Geographies of Settler Innocence

Authors: Yulia Gilichinskaya*,
Topics: Middle East, Indigenous Peoples
Keywords: settler colonialism, Palestine, Israel, visuality
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 25
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I use visual analysis to examine how settler innocence manifests in the geographies of Israel-Palestine. I argue that Israel utilizes settler innocence as an organizing principle of space production to disavow responsibility for Palestinian dispossession, justify the military occupation of Palestinian Territories, and derail the project of decolonization. To defend these claims, I trace the contours of settler innocence across geographies of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Gaza.
Innocence elides the political context it enters and allows the oppressor to systematically deny involvement in systems of domination. “Settler moves to innocence” (Tuck and Yang) are discursive strategies that disappear signs of Indigenous displacement. By moving to innocence, settlers avoid having to confront the devastating results of their invasion, to acknowledge their positionality as settlers vis-a-vis the Indigenous people, and to recognize Indigenous land claims as legitimate.
I focus on the three events that occurred in Israel-Palestine on May 14, 2018. On that day, residents of Tel Aviv celebrated Israel’s victory in the Eurovision Song Contest; the United States moved its embassy to Jerusalem; and the Israeli military killed 60 and injured over 2700 Palestinians protesting in Gaza. Israel’s dominant visual regime renders these events separate, accidental, and disparate, although they occurred on the same day within a 30-mile radius. I contend settler innocence obscures how these events are politically entangled and are a result of what happened 70 years prior, on May 14, 1948, which marked the establishment of Israel and the concurrent and ongoing dispossession of Palestinians.

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