How is Israel’s current crisis related to colonial practices, past and present? Dr. Yael Berda will talk about her recent book Colonial Bureaucracy and Contemporary Citizenship: Legacies of Race and Emergency in the British Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2022) addressing the roots of the current political crisis in Israel. In the talk she delineates the relations between Israel’s colonial control over Palestinians and the authoritarian overhaul, demonstrating how Israel’s activities against Palestinians across Israel/Palestine and the “judicial reform” launched in 2023 to diminish Israel’s “rule of law” are two parts of a regime change: colonial and authoritarian.
The book focuses on shifts in the institution of citizenship as a set of social relations in which citizens make claims on agents of the state. Dr. Berda traces a series of changes in Israel’s citizenship regime the last decade through a set of events: the anti terrorism law and Nation – state law, that defined the exclusive right of Jews to self determination in Israel through the transfer of surveillance and control technologies developed and used in the occupied territories to control Palestinians, Jewish citizens during the COVID crisis, and finally to the legislation of revocation of citizenship for Palestinians and annexation of the occupied territories that occurred in 2023.
Citizenship lies the intersection of the two parts of the regime coup/change. The simultaneity of the popular struggle over the liberal citizenship and political rights of Jews, at the very time the citizenship of Palestinians is revoked underscores how colonial Israel could exist alongside liberal Israel through the “rule of law” institutions that separated the two.
The contemporary government’s attack on the institutions of “the liberal rule of law” and the separation of powers disables the possibility of the judiciary and legal institutions to maintain the separation between the regime in Israel and in the Occupied territories. Therefore the authoritarian maneuver to attack the legal institutions is a way to buttress the achievements of the first part of the regime overhaul – the revocation of citizenship.
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Yael Berda is an Associate Professor of Sociology & Anthropology at Hebrew University and a non-resident fellow with the Middle East Initiative. Previously, Berda was the Gerard Weinstock Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at Harvard University and an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International & Regional Studies, WCFIA from 2014-2017. Berda has taught at Princeton, NYU, Tel Aviv University and Jindal Global University.
Arie Dubnov is the Max Ticktin Chair of Israel Studies in the History Department at The George Washington University.