Once colonialism lost its lustre, Zionists adopted a Eurocentric, racist model of the nation state to deny the existence of the Palestinians
Last month, Mondoweiss reprinted a Facebook post that had gone viral among friends, in which a Norwegian mother living in Israel announced that on Holocaust Day, she would be keeping her daughter home from school, to protect her from what she considered a confusing curriculum unit for a very young child.
“Because of the decision other people made about when and how it is appropriate for our child to learn about genocide, we chose to keep her at home yesterday and today,” the mother wrote.
My own comment irked a reader who asked how a Jewish person could be a settler, when Palestinians are usurpers of the Land of Israel, an imaginary people
I commented, wondering if this Norwegian mother, who did not use her first name, merely the initial “I,” was a liberal Zionist who had availed herself of the law of return to increase the rank of Israeli settlers.
My own comment irked a reader, who asked me how a Jewish person could be a settler, when Palestinians are usurpers of the Land of Israel, an imaginary people.
The reader continued on, questioning my understanding of a litany of "facts" including the "fact" Palestinians were not a nationality or an Arab identity before 1964, that Jews were indigenous to Israel, and that historic Palestine was in Europe.
It was immediately obvious to me that this person was not worthy of a response on that comment thread; the most I would have contributed was a jab at the claim that “historic Palestine was in Europe,” by insisting on correcting her, and explaining that no, “historic Palestine” was actually in Texas.
However, a quick Wikipedia search of that southern US town shows that it was named by a Frenchman after Palestine, Illinois, which was named after… the Biblical land of milk and honey.
In the end, I didn’t respond to this reader, but I did want to address the questions raised anyway since they are the standard fare of Zionist trolls.
Additionally, with Israel celebrating its own “independence day,” and Palestinians commemorating our Nakba, I believe it is time to address - and hopefully shut down once and for all - the old myth of Palestine being a “land without a people for a people without a land”.
This is best done with a look at the Zionist narrative itself, to reveal its own internal flaws. And perhaps that narrative is no better summed up than with the “Palestinian state quiz”, a cartoon which has circulated for years, put out by the Dry Bones Project, the website of a Brooklyn-born settler who claims to use cartoons to fight anti-Semitism.
The State of 'Palestine' Quiz! via Dry Bones pic.twitter.com/61FhY1PhDi
— Lisa #IsraelTruths (@IsraelTruths) February 12, 2014
The questions in the cartoon reveal a surprisingly shallow knowledge of history, plagued by utter disrespect for chronology and logic. I particularly like #9, which asks us to choose “any date in history” and give the exchange rate of the “Palestinian currency against the US dollar”.
What if I chose a date before 1792, when the US dollar was first created? But let’s not go so far back in history - the Deutsche Mark itself did not come into existence until 1948.
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir gives a press conference on October 15, 1973 during the Yom Kippur war. She denied the existence of a Palestinian people (AFP)
And if picking a date in history and comparing one country’s currency rate to another’s is proof that the country has historical legitimacy, what if I chose the year 1937, and asked how the Israeli currency compared to the Japanese Yen then? And if I came up blank, would that mean that neither country can lay claim to historical existence?
And do you really want me to answer question #10, “Since there is no such country of Palestine today, what caused its demise and when did it occur?” Would those who have posted this cartoon actually sit through a lecture on imperialism, Zionism, and the Nakba?
Today’s Zionist trolls do indeed tend to ground their “historical” claims in very recent developments, even preferring 1967 to 1948, because going any further back in history actually works against them.
'Colonisation can only have one goal. For the Palestinian Arabs this goal is inadmissible'- Vladimir Jabotinski
In reality, early Zionism was very comfortable with the fact that it was a colonialist movement, modeled upon the European colonisation of various countries, including North America.
The Zionist activist and writer Vladimir Jabotinski, for example, spoke of Zionism as colonialism in his 1923 essay, The Iron Wall: “Every reader has some idea of the early history of other countries which have been settled. I suggest that he recall all known instances. If he should attempt to seek but one instance of a country settled with the consent of those born there he will not succeed. The inhabitants (no matter whether they are civilized or savages) have always put up a stubborn fight."
He continues, “It is of no importance whether we quote Herzl or Herbert Samuel to justify our activities, colonisation itself has its own explanation, integral and inescapable, and [is] understood by every Arab and every Jew with his wits about him. Colonisation can only have one goal. For the Palestinian Arabs this goal is inadmissible ... Zionist colonisation, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population.”
Clearly, Jabotinski realised there were Palestinian Arabs for whom the colonisation of their land was inadmissible. However, as global discourse on colonialism shifted by the 1960s, Zionist leaders started denying our existence, distancing us from our homeland.
It is only then that “the land without a people for a people without a land” became the most common depiction of Palestine, even as almost 80 percent of the Palestinian people had become refugees, a total of 750,000 people expelled from their homes, their towns and villages. This is our Nakba.
‘They did not exist’
Seven hundred and fifty thousand is a huge number by any count, but in 1948, 750,000 was about 80 percent of the Palestinian people. Eighty percent of us became refugees in 1948, and to this day, Palestinians in the diaspora make up some 65 to 70 percent of the entire Palestinian population.
And yet, because in the 1960s, as many countries around the world were gaining their independence, and colonialism was no longer viewed as the “civilising mission” that colonisers once claimed it was, Israeli leaders took to denying that we existed as a people.
The Zionist logic would also deny that Native Americans existed, because they did not have nation states recognisable to Europeans
This attitude is best illustrated by former Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, who was asked by a British reporter in 1969, “How do you feel about the Palestinians?”
“There were no such thing as Palestinians,” she responded. “When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan.
“It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”
The Zionist logic, that we did not exist because we did not have a currency, national boundaries, etc, would also deny that Native Americans existed, because they did not have nation states recognisable to the Europeans. And indeed, that is how the colonisation of the Americas happened - violently, and hinging on genocide, but above all, grounded in racism.
Later, some Israeli historians tried to justify our dispossession, comparing it to the dispossession of the Native Americans, and saying it was for “the greater good”.
If all Jews are of Middle Eastern descent, it should be easy for you to recognise other forms of communal identity, beyond the modern European nation-state
“I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy. I feel sympathy for the refugees themselves. But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice,” wrote Israeli historian Benny Morris.
“Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history."
Israeli children play with an Uzi submachine gun during a weapons display in Jerusalem as part of celebrations for Israel's Independence Day in 1997 (AFP)
My question to Zionist trolls: can you think outside the Eurocentric box? After all, if all Jews are of Middle Eastern descent, it should be easy for you to recognise other forms of communal identity, beyond the modern European nation-state.
The Eurocentric logic of the reader whom I irked, just like that of Golda Meir, Jabotinski and Morris, reveals one thing: Zionists are indeed racist European settlers.
- Nada Elia is a Diaspora Palestinian writer and political commentator, currently working on her second book, Who You Callin' "Demographic Threat?" Notes from the Global Intifada. A professor of Gender and Global Studies (retired), she is a member of the steering collective of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Two Palestinians who became refugees when they were expelled from the home in 1948 (Wikimedia)