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Drones, settler colonialism and the law

Dagan, Yaar

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Yaar Dagan


Mario Prost

AK Allo


This dissertation explores two sets of questions. The first focuses on the development of military drones and the use of this technology for distinctly settler colonial purposes. The second focuses on the challenges posed by lethal drones to the legal and normative framework of warfare. In doing so, this dissertation deals not only with the challenges that drones pose to specific humanitarian regulations but, more fundamentally, with the destabilisation of key categories of warfare, including the concept of war itself.

This dissertation starts with the following premise: Settler colonialists are persecuted collectives who suffered from persecution, mainly in Europe, so they were looking for a oneway ticket out of their state of origin. However, their dreams of a new homeland were shattered when they realised that their destinations were already populated. Consequently, they committed horrible crimes, including genocide, ethnic cleansing and transfer. Unlike traditional colonialists, settlers have been primarily concerned with taking over indigenous land – and maintaining independent sovereignty over the acquired territory.

This dissertation seeks to show that a peculiar combination of settler colonialism, militarism, and technical ingenuity led Israeli engineers to develop drones and turn their country into the world’s leading weapon exporter. With over two million people, Gaza has become a human laboratory where new, ever more destructive weapons are tested and sold worldwide for profit.

This dissertation also seeks to articulate the paradox that drones, initially endorsed as a 'safer' technology reducing risks to innocent civilians, have, in most cases, been fatally harmful to non-combatants. Moreover, they have destabilised the legal categories of warfare, ushering in an era of perpetual and endless conflict on an unprecedented global scale, creating a permanent dread for millions of people, controlled, harassed, and suppressed by settler colonial and imperial powers.

Thesis Type Thesis
Publicly Available Date May 30, 2023
Award Date 2023-03


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