Controlling land and demography in Israel: The obsession with territorial and geographic dominance

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This chapter suggests that Israel has been obsessed with territory and territoriality since its establishment. The state and its planning, military, and judicial apparatuses have been striving to gain more and more territorial domination since Israel’s establishment through various measures. I call this type of territoriality obsessive territoriality because Israel’s quest for territory and spatial control can be characterized as a continuous, never completed, compulsive project. In the aftermath of the 1948 war, Israel was established, and 780,000 Palestinians were dispossessed and displaced (Abu Lughod 1971; Morris 1987). The new state subsequently carried out various territorial policies aimed at achieving geopolitical ends. The astonishing territorial result of these policies within Israel in its borders of 1948 (without the territories occupied in 1967) was the control of 93% of the country’s lands, which became publicly owned by the state itself (Jabareen 2014); the establishment of about 1,065 settlements for Jews within Israel’s 1948 borders (see Table 8.2); the prevention of Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes; the destruction of about 400 Palestinian cities, villages, and communities (Abu Lughod 1971; Morris 1987); and the confiscation of the vast majority of lands privately owned by Palestinians citizens of Israel (Jabareen 2015a, 2015b). This chapter argues that Israel has been obsessive in applying various policies, or what I will call “concepts of territoriality,” in order to achieve its desired geopolitical ends - mainly territorial expansion and tight control over territory. By territory, we mean a “land or space that has had something done to it - it has been acted upon,” it is “a bounded space which there is a compulsion to defend and secure - to claim a particular kind of sovereignty - against infringements by others who are perceived to not belong” (Cowen and Gilbert 2008:16). Territoriality uses bordered spaces for purposes of social control, classification, communication, symbolism, inclusion and exclusion of things and people (Sack 1986). To “territorialize” means to assign “identities” for collective subjects within structures of power, therefore to categorize human beings (Balibar 2004). Territoriality is an action of power and coercion (ibid.). Moreover, democracy, sovereignty, ethnicity, and nationalism are seen as a total package tightly wrapped up in territoriality, while the national interest of the territorially defined community is often an ideological mask for the interests of dominant ethnic groups (Anderson 2010).

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIsrael and its Palestinian Citizens
Subtitle of host publicationEthnic Privileges in the Jewish State
EditorsNadim N. Rouhana
Number of pages28
ISBN (Electronic)9781107045316
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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