How years of Zionist genocide and settler-colonialism have been hiding under the guise of Jewish self-determination
( Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona / Unsplash )
By now, Sheikh Jarrah is a name many of you may have heard quite frequently. The East Jerusalem neighborhood has been a common topic of discussion and a subject of many Instagram infographics (some...ill-informed and insensitive ones, at that) over the last two weeks.
For those who haven’t picked up on the story or been able to grasp the significance of what’s going on in Palestine, here is a rundown of Israel's long history of violence that has been ravaging Palestinian neighborhoods.
To understand Israel’s existence, we need to first look at the political ideology and movement that created it to begin with, and that is Zionism. Some say, “I’m a Zionist,” and others say, “I’m an anti-Zionist,” but what does it actually mean?
According to the World Zionist Organization, Zionism is a political and nationalist activity that seeks to re-establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In other words, it aims to grant the Jewish population their own statehood. But according to Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism, it is a colonial project. It also branded the Palestinians as an obstacle and an enemy to their self-determination. In Herzl’s own words: “If I wish to substitute a new building for an old one, I must demolish before I construct.”
The creation of Israel intended to uproot the Palestinians from their ancestral land, divorcing them from their deeply implanted family trees and culture. Where is the good in that?
At the end of World War II, as more and more Jews attempted to flee Nazi Germany, Britain eyed Palestine (which it had previously invaded post-WWI) as the ideal place to establish a Jewish state. With the collaboration of notorious European anti-semites and Theodore Herzl, Britain and the UN decided to divide Palestine into a Jewish state and a Palestinian one. Jerusalem remained the multi-faith capital. Although the Jewish people represented only a third of the population at the time, they were given over 50% of the land.
Palestinians, regardless of religious affiliation, were indigenous to the land. As a result, many of its neighboring countries were outraged at this news. So began the Arab-Israeli war of 1948.
Zionist paramilitaries, known as the Haganah, the Irgun, and the Stern Gang, moved with the goal to destroy Palestinian villages. Five hundred were demolished, and over 700,000 Palestinians were expelled. The newfound Zionist regime executed those who resisted expulsion.
[TW: mention of rape and violence]
Deir Yassin, a village in the outskirts of West Jerusalem, formed a non-aggression pact with the Haganah, yet the Haganah violated it. They aimed to send a bloody message to the rest of the Palestinians, so they lined up and shot villagers, looted their homes and raped their women.
These are only three of the countless crimes committed against the Palestinians throughout the efforts of Zionist colonization. Israel won the war; all thanks to its Zionist militia that had received comprehensive and established training from senior British Army officer Orde Wingate.
The occupation extended past the borders the UN originally established, all the way to the West Bank and Gaza. Every day, Israel builds illegal settlements. At the same time, they displace thousands of Palestinians from their homes.
Let’s fast forward to May 2021 in Sheikh Jarrah. We’ve seen the IDF’s (Israeli Defense Forces) siege on the Palestinian territory, Gaza — AKA the bombing of the third-most densely-populated place on Earth. We’ve seen the blockade and destruction of healthcare facilities, the electrical grid, and the water supply- killing 248 people. We’ve seen the use of force against worshippers in the Al-Aqsa mosque during the holy month of Ramadan, when people are fasting and worshipping.
This violence is nothing new; it is a product of the Zionist military doctrines that intentionally damage infrastructure, killing and injuring civilians. Zionist doctrines also enable overpowering Palestine. The use of force is starkly disproportionate. While Palestinians hurl sticks and stones, Israel fires tanks and machine guns.
This is all nothing but the continuation of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) of ‘48.
There is no denying that Jewish people deserve the right to self-determination, meaning the right to a homeland that serves and meets their basic needs. Everybody does. However, there is no way to defend an occupational state that has displaced hundreds of thousands of indigenous Palestinian people. They lived there long before the arrival of the settlers. There is no way to defend a state that has been funded by another settler-colonial state, known as the United States, to carry out massacres against a people with no defense. There is no way to defend the United States, nor the Israeli state, when funds go towards sterilizing and racializing their own (see: the sterilization of Ethiopian Jewish women and the otherization of Mizrahi Jews).
There are no two sides to this story. One is an established state with a high-tech, anti-missile defense system and reinforced bunkers. The other is a population who is viewed as disposable and deprived of homes and humanity.
The “conflict,” as many like to reduce it to, happens to have no religious or ideological basis. Settlers in America did not settle simply to prove the sovereignty of their religion to the indigenous peoples. Neither did the Israelis. While the majority of its population is Sunni Muslims, Palestine has also been home to many Jewish and Christian Arabs. This is not a war on religion. It is also not even an attempt to offer the Jewish people a place to call home.
What is happening is instead apartheid, ethnic-cleansing (the forced expulsion of Arabs, regardless of religious affiliation), and settler-colonialism.
Colonization has never been complicated for the colonized. To call this lopsided power dynamic and violence “complex,” is to know privilege.
However, to oppose Zionist endeavors is not to be equated with opposing Jewish people’s right to self-determination.
When people begin to advocate for a liberated Palestine, where Jewish and Arab populations can coexist, we will shift away from Zionism. The Zionist nationalist ideology is colonialism, and its founders called it so.
Our indifference towards the plight of the Palestinian people comes at a cost. Palestinians paid it with the blood of loved ones, in rubble where villages once stood, in homes filled with new families. The old residents still cling to their house keys, but now they linger on the other side behind barbed wire topped walls.
To take advantage of the privilege we wield means educating ourselves first on the story of Palestine. Here is a reading list you can use to equip yourself with a better understanding of the tragedies people have been facing for decades. We can also contribute to the comfort of Palestinians by directly donating to and getting involved with the BDS movement (or Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions). They have been at the forefront of this fight to liberate Palestine. I also will highly implore you all to pay attention to any direct mutual aid funds that you might see on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or really through any Google search.
Here’s to a liberated Palestine, and here’s to a free people all around the world.
Jazz Abraham is an Online Writer for Rowdy Magazine. She spends her days annoying her mother, crying over baby orangutans, obsessing over Brad Pitt, listening to obscure 60s rock, reading, and writing songs about things she’s never experienced. Her passions lie in film, music, the planet, and the amplification of silenced voices. You can reach out to her at @jazzabbraham on Instagram.