The Last Stage of a Dead Settler-Colonialist Ideology
Tarik Cyril Amar (@TarikCyrilAmar) is a historian from Germany, currently at Koç University, Istanbul, expert on Ukraine, Russia, and Europe, and the author of “The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv. A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists.”
Cross-posted from Tarik’s Substack Blog
Israeli settlers kidnapping a seven year old Palestinian boy, using him as a human shield in their retreat.
In the face of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, the question of Zionism has received remarkably little attention. This may appear counter-intuitive but ask yourself how public debates about this crime against humanity have mostly been framed: Israel’s so-called “right to self-defense” has been asserted. Never mind that, in legal terms, Israel simply cannot have such a right against a population it occupies and terrorizes. Legally as well as morally, the only ones here who have a clear right to defend themselves – yes, by military means – are, of course, the Palestinians. Anything else is bullshit.
Another prominent and equally dishonest framing has been provided by stories about especially cruel and sensational atrocities allegedly committed by Palestinians during the Hamas attack on Iraeli military targets and civilians on 7 October. These stories have, for instance, included the sadistic slaughter of babies, which will fascinate future historians as a striking case of projection. One Israeli baby did die during the Hamas attack, but Palestinians did not, actually, engage in a systematic or sadistic killing spree against children. Israeli forces, however, have done precisely that: massacring thousands of infants and other children – often inflicting anything but a quick death on them – not only by a clearly criminal bombing campaign but also by depriving them of food, water, elementary medical care, and, of course, those caregivers that Israel has also murdered in large numbers.
Nothing of this scope and duration can possibly be an unintended “side-effect.” Moreover, Israel, a reasonable observer must conclude from the evidence of its actions, does not “merely” (if that even is the word) “accept” its own mass killing of children. That alone would be horrific and criminal enough. Yet the truth is worse: The pathological obsession with Palestinian demographics which Israel has long cultivated points to a deliberate strategy of child mass murder.
Allegations of massive sexual violence have also featured large in Israeli narratives, in a transparent attempt to exploit two aspects of this crime: its general heinousness that ensures maximum revulsion against the purported perpetrators and the fact that decent people take special care not to easily dismiss the statements of those who claim to be its victims.
It is virtually certain, however, that Israeli and pro-Israeli propaganda is engaging in yet another brutally cynical ploy. Having already cheapened the memory of the Holocaust and its victims by trying to use it to justify its own genocide of the Palestinians, the Israeli propaganda effort is now very likely to do something similar to the very serious issue of sexual assault.
No one can entirely rule out cases of rape during the attack on 7 October. But if we do not choose to be naïve, then we must face the certainty that Israeli allegations that “happen to” seem to justify and, at least, help distract from Israeli crimes are bound to be motivated strategically. In short, about this matter as well, Israel will lie.
Historically, lynchings have, of course, often come with false accusations of sexual assault. The same supremacist “logic,” smearing this time not the Black but the Brown, Palestinian, Arab Other with fantasies and allegations of outrageous sexual violence to facilitate their extermination is likely to be at work here, too.
There are more ways in which we have been kept busy talking about the wrong issues, while all our attention should be on defending Palestinians from Israeli mass murder and other crimes as well. There is the endless, asinine demand for what are really loyalty oaths by “condemning Hamas”; the resolute drive to brazenly lie about the meaning of expressions such as “from the river to the sea” or “intifada,” so as to smear those who use them with genocidal intentions (projection again indeed); the generalized campaign against Muslims – or really anyone from the Middle East who is not Israeli and thus a type of Western colonizer – recasting long-standing prejudices as a perverse demand for “support” for Israel while it is committing genocide; and, finally, the absurdity, now endorsed by the US Congress, of equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, which makes about as much sense as it would have made to mistake being against Nazism for a desire to destroy all Germans – that is, none whatsoever.
But where is Zionism? Imagine a discussion of the Holocaust, the German genocide of, in essence, Europe’s Jews that omits Nazism, the underlying ideology of the crime. Absurd, right? And yet we are not seeing an adequate, deep and wide probing of Zionism and its history now. One reason for this difference is obvious: Zionism is not Nazism. The two ideologies are both typical products of racist European modernity; historically they have interacted; and both are capable of generating the mindset needed for sustained and repeated genocidal assault. But Zionism, unlike Nazism, used to have a genuine emancipatory side to it, too.
Make no mistake: the means the Zionists chose from the get-go to achieve that kind of Jewish emancipation were always fundamentally wrong: Settler-colonialism and ethnic cleansing are never justifiable. Not to speak of a systematic strategy of rogue state behavior, from not giving a damn about international law and human rights in general via occupying, annexing, and settling what is not yours, to having an entirely illegal nuclear arsenal, to name only a few highlights.
Yet all the inequities that Zionism has by now piled on its historical record are not even the main point at this critical moment, even though they obviously are in constant need of more critical exposure and, most of all, of – finally – being rectified.
Rather what matters most now is the clearly and entirely fascist present of Zionism. Zionism’s own actions have removed all and any ambiguity or complexity. This is a deeply hateful ideology that promotes apartheid, ethnic cleansing, genocide, and war. In that sense, the past of Zionism, sketchy and violent as it is, is already irrelevant. Because what is relevant now is the fact that it has no future, while still inflicting grievous harm on its Palestinian victims, threatening more mass murder – against Lebanon, and not only – in case anyone dares to protect them, inciting violence and war that could go regional and even global, and, last but not least, manipulating multiple political and public spheres to shield itself from accountability and consequences.
Zionism, in short, is now a Zombie. It is a dead late-nineteenth-century ideology. It died of its own addiction to unaccountable power, supremacist nationalism, lies and violence on which it overdosed. Due to its own record, no normal person can mourn its loss. But it cannot stop shambling about and causing bloody mayhem. The only question is for how much longer and with how many more victims.
And the question for Israelis in particular is: Do they really want this marauding corpse of a bad idea to drag their country down with it? Because remember: In reality, outside the lunatic world of Hasbara trolls and Congress, being against that Zombie of Zionism and being against Israel (or Jews, for that matter) are entirely different things. Indeed, anyone who wishes Israel to persist and have a future must wish for an end to Zionism. Because Zionism’s ultimate irony is that it is – also – the greatest single danger to Israel’s existence.