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Israel-Palestine war: How the West is trying to reinvent Israel

The army's brutal campaign against Gaza is a reflection of American and European colonial savagery around the world
A demonstrator holds up a sign featuring images of Biden, Netanyahu and Sunak, at a protest in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza in London on 21 October, 2023 (Reuters)

Years ago, Joe Biden, then a young senator from the US state of Delaware, famously said: “It is the best $3bn investment we make. Were there not an Israel, the United States of America would have to invent an Israel to protect her interests in the region.”

Biden, now the president, recently repeated this quip, which he seems to think is very clever. Indeed, for him and for the US in general, Israel is an expensive real-estate property: a military base and stationary aircraft carrier, and as such, a major “investment” in Washington’s delusional designs to rule the region and the world.  

Biden’s quip is, of course, a moot point. Israel was already invented when he said it. Biden is not much of a prose stylist. But his wish to have invented Israel marked the historical fact that the settler colony was already an invention. 

And over the last two weeks, the US has enabled and empowered a vicious Israeli military machine, thus reinventing an even fiercer and more violent Israel.  

After Palestinian fighters breached the Gaza fence and attacked Israel on 7 October, killing and capturing hundreds of Israelis, Israel retaliated swiftly and disproportionately, killing nearly five times as many Palestinians in around two weeks, in an unrelenting barrage of air raids.

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The US and European governments are reinventing a “new and improved” Israel: the perfect image of their sustained history of colonial and imperial savagery around the world. What Israel is doing now in Gaza echoes what the French, British, Portuguese, Germans, Spanish, Americans and others have done around the globe throughout history. 

The Palestinians of Gaza are now the summation of global suffering at the hands of the Europeans and Americans.   

Generations of suffering

The 7 October attack by Palestinian fighters was a horrible scene of murder and mayhem. Western media, after having ignored generations of Palestinian suffering, quickly paraded photos and descriptions of this assault, helping to engender public support for Israel’s lethal retaliation.

The concerted effort now appears to be focused on reinventing Israel not as a European settler colony, which Biden would have invented if it did not exist already, but as a paragon of righteousness and just vengeance - all aided and abetted by a country that criminalises support for the Palestinian cause.  

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In this reinvention of Israel, equating Palestine with Hamas, and Hamas with the Islamic State, is well-designed as the foregrounding for the unfolding genocide in Gaza. This is a prelude to a systematic depoliticisation of the Palestinian cause, and its transformation from a national liberation movement into a humanitarian crisis.  

The Palestinian cause, however, is a sustained course of national liberation from a brutal European colonial project. It is not a humanitarian crisis. Hamas is just one element of a constellation of forces that are involved in this movement - and it is not the definitive element.

Even for a committed Zionist, it would be hard not to notice the innate imperial brutality of Biden's assertion about 'inventing' Israel

There is a long history of nonviolent Palestinian resistance, best showcased by the widespread boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, which has gained traction worldwide.

In contrast, a visceral, hateful nationalism has come to dominate Israeli politics. But even for a committed Zionist, it would be hard not to notice the innate imperial brutality of Biden’s assertion about “inventing” Israel - not as a Jewish haven from a sustained history of European brutalisation culminating in the Holocaust, but as a military base to protect the best interests of a dysfunctional empire. 

Reinventing Israel is a constant Zionist preoccupation, based on a bizarre historical consciousness that cherry-picks bits and pieces of a distant past, while eschewing any reminder of Israel’s immediate history of criminal atrocities against Palestinians. Today, its modern history began on 7 October, dubbed Israel’s 9/11 - and a second Nakba is now underway for the whole world to see.  

But no reinvention of Israel can outlast the steely determination of Palestinians. The world is now seeing Israel for what it is: a vicious killing machine facing an indomitable nation that will never give up.  

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in the City of New York, where he teaches Comparative Literature, World Cinema, and Postcolonial Theory. His latest books include The Future of Two Illusions: Islam after the West (2022); The Last Muslim Intellectual: The Life and Legacy of Jalal Al-e Ahmad (2021); Reversing the Colonial Gaze: Persian Travelers Abroad (2020), and The Emperor is Naked: On the Inevitable Demise of the Nation-State (2020). His books and essays have been translated into many languages.
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