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DATE 2023-10-01

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MESSAGE
DATE 2023-10-26
FROM Ruben Safir
SUBJECT Subject: [Hangout - NYLXS] From the River to the Sea
WORLD
MIDDLE EAST
ESSAY
Campus Radicals and Leftist Groups Have Embraced the Idea of ‘Settler
Colonialism’
A political theory about Israel—and the U.S.—helps explain why some
extremists excused Hamas’s massacre.

A sign at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in London, Oct. 21. MARK
KERRISON/GETTY IMAGES
By Adam Kirsch
Oct. 26, 2023 5:30 am ET




1502

Gift unlocked article

Listen

(8 min)


After the Hamas attack that killed more than 1,300 Israelis on Oct. 7,
many Americans were indignant to see academic and left-wing
organizations issuing statements that excused or implicitly endorsed the
massacre. Such sentiments are not surprising, however, to anyone who
follows the way Israel and Palestine have long been discussed in those
quarters. An idea widely accepted in a small ideological community has
now been exposed to the view of the general public, revealing the deep
estrangement between them.

The idea in this case is “settler colonialism,” a term that appears
often in the pro-Hamas statements collected by the Anti-Defamation
League. Various chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America have
decried “settler-colonial, Zionist apartheid” and called to “decolonize
Palestine—from the river to the sea,” a slogan that, by invoking the
Jordan River and the Mediterranean, calls for the elimination of the
state of Israel. Mondoweiss, an anti-Israel online publication, has
called the Hamas attack “part of the Palestinians’ century-long struggle
for liberation” from “Zionist/Israeli settler colonialism.”

Like all theoretical terms, “settler colonialism” can mean different
things to different people. But most who use it would probably agree
with the definition offered by Cornell Law School’s Legal Information
Institute: “a system of oppression based on genocide and colonialism,
that aims to displace a population of a nation (oftentimes indigenous
people) and replace it with a new settler population.” The paradigm case
is the European colonization of the Americas, where over centuries many
indigenous peoples were displaced or killed as Europeans took their
land.

On this view, the Jewish state is only one example of a type of regime
that must be combated around the world, including in the U.S. Truthout,
another far-left publication, writes that “an understanding of settler
colonialism remains essential for anyone seeking to make sense of daily
injustices in Palestine and in many other places, including the U.S.”
The same analogy underlies the statements issued by several local
chapters of Black Lives Matter, identifying the struggle against
American racism with the cause of Hamas. “We are also freedom fighters
who have been grossly mislabeled and violently targeted for standing up
against injustice to our people,” said BLM Phoenix on social media.


A demonstration near the White House in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14. The
slogan ‘from the river to the sea,’ invoking the Jordan River and the
Mediterranean, calls for the elimination of the state of Israel. PHOTO:
CELAL GUNES/ANADOLU/GETTY IMAGES
What makes settler colonialism a potent political concept is that, as
the Cornell definition says, it is “a system rather than a historical
event.” In other words, the displacement of the indigenous population is
not something that happened centuries ago but something that is still
being perpetrated today, by all the non-indigenous inhabitants of the
land and by the culture and institutions they have created.

The Southern Poverty Law Center makes this point clearly in its magazine
Learning for Justice: “Understanding settler-colonialism means
understanding that all non-Indigenous people are settler-colonizers,
whether they were born here or not. Understanding settler-colonialism as
both a historical position and a present-day practice helps students see
how they fit into a settler-colonial system—and how that system shapes
the impact of their actions, regardless of their intent.”

This principle makes today’s anticolonial ideology more radical than the
anticolonial movements of the post-World War II era. At that time,
national liberation struggles in Africa and Asia were directed mainly
against European powers that did not settle the territories they ruled.
When the Viet Minh fought the French in Vietnam, or the Congolese
National Movement fought the Belgians in Congo, they wanted to reclaim
national sovereignty from foreign rulers who had no connection to the
country other than the right of conquest.


A land acknowledgement sticker on the floor of an Arizona State
University building in Tempe, Ariz., Aug. 15. PHOTO: DIANNIE CHAVEZ/THE
REPUBLIC/REUTERS
Freeing a settler-colonial society is a very different prospect, since
it would presumably mean expelling many millions of people who were born
in the land they are said to have colonized. Modern Jewish settlement in
what is now Israel began in the 1880s, English settlement of North
America in the 1600s. If the descendants of those first arrivals are
still considered settlers in 2023, then the word no longer has its
ordinary meaning. Instead it is a permanent, inheritable marker of
guilt, like “bourgeois” as a class label in the Soviet Union.

Under the workers’ regime, a bourgeois was not a person who owned a
certain amount of property, but anyone whose background indicated that
they might be hostile to the working class. That put them outside the
realm of moral concern, and they could be killed for any reason or none.
The reaction of many anticolonial activists to the massacre of Israelis
suggests that a similar logic is at work today.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS
What do you think of the way academic and leftist groups have responded
to the Israel-Hamas conflict? Join the conversation below.

Even advocates of anticolonial ideology know that there is no prospect
of actually “decolonizing” the U.S. The most they hope for is symbolic
expressions like Native American land acknowledgments, which have become
standard practice at many academic and arts institutions. These
statements are often historically ill-informed, but they are not really
about historical facts. They advance a political thesis: that in a just
world, every territory would be occupied only by the people who belong
there.

Ironically, while anticolonialism conceives of itself as a progressive,
left-wing ideology, this understanding of the relationship between
people and land is similar to that of fascism, which was also obsessed
with the categories of native and alien. The Nazi slogan “blood and
soil” conveyed the idea that German land could only truly belong to its
primeval inhabitants.


Frantz Fanon, the influential theorist of anticolonial struggle who
wrote ‘The Wretched of the Earth.’ PHOTO: EVERETT COLLECTION
Anticolonialists would of course reject this analogy. But they are
proudly indebted to Frantz Fanon, the Martinique-born French writer
whose analysis of anticolonial struggle was born from the Algerian
rebellion against French rule in the 1950s. For Fanon, a psychologist,
anticolonial movements must be violent, not only because they lack other
means of achieving their goals but because violence itself is redemptive
and therapeutic. “The colonized man finds his freedom in and through
violence,” Fanon wrote in his classic 1961 book “The Wretched of the
Earth.” “For the colonized people this violence, because it constitutes
their only work, invests their characters with positive and creative
qualities.”

When Western sympathizers excuse or endorse the actions of Hamas, it is
because they see it in these terms, as a liberation movement fighting a
settler-colonial regime. And it is true that Hamas frames its struggle
in terms of indigenous rights and redemptive violence—though
sympathizers usually overlook the fact that it understands these things
in religious fundamentalist terms, which are totally incompatible with
other left-wing commitments like LGBTQ rights.

The group’s charter, adopted in 1988, declares that only Muslims are
indigenous to the land that is now Israel, so Jews can never belong
there: “The land of Palestine is an Islamic endowment consecrated for
future Muslim generations until Judgment Day.” Likewise, it states that
“peaceful solutions…are in contradiction to the principles of the
Islamic Resistance Movement” and that “there is no solution for the
Palestinian question except through Jihad.”

Hatred of settler colonialism, like hatred of capitalism among communist
revolutionaries, believes that it is morally impeccable because it is
grounded in genuinely moral instincts: indignation at violence and
oppression, hope for freedom and equality. It seems perverse that such
instincts should lead to approving the mass murder of children and the
elderly.

But like other totalizing ideologies, anticolonialism contains all the
elements needed for moral derangement: the permanent division of the
world into innocent people and guilty people; the belief that history
can be fixed once and for all, if violence is applied in the right way;
the idea that the world is a battlefield and everyone is a combatant,
whether they realize it or not.

Advertisement - Scroll to Continue


Most observers of the conflict in Israel-Palestine, regardless of whose
“side” they are on, don’t fall into these traps. But those who do are
increasingly vocal—a bad sign for the future of peaceful coexistence,
and not only in the Middle East.
--
So many immigrant groups have swept through our town
that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological
proportions in the mind of the world - RI Safir 1998
http://www.mrbrklyn.com

DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002
http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software
http://www2.mrbrklyn.com/resources - Unpublished Archive
http://www.coinhangout.com - coins!
http://www.brooklyn-living.com

Being so tracked is for FARM ANIMALS and extermination camps,
but incompatible with living as a free human being. -RI Safir 2013

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