Occupation: A Critical Look - The Palestinian Struggle Overshadowed by Colonialism
The establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 was hailed by some as the culmination of a long struggle by the Jewish people. After being subjected to the atrocities of the Holocaust and discrimination in many of the countries in which the Jewish people resided, the establishment of a Jewish state was viewed as a chance for freedom from persecution for those who had undergone struggles because of their Jewish identity. This narrative however, overshadows a large part of how the current state of Israel came into being, more specifically, how a country came to be formed in a land which already had an indigenous population. In order to analyze how the state of Israel came into being, we must depart from the narrative that focuses on the need for a Jewish state in response to persecution, and instead grapple with the violent means by which the state of Israel was formed.
Before we begin, let us make a distinction between the religion of Judaism and the ideal of Zionism. Contrary to many of the peaceful ideals of Judaism, Zionism is an ideology that advocates the existence of predominately Jewish state and is not opposed to the use of force to develop this state. The key point of criticism leveled at the Zionist ideal by its detractors is that by utilizing a nationalist agenda to protect the Jewish people from very real persecution, the Zionist ideal reinforces the same mindsets and actions that brought about persecution in the first place. It is this criticism that must be reconciled within an understanding of the state of Israel and not misconstrued as being the same as the very real discrimination of anti-semitism. A closer look at the history of Israel and the Zionist influence in it's development will allow a deeper understanding of the ideology that brought about its formation as a nation.
Prior to the establishment of the state of Israel, existed what was known as the mandate of Palestine, a territory formerly held by the Ottoman Empire, and administered by Great Britain under the auspices that the territory was not capable of self-governance. The beginnings of how Israel came into being start here, with Jewish paramilitary groups forming in the late 30's and cooperating with Zionists overseas to aim for an eventual establishment of a Jewish state within the mandate. The activities of these paramilitary groups however, often consisted of violence, as can be seen in one of the most well known examples, the bombing of the King David hotel in 1946. As World War Two began to come to a close, the activities of these Jewish paramilitary groups grew increasingly more violent, leading eventually to a British withdrawal from the region. After protracted battles between Arabs and Jews in 1948, the Jewish state of Israel was formed, eventually leading to further conflict with Arab States throughout the next few decades.
After viewing a bit of the history of the creation of Israel, we can see that violence was very much a part of how this state came into being, and that this violence was also used to overshadow the struggles of Arab Palestinians who were denied their rights to self-determination. It is this legacy that needs to be identified when the narrative of Israel is discussed. The state of Israel did not occur overnight from Jewish refugees finding barren land and claiming it for their own, it was brought about through armed struggle by Zionists to the detriment of the democratic process and to a meaningful discussion as to the rights of Palestinian Arabs. The relation of the international community to the state of Israel and it's occupation of Palestinian territories should also be placed under scrutiny as well. In addition to violations of numerous UN resolutions regarding Israeli foreign policy and the treatment of indigenous Palestinians, Israel has also refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or allow inspections of it's nuclear facilities and weapons stockpiles by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
With this understanding we should turn to a critical look at the state of Israel today, and those who might “celebrate” it without giving full credence to the plight of those indigenous Palestinian Arabs.
This history and the narrative surrounding Israel is a legacy that stands to be placed under criticism for violations of international law and eroding at the sense of dignity that exists between human beings, a relationship enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For one to celebrate the existence of the state of Israel without mentioning this history is not only disingenuous, but ignores the discourse that must exist within an institution of higher learning to engage in a critical examination of this subject. In addition, this underdeveloped narrative exists to justify crimes against indigenous Palestinians still being pursued today against international law, examples of which can be seen in the growing number of illegal settlements encroaching on Palestinian territory. In light of this criticism I must say, I am not an Arab, nor Palestinian, yet I subscribe to the motto that “An injury to one is an injury to all” and that it takes a community to speak out when human rights are threatened by the existence of a narrative that minimizes the rights of indigenous peoples everywhere.