Unseeing Settler–Extractive Colonialism: The “Blindness Epidemic” in the (Com)Promised Lands


Peace Studies

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Decolonial praxis requires an awareness of colonial praxis: here, I show that the process of unseeing crime is central to the colonial enterprise in Palestine and significant to understanding the victimizer’s ethos, which in turn may help reframe strategically the victim’s options. First, I introduce the blindness epidemic in José Saramago’s dystopian novel, an epidemic which I later use as an allegory for the structural unseeing which has come to define the Zionist project. This is followed by a brief introduction to how my identity as a (half) Palestinian shapes my relation to the physical, structural, and epistemic violence I have lived or witnessed. I begin my analysis of colonial violence in Israel/Palestine by tracking the shifting interpretations of the impasse, and how these relate to decolonial conceptions of justice, repair, and healing. Next, I illustrate grassroots perspectives on how colonialism is unseen or invisiblized, drawing on my fieldwork data: interviews with leading Palestinian and Israeli activists. Here, the agents and beneficiaries of colonialism become incapable of seeing and “seeing” the criminality before and within them. It is a sinister, omnipresent process. I then discuss some psychosocial aspects of this “blindness epidemic,” showing the complexity here of both seeing and unseeing, which are simultaneously deliberate and automatic processes. After analyzing the structures and processes activating invisibility or unseeing in this colonial site, I show that the few Israeli Jews—some, my interviewees and others, my friends—choosing to exit the “blindness epidemic” become agents of coresistance (as opposed to “coexistence,” misleading mantra of peacebuilding) and of healing. Coresistance here is premised on seeing (and countering) the socially mandated unseeing.

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Peace and Conflict

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