May 9, 2012
The Myth of Israel as a Colonialist Entity: An Instrument of Political Warfare to Delegitimize the Jewish State
While modern Israel was born in the aftermath of the British Mandate for Palestine, which called for a Jewish national home, its roots preceded the arrival of the British to the Middle East. In that sense Britain was not Israel’s mother-country, like France was for Algeria. Indeed, the Jews were already reestablishing their presence independently in their land well before the British and French dismantled the Ottoman Empire. As time went on, it became clear that the British Empire was not the handmaiden of Israel’s re-birth, but rather its main obstacle. The accusation that Israel has colonialist roots because of its connection to the British Mandate is ironic, since most of the Arab states owe their origins to the entry and domination of the European powers.
The argument that Israel is a colonialist entity is often marshaled to undermine the Jewish state’s very legitimacy. It lays at the head of Edward Said’s polemical treatment of the Arab-Israel conflict, entitled The Question of Palestine, which was published in 1992. The theme has certainly permeated Western academia, almost uncritically. For decades, it has been employed against Israel in one international forum after another.
For example, in 1973, the UN General Assembly gave initial momentum to this idea when it condemned the “unholy alliance between Portuguese colonialism, South African racism, Zionism, and Israeli imperialism.” Two years later the Organization of African Unity adopted a resolution at its meeting of heads of state saying that “the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regime in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin.”