‘Terra nullius’ and planning: Land, law and identity in Israel/Palestine

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter discusses the relations between planning, land, law and identity. It focuses in particular on the concept of ‘terra nullius’ (TN), land deemed as ‘empty’ of rights, as key to understanding these relations. The empirical focus is on the charged context of Israel/Palestine where the settler Jewish state has extensively used legal and planning tools to seize, control and manage contested indigenous Bedouin lands. Importantly, the TN concept is often used implicitly by policy makers, through the discourses, narratives, norms and practices of hegemonic groups that attempt to seize and control ethnic and racial minorities. Moreover, TN is not limited to reconstruction of the legal past and present, as it also reconstructs the future, mainly through land allocation and urban and regional planning. The legal basis of the denial is Israel’s total refusal to recognise the validity of a pre-state indigenous land system. History, however, tells a different story, in which a well-established indigenous system operated for generations.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781317392859
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Engineering(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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