Israel: A Failing Colonial Project

by M. Shahid Alam

Increasingly, despite its early military and political successes, Israel cannot for long endure as a colonial project. It must choose between wars – and destruction – or transition to a state for all its peoples.

In order to firmly secure its existence – as firmly as that is possible for any state – a settler state has to overcome three challenges. It has to solve the native problem; break away from its mother country; and gain the recognition of neighboring states and peoples. It can be shown that Israel has not met any of these conditions.

Consider Israel’s native problem. In 1948, in the months before and after its creation, Israel appeared to have solved its native problem in one fell swoop. It had expelled 80 percent of the Palestinians from the territories it had conquered. In addition, with the rapid influx of Arab Jews, Palestinians were soon reduced to less than ten percent of Israel’s population.

So, had Israel licked its native problem for good? Not really.

The Palestinians inside Israel pushed back with a high natural rate of growth in their numbers. As a result, despite the continuing influx of Jewish immigrants, the Palestinian share in Israel’s population has grown to above 20 percent. Increasingly, Jews in Israel see Israeli Arabs as a threat to their Jewish state. Some are advocating a fresh round of ethnic cleansing. Others are calling for a new partition to exclude areas with Arab majorities.

The Palestinians expelled from Israel in 1948 did not go away either. Most of them set up camp in areas around Israel – the West Bank, Gaza, southern Lebanon and Jordan. In 1967, when Israel conquered Gaza and the West Bank, it could expel a much smaller fraction of the Palestinians from these territories. In consequence, with more than a million additional Palestinians under its control, Israeli had recreated its native problem.

Israel’s native problem has grown worse since 1967. Already, the Palestinians equal or outnumber Israeli Jews between the Sea and the Jordan River. In the years ahead, moreover, the Palestinian share will continue to rise.

Having run out of solutions – such as rising net immigration of Jews and ethnic cleansing – Israel has been implementing draconian measures to handle its native problem. With Egyptian collaboration, it maintains a medieval siege over Gaza; it neutralizes the Palestinians in the West Bank with the apartheid wall, expansion of settlements, settler-only roads, intimidation and humiliation of Palestinians, and military control over the Jordan Valley.

However, these remedies are creating new problems. They lend support to charges that Israel is an apartheid society not a democracy. As a result, slowly but steadily, Western publics are throwing their support behind the campaign to divest from, boycott and impose sanctions on Israel.

Has Israel broken away from dependence on its mother country/countries?

In the absence of a natural mother country, Zionism worked with surrogates. Quite a few of them. Indeed, there is not a Western country – including Russia in its previous incarnation as Soviet Union – that has not served as a surrogate mother country to the Jewish colonial project.

The Jewish settlers in Palestine lost the support of Britain – their leading surrogate mother – in the early years of World War II, but retained it long enough to create their own state. Over the next few years Israel took on several new surrogates, not counting the Jewish diaspora: including the Soviet Union, France, Germany and the United States. Starting in the late 1950s, however, the United States became the leading mother country to Israel. This was the result of a powerful dynamic largely directed by Israel and the Jewish lobby in the United States.

Over the years, the United States has subsidized Israel, armed it, allowed it to acquire nuclear weapons, and gave it immunity from the sanction of international laws. Under the protection of the United States, Israel quickly gained hegemony over the Middle East: it became a law unto itself.

Still Israel is not an autonomous state.

It could not sustain its current military posture without the annual military grant of some three billion dollars from the United States and the tax-free donations from American Jews. More importantly, without the US veto at the United Nations, Israel could not continue its occupation of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, its siege of Gaza, its pre-emptive wars against its neighbors, and its policy of assassinations against Arabs. In short, without US-backed immunity, Israel would become a pariah state.

Arguably, this dependence does not place Israel at risk, since it is primarily an artifact of the Israel lobby in the United States. Over time, however, as the damage that Israel causes to US interests filters to the American electorate, unqualified US support for Israel may be in jeopardy.

Finally, there is the question of gaining the recognition of its neighbors.

Israeli gains on this front are more apparent than real. The Arab regimes that have recognized Israel, or are eager and ready to recognize it, have little legitimacy. Should these regimes collapse, their replacements are likely to resume their early confrontational posture towards Israel.

This is not mere speculation. Under the despotic Shah Iran was friendly to Israel, but after the Islamic Revolution of 1979 Iran became an ideologically committed adversary of Israel. As the powers of the secular generals in Turkey have been clipped, Turkey too has been revising its friendly ties with Israel.

In recent years, Israel has been running into a new problem: the loss of legitimacy with growing segments of civil society in the Western countries.

Driven by the contradictions of an exclusionary settler-state, as Israel has ratcheted its violence against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, as it has tightened its siege of Gaza, as it deepens its apartheid regime in the West bank, as it threatens to strips Arab Israelis of their rights, it has slowly called forth a new form opposition to its policies.

Angry at the complicity of their governments in Israeli crimes, segments of civil society in Europe, Canada and the United States have been moving forward with calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Increasingly, despite vigorous opposition from the Jewish establishment, this movement has been spreading among academics, students, trade unions, church groups, dissenting Jewish organizations, and human rights activists. Some of them have been organizing convoys, over land and sea, to break the blockade of Gaza.

As the failure of Israel’s colonial project looms larger, its nervous leaders will increasingly seek security in new and more dangerous wars. Increasingly, Israel will become an intolerable threat – if it isn’t already – to the Middle East, the world, and no less to Jews everywhere. Zionism was founded overwhelmingly by secular Jews, but, in order to succeed, it created a new religious myth of Jewish restoration, galvanized messianic tendencies among Western Christians, and created the myth that Israel alone shields the West from a resurgent Islam and Islamicate. It will not be easy putting these genies back in the bottle.

Perhaps, the best chance of unwinding the Zionist colonial project lies with the Jews themselves. Only when liberal segments of the Jewish diaspora are convinced that Zionism endangers Jewish lives, only when they act to countervail the power of the Jewish lobby in leading Western societies, will Israel finally be moved to dismantled its apartheid regime. In the end, the alternative to this orderly dismantling of Zionism is a destructive war in the Middle East that may not be limited to the region. Whatever else happens, it is unlikely that Israel or US interests in the Middle East will survive such a war.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University, Boston. He is author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2006). Visit his website at http://qreason.com; and write to him at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.

12 thoughts on “Israel: A Failing Colonial Project”

  1. I wonder, how do you explain the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza? And why did the residents of Gaza keep firing missiles into Israel after the withdrawal? Also … do you think that the Palestinians have an interest in reaching a peace agreement?

    1. Are you talking about the 800 illegal settlers who the occupation state destroyed their illegal settlements in Gaza prison and relocated them in a similar illegal settlements in the West bank?
      The occupation is the issue and the crime here, an occupier can not offer a peace agreement nor blame the victims who live under the occupation.
      You need to go back and read the Zionists’ literature like Moshe Dayan who answered your questions a long time ago:

      “Moshe Dayan stated in an oration at the funeral of an Israeli farmer killed by a Palestinian Arab in April 1956: “. . . Let us not today fling accusation at the murderers. What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived. We should demand his blood not from the [Palestinian] Arabs of Gaza but from ourselves. . . . Let us make our reckoning today. We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of [Palestinian] Arabs who sit all around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.” (Iron Wall, p. 101)”

      1. Moshe Dayan’s writings are indeed influential, but they always represented the views of only some of the Israelis, not all of them.
        But my question is: what an occupier does have to do in order to end the conflict?
        I once thought that total withdrawal should do it. But after Israel withdrew from Lebanon and the conflict continued, I do not believe in it anymore.

  2. I wonder, how do you explain that Israel never really withdrew from Gaza, and in fact imposed a siege and still controls its borders? And why did Israel conduct a horrendous bombing campaign in December 2008 when largely ineffectual homemade rockets had viurtually stopped for six months, breaking a successful ceasefire? Also … can you tell us why the Israeli regime really have no demonstrated interest in reaching a peace agreement?

    1. I believe that Israel imposed a siege and controlled the Gaza borders in order to collapse the Hamas regime in Gaza.
      Regarding the bombing campaign, I believe that Israel’s goal was to hurt Hamas in order to stop the firing of rockets and cross-border attacks (as the one that led to the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit) from Gaza to Israel. The ceasefire was indeed successful up to a point, but it’s difficult to say who broke it first. Israel conducted the first major cross-border operation on Nov 4, 2008, but it claimed to do so as a preemptive measure against an attack planned by the Hamas. Moreover, there were possibilities to renew the ceasefire thereafter, but the sides couldn’t agree on a new truce. Therefore, I think both sides preferred to renew the war between them.
      Why the Israeli regime did not demonstrate interest in reaching a peace agreement? I think that the majority of Israelis do not believe that a peace agreement would stop extreme groups (on both sides) from acting, thus, they don’t believe that their personal safety would improve after a peace agreement. Therefore, in recent elections Israelis had selected governments that didn’t push strongly for a peace agreement.

  3. What are those KHAZARS doing in Palestine?They have nothing to do with true Israel,they are not from the tribe of judah.
    The Jewish Encyclopedia:

    “Khazars, a non-Semitic, Asiatic, Mongolian tribal nation who emigrated into Eastern Europe about the first century, who were converted as an entire nation to Judaism in the seventh century by the expanding Russian nation which absorbed the entire Khazar population, and who account for the presence in Eastern Europe of the great numbers of Yiddish-speaking Jews in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, Galatia, Besserabia and Rumania.
    Academic American Encyclopedia, Deluxe Library Edition, Volume 12, page 66 states:

    “The Khazars, a Turkic people, created a commercial and political empire that dominated substantial parts of South Russia during much of the 7th through 10th centuries. during the 8th century the Khazar aristocracy and the Kagan (King) were converted to Judaism.
    Collier’ s Encyclopedia, Volume 14, page 65 states:

    “Khazars [kaza’rz], a semi-nomadic tribe of Turkish or Tatar origin who first appeared north of the Caucasus in the early part of the third century…in the Eighth Century Khaghan Bulan decided in favor of the Jews and accepted Judaism for himself and for his people.

    Benjamin H. Freedman, Jewish Historian – Researcher – Scholar.
    From “Common Sense”, p. 2-1-53 and 5-1-59

    “Christians have been duped by the unholiest hoax in all history, by so-called Jews. This is considered their most effective weapon.”

    “This ‘big lie’ technique is brainwashing United States Christians into believing that Jesus Christ was “King of the Jews”, in the sense that so-called ‘Jews’ today call themselves ‘Jews’. This reference was first made in English translations of the Old and New Testaments, centuries before the so-called Jews highjacked the word ‘Jew’ in the 18th century A.D. to palm themselves off on the Christian world as having a kinship with Jesus Christ. This alleged kinship comes from the myth of their common ancestry with the so-called ‘Jews’ of the Holy Land in the Old Testament history, a fiction based on fable.”

    “American Christians little suspect they are being brainwashed twenty-four hours of every day over television and radio, by newspapers and magazines, by motion pictures and plays, by books, by political leaders in office and seeking office, by religious leaders in their pulpits and outside their churches, by leaders in the field of education inside and outside their curricular activities, and by all leaders in business, professions and finance, whose economic security demands that they curry the favor of so-called “Jews” of historic Khazar ancestry. Unsuspecting Christians are subjected to this barrage from sources they have little reason to suspect. Incontestable facts supply the unchallengeable proof of the historic accuracy that so-called “Jews” throughout the world today of eastern European origin are unquestionably the historic descendants of the Khazars, a pagan Turko-Finn ancient Mongoloid nation deep in the heart of Asia, according to history, who battled their way in bloody wars about the 1st century B.C. into eastern Europe where they set up their Khazar kingdom. For some mysterious reason the history of the Khazar kingdom is conspicuous by its absence from history courses in the schools and colleges.

    “The historic existence of the Khazar kingdom of so-called “Jews”, their rise and fall, the permanent disappearance of the Khazar kingdom as a nation from the map of Europe, and how King Bulan and the Khazar nation in about 740 A.D. became so-called “Jews” by conversion, were concealed from American Christians by censorship imposed by so-called “Jews”, of historic Khazar ancestry, upon all U.S.A. media of mass communications directed by them. Then in 1945 this author gave nation-wide publicity to his many years intensive research into the “facts of life” concerning Khazars. The disclosures were sensational and very effective but apparently angered so-called “Jews” who have continued to vent their spleen upon this author since then solely for that reason. Since 1946 they have conducted a vicious smear campaign against him, seeking thus to further conceal these facts, for obvious reasons. What have they to fear from the truth?

    “In an original 1903 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia in New York’s Public Library, and in the Library of Congress, Volume IV, pages 1 to 5 inclusive, appears a most comprehensive history of the Khazars. Also in the New York Public Library are 327 books by the world’s greatest historians and other sources of reference, in addition to the Jewish Encyclopedia, dealing with Khazar history, and written between the 3rd A.D. and 20th centuries by contemporaries of the Khazars and by modern historians on that subject.”

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