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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter July 19, 2004

Settlement, Return, and the Supersession Thesis

Jeremy Waldron

In earlier articles, the author developed what is known as the "Supersession Thesis," asserting that historic injustice may be overtaken by changes in circumstances so that a situation that was unjust when it was brought about may coincide with what justice requires at a later time. The Supersession Thesis was developed initially as a tool for considering historic injustice suffered by indigenous peoples in the European settlement of countries like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States. In this paper, the author explores the application of the Supersession Thesis to issues about the Palestinian right of return and also to Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. The paper argues that, while it is not unthinkable that the Supersession Thesis might eventually legitimize the settlements and undermine the Palestinian right of return, there is no guarantee that this will happen. The application of the Supersession Thesis does not depend on the passage of time, but on changes in circumstances that a theory of justice makes relevant. Many of the circumstances that make the Supersession Thesis relevant to the post-colonial situations described (Australia, New Zealand, etc.) do not apply in the Israeli situation. Nevertheless, it is worth considering the possibility of applying the Supersession Thesis in this case, because it enables us to assess the merits of the Thesis more sharply in relation to injustice that is taking place now (or took place in living memory), as opposed to injustice that took place in the nineteenth century.

Published Online: 2004-7-19

©2011 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/Boston

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