Israel must end its occupation of Palestine to stop apartheid and human rights violations

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Palestinians riding on a cart are refected on a mirror in the shape of the map of Palestine in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 7, 2024 amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant Hamas group.
Palestinians riding on a cart are refected on a mirror in the shape of the map of Palestine in Rafah, on the southern Gaza Strip on February 7, 2024 amid ongoing battles between Israel and the militant Hamas group. ©MOHAMMED ABED/AFP via Getty Images

Israel must end its brutal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, which it has maintained since 1967, said Amnesty International, as public hearings begin at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to examine the legal consequences of Israel’s prolonged occupation.

The public hearings are taking place in the Hague from 19 to 26 February after the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in December 2022 to request an advisory opinion from the ICJ on the legality of Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and the consequences of Israel’s conduct for other states and the UN. More than 50 states, the African Union, the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation are scheduled to participate in the proceedings.

The world must recognize that ending Israel’s illegal occupation is a prerequisite to stopping the recurrent human rights violations in Israel and the OPT.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

“Israel’s occupation of Palestine is the longest and one of the most deadly military occupations in the world. For decades it has been characterised by widespread and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians. The occupation has also enabled and entrenched Israel’s system of apartheid imposed on Palestinians,” said Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

“Over the years, Israel’s military occupation has evolved into a perpetual occupation in flagrant violation of international law.

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“The current conflict raging in the occupied Gaza Strip, where the ICJ has ruled there is a real and imminent risk of genocide, has brought into sharp focus the catastrophic consequences of allowing Israel’s international crimes in the OPT to continue with impunity for so long. The world must recognize that ending Israel’s illegal occupation is a prerequisite to stopping the recurrent human rights violations in Israel and the OPT.”

‘Perpetual’ occupation

Under international humanitarian law, occupation of a territory during a conflict is meant to be temporary. The occupying power is required to administer the territory in the interest of the occupied population and to preserve as much as possible the situation that existed at the beginning of the occupation, including by respecting existing laws and refraining from introducing demographic changes and tampering with the territorial integrity of the occupied territory.

A Palestinian woman stands with others (not pictured) as they gather near an Israeli army checkpoint as they wait to reach their olives fields on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier (background) after they received an special Israeli permission to harvest their olive trees, on October 13, 2021 near Bait A’wa village on the outskirts of the West Bank city of Hebron. ©HAZEM BADER/AFP via Getty Images

Israel’s occupation has failed to align with these basic principles of international humanitarian law. The duration of Israel’s occupation – spanning more than half a century – coupled with the authorities’ illegal official annexation of occupied East Jerusalem and de facto annexation of large swathes of the West Bank through land confiscation and settlement expansion, provide clear evidence that Israel’s intention is for the occupation to be permanent and for the benefit of the occupying power and its own citizens.

The Gaza Strip remains occupied even after the withdrawal of Israeli forces and removal of settlers in 2005 as Israel has retained effective control over the territory and its population, including through its control of its borders, territorial waters, air space, and population registry. For 16 years, the occupation has been experienced in Gaza through Israel’s illegal blockade that has severely restricted movement of people and goods and has devastated Gaza’s economy, and through repeated episodes of hostilities that have killed and injured thousands of civilians and destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure and housing.

“All states must review their relations with Israel to ensure that they are not contributing to sustaining the occupation or the system of apartheid. As European foreign ministers gather in Brussels today, the need to make a clear and united call for an end to Israel’s occupation has never been more urgent,” said Agnès Callamard.

Life under occupation

Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are subjected to a myriad of human rights violations, maintained by an institutionalized regime of systematic domination and oppression. The discriminatory and repressive laws, ostensibly adopted as part of the occupation but effectively serving the objectives of the Israel’s system of apartheid, have fragmented and segregated Palestinians across the OPT, while unlawfully exploiting their resources, arbitrarily restricting their rights and freedoms and controlling almost every aspect of their lives.

Even before the latest hostilities, Palestinians in Gaza had been subjected to numerous Israeli military offensives – at least six between 2008 and 2023 – in addition to an enduring land, air, and sea blockade, which has helped maintain Israel’s effective control and occupation of Gaza. During those offensives, Amnesty International documented a recurrent pattern of unlawful attacks, amounting to war crimes and even crimes against humanity, while the enduring blockade constitutes collective punishment, also a war crime.

For 56 years Palestinians in the OPT have been living trapped and oppressed under Israel’s brutal occupation, subjected to systemic discrimination.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General

In the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, Palestinians routinely face excessive use of force, unlawful killings, arbitrary arrest, administrative detention, forced displacement, home demolitions, confiscation of land and natural resources, and denial of fundamental rights and freedoms. Israel’s multi-layered closure system, fortified by mass surveillance, physical barriers and legal restrictions, including an illegal wall/fence, hundreds of checkpoints and roadblocks, and an arbitrary permit regime, has curtailed Palestinians’ freedom of movement and perpetuated their disenfranchisement.

Among the most emblematic examples of Israel’s outright disregard for international law has been the establishment and incessant spread of Israeli settlements throughout the OPT and the illegal annexation of occupied East Jerusalem immediately after the 1967 war which was constitutionally enshrined in 1980. There are currently at least 300 illegal Israeli settlements and outposts in the West Bank, including in occupied East Jerusalem, with a population of over 700,000 Israeli settlers.

Palestinian residents of the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in occupied East Jerusalem were holding peaceful demonstrations against the imminent forcible eviction on four Palestinian families. Demonstrators were met with excessive and unnecessary force. 5-9 May, 2021. ©Private

“For 56 years Palestinians in the OPT have been living trapped and oppressed under Israel’s brutal occupation, subjected to systemic discrimination. Every aspect of their daily lives is disrupted and controlled by Israeli authorities, who place restrictions on their rights to move around, earn a living, pursue educational and professional aspirations, and enjoy a decent quality of life, as well as depriving them of access to their land and natural resources,” said Agnès Callamard.

“Israel has also continued its vicious land grab policies relentlessly expanding illegal settlements in violation of international law with devastating consequences for Palestinians’ human rights and security. Violent Israeli settlers have been attacking Palestinians for decades with virtually total impunity.”

A draconian system of control

Israel’s draconian system of control over the OPT includes a large network of military checkpoints, fences/ walls and military bases and patrols as well as a string of repressive military orders.

Israel’s control of the OPT’s borders, the population registry, the supply of water, electricity, telecommunication services, humanitarian and development assistance, and the imposition of its currency have had devastating effects on the economic and social developments of the Palestinian people in the OPT.

This control has reached unprecedented levels of cruelty in the Gaza Strip where Israel has maintained a 16-year illegal blockade which has been further tightened since 9 October 2023. The blockade, coupled with Israel’s recurrent military operations have plunged the Gaza Strip into one of the gravest humanitarian and human rights crisis of modern times.

“As the occupying power Israel has an obligation to ensure the protection and welfare of all those residing in the territory it controls. Instead, it has perpetrated gross and systematic human rights violations with impunity. Israel cites the need to maintain security as the reason for its cruel policies. But security can never justify apartheid, illegal annexation and settlements, or war crimes against the protected population. The only way to ensure security for Israelis and Palestinians is to uphold human rights for all,” said Agnès Callamard.

Palestinian emergency services and local citizens search for victims in buildings destroyed during Israeli air raids in the southern Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023 in Khan Yunis, Gaza. Gazans are evacuating to the south as advised by the Israeli government, ahead of an expected Israeli ground offensive. ©Photo by Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

Ending the occupation would mean restoring Palestinians’ rights by lifting the brutal blockade on Gaza, dismantling Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and reversing its illegal annexation. It would allow Palestinians to move freely in the areas where they live and allow families separated by different identification legal statuses – such as the Jerusalem residency and West Bank or Gaza Strip – to be reunited. It would alleviate mass suffering and end widescale human rights violations.

It would also contribute to tackling one of the root causes of the recurrent violence and war crimes against Israelis, thus helping to improve human rights protection and secure justice and reparation for victims on all sides.

Background

On 30 December 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/77/247, in which, it requested the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion on key questions regarding the legal consequences arising from its prolonged occupation, and settlement and annexation of the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, how the policies and practices of Israel affect the legal status of the occupation and what legal consequences arise for all states and the UN from this status.

The Court is expected to issue its advisory opinion later this year.

For six decades, Amnesty International has been documenting how Israeli forces have committed grave human rights violations in the OPT with impunity.  In 2022, the organization issued Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity, a report which highlights the entrenched role that Israel’s military and its occupation have had in perpetuating the system of apartheid. Many of the report’s findings and recommendations underline the urgent need for an end to Israel’s occupation to remove the environment that enables the commission of crimes against humanity and war crimes.

February 15, 2024
Dane County Board Resolutions

Update February 15, 2024
The substitute Resolution 314 (Miles) on Antisemitism and Resolution 321 on Islamophobia passed unanimously. Resolution 333 Calling for a Ceasefire in Gaza passed with Jeff Weigand voting no and Dave Ripp abstaining.

From Kierstin Huelsemann, Dane County Board of Supervisors District 27:

    February 9, 2024

    Hello. I am reaching out in hopes that you will support the following Resolutions which will be discussed this week by the Dane County Board’s Executive Committee and the board as a whole.

    • 2023 RES-314, CONDEMNING ANTISEMITISM IN THE DANE COUNTY COMMUNITY AND BEYOND
      (Support either the Huelsemann or Miles Sub)
    • 2023 RES-321, CONDEMNING ISLAMOPHOBIA IN THE DANE COUNTY COMMUNITY AND BEYOND
    • 2023 RES-333, CALLING FOR A CEASEFIRE IN GAZA

    Executive Committee Meeting
    Thursday, February 15, 2024 5:00 PM
    Attend in person at the City County Building, Room 354
    or Register by 4:30 pm to attend via zoom.

    County Board Meeting
    Thursday, February 15, 2024 7:00 PM
    Attend in person at the City County Building, Room 201
    or Register by 6:30 pm to attend via zoom.

    OR you can email the board with your comments and support.

Islamophobia Will Poison This Country

The U.S. media is once again presenting the vicious dehumanizing caricatures that make it easier to oppress and wage war on people.

Alex Skopic and Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs, 07 February 2024

This article was adapted from an item in the Current Affairs Biweekly News Briefing. Subscribe today!

One of the most disturbing things about our society—we’re not alone in this—is how easily our culture slips quickly into promoting violent bigotry. Usually what happens is this: a tiny number of people who are members of a particular demographic group carry out some outrageous act, and then the group as a whole is stigmatized and made to be feared even though nearly everyone in the group had nothing to do with the outrageous act whatsoever.

After the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, for instance, anti-Japanese bigotry exploded. The Democratic president, known for his compassionate social democratic politics, rounded up around 125,000 Japanese Americans, the vast majority of the population living on the U.S. mainland at the time, and put them into internment camps. The Japanese were treated as subhumans—even Dr. Seuss started drawing grotesque racist caricatures of them—and the U.S. military had no hesitation in vaporizing Japanese civilian populations. (“There are no civilians in Japan,” declared an Air Force intelligence officer, who deemed the entire population a “legitimate military target,” a view that is defended by some to this day.) As John Dower writes in War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War

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They were perceived as a race apart, even a species apart—and an overpoweringly monolithic one at that. There was no Japanese counterpart to the “good German” in the popular consciousness of the Western Allies…. The racist code words and imagery that accompanied the war in Asia were often exceedingly graphic and contemptuous. The Western Allies, for example, consistently emphasized the “subhuman” nature of the Japanese, routinely turning to images of apes and vermin to convey this. With more tempered disdain, they portrayed the Japanese as inherently inferior men and women who had to be understood in terms of primitivism, childishness, and collective mental and emotional deficiency. Cartoonists, songwriters, filmmakers, war correspondents, and the mass media in general all seized on these images…. An endless stream of evidence ranging from atrocities to suicidal tactics could be cited…. to substantiate the belief that the Japanese were a uniquely contemptible and formidable foe who deserved no mercy and virtually demanded extermination.  

Japanese nationalists dehumanized their own enemies in the same way, of course, perpetuating myths of Japanese racial superiority. These kinds of stories about the big scary Other are ubiquitous in times of war. George Orwell observed in 1937 that “Every war is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.” Given this fact, Orwell said that our “essential job is to get people to recognize war propaganda when they see it, especially when it is disguised as peace propaganda.” Looking back we can recognize it in the way Germans were portrayed during World War I—one infamous U.S. Army poster depicted Germany as an ape wielding a bloodstained club, with the caption “DESTROY THIS MAD BRUTE”—and in the treatment of Muslims after 9/11.

Khaled Beydoun, a scholar who studies Islamophobia around the world, spoke to Current Affairs last year about how the hatred and suspicion of Muslims spread along with the U.S. “war on terror.” He spoke, for instance, to a U.S. soldier who signed up to fight in Iraq because he believed he was going to fight a terrible enemy that had attacked the country. Instead, he found himself destroying a country whose people had never attacked the U.S. at all. Afterwards, he felt betrayed by his country, and Beydoun reflected on how effective propaganda can be:

“It’s really frightening how very good men, like the man I spoke to in the book, can be made into monsters with a scintilla of propaganda. When I sat across from this guy, he and I could be friends. We liked the same things. We live 10 miles away from one another. He was sort of an alpha male, and I say that in a benign way, where his objective was to just take care of his family and his community, and he had a love for his country. Those are beautiful things to be commended. But the way in which the media was disseminating this violent, vile information about Muslims—people like me, somebody who sat across him at the table—mobilized him to want to enlist in a war in a place that he had no knowledge of. He just knew that he wanted to defend his country and wanted vengeance, and that these Muslims, these Arabs, who were a world away, were the culprits of the 9/11 terror attacks…. [Afterward] he realized how the war had broken people like him, and how it told lies about people like me.”

By now, we have seen the same processes enough times to understand how they work, and we should be on our guard. We know that war drives people crazy. They see the body counts on their own side, and they want revenge, and empathy for the “other side” is in short supply. They see the enemy as monstrous and their own actions as purely defensive. They aren’t in the mood to make too many distinctions between civilians and soldiers on the other side.

Since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7 of last year, these familiar processes have consumed Israel completely. Even as Israel starves Gaza to death and blows thousands of children to pieces, the overwhelming majority of Jewish Israelis believe their government is either using the right amount of force or (!) not enough force. (The opinions of Arab Israelis are very different.) For these Israelis, the suffering of their own people is much more significant than the suffering of Palestinians.

That’s true in U.S. media, too. We know that Palestinian deaths are given a lot less weight than Israeli deaths in the American media, and even the liberal Washington Post ran (before deleting, under pressure) a nasty propaganda cartoon showing a swarthy Hamas terrorist strapping babies to his body. This past week, the major newspapers and TV networks hit a new low, with three especially egregious cases.

First was the Wall Street Journal, which ran an op-ed on February 2 calling Dearborn, Michigan, “America’s Jihad Capital.” Given the inflammatory title, you might think the author—one Steven Stalinsky—had uncovered evidence that some kind of political violence or “holy war,” as the word “jihad” is often interpreted in the West, was going on in Dearborn. But that’s not the case. Instead, Stalinsky spent 800 words clutching his pearls about the fact that—shockingly enough—some Muslims in Michigan don’t like Israel very much. The editorial is a masterpiece of dishonesty and Islamophobic fearmongering. It cherrypicks isolated expressions of anger, like when one imam said that Israel’s actions have filled his congregation with “fire in our hearts that will burn that state” and pretends they’re representative of the Michigan Muslim community as a whole, spinning them as evidence of “local enthusiasm for jihad.” It conflates simple political statements such as “America is a terrorist state”—which is straightforwardly true, if we apply the dictionary definition of “terrorism” consistently—with “open support for Hamas.” The Wall Street Journal has been on a roll lately, using the headline “Chicago Votes for Hamas” when that city called for a ceasefire in Gaza at the end of January. But Stalinsky’s rhetoric is irresponsible even by the Journal’s standards. The Detroit Free Press reports that, since the article was published, “swarms of online hate” have been directed toward Dearborn’s Muslim community, leading Mayor Abdullah Hammoud to ramp up security around mosques and other places of worship. (Not that more police will necessarily help, since U.S. law enforcement has a well-documented Islamophobia problem of its own.) All of this is a predictable consequence of publishing what amounts to a racist incitement, and any editor with even the slightest professional competence or ethics would have known better.

Meanwhile, a handful of whistleblowers at CNN have confirmed what was already fairly obvious: that the network has a systematic anti-Palestinian bias in its coverage. Summing up the testimonies of six anonymous staffers, The Guardian reports that CNN has “tight restrictions on quoting Hamas and reporting other Palestinian perspectives” at an institutional level, while “Israeli official statements are often quickly cleared and make it on air on the principle that they are to be trusted at face value, seemingly rubber-stamped for broadcast….” The principle of journalistic neutrality in reporting on a conflict, it seems, has been disregarded. In particular, CNN journalists say they’ve been instructed to include the words “Hamas-controlled” any time they cite statistics from the Gaza Ministry of Health, implicitly casting doubt on the legitimacy of civilian death tolls from the region, even though the Ministry’s figures have held up to scrutiny from numerous outside observers, including Israel itself. (Israel has sometimes even suggested that Israeli bombs have been flattening bakeries and apartment blocks without killing any innocent children at all.) They also report that memos have been circulated around the newsroom instructing them to always emphasize Hamas as the “cause of this current conflict,” ignoring the decades of Israeli occupation and violence in Palestine before October 7. At the same time, prominent anchors like Anderson Cooper have allowed current and former Israeli officials, like ex-Mossad leader Rami Igra, to say blatantly inflammatory things like “the non-combatant population in the Gaza Strip is really a nonexistent term” without pushback during interviews. At this point, unless dramatic changes are made, there’s little choice but to regard CNN’s Gaza coverage as ethically compromised and unreliable and to treat it accordingly.

Finally, in a column called “Understanding the Middle East Through the Animal Kingdom,” notorious New York Times writer and Iraq War booster Thomas Friedman has decided it’s a good idea to compare a variety of Muslim and Arab people to parasitic insects. The column is so breathtakingly racist, it seems like something out of a Victorian newspaper—but don’t take our word for it, read Friedman in his own words:

Iran is to geopolitics what a recently discovered species of parasitoid wasp is to nature. What does this parasitoid wasp do? According to Science Daily, the wasp “injects its eggs into live caterpillars, and the baby wasp larvae slowly eat the caterpillar from the inside out, bursting out once they have eaten their fill.” Is there a better description of Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq today? They are the caterpillars. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps is the wasp. The Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and Kataib Hezbollah are the eggs that hatch inside the host—Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Iraq—and eat it from the inside out. We have no counterstrategy that safely and efficiently kills the wasp without setting fire to the whole jungle.

What can you even say to something like this? It’s well-known that comparing your political enemies to rats and insects is a dehumanizing tactic, just as it was in the lead-up to Japanese internment. Certainly Friedman, who was educated at Brandeis and the University of Oxford, knows it—and yet here he is, spewing this rhetoric anyway. The late Edward Said had him dead to rights in 1989, when he described Friedman’s writing as a “threadbare repertoire of often racist clichés.” Nothing has changed. If anything, the New York Times has gotten worse, seemingly not bothering to edit the excretions of its tenured staff whatsoever. Just like in Dearborn, there are real-world consequences to promoting this kind of imagery in the paper of record. Friedman’s argument that “setting fire to the whole jungle” is the only way to kill the Iranian “wasp” is an argument for unrestrained war in the Middle East, and unfortunately many political leaders still read the New York Times. 

History shows that dehumanization takes hold easily, and its effects are deadly. At its worst, it is the road to concentration camps, gas chambers, and mass executions. We have to always be on guard against it, especially during times when war is causing a suspension of people’s usual critical faculties. It’s disgusting, but not surprising, to see even liberal papers printing, without a second thought, analysis that treats Iranians as insects. But one of the crucial lessons that history offers is that societies don’t notice themselves heading into this kind of moral abyss. Only the victims do. But their cries can’t be heard because they’re treated as menacing oppressors. Islamophobia, like all forms of bigotry, is poison to the soul of this country and portends terrible consequences for Muslims around the world. We have to fight against it—and remember that it won’t be the last time.

Simone Zimmerman and Israelism with Mehdi Hasan

Rent Israelism through Jan 1, 2024: https://bit.ly/rentisraelism

About the film
When two young American Jews raised to unconditionally love Israel witness the brutal way Israel treats Palestinians, their lives take sharp left turns. They join a movement of young American Jews battling the old guard to redefine Judaism’s relationship with Israel, revealing a deepening generational divide over modern Jewish identity.

December 8 – 11, 2023
Film Israelism Worldwide Rental

Israelism

Hosted by Tikkun Olam Productions
On-demand
Dec 8, 1:00 AM EST – Dec 11, 1:00 AM EST
$5 for a 24 hour rental
Get Tickets

Now available to rent WORLDWIDE for the first time, for a limited time, only through Sunday, December 10th. After the film, watch Q&As with our film’s directors and main subjects:

    Watch Q&A with Co-Directors Erin Axelman & Sam Eilertsen, along with Rabbi Miriam Grossman and Unsettled podcast producer Ilana Levinson: https://youtu.be/6RMEQYNBytM

    Watch Q&A with main film subject Simone Zimmerman, along with Judaism Unbound podcast host Rabbi Lex Rofeberg: https://youtu.be/owg8iRvjse8

Featured recently in the NYT, The Guardian, and The Forward.

About the film
When two young American Jews raised to unconditionally love Israel witness the brutal way Israel treats Palestinians, their lives take sharp left turns. They join a movement of young American Jews battling the old guard to redefine Judaism’s relationship with Israel, revealing a deepening generational divide over modern Jewish identity.

Press coverage of Israelism

Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 1h 24m
Released: 2023
Director: Erin Axelman, Sam Eilertsen
Producer: Daniel Chalfen, Nadia Saah
 

TAA Statement on Palestine: “A Call for Palestinian Liberation”

 
TAA Statement on Palestine: “A Call for Palestinian Liberation”

The following statement was written and approved by the general membership of the TAA on November 15th, 2023.

A Call for Palestinian liberation

WHEREAS The Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA; AFT [American Federation of Teachers] Local 3220) recognizes that the Zionist Israeli state is a reactionary tool of Western imperialism, funded for their own cynical aims. Israel can accurately be described as an apartheid state, as documented by many human rights experts and organizations, including UN officials, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International agree with this description.

WHEREAS Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack has been indiscriminate and disproportionate violence toward Palestinians. As of November 13, 2023, Israel has murdered over 11,000 Palestinians, nearly half being children. Upon his recent resignation, the Director of the New York Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Craig Mokhiber, stated that Israel’s actions are “a textbook case of genocide.”

WHEREAS Israel’s bombing campaign has been carried out without regard for the lives of hostages, further exposing the cynicism of justifications based on the October 7 attack. Similarly, American liberal and progressive politicians continue to cry crocodile tears for the victims of Hamas and remain silent on the victims of Netanyahu.

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WHEREAS Israel’s genocidal attacks are exacerbating the inhumane living conditions and mass unemployment in Gaza. The civilians of Palestine deserve fundamental human rights, including, but not limited to, security, freedom from foreign occupation, access to housing, clean water, healthcare, and employment. 

WHEREAS The October 9 press release from AFT National, titled, “US Education Leaders Condemn Hamas Attack, Stand with Israeli People,” and the resolution recently adopted by [American Federation of Teachers]–Wisconsin (AFT–W) inadequately condemn Israel’s colonialist regime and fail to acknowledge colonialism as the root cause of the current conflict. These statements fail to use the terms, “colonialism,” “apartheid,” “ethnic cleansing,” and “genocide” to characterize Israel and its actions, which is out of step with several human rights experts/organizations and undermines the severity of Israel’s oppression. Furthermore, these statements fail to call on the US government to halt the sale and funding of arms for Israeli forces. Unless we address the core of this conflict and end our support for the Israeli offensive, the US will remain complicit in the occupation and genocide in Palestine. Given the status quo of US support for Israel’s oppression of Palestine, the shortcomings of AFT’s statements make them pro-Israel and anti-Palestine by default. Therefore, be it;

RESOLVED The TAA considers Israeli and Western imperialism ultimately responsible for the recent violence.

RESOLVED The TAA condemns Israel’s settler colonialism, apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing, and genocide in Palestine. We condemn Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of Gaza, which has been a death sentence for thousands of innocent Palestinian civilians and has displaced over a million more. This collective lethal punishment breaks international law and constitutes war crimes.

RESOLVED We call for the collective liberation of the Palestinian people from Israeli oppression. 

RESOLVED We stand in solidarity with the following people:

  1. The people of Palestine, who have suffered at the hands of US, British, and Israeli imperialism for over 100 years;
  2. Palestinian trade unions who have called on the international working class to take action in the face of Israel’s assault on Gaza and the mass killing of the Palestinian people;
  3. Israeli workers and unions who break with their ruling class to stand unconditionally on the side of the oppressed;
  4. The many Jewish workers around the world who condemn Zionism and stand steadfast with Palestinians;
  5. Victims of oppression on the basis of religion or ethnicity around the world including victims of rising islamophobia and antisemitism.

RESOLVED We demand the US government and the Biden administration use all available diplomatic means to end the genocide of Palestinians, including but not limited to ending all funding and arms sales to the Israeli government. We must immediately end our moral and material support for Israel’s human rights abuses and war crimes.

RESOLVED We condemn the US veto of a ceasefire resolution brought forward by Brazil to the UN Security Council to allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. We are appalled that the US was the only country to veto the resolution. Although a ceasefire doesn’t go nearly far enough, this is the bare minimum that we expect from the UN.

RESOLVED We call on workers in the US to organize to halt any production and shipment of weapons to Israel. Organized action and the building of mass movements by the international working class will be necessary to end the occupation. We should take inspiration from the two Intifadas, as well as the American workers who have already physically obstructed the shipment of arms to Israel from ports in the Northwest.

RESOLVED We demand that the University of Wisconsin system direct the State of Wisconsin Investment Board (SWIB) to divest the ~$512 million (as of 2021) that the UW system has invested in BlackRock, the massive US-based asset manager that owns large portions of weapon manufacturers and military contractors such as Boeing ($5.42 billion), Lockheed Martin ($5.13 billion), Northrop Grumman ($3.06 billion), and General Dynamics ($2.47 billion). These US companies manufacture the weapons, jets, and surveillance systems that the Israeli government uses to kill Palestinians.

RESOLVED We demand that AFT retract its endorsement of genocide enabler Joe Biden for US president in 2024 given his administration’s complicity in war crimes. He is a particularly ruthless cheerleader of Israeli war crimes, even among the American ruling class. The same should be done for all endorsements of anti-Palestine politicians.

RESOLVED The TAA action commits to the following actions:

  1. Mobilize our membership to participate in rallies, protests, and marches in support of Palestine, including but not limited to: hosting events, amplifying Palestinian voices (including by supporting SJP events and by supporting the demands of the BDS movement in a reiteration of the TAA’s existing position), and to contact representatives in support of a ceasefire in Gaza and for collective liberation for the Palestinian people.
  2. Continue to recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that the American working class will never be free while Palestine is in chains;
  3. Refuse to support politicians and parties that oppose Palestinian liberation;
  4. Call on the labor movement as a whole to mobilize its resources to fight American imperialism on all fronts.
  5. Protect and support all workers and organizations (such as Students for Justice in Palestine and Madison for Palestine) who face retaliation due to their support for Palestinian liberation.

Sources:

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/11/10/israel-revises-death-toll-from-october-7-hamas-attack-to-1200-people

https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution

https://www.ohchr.org/en/press-releases/2023/10/un-expert-warns-new-instance-mass-ethnic-cleansing-palestinians-calls

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/liveblog/2023/11/13/israel-hamas-war-live-gazas-two-largest-hospitals-shut-amid-nonstop-raids#:~:text=More%20than%2011%2C200%20Palestinians%20have,stands%20at%20more%20than%201%2C200.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/oct/31/un-official-resigns-israel-hamas-war-palestine-new-york

https://www.aft.org/press-release/us-education-leaders-condemn-hamas-attack-stand-israeli-people

https://progressive.international/wire/2023-10-16-an-urgent-call-from-palestinian-trade-unions-end-all-complicity-stop-arming-israel/en

https://www.wisconsin.edu/trust-funds/download/UW-System-Trust-Funds-Fact-Sheet-As-Of-December-31,-2021.pdf

https://money.cnn.com/quote/shareholders/shareholders.html?symb=BA&subView=institutional

https://money.cnn.com/quote/shareholders/shareholders.html?symb=GD&subView=institutional

https://money.cnn.com/quote/shareholders/shareholders.html?symb=LMT&subView=institutional

https://www.seattletimes.com/business/boeing-sped-delivery-of-1000-bombs-to-israel/

https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-il/who-we-are.html

https://www.berkshireeagle.com/news/local/pittsfield-general-dynamics-israel-hamas-palestinians-war-berkshire-communists-activists/article_ec204d1c-6ee4-11ee-8e1e-cb6121da994b.html

https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/israel-officially-asks-us-to-send-over-25-more-f-35-fighter-jets/#:~:text=The%20additional%2025%20aircraft%2C%20to,US%20military%20aid%20to%20Israel

https://money.cnn.com/quote/shareholders/shareholders.html?symb=NOC&subView=institutional

https://www.thedrum.com/news/2023/11/10/activists-boycott-pro-israel-brands-what-should-marketers-do-next

December 4, 2023
Dreams and Displacement in Afghanistan

Information and Registration
4 -5 pm

Join investigative reporter and Pulitzer Center grantee May Jeong for a discussion of her experiences reporting from Afghanistan.

In preparation for this talk, attendees are encouraged to watch Afghan Dreamers, a documentary about an all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan and their fate as the Taliban came to power. The film is teen friendly and can be used in the classroom. You can view the trailer here . The film is currently streaming on Paramount+

Sponsored by IRIS NRC, Cosponsored by the Middle East Studies Program

Debunking The Myth That Anti-Zionism Is Anti-Semitic

This article was first published in 2019

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons WhyPhoto: Gili Getz

 
Peter BeinartPeter Beinart, The Forward, February 27, 2019

It’s a bewildering and alarming time to be a Jew, both because anti-Semitism is rising and because so many politicians are responding to it not by protecting Jews but by victimizing Palestinians.

On February 16, members of France’s Yellow Vest protest movement hurled anti-Semitic insults at the distinguished French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut. On February 19, swastikas were found on 80 gravestones in Alsace. Two days later, French President Emmanuel Macron, after announcing that Europe was “facing a resurgence of anti-Semitism unseen since World War II,” unveiled new measures to fight it.

Among them was a new official definition of anti-Semitism. That definition, produced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, includes among its “contemporary examples” of anti-Semitism “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.” In other words, anti-Zionism is Jew hatred.

In so doing, Macron joined Germany, Britain, The United States and roughly thirty other governments. And like them, he made a tragic mistake.

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Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

People take part in a rally against anti-Semitism on the Republic Square on February 19, 2019 in Paris, France. Image by Getty Images

Anti-Zionism is not inherently anti-Semitic — and claiming it is uses Jewish suffering to erase the Palestinian experience.

Yes, anti-Semitism is growing. Yes, world leaders must fight it fiercely. But in the words of a great Zionist thinker, “This is not the way.”

The argument that anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic rests on three pillars. The first is that opposing Zionism is anti-Semitic because it denies to Jews what every other people enjoys: a state of its own. “The idea that all other peoples can seek and defend their right to self-determination but Jews cannot,” declared Chuck Schumer in 2017, “is anti-Semitism.”

As David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee, put it last year, “To deny the Jewish people, of all the peoples on earth, the right to self-determination surely is discriminatory.”

All the peoples on earth? The Kurds don’t have their own state. Neither do the Basques, Catalans, Scots, Kashmiris, Tibetans, Abkhazians, Ossetians, Lombards, Igbo, Oromo, Uyghurs, Tamils, Quebecois nor dozens of other peoples who have created nationalist movements to seek self-determination but failed to achieve it.

Yet barely anyone suggests that opposing a Kurdish or Catalan state makes you an anti-Kurdish or anti-Catalan bigot. It’s widely recognized that states based on ethnic nationalism — states created to represent and protect one particular ethnic group — are not the only legitimate way to ensure public order and individual freedom. Sometimes it’s better to foster civic nationalism, a nationalism built around borders rather than heritage: to make Spanish identity more inclusive of Catalans or Iraqi identity more inclusive of Kurds, rather than carving those multi-ethnic states up.



You’d think Jewish leaders would understand this. You’d think they would understand it because many of the same Jewish leaders who call national self-determination a universal right are quite comfortable denying it to Palestinians.

Argument number two is a variation on this theme. Maybe it’s not bigoted to oppose a people’s quest for statehood. But it’s bigoted to take away that statehood once achieved. “It is one thing to argue, in the moot court of historical what-ifs, that Israel should not have come into being,” argued New York Times columnist Bret Stephens earlier this month. However, “Israel is now the home of nearly nine million citizens, with an identity that is as distinctively and proudly Israeli as the Dutch are Dutch or the Danes Danish. Anti-Zionism proposes nothing less than the elimination of that identity and the political dispossession of those who cherish it.”

But it’s not bigoted to try to turn a state based on ethnic nationalism — a state designed to protect and represent one ethnic group — into a state based on civic nationalism, in which no ethnic group enjoys special privileges.

In the nineteenth century, Afrikaners created several countries — among them the Transvaal and the Orange Free State — designed to fulfill their quest for national self-determination. Then, in 1909, those two Afrikaner states merged with two states dominated by English-speaking whites to become the Union of South Africa (later the Republic of South Africa), which offered a kind of national self-determination to white South Africans.

The problem, of course, was that the versions of self-determination upheld by the Transvaal, the Orange Free State and apartheid South Africa excluded millions of blacks living within their borders.

This changed in 1994. By ending apartheid, South Africa replaced an Afrikaner ethnic nationalism and a white racial nationalism with a civic nationalism that encompassed people of all ethnicities and races. It inaugurated a constitution that guaranteed “the right of the South African people as a whole to self-determination.”

That wasn’t bigotry, but it’s opposite.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

A BDS protest of the Israeli Philharmonic outside Carnegie Hall today in NYC. Image by Photo: Gili Getz

I don’t consider Israel an apartheid state. But its ethnic nationalism excludes many of the people under its control. Stephens notes that Israel contains almost nine million citizens. What he doesn’t mention is that Israel also contains close to five million non-citizens: Palestinians who live under Israeli control in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (yes, Israel still controls Gaza) without basic rights in the state that dominates their lives.

One reason Israel doesn’t give these Palestinians citizenship is because, as a Jewish state designed to protect and represent Jews, it wants to retain a Jewish majority, and giving five million Palestinians the vote would imperil that.



Even among Israel’s nine million citizens, roughly two million — the so-called “Arab Israelis” — are Palestinian. Stephens says overturning Zionism would mean the “political dispossession” of Israelis. But, according to polls, most of Israel’s Palestinian citizens see it the opposite way. For them, Zionism represents a form of political dispossession. Because they live in a state that privileges Jews, they must endure an immigration policy that allows any Jew in the world to gain instant Israeli citizenship yet makes Palestinian immigration to Israel virtually impossible.

They live in a state whose national anthem speaks of the “Jewish soul,” whose flag features a Star of David and which, by tradition, excludes Israel’s Palestinian parties from its governing coalitions. A commission created in 2003 by the Israeli government itself described Israel’s “handling of the Arab sector” as “discriminatory.”

So long as Israel remains a Jewish state, no Palestinian citizen can credibly tell her son or daughter that they can become prime minister of the country in which they live.

In these ways, Israel’s form of ethnic nationalism—Zionism—denies equality to the non-Jews who live under Israeli control.



My preferred solution would be for the West Bank and Gaza Strip to become a Palestinian state, thus giving Palestinians in those territories citizenship in an ethnically nationalist (though hopefully democratic) country of their own.

I’d also try to make Israel’s ethnic nationalism more inclusive by, among other things, adding a stanza to Israel’s national anthem that acknowledges the aspirations of its Palestinian citizens.

But, in a post-Holocaust world where anti-Semitism remains frighteningly prevalent, I want Israel to remain a state with a special obligation to protect Jews.

To seek to replace Israel’s ethnic nationalism with civic nationalism, however, is not inherently bigoted. Last year, three Palestinian Members of the Knesset introduced a bill to turn Israel from a Jewish state into a “state for all its citizens.” As one of those Knesset members, Jamal Zahalka, explained, “We do not deny Israel or its right to exist as a home for Jews. We are simply saying that we want to base the existence of the state not on the preference of Jews, but on the basics of equality… The state should exist in the framework of equality, and not in the framework of preference and superiority.”

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Israeli Arab lawmakers were ejected from parliament as they stood to protest a speech by Vice President Mike Pence. Image by Getty Images

One might object that it’s hypocritical for Palestinians to try to repeal Jewish statehood inside Israel’s original boundaries while promoting Palestinian statehood in the West Bank and Gaza. One might also ask whether Zahalka’s vision of Jewish and Palestinian equality in a post-Zionist state is naïve given that powerful Palestinian movements like Hamas want not equality but Islamic domination.

These are reasonable criticisms. But are Zahalka and his colleagues — who face structural discrimination in a Jewish state — anti-Semites because they want to replace Zionism with a civic nationalism that promises equality to people of all ethnic and religious groups?

Of course not.

There is, finally, a third argument for why anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism. It’s that, as a practical matter, the two animosities simply go together.

“Of course it’s theoretically possible to distinguish anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism, just as it’s theoretically possible to distinguish segregationism from racism,” writes Stephens. In reality, however, just as virtually all segregationists are also racists, virtually all anti-Zionists are also anti-Semites. You rarely find one without the other.

But that claim is empirically false. In the real world, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism don’t always go together. It’s easy to find anti-Semitism among people who, far from opposing Zionism, enthusiastically embrace it.

Before Israel’s creation, some of the world leaders who most ardently promoted Jewish statehood did so because they did not want Jews in their own countries. Before declaring, as Foreign Secretary in 1917, that Britain “view[s] with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” Arthur Balfour had supported the 1905 Aliens Act, which restricted Jewish immigration to the United Kingdom.

And two years after his famous declaration, Balfour explained that Zionism would “mitigate the age-long miseries created for Western civilization by the presence in its midst of a Body [the Jews] which it too long regarded as alien and even hostile, but which it was equally unable to expel or to absorb.”

In the 1930s, the Polish government adopted a similar tack. It’s ruling party, which excluded Jews, trained Zionist fighters from Betar and the Irgun on Polish military bases. Why? Because it wanted Polish Jews to emigrate. And a Jewish state would give them somewhere to go.

You find echoes of this anti-Semitic Zionism among some right-wing American Christians who are far friendlier to the Jews of Israel than the Jews of the United States.

In 1980, Jerry Falwell, a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, quipped that Jews “can make more money accidentally than you can on purpose.”

Benjamin Netanyahu in 2005 said, “we have no greater friend in the whole world than Pat Robertson” — the same Pat Robertson who later called former US Air Force Judge Mikey Weinstein a “little Jewish radical” for promoting religious freedom in the American military.

After being criticized by the Anti-Defamation League in 2010 for calling George Soros a “puppet master” who “wants to bring America to her knees” and “reap obscene profits off us,” Glenn Beck travelled to Jerusalem to hold a pro-Israel rally.

More recently, Donald Trump — who told the Republican Jewish Coalition in 2015 that “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money” — invited Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who has said Jews are going to hell for not accepting Jesus, to lead a prayer at the ceremony inaugurating the American embassy in Jerusalem.

In 2017, Richard Spencer, who leads crowds in Nazi salutes, called himself a “white Zionist,” who sees Israel as a model for the white homeland he wants in the United States.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Richard Spencer, a white nationalist, calls himself a Zionist. Image by Getty Images

Some of the European leaders who traffic most blatantly in anti-Semitism—Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Heinz-Christian Strache of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party and Beatrix von Storch of the Alternative for Germany, which promotes nostalgia for the Third Reich—publicly champion Zionism too.

If anti-Semitism exists without anti-Zionism, anti-Zionism also clearly exists without anti-Semitism.

Consider the Satmar, the largest Hasidic sect in the world. In 2017, twenty thousand Satmar men — a larger crowd than attended that year’s AIPAC Policy Conference — filled Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for a rally aimed at showing, in the words of one organizer, that “We feel very strongly that there should not be and could not be a State of Israel before the Messiah comes.”

Last year, Satmar Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum told thousands of followers that, “We’ll continue to fight God’s war against Zionism and all its aspects.”

Say what you want about Rebbe Teitelbaum and the Satmar, but they’re not anti-Semites.

Neither is Avrum Burg. Burg, the former speaker of the Knesset, in 2018 declared that settlement growth in the West Bank had rendered the two state solution impossible. Thus, he argued, Israelis must “depart from the Zionist paradigm, and move into a more inclusive paradigm. Israel must belong to all of its residents, including Arabs, not to the Jews alone.”

Other Jewish Israeli progressives, including former deputy Jerusalem mayor Meron Benvenisti, Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy and the activists of the Federation Movement, have followed a similar path.

Can one question their proposals? Of course. Are they anti-Semites? Of course not.

To be sure, some anti-Zionists really are anti-Semites: David Duke, Louis Farrakhan and the authors of the 1988 Hamas Covenant certainly qualify. So do the thugs from France’s Yellow Vest movement who called Finkielkraut a “dirty Zionist shit.”

In some precincts, there’s a growing and reprehensible tendency to use the fact that many Jews are Zionists (or simply assumed to be Zionists) to bar them from progressive spaces. People who care about the moral health of the American left will be fighting this prejudice for years to come.

Anti-Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitism: A Definitive List Of Reasons Why

Pro-Israeli protesters with an Israeli flag confront Ultra-Orthodox Jewish anti-Zionism protesters who joined a pro-Palestinian demonstration. Image by Getty Images

But while anti-Zionist anti-Semitism is likely on the rise, so is Zionist anti-Semitism. And, in the United States, at least, it’s not clear that anti-Zionists are any more likely to harbor anti-Semitic attitudes than people who support the Jewish state.

In 2016, the ADL gauged anti-Semitism by asking Americans whether they agreed with statements like “Jews have too much power” and “Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind.” It found that anti-Semitism was highest among the elderly and poorly educated: “The most well educated Americans are remarkably free of prejudicial views, while less educated Americans are more likely to hold anti-Semitic views. Age is also a strong predictor of anti-Semitic propensities. Younger Americans — under 39 — are also remarkably free of prejudicial views.”

In 2018, however, when the Pew Research Center surveyed Americans’ attitudes about Israel, it discovered the reverse pattern: Americans over the age of 65 — the very cohort that expressed the most anti-Semitism — also expressed the most sympathy for Israel. By contrast, Americans under 30, who according to the ADL harbored the least anti-Semitism, were least sympathetic to Israel.

It was the same with education. Americans who possessed a high school degree or less — the most anti-Semitic educational cohort — was the most pro-Israel. Americans with “postgraduate degrees” — the least anti-Semitic — were the least pro-Israel.

As statistical evidence goes, this is hardly airtight. But it confirms what anyone who listens to progressive and conservative political commentary can grasp: That younger progressives are highly universalistic. They’re suspicious of any form of nationalism that seems exclusive. That universalism makes them suspicious of both Zionism and the white Christian nationalism that in the United States sometimes shades into anti-Semitism.

By contrast, some older Trump supporters, who fear a homogenizing globalism, admire Israel for preserving Jewish identity while yearning to preserve America’s Christian identity in ways that exclude Jews.

If anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are both conceptually different and, in practice, often espoused by different people, why are politicians like Macron responding to rising anti-Semitism by calling anti-Zionism a form of bigotry?

Because, in many countries, that’s what communal Jewish leaders want them to do.

It’s an understandable impulse: Let the people threatened by anti-Semitism define anti-Semitism.

The problem is that, in many countries, Jewish leaders serve both as defenders of local Jewish interests and defenders of the Israeli government. And the Israeli government wants to define anti-Zionism as bigotry because doing so helps Israel kill the two state solution with impunity.

For years, Barack Obama and John Kerry warned that if Israel continued the settlement growth in the West Bank that made a Palestinian state impossible, Palestinians would stop demanding a Palestinian state alongside Israel and instead demand one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, neither Jewish nor Palestinian, that replaces Israel.

Defining anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism reduces that threat. It means that if Palestinians and their supporters respond to the demise of the two state solution by demanding one equal state, some of the world’s most powerful governments will declare them bigots.

Which leaves Israel free to entrench its own version of one state, which denies millions of Palestinians basic rights.



Silencing Palestinians isn’t a particularly effective way to fight rising anti-Semitism, much of which comes from people who like neither Palestinians nor Jews.

But, just as importantly, it undermines the moral basis of that fight.

Anti-Semitism isn’t wrong because it’s wrong to denigrate and dehumanize Jews. Anti-Semitism is wrong because it’s wrong to denigrate and dehumanize anyone. Which means, ultimately, that any effort to fight anti-Semitism that contributes to the denigration and dehumanization of Palestinians is no fight against anti-Semitism at all.


Peter Beinart is a Senior Columnist at The Forward and Professor of Journalism and Political Science at the City University of New York. He is also a Contributor to The Atlantic and a CNN Political Commentator.

Foregrounding the political and decolonization after October 7

October 7 reminds us that resistance to settler colonialism is ever-present. The only way forward is decolonization, and that requires a political solution.

 
 

The present crisis did not begin on October 7, as Israel (and Biden) would have it. Focusing on immediate events, particularly the gruesome and indefensible killing of Israeli civilians, feeds right into Israeli hasbara. Not that the attack should not be at the center of attention in its own right, but taking it as the cause of Israel’s retaliation — indeed, proof that Israel is an innocent victim of Palestinian terrorism and must be allowed to “defend itself” — effectively conceals the wider political context which defines what is happening from the micro to macro: Zionist/Israeli settler colonialism. Indeed, it shuts down all political discussion. 

That is precisely why we need to view events such as October 7 through an informed and critical political lens. Only by understanding them as part of the Palestinians’ century-long struggle for liberation from Zionist/Israeli colonization can we explain why many Palestinians felt a sense of pride at the Hamas breakout from Gaza and continue to support the operation despite its tragic aftermath.

What is the lens through which the October 7 events and the disproportionate Israeli retaliation must be viewed?

It is the lens of Zionist/Israeli settler colonialism.

Now, the term “settler colonialism” has become very fashionable when talking about Zionism and criticizing Israel’s consolidation of its apartheid regime throughout historic Palestine, but is used mainly as an accusation, a way to delegitimize Israel and its expansionism — not as an analysis that leads to a political program. Only by understanding its logic and intentions can we interpret events big and small, from why the two-state solution never was to why Israel’s assault on the Palestinians of Gaza is so ferocious and, beyond exacting vengeance from Hamas, what political designs lie behind it. 

Continue:

Settler colonialism is a deliberate, structured, and prolonged process in which one people not only takes over the country of another — violently, by necessity — but seeks to transform it from what it was at the time of invasion into an entirely new entity, a new country reflecting the settlers’ presence, entirely erasing the natives’ presence and history.

It is not a “conflict.” There are no “sides,” no symmetry of “violence.” The settler project is a unilateral one that must deny the indigenous population’s existence as a people endowed with rights to their land and identities if it is to claim the country exclusively for itself. Following from that is the need to move the indigenous off their land, killing them, driving them out of the country, or confining them to tiny enclaves, so as to settle the land with the settler population itself.

Then comes the process of erasure: erasing the physical and cultural presence of the indigenous from the landscape and replacing it with the settlers’ own manufactured history, heritage, national narrative, and national identity. After a prolonged process of violent displacement and the pacification of those amongst the indigenous who remain, the settler project concludes quietly.

Now, the world is presented as a normal, peace-loving, democratic country remade in the settler’s image. The settler colony fosters a popular perception that it is the “real” country. (Try buying a plane ticket to Palestine.) The process of normalization is complete; any further resistance on the part of the native population is criminalized as “terrorism” and, as such, is effectively de-politicized and delegitimized. 

Such was the history of settler colonialism in the United States and Canada, in Australia and New Zealand, in apartheid South Africa, and in Russified areas of the Ukraine and Tibet, among many other places. And so it is in Israel, now entering into the final stage of the Zionist national-colonial project that began some 130 years ago — that of normalizing its settler state over the entirety of historic Palestine from the River to the Sea.

This is not to deny genuine Jewish ties, historic, and religious, to Palestine/the Land of Israel, or the national character of Zionism. The problem is not Jewish aspirations to nurture a national life in that country. What delegitimizes Zionism is that it chose violent conquest, displacement of the local population, and an exclusivist settler colonialism over acknowledging the presence of a local population and accommodating its national project to their prior rights. And if that could not be done — and it was never even considered by the Zionist movement — then the Jews had to accept their status in Palestine as one of the national, ethnic, and religious communities comprising that society, as Jews had long done peacefully under the Ottoman Empire.   

Ever-present resistance

The indigenous, of course, can never reconcile with the loss of their lands, their patrimony, their culture and heritage, their identities, and their very communal, if not national, rights. Resistance is ever-present, whether armed (and colonized peoples possess the right to armed struggle in international law), political, or symbolic. This, then, is the lens through which the October 7 events must be viewed. One need not accept Hamas’s Islamic agenda or its illegal, indiscriminate attacks on Israeli civilian populations to see it nevertheless as a resistance group.

And, indeed, their October 7 action represented agency, perhaps in the only form still available to the Palestinians. All other “acceptable” options had been foreclosed to them. Negotiations failed (Oslo collapsed under the weight of Israeli settlement after seven years of open-ended “talks” with no declared political aim; there have been no diplomatic initiatives since 2014). Appeals to international law have fallen on deaf ears (the U.S. refuses to support the implementation of the Fourth Geneva Convention since Israel’s blatant violation of virtually every article would cause the collapse of its occupation under the weight of its illegality. Even non-violent resistance, as in the First Intifada, was met with excessive military repression. Only armed resistance, delegitimized by Israel and its G-7 allies as “terrorism,” appears to many Palestinians as the only way, if not to defeat Israel, then to prevent it from completing its colonial project. 

By the dint of their own refusal to be erased, the Palestinians have begun to reverse attempts by Israel and its powerful to eliminate them from history and their own homeland. If the Hamas operation proved disastrous to the people of Gaza, and arguably to the cause of the Palestinians in the Court of Public Opinion, it did achieve (again, cold political analysis) a strategic political goal: after years of Israeli and American attempts to marginalize the Palestinians, to by-pass them completely through a normalization process with the Arab and Muslim world that would seal their fate and signal the triumph of the Zionist settler project, it was Hamas that returned the Palestinians to the political game. No more can they be ignored. That represents the transformational change that the Hamas attack released, intentionally or not.

Foregrounding the political

The political lens of settler colonialism plays yet another, far more important role when evaluating the present stalemate. It sets out what and what is not a (substantially) just and workable resolution. While that discussion may seem fanciful at this particular moment, the Hamas operation and the political and military forces it has set in motion have created an opening. Even the most transactional Western and Arab states see the need for a settlement. The Palestinians have been shaken out of their despair and given a new sense of agency, and world public opinion, while taken back by the brutality of the Hamas killings, has gained a much better sense of the suffering of the Palestinians and Israel’s role as occupier and oppressor. The impending ground invasion is, tragically, to strengthen support for the Palestinians’ plight.  

What becomes obvious through the lens of settler colonialism is how misguided and futile are attempts to resolve a colonial situation through means of conflict resolution and negotiations.

A wholly different approach is required — that of decolonization.

The colonial structures of domination and control must be thoroughly dismantled. Only then may a new body politic emerge in which the indigenous regain their place in their country. An anti-colonial struggle can engender only one post-colonial reality: liberation, the restoration of the national rights of the colonized, and, in the case of the Palestinians, the return of the refugees. Settler colonialism is different from classical colonization. On independence, the colonists left India, Nigeria, and Malaya. A settler state can be decolonized, but if the settlers have become strong enough to establish a state, and if they enjoy the backing of other powerful countries — as do Israeli Jews — they are too strong to drive out. There are few, if any, cases in which settlers have ever been forcibly removed (in Algeria, the Pieds-Noirs fled back to France, although some Jews re-settled in Gaza, but the FLN did not drive them out and did not even demand their expulsion). 

Palestinians will have to struggle with how to reconcile their aspirations for liberation in a Palestinian state with the post-colonial reality of a bi-national society. Israeli Jews will remain a large and powerful segment of the population and continue to identify themselves as a national group. This is not the place to get into a discussion of the One Democratic State Campaign’s political program, to which I subscribe. But only the establishment of a common civil state of equal citizens that will enable national expression of the two groups yet possesses the authority to constrain their hegemonic impulses will be able to cope with the complex post-colonial process of constructing a new, shared state and civil society.  

Only by foregrounding the political, even in times when immediate events grab all our attention and emotions, are we able to understand what is occurring. We must not allow ourselves to be diverted by the outrages that are part of any anti-colonial struggle. Foregrounding the political enables us, even at times like these, to differentiate between acts of genuine resistance and terror, and particularly between acts of resistance — including the lashing out of the oppressed, which can be understood if not excused — and massively more violent and destructive acts of pacification by the oppressing power’s military apparatus intended to maintain, in our case, the Israeli settler state. 

As I write this, Biden has left Israel, having given the Israelis the green light to invade Gaza. As a settler colonial president, he follows in the footsteps of those presidents, from Washington to Harding, who waged the Indian Wars. The ground invasion of Gaza is imminent. Foregrounding a political settlement has become that much harder, yet so much more urgent.


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