In his introduction to “The Palestine Nakba” (Zed Books, 2012), Nur Masalha writes, “The deletion of historic Palestine was designed not only to strengthen the newly created state, but also to consolidate the myth of the ‘unbroken link’ between the days of Joshua and the Israeli state.”
Furthermore, in his book “Imperial Israel and the Palestinians: The Politics of Expansion” (Pluto Press, 2000), Nur Masalha asserts, “‘Greater Israel’ is both a territorial concept and an ideology aimed at achieving maximum territorial expansion and imperial domination in the region.” This succinct description of Zionism’s ultimate aims is absent from international reckonings of what the UN calls “the Palestinian question.”
According to Zionist narratives, the Palestinian people were either present or absent, depending on whether the myth of the barren land was evoked, or the need to cleanse the land of its indigenous inhabitants. Yet Ze’ev Jabotinsky clearly acknowledged the Palestinian people’s presence and connection to their land, in his rationale which justified the Zionist aims of colonizing the land: “Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement.” To crush Palestinian resistance, Jabotinsky advocated primarily for the use of force to achieve indigenous subjugation, after which negotiations with the Palestinians would happen.
“Every indigenous people will resist alien settlers as long as they see any hope of ridding themselves of the danger of foreign settlement.”
The Palestinian people find themselves in a quandary designated by the UN. While the UN is purportedly dedicated to “eradicating colonialism” through a plan of action which is now in its third decade, the institution is also influenced by the colonial past. Hence the discrepancy between the UN reaffirming “the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial domination, apartheid and foreign occupation by all available means, including armed struggle,” and the refusal to allow Palestinians to achieve such liberation. The latter is influenced by the UN’s acquiescence to the Zionist narrative and the later insistence upon the two-state compromise as the only solution, which contradicts the earlier UN resolutions.
Looking at the earlier Zionist narrative as traced in Natasha Gill’s analysis, it is clear that the UN contributed to the “peace” discourse by upholding the erasure of the earlier Palestinian anti-colonial struggle against colonization. UN discourse, even resolutions which claim to support Palestinian rights, are first and foremost concerned with colonial preservation. The Palestinian Right of Return is one such example – the text assumes Palestinian responsibility for making amends and “peace” with the colonizers that ethnically cleansed their towns and villages.
The understanding of the Palestinian narrative and the Zionist narrative, therefore, cannot be exploited to bring about an understanding that preserves the colonial project in Palestine. In other words, an understanding of colonization in Palestine should bring about the realization that the solution to Israel’s security narrative can happen with the decolonization of land stolen in the name of Zionist ideology and the Zionist colonial enterprise.
Palestine’s pre-1948 history has two facets. One is the gradual appropriation of land, which later gained international political support. The other is the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle itself, legitimate even in accordance with international dictates, and refuted by Israel and the international community as a threat to Israel’s security.
Israeli academic, writer, and activist Haim Bresheeth Žabner’s latest book, “An Army Like No Other: How The Israeli Defense Forces Made A Nation” (Verso Books, 2020) holds an important observation that refutes the simplistic anti-Semitic claims woven into the Zionist narrative. The lack of security Israel complains about is a direct result of “political and military praxis, not their racial origin.”
The lack of security Israel complains about is a direct result of “political and military praxis, not their racial origin.”
Bresheeth’s observation ties into Jabotinsky’s play on power and subjugation. Drawing upon its political and military power, Israel has used its advantage to spin a fabricated narrative regarding the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle, and one that shapes the current discourse on Palestinian resistance and political blame.
Anti-colonial struggle “by all means” as the UN defines such resistance, includes violent resistance. However, the alleged gratuitous Palestinian violence is part of the Zionist narrative which thrives upon recognition and non-recognition of the existence of Palestinian people in their land, depending on what Israel is seeking to achieve militarily and diplomatically. Palestinian armed resistance in the early colonization period was borne out of political isolation and a recurring failure of the international community to see early settler-colonization for what it was – a plan in motion that would eventually expand over Palestinian land.
As the two-state compromise and the more recent US “Deal of the Century” have shown, “peace” is just a euphemism for the condoning of Israeli colonization. It is the concept of “peace” which empowers the Zionist narrative; after all, the international community has failed to hold the political ideology and its implementation accountable after having incorporated the Zionist narrative into its diplomatic agenda. The two-state paradigm – staunchly described by the current UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres as “the only solution” – is concerned with Israel’s security at the expense of the Palestinians’ ongoing oppression. The US “Deal of the Century” clarifies the extent of this expense.
By eliminating all Palestinian claims to their land, including a plan to alter the definition of who qualifies as a Palestinian refugee, the US has taken Israel closer to its myths.
By eliminating all Palestinian claims to their land, including a plan to alter the definition of who qualifies as a Palestinian refugee, the US has taken Israel closer to its myths. On the flip side of this coin, the US-Israeli scheming to hasten the colonization process requires an even deeper evaluation of the option remaining for Palestinians – decolonization – and how this can bring the Palestinian narrative to the fore. Not as an equal to the Zionist narrative, for that would diminish the severity of colonialism and the erasure of Palestinian memory, but as a departure point for a solution that would include restoration of rights and land for Palestinians.
Resolving “the conflict,” as the international community defines Zionist colonization in Palestine, does not incorporate the settler-colonial and the colonized paradigms. It is a detached, simplistic alternative that chooses power imbalance to force a solution, in a similar manner to how colonialism used force to extricate a semblance of acquiescence from the indigenous, colonized population.
“The conflict” has prioritized Israeli demands over Palestinian rights. Peace negotiations, after all, are about appeasement and profit. With the international community heavily complicit and invested in the Zionist colonial project, a proper reckoning through decolonization would likely be a long process. On the ground, the settler-colonial population is fulfilling the function of ethnic cleansing through a gradual replacement of the indigenous population.
Internationally, the UN’s failure to even acknowledge Israel’s settler-colonial character is manufacturing cycles of impunity which are incorporated into the two-state paradigm. The latter completely eliminates the root of the problem, which is the Zionist colonial project and which, in itself, is the main obstacle to decolonization that few wish to talk about. By eliminating the Zionist colonial project from the “solution,” as mainstream narratives do, the exclusionary nature of the Israeli settler-colonial state is maintained and entrenched.
Historically, Palestinians have resisted such exclusion from their own narrative. At first, through attempts at diplomacy and later, through anti-colonial resistance, only to repeat the cycle until the present day, where diplomacy has failed Palestinians not only by neglecting to recognize their political demands, but also by refusing the Palestinian population the right to resist the colonizers with all disposable means.
Reversing the hegemonic narrative that restructured colonization into the “Israeli-Palestinian” or “Israeli-Arab” conflict is an important step in decolonization.
Reversing the hegemonic narrative that restructured colonization into the “Israeli-Palestinian” or “Israeli-Arab” conflict – the latter more damaging than the other in terms of misrepresentation – is an important step in decolonization. European Zionist colonialism has created victims and indigeneity out of its fabricated narratives, while denying the ties which Palestinians have to their land. Furthermore, the construction of indigeneity as pertaining to the settler-colonial population has also aided two main narratives central to Israel’s existence – the “Jewish state” and “security.”
Both need to be overturned, and achieving this necessitates the incorporation of Palestinian narratives into political diplomacy; the latter with an understanding of how international law provides for legitimate anti-colonial struggle. For justice to be achieved, it is not incumbent upon the colonized Palestinian population to make concessions. Such expectations only confirm the international community’s intention to prolong the colonization process until it becomes irreparable for the Palestinian people.
In terms of power and land, both Israel and the international community have expressed opposition to decolonization. Talk of a one-state “solution” has been voiced by some Palestinians, in which both peoples live in a secular, democratic state. The question is not whether Palestinians are open to solutions, but if Israel is willing to accept a solution which, in colonial narratives, is equivalent to a just loss and therefore, reflects the political justice which must be delivered to the colonized.
Hence, if decolonization is not possible, and apartheid is the norm that characterizes a Jewish state, with a forever resistant Palestinian people, how can true justice be achieved for a lasting peace?
All notions of equity between “both sides” must be discarded. The Palestinian concessions to Israel throughout the decades have wrought an irreparable loss that even the international community would not be able to justify were it not so heavily invested in guarding Israel’s interests. To require further concessions from Palestinians is to elevate the Zionist settler-colonial enterprise in Palestine.
A rejection of Zionism from the Palestinian people is a form of resistance; such rejection from the pro-Israel camp is a must, in order to start altering the prevailing narrative, which is based on myths and exploitation, as opposed to international law.
The one-state possibility must also not be jeopardized by Israel’s concept of exclusivity. If Palestinians are willing to consider the one-state as a solution, Israel and its supporters need to acknowledge the illegalities – even the crime – of colonialism in Palestine. A rejection of Zionism from the Palestinian people is a form of resistance; such rejection from the pro-Israel camp is a must, in order to start altering the prevailing narrative, which is based on myths and exploitation, as opposed to international law.
For, as Gill concludes: “while many Palestinians have (in various agreements and public commitments) been saying ‘yes’ to Israel’s de facto existence since 1988, they will continue to say ‘no’ to Zionism itself. Condoning it would require Palestinians swallow whole the major tenets of the Jewish ‘narrative’ and sign on the dotted line affirming that the creation of a Jewish state on land they considered as their own was a legitimate enterprise; that their own rejection of that enterprise was irrational or morally wrong; and that the Arab’s 1400-year history in Palestine should be seen as a brief and inconsequential interregnum between two more important eras of Jewish sovereignty.”
“This will never happen. The sooner the pro-Israel camp accepts this and stops trying to change the unchangeable, the sooner they can determine what steps might be taken in the interests of their own peace and security.”
Author’s Note: This is the second installment of a two-part article. The first part ran on October 1, 2020.