Clutching Pearls While Gaza Burns

Israel's bombing of Gaza

A reply to a WSJ opinion piece on Israel-Palestine, the left, and settler colonialism.

Submitted by Ivysyn on November 6, 2023

An opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal has joined a chorus of other such pieces in western media outlets decrying support for Palestine during the current Israel-Hamas conflict. The latest conflict was kicked off by an invasion of Israel by Hamas fighters that killed over a thousand Israelis and the taking of hostages by said fighters including infants and the elderly. Thus any support of Palestine that has proceeded that undoubtably horrible episode has been labelled by western commentators and supporters of Israel as "support for terrorism". This piece sets itself apart by aiming at the concept of "settler colonialism", i.e. a colonial project that violently forces indigenous people off their land to pave the way for settlements to house a settler population.

It argues that the application of the concept to Israel and the United States as a way of criticizing said states is really just a sort of Fascist adjacent blood and soil nationalism. According to the author all that is really being said when these states are attacked for being settler colonial is that only the indigenous population belongs on the land and everyone else must be violently expelled. To prove this point, the author points to psychologist Franz Fanon's "endorsement" of violent resistance to colonialism by indigenous populations and posts on social media supportive of Hamas. It also trots out the familiar temporal relativism that debates on race in the United States often bring out of conservative pundits. Just because the descendants of settlers live on the land as a result of colonial repression doesn't mean, according to the author, that they are at all complicit in said repression, or that said repression continues to this day.

This piece is emblematic of the deception by omission required to defend settler colonial projects like Zionism. What very few western news outlets have wanted to include in the story is that Hamas' attack was NOT unprovoked. It came after the Israeli government, in the last few years at the very least, has become taken over by Kahanist elements bent on wiping out the Arabs and which has continually supported illegal settlements that drive Palestinians off their land. Hamas, the Islamist authoritarian group that it is, has none the less actually moderated its stance. It no longer actually pushes for the eradication of the Israeli state. It has limited it's demands to the establishment of a Palestinian state, end to settlements, and taking back land that Israel has insisted is off the table. Meanwhile, the response to Hamas' brutality has been, as usual, much harsher brutality in the form of collective punishment by Israel. Israeli air-strikes on Gaza have killed more to this date than Hamas killed in early October, including children. In addition, Israel has committed war crimes by ordering the evacuation of Northern Gaza while bombing the evacuation routes and the south where the Gazans were to evacuate too.

Those Gazans are descendants of Palestinians that were violently exiled from land Israel now controls in the 1948 Nakba (meaning catastrophe) that enabled the founding of Israel as a nation by settler militia groups. The idea that the violence of the past has no connection to injustice in the present is just an age-old fallacy used to brush off demands for justice on concerns ranging from affirmative action to the treatment of the Palestinians by Israel. Settler colonialism is not a justification for terrorism cooked up by Hamas and leftist students. It is the material reality of every single Palestinian alive today whether in Gaza, the occupied west bank, or the diaspora.

Israel has itself to blame for the existence and success of Hamas. Every bomb it drops on innocent civilians and every Palestinian who is evicted for the purpose of illegal settlement contributes to making Palestinians believe that Hamas is the only force that will protect them from the daily onslaught. Israel itself supported Hamas as an alternative to secular national liberation organizations. It is true that naive western leftists will see Hamas' willingness to take up arms as reason to ignore its fundamentalist ideology, authoritarian rule over Gaza, and failure to provide Palestinians with basic resources despite being able to smuggle them through its tunnel network, a fact that led Gazans themselves to rise up against the organization in July, and to give Hamas the dubious label of "the resistance". However, the real alternative is something no defender of Israel is willing to countenance.

Nobody who supports Israel, not least the author of this opinion piece, is willing to call for a third intifada that not only abolishes the state of Israel, guarantees right of return for Palestinian refugees, ends illegal settlements and rolls back existing settlements, but also abolishes the authoritarian and feckless rule of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. In addition, none of those lamenting leftist support for Hamas are willing to call for an international boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement to end material support for Israeli colonialism and support Palestinian resistance toward the goal of peace between Arabs and Jews in the region and full Palestinian self-determination. This is because these commentators only care when Israeli blood is shed in response to the daily slaughter of the Palestinian people. This is because support for Israel is support for colonialism, it means horror at the death of innocent Jews, but a blind eye to even higher rates of murder of Arabs.

This is the real point that marks Franz Fannon as a historic anti-colonial thinker. When your daily reality is oppression your only recourse, your only protection, is violent resistance. This resistance is by no means resistance to be carried out by authoritarian, feckless Islamic fundamentalists, but it is resistance that is crucial for the liberation of an oppressed people. The author of the piece asserts that this is a simplistic view that reduces the world to the battle between oppressor and oppressed. In fact, it is ignoring the reality of national oppression which delivers a rose-tinted worldview in which the Palestinians can be slaughtered every day, but nobody better touch a hair on an Israeli head, or else they should be bombed to the stone age. Resistance to colonialism is not fascism.

UPDATE: In the course of writing this article Israel has launched its ground offensive in Gaza killing at least 400 people overnight. I sincerely doubt the author of the opinion piece in WSJ will be writing a follow up to express moral outrage for the nightmare Israel is now unleashing or pour scorn on Zionist social media accounts cheering on the carnage. Colonial ideology always relies on "violence to thee, not to me".
Original Article: Campus Radicals and Leftist Groups Have Embraced the Idea of ‘Settler Colonialism’, WSJ
Thousands take to streets in Gaza in rare public display of discontent with Hamas, AP
Israel launches ground war in northern Gaza, BBC News
Rashid Khalidi on Biden's "Israel-First Approach" & Growing Outrage over Gaza Across the Middle East, Democracy Now
“Violence Is Bred by Occupation:” Historian Rashid Khalidi on Israel-Gaza | Amanpour and Company
“None of This Is Inevitable:” HRW on Civilians in the Crossfire | Amanpour and Company
Israel’s Far-Right Government is a Gift to Settlers, Vice
The Dangerous Rise of Israeli Ultra-Nationalists | Decade of Hate, Vice
How Palestinians were expelled from their homes, Vox
Hamas, the militant group that attacked Israel, explained, Vox