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Israel-Palestine war: Why the West is rallying around the last settler colony

The US announcement to move an advanced aircraft carrier closer to Israel would not be the first time that US or European ships were dispatched to protect colonists in Palestine
The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford, which the US announced will move closer to the eastern Mediterranean to provide Israel with additional military equipment and ammunition (Reuters)

On the second day of war between the Palestinian resistance and their Israeli colonisers, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered the American aircraft carrier USS Gerald R Ford, the most advanced in the US arsenal - along with its 5,000 Navy crew members - to sail to the Eastern Mediterranean in support of the Israeli settler-colonial and apartheid regime against the Palestinians.

The Ford hosts a guided missile cruiser and four guided missile destroyers. The US is also dispatching the USS Normandy, a guided missile cruiser armed with naval guns, and destroyers USS Thomas Hudner, USS Ramage, USS Carney, and USS Roosevelt.

Austin added that the US is augmenting Air Force F-35, the most advanced fighter jet in the world, in addition to F-15, F-16, and A-10 fighter aircraft squadrons in the region. Austin is likely referring to fighters stationed in US military bases in neighbouring Arab countries, including Jordan, Bahrain, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

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While this may be no more than a show of force, if the US opts to use its bombers against the Palestinians, it is unlikely that the Arab regimes would or could object. Austin added that the Biden administration "will be rapidly providing the Israel Defence Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions. The first security assistance will begin moving today and arriving in the coming days."

Defending colonists

This would not be the first time that US or European ships were dispatched to protect colonists in Palestine. In 1854, a group of white American Protestant fanatics who were known as the "Dicksons" established the "American Mission Colony" in Jaffa. They were resisted by the indigenous Palestinians who attacked their colony in 1858, killing a number of them.

The US then dispatched a steam frigate, the USS Wabash, which flew its American flag to the shores of Palestine to demand that the Ottomans prosecute the killers. A similar action was taken two decades later by the Germans in defence of fanatical German Protestant colonists.

In response to Israeli requests for military support during the 1973 war, the US carried out what had been the largest transfer of arms in its history

During the Ottoman-Russian War of 1877-1878, German warships came to the shores of Palestine to defend German religious colonists, known as the "Templers", in case they were attacked. In the process, the German consul forced the Ottomans to recognise the Templers' colonies, which they had refused to do until then.

Indeed, the Templers had hoped to turn Palestine into a Protestant Christian state, expecting it to be awarded to Germany at the end of the war. However, they would be greatly disappointed.

Three decades later, during the 1908 uprising of the Young Turks in Constantinople, Palestinian peasants attacked the German colonies. Once again, the Germans dispatched a warship to Haifa to defend the colonists in case more attacks followed.

The immediate battle

A few weeks ago, and in anticipation of its 50th anniversary, Israel released many of the remaining classified documents about its 1973 war with Egypt and Syria, who launched surprise invasions of the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula and Golan Heights, respectively, to liberate them from Israeli control.

The thousands of records revealed government deliberations, military-political consultations, Knesset committee meetings, and correspondence with foreign governments on the conduct of war.

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In response to Israeli requests for military support, the US carried out what had been the largest transfer of arms in its history. Henry Kissinger, the US secretary of state and national security advisor at the time, revealed the US government’s thinking in a recent interview with the Jerusalem Post. "We were determined, from the beginning, to prevent an Arab victory," he said. "We were absolutely convinced, from the very first second, that we would restore the status quo."

Kissinger asserted: "We had based our early discussions about the war on the fact that the military advantage was on Israel's side." When this did not materialise, it became necessary to heed frantic Israeli requests for military resupply.

dayan kissinger
US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, right, meets with Israel's Defence Minister Moshe Dayan, in Tel Aviv on 8 January 1974, just a few months after the 1973 war (AFP)

He added: "There were two separate problems, the immediate battle, and the longer-term battle. In the immediate battle, Israel had to stop the enemy advance and go on the offensive before American diplomatic intervention could meaningfully occur, and I urged them to start an offensive on some fronts - and said that we would act diplomatically only after that had succeeded.”

The US immediately dispatched the aircraft carrier Franklin Delano Roosevelt to the Eastern Mediterranean to join the US carrier Independence, which was already stationed there. The US carrier John F Kennedy was also ordered to join them. These were augmented by the massive US airlift of military hardware along with Kissinger’s advice to the Israelis on how to continue the battles and assurances of US diplomatic support.

These efforts were scaffolded by a deeply racist, anti-Arab and pro-Israeli US media, which aggressively spread a narrative of Israeli victimhood that persists today. The propaganda had been that Egypt and Syria invaded Israel itself, when in fact they had invaded Egyptian and Syrian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.

Racialised sympathy

Given this successful precedent, the Americans are hoping they can repeat their performance in 1973. Indeed, the US media scaffolding for the solid US support for the apartheid regime has been shamelessly evident from the moment the Palestinian resistance retaliated against Israel. Dominating the networks is its usual hypocrisy and racialised sympathy for Israeli-Jewish victims of war while remaining silent on the Palestinian victims.

Like Kissinger, the current US Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged on the first day of the war "to bolster Israel's security". He further "underscored the United States's unwavering support for Israel's right to defend itself".

This anti-Palestinian campaign in the West, which includes Germany, France and the UK, is as much in full swing now as it has been since 1948. It remains equally committed to supporting the Israeli settler colony and defeating the anti-colonial indigenous Palestinians, come what may.

The Germans declared to the Jewish supremacist leaders of Israel that Berlin is "on your side". France echoed the same sentiments affirming that it "stands by Israel and Israelis," while the British declared that the UK "supports Israel."
It is hardly a coincidence that these countries are either settler colonies themselves, as the US remains, or colonising countries who had established white-supremacist settler colonies - Namibia, Tanganyika, Rhodesia, South Africa, Algeria, Tunisia, and Kenya, to name a few - which they fought to uphold with much violence from the 1890s to the 1980s, when indigenous resistance finally upended them.

As Israel is the last settler-colony that continues to be ruled by racist laws and institutions, the West views its survival as Europe and the US's last stand in support of racism

Lest anyone forget the racial supremacist nature of Israel, Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant described the Palestinians on the third day of the war as "human animals".

As Israel is the last settler colony in Asia or Africa that continues to be ruled by racist laws and institutions, the West views its survival as Europe and the US's last stand in support of racism and settler-colonialism outside their borders and against the barbaric hordes of non-Europeans resisting colonial rule and determined to overthrow it.

Whereas possible direct western military intervention and participation in the war in support of Israel may prove rhetorical and for propaganda purposes, the racist sentiments behind them are quite real.

This circling of the western wagons aims to prevent the achievement of Palestinian freedom no matter the cost. But if the last few days have demonstrated anything, it is that the Palestinian quest for freedom and its resistance to colonial oppression cannot be stopped.

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

Joseph Massad is professor of modern Arab politics and intellectual history at Columbia University, New York. He is the author of many books and academic and journalistic articles. His books include Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan; Desiring Arabs; The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians, and most recently Islam in Liberalism. His books and articles have been translated into a dozen languages.
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