Western Sahara and Palestine: A Comparative Study of Colonialisms, Occupations, and Nationalisms

Rana B. Khoury

Abstract: Occupation and colonization are terms that evoke an era of empires and great powers. Yet for two peoples, occupation and settler colonialism are not remnants of a time foregone; they remain the reality of everyday life. The Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is a high profile example of modern colonization, whereas the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara draws considerably less attention. This paper seeks to show that these two cases of colonialism over two Arab peoples have much in common. Both originated from colonial fumbling and produced significant refugee populations that would carry the mantle of their liberation movements. Morocco and Israel each maintain their occupations, however, utilizing similar means of control and eluding continual resistance from their occupied populations. International politics has contributed to the protracted nature of the conflicts, in the form of military and moral support from the United States to the occupying powers and, more significantly for Israel, in the United Nations’ bestowal of legitimacy on Zionism as a suitably nationalist project. That, along with the salience of Palestine as an Islamic holy place, has caused the Palestinian-Israeli case to be more prominent than the Moroccan occupation of Western Sahara.

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