"From the American People": Aid, Counterinsurgency, and the U.S. National Security State in Palestine

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Don Mitchell


Counterinsurgency, Humanitarianism, Israel/Palestine, Liberal War, Political Geography, Sovereignty

Subject Categories

Geography | International and Area Studies


Palestine has long been a key node in circuits of global counterinsurgency. Under the British Mandate, the territory served as a staging ground for the consolidation of British imperial policing and pacification strategies, and following mandate rule, it has served as a testing ground for Israeli experiments in asymmetric warfare and demographic engineering. While counterinsurgency is often assumed to be kinetic, or related to outright violence and lethal force, its "non-kinetic" counterparts are often overlooked. This dissertation explores these dimensions to liberal warfare and counterinsurgency practice in Israel/Palestine. Drawing on over thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Palestinian territories on the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the vast web of aid intermediaries, experts, lawyers, and contractors through which it operates, this dissertation traces the ways in which counterinsurgency and pacification strategies are being mobilized through the networks of aid governance. The central argument developed throughout this dissertation rests on three interrelated claims: First, I argue that the aid regime that has emerged over the last half century in the Palestinian territories is part and parcel of an ever-more elaborate regime of control that has produced new forms of discipline and dependency through the steady undermining of local networks, productive capacities and political formations across the West Bank and Gaza. Secondly, the case of Palestine, I argue, lends insight into the ways in which the practices and institutions we most often associate with liberal modernity are themselves invested with the force of war. Finally, in tracing the shared security practices and intensified forms of collaboration taking place between states, I argue that the processes unfolding in Israel/Palestine point to a reworking of sovereignty wherein the increasingly networked relations between sovereign powers are giving rise to a global security apparatus that monitors and disciplines populations of "suspect civilians" across borders.


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