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From Colonization to Separation: exploring the structure of Israel's occupation

Neve Gordon
Sun, 01/06/2008

Much has changed during Israel’s 40 years of occupation of Palestinian territory. Within the past six years Israel has, on average, killed more Palestinians per year than it killed during the first 20 years of occupation. Those who help manufacture public opinion within Israel claim that the dramatic increase in Palestinian deaths results from the fact that the Palestinians have changed the methods of violence they employ against Israel, and that Israel, in turn, has also begun using more violent means. Palestinians might invert this argument, claiming that they have altered their methods of resistance in response to Israel’s use of more lethal violence. While such explanations no doubt contain a grain of truth, they are symptomatic accounts, and do little to reveal the root causes underlying the processes leading to the substantial increase in human deaths. A different approach is therefore needed, one that takes into account the structural dimension of Israel’s military rule and tracks the two major principles that have informed the occupation over the past four decades: the colonisation principle and the separation principle. By the colonisation principle I mean a form of government whereby the coloniser attempts to manage the lives of the colonised inhabitants while exploiting the captured territory’s resources. By the separation principle I do not mean a withdrawal of Israeli power from the Occupied Territories, but rather the reorganisation of power in the territories in order to continue controlling the resources. The major difference, then, between the colonisation and the separation principles is that, under the first principle there is an effort to manage the population and its resources, even though the two are separated. With the adoption of the separation principle Israel looses all interest in the lives of the Palestinian inhabitants and focuses solely on the occupied resources. Such a reorganisation of power helps explain the change in the repertoires of violence and the dramatic increase in the number of Palestinian deaths.

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