The Israeli Question and Settler Colonialism

-Dr. Mehmet Rakipoğlu- Source of the article:

18 mins read
The Israeli Question and Settler Colonialism

Israel has emerged as a product of the neo-colonial policies of the United Kingdom since the beginning of the 20th century and of the United States of America (USA) since the middle of the same century. However, when one examines the body of academic knowledge that has been produced to define Israel, Israeli colonialism and exceptionalism, one can easily see that the vast majority of the Western world has not approached the issue impartially. Even a cursory review of the literature reveals that the narrative that Israel is not a colonial state has been touted as the main argument in many high-circulation journals. For example, on October 7, the day of the Aqsa Flood, the American Jewish Community published an article and video stating that Israel is not a colonial state and that this is categorically false. The argument that Israel is not a colonial state is based on seven main arguments.

Narrative of Historical Being

First, it has been argued that Jews have had a continuous presence in the land of ‘Israel’. It is logically contradictory to link Israel, which became a modern ‘state’ in 1948, to the historical presence of Jews there. In other words, the land where Jews claim to have historically existed has never belonged to a state called Israel. Another problematic point of this argument is the problem of legitimizing the ability of other nations/religions to live in and control the lands where they have historically existed. According to this idea, which is a product of Zionist thought, it can be concluded that people who have existed in any part of the world at any time in history or permanently have the right to expel the inhabitants of those lands. More concretely, many nations can claim the right to occupy different lands based on the argument that Zionist thought has developed on the historical presence of Jews in these lands and tries to legitimize the occupation. This is a direct violation of existing international law. Therefore, the historical presence of Israelis or Jews in Palestine does not legitimize Israel’s occupation and does not prove that Israel is not a colonial actor.

The State of Israel and the Jewish Ruler Narrative

The second argument is that Israel has been ruled by Jewish leaders for centuries. This argument includes the strategy of marketing the rule of prophets such as David and Solomon as the state of Israel, starting from 1000 BC. Again, it is seen that this argument, which is inconsistent and anachronistic in itself, is far from reality and may lead to further occupations. First of all, it is known that there is no indication that the state ruled by the aforementioned rulers is Israel. Moreover, as stated in the article published by the American Jewish Community, this kingdom was called The Unified Kingdom. Therefore, the attempt to identify Israel, a modern ‘state’ name, with a historical polity has also failed. Secondly, the claim that the ruling prophets were Jewish is also not very plausible. Many of these rulers, who were ‘their prophets’ for the Jews, are recognized as Islamic prophets in Islam. As a matter of fact, according to the widespread belief in Islam, the message of all the prophets is common and they are all Hanif Muslims. Based on the example of Prophet Abraham, the Holy Qur’an directly challenged the Jewish or Christian association of these prophets and stated that these names are Muslims, that the religion that came from the beginning to the end is Islam, and that the distortions were changed by the distorters into Christianity or Judaism.

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The Narrative of the Sanctity of Jerusalem

The third argument that attempts to prove that Israel is not a colonial state and legitimize the occupation is the discourse of Jerusalem being sacred in the Jewish faith. Through the arguments that Jerusalem was the capital of the ‘Jewish kingdom’ during the time of the prophet David about three thousand years ago and that Jerusalem is religiously important for Jews, the claim that Israel is not a colonial state and that they have historically existed in this region is tried to be proven. For Jews, the sanctity of Jerusalem has increased in the historical process. For example, the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians (586 B.C.) and the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans (70 B.C.) increased the interest in Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon. Indeed, wherever Jews worship, Jerusalem is their qibla. At Jewish weddings, the groom traditionally breaks a glass to commemorate the destruction of the Temple and chants ‘Next Year in Jerusalem’ at the end of Passover. The capture of Jerusalem is therefore an issue that lies in Israel’s theological background. However, while it is an undeniable fact that Jews have historically existed in the land of Palestine, this is an invalid reason to justify Israel’s occupation on both religious and historical grounds.

Narrative of State Imagination

Fourthly, in order to cover up the Israeli occupation and colonial projects, he states that Jews have dreamed of returning to Israel for centuries and have never given up on this plan. This form of narration is a different narrative of the message that Israel got what it ‘deserved’ by deserving and persevering. This narrative, which emphasizes that Jews who were oppressed and exiled at different times in history should be appreciated for their longing for their land and their efforts to regain it, does not change the fact that Israel is a colonial state. As Theodor Herzl, the founder of secular Zionism, described in his book ‘The Jewish State’, there were plans to establish the state of Israel in different lands, especially in Argentina. The Palestinian territories were preferred for occupation for geographical, religious, economic and political reasons. However, the very fact that the plan to establish a state on lands other than Palestine proves that Israel as a mindset is based on an occupying colonial understanding. Similar to other justifications, the fact that one group has lived for many years in the desire for a state may pave the way for another group to legitimize the occupation of another people’s land.

Narrative Christian Theology

Fifth, Israel bases its colonial actions and the process of statehood on the Bible, a book considered sacred by Christians. Evangelical and Zionist ideologies and sects in many parts of the world, especially in the US, legitimize Israel’s colonial projects. This is based on the first part of the Bible, Genesis, in which God promises the Land of Israel to Abraham. This promise is then repeated in Abraham’s sons Isaac and Jacob. Moreover, Jacob’s other name is mentioned as Israel. In the passages in the Exodus chapter of the Bible, the narrative of the prophet Moses promising to return to the land of ‘Israel’ after liberating the Children of Israel from oppression in Egypt is also used as a means of legitimizing Israel’s current occupation and imperialist policies. Therefore, Israel tries to legitimize the process by finding religious references for its occupation and colonial steps. However, this justification, like other justifications, is far from reality. As a matter of fact, the fact that there is no Bible that Christians believe in in common shows that the book has been tampered with and that this reference point is not healthy. Moreover, these narratives in the falsified Bible are refuted in the Holy Quran and a narrative is expressed through the deceptive, humiliating actions and massacres of the Children of Israel against prophets and rulers. In this narrative, the story of Israel’s return to the Palestinian territories and the promise of state-building are not mentioned.

Classical Western Colonial Narrative

Sixthly, by explaining the historical process of the term settler colonialism and attributing responsibility to different countries, Israel’s current actions are legitimized. According to this narrative, the term settler colonial corresponds to the European empires’ colonization of the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Israel explains that it is not a settler colonial state, it is the Western countries that do this. Moreover, according to this reading, European states settled their citizens in the colonies by force and exploited the natural resources of the indigenous population. However, the United Nations data and resolutions show that Israel has been implementing more severe colonial policies on the Palestinians than the colonial policies implemented by Western countries in many periods of history. Despite this, while Israel expresses the narrative that it is not a colonial state, it ironically explains that European/Western colonial states came to the places they occupied militarily, while Israelis occupying Palestinian lands ‘migrated’ of their own volition. Similarly, he argues that the Israelis who occupied Palestine escaped tortures such as the holocaust, while the Europeans practiced colonial occupation without such a process. This proposition, which seems correct at first glance, is quite incomplete and leads to different conclusions. Indeed, the fact that Jews were exposed to anti-Semitism and fled Europe does not legitimize their occupation of Palestine. Moreover, unlike European colonialism, the fact that Israel is recognized by the United Nations and presents itself as a ‘democratic’ country does not cover up the colonial occupation policies. Indeed, one can easily speak of a serious negative discrimination against the 1948 Arabs and non-Jewish Arabs in Israel. Israel’s apartheid/discriminatory policies are not limited to Israel; they also take place in the occupied Palestinian territories. These discriminatory policies of Israel are institutionally adopted. Therefore, it is not an opinion reserved for a prime minister or a political party. For this reason, many international institutions, organizations and organizations, including Amnesty International, have published numerous reports stating that Israel is responsible for all these processes as a ‘state’. Movements such as Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) have also been mobilizing globally for many years against Israel’s violations in Palestine and seeking to isolate Israel for its discriminatory policies.

Settler Narrative

Israel claims that, unlike Western colonial states, it does not exploit the natural resources of the Palestinians. This tragicomic claim can only be refuted by the embargo that Gaza has been subjected to for nearly 20 years. In violation of international law, Israel occupies and limits the rights of the Hamas administration in Gaza in the Mediterranean Sea. The 12-mile jurisdiction according to international maritime law has been reduced to 3 miles by the Israeli occupation. Therefore, Israel, just like the Western imperial powers, exploits the natural resources of the Palestinians and oppresses both the people and the governments by usurping their natural rights. Moreover, the control and use of natural resources such as electricity, drinking water and natural gas, which are also the rights of Palestinians, are also restricted by Israel. In addition to all these, Israel occupies Palestinian lands in the West Bank with its law enforcement forces. The occupation of land, which is the most fundamental building block of the Palestinian state, also proves that Israel is a colonialist entity. The occupation policies of modern thieves, called settlers, in the West Bank prove that Israel does not respect international law and is a colonialist actor in the 21st century. Similarly, Israel is challenging the demography of Palestine. By bringing the aforementioned settlers to Palestine with all incentives and pressures, Israel suppresses the Arab population in Palestine. In addition, Israel, which uses the overwhelming majority of Palestinians as cheap labor, acts with the logic of a colonialist actor in this sense. As a matter of fact, Israel, which makes Palestinians do the heavy work that no Israeli would do for small sums, also gains from this situation. In this sense, Israel, which exploits the Palestinian labor force, also carries out a public relations campaign by providing employment to Palestinians to the world public opinion. It can be said that settler colonialism, which is unique to Israel, which also carries out actions such as threats, arbitrary detention, torture, assassination, kidnapping and killing, differs from classical colonialism at some point. In this sense, the Israeli type of colonialism prioritizes extermination, while exploitation is secondary. Therefore, the extermination of Palestinians and their forced deportation, as seen in the example of Gaza after the Aqsa Flood, is the top priority of Israeli colonialism.

It can be easily said that many arguments claiming that Israel is not a colonial state have gone through a completely artificial process. However, it is possible to mention multiple concrete points that prove that Israel is a colonial, occupying state in the 21st century and processes that violate international law. Apart from the claims debunked above, it is possible to come across many names and arguments stating that Israel is not a colonial state. However, there are hundreds of names who argue that Israel is a colonial actor. Patrick Wolfe, whose 2006 book Patrick Wolfe is the most well-known theorist in this nomenclature, but names such as Edward Said, Rashid Khalidi, Fayez Sayegh, Maxime Rodinson, George Jabbour, Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, Baha Abu-Laban, Jamil Hilal, Lorenzo Veracini, Ilan Pappe, Amal Jamal, Rosemary Sayigh, etc. also state that Israel is a settler colonial actor. Considering that some of these names are not Muslims, it can be said that the world public opinion accepts that Israel is a settler occupying entity. Indeed, even the founders of revolutionary-radical Zionism such as Vladimir Jabotinsky stated that Israel is a colonial adventure project. Therefore, it can be stated that Israel’s Zionism ideology, which targeted a hospital and a refugee camp in front of the eyes of the whole world, is a colonial idea and even goes beyond that.


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