There are some narratives that simply boggle the mind. Some are completely nonsensical and easily disproven. Others are seemingly spat out of desperation to belittle an enemy’s position. And a few are so twisted, they must have been hatched and sanctified by university professors.
Consider the phrase “European Settler Colonialism” to describe Jews moving to Israel.
Columbia University’s Rashid Khalidi was fond of the phrase. As recently as November 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, he took the stage at the United Nations’ Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestine People. He used the expression in a number of ways:
- “…Arab city dwellers, who observed with mounting concern the constant arrival of new European Jewish immigrants“
- “the Declaration had been tailored to suit the desiderata of Zionism, a European colonizing project“
- “The Palestinians were therefore in a triple bind, which may have been unique in the history of resistance of indigenous peoples to European colonialism. They faced the might of the British Empire in the era between the two world wars when not one single colonial possession, with the partial exception of Ireland, succeeded in freeing itself from the clutches of the European imperial powers.“
A current professor at Columbia, Joseph Massad who teaches modern Arab politics, said much the same in an article in Middle East Eye on July 19, 2022 called “Algeria, Israel and the last European settler colony in the Arab world.”
- “Of the five European settler colonies established in Arab countries, only Algeria and Palestine remained colonised in the early 1960s“
- “As the last two European settler-colonial powers in the Arab world, France and Israel formed a close alliance to coordinate the preservation of their settler colonies“
- “Like France and Italy, the European Jewish Zionists claimed to be descendants of the ancient Palestinian Hebrews and to be merely “returning” to their ancient land.”
- “the pan-Jewishism of European Zionism, which sought to recreate the “Judaic” glories of the Palestinian Hebrews, who were appropriated as the ancestors of European converts to Judaism, was depicted as progressive and socialist.”
- “Unhappy with its isolation as the last European settler colony in the Arab world, the Israelis provided logistical support to the French colonists,...”
Students have caught on. At a vote to boycott Israel at the University of Wisconsin in March 2017, one of the students took the theme one step further:
“The Israeli state was founded using the same nationalistic and exclusive principles that exploited Jews in Eastern Europe. The foundation built Israel to be as oppressive as the countries that destroyed Jewish homes, lives and pushed them out of Eastern Europe. Israel in its inception is not a Jewish idea but a European one.”
Imagine the depravity of the anti-Zionist university mindset today, that Israel is not even considered a Jewish idea but simply a tool of European colonial imperialism.
The outrageous sentiments are given succor at the United Nations and anti-Zionist media. That they need to be addressed and disproved is shameful but it goes to the heart of the prevalent false anti-Israel narrative peddled by those who seek a Palestinian State and need an anchor for their anti-Semitic beliefs.
Colonialism – The Desire To Gain Versus The Desire To Rid
Many European countries set up colonies around the world, including France, United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. Each country set up outposts to gain particular advantages in far away lands. Some sought raw materials like grain and minerals to export home. Some sought trade routes and new markets. Others brought missionaries to spread Christianity. Each country sought to exploit the new territory for selfish gain.
All, except for one case falsely-framed as colonialism: Zionism as “European settler colonialism.”
The anti-Semitic narrative describing Zionism as “European colonialism” is founded on two principle beliefs: that European countries desired to shed the continent of its Jews; and the further wish to weaken Muslim Arabs in the Middle East.
On the first concocted rationale, anti-Semitic anti-Zionists try to argue that the great powers of Europe wanted to collectively purge the region of its Jews. It is anti-Semitism at its most base and ugly, suggesting that Jews were universally unwanted foreigners in their midst.
The Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pushed this argument in April 2018 that “[Lord] Balfour hated the Jews, but nevertheless, he gave them a state. The Russian foreign minister was well known for his hatred of the Jews, yet he said to [the Jews]: “Come, I will give you a state in Palestine.”” Abbas claimed that all European leaders hated the Jews and wanted to get rid of them and used Palestine as their dumping ground. The phrase “European settler colonialism” is deeply anti-Semitic in that it conveys that Jews are vile and unwanted.
The second premise of European colonialism in the desire to insert a foreign entity to weaken the supposed unity of Muslim Arabs in the Middle East is foolish as various European powers were dealing with many tribes in the region and building them up into functioning governments and countries. The British Mandate of Palestine is put forward by Arabists as something unique, when there were mandates for all of the lands that were to become independent countries like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, with the fall of the Ottoman Empire.
Jews Have Nothing To Do With Ancient Israelites And Never Lived In Israel
The anti-Semitism of “European settler colonialism” extends beyond the invective that Zionism was launched by European leaders to ethnically-cleanse Europe of its Jews. It mocks Jewish history.
The acting President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas wrote his doctoral thesis on a particular form of Holocaust denial, which claimed that Jews have no connection or history in Israel, so early Zionists conspired with the Nazis to make life unbearable so that the Jews would be forced to emigrate to a foreign land. Abbas falsely asserted that Jews are descendants of Khazars, much like Columbia University’s Massad absurdly claimed that Jews pretend to be descended from “Palestinian Hebrews” (whatever that ridiculous phrase means), but really are a bunch of European converts who “appropriated” someone else’s history.
This repulsive narrative is a critical component for anti-Zionists because the definition of a “colony” means an “area under full or partial control of another country.” While France may have set up a foreign colony in Algeria, it is nonsensical to say that the entire European continent set up a joint colony for everyone’s benefit. But what choice do the anti-Semites have? If they are forced to recognize that Jews are from Judea and the land of Israel, then by definition it is not a Jewish colony but a righteous return of Jews from their diaspora. The phrase “European settler colonialism” is anti-Semitic in denying Jews their basic history in the land of Israel.
Jews Came To Palestine Before The Palestine Mandate
Anti-Semitic anti-Zionists argue that the European colonial project launched with Lord Balfour’s 1917 declaration and then the Mandate of Palestine in 1922. Those slightly more knowledgeable about history might point to Theodore Herzl’s First Zionist Congress in 1897 in Basel, Switzerland.
The reality is that Jews have always lived and moved to the land of Israel. During the last century of Ottoman rule (1800 to 1914), the Jewish population jumped more than 13.4 times. The Christian population only grew by 3.2 times over that period while the Muslim population barely moved, increasing only 2.1 times, meaning that no Muslims migrated to the holy land during that time, as such growth is the natural trend of births minus deaths.
The reason the Jews moved to the land is that the land is holy to Jews. Jews from all over the world pray facing Jerusalem, the only religion to do so. Jews are commanded to visit Jerusalem three times every year. There are commandments that Jews can only keep in Israel.
Saying that Zionism is a “European colonial project” is anti-Semitic as it denies the centrality and holiness of the land to Jews.
Israeli Jews Are Not European
The smear that “Zionism is Racism” was hatched by Muslim nations in the 1970’s, after the Arab world failed to destroy Israel for the third time (1948-9, 1967 and 1973 wars). The outrageous UN resolution was overturned by the United States in 1991, but the charge has been re-launched in modern times under the banner of “white supremacy”, “imperialism” and “European colonialism.”
The simple fact is less than one-third of Israelis have ancestors from Europe. As of 2018, only 31.8% of Jews were Ashkenazi, of European heritage, and 12.4% were from the former USSR. That compares to 44.9% who are Mizrahi and 3.0% from Ethiopia. The balance of Jews (7.9%) are of mixed heritage. Then there are 21.1% who are Arab (Muslim and Christian) and 5% are other groups including Ba’hai (a religion banned in several neighboring countries), Samaritans and others.
Saying that Israel is a creature of “European colonialism” is non-sensical at its most fundamental, as most Israelis do not come from Europe.
Poor Attempt To Distract From Muslim Arab Anti-Semitic Edicts
The charge that Zionism is based on European colonialism is anti-Semitic on many levels. It is used in a pathetic attempt to advance the cause of a Palestinian state, when in fact, it does the opposite by showing that Arabs are terrible anti-Jewish neighbors.
- Admitting that Jews predate Arabs by thousands of years does not mean that Arabs have no history in the land, so stop pretending otherwise.
- Admitting that the Temple Mount is only the holiest place for Jews does not mean that it holds no significance for Christians or Muslims.
- Admitting that Jordanian/Palestinian Muslim Arabs banned Jews from entering the Old City of Jerusalem and the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs and Matriarchs in Hebron while they controlled it, does not mean that Jews will ban other religions from entering these sacred locations.
- Admitting that Jordan issued an anti-Semitic citizenship law in 1954 that granted citizenship to people in Judea and Samaria, as long as they weren’t Jewish, doesn’t mean that the Jewish State of Israel will ban non-Jews from becoming citizens.
- Admitting that most Israelis are not European Jews does not mean that Israel will constantly point out that the largest demographic in Israel are the Jews who came from Muslim Arab lands who were expelled and driven out of their homes.
The modern state of Israel is simply the reestablishment of Jewish sovereignty in their historic homeland. The attempts to vilify Israel as a product of European colonialism and imperialism is both false and deeply anti-Semitic, and actually hurts the Palestinian cause in showing their inability to live peacefully with the Jewish people.