Cover of Citizen Strangers by Shira Robinson
Citizen Strangers
Palestinians and the Birth of Israel’s Liberal Settler State
Shira Robinson

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2013
352 pp.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804786546
Paper ISBN: 9780804788007
Digital ISBN: 9780804788021
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Following the 1948 war and the creation of the state of Israel, Palestinian Arabs comprised just fifteen percent of the population but held a much larger portion of its territory. Offered immediate suffrage rights and, in time, citizenship status, they nonetheless found their movement, employment, and civil rights restricted by a draconian military government put in place to facilitate the colonization of their lands. Citizen Strangers traces how Jewish leaders struggled to advance their historic settler project while forced by new international human rights norms to share political power with the very people they sought to uproot.

For the next two decades Palestinians held a paradoxical status in Israel, as citizens of a formally liberal state and subjects of a colonial regime. Neither the state campaign to reduce the size of the Palestinian population nor the formulation of citizenship as a tool of collective exclusion could resolve the government's fundamental dilemma: how to bind indigenous Arab voters to the state while denying them access to its resources. More confounding was the tension between the opposing aspirations of Palestinian political activists. Was it the end of Jewish privilege they were after, or national independence along with the rest of their compatriots in exile? As Shira Robinson shows, these tensions in the state's foundation—between privilege and equality, separatism and inclusion—continue to haunt Israeli society today.

About the author

Shira Robinson is Associate Professor of History and International Affairs at The George Washington University.

"This well-researched book thus provides essential context for current events in the occupied Palestinian Territories and is required reading for anyone interested in exploring the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

—Kabir Altaf, Dawn

"Robinson's well-researched and detailed account of Israel's dramatic formation period and the creation of what she calls 'a liberal settler state' is a welcome academic addition to Israeli and Palestinian historiography."

—Joseph Dana, The National

"Shira Robinson brilliantly demonstrates that the treatment of Palestinian citizens in Israel is a mirror of Israel itself. Carefully tracing the historical dynamics of the institutions that constructed Palestinian residents as both liberal citizens and colonial subjects, Robinson shows how these institutions also shaped Israeli citizenship, legal order, and society."

—Gershon Shafir, University of California, San Diego

"The paradox that cleaves the title of this exceptional book into two goes to the heart of its revelatory findings: a state that is both liberal and settler-colonial is an oxymoron. Robinson's absorbing, meticulously researched account decisively historicizes Israel's contradictory combination of colonial subordination at home with pretensions to democracy abroad."

—Patrick Wolfe, La Trobe University

"Shira Robinson offers a rich analysis of the politics and laws that shaped Palestinian citizenship in Israel, the complexities of liberalism, and issues of control and domination in settler colonial states to illuminate the historical roots of Israeli politics toward Palestinians today."

—Hassan Jabareen, General Director of Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel