Israel and international law: The indigenous concept in supreme court rulings

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In 2007, a majority of UN member states adopted a declaration regarding the rights of indigenous people. The declaration acknowledged a series of indigenous rights but failed to provide a concrete definition of who is indigenous. As a result, the term remained vague, open to interpretation and manipulation, and led to confusion and controversy. In Israel meanwhile the indigenous concept found a foothold in public discourse. The Israeli Supreme Court (ISC) first encountered the concept when Negev Bedouin citizens claimed indigenous land rights. Two years later, the ISC applied the same concept in a series of judgments regarding the status of the permanent residents of East Jerusalem. The article examines the way the international indigenous discourse has penetrated ISC rulings and analyzes the phenomenon in light of the judicial activism discourse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)172-195
Number of pages24
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020


  • Arab residence
  • Bedouin
  • East Jerusalem
  • Indigenous people
  • Israel supreme court
  • Judicial activism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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