A settler ‘Palestine on the Pacific’? Maxwell Ezra Greenberg, The New Jewish Pioneer: Capital, Land, and Continuity on the US-Mexico Border, PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 2021


Abstract: Ethnic Studies epistemologies have been central to the historicization and theorization of the US-Mexico border as an ordering regime that carries out structures of settler colonialism, racial capitalism, and white supremacy. While scholars of Jewish history have explored the connections between colonial borders, transnational economic structures, and Jewish merchants, little is known about the role of Jewish entrepreneurs in the process of modern US-Mexico border formation. This dissertation explores how state, corporate, and military imperatives of US imperialism between the American Southwest and Northern Mexico created the conditions for Jewish inclusion into a white settler class and a model of Jewish continuity beyond Europe since the mid-nineteenth century. To explore the imprint of US settler colonialism on Jewish settlement, inclusion, and continuity, Chapter one reviews how Jews have been historicized as exceptional subjects in the contexts of colonial Mexico and the modern American West. Subsequently, Chapter two utilizes archival sources to reinscribe the Jewish border entrepreneur into the history of capitalist and military expansion across the new US imperial frontier. Working across the economies of extraction, policing, and revolution, Jewish border entrepreneurs reflect how commercial middlemen were neither separate nor above the racial and colonial contexts in which they existed, but were rather active and benefiting participants. Next, Chapter three investigates a regional movement for Jewish agricultural colonization and immigrant re-settlement that originated in late-nineteenth-century California and imagined a semi-sovereign Jewish nation-state in Baja California, Mexico. The plan to establish a “Palestine on the Pacific” persisted through 1939 and suggests that ideologies of Jewish nation-building were informed by structures of US settler colonialism, including liberal articulations of peoplehood, citizenship, and territorial belonging. Finally, Chapter four employs place-based, autoethnography in a Jewish cemetery in the Sonoran Desert to understand Jewish interpolation into US settler society as an ongoing process that can be explored through the Jewish American non-profit industrial complex. To conclude, I discuss how writing Jews into a modern, critical history of the US-Mexico border region contributes to Jewish and Chicana/o Studies by expanding methodological approaches to the analysis of settler colonial and neoliberal economies, and racial ordering in North America.

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