“The Tree Is the Enemy Soldier”: A Sociolegal Making of War Landscapes in the Occupied West Bank


  • I would like to thank David Schneiderman, Mariana Valverde, Davina Cooper, Duncan Kennedy, and Jean Comaroff for their invaluable comments on this article. Special thanks to Gregor Harvey for his editing assistance and moral support.

Please address correspondence to Irus Braverman, SUNY Buffalo Law School, 625 O'Brian Hall, Buffalo, NY 14260-1100; e-mail: irusb@buffalo.edu.


War landscapes have a particular sociology; they are also formed through distinct legal technologies. By examining the genealogy of trees as totemic displacements in the occupied West Bank I demonstrate how the Israeli/Palestinian war is deflected onto the landscape and how this deflection erodes the boundary between law and war. Dealing with issues of colonization, nationalization, and the way that these implicate landscape as a “natural alibi,” the article examines the intricate making of politics into nature. Further, it explores the ironic nesting of colonial processes from Ottoman, to British, to Zionist, and finally to the new Jewish settler society that seeks to unsettle the old colonial landscapes of this place. Utilizing a detailed interpretation of a range of interviews and participatory observations, the article unpacks the mutually constitutive relationship between law, technologies of seeing, and landscape, illustrating how this relationship is played out by various actors in the occupied West Bank.