Friday, October 20, 2023

First and Foremost, Colonialism Must End

 First and Foremost, Colonialism Must End

Jim Kavanagh

It Is What It Is

It’s necessary to start with this, because it’s the core of the problem and must be put first and foremost: The horrific events over the last week in Gaza and Israel demonstrate at least one thing irrefutably: Zionism is colonialism. Israel is a colonial-settler, apartheid state that, as such, must exterminate, expel, or subjugate Palestinian Arabs.

You may think it’s colonialism that’s justified for some reason, but it’s still colonialism. If you want to support it, you have to make the argument that it’s an acceptable exception to the now-universal prohibition of colonialism and apartheid under jus cogens—the preemptory, compelling norms of international law “from which no derogation is ever permitted.” And you will be making an argument for colonialism.

You may think—as secular Western liberals are wont to do—that this exceptional colonialism is justified by the Holocaust, which you take as proof that Jews are the ur-victims of the planet and therefore are entitled to take and keep a global safe room for themselves, even if it means exterminating, expelling, and subjugating the people who have been living in that room for centuries. That’s an argument that the Palestinians (who had nothing to do with the European Holocaust) are just less important people, whose historical obligation is to get out of the way of the Jews (who, whether victims of the Holocaust or not, are always-already victims). It’s an argument for colonialism.

Leaving out, as much as they can, the part about the Palestinians, this is the argument secular Western liberals make to themselves for Zionism as righteous compensatory colonialism.

Please note that it is not the argument on which the original Zionist thinkers, their political progeny who rule Israel, or the religious-Zionist settlers who are Zionism’s shock troops base their colonial project. For them, the Holocaust is not the reason for the Zionist colonial project, though it does provide an excuse to Western liberals for supporting colonialism while convincing themselves they’re doing something else.

Those to whom you cannot make that argument with a straight face are the Palestinian people. They know, and will not let you ignore, disguise, or forget that that it’s colonialism, and they are the colonized. They have not and—what is finally so clear and so upsetting to self-deluded Western liberals who actually thought they could persuade everyone of Zionism’s righteousness—will never submit to being the colonized, to living, because they are not Jewish, as secondary “human animals” in ”a regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”  

The people of Gaza will never submissively accept their forced displacement and imprisonment in what Israeli scholar Baruch Kimmerling called “the largest concentration camp ever to exist.” The people of Palestine will never allow Jewish-supremacist settler colonist­s to live in the complacent comfort of the mastery to which they think they have the right—the comfort they need to complete the Zionist project. The Palestinians will never generously and passively accept Zionism’s right to take their homes, lives, and dignity, even if that makes the West feel better about its history with the Jews.

They will resist colonial domination and, as is their right, fight for liberation from colonial domination “by all available means, including armed struggle.” “No justice, no peace” isn’t a political slogan; it’s political science.

It doesn’t matter too much if a Western anti-Zionist like me says (to paraphrase the title of another essay) that colonialism does not have the right to defend Itself, or to exist; it’s the existence of the resistant Palestinian people that really denies the Jewish-supremacist State of Israel the right, and the ability, to exist. It's not so much a question of whether such a state has a right to exist, but rather whether it has the possibility to exist. When you try to do impossible shit, it blows up in your face. Did you not see it?

The al-Aqsa Flood operation was the latest event in that armed struggle, organized by one faction (Hamas), but understood and supported by all Palestinian resistance fighters as a blow against the settler-colonial, apartheid regime. It demonstrated that, for all Israel’s supposed military and technological superiority, it has not been and will never be able to subjugate into submission the 6+ million Palestinian Arabs—much to the chagrin of Israeli, American, European, and collaborationist Arab political and media regimes who thought they could go about their business with Palestinians tucked safely out of sight and mind.

As Israeli political leaders know and say, a colonial-settler regime must exterminate, expel, or subjugate the vast majority of the indigenous population. Since the stable subjugation of the Palestinian Arabs who are the majority of the population in the land Israel controls (according to the Israeli Army) is revealed to be the political impossibility that anyone with a scintilla of historical consciousness could predict, Israel must now return to the policies of large-scale extermination and expulsion upon which it jump-started its unfinished “existence.”

"Right now, one goal: Nakba! A Nakba that will overshadow the Nakba of 1948,says a Knesset member Ariel Kallner from the ruling Likud Party; "We need to arrange a holocaust for Arabs, exterminate them, murder their children who will grow up and become terrorists, neuter their women, sterilize their men, bomb their homes, send them to incinerators, shoot them in the head, and dump their bodies in the street,” cries an Israeli Facebook poster.

What does our historical consciousness predict about that?

The Israelis are not engaged in a military operation against Hamas; they are engaged in a genocidal campaign against the whole Palestinian people. I do not throw around terms like “genocidal” easily, but this is not an exaggeration. It is being done in plain sight. The evidence is everywhere, although “democratic” Western polities are doing their clumsy best to censor channels of information and criminalize or otherwise punish anyone who dares to say what’s happening and protest against it.

Israeli generals announce that they consider the 2+ million people of Gaza, half of whom are children, as “human animals.” They have "released all restraints,” and will turn Gaza intoa place where no human being can exist,” deliberately “creating a severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” because that is “a necessary means to achieve the goal.” And that is correct, because the goal is not to defeat the ~30,000 fighters of Hamas, an organization that was “Israel’s creation” and that Netanyahu, as late as 2019, specifically urged funding, in order to help prevent a Palestinian state; the goal is the extermination of thousands and the expulsion/ethnic cleansing of millions of “human animals”—first driving a million or so from Northern to Southern Gaza, then driving as many as possible into Egypt.

As I write, Israel has already, in one week, killed over 2700 people, including over 700 children, dropping a thousand bombs a day in densely-populated residential areas, targeting hospitals, journalists, ambulances, and civilians fleeing on roads Israel had directed them to. That’s the equivalent of 330,000 people in the United States and a year of U.S. bombing in Afghanistan. Israel has also killed 54 and wounded 1100 people in the West Bank, where Hamas doesn’t operate. By any reckoning, this is a genocidal campaign to eliminate a large portion of the Palestine people, intimidate the remainder and their supporters, and restore Israeli rule over what Zionism considers its god-given territory.

American and Western supporters of Israel underestimate the fanaticism of Israeli Zionists. Netanyahu is enacting the mass expulsion to finish the Nakba that he has championed since at least 1989, when he said: ‘Israel should have taken advantage of [the world’s attention on Tiananmen Square] … to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the Territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented.” The fascist religious nationalists now in power in Israel are enacting the “conquest” of Gaza, an “obligation” that, as Rabbi Eliezer Kashtiel, the head of the state-supported Bnei David academy. which “funnel[s] of thousands of religious officers into senior combat positions in the IDF,” carefully explained, has nothing to do with Hamas: “Even if not one bullet is fired at us. Even if the residents of Gaza who are not sons of Israel (Jewish) would be constantly offering us flowers… we would be obliged … to start a war to conquer Eretz Israel. …it needs to be conquered. This is our land. Our holy land. God has promised us this land.”

As the Rabbi says, Palestinians are to be conquered because they are not Jews. The Nazis drove people into a ghetto because they were Jews; the Zionists drive people into a ghetto because they are not Jews. You can think that's alright, that the letter is justified by the former. But from my, and Elise’s, and Norman’s, and most of the world’s point of view, you then have a narrow, perverse, totally fucked-up, understanding of “never again.”

Taking the Stand

In this context, Finkelstein poses another question—"Do concentration camp guards have the right to self-defense?"—which implicitly deconstructs all the phony, self-righteous interrogation we see across Western media of every Palestinian and every supporter of Palestine’s anti-colonial fight. Husam Zomlot, the Palestinian ambassador to the UK, had five family members killed, including two children, and two young children put in intensive care when Israeli bombs brought their “entire building” down upon them in Gaza. When Christiane Amanpour interviewed him, she began by demanding that he first and foremost” answer the question: “Do you condemn what Hamas did inside Israel to Israeli civilians?”

You mean during their break out of the concentration camp?

Or, to put it another way, that anyone with a scintilla of historical consciousness can understand: Nat Turner and his comrades (and John Brown, and the slaves in Haiti, and the Mau-Mau in Kenya, and the IRA in Ireland, and various actors in every slave and anticolonial rebellion in history) committed what we can call atrocities, beyond anything the al-Aqsa Flood fighters have been proven to commit during their act of escape from, and revolt against, “the largest concentration camp ever to exist.” It is right and proper, and necessary for the sake of intellectual and ethical honesty, to recognize all that.

What is, in such a context, not right and proper, what is totally unnecessary, is to convene meetings with every slave and abolitionist, and demand that they “first and foremost” answer the question: “Do you condemn what Nat Turner did to the civilians of Southampton County, Virginia?” What is not right and proper, and is totally fucked-up, is to also urgently convene all the grandees of society to proclaim “We Stand with the Slaveholders!” and send those slaveholders arms and ammunition to enforce their oh-so-understandable project of increasing their repression of the slaves and attacking anyone who may come to their aid, because what else can they do to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.  What’s not right and proper and is totally unnecessary is to shun, censor, and/or imprison anyone who speaks or protests by saying something like: “The first and foremost problem here, the source of all the violence, is not Nat Turner but the slave system itself.”

The purpose of these “Do you condemn Nat Turner?” interrogations is not to engage in a good-faith discussion of the ethics of anti-slavery/colonialism vs. slaveholding/colonialist violence, but to get people first and foremost to renounce the anti-slavery/colonial fight—i.e., to defend and reinforce the framework of the slave/colonial system. As we all understand in the context of American history, but many pretend they don’t see in the context of Zionist colonialism.

Historical ethics and good sense 101: Despite Christiane and her ilk’s insistence, the first and foremost problem here, the source of all the violence, is not anything Hamas did, but the colonial-settler, Jewish-supremacist, apartheid system of Zionism. As Chris Hedges says: “The terror Israel inflicts is the terror it will get.” In response to Nat Turner’s rebellion, even some slaveholders understood this—like Thomas Jefferson’s grandson, who “tried but failed to convince the General Assembly to enact a plan that would have put the state on the path to gradual emancipation.”

Today’s Euro-American liberal and conservative Zionists are worse, and stupider, than that slaveholder, as they enthusiastically and self-righteously “stand with” Zionist colonialism and cheer on Israel’s intensified terror against its colonized people.

We must demand that they first and foremost answer this question: “Do you support Jewish-supremacist colonialism?” and make them shame themselves with their answer or lack thereof.

Those who “Stand with Israel” cannot, or do not want to, see that they are contextualizing and accepting and supporting every act of armed repression by Israel in exactly the same way as Craig Murray means when he says: “In the coming Gaza genocide, every act of armed resistance by Hamas and Hezbollah will have my support.” What’s apparent in both stances, but self-righteously obfuscated in the former, is that nobody comes out of the violence of an unjust system with clean hands, and the first and foremost thing is not how clean your hands are, but what you’re fighting for. In this case, it’s whether you’re fighting for the enforcement of, or liberation from, colonial domination.  

As a rather famous Jew said: “A slave-owner who through cunning and violence shackles a slave in chains, and a slave who through cunning or violence breaks the chains – let not the contemptible eunuchs tell us that they are equals before a court of morality!.”

I stand alongside Craig Murray with those who fight against Zionist colonialism and hope that it soon meets the same fate as slavery, and I understand that the people who stand with Israel’s attempt to secure and expand its colonial rule through a genocidal attack on Gaza are only assuring that there will be more terror all around. And the terror inflicted by the slave/colonial system is always orders of magnitude greater than any terror inflicted by revolt against it. 


In fact, what Israel and the United States are preparing for now, in order to defend Zionist colonialism, is a storm of terror that threatens to engulf the entire world.

Israel has been so contemptuous of Palestinian agency, intelligence, and self-respect as to think that, if it could just eliminate, or at least regime-change, the countries that supported the Palestinian resistance, the Palestinian people would have to accept defeat. Thus, on behalf of the Zionist project (Yes, that was the reason for all those “senseless” wars), the United States embarked on a series of wars to do just that—take out countries (Iraq, Libya, Syria) that had provided military, financial, and diplomatic support for the Palestinian resistance. And they had considerable success with that, doing real damage to the Palestinian cause, until the train was interrupted in Syria.

But interrupted it was. Syria is hobbled but standing. Meanwhile, Iran, the country that was supposed to be the next stop for the train, remains a determined state supporter of Palestinian resistance and has only grown militarily and politically stronger. Iran and the anti-Zionist Lebanese force allied with it, Hezbollah, are capable of doing serious damage to Israel in defense of the Palestinians if they deem it necessary. Indeed, Hezbollah is a much stronger military force than Hamas, with thousands of fighters who have gained valuable military experience fighting against U.S-. and Israeli-sponsored jihadists in Syria and against Israel itself in Southern Lebanon, and with thousands of advanced missiles that can accurately strike everywhere in Israel.

So, the question in everyone’s mind, as we watch Israel destroy and depopulate Gaza from air and artillery strikes, and wait for an invasion by the 300,000-man army Israel has assembled, is: Will Hezbollah and Iran—and indeed other Arab and Islamic countries—sit and watch passively as this Nakba 2.0 unfolds? Or will there be a military intervention to stop the slaughter and ethnic cleansing the whole world is watching?

This is why the U.S. is sending two carrier battle groups to the Eastern Mediterranean, A-10 ground-attack planes to the UAE, the 101st Airborne to Jordan, and more. That’s serious power, and it’s not for any fight against Hamas in Gaza. It’s for the threat of Hezbollah intervention from Southern Lebanon and Syria, which Israel will have trouble handling on its own.

When Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says, “Our focus is to make sure that we get Israel what it needs in order to protect itself,” he means: “The United States is bringing its armed forces to protect the Zionist colonial enterprise, including any military and ethnic cleansing action it wants to take in Gaza or anywhere else, from any attempt to intervene by any party, because we know there are forces that may intervene from which Israel cannot ‘protect itself.’”

More ominously, this force is preparing for the possible attack on Iran that Israel has been pushing the U.S. to undertake for years. That’s why Israel and its American Zionist allies have been trying to identify Hamas with Hezbollah as an agent of Iran, although Hamas (Israeli-nurtured, as we’ve seen) has always been peripheral, and occasionally antagonistic, to the Iran-Hezbollah alliance. This identification allows any damage Hamas does to Israel in Gaza, as well as any intervention by Hezbollah from Lebanon, to be blamed on, and become a casus belli for war on, Iran. Have no doubt: This is what Israel and its American allies want.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul is already “drawing up an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against Hamas, Hezbollah, and other groups in the region if the Gaza war escalates…[that] would apply to Iran as well.”

I have said previously that there will be a war on Iran before a war on China, and here we are:  

This is a war Israel needs soon. They can’t wait to destroy Iran’s growing capacity to defy Israel’s military aggressions and to support Palestinian resistance to the rampage that is coming. The Ukraine situation may put it off a bit, or may bring it on sooner, but the push for this war will ripen before China 

As for Ukraine—well, Zelensky is finding out what it means to be a side piece. The United States has one true love it is absolutely loyal to.

For their part, Hezbollah and Iran, though they have not been seeking direct conflict with Israel, must be considering A) What it would mean for their credibility, for their claim to defend Palestine, to sit and watch Nakba 2.0? Will they be intimidated by U.S. politicians’ threat to attack Iran if it “escalates” by helping Gaza in any way, while Israel is allowed constantly to escalate by bombing Syria and Lebanon at will?  and B) Will there ever be a better reason or a better time to confront Israel directly? The whole of the Arab and Islamic world would support them (two million Iranians as well as fighters from Afghanistan and elsewhere have volunteered to fight for Palestine, Iraqi resistance groups have vowed to “target US bases if Washington intervenes,” even the Gulf states could not dare to complain). It’s also the case that Israel certainly and the U.S. to an unusual extent, given the depletion of its military stocks for Ukraine, would be stretched thin militarily. Aircraft carriers are scary; so are hypersonic anti-ship missiles. If you got ‘em…

The situation is extremely dangerous. Any serious action from Hezbollah would probably result in direct American military involvement, and very likely lead to an attack on Iran by the U.S. and Israel. In any such attack, Israel will use nuclear weapons, notwithstanding any promise they make to the U.S. not to. Israel would not enter such a conflict without doing everything it can to set Iran back for at least ten years, and nuclear weapons are the only instrument it can think might do that. As a result of any such conflict, Iran will be devastated but remain, and Israel will be devastated, with many settlers rushing to the East Bank. Of the Hudson. No justice and no peace.

I have also said that I think there’s a 50-50 chance for a nuclear war over Ukraine, but that’s diminishing. The chance of nuclear war over Iran is exactly equal to the chance of an attack on Iran by the U.S. and Israel, and that is increasing.

Please note again: This is all about saving the Zionist, Jewish-supremacist colonial project from the Palestinian people, who must be exterminated, expelled, or subjugated without resistance from their own or allied forces. Everybody outside the Euro-American Zionist media bubble knows this and understands how fucked up it is.

The other people to whom you cannot make your argument for justifiable colonialism are the countries of the global South—i.e., most of the, you know, post-colonial world—who immediately recognize, and have no tolerance for, the forked-tongue bullshit of righteous colonialism. Which is why most of the world sides with the Palestinians and is becoming more infuriated every day with the supremacist cruelty and sanctimonious hypocrisy of Israel and its Western supporters. Everybody knows what it would be called and what would be done if we were seeing European Whites or Jews in a Gaza Ghetto being exterminated and expelled by Arabs and Muslims. The more adamant they are in their schemes, the more Israel and the U.S. will be despised by most of humanity.

This conflict we are in may well destroy the Zionist regime in Israe,l and/or the Palestinian national cause, and/or the Iranian state, and/or all of us; it will definitely destroy the last vestige of American credibility and hegemony in the world. Like Christianity in the Roman Empire, Zionism insinuated itself as a parasite within the American imperial project and is destroying its host. Unlike Christianity, it’s going to have a hard time surviving without that host.

But it’s also got a Samson Option— “We  have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under”—as described by Israeli military historian Martin van Creveld twenty years ago, in a discussion of the crisis Israel was then facing from intifada, as recounted by journalist David Hirst: 

Iran can never be threatened in its very existence. Israel can. Indeed, such a threat could even grow out of the current intifada. That, at least, is the pessimistic opinion of Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “'If it went on much longer,” he said, “the Israeli government [would] lose control of the people. In campaigns like this, the anti-terror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not losing. I regard a total Israeli defeat as unavoidable. That will mean the collapse of the Israeli state and society. We'll destroy ourselves.” 

In this situation, he went on, more and more Israelis were coming to regard the “transfer” of the Palestinians as the only salvation; resort to it was growing “more probable” with each passing day. Sharon “wants to escalate the conflict and knows that nothing else will succeed.” 

But would the world permit such ethnic cleansing? “That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for our air force. Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: ‘Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.’ I consider it all hopeless at this point. We shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.”

Plus ça change... Uncanny, how the same dynamic repeats itself—how the world’s great leaders and media pundits think they’ve gotten past the problem and forget it completely, and how the repressed always returns, with all the great minds perplexed about “How did this terrible thing happen? What can we do about it?” The “problem” being the impossibility of settler-colonialism in the modern world, and “the repressed” being the Palestinian people. Uncanny, and infuriating, that we have to keep repeating ourselves on this historical hamster wheel while the exit is simple and obvious: Colonialism does not work. It destroys the colonized and the colonizer, and the whole world that gets involved in it. End it.

Baton Pass

As the U.S. and Israel maneuver themselves and the world into an existential crisis, as the U.S. demonstrates conclusively that it is a thoroughly Zionist country that will never use the power it has to force Israel to get off the wheel (and will in fact use all the power it has to keep Israel running on it), the new actual adults in the room are stepping up. Whatever you think of them, Russia and China do not have the libidinal investment the U.S. has in Israel, and are now speaking up—rather naively, I think—for the position that the United Nations has approved and self-appointed Western peacemakers ostensibly support, the two-state solution (which Israel will never accept).

Putin has stated quite accurately that American-led diplomacy was always on behalf of Israel, that it was tinged with the legacy of colonialism, and that the US should not and cannot pose as the diplomatic arbiter of this conflict. The world is listening and knows it’s true: The U.S.’s time as the world’s leader and diplomatic maestro is over. 

There are other countries that have the power and credibility to take a central role, and who still know how to do actual diplomacy. Russia and/or China will put forward cease-fire resolutions in the UN. Hamas has already favorably greeted a Russian proposal. There’s talk of Russia escorting Turkish humanitarian aid through Israel’s sea blockade of Gaza. As the Gaza massacre extends, most of the BRICS countries, and even some European, will come to support all this.

The United States will browbeat and bribe every country on the Security Council on behalf of Israel and veto anything that Israel doesn’t want, revealing itself to be a lonely, atavistic, stupidly aggressive dinosaur, unable to act in the world’s best, or its own intelligent, interest. Whatever comes of this will accelerate the demise of U.S. power. In favor of Russia and China. Standing with Israel’s colonial aggression in Gaza will result in at least as great a defeat for the U.S. as the one it’s suffering in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, I doubt anything will stop the ongoing and planned Israeli aggression. Some faction in the U.S. foreign policy apparatus may (must!) be smart enough to see how dangerous a ground invasion of Gaza would be. There seems to be a pause, and now that Biden has announced a visit to Israel, it’s doubtful Israel will invade until that show is over. But the Israeli leadership is fanatical and on tilt. They know that anything less than the demolition, bunker-busting (per Seymour Hersh), and complete, permanent control of Gaza, which will require a military presence, will be perceived, correctly, as a defeat. And they know the U.S. will go along with anything they do. I do not see how to prevent the catastrophe of Palestinian massacre and ethnic cleansing and/or the horrible conflagration of a regional or global war.

First and last: Colonialism is unjust and impossible. Stand with Palestine.


A version of this article, without the Trotsky quote, appeared on Counterpunch.

Related articles: Apartheid Does Not Have the Right To Defend Itself, Or To ExistSacrificing Gaza: The Great March of Zionist HypocrisyGaza Calling: It’s the Colonialism, Stupid!

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