Alex Salzberg, while colonialism may have a specific definition according to a dictionary, it’s most often used to describe any settler movement, regardless of its backing by a parent state(s). Take, for example, the Afrikaaners in South Africa. They weren’t supported by the British state, but nonetheless what came out of their presence in South Africa (in combination with British colonialism) was ultimately settlement and a colonial state. While I don’t like to make analogies to other situations, I’m pointing out that colonialism is frequently used outside the standard Oxford dictionary definition, and most often refers to a foreign people settling and usually displacing an indigenous population (although whether Afrikaaners are now considered indigenous is another thing).

My main point originally was that the Zionist movement was formed out of Western imperialism and colonialism in its means and who it was supported by (i.e., certain members of the British government such as Lord Balfour). While the British may have limited Jewish immigration during the Mandate period, when Israel was created this was no longer the case; thus, Jewish-only immigration was state-sponsored after a certain point. The British played an instrumental role in helping create the Israeli state, and although there were battles between them and the Zionists (especially after WWII), the point remains that Israel is a product of such things as the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Also to mix things up a little, you can also consider Israel a colonial state because of the West Bank settlements supported by it, where hundreds of thousands of Israeli Jews live. Nevertheless, I can also acknowledge that most Zionists place their emphasis upon national liberation from the Jewish diaspora, not colonialism. My point remains, however, to call this perspective into question if it is predicated on the destruction of another people or their removal from the land.

Concerning your next point, you’ve misread what I was saying. You quote me when I write, “It [Israel] was founded by Western Jews” and then somehow infer that that means Western European Jews only. No, I mean all Jews from Europe (and the U.S.), mainly of Ashkenazi descent. While there may be some argument about Eastern Europe’s relation to the “core states” of Western Europe (and there are certainly power differentials concerning that), the main point is that once the European came to this entity he/she/ze created, the “Orient,” it quickly became a matter of West/Rest. This is to also acknowledge that not all Israeli Jews are treated equal, and the power of say, U.S./European Jews versus that of say, Mizrachi Jews.

Your final point that the past can be disconnected from the present I accept, but not in the way you might imagine. The past is always contested, fair enough, and history is always produced from a situated perspective. Nevertheless, the current conflict is very much grounded in power differentials that have been produced in the past(s) and its hegemonic discourses. There should be no “blanket condemnation” of either side (or multiple sides, if you don’t like binaries), but we also have to be real about who is mainly fucking up the situation. The I“D”F can only claim a mistake so many times. If more than 80 Palestinians (mostly civilians) have been killed in Beit Hanoun these past two weeks alone, it really makes you question who gets to define what’s “collateral damage” [1]. Since June, 400 Palestinians (again, mostly civilians) have died in the Gaza conflict, in comparison to three Israelis killed, all soldiers and one by friendly fire [2]. A call to peace can only be based on the realization that while the violence of a side may be a symptom, there is an underlying disease, as a recent Wheels of Justice speaker Mazen Qumsiyeh eloquently pointed out. That disease is based upon the insane power of the Israeli government to be able to impose its occupation and segregation on an entire people. To call for equivalency of all sides is to ignore the hegemony of one side in its decision-making power, accordingly the larger amount of destruction it’s inflicted, and to thus quite frankly be dishonest.

I’m not going to be writing any more Wespeaks, about this issue at least. If you or anyone else would like to continue debating the various historical narratives or the present situation, come to the Palestine/Israel discussion this Wednesday at 200 Church at 10:30PM, or contact me at dgunawardena@wesleyan.edu.

[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6135912.stm, accessed 11/12/06

[2] Ibid.

Comments are closed

Twitter