Trackin’ settler colonial erasures in Palestine: Decolonizing Zionist toponymy

Solidarity with occupied Palestine!

Decolonization

by Chandni Desai

Settler colonial societies use national mythologies to erase the genocidal history that lead to a settler nation’s founding. These national mythologies are profoundly racialized and spatialized stories. Sherene Razack (2002) argues that “although the spatial story that is told varies from one time to another, at each stage the story installs Europeans as entitled to the land, a claim that is codified in law” (p. 3). The legal doctrine of terra nullius – empty, uninhabited lands – describes territory that has supposedly never been subject to the sovereignty of any nation. Settler colonists used such laws to politically and materially occupy Indigenous land.

For example, early Zionist settler colonists rendered the land of Palestine as a “land without a people, for people without a land.” Zionist “imaginative geographies” (Said, 1978) constructed Palestine as terra nullius, the empty wilderness, a land that is “bare”, “abandoned”, “naked”, “virgin” and…

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