The decline and fall of the Israeli Military Government, 1948–1966: a case of settler-colonial consolidation?

Arnon Yehuda Degani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The term settler-colonialism has recently gained traction among scholars of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict who use it to address all forms of Zionist ideology and practices. This article, however, benefits from a conceptual distinction between colonial and settler-colonial Zionist policies when assessing the first two decades of Israel's existence. During this period, Palestinian-Arabs who remained within the state borders were granted nominal citizenship. At the same time, the state also subjected the majority of this population to the Military Government, a form of martial law which suspended many of the rights and legal protections that citizenship afforded. The article considers Israel's various forms of right-granting, social-democratic tendencies, and liberal policies as the post-Nakba continuation of Zionist settler-colonial consolidation. Conversely, Israel's Military Government and other forms of discrimination the Palestinian-Arab citizens endured could be considered colonial institutions that existed in tension with the logic of settler-colonial consolidation. My claim is that when Israel, during its first two decades, slowly dismantled the Military Government, it effectively abandoned a colonial form of interaction with the Palestinian-Arabs and thereby inched toward consolidating the Zionist settler-colonial project. I begin my article with a short discussion on colonialism and settler-colonialism as linked yet distinct historical phenomena. Then I present the colonial features of the Military Government and explain why they inhibited settler-colonial consolidation. After setting the stage, I analyze the Jewish-Israeli discourse formulated against the Military Government and show that in fact Zionists clearly saw a Zionist interest in adopting a more liberal attitude toward the Palestinian-Arab citizens. Finally, I show how this Zionist perception took over Israel's highest decision-making circles leading to the abolishment of the Military Government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-99
Number of pages16
JournalSettler Colonial Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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