Elastic Empire
Refashioning War through Aid in Palestine
Lisa Bhungalia




This book examines the shape-shifting nature of sovereignty and enforcement regimes as states, and in this case, the United States, distend into global space, folding geographically distant populations into their ambit of power while dually exempting them from political life (they remain subjects, not citizens).56 The concept of elasticity, even if not termed as such, has captured the attention of geographers and border scholars alike to theorize the creative refashioning of state jurisdiction and shape-shifting border regimes as states bend and flex across extraterritorial domains, de-linking legal and territorial borders to creatively refashion jurisdiction and excise certain bodies from political space.57 Here we see a double move: the casting out of enforcement regimes across transnational sites and domains and the production of spaces of enforcement “‘on the inside’ absent the law.”58 The border moves, collapses, extends, and proliferates with different bodies and to different ends.59 The borders of heavily securitized states, such as the United States and Israel for instance, travel and attach to immigration control officials stationed in other sovereign spaces to strategically intercept populations en route. The sea and the movement of authorities across it, as Alison Mountz and Nancy Hiemstra have shown, constitute a key site of border enforcement: US authorities carry out operations in the Caribbean and the Pacific, Australia intercepts boats in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the European Union member states intercept boats in the Mediterranean.60 Equally, borders move inward domestically to capture and remove certain subjects (usually racialized, working class, and from the Global South) from within. In the United States for instance, noncitizen subjects located within 100 miles of any physical US border—the Amtrak train station in Syracuse, New York, as but one example—are deemed never-to-have-arrived in the United States and are thus rendered deportable.

The twin processes of externalization and internalization function to incorporate certain subjects located beyond territorial boundaries into rules and laws governing the “domestic” while dually excluding racialized subjects within domestic space from protections and rights afforded by domestic law. The net effect of these processes, as Coleman demonstrates, is the state capture and deportation of noncitizens who, having reached US domestic space, are deemed “here enough” to be arrested but not “here enough” to address their detention in the courts.61 The production of legal bans “do not map onto discrete spaces but rather are generalized across populations of immigrants regardless of location.”62 In this topological formulation, sovereign power attaches to bodies differentially, blending insides and outsides.

In a similar vein, Pauline Maillet, Alison Mountz, and Kira Williams demonstrate how the internalization of regimes of exclusion parallels the externalization of state enforcement regimes as they distend into global space to interdict bodies (i.e., the asylum seeker) and place them outside the scope of law and protections in “nowhere” sites such as the airport, at sea, or on excised territory.63 Drawing on the concept of elasticity at the US–Canada border, Emily Gilbert64 likewise traces how borders are stretched and distended but also how they “snap back into place” so as to limit state accountability and access to rights.65 Gilbert’s analysis centers heterogeneous processes of “geographical illocalization,”66 as these occur vis-à-vis migrants, but also in relation to authorities responsible for border enforcement. The expansion of preclearance facilities in Canada, which allow travelers to clear customs before embarking on flights to the United States, enacts a new legal apparatus that “dramatically affect[s] the rights of travelers, but also limit[s] the accountability of US border agents who will receive immunity while at work in Canada.”67 The border, Gilbert argues, “ebbs and flows for different populations in different ways and with different effects.”68

Eyal Weizman’s conceptualization of elastic geography in Palestine/Israel echoes Gilbert’s analysis of the ways sovereign power blends insides and outsides to creatively refashion political-legal geographies.69 For Weizman, elasticity captures the persistent and constant transformation of Israel’s frontier in the Occupied Territories. Far from a linear frontier, Israel’s “border” with Palestinians is one of “constant transformation”—one consisting of a “temporary, transportable, deployable and removable border [technologies],” including flying and permanent checkpoints, separation walls, closed military and security zones, military bases, settlements and outposts, and “killing zones” (i.e., Gaza)—that “shrink and expand the territory at will.”70 The architectures of Israel’s occupation, Weizman contends, “are dynamic, constantly shifting, ebbing and flowing; they creep along, stealthily surrounding Palestinian villages and roads. They may even erupt into Palestinian living rooms, bursting in through the house walls,” as seen in the case of Nablus during the second intifada. One could indeed incorporate the Palestinian Authority into this accounting of the constant transformation and transmutation of Israel’s settler colonial regime, in this case through a putatively Palestinian governing body. The “dynamic morphology of Israel’s elastic frontier,” Weizman contends, “resembles an incessant sea dotted with multiplying archipelagos of externally alienated and internally homogenous ethno-national enclaves—under a blanket of aerial Israeli surveillance.”71 Weizman’s accounting of elasticity is helpful as it reminds us of the power hierarchies at play even as Israel’s frontier shape-shifts, blends, and morphs. Israel retains power and control as the occupying authority even as this power relationship can be obfuscated within the matrix of control, a dizzying array of civilian and state actors therein, and by tactics of “constructive blurring.” Part of the insidious work elastic geographies do, Weizman suggests, is to obfuscate “facts of domination.”72

The concept of elastic empire, as I develop it here, draws on and expands in new directions an analysis of the elasticity of state and imperial power as it manifests in global counterterrorism and enforcement regimes (and their uneven application) rather than through an analysis of the border as it relates to state immigration and enforcement regimes per se.73 The main protagonist in this story is US terrorism law, its transnational workings and intimate embeddings into the material, social, and political worlds of those afar through contractual relationships of aid. The descriptor “elastic” is utilized to hold at the fore of analysis relations of connectivity that remain across global space, even if transmogrified through different institutional forms and administrative and civilian constellations.

Following the law, Elastic Empire traces how the tethering of US terrorism law to civilian aid flows and monetary transactions around the world gives rise to a highly flexible and versatile mode of sovereign power, or what I call the elastic workings of sovereignty, that bends and fixes in particular sites and onto certain bodies.74 Here jurisdiction exceeds territory, akin to Stuart Elden’s imperio75—a boundless, limitless power containing no spatial boundary—that offers a useful entry point for considering how imperial power tethers and affixes to mobile subjects scattered across global space.76 Equally, it is important to qualify that imperio does not operate in a limitless and even-handed manner across space. Rather it manifests in a highly uneven fashion: at times the security state projects a hyper-intensified presence (and regime of punishment) vis-à-vis hypervisible subjects;77 other times it is entirely absent. The workings of the security state ebb and flow differentially. This differential, punctuated, uneven presence and absence pivots on and is correlated to the racialized coding of particular subject populations as suspect/safe, dangerous/trustworthy, familiar/queer. The accounting of elastic imperiality undertaken in this book tracks the sovereignty configurations and constellations produced through imperio or imperial geographies of US war-making, militarization, and encounter78 and informed by racial economies of threat and disorder resulting less in an “everywhere war”79 and more a punctuated mode of warfare and imperial presence.

In foregrounding these quieter articulations of imperiality, Elastic Empire tells a story of US empire not often told. It is not one of spectacular, episodic displays of military force and violence as exhibited so forcefully in the early aughts. Rather, this is a quieter accounting of US power but nevertheless one that indelibly transfigures the lives of those subjects caught in the crosshairs; it is one that emerges in the interstices and infrastructures of daily life, in a library, a greenhouse, in the halls of foreign municipal councils, in local elections and in Gaza-bound milk and biscuits. US empire, I argue, is not only “in the details,” à la Lutz, but also in the hazy, liminal, and in this case “humanitarian” spaces in and through which US power often takes hold.80 This constructive blurring is at the heart of elastic sovereignty. The insidious work elastic geographies do is to obfuscate the “facts of domination.”81 This is the story, my book contends, of how late modern empire works. Tracking the work of the US security state from within Palestine over the course of nearly a decade, Elastic Empire constructs a different theoretical apparatus of war and empire—it tells us something significant about the shape-shifting nature of imperial formations, their realignments and reformulations, their haunted sites, and their obscured but intimate forms.

Equally, Elastic Empire moves beyond a singular focus on the topological workings of the US security state, and US aid specifically, to make a broader claim about evolving techniques of population management under conditions of late modern settler–colonial rule and evolutionary tactics of late modern war.82 The Oslo Accords (1993–2001) introduced significant changes to the political and economic structures governing Palestinians’ lives in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. While the trappings of a “self-rule” government were set up in the form of the Palestinian Authority (PA), on the one hand, a nongovernmental sector boomed on the other, with the work of both sustained by foreign aid flows subject to Israeli political calculation. Even though the Oslo peace process has officially collapsed, the political arrangement it enacted remains. Accordingly, questions of who rules and how governing power is asserted over the Palestinian population today do not yield easy answers. Power and authority blend and merge: a Palestinian police uniform signals Israeli coordination; a newly paved USAID road likely means a settlement has been accommodated; and a development expert in Ramallah is a reminder of the foreign imprint on the making of Palestine.83

Thus, the predicaments facing Palestinians today are exceedingly complex. The post-Oslo period has seen the growth of a governance apparatus that has extended the reach of Israel’s security regime through institutions of “self-rule,” development, and humanitarian relief, while undermining and obstructing collective modes of politics and political mobilization through, among other things, the production of new kinds of individualized, professionalized, self-regulating colonial subjects. Perhaps most disconcerting for many in Palestine, and indeed the subject of much internal discussion, are the ways that Palestinians have themselves come to participate in the reproduction of a regime of governance that has done little to alter their status as subjects under protracted settler–colonial rule and indeed much to sustain it.84

Palestine, then, speaks more broadly to evolutionary tactics of late modern warfare and liberal counterinsurgency, which aim to reshape, reconstitute, and pacify populations through various war, policing, and interventionary practices “geared at governing the political aspirations of target societies.”85 In the transition from colonial modernity to the postcolonial era, as Vivienne Jabri argues, the postcolonial subject has, in each moment she has made a claim to politics, come “face to face with global operations of power that seek to control and govern.”86 Such is true of the Palestinian colonial condition. An expansive foreign aid regime has developed over the course of three decades in Palestine to build the institutional foundation for a putative Palestinian state, on the one hand, and provide critical humanitarian relief for a population besieged on the other. That regime is itself, as Jabri might argue, part and parcel of a war infrastructure that has banished politics. Not lost on Palestinians is how almost any activity, behavior, or act of speech that challenges their subjugated position within the current political order is scripted as a security threat and equated to terrorism. Put differently, Palestinians have suffered a double dispossession not only in terms of the ongoing loss of material resources (land, territory, water, homes), but so too of capacity for politics and political subjectivity. As subjects targeted by liberal interventionary forces, Palestinians are reduced, per Jabri, to a “division between culprits and victims, where the former come to be defined as the enemy [here those imbued with the terrorist moniker] while the latter constitute . . . a mass to be protected or rescued.”87 Within this schema, as Jabri suggests, there is not a “right to politics, which assumes agency and distinct subjectivity framed in the contingencies of social and political life, but a life lived as mass, simply one element in a category inscribed elsewhere and by others.”88

The deepening securitization of aid, this book demonstrates, is part and parcel of the refinement and evolution of liberal warfare and counterinsurgency.89 Here we see not only the exercise of a brutal sovereign power—although this certainly persists—but so too the calibration of Palestinian life and the delimiting of Palestinian political capacities through the infrastructures of aid on which Palestinians are largely reliant. The various processes traced throughout this book—the collection of personal information, mapping of coordinates of land plots, development of internal policing and reporting systems, intelligence gathering and the forging of alliances and divisions between various social groups—are all involved in ever-more sophisticated methods of identification, mapping, controlling, dividing, and making legible this population that has time and time again refused wholesale defeat.90

In tracing these developments, Elastic Empire illustrates how strategies of population control and management do not only extend to the prison or the checkpoint or take shape exclusively in the form of separation walls and settlements; they are also being worked through the moral technologies, humanitarian infrastructures, and systems of monitoring that have become the means for administering a population living under protracted military rule.91 As such, war can and should be understood as occurring not simply in the meeting of two adversaries on a battlefield but, perhaps more sinisterly, through the humanitarian regimes that have become the means for governing the displaced, the refugee, the poor, and the “vulnerable.”92 Accordingly, Elastic Empire demonstrates how regimes of war and violence are reproduced through mechanisms, infrastructures, and institutions purportedly designed to promote stability and peace. More broadly, it lends insight into the multiple forms of violence that exist within our concept of war—not only the spectacular and the crisis-laden, but also the mundane, bureaucratic, routinized, and largely concealed.93

Accordingly, this book situates Palestine within a broader discussion of what historians Hew Strachan and Sibylle Scheipers call “the changing character of war”94 in conversation with a range scholarly works on the shifting spatialities and modalities of late modern war,95 critical humanitarian studies,96 and contemporary colonialisms, including Palestine in particular.97 The logics, politics, and practices underwriting contemporary liberal warfare and intervention have no doubt given rise to new forms of interventionary power in zones of war and conflict in the quest to “stabilize” and reconstruct societies deemed problematic and dangerous. As Laleh Khalili’s seminal work on counterinsurgencies of the twentieth century demonstrates, tactics of war have shifted beyond wholesale slaughter to incorporate more elaborate systems of population control, confinement, and regulation; these tactics, while no less lethal or dangerous to populations in sites of intervention, are nonetheless marketed as more “humane” techniques for violent processes of social engineering.98 A key contribution of Elastic Empire is its fine-grained analysis of the securitized modes of administration emergent within war and conflict zones as the lines between humanitarianism and counterterrorism are increasingly blurred.

Humanitarianism has become an increasingly central feature of global politics in light of mass displacements, environmental crises, low-grade counterinsurgencies, and overt military interventions of the twenty-first century;99 so too is humanitarian relief increasingly governed by a counterterrorism framework. The tethering of counterterrorism laws to global aid flows, increasing prohibitions on foreign assistance to civilian populations living in “terrorist-controlled” territories, and the increased bombings of hospitals and medical facilities in war zones are but some ways in which humanitarianism, as Jonathan Whittall contends, has “faded into an enemy landscape.”100 This book sits in such landscapes where the lines between humanitarianism and the global war on terror are increasingly indeterminate. Tracing how humanitarian and development complexes are coming up against a growing counterterrorism legal infrastructure that criminalizes a broad notion of “material support for terrorism,” it demonstrates how the architectures of care and relief on which populations across the Global South are increasingly reliant become sites for the punitive regulation, policing, and surveillance of lives deemed simultaneously suspicious and in need of help. Tracing these securitized aid dynamics from the ground up and the racialized anxieties that underwrite them, this book brings into view how transnational projects of security and counterterrorism stitch together heterogeneous actors dispersed globally while producing intimate insecurities and precarity for racialized populations at the receiving end of transnational aid flows. In analyzing the modes of social regulation being produced through the increasing drive towards securitization, it becomes clear that aid is both relief and racialized warfare.


Elastic Empire is an ethnographic exploration of the world that foreign aid is making and unmaking in Palestine, with attention to the multiple and at times contradictory strategies being adopted by Palestinians to realize life and dignity under overlapping regimes of authority, domination, and rule. It draws on research spanning over a decade (2009–2021), including over two years of cumulative fieldwork conducted in Palestine, as well as research trips to Amman, Jordan, where the UNRWA headquarters are situated, and Washington, DC, where I interviewed congressional policy analysts and US foreign policy, legal, and Israel–Palestine experts.100 Research conducted in Palestine included ethnographic research, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. For the greater part of my fieldwork, I was based in Ramallah and traveled frequently throughout the West Bank and at times to Tel Aviv to speak with USAID officials.

Throughout the duration of this research, I conducted over 150 semi-structured interviews with various sectors that comprise a transnational aid network, including USAID officials, bureaucrats, and lawyers; UN officials; private contractors and firms; US and international NGOs; Palestinian Authority and municipal officials; Palestinian NGOs (including Palestinian organizations placed under investigation for terrorism financing and designated as “terrorist organizations” by Israel); community-based organizations, coalitions, and Palestinian scholars and grassroots organizers. I also conducted participant observation in 2010 with two organizations: the Dalia Association, a grassroots organization working to decrease dependency on external aid, and the Center for Development Studies at Birzeit University. I served as a volunteer at Dalia for a year and worked as a development consultant at Birzeit where I contributed to research for a UN-administered report on development under conflict. Additionally, in the summer of 2015 I provided research support to Aid Watch, which develops policy analyses grounded in the experiences of Palestinian aid-receiving communities.

I also reviewed and analyzed primary source legal and policy materials, including US material support laws and executive orders, congressional documents, and US State and Treasury Department terrorism and sanctions lists on a regular basis to track changes in federal laws that directly affect institutions through which US funds are channeled. The majority of these documents are available through the US National Archives, US Treasury, and US State Department sites. US congressional reports on foreign aid to the Palestinians made available through Congressional Research Service were reviewed on a regular basis to keep abreast of changes in US federal law and policy and to track recommendations made to congress by Middle East experts. Classified US embassy cables released by Wikileaks were also reviewed, as were US agreements made with multilateral aid institutions, including the Framework for Cooperation Between the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the United States, 2021–2022. Additionally, I examined relevant texts from various negotiations conducted between Israel and the Palestinian leadership, including the Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Agreements (1993), the Camp David Summit (2000), the Road Map for Peace (2003), and guiding documents for the Palestinian Authority, including the Palestinian Reform and Development Plan (PRDP) (2008–2010). The Abraham Accords, the Peace to Prosperity plan, and reports from Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs were also reviewed. Reports, figures, and other materials made available through the Israeli Civil Administration, and specifically statements from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), pertaining to changes in official Israeli policy regarding donor activity in the occupied Palestinian territories were also periodically reviewed, as were World Bank technical reports and analysis. Lastly, statements and reports in English and Arabic from Palestinian human rights groups, NGOs, and grassroots organizations including Al-Shabaka, Al-Haq, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), BADIL, and the Dalia Association, among others were consulted, as were employment ads placed in local newspapers for Palestinian staff in USAID-funded organizations.

As with any research conducted in Israel/Palestine, one’s identity directly influences what kind of research can be done, where, and how. There were numerous ways in which my identity afforded me greater mobility, as well as closed some avenues down. An elaborate system of checkpoints, walls, settlements, apartheid roads, and permits severely limits and often entirely arrests the movement of Palestinians across borders. As a US citizen, I was not subject to the same restrictions as a Palestinian living in the West Bank or Gaza, nor did I face the same restrictions as a Palestinian with foreign citizenship.102 Thus, I was thus able to travel freely throughout Israel to visit USAID headquarters in Tel Aviv, conduct interviews with contractors and NGOs based in Jerusalem, and attend lectures and meetings throughout Israel.103 Had I been subject to the mobility restrictions imposed on Palestinians, I would not have been able to trace the articulations of the USAID network across these various geopolitical zones, nor would I have gained access in the same way to debates circulating among Palestinians living inside Israel (and Jerusalem in particular). This book, as any, is the product of the researcher. While I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to live and research in Palestine for years, I hold no illusions that the conversations I had, the information I was given, the circles into which I was admitted, and the insights I present here are not deeply inflected by my positioning as a foreigner, and in particular, a US citizen. What I present in the pages that follow reflects my positionality as well as the relationships built over the course of nearly twelve years traveling to and residing within Palestine.

Taken together, the experiences and opportunities accrued over the course of a decade afforded insight into a range of debates circulating within Palestine on foreign aid intervention and helped me develop a more nuanced understanding of the manifold ways Palestinians are negotiating an increasingly securitized aid regime that has become a central feature of political, economic, and material life in post-Oslo Palestine. In so doing, this book joins a growing body of critical work on the role of foreign aid within evolving techniques of late modern settler–colonial rule through fine-grained attention to how counterterrorism has come to govern humanitarianism.104


The book reflects the story that I am to tell—one of the silent wars waged through a globally expansive legal-war architecture that indelibly shapes the lives of those caught in its crosshairs. To tell this story, we must begin a decade before the official start of the global war on terror. It was during the 1990s, as Chapter 1 traces, that the legal infrastructure for US terrorism financing law was consolidated—and Palestine, it shows, is central to this story. More broadly, Chapter 1 argues that the material support ban has codified into legal practice a preemptive model of punitive governance that authorizes state violence on bodies conscripted as threats-in-waiting, and in so doing, significantly expands the scope and reach of the prosecutorial web of the US security state, which has implications far beyond terrorism prosecutions, Israel, the United States, and Palestine.

Chapter 2 further develops an analysis of the topological arrangements that underwrite contemporary imperial formations and war regimes in a putatively postcolonial world broadly and the concept of elastic imperiality specifically. In tracing the highly flexible and versatile operations of the US security state in Palestine and the blurred genres of rule to which it gives rise, Palestine, it argues, emerges as an archetypal example of the workings of American empire. It is one where the presence of the United States, despite having no de jure claim to sovereignty or territory, is nevertheless indelibly felt. This chapter shows how Palestinians are objects of empire, though in ways often unrecognized, while at the same time holding open the promise and possibility of how the topological ties that bind can, and often do, come undone.

Chapter 3 homes in on the political work of terrorism lists, delving further into their political and material implications for the racialized bodies and landscapes on which they touch down. Chapter 3 examines how the technology of the terrorism list in Palestine is part and parcel of the amalgam of counterinsurgency forces that work on and through Palestinians to fragment, pacify, and render them more easily governable in the long arc of dispossession. Drawing on extensive ethnographic work, this chapter centers on the punitive regimes of policing and surveillance terrorism lists inaugurate in Palestine, but also on how Palestinians refuse the security logics they impose.

Chapter 4 examines a different iteration of US empire in Palestine—its afterlives and reverberations in the wake of the official end of US aid to Palestinians during the Trump era. Rather than ameliorating pressure, this period saw the intensification of the counterterrorism paradigm across donor aid practice more broadly. The chapter shows how the securitized practices, technologies, and norms the United States has long promoted and normalized in Palestine have lived on, metastasized, and, perhaps most significantly, established a new aid-governing norm for Western-aligned donor intervention in Palestine. It considers what remains living and breathing in absence—what kind of violence is embedded in a world that cannot be returned.

Finally, Chapter 5 tracks a culminating moment in the long war traced in this book through the “point of the list.” It chronicles the story of six Palestinian organizations designated as terrorist organizations by Israel’s Ministry of Defense in October 2021 and subsequently shut down by Israeli military order roughly a year later. Drawing on interviews and visits to the organizations shortly following the ministry’s designation, this chapter examines how Israel’s classification enacts what I call asphyxiatory violence: a modality of violence that realizes its destructive effects through less spectacular means than a bomb or tank, but through a quieter, temporally stretched process of constriction, one that progressively erodes conditions of livability through forced disconnection and isolation. The chapter moreover argues that the slow, debilitating processes of violence that the terrorism classification inaugurates present us with a different temporality of war—one wherein violence is stretched over time—and a different optics of violence—there is no bomb to condemn nor troops to demand come home. It is arguably precisely because of the visual and temporal registers that slow, debilitating processes of asphyxiation evade that make blacklisting practices, sanctions regimes, and seemingly mundane financial restrictions an increasingly preferred method of warfare, most notably for liberal imperial and settler–colonial powers that seek to manage the field of visibility for their crimes.

The Conclusion returns us to questions regarding the optics and redistributions of contemporary warfare and late modern empire. The counterterrorism regime examined in this book, it argues, constitutes a key architecture through which the United States has redistributed its capacities for war-making and violence. Shrouded in secrecy and mundane in its application, the violence this regime inflicts takes place in a shadow world unknown to most of us. Elastic Empire seeks to put this war—or these distributions of war—ongoing in Palestine and elsewhere back on the map, most notably because their very “unknowability” is precisely the point.


50. Li, “From Exception to Empire”; Li, The Universal Enemy; Li, “Khaled el-Masri”; Khalili and Hajjar, “Torture, Drones, and Detention”; Hajjar, Torture; Hajjar, “Grave Injustice”; Hajjar, “The Afterlives of Torture: Global Implications of Reactionary US Politics”; Hajjar, “The Afterlives of Torture: Putting the US War on Terror in Historical and Global Context”; Khalili, “Utility of Proxy Detention in Counterinsurgencies”; Loyd and Mountz, Boats, Borders, and Bases.

51. Li, “Khaled el-Masri”; Li, “From Exception to Empire.”

52. Li, “From Exception to Empire,” 457–458.

53. Stoler, “Degrees of Imperial Sovereignty.”

54. It is critical to demarcate this chapter in the history of US empire as one taking shape following the colonization of Indigenous lands in what became the settler colony of the United States.

55. Lutz, “Empire Is in the Details.”

56. While this book foregrounds an analysis of the topological workings of US power, the analysis developed herein is not limited to the United States. Instead, it points to a broader refashioning of security and enforcement regimes as states extend across and embed into geographically disparate sites, bodies, and spaces.

57. Maillet, Mountz, and Williams, “Exclusion Through Imperio”; Coleman, “Immigrant Il-Legality”; Mountz and Hiemstra, “Spatial Strategies.”

58. Coleman, “Immigrant Il-Legality,” 418.

59. Mountz and Hiemstra, “Spatial Strategies”; Coleman, “Immigrant Il-Legality”; Gilbert, “Elasticity at the Canada–US Border”; Benton, A Search for Sovereignty.

60. Mountz and Hiemstra, “Spatial Strategies”; see also Loyd and Mountz, Boats, Borders, and Bases.

61. Coleman, “Immigrant Il-Legality,” 418–419.

62. Coleman, “Immigrant Il-Legality,” 419.

63. Maillet, Mountz, and Williams, “Exclusion Through Imperio.”

64. Gilbert, “Elasticity at the Canada–US Border,” 425.

65. The many deaths along the US–Mexico border are a testament to elastic empire at work, with the killing of Sergio Hernández Guereca as but one example. Hernández Guereca, a fifteen-year-old Mexican national, was shot and killed by US border guard Jesus Mesa Jr. while playing on the culvert of the Rio Grande, which separates El Paso and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. The US Department of Justice determined that Mesa would not be charged with Hernández’s murder. US federal criminal civil rights statutes did not apply, it argued, because Hernández “was neither within the borders of the United States nor present on US property, as required for jurisdiction to exist under the applicable federal civil rights statute” (Department of Justice, “Federal Officials Close Investigation”). Mesa was charged with Hernández’s murder in Mexico, but the Obama administration refused to extradite him. Hernández’s parents then brought a lawsuit against Mesa in US federal court, which ultimately made it to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court corroborated the Justice Department’s determination that Mesa would not be held accountable for Hernández’s murder. The Court argued that Hernández’s position when he was shot, some sixty feet from the US border on the Mexican side, precluded punitive actions be taken against the guard. Justices sympathetic to Hernández expressed concern that to “extend constitutional protections beyond the nation’s borders” would set a dangerous precedent (Liptak, “Justices Weigh Agent’s Cross-Border Shooting”).

66. Coleman, “Immigrant Il-Legality.”

67. Gilbert, “Elasticity at the Canada–US Border,” 426–427.

68. Gilbert, “Elasticity at the Canada–US Border,” 426.

69. See Weizman, Hollow Land. While Weizman tends to view Israel’s frontier as anarchic, consisting of both chaos and resistance, Gilbert contends that “elasticity is also structured in and through law” (“Elasticity at the Canada–US Border,” 425).

70. Weizman, Hollow Land, 6.

71. Weizman, Hollow Land, 7.

72. Weizman, Hollow Land, 8.

73. Immigration enforcement and counterterrorism regimes are invariably linked to and co-constituted by one another, but they also cannot necessarily be reduced to one another. In addition to the differential evolution of immigration and counterterrorism regimes within and across states, there is, one could argue, a different economy of risk at play within each respectively. While both immigration and counterterrorism regimes are both governed foremost by security logics that purport to manage and contain threat, the former retains, at least theoretically, the possibility that some subjects might be good/worthy for inclusion for their value/labor. Counterterrorism measures, however, do not hold open that possibility. The “terrorist” (which includes the potential terrorist) is constituted as a purely threatening object to be stamped out. At the same time, parallels between these two distinct regimes remain (see the case of Muhammad Salah in Chapter 1). The figure of the terrorist, like the non-citizen deemed never-to-have-arrived, is equally not afforded due process, rights, or protections within domestic space.

74. This book focuses predominately on the global workings of the US counterterrorism regime (processes of externalization). Considerable work has been done on how the terrorist exception, when applied domestically and to US citizens, functions to relax, if not render inapplicable, generally applicable legal standards and protections. See, for example, Akbar, “Policing ‘Radicalization”; Aziz, “Countering Religion or Terrorism?”; W. Said, “Coercing Voluntariness”; W. Said, “Sentencing Terrorist Crimes;” W. Said, Crimes of Terror.

75. Elden, Terror and Territory; Elden, The Birth of Territory.

76. See also Maillet, Mountz, and Williams, “Exclusion Through Imperio.”

77. Amar, “Turning the Gendered Politics.”

78. Mountz, “Political Geography I.”

79. Gregory, “The Everywhere War.”

80. Lutz, “Empire Is in the Details.”

81. Weizman, Hollow Land, 8.

82. See Jabri, War and Transformation of Global Politics; Jabri, The Postcolonial Subject.

83. Stamatopoulou-Robbins, “In Colonial Shoes,” 74.

84. Bhungalia, “Managing Violence.”

85. Jabri, The Postcolonial Subject, i.

86. Jabri, The Postcolonial Subject, i.

87. Jabri, “War, Government, Politics,” 55.

88. Jabri, “War, Government, Politics,” 55.

89. This point too has been made elsewhere. See Turner, “Peacebuilding as Counterinsurgency” and Tartir, “Criminalizing Resistance” as but two examples.

90. Bhungalia, “Managing Violence.”

91. Weizman, Least of All Possible Evils.

92. Weizman, Least of All Possible Evils.

93. Bhungalia, “Managing Violence.”

94. Strachan and Scheipers, “The Changing Character of War.”

95. See Khalili, “Utility of Proxy Detention in Counterinsurgencies”; Barkawi, “Pedagogy of ‘Small Wars’”; Gregory, “The Everywhere War”; C. Jones, “Lawfare and Juridification of Late Modern War”; Khalili, Time in the Shadows; Tahir, “Life in Age of Drone Warfare”; Weizman, Least of All Possible Evils; Jabri, “Global War and Government of Populations”; Griffiths, “Geontological Time-Spaces”; Grove, Savage Ecology; Gregory, “War and Peace.” “Late modern” connotes an epochal shift from the Cold War doctrine of deterrence to an anticipatory, prefigurative logic of preemption whereby potential threats are intercepted and eradicated before they materialize. “Late modern warfare” refers to a technologically driven mode of warfare that utilizes advanced systems of aerial sensing, surveillance, and targeting and is oriented around this anticipatory figuring of time.

96. See Fassin, “Humanitarianism as a Politics of Life”; Feldman and Ticktin, In the Name of Humanity; Ticktin, “Where Ethics and Politics Meet”; Feldman, “The Humanitarian Condition”; Feldman, Life Lived in Relief; Reid-Henry, “Politics of Our Humanitarian Present.”

97. See Coulthard, Red Skin, White Masks; A. Simpson, Mohawk Interruptus; Gregory, The Colonial Present; Salamanca, “Assembling the Fabric of Life.”

98. Khalili, Time in the Shadows. See also Weizman, Least of All Possible Evils.

99. Whittall, “Treating Terrorists”; Slim, “With or Against?”; Weizman, Least of All Possible Evils.

100. Whittall, “Treating Terrorists,” see esp. para. 1.

101. Research began in Amman in 2009 where I undertook archival, policy, and interview-based research on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) role in managing Palestinian displacement. To gain a better sense of the policy, planning, and institutional oversight that go into refugee management and administration, interviews were conducted with UNRWA officials at the agency’s headquarters, aid workers, scholars, and displaced Palestinians living in Jordan. Archival research and policy analysis was also carried out at the French Institute of the Near East to gain further insights into the institutional history of UNRWA and its changing role and function over the course of six decades. Arabic language study further expanded the geographic scope of this project to include Damascus, Syria (2008), Cairo, Egypt (2009), and Middlebury College (2010, 2011) in the United States where I completed two intensive Arabic programs at the Middlebury Arabic Language School.

102. Palestinians in the West Bank are not permitted entry into Israel or Gaza, and Palestinians in Gaza are not permitted entry into Israel or the West Bank. Many Palestinians now reside outside of the territories and have obtained citizenship in other countries. If a Palestinian holds a West Bank or Gaza huwyieh (Palestinian identity card), she is restricted to the West Bank or Gaza, respectively, and is not permitted entry into Israel. Her identity as a Palestinian, in other words, “trumps” her foreign citizenship. Additionally, within the West Bank, Palestinians are not permitted to enter sites designated “Area C” (places containing Israeli military bases or settlements and their surrounding areas), nor are they permitted to drive on settler roads. The elaborate bureaucratic regime that has been created by Israel is one among a number of instruments that serves to divide and isolate the Palestinian population into disconnected geopolitical spaces controlled by Israel.

103. USAID headquarters are based in Tel Aviv. Due to US-imposed security restrictions, USAID officials are not permitted to travel into the West Bank without extensive security protocols in place.

104. There is no shortage of critical works on the foreign aid regime in post–Oslo Palestine: Atshan, “Prolonged Humanitarianism”; Challand, “Evolution of Western Aid”; Feldman, “Gaza’s Humanitarian Problem”; Haddad, Palestine Ltd; Hanafi and Tabar, Emergence of Palestinian Globalized Elite; Keating, Le More, and Lowe, Aid, Diplomacy and Facts; Khan, Giacaman, and Amundsen, State Formation in Palestine; Nabulsi, “State-Building Project”; Rabie, Palestine Is Throwing a Party; Roy, “De-Development Revisited”; Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Waste Siege; Tartir, Dana, and Seidel, Political Economy of Palestine; Tartir and Seidel, Palestine and Rule of Power; Turner, “Peacebuilding as Counterinsurgency.”

This scholarship has developed loosely along four lines. First, there has been a burgeoning interest in the intersection of foreign aid, settler colonialism, and the built environment. A number of scholars have offered empirically grounded and theoretically rich accounts of how international aid is contributing to the production of material landscapes that have further entrenched Israel’s control over (and removal of) the Palestinian population: Gordon and Ram, “Ethnic Cleansing”; Petti, Hilal, and Weizman, Architecture After Revolution; Salamanca, “Assembling the Fabric of Life”; Tabar, “‘Urban Redesign’”; Weizman, “Military Operations”; Weizman, Hollow Land.

A second strand of scholarship has focused on the role of international donors, primarily American and European, in consolidating an ever-sophisticated infrastructure of security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority through “security sector reform” initiatives: Clarno, “Securing Oslo”; Clarno, Neoliberal Apartheid; Mustafa, “Damming the Palestinian Spring”; Tartir, “Criminalizing Resistance”; Tartir, “Securitised Development”; Usher, “Politics of Internal Security.”

A third strand of scholarship has focused on the role of aid in neoliberal peacebuilding, with attention in particular to how neoliberal economic and governance strategies have been deployed as a response to the fundamentally political problem of Palestinian statelessness and displacement: Haddad, Palestine Ltd; Tartir, “Securitised Development”; Turner and Shweiki, Decolonizing Palestinian Political Economy; Wildeman and Tartir, “Can Oslo’s Failed Aid?”

Finally, scholars drawing on long-term, ethnographic fieldwork in Palestine and beyond have crucially attended to the politics of life and Palestinian subjectivity under conditions of protracted humanitarian crisis and relief: Atshan, “Prolonged Humanitarianism”; Feldman, “The Humanitarian Condition”; Feldman, Life Lived in Relief.

This book is conversant with but also further develops this rich body of literature through ethnographic attention to the intensifying trend of aid securitization in donor interventionism. While some scholars have attended to how aid functions as a technology of colonial pacification (Tartir, “Criminalizing Resistance”; Turner, “Peacebuilding as Counterinsurgency”), this book specifically examines the trend of aid securitization within the broader ambit of colonial counterinsurgency.