1948 to 1951

The racial politics of humanitarianism and return in Palestine


  • Shaira Vadasaria School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh




Race, reparations, return, humanitarianism, Palestine


The unresolved question of Palestinian displacement raises important considerations in a settler colonial era of reparations. One line of inquiry that remains relevant for thinking about the future of redress to Palestinian displacement is the following: How did an Indigenous Palestinian society with historical ties to land come to be governed as refugees external to the land? Examining a set of progress reports issued by Count Folke Bernadotte – the first UN appointed Mediator on Palestine –, this paper considers how a land-based reparative justice question became folded into a humanitarian structure, which has now stretched the course of seven decades. Centering the struggle for return as a site of ontological contestation, I consider how we might read these key decisions made between 1948–1951 around redress and the emergence of humanitarian governance as part of, and within a wider genealogy of race and settler colonialism in Palestine.


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Author Biography

Shaira Vadasaria, School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh

Lecturer in Race and Decolonial Studies.


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How to Cite

Vadasaria, S. (2018) “1948 to 1951: The racial politics of humanitarianism and return in Palestine”, Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 10(6), pp. 1242–1269. doi: 10.35295/osls.iisl/0000-0000-0000-1128.