Israeli Colonialism: Encroachment with Impunity

Colonialism, which was perceived to be long gone, is down but certainly not out, and it has returned, this time in Israel, with catastrophic implications for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel says it will continue to build settlements in the West Bank, in clear violation of international law. Colonialism cannot be allowed to resurrect itself in any form. Israel must be told to stop building new settlements on Palestinian land

By Pranay K Shome

Opinion

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich recently said that Israel will continue to build settlements in the West Bank, in clear violation of international law and the USA’s opposition. In light of such a brazen attitude, it has become necessary to undertake a study of colonialism.

In the history of global human society, several phases have seen their share of positive, negative and sometimes plain horrific events. This has been the case in almost every society worldwide. In the realm of global history, one such nasty chapter was colonialism. Colonialism, in the social sense of the term, denotes the forcible occupation of a region, territory, or country by the use of physical force. The conquered region is then colonised with the conquering force either slaughtering or co-opting the enslaved community into submission.

Colonialism originated in the European ‘Age of Exploration’ that commenced with Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America (North America), which he mistakenly described as India. This was followed by West European countries sending maritime exploratory missions worldwide. It laid the foundation of the ‘New World’. However, colonialism is one of the darkest chapters in the annals of human history.

The discovery of the ‘New World’ saw the Western European countries making use of force, coercion and other devious methods to conquer and enslave other societies. The result was the destruction of indigenous societies and cultures followed by the genocide and enslavement of such peoples.

Jared Diamond, an American naturalist and biologist, in his book Guns, Germs & Steel has succinctly highlighted how the Spanish and Portuguese missions to Mexico and Peru led to the almost overnight evisceration of the Inca and Aztec civilisations. The same episode was repeated in the British colonisation of Australia and New Zealand.

Colonialism originated in the European Age of Exploration beginning with Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America, which he mistakenly described as India. This was followed by West European countries sending maritime exploratory missions worldwide. Colonialism is one of the darkest chapters in the annals of human history

Fast forward to the present day, when colonialism is presumed to be a thing of the past, it has made a comeback, this time in Israel, and is making its presence felt in Israeli officials’ statements and actions. While the Israel-Hamas war is still going on, with catastrophic implications for both Israelis and Palestinians, colonialism is rearing its ugly head once again.

Settler Colonialism

There are different variants of colonialism. Of these, settler colonialism is the most common and controversial. Settler colonialism involves physically conquering a territory and altering its structure and composition by populating it with people who do not belong to the native population. Israeli construction of settlements in the West Bank region since the 1990s is the quintessential example of settler colonialism.

Settler colonialism has a long history of eviscerating indigenous cultures and populations. J Sai Deepak’s book India, that is Bharat brilliantly documents how the Anglo-Saxon colonialism of North America is perhaps the best example of such a gruesome exercise. Settler colonialism saw the white inhabitants of America and later on Australia and New Zealand killing the Native Americans or Red Indians, Aboriginals and Maori population in huge numbers. Those who survived accepted this as their fait accompli and became subject populations.

There is no doubt that the Jewish people have faced persecution throughout their tragic history, whether from the Romans, Russians or the Nazis. Their claim to self-determination and the right to self-preservation is undeniable. But there is no excuse for violating Palestinians’ right to self-determination as they too have an equal claim over Palestine

Israel – a modern colonial power

There is no doubt that the Jewish people have faced persecution throughout their tragic history, whether from the Romans, Russians or the Nazis. Their claim to self-determination and the right to self-preservation is undeniable. Having said that, however, it is no excuse for wantonly violating the right of self-determination of Palestinians who too have an equal claim over Palestine.

Israelis got their homeland when the United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1948. In the subsequent wars, Israel annexed new regions and added new territory. However, building settlements in the West Bank and calling on Palestinians to leave Gaza amounts to genocide of Palestinians.

Israel is hell-bent on violating even the basic right of survival of Palestinians, first in Gaza and now in the West Bank. It is high time that Israel stops using the narrative of being a victim of terrorism and continues with its irredentist claims in the West Bank. The two-state solution is the only path to peace in this turbulent region

In the present context, Israel is emerging to be the textbook example of a colonising force that is hell-bent on violating even the basic right of survival of Palestinians, first in Gaza and now in the West Bank.

It is high time that Israel stops using the narrative of being a victim of terrorism and continues with its irredentist claims in the West Bank. The two-state solution is the only path to peace in this turbulent region.

Colonialism cannot be allowed to resurrect itself in any form. India, which prides itself in being the emerging Vishwaguru and an apostle of peace, with the help of the United States, should ask Israel to stop building new settlements on Palestinian land.

–The writer is currently working as a Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda