Critical Social Justice


Critical Social Justice Theory and its derivative worldview, sees people in terms of their social group membership, the relative societal power and privilege groups possess. It focuses on the ways in which the group’s position is determined in a hierarchical, unequal society, in which the dominant groups advance their interests by dominating, oppressing and marginalizing others. This approach calls for heightened awareness to racial and social injustice, to which some refer as “wokeness”. Such awareness does not only acknowledge isolated incidents but rather does so through an understanding of systemic and institutional racism. These ideas won particular resonance in the U.S. in light of the historical context of slavery and racial segregation and the contemporary reality of racial discrimination and have grown in popularity with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. The application of this prism to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is increasingly mainstream among younger holders of this worldview, who often come to care about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in light of their own ethnic identity.

Conflict Resolution Challenges

Core narratives

Israel exercises unequal and racially discriminatory rule within its internationally recognized boundaries and, since 1967, over all other areas between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This “one state reality” is unjust: it should be fundamentally challenged and eventually overturned in order to give birth to a “socially just reality”. Most holders of this worldview posit that it is impossible for Israel to be a democratic nation-state of the Jewish people in a way which is just for non-Jewish minorities. The followers of this worldview tend to pursue solutions which do not premise any kind of Jewish character for Israel, because that is seen as discriminating against Palestinians in ways reminiscent of White privilege over Blacks in America.

Primary Legal System

Anti-colonial and anti-discriminatory elements of U.S. and international humanitarian law (IHL). Cautious toward international law because of a sense that their foundational idea of universal humanity can cloak the experience of oppression and its balance of state vs group and individual rights.

Desirable Trajectory

International institutions and national governments would hold the Israeli oppressor accountable through the exacting of costs (such as shaming, boycotts, divestment and sanctions, in the public sphere, the market economy or international organizations) until the Palestinian victims are liberated from Israel’s oppression and discrimination. International stakeholders would apply in parallel a similar pressure thesis toward the oppressive Palestinian Authority. A new political framework would be created, providing Palestinians with greater equitable, diverse and inclusive lives. This framework can only be established through a non- ethnic, democratic state — be it one (unitary or federated) or two (separate or confederated).

Prominent Stakeholders

Human rights organizations, Congresswoman Cori Bush, Palestinian Solidarity Movement.


As Israel edged toward annexing West Bank areas, proponents of a “rights-based approach” anticipated that annexation would affirm, de-jura, their view of a “one state reality” and thus provide tailwind to their advocacy of international pressure on Israel to end Palestinian disenfranchisement. Several trends made the approach’s theory of change – international compulsion – seem less feasible to decision makers: the suspension of annexation; the de-prioritization of the conflict by the Biden administration and most European countries; normalization agreements between Arab states with Israel; and greater civic participation of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the country’s government.