The Astro-Nomos: On International Legal Paradigms and the Legal Status of the West Bank


The continuous Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory may well have exhausted the international community and exasperated the Palestinians, but it still stimulates the Israeli legal imagination. In 2012, the Israeli government established an expert committee to examine the status of Jewish construction in the West Bank. The committee’s report concluded that from an international legal perspective, the West Bank is not occupied territory; the law of belligerent occupation is not applicable to the area; the “prevailing view” is that Jewish settlements are lawful; and that Israel has a valid claim to sovereignty over the territory. This Article, combining a doctrinal analysis with both Cover’s notion of ‘Nomos and Narrative’ and Kuhn’s ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions,’ posits that the report is epistemologically groundless and ethically blemished. The committee’s reading of international law substitutes an ideology for professionalism. The ideology, resurrecting the long discredited colonialist/Orientalist paradigm, reflects an idiosyncratic utopian vision, one that is simultaneously hegemonic and insular. Consequently, its legal position is methodologically extraneous to the structure of international law, substantively at odds with the compelling commitment of the international community to self-determination, and ethically dystopian.


Levy Committee Report, Israel, Occupation, Palestinian, International Law



Orna Ben-Naftali (Haim Striks School of Law, the College of Management Academic Studies)
Rafi Reznik (Tel-Aviv University)



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