Transformative Occupations in the Modern Middle East

As guest editors of the dossier on “Transformative Occupations in the Modern Middle East” in the current issue of Humanity, we are delighted that Leila Farsakh and Gershon Shafir each agreed to contribute an introductory meditation on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and the history of the transformative Israeli occupation in Palestine.

The dossier, as a unit, builds on the work of the critical legal scholars who have done so much to develop the concept of transformative occupation in the years since the US invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003). Through a set of fine-grained social and political histories of transformative occupations across time and space, our goal is to grasp unsuspected commonalities in state formation (and prevention) during and after imperial and colonial occupation.

At the same time, we believe the historical approach shows that the theoretical concept of transformative occupation has deeper roots than usually assumed, in periods long before the contemporary moment or even the era of post-colonial states. The case studies offered here run from food relief politics in Syria-Lebanon at the close of the First World War to the social history of the Afghan middle class in the 2000s. The shared conceptual frame of transformative occupation allows for internal comparisons between otherwise diverse subjects, while shedding light on longer-run dynamics and wider, global processes.

Fittingly, in view of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 war, the transformative occupation of Palestine is at the core of the dossier, illuminating and illuminated by the other cases placed around it. Articles by Jacob Norris, Seth Anziska, Tareq Baconi, and A. Dirk Moses address aspects of the occupation of Palestine, whether in terms of British imperial rule under the Mandate, the international politics of Palestinian autonomy, the discursive politics of Hamas, or the role of international humanitarian law. Farsakh and Shafir, from two different disciplinary standpoints, set these articles into the context of the 1967 war and its dramatic consequences and, in doing so, highlight the enduring relevance of the dossier’s insights for our present conjuncture.

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About Simon Jackson

Simon Jackson is a lecturer in modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Birmingham, where he directs the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History. With the support of a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, he is completing a book on the global political economy of French rule in Syria and Lebanon after World War I, and coediting another, forthcoming with Routledge in 2017, on the interrelationship of the League of Nations and the United Nations. His new project uncovers the origins of the global food production system in late colonial rule.

About A. Dirk Moses

A. Dirk Moses has taught history at the University of Sydney since 2000 and was professor of global and colonial history at the European University Institute, Florence, from 2011 to 2015. He is the author of the prize-winning German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past (Cambridge University Press, 2007) and has published many articles, book chapters, and edited books, including the Oxford Handbook of Genocide Studies (2010, coedited with Donald Bloxham) and Colonial Counterinsurgency and Mass Violence: The Dutch Empire in Indonesia (Routledge, 2014, coedited with Bart Luttikhuis). He is senior editor of the Journal of Genocide Research and is finishing a book called The Problems of Genocide contracted with Cambridge University Press.