Citizenship as Domination: Settler Colonialism and the Making of Palestinian Citizenship in Israel

32 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2020

See all articles by Lana Tatour

Lana Tatour

University of New South Wales

Date Written: December 3, 2019


The article traces the making of the Israeli citizenship regime, focusing on the period between 1948 and 1952. During these formative years, the 1950 Law of Return, which governs Jewish entitlement to citizenship, and the 1952 Citizenship Law, which governs the status of ’48 Palestinians, were enacted. Situating the Israeli case within the broader history of citizenship-making in Anglophone settler colonial sites and drawing on analogies with Australia, the United States, and Canada, this article is interested in what this formative period, in which the constitutional cornerstones of Israel’s citizenship regime came into being, can tell us about Palestinian citizenship in Israel and about the institution of citizenship in settler-colonial contexts more broadly. Drawing on original archival material, it argues that in Israel, as in other settler polities, citizenship has figured as an institution of domination, functioning as a mechanism of elimination, a site of subjectivation, and an instrument of race making. Racial subjects, space, and citizenship were constituted in relation to each other in intimate ways. Citizenship transformed space from Arab/Palestinian to Jewish, rendered settlers indigenous, and produced Palestinian natives as alien. Israel’s citizenship regime was predicated on the racial demarcation between Palestinians, whose citizenship was governed by the logic of naturalization, and Jewish settlers, viewed as natural and authentic subjects of citizenship.

Keywords: citizenship, settler colonialism, indigenous peoples, Israel, Palestine, race

Suggested Citation

Tatour, Lana, Citizenship as Domination: Settler Colonialism and the Making of Palestinian Citizenship in Israel (December 3, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

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