Colonizing Palestine: the Zionist Left and the Making of the Palestinian Nakba’


Dr. Areej Sabbagh-Khoury is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research interests lie in political and historical sociologies, colonialism, indigenous studies, memory, and critical social theory. She is the author of Colonizing Palestine: The Zionist Left and the Making of the Palestinian Nakba (Stanford University Press, 2023), the first empirical study that carefully traces the process of the dispossession and displacement of rural Palestinians by kibbutz settlers in Northern Palestine’s Jezreel Valley before, during, and after 1948. Based on research in eight archives, Colonizing Palestine also examines the representation of colonial violence in “leftist socialist” kibbutz discourse. She has published widely on settler colonialism, political sociology, and the Palestinian citizens in Israel in journals including Sociological Theory, Politics and Society, Theory and Society, Current Sociology, and The International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, among others. She is the recipient of numerous research grants and fellowships from foundations like the H.F. Guggenheim Foundation, Palestinian American Research Center, Fulbright, and the Council for Higher Education. Sabbagh-Khoury is a member of the General Assembly and Academic Research Committee of Mada al-Carmel—Arab Center for Applied Social Studies. She received her doctorate in sociology from Tel Aviv University and subsequently held postdoctoral appointments at Columbia, New York, Brown, and Tufts Universities.


Among the most progressive of Zionist settlement movements, Hashomer Hatzair proclaimed a brotherly stance on Zionist-Palestinian relations. Until the tumultuous end of the British Mandate, movement settlers voiced support for a binational Jewish-Arab state and officially opposed mass displacement of Palestinians. But, Hashomer Hatzair colonies were also active participants in the process that ultimately transformed large portions of Palestine into sovereign Jewish territory. Areej Sabbagh-Khoury investigates this ostensible dissonance, tracing how three colonies gained control of land and their engagement with Palestinian inhabitants on the edges of the Jezreel Valley/Marj Ibn ‘Amer.
Based on extensive empirical research in local colony and national archives, Colonizing Palestine offers a microhistory of frontier interactions between Zionist settlers and indigenous Palestinians within the British imperial field. Even as left-wing kibbutzim of Hashomer Hatzair helped lay the groundwork for settler colonial Jewish sovereignty, its settlers did not conceal the prior existence of the Palestinian villages and their displacement, which became the subject of enduring debate in the kibbutzim. Juxtaposing history and memory, examining events in their actual time and as they were later remembered, Sabbagh-Khoury demonstrates that the dispossession and replacement of the Palestinians in 1948 was not a singular catastrophe, but rather a protracted process instituted over decades. Colonizing Palestine traces social and political mechanisms by which forms of hierarchy, violence, and supremacy that endure into the present were gradually created.