO pacifists accused of political relativism:

“If Jews were once again denied the right to reside in England or Spain these pacifists would be appalled. At the same time these pacifists deny analogous rights to Jews who have for decades resided peacefully in West Bank towns like Efrat and Ariel.”

In spite of the irony that an historically corroborated and sophisticated practice of colonisation such as the Israeli one could be labelled as human rights enforcement – the “human right to the colony”, as I defined it in a recent article written with my colleague Kareem Rabie – Castro’s argument should be taken very seriously. It is perhaps the new frontier of the Israeli struggle on the colonial frontier.

During recent years, the transformation of the Israeli plans for dispossession into a claim for the human right to settle has already been developed by several Israeli non-governmental organisations adopting and appropriating the lexicon and legal techniques used by the NGOs that fight for Palestinian rights, both at a local colonial level (within the Israeli Supreme Court) and at an international one. Indeed, Castro’s claim is grounded in an already consolidated trend of practices.

Firstly, by attacking the whole system of the Israeli Supreme Court for “being biased and discriminatory against the Jewish citizens of Israel” and fighting against what they called – after the 2005 evacuation of the settlements from Gaza – the “expulsion of the Jews from their national lands”, by which they mean the rare demolition orders issued by the Court against the settlers. This is what they call “the perversion of justice”.After the so-called disengagement from Gaza in 2005, some organisations of the “settler civil society” like Regavim (The National Land Protection Trust) or the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel have increasingly tried to further obfuscate the legal struggles within the Israeli Supreme Court – an organ which is structurally complicit and biased, and has historically functioned as a legal weapon for normalising dispossession – by fundamentally doing two things.

Secondly, they appropriated the legal language used by the NGOs that defend the rights of the Palestinians not to be expelled and dispossessed from their lands, by completely inverting the settler colonial asymmetric setting, and by defining the Palestinian buildings in the West Bank as “outposts” and “illegal constructions”.

What might seem a complete inversion of the terms of the colonial field of forces – the coloniser depicted as victim of (which?) violations and the colonised as the perpetrators of (which?) violations – is precisely one of the new frontiers of Israel’s settler colonialism. It is true that, historically speaking, the claim for victimhood has constituted a central feature of the specific colonial tension of Palestine/Israel, but it is only recently that a mechanism of legal and moral mirroring has been devised under the guise of settler NGOs dedicated to the implementation of a colonial agenda through various operations of “mirroring”.

Not surprisingly, these techniques of mirroring have already produced results. Using the legal argument of “law enforcement” and equal application of the law, demolition orders were issued by the Israeli Supreme Court against Palestinian construction (in the West Bank, but also within the territory cleansed by Israel in 1948).

At a first glance, these dynamics may appear to be moral aberrations, human rights’ abuse and distortions of the reality on the ground. However, looking carefully (and politically, more than morally) at the contours of the “human right to settle”, we discover that organisations such as Regavim fight with the same techniques in the West Bank and in the Negev, asking the court for legal implementation of the expulsion of Palestinians from everywhere they live in the territory of historical Palestine.

Indeed, these organisations embody the historical linkage between – in this case, settler – nation-building (“from the river to the sea”) and human rights, a linkage in which the definition of what is human is accompanied by an exclusivist identitarian delimitation of the national body politic: the (in this case, settler) national citizen.

Perhaps a paradigm shift, a rupture with the last decades of advocacy and political activity based on lawfare is required even in the field of organisations and individuals who have focused their political struggles on respect of human rights. The horizon of human rights – like that of International Humanitarian Law – could not be sufficient alone to contain the language and practices necessary to achieve liberation from settler colonialism.

Nicola Perugini is an anthropologist who teaches at the Al Quds Bard Honors College in Jerusalem. He is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

A version of this article originally appeared on Al Jazeera

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail