Israel’s war on Gaza encapsulates the entire history of European colonialism

Hamid Dabashi

As millions of Palestinians trapped in Gaza were facing starvation and mass murderIsrael’s invading army made sure to film themselves enjoying “rejuvenation complexes”, where they were lavished with “concerts, massage chairs, buffet, and more”.

It is surreal to watch Israelis being pampered while slaughtering Palestinians in their own homeland.

This is the genocidal practice of settler-colonialism, dating back at least as far as Bartolome de las Casas in his A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552). In it, he documented for posterity the vicious brutality of the Spanish, butchering “savage Indians” in an orgy of violence. Israelis are doing the same to the Palestinians.  

In North and South America, Australia, Asia and Africa, European settler-colonialists have left behind the evidence of their psychotic genocidal practices.

The European transatlantic slave trade may have halved the population of Africa, some historians believe. The US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many African colonies were all built on the systematic extermination, displacement and internment of the original inhabitants.  

In the Israeli settler-colonialism now on violent display in Gaza and the rest of Palestine, European colonialism is living up to its murderous infamy and has returned to the global stage with a vengeance. 

For decades, scholars of European colonialism have been working hard to document, archive and connect these episodes of the premeditated mass murder of native people around the globe.

But such painstaking scholarship has been unnecessary in Gaza and the West Bank. For there, the barbarity of the Israeli army and the settlers has been on full display on social media, and in the mainstream media in the global south, for anyone who cares to look for themselves.

Israel has put the entire history of Euro-American settler-colonialism and its genocidal instincts on full global display. 

While the western media works tirelessly and shamelessly to whitewash Israel’s murderous activities – offering “alternative facts”, demonising Palestinians, valorising Israelis, and sanitising Zionism to assure the world that Israel is “the most moral army” the globe has ever seen – the world at large has been liberated from their pernicious journalism.

Settler colonialism and genocide

While Israel goes about its genocide against the Palestinians, US Congress has been busy persecuting those voicing opposition to Israel’s actions and prosecuting imaginary threats to Jews, supported by billionaires frightening university presidents out of their wits.

For decades, critical thinking by leading anticolonial and postcolonial thinkers had been radically altering our perceptions of the savageries committed around the world by Europeans and Americans. 

In the US, critical race theorists and intersectional feminists have staged groundbreaking challenges against “established” world history.

Israel is a microcosm of that colonial history, all jammed inside a Zionist nutshell.

“In a matter of weeks, a far greater number of children have been killed by Israeli military operations in Gaza than the total number of children killed during any individual year, by any party to a conflict since I have been secretary-general,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on 30 November 2023.

Yet Palestinians have been consistently dehumanised, their fate de-historicised, and Israelis cast as victims retaliating against an unprovoked attack. The entire history of the Zionist conquest of Palestine with the aid of their European and American benefactors is being consistently erased. Palestinians have no history, no humanity, no culture. Israelis have been in Palestine since the creation of heaven and earth. Evangelical Zionism was the paramount story of the world at large. 

What the Israelis are doing in Palestine is what the French did in Algeria, the British did in India, the Belgians in the Congo, the Americans in Vietnam, the Spaniards in Latin America, the Italians in Africa and the Germans in Namibia, another chapter of European genocidal history.

In his essay, Settler Colonialism and the Elimination of the Native (2006), Patrick Wolfe demonstrated how, “as practised by Europeans, both genocide and settler colonialism have typically employed the organising grammar of race”.

Even more poignantly, the Martinique author and politician Aime Cesaire, in his 1950 seminal work Discourse on Colonialism, described the pernicious drive of colonists to enslave the natives and dehumanise them, while stealing their land, exploiting their labour and vandalising their resources.  

Manifest destiny

How dare a people do this to another people – unless, of course, they think of themselves as destined by divinity.

Zionism is the Jewish version of the racist US doctrine of “manifest destiny”, a belief in the racial superiority of white people and definitive to the American colonial conquest of the Native Americans and other groups they exterminated.

Like the American version, Zionists believe Palestine was their promised land, that it was destined and promised to them by their God, and that the native inhabitants were a nuisance that must be brutally eliminated. 

What the Israeli army is doing in Gaza is the Zionist version of “the great replacement” theory, which holds that people of colour are replacing white people and that the process must be reversed.

When such sentiments are uttered in the US, serious newspaper columnists ridicule it and dismiss it as a conspiracy theory. But when such views are expressed in Israel, they support, endorse and ideologically arm and weaponise them.  

A Christian zealotry was at the roots of the American manifest destiny ideology, which has now morphed into evangelical Zionism, with its drive to conquer “the Holy Land” and prepare for the second coming of their messiah. (This figure has nothing to do with the Palestinian Jesus Christ or Latin American liberation theology and is an entirely fictitious construct of America’s imperialist imagination.) 

‘Exterminate all the brutes’

In his classical 1893 essay, The Significance of the Frontier in American History, historian Frederick Jackson Turner theorised that American settler colonialists saw their destiny framed by the European civilisation they had left behind and the barbarism they faced in the “new world”.

Turner believed that the American character was shaped by those beliefs. Through evangelical Zionism, that frontier, that fight against “barbarism”, is what drives the Israeli settler-colonial project against Palestinian resistance.

“Exterminate all the brutes,” whispers the character Kurtz, an ivory trader sent by a shadowy Belgian company into the heart of an unnamed place in Africa, believed to be the Congo Free State, in Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novella Heart of Darkness.

Swedish author Sven Lindqvist borrowed that phrase for the title of his 1992 book, a moral meditation on the roots of European colonialism, racism and genocide in Africa.

When the Haitian documentary filmmaker Raoul Peck made his 2021 HBO miniseries Exterminate All the Brutes, in part based on Lindqvist’s book, he went around the globe documenting the barbarity of European colonialism, but dared not go near Palestine, except for a quick liberal Zionist cliche reference to how things there were “complicated”.

Things are not complicated in Palestine. In fact, things there are very simple: a pernicious European settler-colonial madness of conquest, colonisation and genocide is unfolding right in front of our eyes.

Zionists have the loyal and unreserved support of other settler colonists from Europe, the US, Canada and Australia behind them.

For that reason, the entire world, long brutalised historically by European savagery, has become Palestinian.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

(Source: Middle East Eye)