Palestine and the Palestinians in the 21st Century

By Rochelle Davis; Mimi Kirk | Go to book overview

1. The Zionist Colonization
of Palestine in the Context of
Comparative Settler Colonialism

GABRIEL PITERBERG

To deeply understand Zionism and the state of Israel, one must engage with the field of comparative settler colonialism. The expansion and conquest by Europe that began in 1500 produced two kinds of related but clearly distinguishable forms of colonialism. One was metropole colonialism, in which Europeans conquered and ruled vast territories but administered and exploited them without seeking to make them their home; British India is a good example. The other type was settler colonialism, in which the conquest by European states brought with it substantial waves of settlers who with the passage of time sought to make the colonies their national patrimony. This process entailed a relationship with the indigenous people that ranged from dispossession to elimination, or from slavery to cheap labor, depending on the land and labor formations of a given settler society. Settler colonialism can be said to have begun in earnest with the English—and later Scottish-Presbyterian—settlers in Ireland in the second half of the sixteenth century, and continued with the settler colonies in what would become Virginia and New England in the seventeenth century. It is within the burgeoning field of comparative settler colonialism that I seek to place the Zionist colonization of Palestine and the state of Israel.1

The achievements of the comparative study of settler colonialism have been at once scholarly and political. Many settler projects gave birth to powerful nation-states, which have asserted their hegemonic narratives nationally and internationally. The comparative field not only acutely refutes these narratives through evidence and interpretation; it also creates a language that amounts to a transformative alternative to the way in which these

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