One of Patrick Wolfe’s most salient encapsulations of the operations of the settler colonial state is his assertion: Biopolitical Modalities Coursework, DU, Singapore

University Duke University (DU)
Subject Biopolitical Modalities

One of Patrick Wolfe’s most salient encapsulations of the operations of the settler colonial state is his assertion that “invasion is a structure, not an event.”‘ In his transposition of Wolfe’s settler colonial analytic to the context of the Israeli state’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, Ron Smith resignifies Wolfe’s formulation to “occupation is a process, not an event;’ and then analyzes the various phases of the occupation in the context of their historically specific contours and textures:

“Throughout the many phases, the occupation continues and adapts itself to political and military concerns as it becomes increasingly entrenched, including the enactment by the Israeli government of policies of varying strictness regarding permits and entry of Palestinians into Israeli colonies. These changing policies correspond to the complex relationship of Israeli society within occupation strategies and shift based on Israel’s need for unskilled labor or for resources, like water and land.”

‘ Having marked the different and shifting occupation strategies deployed by the Israeli state in order to respond dynamically to the demands and exigencies arising from site-specific contexts and historical forces, Smith then makes a particularly valuable observation: “While the occupation changes along dimensions of time-based on the priorities of the occupier, it also varies from place to place, creating an array of micro geographies based on strategic concerns.”

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In terms of this chapter’s key concerns, Smith’s analysis of the occupation of Palestine resonates along three intersecting axes: it establishes the macro frame of settler colonialism as a key analytic informing the occupation; it names such resources as water and land as pivotal to the regime of settler occupation; and it delineates the significance of an “array of micro geographies” that evidences the differential and context-bound modalities through which strategies of occupation are grounded in practice.

In this chapter, I examine the forensic ecologies situated across a number of micro geographies in order to investigate the range of biopolitical modalities that impact both human and more-than-human life in the context of the occupation.

In asserting that the concept of settler colonialism supplies a key analysis to the concerns of this chapter, I want to pause for a moment to elucidate briefly the concept. Wolfe’s critical work—which built on a preexisting body of Indigenous decolonizing scholarship’—fleshing out the theory/praxis nexus in the context of settler colonial states has been productively transposed to the study of the occupation of Palestine, A significant corpus of scholarship has worked to demonstrate both the validity of analyzing the occupation through the settler colonial lens and the contradictions and misalignments that are generated in the process.’

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The settler colonial paradigm operative in occupied Palestine has also been located within the larger, transnational historical frame of European history. As Tariq Dana and Ali larbawi contend, “Any discussion of the nature and dynamic of the Zionist colonization of Palestine must be anchored in the triple dynamics that constituted the essence of nineteenth-century Europe: nationalism, colonialism, and anti-Semitism77 As I noted in the introduction, Aboriginal peoples, Native Americans, and representatives of First Nations in Canada have marked the transnational valency of the settler colonial paradigm in its application to the occupation and have articulated their solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Simultaneously, Israeli settler colonialism has also been examined in terms of its particular historical inflections, religiopolitical attributes, and geopolitical alliances.

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