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In Historic Palestine

October 7, 2023: Contextual Realities of Israel’s Settler colonialism, apartheid, and genocide


For more than 75 years, Israel has been continuously waging war on the Palestinian people. Israel sees Palestinian resistance to the colonization of their homeland as a threat to its very existence, control, and dominance. In its settler colonial settler reality, the very existence of the Palestinian people is a sufficient reason to challenge Israel’s raison d’être which justifies and requires its brutality against them and their infrastructure. As is the case with other foreign settler colonial regimes in history, settler colonial apartheid Israel rely on brute force and expansion to solidify its colonization of Palestine and exact a terrible toll on the Palestinian people both in human and material terms. In his last written statement dated January 31st, 1970, the British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote:

“After every stage in this expansion [referring to the period from 1948 to 1969] Israel has appealed to “reason” and has suggested “negotiations”. This is the traditional role of the imperial power, because it wishes to consolidate with the least difficulty what it has already taken by violence. Every new conquest becomes the new basis of the proposed negotiation from strength, which ignores the injustice of the previous aggression. The aggression committed by Israel must be condemned, not only because no state has the right to annex foreign territory, but because every expansion is an experiment to discover how much more aggression the world will tolerate.”[1]

Historically, Israel ignores its ongoing settler colonial expansion in Palestine and violent actions against the Palestinian people. It uses all opportunities to avoid any responsibility to reverse course. Instead, it selectively concentrates on events of Palestinian resistance that it successfully uses to justify its future aggressions and settler colonialism. Contrary to settler colonial Israeli logic, episodes of resistance don’t occur in a vacuum.     

75 years of settler colonialism, apartheid, and oppression

On October 7, 2023, Palestinian resistance fighters (Israel and western governments call them terrorists) from the Gaza Strip which has been under constant siege by Israel was able to surprise attack and   humiliate one of the strongest military powers in the region if not the world. The resistance groups are equipped with personal and rudimentary weapons as opposed to the most modern sophisticated military equipment in the arsenal of Israel provided mainly by the United States (air force) and Germany (navy). As a matter of policy and practice, Israel deals with the Palestinian people through power dynamics and the prism of its sole security concerns. The Palestinians are never considered by Israel as a people who are entitled to certain rights as the indigenous people of the country of their origin and in accordance with international law and conventions relevant to a people under foreign military occupation. The ongoing genocidal war on Gaza is not unique. In its recent wars on Gaza in 2008, 2014, and 2021, Israel killed 3, 410 Palestinians, injured 17,430 Palestinians, and brought the Gaza Strip to the brink of mass starvation and collapse. In this ongoing war since October 7, 2023, the numbers of Palestinian murdered and injured are exceeding the totals of the previous twenty-two years (see Chart 1). 

An elected government has a responsibility to implement its legal agenda. But it violates public trust and domestic law if it tries to engineer the feelings and religious and political convictions of the public. In any given democratic society individual freedoms and liberties are paramount and must be protected.

The current German government is going out of its way to support settler colonial apartheid Israel and its genocidal war on the civilian population of Gaza. It is not enough that the government is in violation of its own laws by exporting military equipment (the entire Israeli navy is made in Germany) to countries that violates human rights and engaged in conflicts. Presently, it is violating and intimidating its citizens about their political views and religious convictions.[2]

Chart 1 (As of November 22, 2023)

Given the strength of the Israeli propaganda machine worldwide, the duplicity of the United States[3] and major European powers mainly Germany[4] in its colonial apartheid policies and practices, the appalling failure of the Arab regimes on all levels to defend Arab national security and interest, and the prejudices of western media outlets against the rights of the Palestinian people in Palestine provide distorted images and manufactured realities regarding the ongoing Israeli power relations with the Palestinians for the last 75 years. Palestinians are rarely treated by Israel and its allies as people on equal footing and seldom are invited to present their narrative to western peoples. Their resistance (peaceful and otherwise) to Israel’s settler colonialism, horrible system of apartheid, military occupation, control, dominance, and suffocation is often corrupted by representatives of Israel, western governments, and media outlets to justify the vilification of the Palestinian people and the ongoing wars and daily oppression perpetuated by Israel against them. Israel is the only country in the world that is accorded impunity and shielded by its western allies and supporters from being held to account for its brutality, crimes, and deliberate and systematic violation of Palestinian rights, international law, conventions, and norms. In the recent attack by Hamas on Israeli military symbols of occupation and oppression (fortifications, watchtowers, intelligence gathering facilities, detention centers, and colonies built on occupied Palestinian land surrounding Gaza) was deliberately marketed as an antisemitic act or an attack on the Jewish state or on Israeli innocent civilians or on Jews. A manufactured gruesome story was concocted and parroted by world leaders like President Biden describing raping of women, decapitation of babies, maltreatment of the elderly, killing of American, and the mass killing of music goers.[5] No effort by the entire Biden’s administration was used to vet the information provided by Israel or to place the event in its wider historical context. All past history of 100 years was conveniently forgotten to focus on the attack itself as a point of departure and to drum support for the impending genocidal revenge against the entire civilian population of Gaza.  

Since 1948 Israel maintains a system of settler colonialism and apartheid that discriminates and keeps people apart based on religion and ethnicity.[6] This Israeli system has been inflicting widespread crimes on the Palestinian people to dominate and control all aspects of their life and to manage their living conditions including their ethnic cleansing and replacement with armed Israeli Jewish settler colonists often imported from the outside; the confiscation of their properties for the sole use by its Israeli Jewish colonial settlers; the imposition of collective punishment on entire Palestinian villages or cities or region (the Galilee or the West Bank or the Gaza Strip); the detention of thousands of men, women, and children under atrocious conditions on secret or without charges at all; the indiscriminate targeting and shooting to kill or maim of children, men, women, and the elderly; the targeting obliteration of residential buildings and entire neighborhoods; the destruction of houses, shops, places of worship, industries, and civilian infrastructure; the intrusion into people’s homes, schools, universities, places of worship, and hospitals; the burning down of houses, orchards and fields; the imposition of curfews; the curtailing of free movement  of people, supplies, and goods; poisoning of animal herds and water sources and wells; and the taking of civilian hostages including (children, women, men, and the elderly).

The Context: Herzl’s Zionism

  Israel’s policies and practices regarding the Palestinian people are derived from Herzl’s Zionist national ideology. The idea of creating a Jewish state in Palestine is a 19th century Christian Protestant invention (even Napoleon who is a catholic, was prepared to make Palestine a Jewish State in 1799) to cleanse Europe of its Jewish population and to hasten the second coming of Christ. In 1896, Theodor Herzl published his pamphlet The Jewish State in the German language calling for the establishment of a Jewish State outside of Europe and to create a Zionist national colonial movement for that purpose. In his pamphlet, Theodor Herzl did not shy away from attributing appropriate terminology to describe his plan to colonize a non-European land by European Zionist Jews. To him settlements meant colonies; departing Jews stood for colonists; the method by which to obtain sovereignty over that land indicates Zionist collaboration with a European colonial power to obtain a colonial Charter to establish “a Jewish home” under its protection and to serve the interests of the colonial power — this was realized in 1917 when Great Britain awarded the Zionists a charter to colonize Palestine. Herzl freely admits that Zionism is a settler-colonial movement. He recognizes that the Jewish state was not breaking away from a mother country, but it must be its production. Until his death in 1904, Herzl did not finalize in his own mind or in his writing the name or the location for this Jewish state. The countries of Argentina and Palestine were mentioned by name as possible sites, but Israel was not — a person who is dealing with a divine promise or a historical national connection or engaged in a national liberation struggle for the homeland would not have been confused about the name or location of that homeland.

Establishing a state requires people and vacant land. Herzl claims that Jews worldwide constitute a single national group with collective rights, including establishing an exclusive Jewish state in Palestine and the right to self-determination in the new state, “We are one people–our enemies have made us one without our consent, as repeatedly happens in history.”[7]  In a Tweet more than 125 years later Benjamin Netanyahu, the current Israeli prime minister spoke of Jewish exclusivity, “The Jewish people have an exclusive and unquestionable right to all areas of the Land of Israel”[8] Instead of working to eliminate European antisemitism and improve the conditions of Jews in their original countries, Herzl began to capitalize on antisemitism in order to clear Europe of its Jewish population. Without dismantling the European ancient Jewish communities, liquidate their assets, and moving them out of Europe – a goal shared with European antisemites including Nazi Germany – Herzl would not have been able to establish the Jewish State. Herzl wrote, “If I wish to substitute a new building for an old one, I must demolish before I construct.”[9]  The Zionists’ claim to self-determination in Palestine on national ground has come to clash with the Palestinians’ right to self-determination because the Palestinians being the native people continuously inhabiting Palestine for thousands of years. In his pamphlet, Herzl acknowledged the presence of the indigenous population, the Palestinians, without mentioning them by name but insisting on dealing with them as wild beasts who should be eliminated, “Supposing, for example, we were obliged to clear a country of wild beasts, we should not set about the task in the fashion of Europeans of the fifth century. We should not take spear and lance and go out singly in pursuit of bears; we would organize a large and active hunting party, drive the animals together, and throw a melinite bomb into their midst.”[10] Zionists have been referring to the Palestinians as animals ever since. On October 9, 2023, Yoav Gallant, Israel’s current Defense Minister stated, “I have ordered a complete siege on the Gaza Strip. There will be no electricity, no food, no fuel, everything is closed. We are fighting human animals and we are acting accordingly.”[11]  This mindset reflects the Zionists’ deliberate and systematic approach to deny, malign, and falsify the historical record of Palestine and its indigenous people to justify Israel’s settler colonialism and apartheid.[12]  Zionist Jews began to deny the existence of the Palestinian people and considered their homeland Palestine vacant awaiting for the Jews to colonize, settle, and make it bloom. Gold Meir, Israel’s former prime minister said, “It was not as if there was a Palestinian people in Palestine and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”[13]  Fifty-four years later in a speech delivered in the French capital Paris that went without any condemnation by the French government or press, Israeli finance minister Bezalel Smotrich said, “There is no such thing as a Palestinian nation. There is no Palestinian history. There is no Palestinian language.”[14]

Conclusion: A new approach needed

Understanding the contextual framework of Israel’s reality may lead to abandoning power dynamics and the revenge mentality that has directed Israel’s conduct and lead to a new approach that focuses on undoing the root causes of death and destruction impacting the life of millions of people. The emerging approach and peaceful framework for the future should include the following principles:

1.       Jews are citizens of their countries of origin. Their countries of origin must accord them equality and dignity and move forthwith to end antisemitism and all discrimination against them. Israeli Jews who desire to return to their countries of origin must be allowed by the respective governments to do so without threat or retributions.

2.       The Palestinian people who agree with the proposed changes belong to Palestine and are the future citizens of the state. The Palestinian refugees are vested with their right to return to Palestine and to be compensated for their pain and suffering. The Palestinian people (Jews, Christians, and Muslims), once the rights of the Palestinian people are restored in Palestine, will exercise their right to self-determination and establish a one democratic state for all its citizens.

3.       The one democratic state in Palestine will be a constitutional democracy that will preserve, protect, and defend individual liberties and freedoms. It will have no official religion and will guarantee the right of its citizens to freely practice their religion. The Constitution will provide a detailed description of the government and the functions of each branch. Officers of the branches of government will be elected as prescribed by law in open and free election. Voting will be a right enjoyed by citizens who are 18 years or older.

4.       No racist anti-democratic laws, political parties, organizations, and institutions will be allowed to be formed or operate under the laws of the future new state. Individuals espousing racism and hate will not be allowed to hold public office. Exclusive NGO’s will not be allowed to function. All institutions, laws, policies, and political ideologies that advocate preferential treatment, settler colonialism, and segregation based on national origin, ethnicity, gender, and culture including religion will be nullified, dismantled, and outlawed.

5.       A State Commission on Truth and Reconciliation will be established to readdress the grievances of citizens of the future one democratic state in Palestine. The decisions of the Commission will be final.

The vision for one democratic state has been gaining momentum among Israelis, Palestinians, and internationals. The hope is that more Palestinians (Jews, Christians, Muslims, and seculars) will be convinced to take this peaceful road and work together to realize and implement the changes without violence or duress. Those who disagree with this peaceful transformation should be assisted in seeking a better life in other countries of their own choosing. Together we shall eliminate violence, end settler colonialism, defeat apartheid, and restore justice and peace in the future Palestine for all its citizens!  

[1] Bertrand Russell, Bertrand Russell’s Last Message. (Connexions, January 31, 1970). https://www.connexions.org/CxLibrary/Docs/CX5576-RussellMidEast.htm (Access October 31,2023).

[2] Christoph Strack, A
debate on Islamophobia and antisemitism in Germany. (DW: November 22, 2023),
p.1. (Access on November 26, 2023).

[3] For the role of the US see, Michael Barnett, Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch, and Shibley Telhami, Israel’s One-State Reality. (Foreign Affairs, April 14, 2023), https://www.foreignaffairs.com/middle-east/israel-palestine-one-state-solution (Access on October 28, 2023).

[4] For the role of Germany in creating Israel see, Samir Abed-Rabbo, Germany’s Never-Ending Guilt Trip. (Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 45, Issue 1, 2023). https://www.scienceopen.com/hosted-document?doi=10.13169/arabstudquar.45.1.0008

[5] The entire remarks of President Joe Biden, U.S. Department of State, Press conference President Biden remarks on the October 7 terrorist attacks and the resilience of the State of Israel. (October 7, 2023). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEX_vUkKLMo Access on October 31, 2023).

[6] For detailed analysis please see, B’Tselem, A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid, (January 12, 2021). https://www.btselem.org/publications/fulltext/202101_this_is_apartheid (Access on October 16, 2023), Human Rights Watch, A Threshold Crossed: Israeli Authorities and the Crimes of Apartheid and Persecution, (April 27, 2021). https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution (Access on October 16, 2023), Amnesty International, Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: Cruel system of domination and crime against humanity, (February 1, 2022). https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde15/5141/2022/en/ (Access on 16, 2016).

[7] Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State. The Jewish Question. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-the-jewish-state-quot-theodor-herzl  (As of June 13, 2023), p.4.

[8] Oliver Holmes, Israel’s far right hits ground running, and ripple effects are already being felt, (The Guardian, January 7, 2023). https://www.theguardian.com/world/2023/jan/07/israel-far-right-ultranationalist-hits-ground-running-and-ripple-effects-are-being-felt (Access on October 15, 2023).

[9] Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State. Introduction. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-the-jewish-state-quot-theodor-herzl  (As of June 13, 2023), p.6.

[10] Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State. The Jewish Question. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/quot-the-jewish-state-quot-theodor-herzl (As of June 13, 2023), p.5.

[11] EMANUEL FABIAN, “Defense minister announces ‘complete siege’ of Gaza: No power, food or fuel”, The Times of Israel (October 9, 2023), p. 1. https://www.timesofisrael.com/liveblog_entry/defense-minister-announces-complete-siege-of-gaza-no-power-food-or-fuel/ (Access on October 13, 2023).

[12] For detailed accounts on the destructive impact on the Palestinian people see, Nur Masalha, The Palestine Nakba: Decolonizing History, Narrating the Subaltern, Reclaiming Memory (London: Zed Books, 2012) and Chada Karmi, Married to Another Man: Israel’s Dilemma in Palestine (London: Pluto Press, 2007).

[13] In an interview conducted by Frank Giles, then deputy editor of The Sunday Times on June 15, 1969.

[14] Seraj Assi and Zachary Foster, “There’s No Such Thing as Palestinians’: The Ignorant Bigotry of pro-Israel Propagandists”, Haaretz (May 21, 2023) p. 2. https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/2023-03-21/ty-article-opinion/.premium/theres-no-such-thing-as-palestinians-the-ignorant-bigotry-of-pro-israel-propagandists/00000187-03b9-dde5-ab8f-23bd95600000 (Access on September 25, 2023).