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  • Cited by 4
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
August 2021
Print publication year:
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Book description

In this book, Hedi Viterbo radically challenges our picture of law, human rights, and childhood, both in and beyond the Israel/Palestine context. He reveals how Israel, rather than disregarding international law and children's rights, has used them to hone and legitimize its violence against Palestinians. He exposes the human rights community's complicity in this situation, due to its problematic assumptions about childhood, its uncritical embrace of international law, and its recurring emulation of Israel's security discourse. He examines how, and to what effect, both the state and its critics manufacture, shape, and weaponize the categories 'child' and 'adult.' Bridging disciplinary divides, Viterbo analyzes hundreds of previously unexamined sources, many of which are not publicly available. Bold, sophisticated, and informative, Problematizing Law, Rights, and Childhood in Israel/Palestine provides unique insights into the ever-tightening relationship between law, children's rights, and state violence, at both the local and global levels.


Winner, 2022 Best Book Award, Human Rights Section of the American Political Science Association

Winner, Hart–SLSA Prize for Early Career Academics, Socio-Legal Studies Association

Honourable mention, Book Award Committee, Association of Middle East Children & Youth Studies (AMECYS)


‘Outstandingly original in its conceptual and methodological claims, this book exposes how international and national law collude with norms, myths, and narratives of globalized childhood to pathologize protest and promote the regulation, disciplining, and incarceration of Palestinians. Hedi Viterbo provides a key lesson for theorists and practitioners on how and why claims to and about childhood do particular legal and institutional work in the perpetuation of disempowerment.'

Erica Burman - Professor of Education, University of Manchester

‘Hedi Viterbo presents a startlingly novel and deeply researched challenge to taken-for-granted distinctions between ‘children' and ‘adults.' By laying bare how each category can have deleterious consequences for Palestinians on both sides of this fetishized age divide or even be weaponized to further Israeli state violence, this book demands and directs a rethinking of juridical and human rights conceptions of child law as a protective shield for the young.'

Lisa Hajjar - Professor of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara

‘In this groundbreaking book, Hedi Viterbo offers a powerful account of the legal construction of childhood in Israel/Palestine. Drawing on a rich array of previously unexamined sources, and subjecting them to an imaginative interdisciplinary analysis, he sheds new and piercing light on the broader political significance of childhood policy and practice, calling into question many of the dominant assumptions underpinning academic debates both in and beyond Israel/Palestine.'

Nicola Lacey - School Professor of Law, Gender, and Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science

'In this monumental study, ... Viterbo uses Palestine ... as a place to make theory from, in order to understand how colonial and imperial methods of control, such as the construction of childhood, and with it the depoliticization of Palestinian resistance, are embedded into the racialized practices of liberal counterinsurgency. Viterbo’s unique method ... is a rigorous reading of archives of the state (many revealed for the first time) against and through reports of human rights organizations and international bodies. ... Viterbo [lays bare] how the category of childhood is constructed through the mutual interests of the Israeli legal system and human rights organizations. This is a major contribution of the book, not only for the case of Palestine, but for understanding the mechanisms that create the co-dependence and mutuality between human rights organizations and states.'

Yael Berda - Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

'Hedi Viterbo’s book ... is interdisciplinary in the deepest sense of the word. ... Viterbo’s critique is anchored in rich and varied empirical research based on hundreds of previously unstudied documents. ... The book’s central contribution, apart from problematizing ... children’s rights, is ... its critique of the human rights discourse and international human rights law, which the Israeli authorities employ to depict certain practices as humanitarian when in fact they reinforce violence. ... This contribution extends beyond the Israeli/Palestinian context and is relevant to other Global South contexts.'

Rawia Aburabia - Assistant Professor of Law, Sapir College

'Hedi Viterbo’s Problematizing Law, Rights, and Childhood in Israel/Palestine is both a fascinating book and an outstanding scholarly accomplishment. In it, Viterbo deconstructs childhood, the law, court rulings, and the work of human rights organizations in order to expose how childhood has become a form of governmentality. ... Using Israel/Palestine as his case study, ... Viterbo [brings to light how] the law and human rights are profoundly implicated in the social production of childhood ... and how ... childhood is ... an instrument of management and control that can be used to repress the young people it claims to represent. ... Viterbo’s arrows are not only directed against [Israeli authorities] ...; he also ... [exposes how] human rights organizations ... affirm in their reports the provisions [of] ... human rights conventions even when the children ... they ‘represent’ reject these provisions and tell the human rights defenders that they prefer not to be governed by them.'

Neve Gordon - Professor of Law, Queen Mary University of London

'[The book] equally scrutinizes the state for its violence as well as the human rights community for its advocacy. ... In addition to offering a damning critique of hyper legality, [the book] ... also disrupts legal distinctions between children/adults, ... thus making radical claims among legal advocates and human rights communities, ... for whom these distinctions constitute a foundation of their critique, and more broadly, their world view.'

Noura Erakat - Associate Professor of Africana Studies, Rutgers University

'Problematizing Law, Rights, and Childhood in Israel/Palestine breaks important new ground in bringing legal scholars into the social constructionism debate on childhood, while at the same time exposing Israel’s misuse of international law to justify and get away with children’s rights abuses against Palestinians … [It] is a highly organized and coherent book which is meticulously footnoted and based on over a decade of research, much of it in the never looked at Israeli military courts. Hedi Viterbo makes law accessible and relevant to scholars of all disciplines … Many of the issues addressed in the book have international comparisons from modern history, such as armed conflict, young people’s rights, and mistreatment of colonized people, racialized minorities and non-citizens.'

Heidi Morrison - University of Wisconsin La Cross Source: International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family

‘The book offers both breadth and depth of context and analysis, [and] it is highly original, insightful, and thought-provoking in its deconstruction and critique of law, rights, and childhood … Combining critiques on the international and local levels, it scrutinizes both universalist discourses of childhood, victimhood, and trauma, and localized ideologies of nationalism and nativism, with nuance and cultural richness. The various political uses of childhood by the privileged and the underprivileged are thoroughly fleshed out.’

Smadar Ben-Natan - University of Washington Source: Law & Society Review

‘Hedi Viterbo’s book … poses a challenge to dominant narratives about law, human rights, and childhood, not just in the context of Israel/Palestine but also well beyond that space. … The book is impressively interdisciplinary, … conceptually groundbreaking, … [and] incredibly important.’

Aoife Daly - University College Cork Ireland Source: International Journal of Children’s Rights

‘Hedi Viterbo’s remarkable and innovative new book … makes readers think profoundly about some of the pillars of liberal thought, exposing their dark implications for Palestinians at the receiving end of Israel’s … settler colonialism … The book unfolds through eight chapters covering a vast range of themes … [This] is an impressive book that must be reckoned with, not only by scholars, but also by activists and advocates … Viterbo’s brilliant book offers a timely analysis.’

Pietro Stefanini - University of Edinburgh, Critical Studies on Terrorism

‘Hedi Viterbo’s book is … important, … provocative, … astute … and valuable … The book extends work in critical legal and human rights studies, settler colonial studies and child/youth studies that challenge the liberal turn to rights and the strategies of regimes that dominate through instrumentalizing liberal or progressive concepts.’

Sunaina Maira Source: Children & Society

‘Problematizing Law, Rights, and Childhood in Israel/Palestine offers a compelling and insightful account of the relationship between law, childhood, and state violence. Using Israel/Palestine as a case study, the book reveals the ways in which law and children’s rights discourses operate as a means of domination … … The book’s theoretical framework … is unique in that it combines an understanding of both law’s indeterminacy, with insights into interdisciplinary studies on childhood … This analytical framework … provides strong grounds for challenging key pillars of child law, ones that are uncritically employed within the child’s rights movement, in Israel/Palestine and beyond. … The empirical methodology that the book adopts is no less valuable … Problematizing Law, Rights, and Childhood in Israel/Palestine … presents a compelling argument … [and] succeeds in provoking a wide range of difficult questions.’

Lama Karamé Source: Palestine Yearbook of International Law

‘The book is highly original. Viterbo’s analysis has the rare quality of both documenting … [previously unknown] realities … and providing eye opening and oftentimes surprising insights … His methodology is a hybrid of empirical, philosophical, and socio-legal approaches, and it is in and of itself an impressive achievement … Terms such as ‘childhood’ and ‘children’s rights,’ as Viterbo persuasively argues, can be weaponised against children … Despite the focus on Israel/Palestine, this book also makes a unique and highly original contribution to the field of childhood studies in general, and especially to socio-legal studies … [This book] is an exceptional work of academic scholarship.’

Zvi Triger Source: Child and Family Law Quarterly

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