Israel is not a Colonial State
October 19, 2023
It doesn't take long to read or listen to anti-Israel advocacy before the word "colonial" or "colonialism" is hurled at the Jewish state.
After the spasm of Hamas murder, rape, and kidnapping over the weekend, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network exclaimed, "Our people are waging an anti-colonial, anti-occupation, and anti-Zionist liberation struggle!"
According to an anti-Israel statement signed by dozens of student groups at Harvard, Israel is undertaking "colonial retaliation."
An academic cottage industry is devoted to deeming Israel a decades-long exercise in "settler colonialism," and Hamas itself is partial to the term.
The use of the word "colonial" in all its forms isn't meant to accurately describe realty or clarify anything; rather it is a term of abuse wielded to delegitimize Israel and justify every means of resisting its very existence.
The "colonial" smear can't survive contact with the slightest critical scrutiny.
First of all, the original Jewish settlers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries weren't sent by any mother country to set up enclaves for the honor and profit of the homeland. To the contrary, they were escaping countries that, in many cases, didn't want them. It would have been perverse for Jews to have sought, say, to establish an outpost of Russia in the Levant, given the atrocities routinely carried out against them on Russian soil.
They thought of their venture as a return to a place that Jews had inhabited for thousands of years.
Indeed, the colonialism charge raises the question of how an indigenous people can be colonizers?
The Jewish people have had a connection to Israel since Abraham. The people became fundamentally identified with the land; indeed, they were synonymous. The land was a locus of the Jewish faith -- the site of its holy city, Jerusalem; the place where many religious commandments, the mitzvot, were supposed to be performed; the object of yearning after the dispossession of Ancient Israel ("Next year in Jerusalem").
There is a reason that Zionists had no interest in settling in Uganda, as was proposed in the early 20th century.
On top of this, Israel has been willing at key junctures, notably right at the beginning in 1948, to accept a two-state solution.
The Palestinians must be counted among the worst nationalists the world has ever known: They have repeatedly rejected opportunities to obtain a nation-state because they hate Israel's legitimate national aspirations more than they love their own.
In one sense, Israel's ultimate offense is to have won defensive wars fought against antagonists seeking to wipe it from the map.
As for Gaza, Israel ended its occupation nearly 20 years ago. It wanted to wash its hands of the place as much as possible, an understandable impulse but one that has proved unsustainable. Hamas won legislative elections in 2006 and then expelled the rival Palestinian group Fatah in a factional war. In total control, Hamas proceeded to make Gaza a base for conducting armed operations against Israel.
Israel's failing here wasn't so much heavy-handedness -- although it took measures to protect itself from the threat in Gaza, as did Egypt -- but the naive belief it could reach a de facto accommodation with a Hamas that would misrule Gaza for its own ends while not becoming too dire a threat to Israel. Its mass terror attack on Israel ends that delusion.
If nothing else, the accusation of colonialism is very telling. There is one country in the roll call of nations that doesn't deserve to exist. One people that doesn't deserve a homeland. One people who, despite being subjected to hideous persecutions over the centuries and being constantly attacked today, is supposedly guilty of every possible crime.
And it happens to be Israel and its Jewish inhabitants.
The Hamas attack was just a taste of what it would do to Israel if it had the power -- extricate an indigenous people from their homeland in the most brutal fashion possible, in the name, of course, of anti-colonialism.